Do visualizations hinder concentration?

Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

Do visualizations hinder concentration?

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
At some point I believe I started creating mental images of the areas I am focusing on during meditation.

For awhile I thought these helped me stay with the area/etc for longer, (I would follow the mental image like a continuous movement linking the sensations I was focusing on with the imagery) now I'm not sure if they are hindering me or not. I feel like I have hit a wall where I've been meditating a lot but my concentration doesn't seem to be getting better. For awhile I thought that meant I'd achieved access concentration, but now I think maybe I was overplaying myself. I have started feeling very tense in between my eyebrows during focusing for nearly a month now and I've heard elsewhere making mental images can cause this tension like feeling?

I just had a pretty good session where I managed to sort of drive these images out and see only blackness, but my mind still would conjure mental images every once in awhile that I would have to catch and discard.

It seems my natural inclination to start visualizing during concentration, so I'm not sure if I should be fighting this or continue embracing it, although I don't feel I've made any leaps forward concentration wise in awhile doing that.
thumbnail
Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Do visualizations hinder concentration?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Matthew,

Tense feeling between eyebrows when visualizing: research the term "third eye".

Driving out images and see only blackness: sure, that means you're visualizing blackness. emoticon

Embrace or fight? Just relax. Let it stand on it's own. You'll probably discover that it's quite stable. Try to relax into the tense feeling; imagine gently breathing through your eyes, that sort of thing.

Cheers,
Florian
thumbnail
Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Do visualizations hinder concentration?

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Matthew N:
At some point I believe I started creating mental images of the areas I am focusing on during meditation.

For awhile I thought these helped me stay with the area/etc for longer, (I would follow the mental image like a continuous movement linking the sensations I was focusing on with the imagery) now I'm not sure if they are hindering me or not. I feel like I have hit a wall where I've been meditating a lot but my concentration doesn't seem to be getting better. For awhile I thought that meant I'd achieved access concentration, but now I think maybe I was overplaying myself. I have started feeling very tense in between my eyebrows during focusing for nearly a month now and I've heard elsewhere making mental images can cause this tension like feeling?

Your problem isn't that anything is being hindered; it is in over-thinking this phenomenon and confusing yourself about it. In other words, you are creating a problem where no problem exists!

Visualization of images is a concentration technique that some (not all) yogis utilize. Have you ever heard of using kasina images to help enhance concentration abilities? If not, NOW you have.

In actuality, you've gone beyond achieving "access concentration." You've probably stumbled into the jhanas without realizing it. The Sanskrit word dhyana (from which we derive the Pali version of this word, jhana) contains the root dhi, which means to "reflect, conceive and ponder over." If you stop for a moment and closely examine your experience, you might concur that this is exactly what you have been accomplishing in your meditation sessions.

In light of the context in which Gotama was likely speaking when he talked of dhyana (that context having to do primarily with the dispelling of ignorance), it is highly probable that this meaning of the word and the intent in which it was used took a great deal of its gravity from this connotation or interpretation. In other words, when he used the word jhana in the discourses, his intent was to communicate the degree of concentrated awareness necessary (the "reflective, pondering over" aspect of the mind) in order to dispel ignorance and thus foster mental awakening and recognition of "things as they are."

Matthew N:

I just had a pretty good session where I managed to sort of drive these images out and see only blackness, but my mind still would conjure mental images every once in awhile that I would have to catch and discard.

It takes a great deal of concentration to be able to do this (that is, to "drive these images out and see only blackness"). Didn't that thought ever occur to you?

Matthew N:

It seems my natural inclination to start visualizing during concentration, so I'm not sure if I should be fighting this or continue embracing it, although I don't feel I've made any leaps forward concentration wise in awhile doing that.

That's because for you it is a natural inclination and nothing to be frightened about or to question. This ability can be used or discarded as you see fit.

If what you are ultimately aiming at is awakening, then at some point you will need to replace whatever image you are using (to establish concentration) with a Dhamma subject (or object) for contemplation, in order to see the subject "as it actually is" rather than how you may have imagined it to be.

For instance, when you suddenly realize that the five aggregates are a perfectly valid explanation for the personality that you perceive yourself to be and that they are simultaneously impermanent, dissatisfying, and ultimately without self nature, you will have penetrated the nugget of wisdom ingrained within their contemplation as such. In other words, you will have seen them for the reality that they are: as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless.

Yet, it will take a little more work than this to be able to hold onto this realization within your everyday normal consciousness. That's where sati (in its capacity as "remembrance" or "recollection") comes into the picture. This is why mindfulness is so important in the way that Gotama taught his Dhamma. It is the key to the transformation that takes place within the individual who uses his Dhamma to set himself free of the limitations of mind.

Breadcrumb