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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.

Hello all,

After starting to meditate on a candle flame, my meditation seems to have come to a whole new level. Thanks again to everyone for the DhO and MCTB. I wouldn't have gotten here without them. I'm also really thankful for the maps. I think they are focusing the practice pretty well. Without them, I may have had a tendency to just prolong these really cool happenings, revel in them, be sad when they do go away, not know what's wrong, etc. Now my state of mind is: "Let's keep doing this, and see what happens next."

I was hesitant to just make a big post describing what's been happening, since I wondered what the point of it would be. I don't want to just be like "WOA LOOK AT ME!!" with every little thing that happens. But after reading parts of Chris's thread I saw he got lots of useful tips on where he was / how to continue, etc. Meh I am still feeling like I shouldn't click "Save"... but here goes.

Here's how I've been practicing. I sit down in a comfy chair. I light a candle on my desk. I incline my head down to look at the candle, and I stare at it until I can focus on it well. I'll note my eye 'twitching' away for no reason and try to keep it steady - I think this helps my concentration. Soon enough (within a minute or two) my whole field of vision will start shifting around in a slightly unsettling way. I'm not sure what causes this, but it just feels like everything pans to the left or the right, or zooms slightly out (so everything on my desk seems smaller). Usually I can see the negative image of the red dot that's supposed to appear superimposed, so at that point I close my eyes, tilt my head back, and look for the red dot.

It appears by flickering into existence. I note the flickering. It never really gets too stable. It often changes colors fairly quickly, usually to green or yellow-ish. It changes shape to look like an actual candle flame. I see more diffuse red in my field of vision. Then at some point it pretty much fades away. Then I would look at the flame again and start over.

Detailed reports of my last few sessions follow. After you read/skim through/ignore them... Right now my conclusions are:
  • I probably hit A&P and got an A&P event. Not sure where I'm at in terms of samatha or vipassana jhanas. Not sure if I was in Dark Night before or if I am right now. I think I'm still in A&P territory. I have a mostly free day tomorrow so I'm going to try to spend like 6 hours meditating. I'll pretty much keep doing what I have been doing and see where it goes. I feel like that will be the answer to this thread if any =).
  • I realized recently that I started looking for cool phenomena, to the point where this morning when I meditated for 20 minutes, I put on a blindfold so that my vision would be dark so I could see any visual effects that might come up. I did note the desire to blindfold several times, and the desire did not immediately translate into movement, as it usually does, but eventually I did it. The advice I've decided to try to follow from Chris's thread is:
    Use formal resolve. Can’t recommend that enough either.
    What you’re looking for is not the specifics of some refined experience - flashes of light and donut-hole shaped doors were my favorites - but insight about something common to any and all experience. Thus, it’s there in the 3-d snow, but it’s also there when the 3d-snow winds down, it’s in the disappointment about the state ending, in the boredom after the special effects go away, and so on. Noting practice is so great because it’s such a good reminder to keep looking in these unlikely places as well.
  • My noting isn't too consistent. I note thoughts and their passing, and most visual phenomena, and the music in my head that is constantly playing (honestly I fully believe some random song will be going through my head when I attain stream entry), but not bodily sensations so much. I'll try to pick that up a bit.
  • my posture is pretty bad. i kind of just slump in that chair. i would recline but it doesn't recline =(. seems to be working for me, though..

And my questions are:
  • is my assessment of where I am, and what to continue doing, accurate?
  • Any pitfalls I should watch out for?
  • What should I resolve? Right now I don't say any at all (except that I set a timer and stick to it). Maybe "I resolve to investigate the 3 characteristics in each moment to the best of my ability for the next X minutes?"
  • anyone want to comment on jhanas, if you find it'd help? sounds like knowing what 4th jhana is and being able to focus on it can help later, for example.
  • should I have a 'center' that I go back to to note? I guess my 'center' would be the candle flame with eyes open, and the red dot with eyes closed. I definitely don't keep the breath as a center. However once the red dot fades and other things start happening (read on) I don't really have a 'center' that I always keep track of. Should I, perhaps? I kind of just observe whatever is going on.

