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Another post about how to get into jhana

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Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/18/10 11:06 AM
After reading MCTB it made great sense to learn how to get into jhana regularly and use that as a good base for practice. So I’ve been trying that for the last few months but now I’ve now taken a break and gone back to vipassana. I’d like to give it a shot again. I only got close a couple times before, but being a geek I tried to come up with steps or break this thing down into stages. I've read “focused and fearless”, books by buddhadhasa, of course MCTB and this forum and two retreats. I guess I'm just looking for more practical details about it

So I thought it might be helpful to list out the steps and see if I’m on the right track from what other people have come up with. Or maybe these steps just applies to me?

OK, so these are the steps I try to go through-

  1. get in the right mood.. say mahayana prayers, loving kindness, etc
  2. set a base for momentum - (a) vow an intention for the sit (b) get comfortable by analyzing posture (c) assure myself I won’t be disturbed (d) allow myself pleasant feelings (ie desire for concentration, jhana & awakening are fine) (e) reaffirm why I sit and goals (boost concentration, final goal of liberation)
  3. for only a minute or two, notice the mind drifing & why it doesn’t want to be present. allow being present to be OK.
  4. follow the entire breath, including gaps with emphasis on continuity over clarity. Try to keep a bright and “spacious” mindset. Do this until a noticable shift occurs and the breath becomes smooth, like silk
  5. At this point concentration is decent, breath is long and smooth, so start looking for more clarity like the texture, temperature, etc of breath. Don’t switch the attention to the pleasant sensations, nice images or any vibrations that arise yet.
  6. At some point on the nostrils will appear a “2nd order” vibration, like electricity on the skin. Hook onto that sensation, as long as it contains a connection to the breath going in/out.
  7. At some point the breath “object” gets bigger and more locked on, like turning up the trickling hose to full. Thoughts for the most part aren’t bothersome and it takes less energy to maintain a pleasant state. The breath gets slow and tends to mirror the mind’s state. It seems like this can be maintained for decent time, but it’s still needed to go deeper with focus on the breath.
  8. At some point, there’s some unknown indicator that something is going to happen. (only happened two or three times) The switch to jhana starts with vibrations in the hands (maybe), and a kind of zoned-in black tunnel opens up. It’s engulfing where the hearing starts going away with a “swoosh”. So this is where I freak out and my heart starts racing. I feel really excited something awesome is happening and I lose concentration. Or maybe I feel uncomfortable in losing my ego, the regular perspective on the world. I’ve tried saying “I vow to enter jhana” but I’m not sure if it helped. Any advice on how to make this happen?? Or should I just keep plugging away at it?


problems in order from greatest:
  • just can’t concentrate due to low energy or mad at myself for something
  • I start instructing myself or analyzing these steps, trying to learn on the fly
  • I get sidetracked on chakras, vibrations
  • I start thinking about theory, 3 characteristics, etc or insights such as breath mirroring the mind, cause and effect, etc


Thanks!

RE: Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/18/10 1:55 PM as a reply to . Schwags.
Brad Schwags:

OK, so these are the steps I try to go through-

  1. get in the right mood.. say mahayana prayers, loving kindness, etc
  2. set a base for momentum - (a) vow an intention for the sit (b) get comfortable by analyzing posture (c) assure myself I won’t be disturbed (d) allow myself pleasant feelings (ie desire for concentration, jhana & awakening are fine) (e) reaffirm why I sit and goals (boost concentration, final goal of liberation)
  3. for only a minute or two, notice the mind drifing & why it doesn’t want to be present. allow being present to be OK.
  4. follow the entire breath, including gaps with emphasis on continuity over clarity. Try to keep a bright and “spacious” mindset. Do this until a noticable shift occurs and the breath becomes smooth, like silk
  5. At this point concentration is decent, breath is long and smooth, so start looking for more clarity like the texture, temperature, etc of breath. Don’t switch the attention to the pleasant sensations, nice images or any vibrations that arise yet.
  6. At some point on the nostrils will appear a “2nd order” vibration, like electricity on the skin. Hook onto that sensation, as long as it contains a connection to the breath going in/out.
  7. At some point the breath “object” gets bigger and more locked on, like turning up the trickling hose to full. Thoughts for the most part aren’t bothersome and it takes less energy to maintain a pleasant state. The breath gets slow and tends to mirror the mind’s state. It seems like this can be maintained for decent time, but it’s still needed to go deeper with focus on the breath.
  8. At some point, there’s some unknown indicator that something is going to happen. (only happened two or three times) The switch to jhana starts with vibrations in the hands (maybe), and a kind of zoned-in black tunnel opens up. It’s engulfing where the hearing starts going away with a “swoosh”. So this is where I freak out and my heart starts racing. I feel really excited something awesome is happening and I lose concentration. Or maybe I feel uncomfortable in losing my ego, the regular perspective on the world. I’ve tried saying “I vow to enter jhana” but I’m not sure if it helped. Any advice on how to make this happen?? Or should I just keep plugging away at it?



steps 1 through 7 look good. i would say keep going with what you're doing, perhaps with a more bodily emphasis - gently attend to the deep bodily sensation(s) that have opened up/that your mind has turned to as a result of doing this practice. you likely know which one(s) i'm talking about, and if you aren't sure, take a guess.

as for what you report at 8, it is not necessarily an obstacle that needs to be surmounted - the side effects (such as freaking out, racing thoughts, racing heart, excited feeling causing loss of concentration, discomfort at the perspectival shift, etc) may wear away on their own in time. in any case, the more accustomed you become to 'going deep', the less of a problem it will be. it may be helpful to reflect on the craving and aversion you feel here without psychologising the issue - simply noticing how wanting jhana/not-wanting jhana has an effect on the stability of your mind is sufficient. isn't it interesting? then back to the deep bodily sensation(s).

tarin

RE: Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/18/10 5:13 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
If I can shoot in a quick question to Tarin or anyone else with experience: I seem to be in somewhat the same position as Brad, what I'm currently unsure of is how to relate to the breath (or if it matters). Where should I focus on the breath? The stomach, the nostrils, all over? I tend to just focus on where it first 'shows' itself. Also, do I follow it all the way in and out every millisecond of the way not letting any thoughts/sensation cut in or is it better to open more and not forcing attention but instead direct it back to the breath. I to seem to get fairly often to what Brads step 7. but have problems moving deeper.

RE: Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/18/10 9:40 PM as a reply to Pål S..
I generally recommend advice one would follow in the game Bridge when playing in No-Trump or in the game Spades: "Lead through strength," which in that context means play your high cards first to maintain control of the game, but in this context means: wherever you feel it the most clearly and can actually stay with it, which might mean nose or throat or abdomen or moving to wherever the strongest sensations are or whatever it takes.

The forcing question is complex, but in general most people are too slack about effort and re-direction of attention most of the time, but there is the rare practitioner who has a lot of force and they direct it to make things so tight that they just get wound up in constriction and don't gain insight as they can't see the sensations as they are.

Helpful?

D

RE: Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/26/10 4:30 AM as a reply to . Schwags.
Brad Schwags:
problems in order from greatest:
  • just can’t concentrate due to low energy or mad at myself for something
  • I start instructing myself or analyzing these steps, trying to learn on the fly
  • I get sidetracked on chakras, vibrations
  • I start thinking about theory, 3 characteristics, etc or insights such as breath mirroring the mind, cause and effect, etc

Tarin has some good suggestions.

With the exception of "low energy," which is a hindrance problem (sloth and torpor) and can be solved by entering into absorption which neutralizes the five hindrances (which I assume is what tarin meant by his comment about "going deep"), if you will notice, the source of your problem stems from mental activity (i.e. thinking, analyzing, wandering mind).

