Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago.

Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
I did some kasina practice and...

I'm convinced that last night I touched upon first jhana for the first time. My main reason for believing this is the physical sensations that suddenly appeared: mildly intense, pleasurable tingling/prickling on the surface of my skin, especially on the contours of my body, upper arms and cheeks. This was a very exciting moment for me but I found myself in a situation where I didn't know what to do next. I quickly lost the state, regained it, and then lost it again.

At the end of the post I'm going to go out on a little mystifystical limb here and ramble on about what I learned from this in the hope that someone might understand and guide me on.

But this post is mainly about a question I have: how do I get back to where I was?

This thread has been a great resource for me and most of what has been written there I have found to be true. A good place to start kasina practice!

I realize that most of the visual phenomenon that will happen during kasina practice is highly subjective (maybe not in the way it is experienced, but definitely in the way it is expressed), so I'll try and steer clear of that.

I very easily and quickly get the "shift", probably as I have been doing this kind of visualization exercise by "accident", and without knowing it, for as long as I can remember. After the "shift", I close my eyes immediately and find the round after-image. It is very clear and bright, but my problem is that it never stays for longer than barely 10 seconds. It doesn't matter how long I look at the kasina and try to reinforce the after-image by prolonging the gazing. I consistently get the shift after about 12-13 seconds (I timed it) without any prior concentration practice but the after-image will vanish after the same amount of time whether I gaze at it for 15 seconds or 15 minutes (I tested)!

What I make of this is that I might be wanting and trying too hard to get back to where I was. It might also be the case that I'm over-confident and all I need is more concentration, but for some reason I doubt that. Is a quickly vanishing nimitta a sign of low concentration?


Warning! Mystifysticallity ahead!

In the metaphor of (1) finding and then (2) opening a door, it seems I have found out how to open it, but I can't find the door (except for my little mishap described above). In another metaphor, it seems I now know what muscle to contract, but not what weight to lift. Actually, it is very interesting to "use" this "muscle" without any weight. It feels as if I will my way to a different mental plane, but because there is nothing to hold on to on that plane, as if I haven't developed my sight sufficient enough to see anything to hold on to on this plane, I quickly go back "down".

I also had a strange and frightening experience with this:

What I actually did to reach what I believe to be the first jhana was to exercise a certain pressure/attention/concentration on the after-image of the kasina. To use the previous metaphor, I flexed the muscle in a certain way. I have tried to do this a number of times afterwards, on the quickly vanishing nimitta, and this one time I brought myself to this "other plane" that I have described (I do not get the pleasurable physical feeling here) and it felt like something very grand, in the way of size, was descending on me. While this was happening which in itself wasn't very scary, what was really scary was the intense feeling of my eyes rolling harder and further back into my head than I have ever experienced. This intense experience of the eyes was incredibly scary, because it seemed I had no control over it. In pure fear I somehow stopped myself from going any further, and I don't dare do it again. What the hell could this have been?
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
*sigh*

I had a more thorough look around for information and I guess I already answered my own question.

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
What I make of this is that I might be wanting and trying too hard to get back to where I was.

Leigh Brasington:
When I say "do" the Jhanas it's more of how you don't get in their way since the Jhanas are naturally arising mental phenomena. The doing of the Jhanas consists of not blocking them from arising. It's setting up the conditions and just sitting there watching them arise

Leigh Brasington:
(...) watch your breath in the way that requires as much concentration as possible (...)

And most importantly...
Leigh Brasington:
The key to getting into the first Jhana is not trying to make it happen. The key to getting into the first Jhana is setting up the conditions and sitting back and letting it arise all by itself without your doing a thing, knowing all along you want it. There's a beautiful insight that comes when you see that the first Jhana arises when you manage not to grasp, when you just let it arise.


I guess thinking that there's a trick is a bad mistake. Doing kasina practice is not a trick, but a practice that seems to be interesting for a lot of people. Occupy your attention as much as possible, then it will happen. And the easiest way to do this is to use your concentration for something interesting, hence the kasina practice.

Damn it. How I wish I didn't wish for anything. emoticon


Source of quotes.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
As to the thing vanishing, no problem: either do what you can to get it to arise again, or, and here's the strange one, keep focusing on the space where it was when it vanished with just as much concentration as before and don't worry that there is nothing there.

Most of the state shifts that occur delete the previous thing and then, if you figure out how to find it, replace it with the next thing.

At times, the next thing is actually blank space, and then, if you have good concentration, something arises around that blank space, as this stuff gets wider. Look for stuff on the black dot somewhere in all that info.

The phases of practice as they progress are surprising, and the later ones wider, more out of phase, and harder to stay with, and even with they come back in phase again at 4th, there is this not there quality to things even if they are crystal clear, like they are too silent or something.

Anyway, keep at it, more will reveal itself when your ability to stay present is stronger and more steady.

Daniel
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Andy R, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
As to the thing vanishing, no problem: either do what you can to get it to arise again, or, and here's the strange one, keep focusing on the space where it was when it vanished with just as much concentration as before and don't worry that there is nothing there.

Most of the state shifts that occur delete the previous thing and then, if you figure out how to find it, replace it with the next thing.


This has got to be the singularly most useful thing I've read on kasina practice in a long time. I'd come off a practice session staring down a post-it note and I figured out that if I kept paying attention to the space where the afterimage had been, I could get the afterimage to arise again, even after several minutes of being gone.

I sometimes forget how incredibly useful it's been to me to have a playful, exploring, let's see what I can notice attitude, and this little post reinforces that for me again.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Glad you liked that one.

