Message Boards Message Boards

Kasinas

Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations

Toggle
Some info about my current and previous practice:
Started with TMI 2 years ago, and quickly hit stage 4-5-6. Four months in, I had an intense experience that freaked me out - dissociation, panic attacks, etc. I pretty much stopped meditating and did some DBT therapy. Things got better and I picked up TMI again about 10 months ago. However, I couldn't get any traction with it, all my sits would end up in this heavy fog.

Three month ago, my teacher recommeded I try out SHF noting. My practice really took off - tuning into vibratory states in sound and somatic sensations happened only after a week of practice. About 1 month ago, I hit A&P, followed by a massive dissocation episode. It was uncomfortable, but I learned my lesson in therapy - no resistance meant that it just passed away rather quickly. There was some aversion to meditation after that experience, but now I knew that things are working so I pushed on.

Two weeks ago I started playing with the fire kasina. I just look at the candle flame for a min, and then close my eyes. If a red/yellow/green circle appears, I pay attention to it. If there's no circle, I just relax and pay attention to what is there. When things fade, I just open my eyes and repeat the process. Worth mentioning - attending is done TMI style: avoiding effort, using intentions, and maintaining peripheral awareness of the body and external sounds. I do one or two 45 - 90 min long sits every day.

Experiences:
1. In the open eye phase, I had two experiences where the visual field dropped in space for a split second. Like everything in the field translated an inch downwards. When it happened the second time, there was a fraction of a second where the field just dissapeared before reappearing in the translated position (if that makes sense). This was followed by a tingly wave that went through my body. After about 5 min, there was another intense bodily sensation, similar to a psychedelic come up. It started in my legs and then went through my body. It was difficult to breathe because the diaphragm kept contracting. My body temperature plummeted and I started shivering. It took almost an hour for the temperature to return to normal, even with 2 bed covers over me. None of this was pleasant by any stretch. I should say that I did freak out a bit, so it could be that my reaction made the experience more unpleasant than it needed to be.

2. A week later, similar physical sensations without the visual drop. Body feeling distorted, legs tense (impossible to relax), tingling in hands and around the face.  Then feeling like the body is very heavy, with very little mental energy to focus. Almost like climbing a steep hill. This was followed by a feeling of body expanding in space. In fact, I could actively intensify the feeling of expanding. At the end of the sit the body temperature was low. Somewhere in the middle of the sit I had to go to the toilet and basically had diarrhea. Again, the experience was unpleasant, even when I was relaxed and allowed everything to happen.

3. Sleep has taken a massive hit since I started doing FK. Can't sleep more than 3-4 h a night. The quality of it is really low, feels more like a fever dream (thought loops about meditation) than real sleep. I take some naps during the day, and generally don't feel too wiped out, but it doesn't seem sustainable in the long run.

Questions:
1. In the Deconstructing yourself podcast, Daniel said that most FK effects happen in the mental space and that somatic experiences are bypassed for the most part. However, my experiences are almost entirely somatic. Am I doing something wrong here? Or is it that I'm somewhere in the territory where somatic experiences can't be avoided?

2. Almost everything I experience in meditation is unpleasant. Doing FK is interesting and kinda fun, but these experiences always shake me up and keep me offbalance. I keep going, but I wonder if that's how it's supposed to be? Is it just a process of purification and loosening of my resistance? Maybe these experiences are just somatic experiences of fear (body temp dropping, diarrhea). Or does everything I said imply I'm risking my mental health?
I should say that the fear of losing my mind is something that often come up during my meditations and in the time when I used psychedelics.

3. Are sleep disruptions common with FK? Any suggestions on what to do to improve the quality of sleep?

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 9:08 AM as a reply to Filigranski.
Filigranski:



Hi Fili, it´s nice to read about other meditators experience.

You got me thinking : " this guy is having 10 times more difficult experiences than me how can i complain? " lol

Anyway, i think it´s not suposed to be THAT hard, i might be wrong.

I get some mental confusion sometimes.

With FK i do get vivid dreams and maybe a litle less deep sleep.
Also FK makes me feel a bit "spacey" during daily activities.

