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Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?

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Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 1/31/19 4:58 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? svmonk 1/31/19 9:45 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/1/19 1:09 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Raving Rhubarb 2/3/19 10:46 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/3/19 11:23 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/1/19 7:28 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? svmonk 2/2/19 9:17 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/3/19 3:07 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? svmonk 2/4/19 12:01 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/4/19 2:51 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? svmonk 2/4/19 7:29 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/5/19 3:07 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Daniel M. Ingram 2/6/19 10:19 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Daniel M. Ingram 2/5/19 11:46 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/5/19 1:53 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Daniel M. Ingram 2/8/19 9:22 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/6/19 2:15 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Raving Rhubarb 2/8/19 8:25 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/8/19 9:37 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Raving Rhubarb 2/8/19 9:51 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/8/19 11:27 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Nick O 2/8/19 9:39 PM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/9/19 3:13 AM
RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/8/19 2:26 PM
I’m confused as to what my different experiences have been, whether they have been dull trance states or some kind of jhana. I had decided that it was only wishful thinking to believe that they were jhanas, but then I have come across descriptions that make me wonder again. I want to understand the difference to avoid cultivating mind states that are dull.

In some descriptions a mind state only qualifies as jhana if there is mindfulness (sati) there. Exactly what is mindfulness in a state of absorption? Is it mindfulness if one is aware of being totally focused on something and choses to remain so? Or does mindfulness mean that one has to be aware of what is happening in the surroundings? Such as who is holding one’s hand?

If I spend a long time watching a painting in the ceiling without having access to the concepts ”painting” and ”ceiling”, and thus do not see a ceiling painting, but only form - is that dullness or absorption?

If I focus on being touched to the extent that I can’t tell where my body ends and another body begins, and it’s all touch and bliss, is that a dull trance state or jhana?

If I have some trouble coordinating my body afterwards, and have to touch something that is stable for some time before I can trust my legs enough to walk, does that mean that it was a dull mind state?

All these examples are from one and the same occasion. It lasted an hour. I know that because it was between two scheduled activities in that room. This occurred directly after a cuddle party that I had taken part in.

EDIT: I wasn’t as deep into this state all the time, of course, but to a varying degree. In the beginning I could locate the touch and distinguish between my body and the other one. For the whole time I never realized that the form I was looking at was a ceiling painting. I only realized that because people were discussing the painting online afterwards. I thought that I hadn’t seen it, which was odd because I must have been looking at it as I lay down on the floor directly under it. Then somebody posted a picture, and I recognized the form. I know that at one point I stopped breathing for quite a while. I remember being aware of that. I felt no nead to breath. Before that I had been breathing very slowly and lightly.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
1/31/19 9:45 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda,

There are five jhana factors: applied thought (moving the mind to focus on the meditation object), sustained thought (bringing the mind back to the meditation object if it wanders), joy, happiness, and one-pointedness (the mind totally focused on the object), see this link for more. Mindfulness or mindful awareness means that the mind is present with what is happening in the present moment. Some of the suttas include mindfulness as one of the factors, but others and other classical texts like the Visuddhimagga list only the five. Without all five, the state may have been a concentration state, but not jhana. There are different schools of thought about how the jhanas function (vipassana jhanas, sutta jhanas, etc.) but basically, when you are experiencing jhana, the mind gradually unifies around the meditation object until you are aware of nothing else but the meditation object or some transformation of it (called the nimitta or counterpart sign), not people, not paintings, and not the room. Afterwards, if someone asks you about what was going on in the room, you can't say because you were only aware of the meditation object.

What you are aware of depends on the meditation object. For example, Culadasa in TMI, distinguishes three types of jhanas: bodily jhanas, pleasure jhanas, and luminous jhanas, whereas the suttas talk about first through fourth jhana, with the first jhana having all five jhana factors, and the factors gradually dropping away until only one-pointedness is left.

I have had difficulty experiencing the luminous jhanas. They are cultivated with the sensation of the breath going in and out of nose as the meditation object, until the sensation as a feeling disappears and is replaced at the nose by a small luminous dot (the nimitta). I practiced concentration meditation with the breath at the nose for many years, and the closest I got was having the luminous dot appear but then wander off to the side and refuse to come back kind of like a dog straying. emoticon However, Culadasa's bodily jhanas and pleasure jhanas are a bit easier, and if I am in a good stretch on my meditations, I get them on practically every session (if I am in a bad stretch, I am thinking about my job or something else for the 40 minutes).

