Nimitta question

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Nimitta question

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:14 am

When I do breath meditation, the first nimitta arises as a tactile sensation. But it seems to be quite persistent. It crops up unexpectedly all through the day, especially while I am reading. What's going on here? Is this common?

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:25 am

Hi catmoon
What I think i's going on is that you are developing calm and concentration to the point where you are becoming aware of subtle realities that have always been there. Here's something by Ledi Sayadaw that you might like to read: http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html
metta

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby IanAnd » Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:11 am

catmoon wrote:When I do breath meditation, the first nimitta arises as a tactile sensation. But it seems to be quite persistent. It crops up unexpectedly all through the day, especially while I am reading. What's going on here? Is this common?

If you don't mind our asking, could you describe the nimitta that "crops up as a tactile sensation?"

Depending upon your answer, I may have experienced something similar. I choose to view it in a positive light, although I have heard (read) of others who view it in a negative light.

I use the nimitta I experience as a sign of the presence of concentration, as this is how it has always been, even before I began Buddhist meditation practice. It's connection to the breath is the common denominator. I know that when this nimitta is present in my experience, that my concentration and mindfulness level is at its peak. From my view point, this is a good thing.

With regard to its cropping up unexpectedly during the day, I would say that this has been my experience also. (Sometimes, I bring it on intentionally, or it occurs during moments when concentration is needed.) Does that make it common?
Well, there's at least two of us that it is common for. :toast:

And from my understanding and experience, I would venture to say that there are many more out there, too.

And let's not forget Ben's insight (which BTW I happen to agree with): "What I think is going on is that you are developing calm and concentration to the point where you are becoming aware of subtle realities that have always been there."
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:50 am

Ben wrote:Hi catmoon
What I think i's going on is that you are developing calm and concentration to the point where you are becoming aware of subtle realities that have always been there. Here's something by Ledi Sayadaw that you might like to read: http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html
metta

Ben


Hmm that was quite the read. It's interesting what he says about insight from lower meditation states. It's the sort of nuts-and-bolts hands-on stuff that turns my crank. I ran through one of his counting cycles and found his counting method brings a kind of added clarity to the practice. I was just getting into access concentration when my flu erupted with absolutely no warning into a racking choking coughing fit. Scared the bejazus out of the cat. :jumping:

Such are the potholes in the path. I will keep at it tho, cuz I really do want to master the first jhana. I have heard there are people who can just drop into it at will. Now, if I can just remember not to want it too much!

The general impression I got was that the sequences and methods are not so rigid as they might appear in the sutras. I have suspected this for some time. Things can happen out of order if the mind is not under steady ... uh is control the right word?

Thanks for your post.

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby PeterB » Sat Oct 24, 2009 8:15 am

Its not altogether kosher to talk about these things imo apart from with a teacher, but fwiw, my similar sign is a disc of swirling pinpoints oflight "between " the eyes. It too can appear when I am concentrated on anything . Its ok, its familiar and its no big thang. :smile:

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 24, 2009 8:39 am

PeterB wrote:Its not altogether kosher to talk about these things imo apart from with a teacher, but fwiw, my similar sign is a disc of swirling pinpoints oflight "between " the eyes. It too can appear when I am concentrated on anything . Its ok, its familiar and its no big thang. :smile:


Well I'll be doodled. It works with visual nimittas too.

I was wondering how that might work out.

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:00 am

IanAnd wrote:
If you don't mind our asking, could you describe the nimitta that "crops up as a tactile sensation?"



Sure. It feels just like Pam Anderson gently running her fingers through my hair. :jumping:


<description deleted>

Disclaimer: This, of course, is all ANYTHING but definitive. Taking these experiences as a goal is not recommended: it will just obscure your natural way. Come to think of it, just reading this post may permanently impair your quest for jhana. So if you are thinking about reading this post, don't!

ps In my original post was the requested description. Then I wrote the footnote in jest, pondered it, and realized it might possibly be true. So sadly, I went back and deleted the description, for fear of sending someone off on a wild goose chase. So secret it remains. :spy:

with regret.

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby IanAnd » Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:30 pm

catmoon wrote:
IanAnd wrote:
If you don't mind our asking, could you describe the nimitta that "crops up as a tactile sensation?"

Sure. It feels just like Pam Anderson gently running her fingers through my hair. :jumping:

<description deleted>

ps In my original post was the requested description. Then I wrote the footnote in jest, pondered it, and realized it might possibly be true. So sadly, I went back and deleted the description, for fear of sending someone off on a wild goose chase. So secret it remains. :spy:

with regret.

Okay cat,

Well, I have already answered your question in my above post anyway.

As opposed to yourself, I am not averse to disclosing the sense nimitta that I experience. What I experience (and this has occurred throughout my life, so it is a very familiar sensation) is a kind of pressure that builds in the center of the forehead (I sometimes describe it as "a balloon expanding in the center of my head, touching and applying a slight pressure to the inner skull"). For me, a sensate sign experience is more reliable than visual image signs as the sensate sign only discloses to me that there is something present. In other words, it doesn't require interpretation or speculation about its meaning, thus twisting the mind to try and discover is secret significance. Since this sensate experience has always revolved around the level of concentration involved in any activity, I have always associated it with the presence of "concentration." Period. No lights, bells, or whistles to have to interpret or speculate about, which can turn into proliferative speculative papanca (namely, the "wild goose chase" that you talk about).

