Seeker of Wisdom

TDB's interview with Daniel Ingram

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Daniel Ingram, MD, is a key figure in 'hardcore/pragmatic dharma' along with folks like Kenneth Folk and Shinzen Young, advocating a goal-oriented, straightforward technical approach to Buddhist practice which emphasizes vipassana (probing into the Three Characteristics of experience), particularly the Mahasi Sayadaw noting technique, stripped of dogma so pragmatic tech and real results are left. At his forum, The Dharma Overground, there is a controversial cultural norm of being open about attainment, and expecting practitioners to become awakened with good practice. His book, 'Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha' (MCTB) is currently being updated into MCTB2.



1)    What teachings/systems/lineages have you been exposed to?


A: Many, but it may depend on what you mean by “exposed”. Major ones, in some sort of order: Mahasi, Thai Forest, Sri Lankan Buddhist, Western New-Age/Hyper-psychologized Vipassana, Vedanta, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Zen, Non-aligned Non-Dual, Christian Mystical, Western Magickal (Golden Dawn-based, Thelema, Wicca, Chaos Magick, others), Qabala (spell as you will), Taoism, Shamanistic, Native American, New-Age in general (crystals, auras, spirits, fairies, etc.), Actualism, Scientific Materialist, Classical Greek Philosophy... That’s a pretty good start but incomplete.


2)    What practices have you been exposed to?


A: Many, but again it depends on what you mean by exposed. My primary meditative practices have been vipassana of various styles, samatha of various styles, Brahamaviharas, Magick, and Dzogchen/Mahamudra-influenced practices.


3)    Who have been your Buddhist teachers and are you currently practicing and studying under the guidance of one?


A: I have had a lot of teachers of various kinds, including lots of friends who have taught me many useful things, but if you mean formal ones in some sort of traditional or semi-traditional sense, the more important ones were Christopher Titmuss, Sharda Rogell, Fred Von Allmen, Subhana Barzaghi, Yvonne Weier, Norman Feldman, Bill Hamilton, Sayadaw U Rajinda, Bhante Gunaratana, Bhante Rahula, and Sayadaw U Pandita Junior. Really, there were tons of others, with smaller appearances by Christina Feldman, Joseph Goldstein, Chökyi Nyima, and lots of others. Kenneth Folk also was briefly my teacher back in 1996 for about 5 weeks, but that relationship in that way ended then. I am sure I am missing a few. I currently have no teacher in any formal sense, but running an online forum for hardcore practitioners is quite a teacher in its own way, as there are a lot of good and interesting practitioners there.


4)    Is there a particular Buddhist tradition that you practice within?


A: These days it mostly looks the same to me, but if you need to put it in a labelled box you might call my practice tradition some mix of Theravadan Vipassana and Samatha, with some Mahamudra and Magick thrown in. That is simplifying a great deal but to the point.


5)    What is your most recent (last few years) interest in your practice?


A: Mostly I just sit when I sit or just recline when I recline, or just drive when I drive, but that is making something seem simple that isn’t, as all sorts of stages and states and things cycle through that are much more interesting than that would make it sound. I also do various brahmaviharas and other formal and less than formal magick. I sometimes do formal samatha practice, sometimes starting with candle-flame kasina. I also sometimes to some free-form energy movement practice. Currently, I am listening to BA Wallace’s Dreaming Yourself Awake and doing more dream practice, as that was how I got into all this stuff in the first place and still a great time and useful. My last retreat was in February and you can read and listen to it here:


6)    What’s been going on since ‘My experiments in actualism’?


A: Lots, as that phase began and ended some years ago. That’s a long time in this business. I enjoyed my time in that phase and would still recommend the basics of what I was focusing on then, in general terms and depending on the practitioner and their goals and abilities. On that relative front, most of what I do is trying to figure out how to balance my life, work, the Dharma Overground, family, rest, music, exercise, service, social responsibility, friendship, health, and the like. It is a complex project but interesting.


Practice and results


7)    Can you describe the experience of awakening in your system?


A: It is not within a system, just is what it is. Everything is where it is, happens on its own, knows itself as part of itself and the field where it is. Those are the major points. That is just how things are, not something in a framework.


8)    What are the key features of each of the Four Paths, in terms of:

a)    The process of attaining each one – any changes in how the insight cycle functions at each one, different emphases in practice needed, etc.?


