Bright Sands and Dark Nights

Aversion to Practice and Practitioners

For the past week I feel as though I’ve been adrift in some moderate lapse of faith. And I’m not sure what triggered it. Perhaps, as I discussed with DreamWalker, I am in fact actually sometimes still experiencing insight stages, in this case mild Reobservation (the “rolling up the mat” stage). I felt unmotivated to practice or tidy my room all week. I wouldn’t even keep my altar nice. In fact my sloppy bedroom seemed a mirror in which I stubbornly met the eye of my own anger.

I think I feel a little cut adrift and alone in my practice, meaning I am averse to being around Buddhists and even distrust the tradition, texts, and most teachers. So that is Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – now cut off. So is it any wonder that this feels like a crisis of faith? All the trappings and external supports are falling away. And I’m somehow now too pissed about that to support myself through practice.

Back to the Past to Gather Little Jenny in My Arms

When we last talked, my teacher suggested that I address my insomniac hyper-vigilance by practicing tonglen for Little Jenny at those moments of horror at her having had to parent her parents. I’ve done this only once. I found I couldn’t bring up the moments of my father’s failings or my mother’s seizure, both of which traumatized me and the latter of which caused me to hallucinate for about 10 days, without sleep, when I was 18 years old – a psychiatric crisis. Those hallucinations were of everything organic decaying rapidly before my eyes, dying. It was terrifying, and even though I knew they were just hallucinations, I couldn’t make them stop and I couldn’t sleep lest one of my loved ones actually die because I neglected to keep watch. A psychologist at the university finally hypnotized me with a suggestion to be able to sleep. I did nap at my best friend’s a couple of hours later, and when I awoke the hallucinations had stopped. But ever since that event, I’ve had a problematic relationship with sleep, delaying bedtime and struggling with insomnia.

Although I couldn’t retake those moments with any coherence during practice, I was able to go even further back in time and stare down at Very Little Jenny of about 3 years old. She had a patch on her eye and was wearing a plaid dress, red cardigan, and tights. It wasn’t formal tonglen, but with my current Big Jenny strength, I gathered her up in my arms and poured on the love and compassion. She was fragile and smelled sweet, like honeysuckle.

An Invisible Vehicle Built for One and Sunk in Sands

Perhaps the anger that began sometime afterward and persisted isn’t a crisis at all, though. Perhaps it is part of the abandonment of all devices and conditions. Months ago I had a dream of a teacher who didn’t speak to me but just cried desert sand out of his two cow’s skull eye sockets.

My real-life teacher explained that in alchemical process there is an arid “drying up” phase. Excess emotionality is drying up. The excited connection with other practitioners I enjoyed in the Dharma Underground is no more. I’m no longer manufacturing emotion and drama. More recently, I’ve dreamed that I’m riding a bicycle from place to place during the day. Whenever I arrive where I must interact, I lay the bike down on its side and stare at it until it sinks into sand and becomes invisible. I think this is a symbol for my vehicle of practice. It is solo and I hide it from everyone in the arid sinkholes of dreamtime.

The Field of Fear and Rage

It was a hard week. Everyone on social media has been raging and fear-mongering over the election of Donald Trump as president. I tried three times to urge calm and clarity, but everyone wanted to foment and cast that kind of field. I’m super-sensitive to that sort of thing now, and I perhaps should have withdrawn sooner. This field is chaos and confusion. No one knows what news is real, whether Julian Assange has been murdered, or whether the difference between Trump and Clinton is mere distraction from the more sinister forces behind all apparent thrones.

And my son had a hard week, was violently ill and having to adjust to great injustice done him.

The Dark Night of the Soul


Ace of Pentacles, reversed. Vague frustration. Desire to leave but not knowing where to go or what to embrace instead. Lackluster sit, but not unpleasant exactly. Wish I had been able to be outside today instead of working. It is bright green and brilliant blue springtime, but there is a dark gray wash over everything. No one sees.

Nonduality and Fear

So last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned until I gave up and read this new book Nonduality that Bill Finch recommended to me. Then the birds were chirping in the sunrise. I lay back down and several times drifted off, only to jolt awake in terror. I was losing myself each time as I drifted off. I was suddenly diffused into Boundless Space, or Boundless Consciousness. I was melting into surround space, I was losing myself, and at the last second, each time, I decided to hold back. With that decision, terror spread through my being like wildfire. It was truly terrifying and always at the moment of drop-off.


