Shannon Stein has been meditating like her hair is on fire since first encountering Buddha Dharma in 2010. She is a Lama in the Namgyal Lineage of the Karma Kaygu School of Tibetan Buddhism with a particular interest in Theravadin practice. She has a Masters degree in Social Work and has been providing individual, marital and family therapy for thirty years. Ardent practitioners who notice their hair is aflame may contact her at: shannonstein [at] mymts [dot] net.
Here is the audio journal I recorded during a twenty-five day solo Fire Kasina retreat I did in October 2015. The musical interludes are from a song entitled Solitarily Refined by C.S. Fuqua.
Part One includes an introduction and the first twelve days of the retreat.
Use the audio player widget, above, or download the MP3 file [129MB].
Part Two covers the second half of the retreat, ending with a few concluding comments.
Use the audio player widget, above, or download the MP3 file [93MB].
Soon to be posted will be a write-up describing the on-going discussion I had with Daniel (the friend I refer to in the journal as having spoken with regularly throughout the retreat).
May these recordings benefit the practice of fellow meditators.
Some reflections several months after the retreat:
As predicted, shortly upon my return to daily living, the supremely high states of concentration faded.
One may ask what is the point of jacking up the concentration for such a brief period of time. It is hard to say in exact terms, however, the perceived advantages are significant enough to make it worth attempting to describe them.
In learning the simple-to-follow instructions of the Fire Kasina practice, one gains confidence in attaining high concentration; daily activities undoubtedly benefit from this ability to focus in a pristine way. Combine a heightened concentration skill with wholesome orientation towards personal development in Sila (virtue) and you have a powerful package with respect to solitary refinement.
The natural experience of pervasive luminosity from a wide, receptive perspective near the end of the retreat grew faint upon my return to home, as did the capacity to successfully intend for certain things (such as pre-determined elements of astral travel) to occur. What has not diminished since the retreat is a subtle yet powerful knowledge that at just the right moment, when conditions come together in a harmonious way, there is an opportunity to intend for a potentiality that I previously did not know could exist. Just this knowledge in the background of the mind has me carrying myself differently, more open to what can happen outside the tighter confines of how I previously approached situations, relationships and decision-making. Although not on the same playing field as what can happen in retreat-mode, there continues to be a delicate aura of Magick in approaching day-to-day life from this frame of mind.
And the grey…
Spending so much time with the grey of the visual field and having one’s attitude toward it naturally evolve over the course of a retreat is a solid take-away. After looking at the candle flame and closing one’s eyes, it is the watching of the colourful mental imagery eventually fading to grey and learning how to be with that grey that is one of the key turning points in the unfolding of the Fire Kasina practice. Entering back into daily living involves encountering the greyness of life so to speak, in comparison to the less frequent peaks of pleasant experience. Yet now, in the moments that I remember to do so, I am able to engage with the swaths of greyish neutrality throughout the day, and find captivating interest simply by settling in and paying attention to what is there.
Having such a high number of fruitions as well as seeing some of the entranceways while on retreat has had an impact at an insight level which I am not sure how to articulate clearly at this point. However, since starting over in a new progress-of-insight cycle and gradually making my way to fruitions again a month and a half following the retreat, there is a palpable new baseline of calm and inner-quiet-contentment that is connected to my deepening experiential insights into the way things work as opposed to being reliant upon the presence of certain conditions that one would normally associate with contentment. Of course this now needs to stand the test of time…
After spending much of this retreat in full-on learning mode, including getting familiar with the Shamata, Vipassana and Magickal aspects of this ancient practice, I look forward to taking these new-found skills and applying them again in a retreat setting to see where they can take me. Particularly I am curious to explore the fire element more deeply, as well as take another shot at the Magickal effect of getting a Fruition through the No-self Door after interaction with a Deity, given the inherent potent insight value.
Everyone will have different specific experiences doing the Fire Kasina, based on their meditation background and individual proclivities; yet, even from the handful of people who have shared candle flame notes in the past year, it seems there is a fairly predictable, fascinating arc of development that is likely to unfold.