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Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)

Still working on access concentration, not to mention the 1st jhana.

Rarely, when my breathing becomes more shallow and super smooth and I'm able to feel this breath for more than, idk, 20 seconds, my hands start to buzz or feel cold but not unpleasant/outside-environment-related cold.

Almost as soon as I notice this is starts to fade though, especially as I soon find the need to gasp for breath and my concentration is broken.

Anyway, is buzziness anything related to concentration? It may just be the way I'm sitting.


RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 1:50 AM as a reply to Jack.
I’m definitely no expert, but for me buzzing hand is usually where the cool stuff begins. Maybe you are clingin to it and thus becoming intellectual about it? Would it make sense to you to just... trust it?

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 4:21 AM as a reply to Jack.
Sounds like you may be on the right track if you are going for absorption.

Next can you relax the rest of your body, let go of any concerns for the moment, and just gently encourage that feeling?

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 4:32 AM as a reply to Milo.
Absorption! Another word that I need to understand. Is it described in MCTB2 (I’m reading chapter 27 now)? Absorption - I wonder if that’s what I’m doing, then, because I often get this buzzing feeling and can make it spread by surrendering to it. Then parts of my body dissolves either into som kind of energy flow and kind of fall out of existence or into waves with smaller oscillations in them.

Milo, how would you describe absorption?

This is so fascinating.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 5:35 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda,

Welcome aboard the forum!

Absorption is so called because it involves focusing on a meditation object until you become "absorbed" into your meditation object and enter into altered states of consciousness called the jhanas. Those states can make certain insights much more obvious than they are in normal experience. Sometimes you will see training in absorption referred to as the "Advanced training in concentration," since it is built on a base of a calmed and "single pointed" mind, aka after having achieved "access concentration." This form of meditation is also called samatha (Or shamatha) - which is usually translated as "serenity" meditation.

This form of meditation is discussed in the MCTB/MCTB2 under the sections about the training in concentration. Daniel also has a link to a book about fire kasina, which is an example of a meditation object that people use for this kind of meditation.

Finally a side note: if you ever decide to brave the orginal pali cannon buddhist suttas (The core texts for theravadans), you will see that according to those suttas, concentration practice was very important for, but not sufficient in and of itself, for the Buddha to reach his enlightenment. They were techniques he learned at least partially from his own teachers and then went on to extend and perfect in service of gaining insights (His teachers apparently were focused on pursuing concentration as the end goal, but the Buddha was not satisfied to stop there). Interestingly the pali cannon is somewhat lacking in technical details on how to approach concentration practice. The canonical source for technical details is called the abhidamma. The pali cannon and the abhidamma together are the source materials for most of the methods, meditation objects, and standards regarding jhanas comes from.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 6:25 AM as a reply to Milo.
Thank you, Milo, for your welcome and thorough answer! I appreciate it. Hopefully it is helpful to Jack too. I wouldn’t want to derail the thread.

Hmmmm. I did suspect that I was mixing concentration practice into what I intended to be insight practice. I’m not sure what to think about that. It seems to come naturally, though. I keep getting drawn into it. Then the object of my focus kind of vanishes, and instead the sensation spreads outwards, and when I allow that to happen, it gets overwhelming in a very pleasant way. But isn’t shamatha practice supposed to solidify things? What I experience is very fluid and constantly moving and dissolving into new sensations.

If I want do do insight practice, how should I approch these vibrations instead?

Jack, what kind of practice do you intend to do?

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 3:07 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda,

If you intend to do pure (Also called dry) insight practice in that particular session, then simply don't direct your focus to those "jhanna factors" when they arise. Keep you focus on whatever you are intending to investigate.

If you want to explore jhanic states in that session, then go ahead and focus on and deepen them.

If you want to combine the two forms of meditation, then go ahead and enter jhana and then examine aspects of the experience from the perspective of the 3Cs (You might have to do this after the fact if the absorption is very hard/strong), or do jhana first as a warm up and then use your focused mind for vipassana.

Like I mentioned on one of your other posts, I believe the ideal in Daniel's material is to achieve some form of combined concentration + insight practice, but he recommends you focus first on strengthening one or the other (Depending on your abilities and inclinations) before combining them.

