Visual Static

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Howard Clegg, modified 10 Years ago.

Visual Static

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/15/10 Recent Posts
Dear all

I have recently come to realize that I am perhaps a bit more advanced in my practice than I thought possible, especially since I was very sick for three years and did virtually no formal practice for that period of time. Since my recovery, 8 months and counting, I have noticed that the quality of my sitting has changed substantially, as has my "walking around" consciousness. I now believe that I maybe somewhere in Equanimity.

I have had this suspicion for some time but, typically, people recovering from a serious illness/accident get a six month "high" that gradually fades. My experience has been rather different. It appears to have settled now in to a rather stable, panoramic, and good natured "place" for want of better word. I only practice for 30 mins a day, and that is easy and smooth with none of the crankiness that I used to get. I am not well enough to do any more than this but it does not feel necessary anyway. Besides I can quite easily retain a good level of mindfulness whilst driving or shopping and very little effort is expended.

Inevitably, I am now looking for the sensations that one is supposed to encounter in Equanimity. Also inevitably, I have a long list of likely candidates. I will bother you all with just one today.

For a very long time I have had a sensation of "visual static"; this being the best way to describe it. It is most pronounced at night, in the dark I do not see black or grey but black over which a "skein" or web of lighter luminous matter appears to be drawn. If I pay attention to it flashes and moves but has no "centre" although if I incline my mind fantastical shapes emerge that can be pleasant or disturbing or neutral. Flashing colours are also visible mainly pastel pink and green but luminous too if that makes any sense.

When I was young this was all just good fun. When I got a little older I became concerned that this was not normal and spoke to several doctors none of whom were able to help.

The version of this that I get in full daylight is like everything is made up of flashing pixels, very subtle but unmistakable. If I look at a white wall the "pixels" (my god what did people do before digital metaphors!) are very faint pink and blue. Black surfaces appear to be populated with white maybe yellow flashes. However "flashes" is too strong a term, it’s much subtler and very, very "dense". These particles/pixels do not scale up or down. If I move the surface towards my eye they always appear the same size. The edges of objects are indistinct but also clearly defined. There is no doubt where the edge is but it also shimmers. When viewed against a white back ground objects often have a slightly luminous halo around them, very subtle but unmistakable. This is what constitutes my normal vision, when I practice with my eyes open, it gets more intense, with lots of diffraction effects, colours swapping around, sometimes my vision switches so that is things look like photographic negatives of those objects.

I have never paid too much attention to this kind of stuff in the past. I've always had a bit of this, meditating or not, so why worry? Now of course, I'm not so sure. I read a lot about how stuff is supposed to vibrate: but I've never experienced that, sure my body buzzes all the time. 10 Hz 15 Hz? Dunno, maybe, maybe more. Faster than a faulty light bulb for sure, probably like a buzzing insect. But very distinct, always there when I look for it and becomes more pronounced the more I observe it. Is that what everybody is talking about? I have no idea.

It’s the same with these visual phenomena. People talk about matter flickering in and out of reality, of reality vibrating, sure, my reality vibrates all the time. It's never felt particularly significant though. For years I've been telling my self that it’s just that the human eye has evolved to find food, sexual partners and spot trouble, any apparent insubstantiality is just because the eye is an imperfect tool created with limited evolutionary resources. I'm just seeing the truth of that.

So what to do? I know I'm not supposed to chase around after these phenomenon, they don't in themselves mean anything, well and good. But it is important to know where you are on the map so that you can practice appropriately. I have had several experiences recently where a very slight adjustment to the intention that I bring to my practice has dramatically improved the quality of said practice. These changes have been due to a reappraisal of where I think I sit on the map. And this reappraisal has been the result of looking again at the kind of stuff I have described above.

So please feel free to comment, all contributions are welcome.

Howard
Craig N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Visual Static

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Howard

I used to suffer immensely due to visual static when I thought it was a problem I needed to see more clearly or solve in some way. Paying attention to the flickering in the visual field allowed me to bring on fruitions at will but it certainly brought no solution or cessation to the flickering itself or the suffering awareness of flickering caused which only got worse the more I paid attention to it.

10-15 hz and there anytime you look for it and more pronounced the more you observe it sounds like what I see.

I still see it. But I no longer pay any attention to it whatsoever. I behave towards the flickering the way I behave towards a low cut blouse during a business meeting. Don't look, don't look! It's not ideal but it is what it is emoticon

I practice actualism these days rather than vipassana, and I have confirmed for myself that during PCEs the flickering either doesn't exist or is so totally minor that I don't notice it at all.

Unfortunately for a time I also found that any time I noticed the flickering wasn't present in a PCE and especially first thing in the morning, the darned thing immediately returned. Haha that was so annoying and depressing, there was a real sense of inevitability to it.

