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How is regular access to concentration states possible

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Hi all

From what I understand people can fairly reliably enter Jahnic states. How is this possible in the midst of regular life? On retreat where conditions are optimal, Ive certainly experineced very concentrated states and perhaps some Jahnic states. Yet in daily life, my mind is naturally more turbulent and much less inclined towards stillness. Using the common analogy of the jar with glitter in it, on retreat, conditions allow this to go quite still but in daily life, as much as seems possible is to stop shaking it, none the less the glitter will still be floating for a long time...
Even on retreat Ive found resulting mindstates to be hit and miss. As much as seems trainable to me is the attitude one takes towards experience...
quoting Amaro "the precise causwes for everything we experience are not knowable....the precise causes and results of kamma are considered to be one of the four 'imponderables' ". If this is so, then we have no way of predicting or understanding why our mind may be sleepy or agitated or just relentlessly busy on any particular sitting. We can learn to be with the experience in helpful ways and also learn from the experience, but beyond that?
If anyone has any thoughts on this Id apprecitate. I'd love if I did have a way of reliably getting to access concentration and Jahana.
Its been a long time since I read MCTB which was inspiring and useful, but I was still left with this question...
Thanks

Patrick

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/28/18 1:16 PM as a reply to patrick o connor.
The way and order I would go about it is this:

1. Do I have any physical/mental health conditions that may be causing difficulty?
2. Is my ethical/moral house in order (Am I practicing sila)?
3. Do I have a place to practice that's withdrawn from sensory input?
4. Am I taking time to ensure the body is physically relaxed?
5. Am I putting in some time to quiet the mind at the beginning of the session?
6. Am I allowing meditation to be pleasant, holding a good balance of focus without trying to bear down on the meditation states and force them? Another poster here recently stated that the kind of balance that is needed is like trying to hold a bird in your hand - not too hard or you crush it, not too loose or it flies away. That's an accurate simile. 'Concentration' is a poor translation from the original source material and causes english speakers to think they need to bear down on these states, which won't work.
7. Am I taking time to observe the hindrances to concentration and observing them to let them pass?

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/28/18 2:17 PM as a reply to patrick o connor.
Patrick, welcome. You posted:

From what I understand people can fairly reliably enter Jahnic states. How is this possible in the midst of regular life? On retreat where conditions are optimal, Ive certainly experineced very concentrated states and perhaps some Jahnic states. Yet in daily life, my mind is naturally more turbulent and much less inclined towards stillness. Using the common analogy of the jar with glitter in it, on retreat, conditions allow this to go quite still but in daily life, as much as seems possible is to stop shaking it, none the less the glitter will still be floating for a long time...
Even on retreat Ive found resulting mindstates to be hit and miss. As much as seems trainable to me is the attitude one takes towards experience...

I really like Milo's reply to you as a good start.

My experience has been that access to jhana states is dependent on meditative experience (training) as well as the relative position one occupies in the Theravada models of the path. For me, access to jhanas was literally impossible until after first path/stream entry, after which access to the  first four jhanas became much easier and eventually an inclination to enter jhanic states would show up uninvited at random times. Access to the higher jhanas, states 5 through 8, showed up even later in my practice.





RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/28/18 2:43 PM as a reply to patrick o connor.
This seems to differ a lot between different people. For me, reaching the lower jhanic states is much easier than insight practice. I stumbled over it without even meditating - in kundalini yoga, at cuddle parties, watching friends doing shibari, and even at an experimental dance show where they used music at a very low frequency together with darkness. Having ruthless kundalini experiences is what got me searching. I wouldn’t exactly call it reliable, though. This ability seems to come and go. Sometimes it is ridiculously easy, other times nothing happens. I have only recently started to meditate strictly on a daily basis, though, so maybe regular access would be the case for me if I were to focus on concentration practice. Right now I’m trying to get a vipassana regime settled, so those pleasant tingles that would take me into jhanas are not what I’m primarily searching for at the moment.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/29/18 6:53 AM as a reply to Milo.
Milo:
The way and order I would go about it is this:

1. Do I have any physical/mental health conditions that may be causing difficulty?
2. Is my ethical/moral house in order (Am I practicing sila)?
3. Do I have a place to practice that's withdrawn from sensory input?
4. Am I taking time to ensure the body is physically relaxed?
5. Am I putting in some time to quiet the mind at the beginning of the session?
6. Am I allowing meditation to be pleasant, holding a good balance of focus without trying to bear down on the meditation states and force them? Another poster here recently stated that the kind of balance that is needed is like trying to hold a bird in your hand - not too hard or you crush it, not too loose or it flies away. That's an accurate simile. 'Concentration' is a poor translation from the original source material and causes english speakers to think they need to bear down on these states, which won't work.
7. Am I taking time to observe the hindrances to concentration and observing them to let them pass?

