iPhone Flashlight Afterimage Kasina

This is an adapted and updated version of a post I wrote on the Dharma Overground back in August 2014.

Please note that having this experience probably requires strong concentration skills, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t manage it just yet. Don’t let that deter you from trying, of course! Beginner’s luck often plays a strong role in some of the most exciting meditation experiences (and life experiences in general!), because the lack of expectations and desire for some specific result actually keeps you relaxed which allows the results to unfold of their own accord. If you really struggle to maintain this level of absorption, however, you should probably go back and practise my Basic Concentration Meditation guide for a while.


There is an excellent section in MCTB starting on page 221 where Daniel describes moving through the jhanas using the retina-burned afterimage of a candle flame as his object. The following text has been heavily edited — please refer to the PDF for the full text.

Initially, I would stare at a candle flame until I really could stay with it, then there would be a natural shift, I would close my eyes, and I would see the visual purple phenomena where the afterimage of the flame was burned onto my retina. This would fade in a few seconds to be replaced by a red dot in the centre of my visual field. The red dot was clear, very round, pure, bright and seemingly stable. However, within a minute or so it would begin to shake, roll off to one side. […] Shortly thereafter the dot would begin to shake, shudder, split up, spin off to one side or the other, and generally seem to misbehave quite on its own. After a while of this, a slightly larger red dot would appear in the centre again that stayed there on largely its own, but it had a gold spinning star in its centre that would spin on its own with a speed and direction that varied with the phase of the breath.

The red dot with the spinning gold star would gradually acquire purple, green and blue rings around its outside, and then there would be a sudden shift where the red dot would vanish and be replaced by a slightly larger black dot. The black dot initially would seem to be a good focus, but quickly the area around the black dot got more interesting, with many very complex multi-point stars all circling slowly around it, getting wider and wider, with the interference patterns between them getting more and more complex, while the black dot faded somewhat, but to what was unclear. […]

As the complex patterns around the outside began to become more spherical as the edges wrapped around towards me, they began to be made out of lines that had more of a rainbow quality to them, with many complex motions and manifold symmetry. […]

This complex sphere on which was unfolding more and more complex patterns would then shift to something far more inclusive of space and the centre of attention, thus becoming much more three-dimensional. At this point, things seemed to happen on their own. As things would organize, there would arise all sorts of images, from Buddhas to black holes, from brilliantly formed Tantric images (Vajrasattva with consort, etc.) to complex abstract, three-dimensional designs that included the whole field of attention, with all made of rainbow lines, luminous, living, and very clear. I could end the cycle with essentially any image I wished with an ease I had never previously achieved. If I had not previously determined an image to end with, the surprises were just as good as anything I came up with and sometimes better. The point is that if you get your concentration strong enough, you can do these things also.

If you don’t have a candle to hand, or you don’t want to have a naked flame around, you can achieve exactly the same effect using any bright light. I did this using the flashlight on my iPhone. Stare at the LED for 10 seconds or so, turn it off, then close your eyes and use the retina-burned afterimage as your object. I do this in a completely dark room so there are no distractions from other light sources when the eyelids start to flicker etc. I even bought a black sleep mask, with moulded sockets so it does not inhibit the eyes flickering or opening during the meditation.

Please note that the object (kasina) is the retina-burned afterimage, not the direct light itself which should be turned off once a decent afterimage is created.

WARNING: I have no idea if this level of brightness from the LED is bad for your eyes or not. I looked it up online and there’s not a lot of information available, except for an estimate of 5-10 lumens. With this not being a laser I think 10 seconds might be all right, but if you find the iPhone LED too strong, or it hurts your eyes, or you don’t want to risk it, you can use a lower-powered light or candle flame.

The first time I tried this it was an interesting experience but I did not get the cool visuals described in the book, beyond the golden spinning star (which genuinely looks like a real sun).

On the second attempt, this time in a completely dark room, I got more of the visuals. I also fell asleep straight into a lucid dream after hitting what I believe was fourth samatha jhana. In the lucid dream I appeared to gain access to the unconscious’s “master narrative” — the ultra-condensed storyline it maintains about your character and direction of your life, filled with archetypes in the form of dream characters. I talked more about this experience here: Testing Charlie Morley’s Lucid Dreaming Techniques

On the third attempt with the kasina, I got practically every visual Daniel Ingram describes in MCTB. This included sparkling, fractal imagery within the “sun” itself and, when the sun faded and the outside edges of the “black hole” around the faded sun became the focus, I found they were made of coloured, beautiful fractals which looked basically identical to this:

Mandelbrot Set

I found that image here: The Mandelbrot Set – “Thumbprint of God”

Coined as the THUMBPRINT OF GOD, each MANDELBROT BUG is a near copy of the original, yet is an individual UNIVERSE unto itself with subtle and original variations.  One could explore the above image FOREVER and still see new worlds.  In fact, you can actually “zoom in” to the Set as seen above until the original image is larger than the UNIVERSE itself! Truly, it is an equation of INFINITY.

