Author Topic: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation  (Read 4255 times)

overmyhead

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Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« on: January 25, 2010, 04:14:42 pm »
With the understanding that meditation experiences are very personal and that perhaps no one will understand what I'm talking about ...

Throughout the entire time I have been meditating, I have sporadically had this experience where, when the mind is relatively calm, I see a sphere-like void open out in front of me, usually when I am attending to spatial awareness.  The void-sphere grows, then engulfs my frame of reference, until it seems that my frame of reference is now centered in it.  In the past it has come rather abruptly, when I was intently focusing on the center of my visual field.  The experience was strangely calming, but agitated, and it never lasted long.  Lately, though, it is a more common occurrence.  It comes in calmly now.  As it engulfs me, I notice that awareness of it melts away and I'm left with relative tranquility (but still plenty of nonsense going on), from where I can resume my meditation.  Does anyone know what I'm talking about?  What is going on?

It will probably help if I describe the experience in relation to my meditation.  I use the breath as an object now.  As body awareness becomes subtle, and breath awareness becomes subtle, my mindfulness turns to mental agitation.  When the mind calms down a little, I start to notice waves of brightness going across my spatial awareness, or twirling and playing, or standing still.  The brightness disperses if I try to look at or analyze it too strongly.  It is out of this light show that sometimes the "dark sphere" forms, which grows from a point, pushes all the light away, and engulfs me.

Dharmakara

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2010, 04:22:27 pm »
I could be wrong, but it reminds me a bit of Vijja Dhammakaya meditation.

Offline humanitas

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2010, 04:33:31 pm »
I've experienced what you describe once, but I doubt it'd be of much help to you since I'm not sure what I experienced myself.
 :headbow:
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overmyhead

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2010, 09:48:56 pm »
Thanks for the suggestion, Dharmakara.  It's interesting - I failed to mention this in my original post, but I do kasina meditation with an imagined sphere in front of my eyes, and lately I have been experimenting with combining kasina and breath meditation.  The last couple times the sphere materialized, I was focusing on relinquishing willpower.  My guess is that, with the body and physical breath still, my mindfulness of breath naturally shifted to my kasina object.  After a critical point of stillness was reached ... *boom*, the kasina object resonated with itself, expanding rapidly, and settled down in whatever place was most stable.  Also I described the sphere as dark, but that was a poor characterization.  It was more like a window, and the inside was dark.  I'm only just getting started on reading about Vijja Dhammakaya, but there seems to be a lot of similarity, at least in the pre-absorption phase.

Offline dhammaseeker51

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2010, 09:57:29 am »
Its great to see people posting about actual meditation experiences rather than quoting dhamma on the subject !
Sorry, no idea about the dark sphere. In the early stages of meditation sometimes besides verbal thoughts, we can get all sorts of visual imagery going on, this is just another manifestation of the mind wandering around, I think, and can be dismissed as such.
Once the breath starts to settle down, I've found everything else usually follows suit, and bliss arises.
Don't know if this helps.
with Metta. 

Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2010, 11:51:46 am »
This is an anatomical phenomenon.  Your eye is a relative spherical organ with a lense in the front and an optic nerve in the back transmitting the information from the "rods" and "cones" (light sensitive nerve ending is simple explanation).  Where the nerve connects to the eye, there are no rods or cones.  This creates a blind spot.  Everyone has it, but our eye works hard to not focus light there in general, mostly because our eye is generally in motion.  When it stops moving and you become relaxed, the muscles focusing the lense in your eye also relax.  Sometimes, not always it will focus light into this blind spot, which has no way to "receive" the light and a black sphere can occur.  You can tell if this is what is happening by simply moving the eye quickly, even just a short distance.  The dark spot should disappear.  It is nothing ominous and does not indicate any difficulty with your vision, as long as it goes away with movement.  It is just one of the subjective transformations created by your sight consciousness. :)

Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2010, 12:13:01 pm »
This wikipedia page might do a better job of explaining it that I did.