A: That is a huge topic that would probably be better answered for each individual person. Still, were I to say the core of the thing: notice the Three Characteristics of all sensate phenomena without exception all the way through everything: that simple and direct approach will cause the arising of insight and prevent much confusion and complexity.


b} What shifts or changes generally result from attaining each Path?


A: best to read MCTB for that answer, as it is written down there. The paths are problematic and overly simplistic and naïve as a model, and I much prefer The Simple Model found in MCTB, so, while nearly everyone focuses on the path model, give that one more attention and you will likely do better practice-wise, I believe.


9) Hi Daniel, thank you for taking time out to share your insights with our forum.

a)    What is your practice schedule like? ie what practices do you do daily and for how long?


A: My life is very complex-schedule wise, as I work long and odd hours as an emergency medicine doctor in an understaffed county trauma center. Thus, there is no schedule for almost anything but work, and I fit in everything else when I can as best I can. Still, and this sounds like the standard cliché but it is actually the honest truth: every moment is practice past a certain point. Still, I do formal sitting when I feel like it, which is most days, and I do formal practices when I lay down to rest until I fall asleep. I do formal practices if I wake up and can’t sleep, which is often due to circadian disruption and working shift work evenings and nights. I formally practice often when driving, as paying a lot of attention to the immediate environment is a great idea when driving. I meditate when walking between patients, when looking them in the eye, when listening carefully to heart and lung sounds: all very meditative. See above for my formal practice list.


b} What kind of practice schedule would you recommend for a beginner?


A: That would very much depend on what you wanted to do, how fast you wanted to do it, and what resources and personal characteristics you had, so it would have to be tailored to the individual to answer that well.


c)    Here's an Americanized question - What technique have you found gives the best bang for the buck?


A: It depends on what you want to do and what side-effects you are willing to tolerate, like medications. For fast progress in insight, I like rapid-style Mahasi practice in high dose on retreat about 18 hours per day, but it can be a very rough ride. For samatha, I think nothing beats candle-flame: see That’s a coarse answer, as really it would depend on the person how I would answer that.


10) What is your definition of nibbana? Is it a state of eternal non-consciousness? If so, what's the point? Also if there is a gap in consciousness and it is discontinuous, what notices the gap?


A: Nibbana is not defined by me, particularly, but traditionally in its technical definition it has two aspects: Nibbana without sense data and Nibbana with sense data. Nibbana without sense data is Fruition: reality vanishes and re-appears. It is a nice mental reset and teaches useful lessons, doing something good to the brain, and happens at the beginning of paths. It can help with the attainment of Nibbana with sense data, which is arahatship. In Nibbana with sense data, reality is just as it is, seen clearly, without ignorance, and the suffering caused by ignorance is eliminated. Because of this, both Nibbanas are highly recommended, but the later one is the true goal and very much worth it. These definitions hold up in practice and in theory.


11)    In MCTB you briefly mention two Pure Land jhanas. Have you found any more Pure Land jhanas? What is each of them like, and how do you enter them?


A: Kenneth Folk has forcefully claimed that the term you use is proprietarily his intellectual property, so I don’t use that term any more in keeping with his personal requirements for hegemony thereof. What I can say is that there are many extended states that can combine various pleasurable and skilful elements from the normal jhanas and add other qualities, so out there I do find lots of interesting territory, and past a certain point, if your concentration is good, you can learn to craft experiences that suit your tastes and imagination, with no obvious limits in that regard. If you can imagine it, you can find a way with strong concentration to experience it, at least temporarily. This explains the many worlds described in the old texts. You should direct further questions to the person who claims exclusive ownership of the term.


12) How can a practitioner, when in rough times, tell the difference between if they’re in a dark night arising as a necessary stage from skilful practice, or if they’re just frying themselves from unskilful or excessive practice?


A: The two often go hand in hand, so the differentiation you make may not always be helpful. Signs of frying one’s self: uncontrolled emotional volatility, inability to keep one’s mouth closed when one should keep it closed, inability to function in relationships, inability to function at work, inability to maintain good relationships with dharma companions and teachers: such are the typical signs of both Dark Night gone awry and also of poor practice. Frying one’s self typically results when one is subtly or grossly fixated on something other than what is present here immediately, which also means that one’s practice is poor, as the only basis of good practice is what is right here, as this moment must not only contain but also be the answer. So, if you notice your practice is about something other than what is right here, you know that is poor practice and thus produces the ability to fry one’s self. Part of sorting out this balance is much more easily done in person with a teacher who knows you, who knows what you are capable of and your limits, who knows what the technique you are doing does both good and bad, and can read your tone of voice, body language, energetic quality, and help you balance your practice to avoid the extremes of agitation and dullness. In short, is is a very complex topic. Further, the differential diagnosis of people with the symptoms of frying themselves is wider than just Dark Night vs. Misapplied Effort, including all sorts of things from psychological to medical, as well as situational, so sorting this out can require good help from friends and/or teachers and/or other sorts of practitioners and healthcare providers, as well as experimentation and exploration of various strategies to counter and/or understand the factors creating the ill effects as well as the effects themselves and what they really are and aren’t. If this were simple to explain and do, then this stuff would be easily, which it obviously largely isn’t.