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 9:43 AM as a reply to Filigranski.
A lot of the stuff you mention sounds to me like potential signs of past trauma, including the earlier dissociation/panic attacks, the fog with TMI practice, diaphragm contractions, temperature fluctuations, etc.  After running into some similar issues in my practice, I've had good results from reducing the amount of practice and focusing on metta.  If you've already done DBT, you may find it useful to work with a somatic experiencing therapist, who can help you develop grounding and emotional regulation by gradually becoming aware of challenging body sensations.  The key there is doing it gradually -- overwhelming amounts of exposure to traumatic sensations can just retraumatize you and make you more likely to dissociate or have panic attacks.  There's some good information on how that works in the books Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness and In An Unspoken Voice.  You may also want to read the r/streamentry Guide to Health, Balance, and Difficult Territory.  If you're having trouble finding a somatic experiencing therapist near you, you might also benefit from working with one who does EMDR.

I'd personally be a bit concerned about working with techniques with a goal of bypassing resistance.  It can definitely work sometimes for processing unpleasant/trauma-linked stuff if you can make it into a very peaceful jhanic state or high up enough into Equanimity, but it's also easy to go deep with one technique only to find that you've brought up more than you can handle either during that sit or in your subsequent daily life.

I hope this helps and we'd definitely like to hear how your practice continues to develop.  

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 10:11 AM as a reply to alguidar.
alguidar:


You got me thinking : " this guy is having 10 times more difficult experiences than me how can i complain? " lol

I'm glad to hear my practice is useful to someone emoticon

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 10:21 AM as a reply to JP.
Thanks for the informative reply.

If I told you that I don't have past trauma (that I know of), would you still advise the same type of therapy? I.e. do you think that the same approach should work with any type of strong resistance and fear of letting go, regardless of where it comes from?

It does makes sense that I should try to gently work on acceptance and softening, rather than trying to push and shock myself with these experiences. I suspect that one of the underlying problems is anhedonia - it's almost impossible for me to tune into anything that's pleasurable. You think that metta could help here?

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 10:29 AM as a reply to Filigranski.
Hi Filigranski,

Sorry to hear you're having a rough time. It may be that the fire kasina isn't the best technique for you at this stage in your practice for whatever reason. JP makes a good point that it might be wise to consider past trauma (especially since you've run into similar trouble with different techniques) and I'll second the recommendation for the book Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness. Also, have you checked in with your teacher at all about this? Someone who knows you and your practice personally may be able to give the most helpful advice.

A helpful thing I've done in the past when I've fried myself or run into trouble is back way off on formal practice to one or two 15-20 minutes sessions per day of just sitting. Really chill practice, more checking in with myself than anything. This sort of low key practice or taking a break from practice entirely might be the best thing for you at this point. Even moderately intense practice plus not enough sleep can easily trigger a serious mental health crisis, which would be a serious bummer. You could always try FK again later on down the road. And combining very low key practice plus therapy might be helpful as well.

As for bypassing the somatic stuff, if you try FK again in the future I would recommend NOT applying TMI principles, especially maintaining peripheral awareness of body sensations/external sounds, in order to become more fully absorbed into the mental imagery. That is what might allow you to bypass the somatic stuff. Some of what TMI calls "dullness" is actually quite alright in FK.

Best wishes for your practice! And keep us posted on how things go.

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 11:11 AM as a reply to Filigranski.
If I told you that I don't have past trauma (that I know of), would you still advise the same type of therapy? I.e. do you think that the same approach should work with any type of strong resistance and fear of letting go, regardless of where it comes from?

I'd recommend somatic experiencing to anyone who is having difficulty with experiencing a lot of either hyper-arousal (fight/flight states, panic attacks, anger, etc.) or hypo-arousal (dissociation, numbness, etc.).  It works on expanding your "window of tolerance" so that you're spending more time in the normal zone where you can relax, enjoy life, and perform a variety of activities.  It's also worth noting that trauma can encompass a variety of experiences like car accidents or breaking a bone, and so it's possible to have trauma-related emotional regulation issues even if it doesn't rise to the level of an actual PTSD diagnosis.  So all in all I'd say it's worth considering if you're having a lot of issues with dissociation even if you don't think you've had significant past trauma.  