If you want to read some rambling practice notes, continue on! Sorry for the length but.. I figured I might as well paste the practice notes I actually took instead of re-summarizing and maybe missing stuff (on top of stuff I missed when first writing them).

3 days ago (seems like longer now) I broke new ground. At the end of my hour session, the dot still faded, but then I started seeing colors in my whole field of vision. It was mostly a sheet of purple color that I could look at closely enough. It resembled the stuff I see before I go to sleep sometimes, but more tangible.

2 days ago I wrote:

red dot appears. small one this time. it seems to come close and go further apart very fast, faster than other movements before, and also it flickers a lot, but i can keep track of it this time.

then this other thing comes in… is like an orange larger dot inside an even larger red dot. this one i can barely see.. it flickers in and out a lot, and disappears altogether a bunch. (addendum just now: it seemed to be distinct from the original red dot).

around here i notice a picking up in mental abilities, be it placebo or real. once again hard to find transition here… i think i kept looking for the orange thingy.. then stuff started happening around it. it turned into black dot maybe. but inside black dot would appear red dot once in a while, then disappear (it was a small black dot).

i think i was about to end it here, but decided to do one more round.. and da purple effect came back! whole vision would turn purple, then it would all turn into white, then purple again. was a very regular and predictable cycling. later on it would be like purple, then white, then gray, then maybe a bit red, then red melds with purple.. i also maybe noticed some faint white lights goin around , here. it was very pleasant! i noted ‘pleasant’ and ‘cool’ a few times. once again thoughts and sensations were easy to regard as no-self.

At this point I turned on my two computer monitors, but then shut my eyes since they were pretty bright. Then...

then i noticed that i could notice the white after-image fade away if i’d open and close my eyes fast. watched the stuff a bit more.. think i was still in that ‘stage’/’state’. the left monitor kind of left rectangular impressions with rectangles growing and shrinking.. like the desired effect from a candle, just gotten from 1 sec glimpse of bright monitor.

also i noticed really really obvious flickering of light behind eyes. very heavy flickering. i think about 8-10 times per second. i kept watching it until it stopped flickering so much. i kind of saw patterns in the flickering…

oo yeah i definitely did. not sure what it was. prob from my suggesstible self I thought it was a wall of skulls.. small skulls, but then they grew larger. like a wall of skulls with wavy white lines being the light, and in between are lots of skulls. then the image started shifting around, like a sine wave was going down vertically and the peaks started extending left and right. was trippy-ish.