Talking about attainments


13) Judging from anecdotes by you and also by Kenneth Folk, there's a bit more openness about attainments in places such as Burma. Any comments on this and any other cultural differences?


A: I have never been to Burma, but in general in Asia you find that practitioners are much more willing to simply follow the straightforward instructions of teachers and do the practices rather than endlessly overthink the thing and thus scuttle themselves. There is a sort of open code about attainments in many meditation settings in Asia, as well as just more open dialogue sometimes about actual attainments, part of which is due to the fact of finding many more people around with actual attainments, this largely due to the phenomena of people actually practicing and actually following instructions, such as “concentrate on the breath”, “pay attention to the movements your feet” and “note it”, practical advice that many Westerners somehow seem to consider beneath their intellectual and hyper-psychological dignity.


14) There are a lot of people nowadays on the internet, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, claiming to be accomplished and teaching others. Why do you think there is such proliferation of this kind of thing, and how can people distinguish the genuine from the false?


A: There are more real practitioners out there who actually do know things these days, at least in the West, and more people who would otherwise be obscure and isolated who are now able to reach people through the internet, so part of it is that there are more teachers who really do know things and really are able to reach people. However, in terms of sorting out the quality from the less-so, this is often difficult. I would stick to techniques that are time-tested most of the time: that is the first thing. If they are teaching methods that are well-known to work, then you are much more likely to have them work for you as well. As to the quality of the person themselves: look at what they produce: what do their students know? What good things bloom around that teacher? Do they walk their talk? Are they really interested in helping people? Are they down-to-earth and straightforward? Do you know people who know them as actual people and, if so, what are they like? Still, it is not easy, and plenty of people who have been well-vetted still end up being trouble, or a mix of blessing and curse. No particularly easy answers, or the dharma scandal sheets wouldn’t be as full of news as they always are.


Tradition and innovation


15) You seem to be an advocate of pared down Buddhism by eliminating from the dharma anything that doesn't fit with your own view and experience. Don't you think there is a risk of throwing out the baby with the bath water by ignoring 2,500 years of practice and experience, especially if the causes and conditions which gave rise to, say, the Vajrayana, are not understood by you?


A: I hardly know what you mean by this. I have advocated for a wide range of practices and that people are pragmatic and find what works for them. I run a forum that encourages a wide range of styles to suit people’s needs, resources, goals and tastes. I have practiced all sorts of things and encouraged people to practice all sorts of things. I have practiced Vajrayana but don’t talk much about it, considering those methods profound. Interestingly, the audiobook I am listening to now as I drive back and forth to work is mostly Vajrayana at its core. I am advocate of paring down the dharma of things that are harmful, useless, and impede people from reaching their meditative goals and potentials, but that is not an easy thing to define and often involves a careful evaluation of the person themselves and how they relate to various practices and concepts at that time.


16) Many people accuse you of teaching the extreme of nihilism. Are you aware of these criticisms, and if so, how would you respond?


A: I don’t know of those criticisms and have no idea why people would say that. Thoughts? I am aware of people accusing me of teaching the opposite, that of Atman-Buddhism, as they pejoratively call it, but they are also wrong in this. Help me understand what they are saying and why and perhaps I will be better able to address this.


17) Have you corresponded with mainstream Theravada teachers? If so, what do they think of your teachings? How do you respond to their criticisms?


