That Vice Article on the Dark Night

by Daniel Ingram

So this article came out in Vice on November 14th, 2018: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions that a practitioner picked up TMI and then MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong.

While I am delighted they are talking about the Dark Night in more real-world terms than what it typically gets, I must admit I felt more than a bit slighted, and noted numerous bits of irony that I found irksome.

Irony #1: being mentioned in the same sentence as The Mind Illuminated, which, while a great textbook on meditation fundamentals, is also frankly and irresponsibly dismissive IMHO of the Dark Night stages, giving them only cursory treatment, claiming to be able to often bypass them by just adding in some more samatha with the vipassana, a claim that doesn’t even often work out in students working with the man himself, as I noted during my month co-teaching with Culadasa at his own meditation center Dharma Treasure this September.

Irony #2: Speaking of which, not any mention is made of the fact that I go farther out of my way in MCTB2 to mention the Dark Night stages in excruciating detail and provide more warnings and helpful and normalizing tech for dealing with them than any book I know of on meditation, and yet I seem to being lumped into the camp of those who don’t mention them, which is doubly ironic, as mentioning the Dark Night has earned me no end of flack from numerous major “don’t talk about it” types ever since I started online in dharma communities in 1997.

Irony #3: the fact that no mention is made of the fact that I have run and paid for a free online community of over 6,000 people for over a decade that is largely populated by people who have run into these difficult stages.

Irony #4: that Shinzen is quoted as mentioning the Dark Night stages, when he is one of the ones who is moderately dismissive of how frequently and sometimes how intensely they occur, as evidenced by his recent podcast with Michael Taft on Deconstructing yourself. (Just so I am clear, I am generally a big fan of Shinzen, but diverge from him radically on this particular point, but at least he will talk about it.)

Irony #5: the fact that I spend numerous hours every single week answering emails and skype calls and the like for free largely helping to handle people who have run into the Dark Night stages and are struggling with them.

Irony #6: I have also influenced and promoted scientific articles that mention the Dark Night stages, including the work of Drs Willoughby Britton and Jared Lindahl, as well as through my editing work for a meditation journal, and the influence I had on Duncan’s article about the Dark Night stages that went out in the journal that goes to every mental health practitioner in the UK.

Irony #7: that I have been on numerous podcasts and even interviewed by the BBC and other mainstream media sources regarding the Dark Night stages for my work in trying to bring awareness to them.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my somewhat self-indulgent rant about a pretty ironically distorted article from my point of view, that again at least is talking about these crucial topics.

Daniel