Mailbag: Questions on Kasina Practice

The following question refers to kasina concentration practice. A kasina is a physical object you look at in order to create a visual meditation and absorption in that object. Examples of kasina physical objects include (but are not limited to):

  • Coloured discs (originally made of clay, but now paper and other materials can also be used to make them)
  • A shape, e.g. a red triangle, a yellow square
  • An element such as water or fire, the latter induced by staring at a candle flame
  • Scenes in nature, e.g. trees silhouetted against a sunset, or a body of water such as a lake

Kasina meditation can be extremely interesting and compelling, and I practised it from a very early time (before even knowing that this was an established practice). For many people they can be a relative shortcut to jhana because they create interesting visuals which your curiosity finds easy to latch onto and explore. For example, a sunset meditation can be immediately more engaging and gratifying than using a more neutral object such as the breath (which can be hard for beginners to get their mind into, conceptually).

I made a lot of early gains from kasina and other visual meditations, and for this reason I am going to be promoting kasina meditation a lot more on this blog and in the new jhana guide. It is my thought that many people who already use visual absorptions, such as intensive video game playing, could potentially quickly transfer those skills to concentration practice via kasina meditation, and therefore circumvent much of the obscurity of learning to use the breath as an object. Once concentration has been developed using kasinas, one can return to more obscure objects such as the breath as the concentration pathway has already been trained.

There are three general ways to practise kasina meditation:

  • Simply keep looking at the actual physical object, e.g. a flame, until absorption is reached. In this type of meditation you keep your eyes open, continuously studying the object, which will begin to induce perceptual changes.
  • Stare at the physical object for a while, then close your eyes and see the afterimage of the object burned onto your retina, then continue the meditation with eyes closed looking only at the afterimage in order that it becomes a purely mind-made object.
  • Memorize a shape – e.g. a red triangle – and keep imagining it, repeating this process of intensive imagination until you can recreate the stable mental image of that shape at will.

The afterimage is, in my experience, the easiest and most immediately interesting way to do kasina meditation, and will be the focus of this Mailbag post.

An afterimage is formed from staring at an object for an extended period, then closing your eyes and seeing the negative of that image burned onto your retina. This is due to the physiological effect that seeing the same pattern of light causes photoreceptors in the eye to “fatigue”, causing the negative image of that light pattern to stay projected in the field of vision even when looking away from the physical object or closing your eyes. You will have all experienced this effect at some point. The most obvious example is when a bright light such as the sun has been shining in your eyes then, looking away, you see a shadowy negative image of the sun persisting in vision. Another example is how, after staring at a bright computer screen for a long time, when you look away and blink you will sometimes see the outline of the computer screen in your field of vision.

These afterimages tend to fade away within a couple of minutes. In afterimage kasina meditation however, by continuing to study the afterimage using concentration skill, the image will stay and become a mind-made object, remaining in visual consciousness long after the retina-burned image would normally have faded away. When the object maintains itself like this, you are in jhana, and will begin to experience the jhana factors of rapture and bliss and other perceptual changes such as the object morphing and turning into visions and geometric patterns. The way the object changes shape in your mind’s eye, and the emotions that arise while this is happening, are indications of which jhana state you are in at the time. 

A strong example of kasina afterimage meditation is fire practice. Traditionally, a flame (e.g. a lit candle) would be stared at until an afterimage formed on the retina. Then, with eyes closed, you would take that afterimage as your object and concentrate upon it until it progressed through the various visual state changes indicating the progress of jhana levels. I have found that the same effect can be achieved by staring at the flashlight LED on an iPhone for a minute until a bright dot afterimage forms. Concentrating upon this afterimage with eyes closed then leads to the same jhana progression you would get from using an actual flame, and is probably easier to set up as most of us have mobile phones with a flashlight app built-in. I described this practice, and the various state-changes the visual will go through, in the following post: iPhone Flashlight Afterimage Kasina. It is worth reading that post quickly then returning here to finish this Mailbag article.

Please note: I am unsure about the safety of looking directly at a mobile phone’s brightly-lit LED. I tend to look at it for only around a minute, but this may be damaging my eyes (though I have never had any noticeable ill-effects from these short periods of time). You practise this at your own risk. If in doubt, just get an actual lit candle to look at.

Now, with that background established, I will answer some questions sent to me by James (a.k.a. WetWaterDrop):

Thought I’d share My experience with Kasina.

It was using the light of the phone, staring until I got a closed eye after image. I find even with eyes closed Id have to blink/squint hard to get the after image to stay. It started as a small black/purple light and eventually turned into a bright red circle (if I opened my eyes, the red circle was still there, as real as anything else) and it eventually turned into a black star thingy, and that was about as far as I got.

I did not get any feelings of bliss or rapture.

Also, I find I strain a lot keeping the image focused, where as with bridge of the nose or breath I can have a relaxed concentration but don’t tend to get visuals off those.

Let’s break this down:

It was using the light of the phone, staring until I got a closed eye after image. I find even with eyes closed Id have to blink/squint hard to get the after image to stay.

You should stare at the bright light longer then, perhaps for a minute or so. Also, try to get access concentration on that light while looking at it. This means holding it in your mind, steady in the same position, and relaxing and absorbing into it.

Also, turn off all the other lights in the room. I even bought a sleep mask to keep total darkness over my eyes for the eyes-closed phase of this meditation. I will look at the light for a minute, then turn it off, pop on the sleep mask so I am in total darkness, and this gives me a very clear afterimage of the light to then focus upon.

It started as a small black/purple light and eventually turned into a bright red circle (if I opened my eyes, the red circle was still there, as real as anything else) and it eventually turned into a black star thingy, and that was about as far as I got.

That’s actually quite good for your first try.

To get further, you now need to notice the kind of attention you paid to the object to get that far, then just hold that specific kind of attention even longer.

The experience ending at that early stage is just an issue of concentration stamina. Concentration is like a muscle that must be trained. This exercise is very good for building concentration stamina and you should get further along in the jhana sequence the more you practise.

I did not get any feelings of bliss or rapture.

Each object type has its own flavour of jhana. With kasina, the feelings are more inclined toward rapture initially as the visuals can be so interesting and compelling. The rapture feelings tend to start once the mind “forgets” that it created the image it is looking at, and begins treating it as a phenomenon separate from itself. At this point, it will project itself onto the object in order to create an explanation of what it is seeing. This can manifest as, for example, suddenly perceiving the glowing dot as a planet viewed from space. I will often suddenly believe I am looking at the planet Earth from many miles away. Sometimes, a starfield will also form around it in order to complete the illusion. It is these sudden perceptual changes in interpretation of the object that tend to coincide with sudden rapturous feelings. It is a moment wherein you temporarily completely forget who you are and that you are practising a meditation exercise – instead, in that moment, you are literally viewing a planet from space. The personality is totally forgotten. It is these moments that can be strongly compelling and addictive, making you want to experience that state-shift again and again. Unfortunately, the sudden rapture can also have the effect of pulling you out of the meditation. I will often experience a mental dialogue that says, “Wow, there it is!” – and be reminded that this is something I am intentionally generating via an exercise. This completely breaks the illusion. Unfortunately, this is inevitable, and only persistence will allow you to suppress that mental dialogue and maintain the flow of the illusion, letting it take you to more advanced states.

As absorption continues and you settle into the full flow of the illusion, the rapture will start to give way to feelings of bliss and contentment. The strength of the feelings experienced is directly proportional to the level of absorption attained in the illusion. These feelings would have arisen strongly if you had continued along the concentration path you had already established at the point where the afterimage was becoming a red dot then a star. Basically, you were doing well, but lost stamina in the application of your attention to the object so the experience ended – this is very common when learning the skill.

Another point about kasina absorptions like this is that the feelings tend to arise and maintain themselves but as a background experience. They can be intense, but in order for them to continue and grow, you MUST maintain awareness on the object (the afterimage, red dot, star, then the visuals that come after that). This is quite different from breath jhana where you have many options to explore the various emotions and mental states that arise. With kasina meditation, you must maintain awareness on just on the visual in order for the process to continue. If you segue your attention into the good feelings and make them the object instead – which is very tempting to do when they first arise – the visualization will tend to end and the whole experience will come crashing down. This is not a complete disaster since, in concentration practice, if a momentum has been built, it is easier to return to where you left off within the meditation – in other words, just because the illusion is temporarily broken due to some mental dialogue or other perceptual interrupt, you do not have to “start again from scratch”. If you return your concentration to the object then the momentum can quickly catch up to the level it was at before the break.

Also, I find I strain a lot keeping the image focused, where as with bridge of the nose or breath I can have a relaxed concentration but don’t tend to get visuals off those.

This is to do with how you are applying attention to the afterimage: currently you are LOOKING at it, treating it as a feature of eyesight. This is also why you found yourself blinking and squinting to get the image to stay, initially. However, this is a mind-made object. Yes, it starts off as a physiological phenomenon – the retina-burned afterimage. But, by the time it collapses into a red dot and then turns into a star, you should have figured out that it is no longer anything to do with eyesight and is instead now a mind-made phenomenon.

It is a common issue, it seems, that people tend to go towards some point in awareness with their eyes – whether it be the bridge of the nose for breath jhana, or a visual object for kasina jhana, they try to LOOK at it. Their eyes go crossed as they try to stare at that central point. It’s understandable, since most application of attention done in the real world is via the eyes. However, this is a mind-made object we are holding in concentration, so you do not need to look at it with your eyes: rather, with your mind. You can hold the afterimage in awareness without looking directly at it with your eyes. This is the same way that, when you imagine a scene, you don’t try to look at it by moving your eyes around, but rather you allow the image to fall into your mind’s eye and move of its own accord.