Today was beautiful outside, but I was confined to my office, working on MCTB2. I was in Misery. Not about anything, really, just the stage.

Tonight, during my sit, I felt my concentration was extremely poor. I was truly miserable, and bodily vibrations were very noticeable. I kept moving back and forth between trying to get jhana and just sitting there investigating all this vibrating anguish. I was crying at one point and then upbraiding myself for being stupid enough to cry. And so on.

The sit kept feeling like failure, but, even so, it was interesting. At one point, I got very intense large swaths of space fluxing through me, and I had that synch-up that that portends “agencylessness.” I felt that even this mood, even my excess attention toward it, were part of this larger moving of the whole volume of which it is part. There was no post-jhanic bliss reward. The whole-volume wave was it. There were several discontinuities. Not sure if those were fruitions or just kind of shift shocks through my skull.

King of Wands—Charisma, Charm, Boardroom Power

I drew the King of Wands, upright. He has that dragon flare and wears it like a boa. It has to do with negotiations and new ventures—confidence in my own new enterprises. Indeed I’m feeling a bit restless to be free of Daniel Ingram, to awaken, and then to start my own projects—writings, community, whatnot. This, too, is likely also just a fantasy, just part of my wanting to return to a life that really is gone now, a bit of clinging to my old self, a bit of clinging to the one who is in control of her destiny, right?

Even so, I will be reckoned with. I will bring all my power to bear on new startups, and I will not be content to be relegated to the margins of anyone else’s writings again. I will be one of the definers of community, on equal footing with whomever presumes to refer to himself as my Overlord.

So there.

The Primacy of Love over a Culture of Attainment

I’m upset, which is at least interesting, at least something to notice closely and learn from. This sense of disempowerment—ah, how pervasive it is. The rage is really deep, deep hurt. At least this much I know. Another opportunity to see how recoil, clinging, and passing happens. This hurting is actually love. This suffering is actually compassion all tangled up in bitter-tasting knots I gnash with my ineffectually sharp teeth.

Vibratory Intensity Continuing

I had much to say about the amazing jhana sit I had right before I became upset:

How Boundless Consciousness was so rich yet refined that it seemed no separate awareness was present. Or perhaps it was all awareness and no Consciousness, no it.  How splashes of red appeared here as in Nothingness the other night.

How Nothingness was somehow full of movement, flux, almost even bright black flashes. Yet it also became sustainable.

How NPNYNP is hard to sustain when there is too much effort around it, containing it. Give it air, it is thin and wants to fly freely. You have to neither exert effort nor just observe. It is difficult only because it cannot be grasped. But if you settle in with Nothingness, it will come on slippers made of shadows, yellowish gray ones. In fact, it was after relaxing out of practice that I sort of fell back into it with ease and found it sustainable. This is an extremely altered state—extremely removed from reality, very very deep and removed.

How I’ve been in the neighborhood of that sync-up Daniel somewhat inaccurately calls agencylessness most of the day, the bright green April trees swaying in perfect cool air, implausible. I’m one with the moment. The hands open the applesauce. There. Open. It is just happening. I’m just intersecting ripples of vibration. I’m tingling intensely all over, all the time. Not solid.

How gratitude rises from below the navel area, second chakra, and is a flush over the whole body in its secondary wave, like an orgasm but gentle. 

How the reason that .  .  . I can’t remember. Ah—how the reason that some days the results of the shift are less noticeable is because I’m in the Dark Night, so the center of vision is much harder to take in. It is there still, if I tune it, but vj3 tends to obscure the center of attention.

And something about lying down to take a nap in the evening and not being able to sleep because the left side of my body was vibrating one way, and the other side was vibrating another way, leaving interference pattern in between, no field of real body. It is easy for this to go into loss of body during meditation, boundlessness, but somehow the vibratory is predominant, a strong tendency for A&P or raptures to be in the forefront or background all the time, almost obscuring any other sense of insight stage. Last night I was in Misery with strong raptures, a weird combination.