Then the day after (yesterday), even "cooler" stuff. This time it only took 10 minutes into the session to start, as opposed to 50 minutes before. The notes I took:
  • Dot alternating between green and red in a way I can control.
  • Once again, purple sheet of color turning into white sheet of color, back into purple, etc., cycling, about once every 2 seconds.
  • This pattern came up a bunch: a lot of purple… then a green circle grows from the center and expands until everyhting is green. then the entire field switches to purple and the process repeats.
  • some cool color melding.. purple, red, and green i think? they would combine to form a 3-color circle/sphere thing which would shift around then come apart. looked kind of like the Google Chrome logo a bit. (Hah you won’t find that analogy in any Buddhist sutras..)
  • After first round of color sheet etc. phenomena faded, I opened eyes and did red dot again. This time, however… beside the red dot was a black dot. and the black dot acted kind of like a black hole, pulling the red color into it. they kind of danced around each other, tho black hole was usually above and to left of red dot. they eventually melded so that red dot was in center of black hole. this turned into round of colors and such again.
  • after that round of colors, i saw 2 red dots upon closing eyes. not sure why, they melded soon enough.
  • around red dot i pretty soon notice some faint red circle 3x larger than it. it gets more intensely red if i focus on it, but never as solid as the red dot, and the red dot doesn’t disappear while it’s there.. of course i think this bigger red thing eventually turns into the red/white/purple/green sheets of color later.
  • i think this is A&P. i have thoughts like “this is awesome!” “i can’t understand why everybody doesn’t meditate” “this is so much fun”, etc. I manage to note these feelings! oh also “man what i was doing before was really just stumbling in the dark - this is what it’s about!”.
  • think i’m understanding the suffering characteristic of neutral sensations a bit. it’s like… it is so bothersome to observe them. why not just let them be?
  • thoughts also have a nice no-self aspect to them.
  • throughout this i have pretty heavily intense pressure in my head, on my temples, on my nose, etc.
  • towards the end i definitely got around a half dozen vibrations in my body. left buttock… right armpit.. forgot the other places. felt like a little burst of energy reverberating.
  • oo for first time i felt a third-eye-like tingling sensation on the top of my head. i think that’s the crown chakra. felt kinda cool.
  • ah yeah when eyes are open, even at very beginning, pretty soon my whole field of vision starts shifting around. is a bit disconcerting. it is very noticeable. the whole thing just shifts… i wonder if it’s cause i’ve gotten better at keeping my eye steady, so when they do invariably shift, i just notice it? like my brain perceives that eye shift backwards now? dnno.
  • ah yeah usually this doesn’t happen but after one of the rounds, I checked my timer and turned it off so it wouldn’t bother me, and ended up meditating another 30-40 mintes past the 1hr I set up. i also felt like i could just sit & meditate forever.. tho i was getting tired a bit at end so i stopped (and i have to sleep soon). so yeah makes me think A&P.
  • =( I hope I have been in the dark night, cause if not and i’m about to hit it.. will it be worse than the bad moods I've been in?
  • ah yeah around the first round of stuff, the sheets of colors i saw i somehow felt were ‘closer’ to me. like they were nearer my eyes somehow.
  • i tried noticing vibrations during this but wasn’t too successful. howevre after it ended, i turned on both compute rmonitors (mostly white), looked a bit, then closed eyes. sure enough as i’ve come to expect, i started getting very obvious vibrations, drumdrumdrumdrumdrumdurmdrum… like 4-7 a sec maybe. as i watched them more closely, i noticed fractal-like patterns forming in them… like a little chunk would repeat itself all over. i once again wondered if it was skulls, and that may hve influenced them to look a bbit like it, but nothing solid like the colors. anyway as i watched it all started to distort in a way. like shift around… then i thought ‘spinning’ (not sure if it spun first then i thought it or other way around, but i think the former), and it all started to spin a bit. then the center kind of drifted up and to the right so i was looking at like the corner of a cyclone you see on a weather map. with maybe-skulls in between the white flashes.
  • intensity i would say started off low, then got high as soon as first sheets, then became really high at vibrations, then backed off a bit for the round of colors after that so i felt a bit slower until i had to mentally kick up the intensity a little bit.
  • ah yeah before vibrations i realized i wasn’t paying attention to my body at all, so i started doing that (noting sensations). i was too busy on the colors at the time.. that may have triggered the vibrations.
  • also had stopped focusing on the red dot completely (since it faded), and put nothing on breath until i thought about it at one point. i didn’t feel uncomfortable like i was controlling it, which was good and unusual for me

After that session ended, I hung out for 30 minutes, watched a show, then went for another round. No timer this time:

I think I had an A&P event!