For a better idea about how to apply attention in this way, consider hearing a bird singing outside. You pinpoint it as being behind, above, and to the left of you. Your awareness goes towards that point, and you may even get a visual of the bird. That is all mental awareness projected towards a point in spacetime – the eyes don’t need to “look” toward that position to have awareness go there. So, when holding the light afterimage in awareness, don’t try to look at it with your eyesight, but instead look at it with your mind. You should be able to completely relax your eyes and still find the afterimage floating around in your mind’s eye, and then apply concentration towards that object through your mind rather than through your eyes. This is in fact why this type of meditation is so powerful for training concentration – it is learning to focus the mind like a laser, working through itself rather than through the senses.

Once the mind latches onto the object in this way it will begin to project itself onto the object, and you will get the incredible visualizations that tend to arise by themselves. E.g. once the mind is absorbed enough with the object, it will forget that it created the object and instead treat it as a literal separate object. The mind will decide that it must be looking at a distant planet, and will fill in the starfield and other surroundings. Or perhaps the light will start to resemble a literal pearl, and the vision will go in a completely different direction. The mind interprets its own creation in a creative way. As absorption in the experience increases, these visualizations will become more extravagant as the mind projects all manner of its own aspects onto the object in an attempt to explain it. There is the potential for gaining a lot of self-knowledge through this exercise. Eventually the visuals will descend into fractal geometry as the mind expends itself upon the object. These fractals are also noticeable within the edges of the visions themselves.

Getting to these stages is a matter of practice. The practice is not just “staring at the light” and hoping for the best. You must take an active role in learning to concentrate upon the object properly. I find it helps if I imagine I have “grabbed” the visual and am holding it steady in a kind of space in my mind, like trapping it between slides in consciousness as you would a sample to be put under a microscope.

The real secret to kasina meditation, and the reason why it can be a lot easier to advance quickly with it, is its ability to capture many aspects of your attention all at once. The imagery is very interesting – even at just the initial glowing light phase. Employ your curiosity. Become fascinated by, and explore, every aspect of the visual as it arises. This is not done via verbal thought – there is no running commentary. Rather, it is done by visual exploration. Treat the visual as something you have never seen before, like inspecting a new work of art or an interesting photograph. Become captivated by each little glow within the afterimage. It is this visual exploration that creates the absorption. The mind will continue creating new elements for you to explore, once you become entranced by the process.

Finally, a lot can be said for consciously commanding yourself to relax into the ebbs and flows of the visual as they arise and pass. It should feel like the visual is taking you on a journey; like you are allowing yourself to fully go into the experience.

James wrote:

That was a great clarification, and I feel like I know exactly what to do now, thanks.

You’re welcome!

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74 Responses

  1. Illuminatus says:

    I forgot to add a really nice kasina meditation experience I’ve done a couple of times. This involves using a bright sky, e.g. sunset, and preferably with objects silhouetted at the edges, e.g. tree branches or even buildings (the point here is to have some objects blocking some of the light as these create high-contrast afterimages).

    So, let’s assume you are sitting somewhere very quiet and there is a nice orange sunset glowing in the distance, with some tree branches coming in at the sides — so, a clearing in a forest, or a lake with treetops brushing the sky, so as to create tree silhouettes in the afterimage. When you close your eyes you will likely have a huge greenish glow in the centre (the negative image of the sunset) with clear dark silhouettes of tree branches at the sides. Because this afterimage is huge and panoramic, filling the whole visual field, it is quite easy to trick the mind into believing it is looking at something. All you do is suggest to yourself that your eyes are not closed and in fact you are looking at the same sunset, then concentrate on the afterimage as though it is the real scene. I have done this before and had the whole scene fill in very quickly — the greenish sunset becoming orange again and all the details appearing exactly as they were before I closed my eyes. This is quite astounding — and scary — when it happens. It feels like you are literally sitting there looking THROUGH your eyelids. However, if you stick with it, the awe and bliss samadhi feelings arise very quickly as you absorb into that scene.

  2. James says:

    I’ve been trying the method of visualization of an imagined object.

    I seem to encounter 2 different types of “mind focus”.
    1. Going into the mind where the object is in memory

    2 Placing the memory of the object in the visual field

    There seems to be a drastic kensteik leap from taking the memory of the object and putting it in the visual field.

    the more intensity I put into the creation of the object, it seems to naturally move into the visual field of its own accord.Where as if I try to create it in the visual field, it seems to resist.

    • Illuminatus says:

      What does “kensteik” mean?

      It would help if you linked me to the method you’re using.

      Visualization is rather different under jhana. In “real life” you kind of squeeze an object out of the memory hole like forcing toothpaste out of a tube. It takes sustained effort to even create an object.

      In jhana however you will tend to expend the effort on entering jhana. After that, creating an object is more like autosuggesting that you will see it, then hey presto it kind of “drops in” to the visual field. One thing the mind will do is take the crap you see behind your eyelids and project its contents onto that stuff — it will interpret the fuzzing nonsense as imagery. This is what a dream is. With visualizing in jhana you can plant an autosuggestion that you are about to see the object or scene you want to create, then moments later the mind will interpret the fuzz behind your eyelids as that thing (and, in jhana, the “fuzz” will tend to be strobing and luminous and ripe for turning into objects — jhana is similar to LSD in that respect, and LSD is in fact the only drug I’ve ever taken that is similar to jhana).

      An alternative is to expend your effort entering jhana on a visual kasina, then allow that kasina to morph into your desired vision.

      Look, my point is, object creation under jhana is more an act of “noticing it is there” than forcing it to appear. Like on my magickal gambling post (by the way I’ve just repeated that feat YET AGAIN for a £700+ win) I used the afterimage of the desired symbol then allowed it to “become” the actual symbol under jhana, then “allowed” the rest of the monitor to fade in, too.

      If you want to practise visualization “from scratch” and get a jhana on it (which will lead you into effortless object creation) then only visualize a simple shape like a red triangle. Once again, the trick is to suggest to yourself you are about to see it, then notice that you see it. You will probably just get a glimpse of it the first time. Then notice it again. (Keep practising!) Eventually, one time, you will notice that red triangle, then be able to “grab hold” of it, and keep noticing it. At that moment, when you grab hold of it, you will feel the rapture and jhana will soon follow.

  3. James says:

    That was me messing up the word kinesthetic (which the spellcheck on this site says isn’t right).

    Anyhoo, I’m not using a method other than what you posted:

    Memorize a shape – e.g. a red triangle – and keep imagining it, repeating this process of intensive imagination until you can recreate the stable mental image of that shape at will.

    If I “imagine” a red triangle, I go into memory/dream state. I’m no longer “here”.

    But lets say im starring at this post and imagine a red triangle, I’m here with a glimps of a red triangle here, its harder to sustain but I’m here in the physical.

    I just noticed there are two very different (to me anyway) ways to imagine a red triangle.

    I wanted to use an object I created because I felt lt would build my concentration better.

    “If you want to practise visualization “from scratch” and get a jhana on it (which will lead you into effortless object creation) then only visualize a simple shape like a red triangle. Once again, the trick is to suggest to yourself you are about to see it, then notice that you see it. You will probably just get a glimpse of it the first time. Then notice it again. (Keep practising!) Eventually, one time, you will notice that red triangle, then be able to “grab hold” of it, and keep noticing it. At that moment, when you grab hold of it, you will feel the rapture and jhana will soon follow.”

    Ok, so let it appear in the black screen behind the eyes, when I can “grab hold of it” would I hold it still or let spin/morph?

    • Illuminatus says:

      You would likely notice at first that the more you tried to hold it, the more it slipped away. THEN however you would learn the “concentration muscle” that let you hold it between those two states of it being there and trying to slip away. It is its own muscle and must be discovered on your own. Then you can also use that muscle on more intangible objects like the breath (and in fact any other object — the concentration muscle is always the same for each).

      The concentration muscle is like trying to catch something in your awareness between two glass slides (one in front, one behind) then holding it there. It’s very, very difficult — which is the reason most people get stuck and struggle to reach jhana perhaps for many years. But this one mental trick is all it takes — learn that, practise it, just keep ramping it up, and you will go all the way to high jhana.

      • Illuminatus says:

        Forgot to say — the balancing act between holding the object and allowing it to move about of its own accord is called “giving the object space to breathe”. So, grabbing hold of it super-tight makes it slip away. But, also, letting it slip away just makes it disappear very quickly. You are looking to apply just enough “grab” to hold it loosely. So, imagine it like balancing a ball on the end of your finger. You have to move with it constantly, but not too fast, and you can’t just stay still either.

      • James says:

        This is actually something I’ve done recently, basically finding and “flexing” that muscle.

        Furthermore, watching the transition from imagination to the real world and trying to find where the line is.

        • Illuminatus says:

          Jhana is a different kind of imagination, though.

          Imagine you are looking at a blackboard filled with dots of chalk. Now, suggest to yourself that you will at some point, while gazing at the blackboard, “see” a triangle.

