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Fire Kasina Retreat

Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
1/24/16 4:49 AM
Duncan B., Florian Weps, and myself went on about a two week retreat dedicated to the candle-flame kasina and the powers. Tommy M joined us for two days of it towards the late middle part. It was a screaming good time, great practice, great setting (we rented a medieval tower in Scotland called the Tower of Hallbar), great conversations about practice, and great food, as everyone there could cook.

We have started a website that we will populate with the material that comes out of that: www.firekasina.org and hopefully people will find things to inspire them to practice this and related techniques there, as they reveal lots of interesting things.

It should also be noted that the contrast between what happened there to some of the various interests and threads here was a bit striking on returning to learn about what had been going on.

More to come later when I get the time.

Practice well,

Daniel

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/17/15 9:17 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
"It should also be noted that the contrast between what happened there to some of the various interests and threads here was a bit striking on returning to learn about what had been going on."

Call me paranoid, but the whole time the events of the DhO were unfolding, somewhere in the back of my head I was thinking, "This is all because Daniel Ingram used the powers on the DhO or Alan Chapman is somehwere in the background doing something something about white brotherhood this or that giggling to himself..."

Anyways, nice blog, I look forward to further information.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 3:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Fascinating stuff and a real motivator to re-engage with this mode of practice, so thanks for that. I've found my own experiments with fire kasina practice stymied by the post-dot "gulf" as described in the talk, so it was of immediate interest to hear how that territory unfolds.

You mentioned travelling briefly out of body -- is fire kasina practice especially well-suited for inducing these kinds of experiences? If so, is there anything one can do within the kasina practice to "optimize" for having them? I've heard the link between jhana and OOBE discussed elsewhere, but I'm having trouble connecting the dots in a practical, how-it's-done sort of way.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 5:28 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
So probably this is a stupid question, but maybe someone can clear this up for me: but what is the goal here? Just to see cool images? Does it do anything otherwise? Does it have some positive effect on daily life? 

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 6:11 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
Hi Oochdd

Oochdd:
So probably this is a stupid question, but maybe someone can clear this up for me: but what is the goal here? Just to see cool images? Does it do anything otherwise? Does it have some positive effect on daily life? 


The goal was to get into jhana states by concentrating on the visual field or parts of it, like the afterimage and the resulting nimitta; to have a lot of fun; to see what a mind which is still and directed and focussed over longish periods of time can do; to explore intent, magick, siddhis / iddhi, visions, weird sensory expansion/augmentation in the afterglow of such concentration states; to observe the "three doors" type experiences just before fruitions in high detail in good, solid concentration states, and so on; to have good dharma companionship and eat nice food and enjoy the atmosphere of speding two weeks in a medieval tower with dangerous stairs and low-hanging rock ceilings emoticon

Does it do anything otherwise? Well, yes, even if the focus was on samatha, we all found we could not help powering the insight cycles, experience fruitions, explore the ñanas in high detail, including the dukkha ñanas, and dealing with quite a bit of "content" along the way. We all left behind loved ones for these two weeks, we all found various degrees of previously unconscious stuff surfacing, and so on.

Does it have some positive effect on daily life? Speaking for me, these were very restful, healing, insightful weeks. Bathing the mind for 12+ hours a day in steady focus did a lot for me. There is something to not yanking the mind around all the time, focus on this, consider that, fend that off, open to this... simply staring at a candle or the back of my eyelids allowed some irritated spots to heal, I think. I returned to work the day after I got back, and while it was certainly a bit jarring, it was nowhere as bad as I had imagined it would be, and it seems to keep on giving in some way (now on day three of back to work).

I'll try to expand on these in a future blog post at the site Daniel set up for this, referenced in his initial post.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 9:12 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
The visual kasinas have many benefits, some of which were noted by Florian above. I would add that the visuals add a great appreciation for things about the jhanas, as their widths of attention, their phase aspects, their frequency predispositions, and the like are greatly clarified when you can see it before you like a diagram. It similarly vastly increases the ability to phenemonologize well.

As Duncan said, he could now see clearly all of the stuff about frequencies and the patterns of attention in the jhanas that he had previously wondered how in the world I could know. Things about the Three Doors similarly became much clearer to those there.