Wow, really well said!!!

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/31/18 8:25 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Cool. Thanks for thoughtful replys. Really good checklist. Helpful reminder to be withdrawn from sensory input. Whie perhpas obvious, if I want to develop Shamatha/ Samadi, it makes sense to set optimal conditions for concentration if I can. My general practice is more open attention, sometimes noting. I'm more drawn to vipassana practice in general. A teacher on retreat said to me before that I'm too curious to develop Jahana (as in my mind naturally enquires which leads into vipassana). None the less, I would like to develop this capacity as it is clearly synergistic to vipassana, and also to other practices such as dream yoga which is an ongoing practice also. I've had some form of meditation practice for over 20 years, daily for most of this time. My ability to sit with equanimity has developed for sure. Less reliably though the stability of focus

This has led me to think that meditation is often sitting with "right view" to the variable contents of experience. Apart for settting some initial conditions, I have no control if noise for some reason starts up in the environment. Similarly it seems I have little control if my mind seems busy or hard to focus...thats what minds do...I know some people can develop reliable focus. I wonder though how managable this is in the midst of busy life, with many drives activated. Certainly keeping good shila helps, but regardless, various drives of the mind are activated so much more than on retreat or in simple lifestyles... Last couple of sits have been quite still. (although I notice if I really pay attention to breath, the practice can seem to oscilate more between v still and focused and then lost in thought for longer periods, than if I have more open attention and less direction). Will keep experimenting and may return with more focused questions

Thanks for feedback.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/31/18 11:36 AM as a reply to patrick o connor.
Hi, if you really want to strenght focus and concentration I recomend Daniel's advice in MCTB: "For one hour don't miss a single in and out breath". In practice this can be a bit hardcore practice.

The easy way for check your focus and concentration is counting, you just count 1-10 three times and see if you get lost on thoughts just start again and put more atention and effort. Find your confortable way to count. Is good to do something like this.

In breath......Counting 1.....Out breath.....In breath.....Counting 2....Out breath.....etc

Is important to be really focus in every action, In the in breath be focus on the in breath, observe for what nostrils air comes, feel the sensations etc, then count, then observe the out breath, you can relax all your body and tension in the outbreath, also if you want you can do the outbreath little longer but without forcing. The breath has to be natural and organic, it doesn't matters if you feel that you are "controling the breath". Just make sure that you are awere of the breath and couting it.

Observe exactly in what phase a thought arise and put it apart gently, see the thought like a wave or a vibration that is losing intensity and disapering. Put all your atention again in phase you are.

As you see the instructions are simple and easy, probably nothing you didnt read or practice before but the thing  is to put effort, atention and discipline in this simple but powerfull exercice. Also is important to observe the mindstate and see after the counting exercice if you can feel more concentrated. When you are concentrated or focus the mind starts to unify, for me is some sensations moving around the area of the 6 chakra that have the quality of deepness. 

After the 3 series of 10 breaths you can drop the counting and just focus on the pleasantness of the breath and be awere of all the good sensations that are arrising and passing away in your body all the time. If you see yourself losing again in thoughts you can do another counting to recheck o re-focus and then drop it again.

20 minuts practice is OK, but be really on the practice and dont allow absurd mind wandering, also be kind with yourself, always come back to the breath with a smile. 

good practice emoticon emoticon!

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/31/18 2:32 PM as a reply to patrick o connor.
The answer could be that jhanas are ways to artificially induce states usually brought about by the activities of living.

"the precise causwes for everything we experience are not knowable....the precise causes and results of kamma are considered to be one of the four 'imponderables' " ~ Amaro

I thnk he was onto something there.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/31/18 2:50 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Shibari ?

There's a kind of a BDSM jhana map here

https://friskybusinessboutique.com/the-endorphin-levels-in-bdsm/

Level One. There is no altered state of consciousness yet, but there is an increased pain threshold.

Level Two, with still no perceivable altered state of consciousness (beyond panting in relief that you, the top, have ceased with the intense bit), but there is a considerable and noticeable leap in pain threshold now.

Level Three, the bottom will definitely feel a little bit woozy, exhibiting a mildly-drugged state. His eyelids should appear droopy, and he will fall into a more relaxed condition than before, more low moans and groans, and lower inhibitions. Again, applying ten minutes of any relatively mild stimulation followed by a five-minute build and a 10- to 15-second intense climax well beyond the previous one will release the next endorphin load and push the bottom into a very nice

Level Four
head space. At this Level Four state, there is a very definite altered state of consciousness.  The bottom will feel drugged and will be very compliant and submissive now. This is countered, however, by the largest charges of adrenaline he has received so far

Level Five: a state of supreme ecstasy

Level Six! ...The bottom’s behavior can become unpredictable at this point with all the adrenaline and endorphins coursing through the body.  Be prepared to restrain against some wild thrashing and arm flailing (or at least be out of harm’s way). The bottom is in such an intensely altered state of consciousness that his reactions could possibly be extremely primitive in nature. He may only be capable of animal-like noises and very little speech.