I could literally see infinite complexity in those fractals around the black hole in my visual field. Truly, you could not make this stuff up. The excitement of it all was nearly enough to break the jhana (this used to happen to me when first experiencing visuals), but I can hold things together pretty well now. I also noticed that the purple and green lines emanating around the black hole were made up of fractals themselves.

Studying these fractals was the last thing I remember because, suddenly — BOOM! I was into what appeared to be a future-prediction vision. I saw a girl I haven’t seen for ages in a bar I rarely go in. I’m quite often right when I have such visions, so I went to an open mic night at that bar the following week. The girl was there. She walked over, hugged me, then got on stage and started playing songs about the universe! I had no idea she even played at open mics. These kinds of incidents make total sense under a non-dual (non–subject-object) understanding of reality and do not require supernatural thinking or hocus-pocus to explain. Meditation practices like these are one way to begin to cultivate such an understanding.

On subsequent practices of this meditation, I experienced the white star spontaneously turn into the Earth viewed from many miles away in space, and several other images (usually space-related) that my conceptual mind would project onto this mind-made object. The days following such experiences were marked by a lasting, intense rapture and fascination, which is a hallmark of “hard jhana”.

In the days following these experiences, I found I had acquired seemingly a deep understanding of all things I turned my attention to. These ideas — about people, concepts and themes — were made up of “whole-image” sensory impressions and drifted around within dimensions interspersed with our known four dimensions of typical experience. They were then interpreted by my logical brain as easy-to-understand rules and paradigm shifts. I later discovered, through reading MCTB, that these whole-image sensory impressions are known in insight practice as “formations”.

Around the time I first wrote up the above experience, which was during the couple of months following reading MCTB, I had many “clicks” and mini Dark Nights lasting a few hours or a few days, which revolved around whatever object (be it person, place, concept, “theme” and so forth) I turned my attention to. The more personal importance the object had to me, the longer the cycle. These cycles were kind of like mini fractal versions of the Path of Insight. At this time, I arrived at the notion that any change in human understanding, on any topic, follows the Path of Insight in smaller or larger fractal versions. Even the Path of Insight itself can be seen as just a change in understanding about something bigger than usual — the nature of reality itself — and that cycle therefore typically takes longer to complete.

So, the Path of Insight can be seen as just a larger fractal version of the changes in understanding we make regarding any little piece of our reality in our daily lives. A silly example of this is as follows. Let’s say you turn on your computer and find that the internet doesn’t work that day. First, you notice the impermanence of the internet connection (The Arising and Passing Away), then you sigh (Dissolution). Then you have a little spike of fear as consequences begin to trickle in, such as not being able to do your work (Fear), followed by some sadness (Misery). Then there is anger at the change (Disgust) and a desire for a return to a stable reality (Desire for Deliverance), followed by mini-repeats of these last few stages as you adjust to the new situation (Re-observation). Finally, you become accepting of the adjusted reality and a sense of calm and things “being out of your hands” takes over (Equanimity). (Click here for a full list of the stages of the Path of Insight, or read MCTB).

This experience marked an important shift in my understanding of reality, whereby I came to find that “everything is everything” (it’s all just itself), and that everything is contained within everything else. This led to the development of my fractal model of the universe, which forms the basis for my new “theory of everything” — the most comprehensive description of reality I have ever encountered, possibly even one-upping the Buddha himself, and which I will write about here on PPM and eventually turn into a book over the coming years.

I will also add that, after originally having this experience back in August 2014, I since have achieved First Path, also known as Stream Entry. This means I’m “enlightened” in one respect, and on my way to “full enlightenment” in another, depending who you ask. This completion occurred over the last 2–3 weeks, with specific triggers and “cascade effects”. I’ll write up the full account of that experience soon. Gaining the insights described in this post however was a vital part of allowing me to make that transformation.

I’m sorry if this post hasn’t made much sense to many of you, and for its heavy reliance on terms from another work. There is simply no way to describe this sort of thing succinctly! Understanding these insights properly also relies on their direct experience. But hopefully some of you will understand some of what I’ve written here — and, if not, at least it may prompt a few of you to explore reality further by reading materials such as MCTB, and by practising meditation!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Daniel Ingram for all his hard work in bringing this technology to us in such an accessible form.