          That’s different from imagining it. It’s also different from there actually being a triangle there. So, it’s neither “imagination” nor “real world”. Yet, at some point, your eyes will “see” the outline of a triangle in the dots of chalk. And if you stare at it suddenly, it will vanish. But if you notice that shape appearing and allow it to appear, while continuing to notice it with a light touch, at some point it will “pop” and start becoming real, a bit like the moment when the 3D shape emerges on a MagicEye image.

          When this happens the first time in any new jhana it can be disconcerting — an object out of nowhere. Even the Buddha himself reported the entry to first jhana being preceded by a sudden spike of fear. This occurs even on the breath, as the switch to jhana can be a difficult state for the mind to accept. You just have to keep repeating whatever you did to get there and eventually you will be allowed to cross over.

  4. James says:

    And if you stare at it suddenly, it will vanish.

    Ah, that’s what happens between 1 and 2, although you could switch memory with imagination.

    1. Going into the mind where the object is in memory

    2 Placing the memory of the object in the visual field

    I’m getting, exactly and very defined, what you mean now.

    I feel like this conversation has shaved a lot of time and frustration off on my end, thanks.

    “while continuing to notice it with a light touch” That resonated well.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Nice to see someone’s actually doing the practice.

      The Magickal Gambling post gets 114 comments, but the method where I lay out how to actually DO it just gets the guy who was doing it anyway.

      Unbelievable.

  5. Ram says:

    Great, now it looks like I’m commenting because you said no one was commenting. 🙂

    Maybe this is my Hindu upbringing making me project, but is there a reason you suggested a red triangle and yellow square? That makes me think of the tattvas, which I suspect you had in mind. Does the fact that so many people have concentrated on those before give it a kind of momentum that makes it easier to focus on? Are there any other simple objects like that that you think are suited for getting the hang of kasina jhana before getting into the more unusual stuff?

    Also, I’ve been doing breath meditation for the last year. (Well, actually, I’ve been doing it for about twenty years, since I was a child. But Hinduism is in a terrible state at the moment and none of my teachers were able to explain what the jhanas were in a way that I could understand, so I didn’t know what I should really be trying to do until I found your site last year.) I feel that my concentration has really improved, in that I can stay with the breath much more consistently for a half-hour or even an hour, but I still don’t get to jhana, although I think I’ve hit very soft access concentration a few times. Is it worth switching over to a kasina for a while to see how that goes, or would it be better to focus on the breath and just push through the barrier there? All the rishis who wrote my old Indian books would probably say to stick with the same thing forever, but they also seem to think it takes years to get to samadhi and I’d prefer a more practical method.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Wow, great questions.

      “Maybe this is my Hindu upbringing making me project, but is there a reason you suggested a red triangle and yellow square? That makes me think of the tattvas, which I suspect you had in mind. Does the fact that so many people have concentrated on those before give it a kind of momentum that makes it easier to focus on?”

      I named the red triangle and the yellow square because they were in the Wikipedia article on kasina. I do not practise with either of those objects. However, both are appealing to me. E.g. I could get access concentration on a red square object (or “hallucination”, depending on which way you want to look at it, haha) easily, and on a yellow square easily, before writing the article. It’s a bit presumptuous of me to write an article and the comments above based on an object I haven’t fully explored, but I am confident based on my little tests of it that it’s something I could do. In any case, the article above is mainly about objects I HAVE explored, and I will come to this again in a minute. The shape/colour combinations are not accidental. Picturing a blue square, for example, gives me a far more subdued feeling. The objects should either be uplifting (like the yellow square) or enticing yet calming (like the red triangle). Those are just the emotions I feel, and I am quite attuned to subtle mind-states caused by things like shape, colour, audio tone of sound objects, and other vibrationary phenomena. Yes, there is also likely to be a momentum attached to such objects, due to past meditators’ samadhi upon them. This should be taken advantage of whenever possible. Rupert Sheldrake modelled this effect interestingly in his work on morphic resonance. He split students into two groups and had them take the same test but one group going after the other. He found that the second group consistently scored higher, despite having had no contact with the first group. His morphic resonance model says the universe is a giant habit and things become easier if they’ve already happened once before. Readers of this blog who meditate regularly often email me saying they have had the same visions, seemingly out of nowhere, that have been reported for thousands of years, like lotus flowers, golden Buddhas and so forth. So, yes, do pick the samadhi shapes of past yogis if you want to speed up your progress.

      “Are there any other simple objects like that that you think are suited for getting the hang of kasina jhana before getting into the more unusual stuff?”

      Personally I find the nature kasinas, e.g. a sunset, to be the easiest in terms of creating an entirely mind-made scene to become absorbed into. I believe the reason for this is that such afterimages are panoramic — meaning they take up the entire visual field. Simultaneously having objects in both the widefield (right brain) and centre-/narrowfield (left brain) is a great hack to bring both brains to the task. Even while doing purely narrowfield meditations (such as the flame afterimage) I find that simultaneously focusing on the edges of the visual field (even though there’s nothing going on there) helps establish the glowing dot as an object in its own right — something existing in space that can be viewed as an object (and these mental tricks are the key to having your mind believe it is looking at a real thing, and hence become absorbed in it, even though the object is entirely created by the mind itself!). I think the sunset meditation would be an excellent place to start. Also, a night-time meditation is also trippy and conducive to mind-made scenes. So, what I will do is, stand or sit outside in very low light, i.e. almost total darkness, but where the edges of objects around you — e.g. bushes in the garden — are still visible. You look at bushes (or whatever) and get some access concentration on them. Then you close your eyes slowly while autosuggesting that you are going to still be able to see them “through your eyelids”. Due to the confusion caused in the brain by low light levels (it compensates by filling in many of the details, hence why people see strange shapes and monsters and things in the dark) it will work with your autosuggestion and fill in the scene using the remnants of afterimage and also just the fuzz you see with your eyes closed. Your mind will project the actual scene onto that fuzz. I can make this work quite quickly, i.e. within a few seconds, but I already have strong access concentration. The effect is that you can close your eyes and have a full-scene hallucination of still being able to see all the objects around you as though you had your eyes open. This therefore seems like you are looking through your eyelids, which is totally rapturous and amazing in terms of emotional tone.

      “Also, I’ve been doing breath meditation for the last year. (Well, actually, I’ve been doing it for about twenty years, since I was a child. But Hinduism is in a terrible state at the moment and none of my teachers were able to explain what the jhanas were in a way that I could understand, so I didn’t know what I should really be trying to do until I found your site last year.) I feel that my concentration has really improved, in that I can stay with the breath much more consistently for a half-hour or even an hour, but I still don’t get to jhana, although I think I’ve hit very soft access concentration a few times. Is it worth switching over to a kasina for a while to see how that goes, or would it be better to focus on the breath and just push through the barrier there? All the rishis who wrote my old Indian books would probably say to stick with the same thing forever, but they also seem to think it takes years to get to samadhi and I’d prefer a more practical method.”

      I think most of the breath meditation guides out there for concentration meditation are garbage. Beginners are better off controlling their breath in strange ways, e.g. pranayama, so they can get a flavour of intentionally creating their own reward chemicals. They can then latch onto these emotions to create concentration states. Concentration states are all about creating feedback loops whereby the reward circuit feeds itself via strange perceptual effects. But there must be initial spikes of dopamine etc. to start off this loop. Me and Yuki are talking in the Magickal Gambling thread about using rapid breathing at the bridge of the nose to create initial dopamine spikes which can then be rode like a wave all the way to jhana. It’s worth checking out that discussion.

      I think there is little value (for concentration meditation) of practising the same poor technique for hours and hours. It’s not the time spent concentrating, but what you do with your object from the outset and how you use it creatively to create these reward loops that create jhana. The new jhana guide will be all about this stuff.

      The good thing about certain kasinas is that they are so engaging that they create dopamine spikes (of fascination and interest) early on and it’s easy to stay with those objects for that reason. The more pleasing the object, the (far, far) easier it is to stay with it and ride it to jhana. Personally I get stunningly intense jhanas from online gambling. The imagery in the game is designed to be jhana-like in terms of its flash and hypnotism. Online slots are basically jhana machines, designed to create absorption (this doesn’t mean everyone who online-gambles enters jhana; far from it. You must still intentionally enter jhana. The machine design and visuals however just give you lots of dopamine spikes to work with). Other common objects of absorption for the layperson are internet porn and video games. You can use any enjoyable activity as a kasina by engaging with the activity so you get pleasure, then pausing and selecting some element of the activity (e.g. some video game character) you like as your visual kasina and absorbing into its image. Or you can just take that pleasure spike and ride it using a breath meditation, e.g. at the bridge of the nose.

      The major thing people miss when trying to do breath concentration meditation is that you MUST make the breath into a pleasurable object. To do this, autosuggest that you are going to experience the breath as sweet and intoxicating — then give yourself entirely to enjoying each breath. Then let yourself go into that pleasure each time. People don’t understand that they have to work to generate the pleasure, if they want fast effective jhanas. So, breathe in through the nose and imagine it washing over your face, then through your head (front to back) and that it smells sweet and brings this intoxicating wave of pleasure each time. Autosuggestion creates huge dopamine spikes in this way — just do it. Imagine each breath as a wave of pleasure; let it wash over you each time you inhale. The breath will then become addictively pleasurable and you will find yourself rapid-breathing at the bridge of the nose to keep spiking this pleasure. A threshold is reached then you enter jhana. (First jhana is quite similar to the early onset of LSD, for those who have knowledge of such things.) When first jhana is reached the pleasure tends to be easier to generate on each breath (though still requires that constant intentional generation; but this is achieved just by holding awareness on each breath wave). Second jhana has the pleasure cycling automatically with attention no longer needing to be applied to get the same effect. I won’t go on; jhana descriptions are available all over the web.