Now as to your own experiences, I'm not sure what you mean by saying jhana is supposed to solidify things. Can you point to the source material for context? Sticking to Daniel's material, I believe he states that the jhanas can be pretty variable with different undertones depending on how you approach them, what meditation objects you use, etc., but the overtones are defining. What I mean by that is that 1st jhana will be characterized by bliss, happiness, the necessity of sustained, directed, intentional, and effortful focus on maintaining the state and a few other factors; 2nd jhana will be characterized by a distinct lessening of the effort needed to maintain it as the state takes off on its own, and so on.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/15/18 3:57 PM as a reply to Milo.
Thanks again, Milo! I appreciate it.

As for your question, I didn’t say that Jhana practice is supposed to solidify things, but that concentration practice is. I got that from parts of MCTB2 (I don’t rember the exact sections, unfortunately), but I also recognize what you say from the same source with regard to the Jhanas. Then again, according to MCTB2 there are Vipassana Jhanas as well. I was hoping that it would be possible to use the Jhanas for insight practice. I’m very new to this framework, though, so I may have misunderstood. Anyhow, I’m learning Shinzen Youngs’s framework as well, and if I have understood that correctly, according to him vibrations, waves and other kinds of flowing sensations are central to understanding the impermanent nature of everything. Focusing on flow, as he calls it, is part of his mindfullness program.

Now we have moved pretty far away from the buzzing hands, so I’ll try to get back to them. Buzzing hands at least according to Shinzen Young can be used for insight practice as well. They can be noted as feel (feel out) or as feel flow. You can tune into the flowing sensation and investigate what it consists of. Maybe you can notice that there are different kinds of vibrations on different levels, and if you shift between the levels it can generate insight into how things continue to dissolve more and more the closer we look at them.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 3:14 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Happy to help, Linda.

I went back and reread the MCTB2 section on vipassana jhanas in order to refresh my memory of a few relevant details about this framework. I believe what Daniel is saying here is totally consistent with the things we have been discussing. When he is talking about vipassana jhanas, he is basically just drawing a line between, on the one hand, absolutely "pure" concentration practice where your concentration is so complete you "solidify" the jhana state by completely excluding any possible insight practice in the moment, with on the other hand practicing jhana where you leave at least a little space for doing insight in the moment. Personally from my own experience I think practicing completely pristinely pure shamatha jhana is very difficult outside maybe 2nd jhana (Daniel also backs me up here in the MCTB2 about 2nd jhana/A&P being the easiest to get close to pure shamatha), so most of the time you are much more likely to find yourself in the territory of "vipassana-jhana" that Daniel describes unless you are making an intense and purposeful effort to practice pure shamatha (That's how it is for me anyway). Also covered in this chapter is the idea that shamatha and vipassana are basically two ends of a spectrum and that any given meditation session will probably involve a lot of movement back and forth along that spectrum even if you are intending to do purely one or the other.

So that covers what is meant by "solidifying" with relation to shamatha and how you can use shamatha and vipassana together. If you haven't read this section already, I would read it now. I think it will answer many of your questions.

Also, I would agree that perceiving the impermanent, contigent nature of the sensory objects that make up our experience is pretty core to the whole enterprise.

At any rate, I wish you the best on your path, Linda! Sounds like you are making good progress : )

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 3:18 AM as a reply to Jack.
Jack,

Apologies for hijacking the thread here. To bring things back around to the original topic, buzzing hands could be the start of seeing the piti and other jhana factors from the 1st jhana. I would keep working with it and see what happens.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 6:08 AM as a reply to Milo.
Milo:
Happy to help, Linda.

I went back and reread the MCTB2 section on vipassana jhanas in order to refresh my memory of a few relevant details about this framework. I believe what Daniel is saying here is totally consistent with the things we have been discussing. When he is talking about vipassana jhanas, he is basically just drawing a line between, on the one hand, absolutely "pure" concentration practice where your concentration is so complete you "solidify" the jhana state by completely excluding any possible insight practice in the moment, with on the other hand practicing jhana where you leave at least a little space for doing insight in the moment. Personally from my own experience I think practicing completely pristinely pure shamatha jhana is very difficult outside maybe 2nd jhana (Daniel also backs me up here in the MCTB2 about 2nd jhana/A&P being the easiest to get close to pure shamatha), so most of the time you are much more likely to find yourself in the territory of "vipassana-jhana" that Daniel describes unless you are making an intense and purposeful effort to practice pure shamatha (That's how it is for me anyway). Also covered in this chapter is the idea that shamatha and vipassana are basically two ends of a spectrum and that any given meditation session will probably involve a lot of movement back and forth along that spectrum even if you are intending to do purely one or the other.