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34 Responses

  1. James says:

    Is there a great period of time between when the afterimage stops and the other visual ques start?

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi James,

      The visual cues — the “mind-made” elements of the image — have begun as soon as the afterimage coalesces into a small dot. For me, this can be a matter of <10 seconds. With the iPhone light afterimage, this can appear to happen deceptively quickly, because the afterimage itself is already quite a small dot. But it takes on a different quality once the mind-made elements start -- perhaps becoming brighter, or otherwise visibly different from a regular afterimage.

      In order to test what is a "real" coalescence or not, you can waggle the flashlight around in your visual field before the meditation to create a greater area of "retina burn", or with several dot afterimages clustered together. When this larger area/cluster still coalesces into a single glowing dot, it should be clear to you that this is a mind-made phenomenon. Or, you can do the meditation with a candle flame, which has a larger afterimage anyway -- it will still coalesce into a small dot.

      I've even done freaky things like not starting out with a light/afterimage at all, then closing my eyes and picking an area in my visual field to "find" a white dot, finding one spontaneously and having things start from literally nothing. You expect to find a dot, and presto, there it is. This is when you start to realize how malleable the mind/experience/awareness is, and how, in these contexts, experience proceeds causally from expectations. If Daniel Ingram had described the meditation as having the afterimage coalesce into pink flying elephants, that's what I would have seen. I think the mind finds it easier however to project space scenes onto the dark stuff you see with eyes closed because, with its phosphenes flashing against a dark background, it already somewhat resembles space. You can tell you are in "hard" jhana when you find yourself gazing at something resembling, say, the Earth viewed from a distance. The fact you are gazing at a scene at all, when it was just random phosphenes moments ago, is a clear sign of deep absorption.

      As for how quickly such scenes appear (or whether they appear at all) following from the dot-coalescence phase, well that's entirely down to the meditator, his relaxation, his expectations, his frustrations (if he has them), his desire, how much he is "monitoring" the whole situation, and so forth. Generally, the more you desire a certain outcome, the more tense you will become, which will hamper its emergence. Also, the more you monitor the situation -- asking yourself which phase you're in, and/or "trying too hard" to see the scene -- the more resistance you will bring to it. Beginner's luck truly is a blessing -- I mastered this meditation on my second attempt (experiencing the full range of visuals within, say, 5 minutes), and the third was great too. Then, as my desire for the visuals and the rapture they bring increased, it began taking longer and longer with each meditation to reach the visuals, because my grasping desire and frustration hampered the relaxation required for the state to emerge. Sometimes I could no longer even get to the earlier stages of the visuals! So I stopped grasping so hard for it and now just tend to do it very occasionally in an unplanned, ad hoc way. Sometimes it just "feels right", like I'll get a feeling if I try the meditation then it's going to work really well. Again, this is all to do with the causal relationship between expectations and outcomes.

      Edd

  2. James says:

    Thanks Edd.

    I find I’ve been able to get into the “newbie” state more and more as I practice, meaning trying to make each time fresh and new without using force.

  3. James says:

    I tried this a few times – each time I have gotten a red dot – the last time I did it (last night, laying in bed) I Got a BRIGHT red dot, I was starring so intently I didn’t even realize my eyes were open, it was like having an open eye’d hallunaction, the red dot always seem to travel upward and I for whatever reason scrunch my face when it happens.

    interesting, I’ll keep trying and see what else occures,.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Read the full text of the section I quoted from MCTB. The movement of the red dot as a result of mind/body activity corresponds to the second vipassana jhana, Knowledge of Cause and Effect. You can move beyond it. Just relax and assume it’s just a phase that will pass in its own time.

  4. James says:

    Oh, I read it through once the first time, so I didn’t pay attention to detail because I didn’t know what to look for.

    I got to this part: many very complex multi-point stars all circling slowly around it, getting wider and wider, with the interference patterns between them getting more and more complex, while the black dot faded somewhat, but to what was unclear.

    And that was it.

    Thanks for the feedback Edd.

  5. James says:

    Yo!

    Been reading MCTB, a bit wordy but a good read so far.

    My biggest problem with this meditation is my eyes don’t want to stay shut, or they want to scrunch up.

    if I lightly close my eyes, I’ll end up blinking a lot which really lets me look at the after image – OR I’ll scrunch my face and be able to stare intently at the image.

    If I just try to “relax” and gently look at the image, I find my eyes will open.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Let the eyes do whatever they want to do. If their opening bothers you, wear a black sleep mask with moulded eye covers (which have a space in them to let the eyes open without the mask touching them).