So I did another 20 min session last night. quickly got to the seeing colors stage. this time i was feeling more equanimous. thoughts like “is this equanimity?” arose, i noted them as ‘wondering’. I tried upping the intensity a bit but didn’t work too well… felt more energy at the crown chakra.

anyway i opened eyes, put out the candle, and closed them again quickly. candle was towards bottom of my vision a bit out of sight. as i closed eyes, the white of the candle shrunk and condensed into a pretty stable white point, which i watched for a bit. then stuff was flickering and i saw white lights on upper-left, upper-right, and lower-right corner of vision. they would be bright and flicker, though slower than 5hz.

i decide to go to bed. i keep noting the actions i’m taking while i dress for bed. then i lie down, on my stomach, with head on its right side, and cloes my eyes. immediately some flickering picks up. this time it is blue-ish, and is not solid, but justa bunch of dots. it keeps picking up.. i keep noting.. it picks up more.. then it just turns into a full-blown intense hallucination. it’s hard to describe.. but it actually became three-dimensional. it looked like something from some space game. pretty much the texture of blue blobs spaced out across my vision popped up, with some spheres in certain places, terrains, interseting shapes. it became really really chunky such that it started only changing like 3 times per second, but in a very very noticeable and sudden fashion, like "BLIP BLIP BLIP BLIP", and i was able to note it well. during this entire time my breath and my pulse picked up cause i was like “woah!!” i was able to note the smoothness of my breath (vs. the chunkiness of the visions) and my increased pulse rate, and excitement, etc.

eventually it died down. i kept meditating for a bit after it did. i thought about moving my legs so they weren’t crossed but it took a few thoughts to actually move them. (maybe dissolution?) the afterwards didn’t feel much different than the before.. maybe didn’t keep pushing on, but it fell back?

ah yeah i did notice a helicopter-like sound in my right ear as i was sleeping. like whoo-whooo-whoo-whowhowhowhow-whoo-whoo.

More reason tothink A&P: went to sleep at 1:15, woke up at like… 3, 4, or 5am (forgot which) not feeling too tired. I kind of lay there, semi-meditating in a confused half-awoken state (didn’t really try to get up, but maybe should have).

Addendum: The "3D snow" comment really seems to describe it well. I think 3D snow is meant to apply to the whole of experience, but in this case that is just what the vision was: 3D TV snow of a blue/purple hue in various shapes.

Now it's today.. I wonder why I can see my vision flicker but only after looking at something for a bit. Any tips there?

also is funny how intense the 3d hallucination seemed at the time and how now it's like "ah stuff happens." i almost even forgot about it this morning.

If you read this all... thanks!

RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
11/12/10 11:17 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
pay more attention to the vibrations. you're on the right track with the visual flashing and auditory strobing; now the way that spread that out further is to tune in to how vibrations are also bodily. plunge into the vibrations that show up - you want them to become pervasive enough that you can deeply feel them, and that you forget about anything and everything else as you become absorbed into/suspended by them. you may find it helpful to breathe your way into them at first, but at some point should forget even the breath, and let the vibrations you're absorbed into/suspended by take over completely.


RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
11/12/10 4:10 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
pay more attention to the vibrations. you're on the right track with the visual flashing and auditory strobing; now the way that spread that out further is to tune in to how vibrations are also bodily. plunge into the vibrations that show up - you want them to become pervasive enough that you can deeply feel them, and that you forget about anything and everything else as you become absorbed into/suspended by them. you may find it helpful to breathe your way into them at first, but at some point should forget even the breath, and let the vibrations you're absorbed into/suspended by take over completely.


Ah I'm glad I posted! I wouldn't have thought to focus on this aspect. I'll try it and report how it goes, thanks for the advice.

I notice a strange pattern with the visual vibrations, though, which is that they seem to get most intense if I take a few seconds break from meditating. Like if I open my eyes, move to my bed, lie down, and close them, they'll appear, but they won't have been there the past X minutes I was meditating. Or when I looked at my computer monitors and closed them, I got the very intense flashing. Maybe I just have to 'recharge' or something, but do you have any idea why that might be? In any case I'll try to look for more vibratory qualities in everything.

RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
11/13/10 7:32 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Yesterday's meditation:

I think I'm preserving progress.. in that this time, I got to the pretty visual colors and such after the very start of looking at the candle for 1 min or 2.