Wikipedia - Blind Spot
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 05:06:52 pm by 0gyen Chodzom, Reason: fixed broken link »

overmyhead

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2010, 10:45:20 pm »
Its great to see people posting about actual meditation experiences rather than quoting dhamma on the subject !
Sorry, no idea about the dark sphere. In the early stages of meditation sometimes besides verbal thoughts, we can get all sorts of visual imagery going on, this is just another manifestation of the mind wandering around, I think, and can be dismissed as such.
Once the breath starts to settle down, I've found everything else usually follows suit, and bliss arises.
Don't know if this helps.
with Metta. 

Usually I am inclined to interpret visual imagery as a wandering mind, but this was a perfect sphere.

overmyhead

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2010, 10:46:26 pm »
This is an anatomical phenomenon.  Your eye is a relative spherical organ with a lense in the front and an optic nerve in the back transmitting the information from the "rods" and "cones" (light sensitive nerve ending is simple explanation).  Where the nerve connects to the eye, there are no rods or cones.  This creates a blind spot.  Everyone has it, but our eye works hard to not focus light there in general, mostly because our eye is generally in motion.  When it stops moving and you become relaxed, the muscles focusing the lense in your eye also relax.  Sometimes, not always it will focus light into this blind spot, which has no way to "receive" the light and a black sphere can occur.  You can tell if this is what is happening by simply moving the eye quickly, even just a short distance.  The dark spot should disappear.  It is nothing ominous and does not indicate any difficulty with your vision, as long as it goes away with movement.  It is just one of the subjective transformations created by your sight consciousness. :)

That's an interesting idea.  Do you think it could have an effect even if I am meditating with my eyes closed?

Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2010, 07:43:33 am »
This particular anatomical feature of the eye would not be discernable if your eyes are closed, unless you are sitting in front of a light which is strong enough to shine through your eye lid.  You know, that warm orange color when you point your face to the sun with you eyes closed.  With your eyes closed in a dark place, it is not unusal for the light sensing nerves in your eyes to fire, even in the absence of light, creating visual impressions like waves of light or colors. 

I first noticed the "black dot" when my class was encouraged to meditate for 15 minutes in my High School psych class.  My teacher looked at me very strangely when I tried to describe it, and it was not until later, after studying biology that I discovered what it was.  Any eye doctor would easily explain it to you.  Again, these were subjective transformations of my visual consciousness.  To become involved with these, as opposed to the object of my meditation, was not be the best investment of my time on the cushion, although they do work to illustrate how our sense consciousnesses work to distract us in our attempts to focus concentration.  I made these "images" the focus of my meditation several times to investigate how my eyes worked to transform my impressions of the the world around me, distracting me from and distorting reality.  Similar things happen in the other sense consciousnesses, such as ringing in the ears, sensations of heat or cold, itching, and even bitter tastes and odd smells, especially when our concetration is affected by memories.  This is why it is important to control the environment in which you sit, so that it is easier to determine what is really going on and what is simply organ feed back, for lack of a better term.  It all seemed very "trippy" to me, but it is really just my body acting out.  Further on,  I noticed that these arise when I was dealing with particularly unpleasant or difficult realisations or memories.  It is a kind of short sighted protection mechanism that your body is trying to provide to break your concentration away from the unpleasant issue.  Drowsiness is another common reaction to these things.

overmyhead

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2010, 12:20:31 pm »
Interesting post.  I have noticed that distractions come in waves.  Like, I will notice one itch, and then I will notice five new itches, then I will notice some sound or other.  It seems that one unpleasant sensation or thought makes it easier for other unpleasant sensations or thoughts to take root.  Do you have any insight as to why this occurs?

I have an idea, but it is only briefly explored:  Unpleasant sensations, when attached to, result in the drive or impulse to ameliorate said unpleasant sensations.  As the frame of reference shifts to accommodate this impulse (that is, as the impulse becomes part of "me"), it becomes easier to form attachments to new unpleasant stimuli of a similar sort.  For example, I notice an itch.  I scratch the itch, which feels "good".  Now that I am in scratching mode, I subconsciously look for new itches to scratch, starting the vicious cycle.  I guess I'm saying that desire to scratch an itch is an itch itself, and that in the absence of a strong physical itch, it will try to create one just for the sake of scratching.  Does that make any sense?