      There is a forceful element to concentration (i.e. ruthlessly returning one’s attention to the object), especially when first starting out. However, there is also very much a “letting concentration happen” side to it, whereby you let the process unfold “as it wants to”. Try and strike a happy balance. If things are feeling too forced, move to the other end of the spectrum — let go and have faith that concentration is a natural process which unfolds of its own accord, and therefore don’t sweat the little things like what eyes or breathing are doing at any given moment.

  6. James says:

    So here’s an update of sorts:

    You made a post I recently read about letting your body do what it wants and it will fix your posture/work out the kinks in your system.

    I learned to do this through ayahuasca, which slipped into my meditation practice, most the time when I meditate I sit and let my body do what it wants to do.

    I read your post about concentration and thought it was neat so I tried it, and I’ve had a hard time with to be honest.

    However, when I just meditate the way I have been (you could even argue I FOCUS on letting it go) I do parts of concentration meditation, it seems to go in cycles.

    It starts normally with fixing my posture (rotating shoulders, straightening spine) then I end up focusing on breath, then tension in my stomach, then I naturally do breath of fire, and that normally lasts about 10 minutes.

    Then I cycle back to concentration, normally at this point is pleasent sensations in the body I feel, whether thats my diaphram when I breath or my lungs, or just a smile on my face.

    Then the body goes back to breath of fire, rolling shoulders/streching arms, then back to concentration.

    I’ve for sure hit different levels Jhana during this. Just recently I felt like I had sever orgasms (my body also flexing its PC muslce) other times I’ve gotten really right orange light behind my eyes, and just about left my body but I forced it and dissapated.

    So, a question, or myabe observation, is I might be forcing concentration meditation too much when my body isn’t ready for it, so its going to be more difficult until I let my body work out its kinks.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi James,

      You could take those experiences — e.g. the flexing PC muscle, the various cycling, the other signs you mentioned — to different forums or teachers, or look them up in different books, and get a million different answers, all trying to pigeon-hole them into their own “maps”. That’s normal, and the way humans go about things. I would say, follow what makes you happy.

      “You made a post I recently read about letting your body do what it wants and it will fix your posture/work out the kinks in your system.”

      I flicked often between a very mechanical treatment system for muscular problems and a very organic, “let it do what it wants” system, and my writing alternated in concert with those switches (which were based on new experiences). Those could be modelled as a left brain vs. right brain way of doing things, respectively. Like any good system, I finally struck a balance between both hemispheres working cooperatively. I use targeted actions on specific “blocks” (e.g. specific tight muscles) and then use things like breathing and relaxation to get fluid movement to integrate the now-loosened muscle back into the whole-body template.

      I keep coming up with better and better ways to fix these problems. It’s frustrating because each time I go to put pen to paper I come up with something new from the opposite angle, integrate it, and suddenly the system I was about to write up no longer makes much sense from the new perspective. That is the way I seem to approach just about everything in life. It has yielded some really strong results — but the swinging between different approaches is infuriating at times! The goal is always to find out how to take a complex change and perform it in the fewest steps possible — and for those steps to be universal, so I can then teach it to anyone. I’ve got fixing posture down to about 5 steps or something now haha, but at the moment those steps cannot be put into text form.

      Regards,

      Edd

  7. James says:

    I wonder how much of it is building off the work you did previously. For instance when I practiced breath meditation, I could get into that “drop” feeling, in about 10 seconds, now however I can’t find it in an hour – my body wants to do other stuff so I’m letting it.

    I feel like my body is setting itself up to make everything else “right” and “Easier” and that everything will build from here.

    I want to say that’s the case with you and your consistent new perspective, you have to go through the current change to get to the next change, I don’t know if it ever stops evolving.

    I fix my posture by deep breaths and intent, I just go into my body and it shapes it right up. I Feel like intent is often over looked in lots of things.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Yes, my body is constantly building off its past experience. What I find disconcerting at times however is that I interpret that progression in terms of conflicting information. So, the assumption tends to arise that “how I was doing it before” was completely wrong, rather than just being a natural stepping-stone. That’s why my writing flip-flops between extremes and models get changed entirely overnight sometimes. I’m only recently, through this process of posture, beginning to get a handle on that.

      “I fix my posture by deep breaths and intent, I just go into my body and it shapes it right up.”

      There is an important point I need to make here. Having abused my arms via computer use for literally 20 years straight — the same “mouse” and “keyboard” positions, for several hours every day — there are problems that only specific, targeted exercises can fix. “Holistic” methods simply won’t corrected such issues. There was a time when I thought those problems were permanent, so I’m glad to have since found that any problem concerning muscle contraction can be fixed.