      I keep getting emails and comments from people just sitting there, able to hold concentrative awareness on their breath, but with nothing happening. This is a result of poor guides. You will hardly ever get jhana this way. Jhana is an active process and just requires a few keys to unlock, which I’ve given you here.

      • Ram says:

        Okay, so you gave me this advice a week ago, and I’ve been practicing it for a week. I have a few questions, if you (or anyone else with real experience) has time for them:

        1. I’ve been trying to generate pīti and sukha on the breath. I find that I have varying degrees of success. Some of it, I’m sure, comes down to things like you’ve said elsewhere, having toxins the day before, general state of mind going in, etc. But I think that maybe I could refine my technique for generating that joy a bit more. What I usually do is just start my meditation with a kind of expectation that I’m going to feel joy. I tend to be very fixated on the third circuit, so I start by affirming to myself verbally that every breath is going to bring more and more pleasure, and then just kind of try to feel it. Usually it works for a little while and then I kind of run out of steam. Does anyone have any other methods for autosuggestion that might be more effective? I’m at the point where I am rarely distracted from the breath and even that is never for very long, and I think that if I could start generating a lot more pleasure when I’m sitting I could reach first jhana in minutes.

        2. James had that advice about finding the “concentration muscle” by looking at something and trying to change its color. I also have been trying to see what part of me is working to focus when I meditate, or to restore focus when I get distracted. Does Illuminatus or anyone else have any other ideas of really good direct ways of locating and improving that concentration muscle? I can sort of feel that it’s the key to everything I’m missing right now.

        3. I did some experiments in magick this week, buying scratch cards. Every card I have bought has at least paid for itself, and I made €5 a few times (which isn’t a lot, but I’m more interested in the magick than the money). One thing that really worked for me yesterday was to return to childhood: I prayed, only instead of praying to win the money, I thanked God for already giving it to me and felt real gratitude and excitement about the prize I’d already won. I figured that would help me get around the “no” feeling, and it worked. In the interest of refining that, I’ve been going around in my daily life trying to always feel the intention before I take any action, hoping that I can really get to the heart of that “yes” feeling and use it magickally. Are there any other ways of getting better at recognizing those basic feelings Illuminatus was talking about and using them to power your intentions? Obviously getting up to fourth jhana would be the best thing, but assuming that I’m already trying to do that, any other suggestions for improving that facet of siddhis?

        One more thing — thank you, Illuminatus, for this site. I know I mentioned this before, but I’ve been meditating for decades without getting anywhere, and I’m now making faster progress than ever before because I finally found someone who can talk to me in my language. This combination of science and mysticism is exactly what I need to understand what jhana actually is and how to get there.

  6. James says:

    I recently read a book on hermetics and what you described in that post sums up (although differently) the way they use magick.

    They put intentions in the breath, in their food, in the water they shower with.

    Same with the elements (different colors the meditate on).

    I had a good experience last night after stretching, I laid on my yoga mat and repeated “Life loves me” on the in breath “I am life” on the out breath.

    Earlier that day there was a roach who was sitting at my sink, and didn’t give a single fuck that I was right next to him, I turned water on, made noise, etc… He didn’t care. Later I got to thinking about said roach after my stretching session and sure enough that bad boy popped up real life like (although very big) in my field of vision. I stopped the exercise there because I didn’t really want to go further with roaches at that point – which led to insight meditation, “whats so bad about a roach really”?

    “Nice to see someone’s actually doing the practice.

    The Magickal Gambling post gets 114 comments, but the method where I lay out how to actually DO it just gets the guy who was doing it anyway.

    Unbelievable.”

    It’s easier to be a passenger in someone elses story than the leader of your own.

  7. dreammike says:

    @Illuminatus

    I’m reading ‘The Mind Illuminated’ By Culadasa right now, which was mentioned in another thread on your site. It’s also been favorably reviewed, the talk of reddit ecetera and compared to Daniel Ingrams book. He has 10 clear stages of development. And personally he is an old fuck that has been meditating it seems very seriously for 40+ years. I.E seems to know what he is talking about.

    AND Even he recommends just following the breath and not controlling it.

    I know exactly where you are coming from on the difficulty of doing it and how challenging it can be for a beginner.

    Do you think their is any reason for the constant recommendation to just allow the breath and follow it. Is it for example good but too advanced for most beginners?

    Would I want to eventually get to the point for example of just following it but control my breathing at the beginning?

    I’ve noticed not only is it hard to follow the breathing when you just allow it because of the pauses between breathing, but also to not control it. I feel like I end up inadvertently controlling my breath at least 25% of the time by accident.

    I’ve been following you recommendation of sitting up instead of laying down (which I agree is helpful) for meditation and I have been trying to inch my meditation time to an hour.

    Back back keeps hitting me, so far I’ve found if I sit cross legged on a pillow with my back against the door is the easiest position to maintain.

    So far around 40ish minutes I ‘tap out’ and can’t find the urge to check my timer and call it a day.

    • Bishop says:

      That’s really vague information to someone who hasn’t read that book though. Read the introductions description of samatha and then the overview of the ten stages again. Url to overview for those who don’t have the book-

      here

      • Bishop says:

        I need to find a description of Culadasa’s jhanas I dont want to type it out… Point is the mind illuminated isnt about the Jhanas there is about 20 pages in appendix D pg 375 Its more concerned about developing samatha through mindfullness of the breath and Insight than the Jhanas. So if you are wanting in indepth concentration guide might be better to wait for Illuminatus’s book.

    • Illuminatus says:

      “AND Even he recommends just following the breath and not controlling it.

      Do you think their is any reason for the constant recommendation to just allow the breath and follow it. Is it for example good but too advanced for most beginners?”

      It’s not a “constant recommendation” IF you read enough sources. The concentration meditation protocol is split broadly into two camps:

      – Buddhist anapanasati — “watch the breath but don’t control it”
      – All of yoga pre-Buddhism, which directly controlled breath AND energy currents intentionally to create favourable conditions for concentration meditation. PRANAYAMA! KUNDALINI YOGA!

      Anyone struggling with concentration meditation (who actually regularly practises) would probably have very rapid progress if they incorporated some sort of breath control into their practice.

      There are hybrid practices, too. E.g. Daniel Ingram, in MCTB says:

      “It is important to know that really getting
      into a sense of the breath as a continuous entity for 10 seconds will do
      you more good than being generally with the breath on and off for an
      hour.
      Tune into the illusory smoothness of things by purposefully and
      calmly working with illusions of solidity or fluidity. There is a certain
      “into it” quality which helps, sort of like really getting into a slow groove
      when playing an instrument, having sex, playing a sport, or just sinking
      into a well-deserved and warm bubble bath. Being in a silent and safe
      place is very helpful, as is giving yourself permission to relax, put the
      cares of the world behind you, and enjoy.
      If you are using the breath as an object, you might try purposefully
      visualizing it as sweet, smooth waves or circles that are peaceful and
      welcome. Try breathing as if you were in a garden of fragrant roses and
      you wish to experience the fullness of their fragrance. Perhaps these tips
      will help illustrate the kind of non-resistant and peaceful presence that
      can help one attain these states. Tune into sensations in and around the
      primary object that feel good. Harbor no guilt, anxiety or fear related to
      the depths of pleasure, ease and well-being. The spiritual life need not
      be some sort of relentless, austere grind, particularly when doing
      concentration practices.”

      Creating a flow in the breath, even if “only” done perceptually, will in fact change the way you breathe. It is impossible for the mental NOT to affect the physical. This is all ultimately to do with the order in which the nerves fire across the whole body, and where and how you place your attention will affect that firing pattern. Using the above method, this will create nerves firing preferentially in the reward circuit.

      The above description is rather different to Buddhist anapanasati instructions, which do not seek to manipulate the breath, even just on the perceptual level like Ingram above.

      So there is a spectrum. The method chosen will also create different “flavours” of jhana. The pure anapanasati practices, in my experience, tend to create more glowing white luminous nimittas and “transparent” heroin-like flavours. The breath-controlly jhanas are more intense, rapturous, multi-coloured and LSD-like.

      Ultimately you would be happy with any jhana state once you got there (and you could then use the skills you learned to try other jhana methods later). So why not try switching to a different position on the no-breath-control — high-breath-control spectrum if you are struggling?

      I also think this whole “control or don’t control the breath” argument tends to miss the point that there are other important factors in concentration, namely that there is a “concentration muscle” the flexing of which can only be learned via practice and is not easily described verbally. This “muscle” relates to the forebrain actively suppressing the back brains. It can be observed when you perform a complex task under pressure and need to push away distracting thoughts. That “push” feeling can be used to get concentration on your object and enter access concentration within seconds, with enough skill. It feels like changing polarity on a magnet, or something. I would like to see more guides talking about that factor of the skill (and mine will, a lot). Ingram makes use of that “muscle” in the above description by forcing sensations into a sense of flow. It is techniques utilizing that side of things that are going to help people make rapid advances in concentration.