“Flying” There is another factor that can produce an altered state of consciousness far, far beyond even that of the most extreme endorphin experience. This is experienced by submissives whose intense focus upon their Master or Mistress (their Dominant) – and upon pleasing them
– eventually leads to a hallucinogenic kind of altered state known commonly in the BDSM community as “flying.” This word has an almost mythological aura in the scene for very good reasons! It is probably the most profound experience one can have as a submissive. It involves a state of intense devotion towards the dominant (who is not just a mere “top” at this point) that borders upon religious worship, with complete trust and a total commitment to please and satisfy the Dom thoroughly. Through the attainment of a complete selflessness and focus on the dominant, a transformation takes place that is very, very deep, almost  trance-like. It can become so profound as to produce an extended, blissful hallucinogenic state. Many have reported even seeing visions under the spell of this “flying” effect. All have attested to the profound sense of peace and bliss they have experienced while even near the edge of this state.
COMBINED with the Level Five or Six endorphin head space, there likely can be no deeper state of ecstasy possible for the bottom — short of total enlightenment! Until such an experience of full enlightenment can be accomplished, perhaps the attainment of this interim bliss is acceptable, and certainly should be considered an attractive and enjoyable state to be in! The secret ingredients are: intense focus; a commitment to please the dominant utterly; and, complete and total devotion.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
12/31/18 3:46 PM as a reply to Stickman2.
Although people forget that only jhanas 1-3 are about physical bliss and/or happiness. The rest are all about equanimity and other factors that aren't sensual.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
1/2/19 2:59 PM as a reply to Milo.
True. I suspect that some people in the BDSM scene are actually jhana junkies, but not of the kind that strives for subtle experiences and more and more equanimity, but mainly for intense rapture, so it’s probably the lower jhanas (the same could probably be said about tantric sex as well). It’s not really for me to tell, though. I know too little about it. I do know a few people who practice flying, though, and they are very intuitive and compassionate people who have worked hard to get rid of walls and facades in their lives and be true to themselves and to what benefits all that is living. Also, the roles are not fixed. They take turns in flying.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
1/6/19 4:18 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thanks for all the comments. 
I love this "the instructions are simple and easy, probably nothing you didnt read or practice before but the thing  is to put effort, atention and discipline in this simple but powerfull exercice". Most things good advice is kinda non remarkable...thing is to really do it :-)
I think I find it hard to commit to this particular practice. My habit is strong of wanting to have a wider beam of attention, registering and accepting what is it that arrises in attention, rather than selecting and drilling focus. It feels a bit shallow and driven somehow to just focus on one thing, rather than to "just be...". Yet I like how Alan Wallace says developing Shamatha makes the mind servicable... I will keep experimenting with it. Feedback from her has given some good motivation


RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
1/7/19 6:51 AM as a reply to patrick o connor.
I have come to realize that my concentration skills are actually poor and that I have fallen into the trap of entering hypnotic trance states instead of mindful jhanic states. Therefore my earlier comments are not valid with regard to this topic.

In order to avoid the same trap, be sure to bring sati into your practice.

RE: How is regular access to concentration states possible
Answer
1/8/19 7:56 PM as a reply to patrick o connor.
I am new here but over 10 years of Vipassana practice. I'm curious as to what you mean by '2nd path equanimity'. I didn't know there was more than one, although there's a bit of equanimity in other states too. I was in equanimity when a nerve died in one of my teeth. I had just entered it and smiled thinking that the activity and talking which I would need to engage in would surely make me lose it, but somehow it didn't. When I went to the doctor and he pulled out the anesthetic I thought: 4+ hours of my mouth coming back to life vs 1 minute of intense pain? I don't want the anesthetic I told him and it went just fine because I felt no aversion to painful or pleasurable sensations. Was that first or second path? Obviously, I'm asking because you are bothered by pain and I could have sat twisted like a pretzel and not cared in the least. Besides, when I reached that state, I hadn’t had any pain at all for a few days already but plenty before.
This asked, I have looked at a few threads along the same lines of thoughts as yours and no one is talking about walking meditation. It was at that 'equanimity retreat' that I discovered it's usefulness. Walk 45 minutes before a sit will build your concentration in a hurry and don't ask me why. When you sit afterwards, you are centered. So now you have your sitting period to build on that, instead of starting to worry about your posture, your pain which hopefully will be more bearable as a result.
Best of luck with your practice and thank you for it.