      These targeted exercises almost entirely consist of relaxing the “perma-contracted” muscle (which tends to develop twists over time) while rotating it gently in the opposite direction of the twist. For the record, there is practically zero “stretching” involved. Stretching, as it is commonly envisaged by the general public, is largely nonsense and unhelpful for muscular correction. 95% of the game is about relaxation and rotating joints by activating old neural pathways which have “fallen off the map” due to years of having not been used. It’s difficult but I’m sure it can be taught.

      “I Feel like intent is often over looked in lots of things.”

      I certainly use intent in the “holistic” method I use for posture — meaning the method I use when I want to get up and walk somewhere.

      I’ve found that just doing jhana generally, e.g. on the breath, or just “doing jhana” (I can do jhana with no object) automatically fixes posture in the holistic sense. That was amazing to first discover. Here is a great tip, though: go for a walk, and do jhana with the crown of your head as the object. This has probably been the quickest, most amazing holistic method I’ve found so far.

  8. James says:

    I went on a walk, used the top of my head for awareness, its def makes you stand straight, and forced my shoulds not only back, but DOWN also, which is something my body forgets to do.

    I agree that stretching is – well misused. Your bodies ability for flexibility lies in it knowing it has enough strength to perform the action (strength largerly being a function of the nervous system) – if it doesn’t think it has the strength for it your muscles will tighten.

    I personally have terrible trap/shouldblade knots/lock ups that can lead to migraines. A lot of time spent in meditation is often just me rotating my shoulders back working out tension.

    • Illuminatus says:

      If you have used computers most of your life your muscles will most likely be fucked beyond all recognition. I’ve tried to start writing a muscle/posture guide several times but it’s extremely difficult to put into words, nigh on impossible in fact. Fixing the shoulders for example is a truly remarkable feat that, even if done with 100% correct method, will likely take several days of applied effort — we’re talking HOURS a day — to correct. It was simply not within my logical ability to fix — I HAD to use the right brain to repair the fault. This is because years of computer use introduces twists in the muscle. Imagine a piece of string spiralled around a pencil, and when you turn the pencil the string tightens and draws upward. That is literally what happens to your muscles around your arm bones and torso from applied computer use. My shoulders were literally — LITERALLY — inside out. I’ve only recently been able to figure out how to “actually” untwist everything and, like I said, this MUST be done with the right brain, because linear logic simply will not tell you the very exact pattern one must move through in order to full untwist this muscle.

      It has been an extremely long, arduous, oftentimes hopeless endeavour, because there is simply no literature out there for it — because it is practically impossible to put into words. For me personally, the rewards of fixing it have all been worth it — it even ties directly into enlightenment, and I am literally about to become enlightened (if I choose — I have not decided yet if the time is right. But that’s too much to go into in this post).

      And yes muscle problems will cause you migraines and myriad other faults — because all muscles are connected. To a degree unfathomable to the layperson. E.g. a knotted calf muscle can cause neck problems, such is the universal interconnectedness of muscle.

      I am considering training volunteers for free, to see if fixing this can actually be taught. But they would have to meet me in person, in England.

  9. James says:

    I feel like, due to taking very strong psychoactive drugs, I can tap into my body in ways other people can’t. For instance everytime I smoke weed, it turns into a long yoga session with lots on contorting and flexing and breathing etc…

    It is difficult at times to go deep into your body sober, it really requires an altered state I feel (or, you are always in an altered state and requires going back to the meat puppet, however you wanna call it).

    I’ve been meditating more – and the eye scrunching has stopped, what happened was what I assumed was going on with that, I had unresolved tension in my brow that needed released, after a few sessions of scrunchy/wide smiling its easy to keep my eyes closed now.

    After reading this post and some of the book you mention, it occured to me that what made me “special” in life was my ability to concentrate, and how lots of things I got praised for or were good at just boiled down to me being interested in them and having razor sharp focus.

  10. jeremythebear says:

    Thank you for this guide (and this website in general, I don’t think there is a better guide out there, that cover’s in detail, these experiences.

    I’ve been practicing with a flashlight for a couple of weeks now and just had a proper full on experience (beyond a circle that changes colours, rotating star with the breath). I could suddenly see a collection of geometric shapes on a grey background. Then that changed to a white background with yellow, green and red shapes (that felt most odd – I think it was seeing white, almost like wallpaper). That then become a black background with luminous yellow/green shapes glowing in the darkness. Then that continued to clouds and things that looked face-like.