Mostly, the concentration game is about concentration itself and not the objects per se.

If one's concentration is strong, really strong, then it becomes malleable and able to be wielded to do what one wants more and more, and so that is why just staying with the blackness or subtle background colors works just as well, as it is about the concentration itself, the steadiness itself, the presence itself, and using that strategy keeps up that momentum.

One may be surprised at how much stronger one's concentration can get, and then stronger than that, and then stronger than that, and then at some point the mind does what we want it to and we see what we wish and however we incline and tune the thing, just like a well-trained horse or a very fine car goes where we wish it rapidly and easily, so with the well-concentrated mind.

Daniel
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Ahh, I was just about to write the same thing, Andy.

What Daniel mentions is actually what I find myself wanting to do, but because there's this voice in my head telling me that some knowledgeable dude said not to, I resist the thought and get irritated and impatient. I guess I don't quite understand where the borders of a conductive and not-so conductive practice go.

I'm convinced that the object never actually matters, but I don't understand how far you can go with switching your object for another object. Doesn't this somehow break down the concentration that you have built up? Maybe the concept of building or acquiring concentration as some sort of momentum is not really serving me well here? Is there's a certain degree of concentration where switching objects no longer sips away from your pool of concentration?

Daniel M. Ingram:
At times, the next thing is actually blank space, and then, if you have good concentration, something arises around that blank space, as this stuff gets wider. Look for stuff on the black dot somewhere in all that info.

The phases of practice as they progress are surprising, and the later ones wider, more out of phase, and harder to stay with, and even with they come back in phase again at 4th, there is this not there quality to things even if they are crystal clear, like they are too silent or something.


Are you taking about progressive jhanas here or sub-stages of possibly pre-jhana concentration? I wonder because anything after first jhana is not relevant for me. Yet emoticon
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Andy R, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

What Daniel mentions is actually what I find myself wanting to do, but because there's this voice in my head telling me that some knowledgeable dude said not to, I resist the thought and get irritated and impatient. I guess I don't quite understand where the borders of a conductive and not-so conductive practice go.


I'm a bit confused. Whom are you referring to as "some knowledgeable dude," and what is it that this dude said not to do?

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
I'm convinced that the object never actually matters, but I don't understand how far you can go with switching your object for another object. Doesn't this somehow break down the concentration that you have built up? Maybe the concept of building or acquiring concentration as some sort of momentum is not really serving me well here? Is there's a certain degree of concentration where switching objects no longer sips away from your pool of concentration?


I'm curious. Do you mean switching the object of concentration from one to another while you are practicing concentration, or do you mean switching objects between practice sessions?

My personal take is that I've started practicing with different objects, and it seems to have a positive influence on my concentration. I also try to practice under different circumstances, so for example, I practice mindfulness of my breath while walking from one place to another at work, or on the freeway in the car. I try to look for the odd moment here and there to do a bit of concentration or noting in addition to on-the-cushion practice on the theory that every little bit helps.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Andy R:
I'm curious. Do you mean switching the object of concentration from one to another while you are practicing concentration, or do you mean switching objects between practice sessions?


I mean switching objects mid-practice. Switching twice or thrice would do, of course, but as I understand every switch detracts from your concentration.

Andy R:
I'm a bit confused. Whom are you referring to as "some knowledgeable dude," and what is it that this dude said not to do?


Actually I can't remember specifically who it was, as the period where I read a lot was really intense and what I read has blended together. Maybe it was Bhante G.? Also I think it's mentioned over and over again, to never loose your focus from the anapana spot in "Practicing the Jhanas", and Ingram's instructions also has this "don't veer off target"-feel. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Totally possible, that. (I'll explicitlly say that the last wan't sarcasm. You never know what people might think about what you write on the Internet).
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Actually I can't remember specifically who it was, as the period where I read a lot was really intense and what I read has blended together. Maybe it was Bhante G.? Also I think it's mentioned over and over again, to never loose your focus from the anapana spot in "Practicing the Jhanas", and Ingram's instructions also has this "don't veer off target"-feel. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Totally possible, that. (I'll explicitlly say that the last wan't sarcasm. You never know what people might think about what you write on the Internet).


Hmm.. maybe don't think of it as switching targets? You're still focusing on the same space; it's just that different things will arise there. From that thread:

triple think:
The hard part is developing applied and sustained attention so keep the objects very simple at first and gently steady the wandering and wavering of attention simply and barely on the object. Don't worry about whether it is a tangible object or a mental representation of it just think of it as one object and steady the attention. This may seem entirely wrong for some long time insight only practitioners.


The way I do the practice, I stare at the flame, then at some point I close my eyes, and the "next thing" arises. I just realized, actually, that I used to think I would "look for" the next thing and it would come up, but it comes up regardless of whether I'm looking for it. I might have to change the way I do this practice in light of this conversation, and have a more relaxed approach to it. Right now I kind of really strain looking at the mental representation of the object.
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Ident Silence, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Problem with vanishing nimitta (and the coining of a new word)

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
In another metaphor, it seems I now know what muscle to contract, but not what weight to lift. Actually, it is very interesting to "use" this "muscle" without any weight.


That's a fantastic metaphor and sits well with what I've learned about getting into the samatha jhanas at will. I like the long-term implications of using that metaphor as it works at an unconscious level too, the suggestion that this new 'muscle' can be trained, strengthened and developed.

Mystifystical callisthenics, anyone?

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