So that covers what is meant by "solidifying" with relation to shamatha and how you can use shamatha and vipassana together. If you haven't read this section already, I would read it now. I think it will answer many of your questions.

Also, I would agree that perceiving the impermanent, contigent nature of the sensory objects that make up our experience is pretty core to the whole enterprise.

At any rate, I wish you the best on your path, Linda! Sounds like you are making good progress : )


Right! Then I understand. That was a really good summary. I did go to that section and read it because of our discussion here and in my thread https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/10872442. I hadn’t reached it yet but felt that I needed that clarification. Together with your summary here it was very helpful. Best wishes to you too and many thanks.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 12:06 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda and Milo. Welcome and nice discussion.
My goal is to experience the first jhana, because Daniel wrote it is the gateway to both higher concentration as well as insight. Then I want to get into insight, but only once I get some strength in concentration. 

It happened again today, hands and also feet buzzing—this happens just only when feeling the inbreath, outbreath, and transitions 
constantly. But everytime this extreme focus starts to happen, my breathing/abdominal muscles involuntarily constrict and after about three breats I need to gasp for air and I lose the continuity. "Just relaxing" is easier said than done for me. I've read elsewhere you should shift your attention from the breath to the buzzing when it starts, but when I shift to the buzz, it eventually fades.

Just takes more practice, I s'pose.
Any pointers or tips, much appreciated.

Milo, I've heard the Visuddhimagga is also a core text. Have you read it?

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 12:45 PM as a reply to Jack.
Sounds like progress. Cool. And thanks for the welcome! 

Trusting and surrendering is difficult to learn until you suddenly do. This may be too much information, so if anyone is bothered by comparisons to sex, please stop reading here. It is advice that might actually be helpful, though. That is why I will write this even though it feels private.
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I used to have exactly the same problem with orgasms when I was younger. Everybody said ”You are just trying to hard. Trust it, and it will happen.” I couldn’t do it, and the advice didn’t help me at all, although it was completely accurate. It just made me even more frustrated. I came to that top of the hill but didn’t reach the point of no return, if that makes any sense, so when I turned my attention to it, it stopped. Eventually I learned to recognize when it was time to imagine it already happening and surrender to it completely and fill my self with gratefullness and blissful joy before I had actually reached that point. That enabled me to pass the point. Instead of striving to reach even further, I just threw myself out to fully enjoy the sensations right there and then. It was already there. It was my resistence (craving is resistence too for some strange reason) that made it go away. Until this suddenly just dawned on me, I was certain that I would die without being able to experience orgasms during intercourse, but it turned out not to be a problem at all. I actually think that what I learned from these difficulties has helped me tremendously in my meditative practice. So... my advice to you would be to approach the sensations as if they were an orgasm about to happen. Seriously. It sounds really weird, I know, but it might help. And... well... sometimes they kind of feel like one, anyway.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 10:18 PM as a reply to Jack.
Jack,

I'm going to approach these comments pretty much in the reverse order so here goes:

Visuddhimagga: I have read a fair amount of it, but not all. The early suttas talk a lot about jhanas, but they don't give much practical detail at all about how to practice them. The Vissudhimagga is sort of a very early (5th century) practical guide or commentary about to how to meditate. It is believed to have been written down a few hundred years after the early suttas and is considered (At least mostly) canonical by most, if not all, theravadans. When people refer to the "pali cannon" that really properly means just the three early "baskets" of early suttas called the tipitaka. However, the Visuddhimagga is really important and is actually the early source material for a lot of our approach to both insight and concentration practice.