    I honestly have never experienced anything like this, thank you for such a wonderful insight. I’ve been practicing samatha meditation for 1-2 hours a day, for around 3 months and am just starting more insight based meditation (especially on no-self).

    • Illuminatus says:

      Sounds great. 🙂 Did you get a good look at any of the glowing shapes?

      According to Daniel Ingram, this meditation can be used to progress through all vipassana stages ending with Fruition (which would mean you reached Stream Entry). You just have to maintain concentration. I have not had Fruition from this meditation because I got sidetracked by the visuals and lost concentration. However, I haven’t practised it for a while so might pick it back up.

  11. jeremythebear says:

    Thanks for the reply, this site is really gold dust. 🙂 The glowing shapes looked like hieroglyphs. I’ve done this three times and there appears to be a consistent pattern of phases of images I go through. Once the star has faded. I get the grey background with shapes. The next stage is like a membrane over water, it looks like there is something moving underneath. A bright light appears in the middle and that changes to the white background with the yellow, green shapes (they are small rectangles of different sizes). Then I get a black background with lime green glowing hieroglyph like shapes. I also at some point saw a mandelbrot set. On a different point, I tried out your breathing technique this morning, whereby you target the nose bone and aim for the back of your head. Absolutely amazing, I had a big build up of energy in seconds and targetted it at the third eye. I got a jhana very quickly.

    By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but have you any techniques you could suggest for encouraging energy glow between the chakras? At the moment I target the breath at each chakra in turn, working my way up to the crown. But I was wondering if there was a better way than what I am doing.

    Thanks again, for the insightful information you’ve shared here. 🙂

    JTB

  12. jeremythebear says:

    To add, I seem to repeatedly see crystalline structures during tranisitions between images, like snowflakes, they are very intricate. A little like paper doily’s. Very beautiful to look at.

    • Illuminatus says:

      jeremythebear, your concentration sounds very strong. Well done! This kind of progress in 3 months tends to affirm my idea that there are some with a “natural talent” for concentration (the reasons for which we can only guess at this stage).

      I have also seen the “doily” effect — in fact every visual during the meditation had these patterns within their edges. If you get up close, you might find that they are also Mandelbrot sets.

      • jeremythebear says:

        Thanks for the kind words and feedback. I don’t know if this has any bearing on my rate of concentration progress. But prior to starting meditation practice last year, I have been a bodybuilder for over 20 years and have built up a strong mind/muscle connection, whilst training. I also as part of the training, count all repetitions in my head (i count 1-5 also whilst meditating on the breath), so I may have some element of concentration practice from this. I eat a very simple diet as well (no heavily processed foods, no red meat – eggs and fish for protein) and don’t drink alcohol or smoke.

  13. Kautilya says:

    Hello Illuminatus,,

    Jeremythebear….you are roght sme of the stuff is indeed gold.

    But speaking of guides. I believe your long awaited Jhana guide is going be released this month….is that still the plan??

    I’m not using any kasina but I don’t see the point of posting elsewhere. I am finding that during my mindfulness training that you said to do for 2 months, it sometimes is very good. As in for prolonged periods of time I keep attention and am with the breath. There are however times when there are ‘background distractions’….. funny because I am still noticing the breath….yet am aware of a word, an image, film or something in the background. At these times I actually find it easier to go a little more intense – really noticing the gaps, the sound, the ‘waviness’ of the breath – does that indicate a natural progression to concentration (absorpotion) meditation from mindfulness??

    *** One other very small thing is that sometimes – I wonder how I can concentrate at all:

    – the sound chages, sensations are stronger on the inhale or exhale, one single point at the nostril doesnt have ‘stimulation’ all the time……what am I concentrating on???

    I guess this doesn’t apply to mindfulness as the breath can be taken more ‘holistically’

    Im really on this right now

    Thanks!

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi Kautilya,

      You sounds a lot more “with it” since you have been practising, and are already coming up with some good stuff. Well done.

      “But speaking of guides. I believe your long awaited Jhana guide is going be released this month….is that still the plan??”

      I’ve been meaning to make a post about this. The jhana guide won’t be released this month. I got massively distracted the last two months with a new myofascial release technique, which has had strong results but which had thrown up even more questions for me. Sorry, that’s just where my attention went. That project takes up more of my attention than anything else. I no longer have an ETA on any guide I’m writing. I am just recommending to people that they read Culadasa’s “The Mind Illuminated” since that seems to be the current guide in vogue. I have read through the intro and he seems to know what he’s doing.

