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Retreat in total darkness?

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Retreat in total darkness?
meditation techniques visualisation visual phenomena
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12/2/12 8:35 AM
I'm thinking about doing a home retreat in total darkness, perhaps using a blindfold. My thinking is, since silence is conductive to meditation, it seems like darkness would be also. Also, I once spent a day laying in darkness, long before I got into meditation, and had some odd/interesting visuals, and they seem like they would be easier objects to deal with than the physical and emotional stuff I usually wind up with. On the other hand, I read a thread on this forum (can't find it now) that said impermanence is harder to perceive visually than with the other senses.

Does anyone have any thoughts or experience with this?

RE: Retreat in total darkness?
Answer
12/2/12 1:12 PM as a reply to Jareth Dekko.
Dark retreats are more common in the Tibetan tradition than Theravadan. They are considered to be very advanced and for those of exceptional stability. Here is a podcast and transcript of an interview with Reggie Ray, a prominent teacher in the Tibetan lineage of Trungpa Rinpoche, on the experience of his 28 day dark retreat:

http://www.soundstrue.com/weeklywisdom/?source=podcast&p=2324&category=IATE&version=full

RE: Retreat in total darkness?
Answer
12/2/12 3:50 PM as a reply to Jareth Dekko.
Hi!

So... I never did it sistematically but I tried sometimes, so I'll try anyway to give some inputs...

On the other hand, I read a thread on this forum (can't find it now) that said impermanence is harder to perceive visually than with the other senses.


Don't worry about that; it's true that if you are somewhere, like, seated watching a bowl, probably the impermanence of that bowl image won't be obvious, but if you are planning on a retreat (even a small one) your concentration abilities will increase, and eventually impermanence will become obvious (for example, you might see how your visualization is not stable, the edges are not always still, how sometimes it changes position in the view field, sometimes it disappears, how intentions preceeds and influence all the time the experience of the visualization, how in certain moments you'll be focused on the center and sometimes on the periphery of the object... and here I'm talking if you are going to use a circoular dot as a meditation object, so we are not even talking about using dynamic visualizations). Also, if you stare at a bowl long enought you will begin to see a lot of visual trembling, moving effects, so impermanence all over the place even in that case...

they seem like they would be easier objects to deal with than the physical and emotional stuff I usually wind up with


Something like that occurred to me as well, even if I didn't used visualizations, but just the stuff that you see on the back of your eyelids; what I found is that attention was pulled back to bad physical sensations and emotional stuff as well, wich made the whole visual thing quite pointless. It seems that, for a strategy like that to work, is necessary quite a strong concentration, so that your attention is fixed in the visual stuff without wandering or being pulled back; I failed in this, but it seems to me that the mind get much more concentrated while focusing on a visualization than a normal extarnal object, so you will probably have some more fighting chance...

Finally, if you want to re-read something on MCTB, in the impermanence chapter there it talks about thoughts as well; also, if you will use the whole of your attention power to observe the impermanence of visualizations, you will probably run in vipassana jhanas territory, wich, I guess, will look very much like the candle flame meditation that Daniel describes in the chapter on vipassana jhanas...

So... bye, and welcome here!