A: I am in touch with many mainstream teachers of various kinds, but, oddly enough, I am becoming vastly more mainstream than I was before, this being a shift in the world of meditation more than much about myself, such that, what long ago seemed revolutionary and extreme now doesn’t appear so and is becoming commercialized, and, if the trend continues, I will likely do what everyone else eventually does, meaning become part of the stodgy and entrenched establishment fighting in my dotage for the maintenance of a regressive and out-dated conservative orthodoxy against the new young rebels. ;) So it goes with most things like this. For example, Shinzen Young just asked me to be part of a special project with him to help sort out things related to standardized terminology related to meditation attainments, and will be working with some others on this, such as Culadasa. I have talked with people such as Joseph Goldstein and others about things and am aware of their perspectives. The criticisms and debates that I might think you are referring to are many, but most of them are very, very old debates, going back thousands of years, so my responses would likely look like standard responses that have arisen through the centuries, as do their replies. I actually just got back from an invite-only Dharma Teacher’s conference in New York at Omega Institute with a few hundred teachers, most of which would be considered pretty mainstream, and we had a jolly-good time talking about and sharing the dharma.




18) Hi Daniel, may I ask you about your opinion concerning the strict dualistic view (the seer -> <- the seen) of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras? Thank you very much!


A: I am not sure that Patanjali is advocating for strict dualism, and actually suspect the opposite, but I am no expert in Patanjali, just someone who read his Yoga Sutras some years ago and enjoyed them, particularly the parts about magick, which I found interesting and inspiring.


19) Is there rebirth after death? If not, then what's the point of practice?


A: It is an old debate and question. Is there even rebirth moment to moment in this life? It really depends on what you mean by rebirth, and this is not just some intellectual debate, but really what it means for you in your moment and mind right now. There are tons of reasons to practice even if you take the view that there is no rebirth, as practice can make huge positive changes in this life. Further, if you believe there is rebirth, then it clearly creates good conditions for that next birth, so if you hold that view then you should still practice. Also, if you feel that getting off the round of rebirths as you conceive of it is the best option, then that should be good motivation to practice. If, instead, you subscribe to an ideal such as a Bodhisattva ideal and feel you should reincarnate skilfully to help all beings, that is clearly a great reason to practice. In short, however you view rebirth, you should practice well. Practicing well enough answers the question in ways that talking about it doesn’t. I have had past-life experiences that were very profound and informative, providing clear and deep insights into current causal patterns. I have seen that this moment is totally self-less, utterly discontinuous with any movement, and utterly ephemeral even within itself, including past-life experiences, so I find no self to be reborn even at this instant. I find both perspectives very practically useful within their scopes and no longer see any conflict at all. Causality rings out into the future, so creating positive effects in this stream of causality is beneficial now and in the future. There is no future, being only this transient and luminous moment which automatically self-liberates. Helpful?


20) What is your position on pure awareness in the Advaitic sense? I.e. as Swami Krishnananda says: ‘The whole universe is a spiritual unity and is one with the essential Brahman [which] is the ultimate Knower. [...] “There is no seer but That, no hearer but That, no thinker but That, no knower but That.” It is the eternal Subject of knowledge, no one knows it as the object of knowledge.’


A: How I would answer that would largely depend on the person I was talking to at the time. It would be easy to pick it apart phrase by phrase and word by word, to do it experientially or theoretically, but I think that would be missing the spirit of what he was trying to get at. The problem with translating lots of things to do with Vedanta is that, like basically all of the traditions, they use words in very specific ways that make more sense in that context and are teach designed to counter imbalances in a specified audience to point them at something useful. Specifically, concepts like “pure awareness” make much more sense at certain points in practice, and so sometimes pointing out things like that is a very good idea, as are concepts such as “intrinsic luminosity”. At other points in practice, such language and concepts can lead people into trouble, causing reification and solidification of things that are neither real nor solid. So, it would largely depend on the practitioner and what I thought would be best for them at that time.


21) What is your thought on non-duality?


A: The experience of the perfect non-duality of the thought of non-duality and of the field of manifestation in which it arises is great and I highly recommend it.




22) What will be the main differences between MCTB and MCTB2? From the section out now, there seems to be a touch more on 'allowing reality to reveal itself' - a bit of Zen influence?


A: The differences are many and varied, but a more Mahamudra/Zen/Dzogchen/Narual approach is somewhat more incorporated into this version, largely as an attempt to counterbalance forces in MCTB that emphasized effort, themselves of which were attempts to counterbalance forces in much of the meditation world towards slackness and ambitionlessness. Thus, the target is moving as the world and audience changes, and figuring out how to keep people on the Middle Way requires shifting approaches as the deficiencies and excesses of the audience shift.


23) Have you had a brain scan or EEG done? If not, why not? If so, how does your brain compare with other, normal brains?