    • dominicj says:

      He also talks about deliberately generating and savouring positive feelings and sensations related to the breath, as discussed in this thread, and goes even further to suggest when the jhana is approaching to switch to the body and circulate pleasurable feelings creating a feedback look and increasing the pleasure. It is also mainly a book about developing a kind of introspective awareness/inquiry of the mind. The second part is really the main focus of the book, its about developing concentration in tandem with insight to bring about huge changes, but it’s not really a book about jhana even though it talks about it and gives information on it. If he had a book specifically just on how to get into jhana maybe he would describe different methods, as it is comparing TMI to pure jhana methods isn’t very useful I think.

      • Mayath says:

        Here’s a Transcript of a retreat where Culadasa focused wholly on teaching and explaining Jhanas. Unfortunately this transcript has tons on spelling mistakes and spells people’s names wrong but it’s the only free copy I could find.

        I had to download it but it gave me no problems. He also mentions Carl Jung and Shamanism a little bit. It’s pretty straightforward if you can get over the spelling mistakes. It’s pretty long too.

        http://documents.tips/documents/upasaka-culadasa-jhanatranscript.html

        I’ll respond later about Kasina meditation. I’ve always been drawn to it and it gives you quicker Jhana but I think cultivating the Breath is still important too.

        • Illuminatus says:

          Well, kasina meditation will induce breath control anyway — as I said somewhere else in this thread, in my experience all concentration meditation is a breath meditation in some way (you could see it as a visual/breath hybrid). The good thing about kasina meditation it that it will cause you to modulate your breathing in order to maintain the visual illusion, so it can be a good way to induce the desired breath changes in a beginner more directly. However, there will always be some effort on the part of the meditator to learn the relationship between breath and mind and learn how to manipulate it to gain desired state changes.

          • Mayath says:

            I get what your saying but what I actually meant is that I think the breath is a good tool to work with to get rid of the dangers of distractions and dullness which are gonna impede Jhana. It’s a good tool for training the mind but I definitely agree it’s not the best for beginners seeking Jhana.

            The only downside to Kasina meditation that I can see is and it’s not a major one is that someone who’s not very well trained and has a sleepy dull mind is just gonna get into a dull dream like trance and mistake that for Jhana. That or fall asleep.

            You could argue that breath meditation is Kasina meditation as well. When I meditate I have a mental visual sense of my breath. All my senses become involved with the breath object to an extent. I can hear it, feel it etc.

            I don’t see why if you want someone to easily reach Jhana you don’t just recommend Loving Kindness meditation. I honestly think LK is the handiest meditation to reach Jhana with. You just cultivate the stuff the first two jhanas is made of Joy and happiness. That’s what I do. My concentration object is Euphoria/memories of it and I build them higher and higher, using whatever positive emotions, thoughts, memories I can. A lot of people Center this positivity in the heart but I do it in my head cos it feels best and boom Jhana. I got Jhana the first time I did this and I was severely depressed at that time.

            Cultivating LK hasn’t changed my personality. I guess I’m more loving but I’ve always been a cynical bastard at heart who loves laughing at people’s misfortunes. It’s changed my emotional baseline to a more positive one that’s it.

            The downsides to LK meditation is that it’s harder to abandon the factors you need to get to the third and fourth Jhana, because those factors are your object. But you could say that about advancing in the Jhanas in general. Another downside is someone who’s depressed or neurotic might find it really difficult to find those emotions and use them as concentrations. Maybe they’ve never experienced euphoria too. But having these problems will make it harder for you to reach Jhana using other objects anyway.

            Really ideally someone should be practicing multiple different meditation practices for whatever their needs are, tracing their mind and be cultivating different things. Meditation is a gym and you should use all the equipment there, not just one. You’ll advance much quicker in your main meditation if you work on another meditation. Getting better in LK for example can help you cultivate the joy and positivity you need to find in the breath.If you wanna build mindfulness Body scanning helps. It’s also great for working with with pain and opening blockages. It can also sharpen attention. Open awareness cultivates relaxation and equanimity.

            There’s so many different tools that train different things. We only hear about the same few meditations over and over again but the Buddha apparently taught thousands and other traditions have their techniques as well. Ideally we’d havethem all catalogued, what their benefits are, their pitfalls and we could find the best one suited for what we want to cultivate and which suit what temperament.

            Anyway I still have to talk about my Kasina meditation experience. In short I hit First Jhana using the afterburn of an image, in the crap in my eyes when shut. Didn’t take me long to reach it either. I wanna explore a bit more with it though.

            I think I’ve always done some form of Kasina meditation ever since I was little. I have this strange compulsion and I’ve had it since I was 3. Basically I get great satisfaction out of spinning a black string with a white bead tied on to it. It’s really autistic.

            The string isn’t very long and the bead is small too. I hold the string between my fingers and find a dark surface or shadow. Something black where the white of the bead is really prounced.

            I concentrate on the bead whilst simultaneously in my minds eye I will see fantasy imagery. This imagery normally takes the form of stories eg a knight fighting a dragon. It’s like playing a video game or reading a book and I just watch it unfold and I get very caught up in it. It’s not one image I’m focusing on rather it’s a movie.

            It’s really addictive. I can go without meditation. But not this. I have very physical withdrawal symptoms if I don’t do it at least once a day. I get this build up of manic creative energy and this spinning is a way to release it. I’ve probably reached Jhana a few times doing this. I definitely get into a flow state doing it and access concentration.I could do it for hours sometimes. I defintely hit access concentration with.

            You could describe this spinning as a form of meditation but one I’ve never heard anyone do. The nearest I can compare it to is I read somewhere that before Jack Kirkby drew his comics he’d close his eyes and just let the images okay before him in a kind of trance. Or maybe Carl Jungs active imagination.

            I don’t know if I could teach someone to do it either or if they would get the same fun out of it that I do. But it definitely cultivates creativity, whatever it does, because I get tons of ideas doing it.

            Btw I don’t have aspergers or anything like that. My social skills are fine and so are my motor skills. Part of me thinks maybe I was a meditator in a past life and this is something I’ve retained because it’s so specific and unique to me. Or Maybe I’m just Autistic or Scitzo.

            Anyway, I wanna hear what true beginners have to say about Kasina. People who’ve barely clocked in any meditation time. I’ve got to the stage where I know what I’m looking for with Jhana so I don’t know if I’m the best candidate for your thesis.

            • James says:

              I had something similiar growing up, I would sway in bed and whole dream worlds/fantasies would roll out infront of me, and if I did do that I’d get irriable, and wouldn’t be able to focus.

              I did a lot of research on it and what it seems to be is mal-adapative day dreaming. Thats what they call it anyway.

              • Mayath says:

                Oh shit. This is literally it. Fuck, I’m not unique anymore :(.

                Wonder if I can get some disability benefits for this?

                Maladaptive daydreaming is such a shit name for it. I feel sorry for people who don’t have it. The only downside is it makes getting stuff done harder and it’s fucking heroin levels addictive for me. If I go a day or two without I physically crave it. I’m so irritable and high strung.

                Do you still have it?

                • James says:

                  Yeah, at times I feel it.

                  I found stretching helped me, along with sleeping on a yoga mat without a pillow, I found I got rid of a lot of that energy/tension that caused the need for it in the first place.

                  It’s called maladaptive daydreaming because they think in large its caused by trauma, and its a coping mechanism for it.

                  Did you have a fucked up child hood?

                  • Mayath says:

                    Hmmm, There were one or two really traumatic incidents but they were when I was ten or eleven and I started doing this from a very early age but had been at it for years at that stage.

                    I was bullied and shit but I wasn’t abused by my parents or anything too extreme like that when I started doing it. I just hated all the other kids and felt like a outcast because they were all retarded.

                    The bad effects of this all ring true to me but I feel like I’m over all that stuff thanks to meditation.

                    The reason I refused to take antidepressants for too long when I was depressed is that it stopped me from doing this. Especially Lexapro which I haven’t read on anything I’ve read so far today.

                    The guy who discovered it seems to think that it doesn’t necessarily always have to be a pathology.

                    “When their enhanced ability to conjure up vivid imagery is under control and does not interfere with social or academic success, “the phenomenon should probably be classified as a talent rather than a disorder,” he says. Attitude may also be important.”

                    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/living-in-an-imaginary-world/

                    I wouldn’t want to get rid of it anyway.

            • Illuminatus says:

              “I get what your saying but what I actually meant is that I think the breath is a good tool to work with to get rid of the dangers of distractions and dullness which are gonna impede Jhana. It’s a good tool for training the mind but I definitely agree it’s not the best for beginners seeking Jhana.”

              A beginner should do several weeks of purely mindful breathing, without even trying to go for jhana, before they even attempt concentration meditation. This is the purpose of this post:

              http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/basic-mindfulness-meditation/

              Concentration however is a very specific mental action and has a very low chance of appearing by itself during such “sitting and watching the breath” meditations. So I am separating off “actual direct concentration exercises” from “sitting and watching the breath” going forward.

              “The only downside to Kasina meditation that I can see is and it’s not a major one is that someone who’s not very well trained and has a sleepy dull mind is just gonna get into a dull dream like trance and mistake that for Jhana. That or fall asleep.”

              A beginner, when learning how to concentrate, should always be checking back against the jhana factors to determine whether jhana is actually happening:

              Was there one-pointedness of mind? Rapture? Pleasure? Later on, profound equanimity?

              Moreover, was the mind completely unified and active upon the object? Stuck to it like glue?

              This dreamy, passive imagery defies all of those criteria. It is up to the meditator to constantly get feedback on their experience by asking someone who knows. It is their fault if they are not questioning their own experience.