      “I’m not using any kasina but I don’t see the point of posting elsewhere. I am finding that during my mindfulness training that you said to do for 2 months, it sometimes is very good. As in for prolonged periods of time I keep attention and am with the breath. There are however times when there are ‘background distractions’….. funny because I am still noticing the breath….yet am aware of a word, an image, film or something in the background.”

      Yes, that’s exactly how it’s meant to be. You let the images and thoughts arise and pass. I see this as the mind “rebooting” itself — just letting all the junk fall out of the buffer.

      “At these times I actually find it easier to go a little more intense – really noticing the gaps, the sound, the ‘waviness’ of the breath – does that indicate a natural progression to concentration (absorpotion) meditation from mindfulness??”

      Yes. In short, there are two ways to get jhana, which we might call “direct” and “indirect”.

      Direct methods involve skipping the mindfulness phase and using devices like extreme breath control and powerful flexing of the concentration muscle to boot into a jhana very fast.

      Indirect methods are more like what you are already doing, and are what Ajahn Brahm means when he says, “Jhana is a state meditators fall into now and again.” They are non-forced. To get a jhana this way you would just continue exactly what you are doing, becoming more and more aware of the spaciousness between thoughts as it grows, and noticing how the breath is filling up more and more of your awareness. You do not rush or force or even worry about getting jhana; you just continue breathing and noticing the increasing spaciousness. After this, there is a mental phase which cannot really be described in words; it is like the mind is absorbing into itself along with the breath. There are very very few thoughts at this point. This is access concentration. A jhana will tend to just arise by itself at some point if you stay in this mental space. Even though they take longer, these jhanas are arguably a lot deeper and all-encompassing than the “fast” jhanas described above (though those can be taken to great depths with skill).

      “*** One other very small thing is that sometimes – I wonder how I can concentrate at all:

      – the sound chages, sensations are stronger on the inhale or exhale, one single point at the nostril doesnt have ‘stimulation’ all the time……what am I concentrating on???”

      Two possible solutions I can think of:

      1) You just imagine you can still perceive that single point on the end of your nose, even though there are no sensations. You just fix your attention there anyway. It is a “mental point” at that point.

      2) You notice there is a “mental breath” (a name Mayath and I recently gave it during some private emails). This is kind of like a wave that passes through awareness even if the body cannot feel it. It is like the mind itself has a breath washing through it in a rhythmic fashion. I recommend this method. Notice the “mental breath” going through your mind even when you have lost touch with your body.

  14. Kautilya says:

    Hello,

    Great answer – thanks

    Actually I’m just watching ST:TNG S05E06 ‘The Game’ lol…thought why not lol!??

    I have got Culdasa’s book and I think it is very good. I understand that maintaining concentration is paramount and that background – thoughts, words, images etc. will gradually become less frequent.

    I don’t understand ‘spaciousness between thoughts’ – is that just the gap between them arising?

    Also in mindfulness would this just be maintained but in concentration we expect them to gradually disappear. Essentially whats the difference between a great mindfulness session with hardly any thoughts and a great pre-jhana concentration session with hardly any thought?

    I’m going to have to ponder this ‘mental breath a bit’

    The great thing now is even though I don’t have 100% set times – with many things I have to use ‘habit formation strategies’ etc. I don’t need that with meditation. A ‘bad’ day is me doing half hour at some point in e day but it has naturally become a normal part of my life and my current goal is 3, 1 hour sessions in the day. Really motivated to cultivate as you said a ‘blissful, powerful mind’

    Thanks!

    • Illuminatus says:

      “I don’t understand ‘spaciousness between thoughts’ – is that just the gap between them arising?”

      That’s the start of it, yes. As you go on however there will develop a sense of physical spaciousness in the mind, too. Energies will begin to build within that space and be experienced. You will be able to let go not only of thoughts but also the thing that creates the thoughts — the kind of background “fuzz”, the dissatisfaction, that is always spinning new thoughts in its attempt to become satisfied. That “fuzz” itself will start to drain away into the energies that arise. A sense of space really opens up. Then, all you have to do is stay in that space and jhana will arise.

      “I’m going to have to ponder this ‘mental breath a bit’”

      Awareness of the mental breath tends to arise naturally the more you practise. However, for now, you could close your eyes and pause your physical breathing, and pretend you are still breathing with your mind. You are looking for a sense of “wash” flowing through your head, like energy is passing through your mind. If you can then synchronize the mental breath to your physical breath, that is one way of getting access concentration extremely quickly, with jhana following soon after.

      • Salg says:

        Hi Illuminatus,

        Is this “mental breath” the pulsing sensation you can notice in your facial area ( sometimes eyes) when your thoughts quiet down?