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2010, 04:27:52 pm »
Last night my wife and I attended an ecumenical sit at the local Unitarian Church where a group of Buddhists from many different traditions come to meet and share readings and experiences.

The first thing I noticed was that my pillow was too low and too soft, my hips were tilted backwards instead of forwards placing my weight on my knees and the sides of my feet while sitting in a lotus position.

The organizer/bell ringer found it necessary to burn incense which was driving everyone crazy with the coughing and the choking etc. and it was truly miserable.  We all kept quiet, except for the uncontrolled coughing, so as not to hurt his feelings and instead spoke to him afterwards asking him to put the keebash on the incense.  We have done it both ways in the past and Buddha's statue never seemed to comment either way.

When my abdominal muscles, which were taking all the weight because of my wrong posture they began to cramp predictably as did my hands, which could not be used for anything other than holding on to my feet to keep me from falling over backwards.

Then the vacuum cleaner started outside the sitting room.  Then the fans for the heaters came on.  It was all that I could do to make it through the twenty minutes without getting up and walking out.  But, I made it with the help of The Sangha, The Buddha and The Dhamma.

The reason I am saying all of this, it took me ten years, but eventually I learned to ignore all of the above and much, much more.  One time for example, our Bhante’ fell over, fainted, from not eating enough, his sugar got low.  We scrambled to pick him up from his fall, but he ordered us back to our positions.  He was a tough old bird at age eighty plus and was clear as to his priorities.
What Makes an Elder? :
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Offline dhammaseeker51

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2010, 12:09:44 pm »
Ron,
I can only think you've interupted someones meditation and stopped their enlightenment, in a previous lifetime ! :bigtears:
Yes, I also get the itches !!!! It drives me crazy.
And I think: Is it better to give in and just scratch, or should I ignore. I always choose to ignore them, and then can't hold back and scratch anyway :lmfao:
Last week my meditation was awful all week, but on Sunday night made up for the rest with a wonderful deep blissful meditation, (but no Jhana) never mind.
They say no such thing as a bad meditation, but sometimes its hard to agree isn't it?
with Metta ;D
 

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2010, 01:37:24 am »
Not sure what this dark sphere is.  It could be some sort of nimitta (visions) but that's just speculation - so I could be entirely wrong there.

It's not the physiological blind spot though.  The blind spot is a spot in each eye that everyone has because that's where the optic nerve enters the back of the eye.  At that spot on the retina, there are no photoreceptors (hence why that specific area of the retina doesn't detect any light) because that area of the retina where photoreceptors would be, has been taken up by the optic nerve.

In terms of perception, most people can't detect it if you don't know how - even if you're looking for it.  Depending on individual anatomy, it's usually around 15-20 degrees temporal of central fixation for each eye.  So for the right eye, it's 15 degrees to the right of the middle of your vision no matter where you look.  For the left eye, it's 15 degrees to the left of central fixation no matter where you look.  

To detect it, you can find a target small enough (e.g., the small coloured part of the non-pointy end of a pen) and move it outwards from the centre of your vision whilst keeping your fixation straight ahead AND keeping the other eye covered/closed.  Move this target slowly horizontally outwards from the middle of your vision (whilst maintaining your vision straight ahead at a point) until the target disappears - that's where the blindspot is.  It'll only disappear for a small distance - maybe <5 degrees or so and will reappear again if you move the pen further out.

You'd need a fairly blank background to do this, your eyes need to be fixated at a point dead straight in front of you (because the tendency is to follow the target) and your other eye needs to be closed (as it can only be detected monocularly, i.e., with one eye closed/covered).

Still, many thanks to lowonthetotem for sharing his perspective.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 01:39:49 am by Optimus Prime »

overmyhead

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Re: Question about "dark sphere" during meditation
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2010, 02:31:39 am »
I think your intuition is correct OP.  I've come to the conclusion that I was experiencing absorption in a weakly formed nimitta.  Although the absorption was weak and faded quickly, it felt nice and tranquil for a few seconds.

 


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