Message Boards Message Boards

Kasinas

Fire Kasina: eye twitch breaking concentration

Toggle
Hi,

tl;dr: doing fire kasina, have issues keeping my eyelids shut. Is that lack of concentration?

I've been playing around with the fire kasina lately. I'm working with TMI, starting stage 6. I found that I make better progress when I find solid example of what I'm trying to look for (e.g., with respect to TMI, what qualifies as "attention", "awareness", "mindfulness", "alertness", "dullness" and so on). My main practice is therefore TMI, with supplementary exercises. Typically, mindful reading gave me a very different angle on attention vs. awareness and propped up my practice tremendously. As Daniel recommends in MCTB, I'm giving the fire kasina a try to get a better grasping at what access concentration feels like. In terms of TMI, I'm practicing at level 5 / 6, trying to experience the first jhana. I have a few questions / comments

0. I do it using the flash / flashlight on my phone, which is quite a bright, white LED. It's bright enough that I don't have to stare at it for long before getting an impression on my retina, but... isn't there a risk I'm going to damage my eyesight?
1. I think I manage to stare at the object with great attention: the rest of my field of view turns into typical "edge detection" filters. I also notice the light changing and shifting in position a little bit, which I associate to tiny eye saccade.
2. When I close my eye, the main hurdle is to actually keep my eyelids close. I have to make a conscient effort to maintain them close, think "butt clenching" kind of effort (sorry for the analogy, but it's actually very accurate). I think I'm not used to look behind my eyelids (I think the eyes resting position are somewhat looking up -- there is a super interesting side observation here: when my up are resting up, it seems like my brain completely disconnect the vision center and I can't see anything at all: I have to look somewhere to see it, even though my retina is still in existence in the resting position). If I manually hold my eyelids close, I can very, very clearly see a tiny, very bright spot on which I can focus more or less at will. That spot floats around, I have some degree of control over it, and it shifts gently when I turn my head around (even though my eyes are closed, it seems they focus on some point in the distance and stick to it even though there is effectively nothing to see in the distance, as the nimitta is imprinted on my retina). The point disappears after a various amount of time (it feels exactly like it's disappearing being my [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_spot_(vision)]physiological blind spot, which again doesn't make much sense since the nimitta only exist in my retina and / or mind, while the blind spot is the part of the retina that doesn't have sensors), and I can often bring it back. With time, it turns into a ring with a black, fuzzy corolla, then into a pitch black spot with a bright corolla (very much like this picture, without the dramatic lens flare). On a good roll, I think I can keep seeing something akin to a nimitta for about 5 minutes. On a very good roll, I can influence its color (ice blue to laser red with a brighter center). The shape evolves sometimes too, with very cool visualization of mitosis. I also practiced with one of those candle, which yield a dark blue, nebulous circle with a tiny bright dot nimitta.
3. If I don't manually hold my eyelids, it's a LOT harder and actually quite strenuous, to the point that my eyes hurt after a while and I have a mild headache. As soon as I close my eyes, there is an intense flickering of both my eyes and my eyelids. I can eventually stabilize them with great efforts without mashing my eyelids together, and even at time see the nimitta for a few seconds, but sooner or later, either my eyelids opens slightly (most frequently, on the in-breath) letting light slip in, or more frequently, my eye twitches (again, on the in-breath most often) and I lose the nimitta, generally for good.

- does my current practice and the analysis I have of it make sense? Am I even correct trying to do it at this (early) stage of my meditation practice?
- is the eye twitching simply a biological function that will pass, or is it effectively related to my degree of concentration? Put it another way,  is it something I need to work on with the concentration angle? Any advice on that? Anything I need to do about the eye strain beside not practicing for too long at a time? 
- about the eye twitching: this is also something that disrupt my concentration when focusing on the breath, it almost feels as my body / mind is going "hold on, not so deep" and throws my concentration off by doing something random (frequently, the eye thing, rarely, some spasm, typically moving my leg). I also read somewhere that thinking and eye movement are correlated, and although inconclusive, I also observe some kind of association between the tranquility of my mind and the amound of eye twitching. In other word, is the eye twitching provking the break in concentration (and therefore, I could prevent it by working on not moving my eye), or is the loss of concentration provking the eye twitching?

If anything, just for having brought up these questions to my practice, the fire kasina is a really cool experiment!

Edit: something striked me last night as I was thinking of it. Retina persistence usually manifest as the "negative" of what was seen (like in this popular visual illusion), yet the nimitta is very bright like the original light. Moreover, if I use the aforementioned kitchen candle, I see a dark circle for the candle, and a tiny, bright, white spot where the actual flame was: the candle is projected as its negative, the flame i bright. Does it mean I'm succeeding, or does it mean I stimulated the optical nerves beyond normal?

RE: Fire Kasina: eye twitch breaking concentration
Answer
6/12/18 2:17 AM as a reply to Duncan Idaho.
Use a live flame candle. If you are practicing in near total darkness, you can also try the tip of a burning insence stick.

Second: train yourself to effortlessly hold your eyes closed. The muscular tension needed to keep the eyes shut is so minimal and gentle that it does not distract in any way from the attention held at the object. No clenching, no tense effort, no manual holding needed at all. Train at this until it is mastered. Gently close your eyes every now and then during your waking hours, for 5-30 seconds, and at the same time relaxing eyes, face, neck, shoulders. If your eyes are flickering behind the lids, pay no attention to that. If twitching and spasming: learn deep physical relaxation to get rid of tensions.

Also recommended: do hathayoga/trul khor along with breathing exercises before concentration work: it envigorates the body and eases tensions aka less distractions for the concentrating mind.

Flickering eyes problem during fire kasina: with effortlessly closed eyelids, just look at and keep the attention on the flame afterglow. Do not bother yourself with whether the eyes are are flickering or not, just look at the afterglow. Don't bother yourself with whether the shape changes, or how it changes. If it moves, the attention moves with it. If it changes, the attention accommodates the change without making a fuss about it. As long as the afterglow is held within attention, it does not matter if eyes are perfectly still or flickering or fixed a bit upward towards the Ajna (as is often the best, IMO.) And remember again: this is concentration, not mental notework, so try not to fabricate a lot of mental chatter about how the afterglow changes, about how hey now it looks like a glittering bindu, now it moves around like a busy bee, and just wow! now it transforms into a souleating black hole vortex sucking and belching colors, god my knees hurt, wonder if I get super powers if I practice this for five years? Or will I just get tension headaches and disturbing visual floaters? hey now it is just a tiny shining spot, how cool is that. Just rest your attention at the afterglow, and gently refocus attention on the afterglow if distracted. When the glow is completely gone, open your eyes and look at the flame until new afterglow appears.