However, in time, as a result of paying no attention to the flickering at all, it has receded completely to the background and no longer causes me suffering.

While I hope to finalise the matter when I become actually free, I have no definitive answers for you just yet, merely this report of what I have experienced and what has worked for me.

Please let me know if there is anything you'd like me to expand on. I'm keeping this brief because in many ways, the less attention you give to flickering, the better.

Craig
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Howard Clegg, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Visual Static

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/15/10 Recent Posts
Hello Craig

And thanks for your post. I'm not that bothered by the visual static effects that I describe. Unlike you, I don't find them unpleasant and I'm sorry to hear that you find them so distressing. My main concern was that they were significant in some way and that I was missing and opportunity to use these sensations skillfully. It turns out that they are not a big deal from a Vipassana stand point and that's okay with me.

I have heard of AF but know very little about it other than that some heavy hitters are interested and practicing it. Therefore it must be worthy of investigation. I'm getting good results with Noting and Zen right now so I'm going to stay with that for the time being. Good luck to you though, hope it works out.

Cheers

Howard
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tarin greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Visual Static

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Howard Clegg:

For a very long time I have had a sensation of "visual static"; this being the best way to describe it. It is most pronounced at night, in the dark I do not see black or grey but black over which a "skein" or web of lighter luminous matter appears to be drawn. If I pay attention to it flashes and moves but has no "centre" although if I incline my mind fantastical shapes emerge that can be pleasant or disturbing or neutral. Flashing colours are also visible mainly pastel pink and green but luminous too if that makes any sense.

When I was young this was all just good fun. When I got a little older I became concerned that this was not normal and spoke to several doctors none of whom were able to help.

The version of this that I get in full daylight is like everything is made up of flashing pixels, very subtle but unmistakable. If I look at a white wall the "pixels" (my god what did people do before digital metaphors!) are very faint pink and blue. Black surfaces appear to be populated with white maybe yellow flashes. However "flashes" is too strong a term, it’s much subtler and very, very "dense". These particles/pixels do not scale up or down. If I move the surface towards my eye they always appear the same size. The edges of objects are indistinct but also clearly defined. There is no doubt where the edge is but it also shimmers. When viewed against a white back ground objects often have a slightly luminous halo around them, very subtle but unmistakable. This is what constitutes my normal vision, when I practice with my eyes open, it gets more intense, with lots of diffraction effects, colours swapping around, sometimes my vision switches so that is things look like photographic negatives of those objects.

those are phosphenes and other optical effects that you're seeing and are quite normal. my advice here would be to just keep noting and move on. some example notes might be: colours, seeing, fascination, etc. otherwise, just notice it (as a mind-pulse) and move on.


Howard Clegg:

I have never paid too much attention to this kind of stuff in the past. I've always had a bit of this, meditating or not, so why worry? Now of course, I'm not so sure. I read a lot about how stuff is supposed to vibrate: but I've never experienced that, sure my body buzzes all the time. 10 Hz 15 Hz? Dunno, maybe, maybe more. Faster than a faulty light bulb for sure, probably like a buzzing insect. But very distinct, always there when I look for it and becomes more pronounced the more I observe it. Is that what everybody is talking about? I have no idea.

yes, those are examples of vibrations. learning to steep in them (enter the vibrations) can be very beneficial to your meditation progress; however, if you've 'always had a bit of this, meditating or not', then the chances are that you have already learnt to do this to a suitable degree, in which case my advice would be to note (or just notice) the vibrations and move on.


Howard Clegg:

It’s the same with these visual phenomena. People talk about matter flickering in and out of reality, of reality vibrating, sure, my reality vibrates all the time. It's never felt particularly significant though. For years I've been telling my self that it’s just that the human eye has evolved to find food, sexual partners and spot trouble, any apparent insubstantiality is just because the eye is an imperfect tool created with limited evolutionary resources. I'm just seeing the truth of that.

seeing is such a marvellous phenomenon. how fleeting, how striking, how spontaneous, vision can be! and it is the same with any of the other senses. and it is the same with the mind that is able to apprehend that sensations are happening. when you're doing your practice, be sure to pay 100% attention to what you're doing, not concerning yourself with other matters for even a second. it is this kind of focused intent that will provide the momentum to keep you on your cutting edge.. and make the practice most worthwhile.