What is up with all the vibrations? They are invading my nonetheless very strong jhanas. The Dharma leads. Everything will show me. All things come. All things go.

Rarity of MCTB Fourth Path

I was thinking today how it seems that everyone I’ve met who has attained Third Path went through one or two false confirmations (yes, by well-known teachers) that they had Fourth Path, when they didn’t. In fact, I think most calls of Fourth are “soft,” meaning wrong. Usually the first false call has to do with simply a “feeling of being done.” Someone may even quit practicing for a couple of years. Then they figure out somehow that they didn’t get it, are not “done.”

In short, it is extremely rare to get MCTB Fourth Path. We are fools to think we can do these sits in our leisure time, be half-assed about it all, and actually get that attainment even after a decade or two. So chances are good that I’ll never get it. I guess that is fine. Whatever I did get is awesome. I’m happier than I can ever remember being, even right this minute as I sit here on this king-sized cherry rice planter’s bed, pissed and hurt. There is this equanimity in all—even the hurt—both empty and miraculous.

The Primacy of Love over a Culture of “Attainment”

Nothing matters without love, not even your “attainment” of enlightenment. We are love, or none of the rest of this shit about attainment this and attainment that matters one iota. And this is why conduct and affective purification fucking matters. And if you don’t think it does, then you are a goddamned fool. I don’t care what precious attainment you think you have. If you are afraid to stand for anything, if you are afraid to feel your feelings, if you are so afraid of being hurt or abandoned again that you put up walls or don spikes to put X in her proper place, then you cannot know love, and your enlightenment is but another false, false layer of endarkenment.

My speech-acts may be all messed up right now in this dark, dark night. But I do know how to love. It is just like Neither Perception Nor Yet Nonperception: You have to let it fly; you cannot contain, control, and protect it. It is not yours. You must share.

And charity begins at home. And I sound like a fucking little fool in this profound loneliness.

Be Something Else

Be something else, be something

     That is not what it is, for

     Being what it is, it is

     Too absolute to be.

If you insist on being

     What you are, how can we

     Ever love you, we

     Cannot love what is—

By which I mean a thing that

     Totally is and therefore

      Is absolute, for we

      Know that the absolute is

Delusion, and that Truth lives

     Only in relation—oh!

     We love you, we truly

     Do, and we love the

World, but we know

     We cannot love others unless

     We learn how to love

     Ourselves properly, and we truly

Want to love you, but

For God’s sake stop that yelling!

Robert Penn Warren 


“Melodharmas” of Desire for Deliverance

I had one of those wonderfully profound sits tonight that I let go far past the bell, and far past bedtime, It was insight-oriented, but the meditation method itself kept changing, like gears noisily shifting, and jhana was always somewhere in the background. I just let what happened happen, since, if automaticity is the most notably consistent quality of practice since August, then I should probably look at that.

Desire for Deliverance

So much was happening so fast that I may not be able to capture impression of it here or even transcribe bare facts into words. That’s fine. Main things were rapid, heavy-handed state shifts past 3rd and a sudden shift
from Disgust to Desire for Deliverance (DFD).

I’m such a freakin’ baby during DFD, crying and praying and rocking with it all until peace pervades the rocking. I enjoy DFR, I have to admit. It reminds me of all those cathartic home comforts of being a praying, kneeling Christian while coming up. If it feels right, then I do it. (By the way, Daniel has a new passage about DFD in
MCTB2, and it basically advises just what I’m doing—to go with and into the longing for release, for enlightenment, to its utter depths.)

I felt remorse arise, too, for quarreling with Daniel about book stuff, and related process and communications stuff, over the weekend. Now he is sick and unable to even respond to my pile of proud, bitter emails. All will be well, though. This cyclic stuff will wear itself out, yet again, and something will remain. I can feel that now.

Rapid, Inclusive Noticing

Shifts were rapid, deep, and productive of space. I noticed as many sensations as I could, as rapidly and inclusively as I could, noticing the shifting among the senses and zone-limited body fields that incompletely
and transiently define me, while dropping in inquiries whether that were I.