              That dreamy imagery is also nothing like the vivid visuals that occur during kasina concentration. They simply will not get the experiences described in this post without genuine concentration.

              • Illuminatus says:

                P.S. Plenty of people fall asleep during breath work. 🙂
                With poor technique, breathing is even more passive and sleep-inducing that visualization work.

    • Illuminatus says:

      I’ve heard of the God Helmet and read the study. The only thing of interest to me about it was that it confirmed my idea that the right amygdala is broadly dysphoric and the left amygdala broadly euphoric.

  8. Yuki says:

    ” This “muscle” relates to the forebrain actively suppressing the back brains. It can be observed when you perform a complex task under pressure and need to push away distracting thoughts. That “push” feeling can be used to get concentration on your object and enter access concentration within seconds, with enough skill. It feels like changing polarity on a magnet, or something. I would like to see more guides talking about that factor of the skill (and mine will, a lot). Ingram makes use of that “muscle” in the above description by forcing sensations into a sense of flow. It is techniques utilizing that side of things that are going to help people make rapid advances in concentration”

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    This is exactly what I was thinking!!!!

    Also, this kind of… well lets call it like u call it “attention mode” or “attention mode that uses a different muscle” when you “concentrate” on the breath this way… the breath itself changes according to the concentration mode, like I might try on purpose not to control the breath, but eventually I will feel the need to control it, and the breath itself shows me how I need to control the breath, the pattern of it, soft or stronger, long or shorter… faster or slower, I don’t decide any of this, (yet I am going with what my mind is attracted towards) it’s the body itself taking control of the breath, yet I am the one controlling it in some way… hope I make some sense here, I am not very good in explaining such subtle actions… but you are doing a great job!!

    With this kind of “attention mode” drowsiness, sleepiness, thoughts, emotions WILL BARELY move your mind from the object, I believe anyone can succeed this way as long as he can discover this so called attention mode… There were times I simply forgot how I meditated this way, I simply lost confidence in the way I meditate, thus I couldn’t get to jhana or even close to it, and it was harder to deal with the distractions, but even without that I simply wouldn’t make any progress… until somehow I got my confidence back and remembered how I did it again…

    • Illuminatus says:

      Yes — the breath becomes nondual. The mind and breath are reflected in each other perfectly. This is literal absorption of the mind in the breath.

      My mind-breath shows me how to move it to rapture, bliss, and the higher states, too, by the way. We seem to both have this gift. 🙂

      Do you have synaesthesia, too? Also, do you have any powers, a.k.a. siddhis?

      Also, strange question, but do you have a slightly wider head than most people? I’m wondering if this intuitive knowledge of meditation is a Starchild trait.

      • Yuki says:

        I don’t have synaesthesia from what it appears, I don’t know much about siddhis, but not that I am aware of.

        I think my head is pretty average overall

        • Illuminatus says:

          Are you interested in magick?

          I found that magickal abilities spontaneously began manifesting once I began entering jhana regularly. However, I did get into meditation with the specific intention of cultivating magickal powers.

          Also, do you practise kasina meditation at all? While stabilizing a visual object, I find that my breath does the exact same thing we just described (“showing me” how to do it). It does this with other objects, too. Therefore I concluded that all concentration meditation, with any object, is a de facto hybrid breath meditation. In jhana, objects also spin or change shape in phase with the breath, too.

          • Yuki says:

            I have tried kasina meditation in the past, but it really never worked for me, nor when I tried to sync it with the breath in some way…

            I have read once about a guy that gets into jhana by the sound of the breath alone…. I tried it many times and as much as my mind sticks to it like a glue, I never get with it anywhere…

            Have you tried the breath sound as object before?

  9. James says:

    If you want to find the concentration muscle, pick and object to look at, and then imagine turning the object a different color, and feel how your body responds.

    As far as magick/intention goes I have a “feeling”.

    I hit that feeling, link it to my intent, and lock it in with my concentration muscle. I’ve found the best way is to keep the concentration muscle locked until I forget about the intention.

    It never really required deep states of mediation for me, just locking it in and letting it go.

    • Illuminatus says:

      “As far as magick/intention goes I have a “feeling”.”

      Exactly right. There are very deep, fundamental emotions every human has — way more fundamental than flowery, complex ideas like “love”. These feelings are things like:

      – Yes.
      – No.
      – Right.
      – Wrong.

      These are how you know what it is you are looking at, and they are also your compass for navigating the world. So, they do things like, giving you a “correct” signal when you’re deciding on a course of action. Most people are running these on such autopilot that they don’t realize they can break into the loop and change these fundamental signals — and this is how you do magick, a.k.a. intention-manifestation. There is a fundamental signal which plays in your body once you have decided to do something. You can imagine a specific scene, then apply that “I am going to do this” or “I intend” signal and it will come true.

      One thing concentration meditation does is allow you to a) Identify those emotions with a high degree of precision (allowing you to identify and then generate very clear “yes” signals, for example) and b) Channel them with more and more power (concentration meditation increases mental power).

      What I’ve just described there is literally the keys to the kingdom. If someone swinging by can read that then put the time in to apply it — and just actually get on with it, without making noises about why it might not work — then they will be able to get literally whatever they want.

      By the way, emotions like the “yes” signal tend to have a very faint, barely noticeable (to the ordinary person) “up” sensation. “No” emotions tend to play downwards. This is why the Arising & Passing Away — which is a constant flurry of these little up signals — is so very, very powerful at manifesting one’s will. You are basically saying “yes” to whatever you think about, and truly wacky magickal effects happen when you are in the phase (as anyone who has taken MDMA will know — but that drug also has a strong Equanimity mode, so the flavour of outcome will depend on the mode accessed by the drug at the time).

      The A&P neurotransmitter — and the “yes” neurotransmitter — is, of course, dopamine.

      • James says:

        I have had magick “backfire” through doubt, and its always a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, and its always too late once it happens.

        And that comes from not locking the concentration muscle hard enough.

        Furthermore, before I got kicked in the dick by LSDBcaapi I had to really really lock down to get things done. However now, I feel like a lot of “stuff” is out of my system and I don’t have to use the same amount of force to get the same results.

        Also, eating healthy I think helps a ton.

        Lastely, when I was a kid and I needed to concentrate, it felt like every fiber in my being, and the space around me was in total lock down, with extream intensity… Now, I can just isolate the “spot” that needs concentration/intensity and its much easier.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        ‘These are how you know what it is you are looking at, and they are also your compass for navigating the world. So, they do things like, giving you a “correct” signal when you’re deciding on a course of action. Most people are running these on such autopilot that they don’t realize they can break into the loop and change these fundamental signals — and this is how you do magick, a.k.a. intention-manifestation. There is a fundamental signal which plays in your body once you have decided to do something. You can imagine a specific scene, then apply that “I am going to do this” or “I intend” signal and it will come true.’

        I have discovered I can use this in conversation. If I say something with a feeling of doubt in my stomach, it won’t come out right. But I can kind of change the thing and it comes out right. Hard to explain.

        Also, I’m very curious to learn how Circuit III is built out of such smaller things. Would be cool to really grok C3 and be able to change it. Ie being able to change from INTP to INTJ at will, things like that.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        Maybe many people are seeking the “yes” signals on certain things (ie getting girls), but they are blocking themselves from getting it. I’ve gotten close to yes’ing a few times on my core blocked areas, and it seems to give a massive rush of energy.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        ‘By the way, emotions like the “yes” signal tend to have a very faint, barely noticeable (to the ordinary person) “up” sensation. “No” emotions tend to play downwards. ‘

        Exactly how my conversation example feels!

      • Chrome says:

        Is it possible to feel these ‘pings’ off of other people as well? Having moments in the past few days, where I can feel other people (warmth?) or general energy, sometimes it’s solid, sometimes quiet, sometimes it’s a ping of no, sometimes an alert? I can’t eloquently explain it well yet, but I definitely feel more sensitive to both peoples gaze and presence, and them to mine, or it could be I am noticing more now due to improved concentration. Had a fun bit of magick the other night, went to the bar with no money, but an absolute intention of getting a drink somehow; came back with two, courtesy of a guy and his client – things like have been happening ever since I started meditating, small things, but they’re there. I look forward to progressing further.

        Reading secrets of the magickal grimoires at the moment, interesting so far.

  10. Yuki says:

    Basically to use the concentration muscle, what I do is, I pick a spot at the nose, for example the bridge of the nose, then I imagine a line/edge as a “border” for where my breath sensations will touch, I zoom into it and grab it mentally, so when I breath not only do I feel the breath (and can choose how small I want to feel it) but I can also see the breath with my imaginary “borders”” I have put, usually my mind takes care of this itself, and sometimes changes the edge/line borders, but that’s find since this puts me already in a way that I use those muscles, so even if the breath is suddenly felt else were and I go into that, its still valid.

    • Illuminatus says:

      “but that’s find since this puts me already in a way that I use those muscles, so even if the breath is suddenly felt else were and I go into that, its still valid”

      That’s right — it seems that once the concentration muscle has been engaged, it can then lock onto any source of sensations and suck them up to fuel the jhana.

  11. P_locked says:

    Hey Illuminatus,

    I’ve been doing concentration meditation for a year and have come to have very little progress. I’ve also been going through your site for a while for tips and tricks to reach jhana. I’ve tried focusing exclusively on the object (my breath) with great intensity. I would actually have no thoughts for 10 minutes or so, but would never break into Jhana. I wondered for a long time why brute force wouldn’t get me there. Interestingly though, for a short period afterward, I would have enhanced memory and reading comprehension which was what I originally wanted after reading the Absolutus thread.