This time, though.. even though the same 'cool' things were happening, I was more 'bored' by them. I noted that. I got at one point feeling of the colors being really really close to my eyes (closeness) and being really far apart (spaciousness). I had feelings of wanting to stop (desire to stop). Towards the end I tried messing around w/ my vision by...
  • opening eyes, looking at candle briefly, and closing them. candle quickly resolved to white dot , then dissolved into the colors.
  • turning on a bright computer monitor, looking at it a few seconds, and closing eyes. it too resolved into whiteness, which then flickered for a bit where I could see some shapes emerging, then stopped.
  • putting my hand in front of the bright monitor, loooking at it a few seconds, then closing eyes. this time i saw a cool afterimage of my hand which persisted for a bit. also the monitor turned into like 3-dimensional imagery, which then had some hand and some candle in it.

The 1 hour bell surprised me. I got ready for bed, closed my eyes, and same thing as list time for sure: flickernig, turning into blue "tv snow", turning into a cool really 3d landscape, though not as intense as the first one, if only cause I was used to it.

So I'm at least getting to the same place faster... I did kind of almost notice some whole-body/field of vision vibrations, though.. and I noticed my whole field of vision shaking.. and that if I look closely at the colors, they're made up of tiny little blobs of color instead of just being smooth. I'll focus in on the last few things and see if that leads to vibrations more distinctly.

RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
11/13/10 9:35 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Haha.. life is funny. This quote from MCTB is spot-on:

This stage (A&P), its afterglow, and the almost withdrawal-like crash that can follow seem to increase the temptation to indulge in all manner of hedonistic delights, particularly substances and sex. As the bliss wears off, we may find ourselves feeling very hungry or lustful. We may have a strange craving for chocolate. If we have addictions that we have been fighting, some extra vigilance near the end of this stage might be helpful.

This is after having no desire for any sensual delights for the past few days.

i think my posture was hurting me, in that i was just falling asleep almost. today i switched back to Burmese and felt much more alert. visual flickering still seems to be triggered by me "doing" anything (like opening and closing eyes, turning head, standing / sitting, moving, etc., the last all with eyes closed), but even when i was just sitting there, i noticed it coming and going.

mostly meditating isn't as fun + rapturous as it was a few days ago.. even though all the "cool" visual effects and such are there, same as always. but that's to be expected. continue i will.

RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
11/14/10 8:52 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Quick update... now it seems whenever I close my eyes I see pretty swirly colors. I think my mind has switched into a different state, or something. I think I'm back in A&P for now as it's pretty fun to watch it and meditate at the moment. I wish I didn't waste yesterday.. I think I hit Dissolution hard and, well, i got distracted with sensual desires (Afroman's song "But Then I Got High" is applicable here). I can definitely see why an intensive retreat is good for such things. Well, I resolved to do better next time!

Visual flickering comes and goes. It's still most intense after I do some action, like move around, open my eyes, look at something bright, etc., but now it comes and goes even if I'm just sitting there. I haven't felt bodily flickering too well yet, nor auditory flickering.

I did meditate a bit when high.. I did feel very intense bodily flickering then, which seemed in-sync with the visual flickering. also when i'd open my eyes my vision was very chunky, like it would flick about 4 times/second instead of being smooth. i also had an experience where it felt as if the 'center of my mind' or of my vision kind of emptied out, and my thoughts and sensations were pushed to the side. I'm not sure if i ventured into Fear there.. or some other stage.

I wondered if I could be in equanimity.. and if when a really pretty green color that I don't usually see came up, was beautiful, and then disappeared, was a 'formation', but after reading that chapter it wasn't like it at all (it was purely visual + feelings of "wow that is really pretty").

RE: fun meditating! cool stuff! A&P? request for comments/tips.
12/6/10 7:51 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Looking back this was almost definitely A&P leading into Dissolution.