Howard Clegg:

So what to do? I know I'm not supposed to chase around after these phenomenon, they don't in themselves mean anything, well and good. But it is important to know where you are on the map so that you can practice appropriately. I have had several experiences recently where a very slight adjustment to the intention that I bring to my practice has dramatically improved the quality of said practice. These changes have been due to a reappraisal of where I think I sit on the map. And this reappraisal has been the result of looking again at the kind of stuff I have described above.

what i recommend you do at this point is pay just as much attention to the background of phenomena that present as those phenomena themselves. for example, when it is visually dark and you see the 'skein' of lighter luminous shapes, note the shapes, but also note the black background over which you sometimes see those luminous shapes flash. another example: when you are noting the buzzing in the body, also note the physical background that the buzzing is happening against. this goes for all vibrations: note them, but also note the background (or sense of background).

tarin
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Howard Clegg, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Visual Static

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/15/10 Recent Posts
HI Tarin,

Great advice, Thanks. Great to get some perspective on issues that have been filed under "Misc." for far too long.

I've got another one for you. I have a very high pitched tinitis in my ears, I don't notice it in normal life only when it is very quiet and/or meditating. I have always assumed that it is just that, tinitis. But a few years ago an old monk in Thailand told me that everybody has it and it can be a very useful meditation support. I have used it for this purpose many times and found it productive. Any ideas?

what i recommend you do at this point is pay just as much attention to the background of phenomena that present as those phenomena themselves. for example, when it is visually dark and you see the 'skein' of lighter luminous shapes, note the shapes, but also note the black background over which you sometimes see those luminous shapes flash. another example: when you are noting the buzzing in the body, also note the physical background that the buzzing is happening against. this goes for all vibrations: note them, but also note the background (or sense of background).


Thanks for this advice. It seems like you are advising me to go for more "spaciousness," the Tibetans often go on about the importance of cultivating this quality. And Ingram talks about developing a more inclusive 360 practice as one progresses. Certainly my mind automatically goes after that particular quality with very little prompting from "me." Do you think that that is a good direction for me to go in general?

Thanks again

Howard
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Howard Clegg, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Visual Static

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/15/10 Recent Posts
Dear all

Tarin gave me some great advice that I have applied to my practice over the last couple of sessions.

what i recommend you do at this point is pay just as much attention to the background of phenomena that present as those phenomena themselves. for example, when it is visually dark and you see the 'skein' of lighter luminous shapes, note the shapes, but also note the black background over which you sometimes see those luminous shapes flash. another example: when you are noting the buzzing in the body, also note the physical background that the buzzing is happening against. this goes for all vibrations: note them, but also note the background (or sense of background).


This has had a fairly dramatic effect upon the quality of my practice:

1. I am rapidly developing a kind of fierce joy about practice. It is stable and does not appear to be like a mood, more like a tool. It helps me to concentrate better and for longer. I am noting the sensations associated with it and moving on. This has been developing for some time but Tarin's advice has accelerated the process.

2. On observing feelings of sleepiness and torpor, previously, to stay awake, I would observe the sensations but have to stay with them. Now I look to include another sense door not typically associated with those sensations of sleepiness. Sound works quite well. By expanding my perception I can stay much more mindful but also noticed the torpor rapidly cycles with sensations of elation and clarity, then back to torpor.

3. Looking for the spaces between sensations and the background too them led me directly to the sensations of other sense doors, which I duly incorporated into my awareness. For the first time today I was able to include 5 sense doors in to my awareness for brief periods. On average I could maintain between 2 and 3. One sensation that arose repeatedly was one of stability and safety, perhaps a more interesting effect was one of my vision sense merging with my sense of touch and for short periods becoming indistinguishable. Also for short periods I was able to maintain mindfulness of my linguistic thought processes along side several other sense doors. Previously it was an either/or thing. If thinking in words, my awareness would blink on all the other senses and vice versa.

Oddly, all this feels like no big deal. There are a couple of firsts here for me but I'm not too bothered by this. I think the fierce joy I described earlier has given me the belief that these experiences are repeatable. Also the advice that I'm getting from this forum is giving me much greater clarity over what it is I'm supposed to be doing, so things that happen in practice have a better context now. The fierce joy I'm describing will probably pass and motivation may become harder as a result. But, you know, ups and downs are inevitable in life, all part of the fun.

Not sure if I'm looking for advice yet (comments welcome, obviously) I just thought people who are following this thread might like to see the practical results of the the advice I have received.

Thanks to you all

Howard

P.S. I got 3 Mahasi Sayadaw books through the post today. "The progress of Insight", "Satipatthana Vipassana" and "Practical Insight Meditation". They are slim but pithy. Dipping into Satipatthana Vipassans at random I got:
In reality seeing does not occur at the same time as hearing, not does hearing occur at the same time as seeing. Such incidents do not can occur only one at a time


Now I have doubt, I thought I was doing so well including all those sense doors. Would I be better served cutting down on the number of senses and looking more closely at say just sound and vision and looking for the breaks?

Any Ideas?