A: By the kindness of researchers and those who funded them, I have spent 3.5 hours in an fMRI up at Yale with Dr Jud Brewer and Dr Willoughby Britton in a study measuring blood flow to the PCC (posterior cingulate cortex) as a proxy for function and providing slightly-delayed but close to real-time biofeedback on that during the study to measure the ability to activate and deactivate the PCC on command, the results of which were that I have control of the PCC and can activate and deactivate it on command and hold it in that chosen state stably, and also have a somewhat unusually large brain. I have been wired to Dr Jud Brewer’s 134-lead (128-lead plus motor leads) research-grade EEG at his lab at Yale and then later at The Center for Mindfulness in Worcester, MA (a la John Kabat Zinn) for a good number of hours, which was using beam-forming algorithms to look at specific frequencies and areas they also felt were related to the PCC, the results of which are that I can activate and deactivate the PCC on command and hold it in that chosen state. I am very grateful for those opportunities to play with those evolving technologies and be one small part of advancing the science of the study of the brain and how measuring it relates or doesn’t to meditative practice. FYI: the PCC helps regulate whether or not attention is focused on the material/immediate/physical sphere of experience or the mental/internal sphere of experience, so far as I can tell from playing with those technologies.


To conclude:


24) Anything you'd like to add?


A: As stated above in numerous places, how I would answer many questions would relate a lot to the person I was talking to and where they were in their practice. Thus, read any answers with a grain of salt, as how they might apply to your specific situation could be very different than how they might apply to someone else with a different set of paradigms, concepts, cultural background, and practice experiences and abilities. Thanks for your interest in practice and for the opportunity to clarify things. Let me know if this was useful and if you have further questions or responses.


Be well and practice well,



Edited by Seeker of Wisdom
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Enjoyed the interview. Thought it might be a bit too nerdy for my sensibilities, but was pleasantly surprised. Blessings. 

Edited by OldChi
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Daniel Ingram, MD, is a key figure in 'hardcore/pragmatic dharma'


c)    Here's an Americanized question - What technique have you found gives the best bang for the buck?


A: It depends on what you want to do and what side-effects you are willing to tolerate, like medications. For fast progress in insight, I like rapid-style Mahasi practice in high dose on retreat about 18 hours per day, but it can be a very rough ride. For samatha, I think nothing beats candle-flame: see That’s a coarse answer, as really it would depend on the person how I would answer that.

I'd like to thank Dr. Ingram and Seeker of Wisdom for creating this interview.  I was looking over a book an old book I had on Jewish meditation (by Aryeh Kaplan) and he mentioned flame meditation, in this case using an olive oil lamp because it had a greenish flame in it.  Perhaps it's synchronicity saying I should get a wick and burn some oil.







Just so I have an easy record of it in one place here is more on the Why of flame meditation.



So probably this is a stupid question, but maybe someone can clear this up for me: but what is the goal here? .. Does it have some positive effect on daily life? 


Ans: Florian

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 focused 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 spending two weeks in a medieval tower with dangerous stairs and low-hanging rock ceilings happy.gif


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.





Ans: Daniel Ingram:


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



Red dot initially is first jhana.

When it gets the rapidly spinning gold inner parts that change with the phase of the breath, that is 2nd jhana.

When you get the black/dark larger area and the complex somewhat 3D lines around it, that is 3rd jhana.

When you get to the very nicely 3D images doing their own thing filling the visual field and perhaps the whole experience field, that is 4th jhana.

There are other fine points and pathways, but that is the basics.


How much time we stared at the flame totally varied.


Initially, most of us looked at it fairly often. In general, we would look at the flame for a minute or two, get the retinal burn, close our eyes, see the red dot, it would get the spinning yellow stuff, then it would fade, move off to the side, and finally vanish, and we would open our eyes and do it again a few minutes later. Thus, we were looking it maybe 10-30% of the time with rapid cycles.


However, fairly rapidly, we began to push farther out into the murk, that which happens when the black/dark area appears around the place where the red dot was with the vague colors and complex but faint patterns. This takes time, and exactly when to stop is hard to determine. So, within a day or so, I am estimating, our ratio of open to closed eyes shifted farther to closed eyes, and our cycles got longer.


This is something you have to determine for yourself when you are doing it. I have no perfect answers. So long as you are paying really good attention to the visuals, more candle time with more rapid cycles is ok, but eventually you need to get good at going out past the red dot into the wider, more complex murk, as out past that murk is the high-def 3D stuff, traveling, the molten gold, the photo-realistic images, and all of that.

Edited by thelerner
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