When playing around with kasinas in high dose, one learns a ton about attention, about its regulation and control, about what it does, now it interacts with phenomena, and how this varies in various phases of practice. It is knowledge that is hard to gain in that same clearly defined way elsewhere.

They also help develop strengths of concentration that objects like the breath often don't, as the visuals give such immediate feedback on how concentration is doing in that second, sort of like what they are trying to do with million-dollar fMRIs and $80,000 EEGs but costing about a dollar for a candle or free by just using the LED on the camera of your phone or a video of a candle on your computer screen (thought it doesn't get quite the same retinal burn to produce a good learning sign.)

We actually used 30x300mm German church altar candles that burned very well and cleanly, and, if you do this, I recommend similarly good candles, as they make a difference in not having to deal with their maintenance, dripping, guttering, and the like. 30mm (1.25in) is a nice width for this, neither causing the flame to crater into a valley with tall waxy sides nor dripping due to overflowing the insufficient edges.

High-dose kasinas often produce siddis (powers), and siddis teach you lots of things about yourself and the experiential world and are just darn interesting. Plenty of people watch fantasy movies and yet few say, "Why would anyone watch fantasy movies?", and yet you somehow have to explain the fun it is to play with siddis to people: very odd, that.

One also gets to experience many strange ways of seeing things. Example: there is a stage up in the sequence where the visuals exhibit what we began to call pseudo-paralax, meaning that the distant parts stay relatively anchored when you move your head side to side, as if they were fixed things in the room, but the closer parts move with your head in a way that is graded by the closeness to you, such that you get this really strange thing that is like paralax but not quite the same as typical visuals.

There can also be this marked appreciation of color in all its rich shades and variants that applies not only to the images produced during the practice but also after you open your eyes, such that the colors of the ordinary world seem enhanced and the nuanced depths of shade and tone one can suddenly perceive are much more than they were before. This effect fades, but I can still feel something of that lingering a few days after I stopped and I really like it. It enhances the joy of simply seeing things.

The jhanas also have their own rewards: the deep restful states, the bliss, the rapture, the peace and the like are skillful, healing, very deeply enjoyable, and also allow one to enter into territory regarding one's stuff that is hard do to in less refined states. Just as one notices that one may have markedly reduced or totally absent physical pain from sitting while in jhana, which often contrasts sharply to the pain from sitting just minutes before the jhana set in, just so emotional issues perceived in jhana are much easier to handle. It is like getting a free pass to see what one is feeling and thinking about old wounds and current issues while not having so much pain around them, like becoming a much more objective and yet attentive party to them, and this allows degrees of clarity and wisdom to arise that it is much harder to find in non-jhanic states.

The sense of mastery that one acquires as one progresses deeper and deeper into the sequences of presenting stages and visuals with more competence and skill as the practice progresses is very rewarding. You can clearly see the fruits of your labors exactly as the various phases become more clear and more accessible and you learn how to progress to the next phase of the visuals. It is hard to get that same sense of clear progress using other non-visual objects. In that same way, as the stages are so clear, one gets immediate feedback on one's attentional experiments in how to progress, and that greatly increases the meta-skill of how to figure out how to improve attention in deeper and deeper states, which is of such value to the competent meditator.

There are probably more benefits, but that is a good start.

Practice well,

Daniel

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 9:40 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks a lot, that does clear up a lot! 

So summarizing: the visuals actually give you a lot of immediate feedback on the concentration state or insight stage that you're in, and this helps your stabilize and develop those states and stages more effectively?

So next question (you can also refer to me to an upcoming post on your new website if you want to emoticon : for whom would you recommend this practice? Would you recommend first getting a few paths under your belt, and then switching to this? Would it be a good practice from the start? Would it be especially recommended for people that are stuck in their practice in a specific way? Or would you recommend that everybody just try it and see if they have any affinity with it? (ofcourse at this stage it might be hard for you guys to judge whether this would be a good practice for a new meditator)

Thanks again for all the good practice tips and for exploring this new territory!

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 11:08 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hell. yes.

I'm going to be on a work trip all next week and will have lots of free time in the evenings to practice. Real fire is probably an iffy idea to attempt in a hotel, but I'll see what I can work with as far as other lights.

Daniel - any chance you're planning or would be interested in another retreat with people back here in the US at some point... heck I'd be in for even a shorter weekend long one. I'm in the Midwest.

Steph

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 12:06 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Hell. yes.