Jhānic Boundless Consciousness and the Knot

Thoughts as such were not prominent, although I spent time at one point in Boundless Consciousness, and experienced that as a looping back into itself rhythmically, which makes me understand, I think, why Daniel uses the metaphor of unknotting, or untangling, as attaining fourth path: In the unenlightened, there is a segment not left where it is but brought recursively in, down, through, and around until it is this constriction, a knot, a welt, a lump, a thing, my very self.

I experimented with visualizing the knot, feeling it as such, which was really interesting: I experienced some sensations of constriction in my chest, around my heart. Oh, that pain feels like me. And then arose the vivid arrow of not directing anything. Motion, attention, and intention were instantaneous, gapless, always already here.

Choiceless Awareness and the Warp of Clarity Itself

Then I dropped the rapid noticing, opting to just sit in choiceless awareness, which is hard to do these days, oddly, even though months and months ago it was easy. I sort of started to feel out into all that surround-space, and then let the surround-space feel back into me (or whatever). 

So there was this rhythmic recursion. I also later allowed for there to be these disks of space that would slice through “me” and drag some of that me out the other side and into the spacious. Opening my eyes, I saw big ripples or eddies. These are hard to explain. They are like hot blown glass warped in clear air lines, not exactly lines of solid color or anything, but the extrasensory warp of clarity itself.

I had what seemed a couple of near misses of a cessation, but I’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. It will happen when I stop waiting for it, when I’m worn down as much as I need to be, when I’m disenchanted. When I’ve come to some kind of understanding. When path is not separate from this fruit, from just this.

Jhana as Anti-Vipassana Compulsion

I’m unaccountably edgy and frustrated, and was so much so last night that, out of sheer perverseness, I refused to meditate. I just went to sleep, only to wake up at 4 a.m., and write this jokey thing on here [Dharma Underground] instead of meditate. Looking back over the past week’s entries, I see that jhana and powers-y stuff has overtaken every intention I had to practice insight. Now I have to consider that I actually fell back down to A&P and am in Dark Night again. I had distinct Fear last night; it actually woke me and I heard myself say aloud, “Something’s not right!”

Around and around I go. I’m curious what jhana has to do with my falling out of high EQ. It seems to be running the show, has been since Aug. 8. I have to admit that it pisses me off, stupid as that is to feel about the glorious jhana states. I just prefer Equanimity to A&P. But maybe that is the problem, since there has to be a “problem.”

[Postscript 2.4 years later—Daniel explained, in the Part 2 of MCTB2 that we nearly finished, that after stream entry concentration and insight are no longer separable practices. When I wrote this entry, January 2015, I hadn’t really gotten far into the work on Part 2. Maybe if I had, I would have relaxed more about the fact that I was not doing vipassana in the old MCTB1 fashion after stream entry. No matter what I intended, the jhanas called to me, and dry vipassana never did, and Review cessation-fruitions were so unimpressive compared with my stream entry fruition, that I completely discounted those “blips” as “fruitions.”  So, while being called away by the jhanas, I was really disturbed for a while that I wasn’t sure I was meeting Daniel’s repeat-fruition standard for having attained stream entry, but only a jhana standard that he rejected as “unreliable.” I now assert that the fruitions standard is just as unreliable. My current Tibetan Buddhist teacher recently caused me to laugh out loud in this regard by asking me if I could teach him how to have a cessation-fruition and a stream entry! (That still makes me chuckle!)  And Daniel actually does contradict himself. In MCTB2(J), he made a big change from MCTB1, in that he subsumed the insight stages completely under the jhana framework, after Bill Hamilton’s model.  He wrote that this was how he really always has thought of the insight stages. I was overjoyed at that revision, because it just makes so much more sense to have one integrated jhana-insight system instead of a two-track system with samatha jhana getting short shrift. Samatha jhana via the Thai Forest masters was my main practice modality before stream entry, not just after. Insight into the Three Characteristics would just “intrude” on my jhana practice, without my intention, without any noting practice or predetermination to notice. Indo-Tibetan teachers are fond of saying that the jhanas cannot lead to insight. They too are dead wrong. Clearly, someone needs to straighten all this mapping chaos out and integrate it into one sensible, noncontradictory path. It looks like that person will have to be me.]