        • Kautilya says:

          Illuminatus,

          May I just say you sound like a fucking madman – I like!

          What is all this about in a nutshell. I have read your other posts (p.s. ‘myofacial’ doesnt return a search result)

          Is it a physical thing like you always feel you’ve feel you’ve just had a massage?? (as you’d mentioned knots) Good for martial arts in generating power? meditation posture?

          Whats the deal with this myofacial unwinding as the wikipdedia page makes it sound akin to untested work with crystals.

          Thanks

          (please delete duplicate post – its better here)

          • Illuminatus says:

            Don’t duplicate posts. We can all figure out where it was meant to go, and we don’t need the second email.

            You spelled “myofascial” wrong, that’s why search didn’t pick anything up.

            Here is a very quick breakdown:

            – Fascia (used interchangeably with “myofascia” on this site) is the connective tissue between muscle fibres, nerves, and everything else, which also joins muscle to bone.

            – When left in the same position for a long time, e.g. during sleep, or while sitting at a computer, fascia tends to “set” in that pose. So your body gets set into the shape you sleep in.

            – A YAWN is supposed to stretch out and unstick the fascia back into its regular shape. I seem to be the only person in the fucking world who has figured out that is the true purpose of the yawn, and I have a whole thesis planned on it.

            – If you miss a yawn, the fascia gets left set in that shape. Over time these “sets” accumulate giving a winding pattern around nerves and joints which can become painful. THIS is the true cause of all bad posture (besides actual injury, i.e. broken bones, nerve damage, tissue tearing etc.)

            – So I am coming up with tech to do “targeted yawns”, and using factors from the yawn process, to undo all this winding. Here is an example: http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/myofascial-release-and-unwinding-kiss-smile-breathe-repeat-and-fetal-position-for-sleeping/

            One of the main problems with myofascial winding is that if you meditate long enough your body will begin using those “wound” nerves again which causes the body to twist and turn in bizarre patterns. One of the purposes of yoga is to release fascia as much as possible prior to meditation. I am looking to eliminate the problem entirely.

            Emotions also cause fascial “setting”, which is why someone who scowls a lot will end up having “resting bitch face”. I also believe it causes other medical problems but I’m unwilling to go into that right now till I have more evidence.

            • Illuminatus says:

              I forgot to add. Sleeping in a soft comfy bed with a pillow is the WORST, most destructive thing you can do for your fascia/posture. It conditions the fascia into a shape with the neck bent sideways, and with the hips pushed out sideways. In my opinion it is the single greatest cause of the bad posture you now see in people everywhere: bow-legs, swayback, tilted pelvis, “winging”… the modern bed is a cancer on our people. You must sleep without a pillow on the firmest mattress or preferably the floor.

              The second biggest cause of problems is SITTING.

              All these issues could be avoided however if mindful yawning is applied after every sitting or lying. However, I’m still figuring out how to do that optimally.

        • Illuminatus says:

          I would say that’s one possible manifestation of it.

          I would describe the mental breath as the constant in-out rhythm taking place across the whole body at all times. It speeds up during emotions like fear, where it is perceived as a rapid pulsing.

          When meditating obviously the mental breath should be slower. When the physical breathing slows down and even stops sometimes, as it inevitably will during practice, you can instead put attention on the mental breath, if you can perceive it. Strangely, for me, doing this usually starts up the physical breath as well and they sync. Their synchronization is a sure sign of concentration.

          One thing I often recommend is that, if you cannot perceive something yet, simply imagine you can, and eventually the real thing will manifest. So, close your eyes and imagine there is a steady flow of some energy washing through your face into your head. Smiling will help this.

  15. Rigz says:

    ” I got massively distracted the last two months with a new myofascial release technique, which has had strong results but which had thrown up even more questions for me. ”

    Do you have any more info on this, what questions has it thrown up? The old stuff makes a lot of sense and the kiss micro-unwind technique and sleeping without a pillow have been huge for me. My neck has got progressively looser just from using no pillow, I can literally feel it lighter when I wake up. I’m curious if you have been able to enhance the process even further and what new insights you have into it.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Well. I’ve always been going for a CURE. A 100% solution. I think I have that tech now, but need to complete my unwind 100% before I make any claims. I also need to seriously think about whether it can be taught, because it seems to require a fair bit of body mindfulness, i.e. awareness of fine nerves.

      • Illuminatus says:

        UPDATE: I just tweaked the tech and it’s looking good — REALLY good. If I’m happy with it, watch out for a bold, unsubstantiated claim on the blog in the next few days. 😀

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