    After a while of this, I noticed that I was literally straining while keeping attention on the object which caused a great deal of stress. I backed off of doing that and for a while, pursued concentration meditation while being relaxed which was considerably harder. My thoughts would just scatter at a hundred miles an hour. Over a long period of time, I became better at keeping my mind on the object but I would never really feel like I was enjoying a peace of mind and enhanced cognitive abilities afterwards. This occurred for several months until recently, I finally gave in to doing mindfulness meditation as your article prescribed . I started feeling clearer and more refreshed after my sessions of meditation now and when you said to loosely keep attention on the nose, I began to understand where concentration comes from.

    At first when I would strain to keep concentrated on the breath, I would look at my nose through my eyelids and focus. Now, I’m using the concentration muscle to focus instead and my eyes keep straight forward while their closed. Very interesting distinction.

    I’m now trying to do kasina practice separately from my mindfulness meditation in order to train myself to use this muscle and just wanted to thank you for your help so far but of course I have a question!

    After setting up my afterimage after looking at my iPhone LED light for a minute, I close my eyes and attempt to grab the object with my mind. I found it very difficult to focus on the afterimage since it would start moving around in my field of vision in a floaty manner which is kind of annoying. I then find my eyes just following it everywhere which messes it up and sort of makes it blink out of my field of vision and appear again in the spot that my eyes have moved to in a saccade. Should I try sort of imagining the afterimage to stay in one spot in a way that activates the concentration muscle? I try doing this and when that happens the afterimage sort of stays bright white for a time but when I feel like I’ve lost grasp of it, it starts flickering and moving away again.

    • Illuminatus says:

      This is where you have to tune in your breath and notice how a steady breath stream (both in and out) stabilizes the object and stops it moving around. Then keeping the object steady becomes a product of both the concentration muscle and simultaneously tuning the breath to counteract its motions. Eventually this runs on autopilot — all these factors work together to maintain the steady object, and you get jhana.

      All concentration work, whatever the object, is a hybrid breath meditation. 🙂

  12. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Illuminatus, any thoughts on mind-uploading? (Been watching “Black Mirror” lately).

    To me the obvious objection is of course that it can’t work because qualia. A chip does not have consciousness. Seems obvious enough. At best, we can run a simulation that does exactly what you would do, and says exactly what you would say, but’s not really conscious. There is no Watcher.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Qualia

    Longer, more wordy version: http://lesswrong.com/lw/ehz/the_rawexperience_dogma_dissolving_the_qualia/

    To me, it highlights something I can’t quite put my finger on… some very far-reaching lack of common sense and left-brain lunacy. I wonder if these rationalists are actually philosophical zombies (lack self-consciousness)?

    “Against these considerations, the only argument for retaining raw experience in our ontology is the sheer strength of everyone’s belief in its existence. How much weight should we attach to a strong belief whose validity we can’t check? None. Beliefs ordinarily earn a presumption of truth from the absence of empirical challenge, but when empirical challenge is impossible in principle, the belief deserves no confidence.”

    It just seems like they are trapped in some reality-tunnel and lack the tools to escape it.

    (A friend of mine came up with a clever counter: my computer actually *has* some form of consciousness – everything in the universe has qualia – which would then mean that at a certain level of computational complexity, self-consciousness would somehow emerge. Put a billion servers together and they’ll eventually start to meditate :p)

    • Illuminatus says:

      The problem is the “Watcher” concept itself. It is that which causes the infinite regression: “So, if there is a watcher watching what goes on in consciousness, who is the watcher? Where does he come from, and what is he made of?”

      If you do away with the need for a watcher you get either:

      – No-Self (Buddhism): There is no watcher, only sensations that arise and pass.
      – True Self (Hinduism): The watcher, or God, is the awareness that is aware of those sensations (and this awareness permeates everything).

      I solve your computer chip problem by assuming there is no computer chip existing in any kind of objective reality. There is ONLY the perception of a computer chip which arises in awareness. Going any further into the question “Is the computer chip conscious?” is nonsensical within this paradigm: I only have access to sensations arising in my awareness volume and cannot know anything about that chip’s experience (or non-experience). To the question of “Does any other human in my reality actually have awareness?” then I cannot answer that either: my solution is simply to take reality exactly as it is presented to me. If the reality is presented that the humans I interact with have awareness, then that is the reality I accept.

      You’ve got to realize that qualities you assign to people and things, e.g. “Do they have consciousness?”, are assigned by you, in your awareness. If the computer chip seems alive then that is the exact reality presented to you. Your questioning of that is also just sensations arising in your own awareness.

      The temptation to regression is present and drives the unenlightened insane. They HAVE to know. But they never can! And one of my definitions of enlightenment includes the clause of being able to accept that, and recognize those questions as more sensations, more suffering and clinging, arising and passing within the volume of awareness. You can reach a point where these questions are basically meaningless — entirely transient aspects of the human experience you are having in the moment.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        Well, even from that POV, you might still have a practical goal like “go to a simulated world and do all kinds of fun stuff”, right?

        The question is: can you do that by uploading your “pattern” to a chip?

        If the Universe is watching itself, won’t it just be Universe-Qualia of chips shuffling data, not me dancing to 80s songs in San Junipero?

        If I approach it from a different angle, I might accomplish my VR experience by implanting a chip in my head that takes over my sensory inputs and outputs (all still valid and doable even in your model). So, there I am, mission accomplished, I’m in a virtual reality. But how much of my brain can I hack away before I lose consciousness and we’re back to Universe-watching-chips-shuffle-data.

        Basically, it seems like there is some kind of “consciousness regulator” in play in the human brain – failure to account for it just leads to “passing the ball” around semantically.

        • Edenist Whackjob says:

          I think I cracked it now:

          The Universe is a holo-reel projector. It needs the right inputs to generate qualia and feeling-of-being-there.

          Ie, the reason you can’t mind-simulate with a chip is the same reason you can’t mind-sim with an abacus. It’s not input, it’s qualia of calculation being done in the universe. I can play with the abacus, but it doesn’t generate any consciousness.

          So, the solution is to figure out the “deep language” of the universe, which allow one to turn [abacus-times-a-billion] into [qualia-of-being-an-abacus]. Probably something to do with brain-waves.

          So, the answer to uploading: you need a chip, yes, but you also need to plug in the old EM field generator to let the calculations hook into the Universal Mind.

          • Edenist Whackjob says:

            So, essence, the Universe is like a movie screen. You can put stuff there, and add some density, and you get being-present-there.

            • Illuminatus says:

              It’s a bit like a movie screen, but I don’t know what this “density” is. Also, “you” don’t put stuff there — stuff just arising and passes through it. What arises comes as a result of what went before — there is a causality there.

              If you choose to find a “you” in all that, that’s your choice, but it will take you away from No-Self insight and block you getting enlightened.

              • James says:

                I came to this realization recently.

                Tom Cambell talked about how this reality is made of probability.

                I understood that conceptually but it never made sense.

                About 3 years ago I did a deep meditation sit, and started to set intentions for desires I had.

                As I went about setting intentions… I noticed they were a little… “different” at points and I didn’t have a reason for that.

                For instance lets say I wanted to sleep with a hot girls as my intentions, I decided I needed to be specific so… one girl would be bisexual with short hair, neither of those traits matter even a little to me.
                All these intentions I set had a weird specificity to me that was uncharacteristic of me. (all of which came true, by the way – however only when I would get out of my own way, which is borderline never).

                The way I understand this now, is that I observing a line of was “possible” outcomes… After all everything that has happened, and will happen, is an endless cycle…

                I was not “creating” a new reality, there is nothing for me to create, I am merely choosing possibilities in this reality.

                • Illuminatus says:

                  Or you could see it as sensations passing through a human filter and therefore causally manifesting as human desires. If you can create a solid stream of “yes”/”intend” sensations in combination with a visuo-emotional set of sensations then they pour into the kaleidoscope, are whisked around (which you perceive as the passing of time) then the mirror image of those sensations arrives back at some point reflected in the mirroring (which you perceive as “out there”).

                  The key to getting a solid signal is to drop all the clinging to that desires — e.g. the frustration, the suffering of not having it already, the anger, the fear at not having it etc. — as these get pinned onto the intention thus generating more mirror reflections of that suffering when the thing is trying to manifest (= you never quite reach your goal). This is why the fourth jhana is set as a minimum for consistent intention-manifestation magick — it has a distinct lack of clinging to the desire. It is equanimity. This trims all the crap off the signal. The desire manifests as a clean image in the future when it is reflected back round in the kaleidoscope.

                  For acute magick, you just need a steady stream of “yes” signals — i.e. the Arising & Passing Away. This is chaotic since the A&P so readily gives way to Dissolution then Fear. Dissolution is marked by the inability to render intentions in a clear image, always catching just bits of it or the tail end of the good feeling. It is “chasing the high” and it never gets it quite right. Fear is kind of the antithesis of the A&P since it manifests immediately all the crap you didn’t want to begin with. You should disengage from the intention-manifestation (absorption in the desire/ intended outcome) as soon as you detect the A&P has ended and the Dissolution has begun. Then you should go away and integrate the Dissolution and Fear and subsequent stages away from the object and cycle through to Fruition. This lets you keep what was gained without destroying it completely during that cycle. What you gained will then have attached to it all sorts of lessons about that “thing” (whatever it is). You can see all of this in people who know how to initiate cool-off periods and reflection rather than keeping going after something/ chasing the high.