If you are a veteran of these Buddhist forums, then you will know that the sensate experience which I described is a rather wide-spread and common occurrence among meditators who reach a deep level of concentration. Many people talk about experiencing a "kind of headache" sensation or "pressure in the head" sensation. We're all talking about the same experience. And yes, it can occur unbidden from time to time. Nothing to become upset about.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:47 pm

Hi guys,

I'm a beginner in meditation and I also do Anapanasati. I asked about a similar experience in my meditation here: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1574

Many people talk about experiencing a "kind of headache" sensation or "pressure in the head" sensation.


Nowadays this is exactly what I'm experiencing. And it's almost always there, when I'm travelling, reading, writing, in the toilet, almost asleep during a boring lecture, the list goes on... and I'm pretty sure that I'm nowhere near "deep levels" of concentration. This is just my opinion, of course, but I'd say these are pretty common and one should actually try to be indifferent to these deceptions of the mind.

Metta, :anjali:
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A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby catmoon » Sun Oct 25, 2009 2:47 am

Well if nothing else, I think we have firmly established where all those "third eye" tales come from. And like most myths, the reality underlying it is pretty prosaic and a lot less dramatic than the myth.

But I use the term "myth" tentatively. For all I know, there could be extensive writings in the sutras about the third eye. Anyone know of any?

Lobsang Rampa doesn't count. :smile:

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby pt1 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:35 am

Dhammabodhi wrote:
IanAnd wrote:Many people talk about experiencing a "kind of headache" sensation or "pressure in the head" sensation.


Nowadays this is exactly what I'm experiencing. And it's almost always there, when I'm travelling, reading, writing, in the toilet, almost asleep during a boring lecture, the list goes on... and I'm pretty sure that I'm nowhere near "deep levels" of concentration. This is just my opinion, of course, but I'd say these are pretty common and one should actually try to be indifferent to these deceptions of the mind.


I get something similar, and I'm also quite sure it has nothing to do with nimitta or jhana. It's explained in different ways depending on who you ask: energy blockage that will clear out with time, too much effort, wrong concentration, etc. Of course, in Ian's case it might be the real thing, I don't know.

Either way, jhana/nimitta subject is very tricky - different people say different things, and that leads to doubt, which is one of the five hindrances that make samatha difficult. That's why the advice is often given to pick one particular method/school of thought (the best would be if you have a teacher that you can ask directly about your problems) and stick to it.

Though, I think it's good to do a little research beforehand. For example, according to abhidhamma and commentary, some meditation subjects do not produce a nimitta (counterpart sign) at all. Or in case of the breath - it is considered to be a very hard meditation object. One reason is that it starts to disappear as concentration gets stronger, etc. Another reason I think is that there are so many aspects of breath that might be taken up as the object of meditation, thus leading to confusion. For example it can be taken up as earth element (hardness/softness of touch at the nostrils, or lips), as air element (pressure), as fire element (is it warm or cold) and then there are many conceptual attributes of the breath that can be taken up simply as mental objects (calm, heavy, smooth, etc). And I'd guess that nimitta would likewise differ depending on the object.

So, maybe kasina practice might be simpler because it can produce a nimitta of one kind only, which will be a replica of the kasina itself, so there'll be no confusion about it. Or if you don't like nimittas, then you might choose brahma viharas as meditation objects, as they do not produce a nimitta (counterpart sign), but still allow jhana entry (some meditation subjects like 10 recollections, or four elements do not produce nimitta, but they do not allow jhana entry either - for a quick summary on this you can check ACMA table 9.1 on pages 334-5, and the whole chapter IX is a great summary of samatha and vipassana meditation according to abhidhamma and commentary, for much more detail check out Visuddhimagga) .

Best wishes

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby IanAnd » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:26 am

catmoon wrote:Well if nothing else, I think we have firmly established where all those "third eye" tales come from. And like most myths, the reality underlying it is pretty prosaic and a lot less dramatic than the myth.

But I use the term "myth" tentatively. For all I know, there could be extensive writings in the sutras about the third eye. Anyone know of any?

There aren't any such references to a "third eye" in the suttas. I've read the suttas (Pali suttas, that is, in translation from reliable translators).

pt1 wrote:I get something similar, and I'm also quite sure it has nothing to do with nimitta or jhana.

And you would be wrong. Sensate phenomena can also be used as a sign (or nimitta) in the process of striving to attain absorption. See further discussion of this in this thread. Especially the second page of that thread.

pt1 wrote:It's explained in different ways depending on who you ask: energy blockage that will clear out with time, too much effort, wrong concentration, etc. Of course, in Ian's case it might be the real thing, I don't know.

This would be correct (the highlighted area, that is, not necessarily the first sentence). Once you have experienced it, you will know it is correct.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Nimitta question

Postby pt1 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:10 am

IanAnd wrote:
pt1 wrote:I get something similar, and I'm also quite sure it has nothing to do with nimitta or jhana.

And you would be wrong. Sensate phenomena can also be used as a sign (or nimitta) in the process of striving to attain absorption.

Hi Ian, afaik, for nimitta (countersign, so not a preparatory sign, nor learning sign) or jhana to occur, jhana factors will need to be present. Considering that all jhana factors are not present at the time when I experience the forehead pressure (like when talking to someone for example, or watching tv), I conclude that it's neither jhana nor nimitta. This of course doesn't have to mean that your experiences are invalid. People are different. And I agree that sensations can be used as preparatory and learning sings "in the process of striving to attain absorption".

Best wishes


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