Want to Avoid Dark Night of the Soul

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  JC 9 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Hello all! First post here!

    Firstly, I want to say that Culadasa’s teachings have changed my life. It’s only been three months, but the amount of positive change introduced to my life has been extraordinary! Thank you to Culadasa and his sangha.

    I have been drawn to meditation to become a better person. In general, I’d like to think of myself as a well-mannered and caring person (except when I’m not, lol), but there is a lot of internal chatter (a lot of which is negative) and ego-centric thoughts and feelings that I want to work on. To make a long story short, I want to become a better person: a better husband, a better father to my two children, and a positive energy to others.

    So…when I started to read about the Dark Night of the Soul, my hands got clammy and I started to question whether this is something I want to sign up for. If there is an iota of a chance that this practice could lead to becoming a negative energy in the lives of my loved ones, this practice might as well end here (perhaps I would continue if I knew exactly when to stop, but alas, that’s not possible). In reading the huge disclaimer written by Daniel Ingram, the Dark Night seems to be something that can wreak havoc on lives.


    Culadasa seems to think that this stage is optional. What has been the experience of others following Culadasa’s teachings? I feel like my intentions are pure, but who knows what they TRULY are in the unconscious. I don’t have a history of depression or any kind of unhealthy anxiety. I’m not a very materialistic person, and I don’t use any sort of drugs. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong, but please provide some insight for me!



    Chloe B

    Hi JC,

    It’s great that you are entering meditation with eyes wide open. That said many people who practice dharma do not experience the Dark Night of the Soul. You may be more likely to experience it if you practice meditation with extreme dedication without also practicing the other aspects of buddha dharma such as cultivating virtue and practicing loving kindness. This is because you would be relying on only 1 of the parts of the 8 fold path. These are very important to do in conjunction with your meditation practice. If you focus on generating loving kindness and living virtuously in alignment with what feels right to you internally as well as reducing harm and suffering for others, you will not become a cause of suffering or distress for your friends and family. Instead your ability to be a positive influence on your children will most likely increase. As you meditate while also cultivating love and compassion in your life, your patience will increase, ability to handle anger and afflicted states of the mind will increase and your ability to channel love will grow. These are all very positive aspects of dharma. Perhaps instead of worrying about the possibility of the worst case scenario, you can look at the possibilities of the more common scenarios.

    If you begin to experience distress in your meditation, reach out and get help from a qualified teacher. It is so important for us all to have teachers. We are all just traveling a path with some unknown terrain. Occasionally something will seam off or out of place that we have’t encountered before and are unsure how to navigate. This is why we must also rely on the teacher as well as the teaching. The teacher can help guide us when these situations arise. If we do not have a teacher, we can look to get one by reaching out to our community (our sangha) of spiritual practitioners who are also traveling on this path. They are incredibly important to us as they can also help guide us in times of difficulty.

    One of the goals of meditation is Vipassana which is insight. These insights can be very strong and powerful as they help us see things as they truly are. These powerful insights are what can cause the dark night of the soul. This happens when the person has often cultivated a lot of dry insight and has not also cultivated Samatha (calm abiding) before or in conjunction with Vipassana. This distress could actually be a a wonderful gift as insights into the true nature of reality are arising such as impermanence and emptiness. Culadasa talks about this on pages 409- 413 of the Mind Illuminated. The antidotes to this are cultivating both a stable calm abiding mind along with insight as well as following the other aspects of the dharma path such as cultivating virtue and compassion.

    Re mental chatter: It’s also ok that your internal chatter appears negative or ego-centric. That is just because you are judging them rather than noting there are there. You can just note there is chatter and not get as caught up in the story of what the chatter is. It’s possible to step back and just observe that it exists. This takes some time and will happen naturally as you meditate over time.

    I hope this helps a bit.



    Thank you Chloe! Your post was extremely reassuring and helpful!! I like your comment about not worrying about worst case scenario and concentrating on what’s more likely to happen. It’s just that this is such new ground to me, that I’m a bit anxious about challenging my fundamental beliefs.

    I would like to have a teacher – one that is familiar with TMI. How do I go about finding one? I’m not sure if I’m mapping myself properly, but I think I’m in the stage 5-6 range. I believe I have experienced a few Jhanas, mostly without trying to invoke them.

    I have been going to weekly Vipassana meeting and listening to Dharma talks for the past couple months. I enjoy them so much!

    Thanks again Chloe!




    You can find teachers working with TMI there: https://dharmatreasure.org/teachers-in-training/

    For your original question, here’s what I’ve heard: you can’t avoid the knowledges of suffering but you can definitely avoid the dark night, as long as your practice is balanced (cultivate the 8-fold path and the practice of virtue). That has been my experience so far. Sometimes, practice can be challenging but I can see why it has been said to be “good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end”.



    Becky C


    JC, i had the same concern last week after reading the literature, glad you asked question. these four or five talks, culadasa explains in depth how this state can come about, eased my mind.

    All the best to you on your journey!



    Thank you Frederic, this is exactly what I needed!

    Becky, I’m definitely going to check this out soon – much appreciated!!

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