                  • Illuminatus says:

                    P.S. There is also a solid “intend” signal, distinct in itself, which in when you “know” something has now been set in motion. This is itself part of the Equanimity set. In everyday life this is when you become calm upon realizing what MUST happen — and that you are going ahead with it regardless, now. That is very, very different from chasing some goal out of determination (= frustration).

                  • James says:

                    Or you could see it as sensations passing through a human filter and therefore causally manifesting as human desires. If you can create a solid stream of “yes”/”intend” sensations in combination with a visuo-emotional set of sensations then they pour into the kaleidoscope, are whisked around (which you perceive as the passing of time) then the mirror image of those sensations arrives back at some point reflected in the mirroring (which you perceive as “out there”).

                    I’ve been thinking about this. It seems to co-inside with what Yogis refer to as Karma, and shamans refer to as the luminous energy field.

                    I’ve for sure had symptoms of A&P away, but I don’t really understand the point of that label, it seems to broad.

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      It’s not broad at all, it’s very specific. When you can see the sensations themselves, the A&P manifests as a kind of wellspring gushing upwards vertically. It is amazing and makes everything seem magickal and wondrous.

                      You will almost certainly have been in that state before (hence the symptoms) but you need a high mental acuity to actually see the sensations and what they are doing in that state (and why they therefore get the name “Arising & Passing Away”). That acuity comes from, of course: concentration practice! 🙂

                    • James says:

                      (I seem to be able to only reply to myself, not to you, ahem).

                      I got it, I think. when I looked in up in the past, and even presently, it has a huge list of symptoms, rarely is it just obviously put as

                      “seeing reality as sensations, and witnessing those sensations arising and passing away”.

                      If you can figure it out what it is based on this let me know –
                      http://integrateddaniel.info/the-arising-and-passing-away/

                      I had the perception of sensation when I was a kid. I remember experiencing my arms as just sensations and then thought “Well, I’m not suppose to experience that, they’re suppose to just be arms”.

                      Once while meditating, I felt my spine (well, the lower half) as intense vibrating white light.

                      .

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      The comments system only allows nested comments up to 10 levels deep. You have to reply to the one above the one you’re actually replying to when that limit is reached.

                      “If you can figure it out what it is based on this let me know –
                      http://integrateddaniel.info/the-arising-and-passing-away/

                      If I can figure what out?

                      “Once while meditating, I felt my spine (well, the lower half) as intense vibrating white light.”

                      Fairly standard kundalini. I experience that everywhere, every time I meditate, now.

                    • James says:

                      If you can figure out what Arising and Passing away is based on that Is what I mean. On the web it seems like most people just list symptoms that “might be” A&P instead of what A&P actually is.

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      I literally just told you what it “is”:

                      “It’s not broad at all, it’s very specific. When you can see the sensations themselves, the A&P manifests as a kind of wellspring gushing upwards vertically. It is amazing and makes everything seem magickal and wondrous.”

                      Why does it have to be based on anything? What does that even mean?

                    • James says:

                      I know YOU just told me what it is, and I get it. My point was (however badly put) when I researched what A&P was originally all I got was stuff like this:

                      http://integrateddaniel.info/the-arising-and-passing-away/

                      which doesn’t tell you what it IS, only what symptoms might be.

                      Searching for the Definition of what A&P online seems to only list symptoms of it, not what A&P actually is.

                      When I said:

                      “If you can figure out what Arising and Passing away is based on that Is”

                      I was refrencing this link:

                      “If you can figure it out what it is based on this let me know –
                      http://integrateddaniel.info/the-arising-and-passing-away/

                      Meaning based on that link I was still pretty clueless as to what A&P actually was.

                      Much like saying “What are those two guys doing punching each other?” And everyone tells you that’s a jab, or a hook, instead of telling you that they are boxing.

                      On the dharma underground form, if you go to the A&P sub-form, you will see lots of people trying to define what A&P even is.

                      Hopefully that cleared it up! sorry for any confusion.

          • Illuminatus says:

            You cannot “get” the universe with the logical mind. The logical mind is a subset of the universe, and cannot describe the whole.

            Imagine you are a chess piece. You can “get” all the rules of chess, but understand nothing beyond the board. If you transcend the board and explore what’s out there, when you get back to the board you cannot conceptualize what you saw in terms of chess because those rules are irrelevant beyond the board. So none of the other pieces would understand you — they would keep interpreting what you were describing via the rules of chess. They wouldn’t get anywhere close to understanding what it was you saw — they would have to leave the chess board themselves to find out.

            This is a bit like my conversation with you (no offence). I say “the universe is X” and you say, “Okay, so it works by rules 1, 2 and 3”. No!

            The chip is just a chip. If you experience it as alive, or experience life through a chip, then that is your experience. But there really is no chip that can come alive — only your awareness and what you choose to experience through that awareness.

            If you want other worlds — including a “chip sim” — just intend it, enter an out-of-body jhana, and reincarnate for some time in a chip experience.

            There is nothing beyond experience itself.

    • Vick says:

      In “The mind illuminated” he explains a mind model that came from experienced meditators in one of the buddhist factions.
      Basically there are a lot of sub minds that keep popping thoughts and sensations into conscious awareness and there is one sub mind responsible for creating the story and sensation of self, it takes all of the input from what all the sub minds popped into conscious awareness and creates a story, IE “I see a dog”.
      So the sensation of the watcher and self is just the creation of one of the sub minds.
      In the end the answer to who is conscious is: the sub minds are conscious and interacting with each other.
      So what I understood from it is “we” normally only have access to being conscious of the sensations that come from those particular sub minds not any lower or higher (ultimately god consciousness like Edd said).

      Edd’s comment “You cannot “get” the universe with the logical mind. The logical mind is a subset of the universe, and cannot describe the whole.” seems to be in line with the model.
      Seems in line with the model, we are but a localized awareness of sensations which can grown to encompass bigger fields of sensations with drugs\mediation.

      Damn it’s hard to explain or even comprehend this kind of stuff, hopefully I got it right and didn’t just try to fit Edd’s words into the model.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi Edenist Whackjob (haha I still lol at that),

      I just watched that Black Mirror episode so now I understand where you’re coming from. (Great episode, by the way!)

      I see no fundamental difference between the San Junipero simulator and what we are experiencing now as reality. For a while now — in fact, this began straight after I attained Second Path — I have felt that I myself am a visitor in my own time. So, like time travel, except I travelled exactly to where I am now.

      If you develop jhana to the out-of-body level (and you could also try this with lucid dreaming, or out-of-body experiences/ astral projection) you could create a world as real as San Junipero, and experience anything you wanted — even wiping your memory so you didn’t know it was a fantasy world. I have done this. However, it happened during one of my kundalini awakening experiences. I had a bout of several nights of enhanced abilities — pleasure episodes mixed in with a LOT of anguish, hell realms and other shit. I consider it a “fluke” in that it hasn’t happened again. However, I also have not intentionally tried to do it again, partly out of fear of the dark sides of those states — which you might call the “Black Mirror” sides. 🙂 In fact, these episodes of Black Mirror are so intensely similar to some of those dark realms, that this show is basically acting as a reminder that my entire experience might be of this fantasy nature. The other reason I have not actively attempted to access that state again is that it is incredibly draining both emotionally and physically, and regrounding took several days after the last time. Someone on the Dharma Overground suggested that I might actually have been in the Bardo (the land between rebirths) at this point. This is something I had considered also before he said it, but he didn’t seem that experienced so I took it with a pinch of salt.

      I think your idea of making a computer conscious is still completely idiotic (no offence). A computer itself is just a part of the fantasy. Ultimately the nature of your experience will depend what “hardware” your awareness is run through. The awareness itself is the stream of the universe. If that stream runs through a pig, you get a pig’s experience. Your fantasy land would revolve around rolling in mud and mating with female pigs. As a human your fantasy land will involve supernatural dominance displays and lots of mating with women, plus astounding visual landscapes. (Let’s be honest, we all have similar fantasies, and what I just said pretty much nailed it.)

      By the way, when I was in the Bardo, I was surprised by the number of times I generated vast cities to explore. In real life I dislike cities mainly due to the number of unpleasant surprises you can have in one. But evidently I have that draw towards them. I think we build cities as these vast winding fantasy lands where treasure or terror could lurk behind each door. In the Bardo, I also generated nightclubs, airports, and other human technologies. It seems like we are already building computers and flooding them with our awareness and experiences here in THIS reality. What do you think Facebook is, if not another expansion of our awareness into alternative awareness spaces? We’re literally already here: I’m talking to you THROUGH a computer right now. As far as you can perceive, your computer is already conscious.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        Thanks for the answer.

        Hehe, it is indeed a ridiculous nickname.

        Well, I guess I come from this from a very spergy perspective where questions about qualia, philosophy of consciousness, software engineering, actually matter.

        From your reality-tunnel, all of that is just fapping with words anyway 🙂

        ” As a human your fantasy land will involve supernatural dominance displays and lots of mating with women, plus astounding visual landscapes. ”

        Haha, that’s a very good way to put it. Kind of makes it ridiculous to be human 🙂

        If you ever did a PPM meetup, it’d be very, very interesting. Just a side note.

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