Daniel - any chance you're planning or would be interested in another retreat with people back here in the US at some point... heck I'd be in for even a shorter weekend long one. I'm in the Midwest.


I'd like to second Steph's hell, yes, with regard to planning a U.S. version of this retreat! I'm in the mid-Atlantic South.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 12:12 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Wow, Florian and Daniel. 

Seeing is beautiful.

Daniel, I find what you say about dealing with psychological stuff in (after?) these states intriguing and something I've not heard you say before. You do mention this same benefit almost in passing in your greatly expanded and reworked jhana chapter of MCTB2. I've queried you for a bit more information there.

(We need to make sure the firekasina.org site is added to your bibliography if you mean to leave the site up.)

Jenny

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 4:47 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Blue light triggers insomnia and migraines (and migraine auras) too.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 4:49 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Dear Steph,

Please check your message box for a p.m. from me. 

Jenny

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/18/15 5:20 PM as a reply to Jenny.
Thanks. Got it and replied via email. 

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 10:25 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Really neat! I listened to both podcasts as I lay in bed last night. Congrats to Daniel, Florian, and Duncan for the exploration and great example of comradary in practice!

(p.s. I'm AKA betawave from the old board.)

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 6:48 PM as a reply to Jenny.
re: Jenny (2/18/15 12:12 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.)
"(We need to make sure the firekasina.org site is added to your bibliography if you mean to leave the site up.)"

And/or explore various given ways of using web-archiving services to fix/permanentize (un-annicca-size?) link targets. That looks to work well for simple documents, e.g. a web page that's just a pdf file. I'm not sure if/how its usable for archving a whole website, i.e. traversing and copying a plexus of links, without getting off into copying the whole internet (and possibly infinite recursion). The problem must have been addressed already somewhere. Perhaps those here who are active geeks in the area could assist here.

Here's a recent source for such information (quoting a post of mine in another context):
 
"If hyperlinks to documents are used (in-line or in footnotes), there's the potential that they someday, e.g. tomorrow, no longer work (aka "link rot", "content drift", "reference rot"). A recent New Yorker article details this (explaining those colorful quoted terms), and mentions ways of making links one wants to use "permanent". ("The Cobweb: Can the Internet be Archived?" Jan 26, 2015 edition, pp.34-41 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/cobweb)."

(I noted this to you in the MCTB2 context; repeating it here in case others are interested.)

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 8:22 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
As to sun-gazing, I did some, briefly eyes open with UV filtering glasses on, then with eyes closed but still staring in that direction, and would get huge nimitas off of that and then would stabilize them and open my eyes, and everything where the nimita was would stay this bright magenta like I was looking through rose-colored glasses for a long time.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 8:23 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
I would recommend this practice to anyone. Just realize that past the red dot, the vague and wide part takes some skill and a moderate number of practice hours for most to get good at.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 8:29 PM as a reply to Steph S.
@ Steph S: re: retreat in the US: sure, why not? For this retreat we just rented a place, bought food, retreated and that was it: very simple. Luckily the small group in Scotland included only people who were all helpful, kind, thoughtful, reasonable, diligent, low-maintenance and non-dramatic practitioners, which really helped. I would recommend a similar group if we did this again, as this stuff can get wiggy and you need people who can handle that.

I am pretty booked until the Fall with trips and the like, so it would have to be sometime like Sept-Dec likely. What would people be up for? I like this stuff and it is fun to practice. If we could find the time, a good group, and a nice place, we could do a few days somewhere. I just burned up all my vacation time for the year, but I do get days off here and there between blocks of shifts, so there is likely a way to schedule something if it lined up with other people's free time. Holidays are hard for me to get off, just FYI.

Definitely don't burn down the hotel! ;)

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/19/15 10:57 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel:

What would people be up for?

Practicing being nondramatic from now to September so as to be uncut from the list?

Seriously, though, what would the practice-level and other prerequistes be and are you the one deciding?

I'll take my answers elsewhere sometime, not here.

RE: Fire Kasina Retreat
Answer
2/20/15 9:22 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
i dug the acid recap esp. the visuals, a very apt analogy that, noticing the olfactory tie-in with visuals etc.

being in germany i have easy access to altar candles so the rest should be a cakewalk ;-)

very much fun, especially the voice to thumbnail connection to florian.