Trying too hard: I know exactly what you mean by it not being helpful being told not to try too hard. Honestly IMO it's one of those things like learning to ride a bike - you just have to keep trying, and falling off, and falling off for a while, until you get used enough to the sensation from experiencing it briefly that you don't immediately fall off when it starts happening. What I did when I was at this stage was to try to approach my meditation sessions with the idea that I will try and allow something to happen, and if it doesn't happen, I will accept that for that meditation session and try again in the next sit. In other words, just like you said, you may have to have some patience and feel it out over a number of sessions.

Gasping for breath: I haven't had this happen to me but it sounds like it could be problematic. You are saying it is involuntary, so you are not holding your breath in a way you can easily address?

Shifting attention from the breath: yes, it's generally thought (And my experience) that you need to shift your attention away from the breath to some intermediary object of meditation such as pleasant sensations rising in the body during meditation. Since you mentioned the visuddhimagga, there are other methods described there, which are also commonly used. For instance, with kasina practice you try to visualize a disk or other object and then "fall into" it to enter absorption. IMO for me personally, it is easier to enter absorption focusing on the pleasant sensations ala Leigh Brasington (Link to his very good article in Lion's Roar magazine on how to enter 1st jhana using his method here). To me this approach also sounds closest to what is described in the early suttas (No mention of kasinas or visualization there that I am aware of). That being said I have also tried visualization based techniques to confirm to myself that these lead to the same place, and in my experience they do, so my advice would be to pick whichever method you find easier and go with that.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/16/18 10:33 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
That sounds like a potentially fruitful approach. Also, I would agree that 1st-3rd jhanas have rather sexual overtones.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/17/18 1:39 AM as a reply to Milo.
Wow, what Leigh Brasington describes in that article is exactly what I do, and I can confirm that it works. Until recently I had no idea that it was called jhana, though. I just really enjoyed that buzzing feeling. It’s nice, isn’t it?

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/17/18 2:03 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
The first time I had piti and sukkha was the first time I tried Kundalini Yoga. It was both strong and lasting, and I needed it so badly at the time that I totally surrendered to it. I was depressed and burned out and came to the yoga class with the intention of fully embracing whatever happened and be grateful for it. Afterwards, I kept having euphoric shiverings all night and couldn’t sleep. I asked my yoga teachers what it was, and they had no idea.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/17/18 11:51 AM as a reply to Milo.
If only jhana was like orgasm. Then my problem would be it happening too soon.

You're right about riding a bike. Even this buzzing hands has just happened, after years of factorless practice. I'll continue practicing with an open mind.

Reading Leigh's Article, this hits the nail on the head with my problem:
You may recognize access concentration when the breath becomes very subtle; instead of a normal breath, you notice your breath has become very shallow. It may even seem that you’ve stopped breathing altogether. These are signs that you’ve likely arrived at access concentration. If the breath gets very shallow, and particularly if it feels like you’ve stopped breathing, the natural thing to do is to take a nice deep breath and get it going again. Wrong! This will tend to weaken your concentration. By taking that nice deep breath, you decrease the strength of your concentration. Just stay with that shallow breathing. It’s okay. You don’t need a lot of oxygen when you are very quiet both physically and mentally.
Yes, the extremely continuous concentration, and the beginning of buzzing hands, only happen when my breath gets super shallow. But when this happens, I absolutely feel like I need more oxygen, so I inhale deeply and lose the continuity. I'll experiment next session and see how far I can last without giving into the impulse to breath in, but I imagine not breathing in if I feel like it is unhelpful resistance. So far getting to this continuous concentration with the shallow breath and seeing how much the buzz will grow is like stepping onto a slackline and seeing how many steps I can take before falling off (breathing deeply).

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/17/18 3:43 PM as a reply to Jack.
Jack,

That's good. Sounds addressable then. I definitely notice breath becoming very very light like Leigh describes in my own practice. Sometimes it becomes so light I even lose track of it, but it's still enough for a deeply relaxed body/mind. I haven't dealt with actually feeling like I'm running out of air or holding my breath (That I remember), but everyone's experience varies a bit. This might again just be a case of getting used to it.

RE: Buzzing hands? (never attained any state)
Answer
12/17/18 3:46 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
It sure can be very pleasant! And that is only 1st/2nd jhana too.

I do think those jhanas are closely related to kundalini yoga. I have a Hindu friend who practices concentration meditation and we occasionaly swap notes : )