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
11/28/18 5:22 PM as a reply to Filigranski.
Hi Filigranski

Sorry to hear you are going through a difficult period with FK! As you noted, the effects of FK mostly happen in the mental space. In fact, bodily sensations may be completely absent if one gets into jhana territory with this practice. 

What you describe is not "typical", however there is a huge range of meditation experiences and people can react to a practice quite differently. The temperature fluctuations, diarrhea and "fever dream" sleep make me wonder if something else could be going on - e.g. thyroid issue, virus, anxiety? If that persists, I would check in with your doctor.

You write:

Questions:
1. In the Deconstructing yourself podcast, Daniel said that most FK effects happen in the mental space and that somatic experiences are bypassed for the most part. However, my experiences are almost entirely somatic. Am I doing something wrong here? Or is it that I'm somewhere in the territory where somatic experiences can't be avoided?

From what you describe, I don't think you are doing anything "wrong" - what you are experiencing could be a mix of typical "dark night" territory coupled with some anxiety. Any "head based" meditation practice has the potential to exacerbate anxiety and dissociation if you are already predisposed. Heart based or body based practices like metta and yoga asana can be more helpful and grounding during times of anxiety and dissociation. I feel like there's this perception that metta practices are not as "strong" or won't lead to "enlightenment" and so people overlook them and push on with concentration and insight, often to their detriment. The ultimate aim is equanimity, not the attainment of perceived insight at any cost. 

2. Almost everything I experience in meditation is unpleasant. Doing FK is interesting and kinda fun, but these experiences always shake me up and keep me offbalance. I keep going, but I wonder if that's how it's supposed to be? Is it just a process of purification and loosening of my resistance? Maybe these experiences are just somatic experiences of fear (body temp dropping, diarrhea). Or does everything I said imply I'm risking my mental health?
I should say that the fear of losing my mind is something that often come up during my meditations and in the time when I used psychedelics. 

I don't think you are losing your mind. It sounds like anxiety - a very normal experience! Having said that, if almost everything you experience in meditation is unpleasant, then I would take a break for a while, significantly reduce the length of your sits or find a different style of practice. I think this is where you will find conflicting advice as some people may think it best to push through, however given the dramatic effect on your sleep I would take a break. There's no prizes for pushing yourself into mental illness territory. 

3. Are sleep disruptions common with FK? Any suggestions on what to do to improve the quality of sleep? 

Meditation practices can disrupt sleep, especially at later stages of practice. I have had periods with FK where I have needed less sleep (it reduced by about 2 hours per night so I was only sleeping 6 hours) but this was temporary. Generally FK meditation improves the quality of my sleep, so again, what you are experiencing could be meditation-related or it might be anxiety-related. Confusing, I know! In terms of improving your sleep - stop meditating for a while, do some grounding activities (walking in nature, strength training, physical work, eating healthy food, hanging out with friends, watching funny movies) and avoid too much reading/thinking about dharma as it can be triggering for dissociation. I also agree with the advice to try somatic re-experiencing therapy - anything that gets you into your body and grounded will help emoticon Balance is the key!

RE: Fire Kasina and unpleasant bodily sensations
Answer
12/1/18 3:11 PM as a reply to Filigranski.
One of the reasons traditional metaphysics and a good many of its advanced occult practices, whether Western or Eastern derived, are steeped in obscure rituals, prayer, supplication, cleansing, fasting, banishment, invocation of divine powers etc - is that such reordering of the experiental flow provides a structure that for many proves valuable when it comes to dealing with the various ontoseismic cracks that may develop as practice proceeds.

These tools may seem nonsensical from a strictly 'modern' or more austere and direct approach - and from such perspectives they indeed are - but taking into account the mind's inclination towards narration, symbols and meaning, they can also help to structure and transform experiences that otherwise may seem overwhelming.