A long time ago I came across the advice that one of the keys to successful meditation was being able to still the mind. At the time, I thought it was sound advice, but had no idea how to go about doing that! Soon enough, I forgot about it (meaning that it went off my radar screen and I neglected to recollect it again for years). At the time, I was practicing a mantra type meditation. So, verbalization was part of the meditation technique itself that I was practicing.

Many years later, as I was wrestling with another go at the process of realization, I recalled that advice again and began looking into how to go about making it a reality. I came across a book by Mouni Sadhu titled Concentration, A Guide to Mental Mastery, and began to practice some of the techniques it suggested. After a relatively short while of practicing one or two of these techniques, I began to experience moments of "no thought," — that is, complete silence with no wandering mind and no inner verbalization. At first, these lasted for only a few seconds. Then later, as I continued to practice, the time spans of silence grew longer and longer.

One day when the mind was being particularly disobedient, I told it to "STOP" and it did. For several moments in succession. It completely stunned me that the mind obeyed that command! That experience was a revelation for me, because I had not experienced such complete and utter silence like that since I was a child. Virtually from that moment on, my meditation sessions became more productive as I was able at will to quiet the mental agitation that the monkey mind was calling up to distract me.

Once you are able to still the mind, you'll be more able to accomplish those goals you have set before yourself with regard to the attainment of absorption. The mind will more easily become concentrated on whatever object you choose. And the strength of the concentration will increase with time and continued practice.

One of the first things you can do in order to achieve this kind of mental mastery begins with the simple practice of mindfulness. In both of the Satipatthana suttas in the Pali discourses of the Buddha, the Buddha instructs beginning meditators with the following instruction:

"And how, monks, does a monk abide contemplating the body as body? Here a monk, having gone into the forest, or to the root of a tree or to an empty place, sits down cross-legged, holding his body erect, having established mindfulness before him. Mindfully he breaths in, mindfully he breaths out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows that he breathes in a long breath, and breathing out a long breath, he knows that he breathes out a long breath."


If you will sit for a while before meditating and establish a general mindfulness of your surroundings or an object like the breath, you will find that eventually the sluggishness will be replaced with energy, which you will then be able to carry into the meditation itself. Whenever I took the time to establish mindfulness at the beginning of my meditation session, the session itself always went well.

I know it may sound like an impossibility right now, but you actually can gain control of the monkey mind mentality. It's all a matter of practice and diligence in attending to that practice. One technique mentioned in Mouni Sadhu's book was to watch the end of the second hand on a wall clock or wrist watch as it moves around the dial while not allowing any thoughts to distract you and to maintain uninterrupted attention on it without any unnoticed breaks in attention. Do not think of anything else, just watch dispassionately the end of the hand steadily revolving. Do not look at or think about the clock itself or about the figures passed over by the hand. As Mouni states: "Your eyes dare not be distracted by anything, and nothing in the world exists for you now except that moving colored line. In particular, verbalization, i.e. mental repeating of words, must cease during the exercise.

"First, note exactly, by the same second hand, the time when you began to follow its movements. Then check the moment when your still rebellious mind was first distracted and forced you to forget to watch, and instead substituted a thought, word or some other kind of mental distraction for the exercise."

You should be able to observe a graphic demonstration of the increase in mental concentration as you honestly assess your progress and are able to see how long you are able to maintain your attention on the object before the mind wanders or breaks into verbalization.

Work at stilling the mind first. Take your time and don't become discouraged. Then, and only then, move on to learning about how to enter absorption. Having the ability to establish concentration on an object like the breath without becoming distracted from it will be a skill that will beneficially serve your meditative career for the rest of your life.

RE: Another post about how to get into jhana
Answer
10/28/10 5:52 PM as a reply to . Schwags.
I accessed the first Jhana for the first time a few months ago, and this was the guideline that I roughly followed.
http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002b/jhana.htm

The first time I went into Jhana it was by accident, but since then I've been back twice, using those guidelines.