There are further jhanas above the fourth and there are folks on this forum who have had experience with them, can't say as I have had any.

Hoppas det hjälper

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/1/19 1:09 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Thank you, ja, det hjälper.

From your description it does sound like it was jhana, then, except for the fact that it wasn’t framed as meditation practice. I did have the intention to focus on the pleasures of touch from one person, and I kept that focus very singlepointedly for an hour. Nothing else was relevant. The touch varied and moved, though, but maybe it could be a formation? Would that make it singlepointed?

(There was no nudity and no sex involved, just to clarify).

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/1/19 7:28 AM as a reply to svmonk.
About the luminous jhana... I once had a small brightly shining dot appear in front of me as I was concentrating on a yoga asana in a way that felt effortless for a while. I didn’t remain very long though. Is it that kind of thing but sustained? I didn’t have my eyes closed at that time, though.

Today at yoga class as we were focusing on the breath in the nose with our eyes closed I actually saw a small red dot by the nose. It was pretty faint and didn’t last, and I don’t think it was as dense as it should be. It had the size of a small pea. Could that be the beginning of a nimitta?

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/2/19 9:17 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda,

It is of course hard for me to say since people's experiences are not subject to outside verification, but I'd say the experience you reported in your first post was not jhana. There was not the aspect of focusing on a single object. The party sounds like it was a nice time though.

On the other hand, both of your experiences with yoga do sound like they may have been a precursor to one of the luminous jhanas. There does seem to have been the necessary focus. Lots of times people get a small luminous point that fades or changes colors prior to the mind getting solidly locked on to it, or so I am told. Like I said, I've had no success with the luminous jhanas, though I studied with a jhana teacher for about 5 years.

I'd suggest checking out The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa if you want to learn more about how to practice concentration meditation, which is the type of meditation you need to enter jhana.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/3/19 3:07 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Right. Thanks! And either way, it’s not something that I can cultivate on my own in my practice. That was some world class touch. I haven’t achieved the kind of concentration that would make my breath that interesting to focus on singlepointedly. Yeah, that was a great workshop indeed.

Does this mean that it was a dull trance state, or are there other possibilities? I’m trying to understand what counts as dullness so that I can avoid cultivating dullness.

So maybe that’s the kind of flavour that I should cultivate, then, the one that I get with yoga. That’s helpful. Can’t seem to replicate it intentionally, though.

Thanks, I bought that book recently and have started to listen to his talks on youtube in order to understand more clearly how my mind works and learn to notice when it’s getting dull.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/3/19 10:46 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Thank you, ja, det hjälper.

From your description it does sound like it was jhana, then, except for the fact that it wasn’t framed as meditation practice. I did have the intention to focus on the pleasures of touch from one person, and I kept that focus very singlepointedly for an hour. Nothing else was relevant. The touch varied and moved, though, but maybe it could be a formation? Would that make it singlepointed?

(There was no nudity and no sex involved, just to clarify).
I don't know how to answer your original question, but out of curiosity: what sort of workshop (?) did you participate in? It sounds fascinating.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/3/19 11:23 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
It was a weekend conference for polyamorous people, about relationships. The program was varied. The example was kind of the aftermath from a cuddle party, which is a (non-sexual) workshop about giving and receiving touch with informed consent. There is a lot of focus on exploring one’s own boundaries and learning to express what one wants and letting go of ideas about what one should and shouldn’t do and surrender to the moment. It’s the kind of thing that I thought a few years ago that I would never go to, but well... things change.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/4/19 12:01 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
A particular concentration state doesn't need to have dullness obstructing it to not be jhana. Dullness is one of the 5 hinderances but from your description there didn't seem to be dullness. Dullness corresponds to sloth and torper in the traditional list. The other hinderances are desire, ill-will, restless and worry (the opposite of sloth and torper), and doubt. If the mind has any of these factors present, jhana will not manifest. There are other techniques for working with negative mind states (primarily coming out of the Tibetan tradition). From the nature of the occasion and your report on it, I would speculate that there might of been a certain amount of clinging to sensory desire (the touch of the other person). Clinging of that nature disrupts the focus needed for jhana. But again, I can't get inside your mind and I might be wrong about it, just some points to consider.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/4/19 2:51 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Ah. That makes sense. Thankyou! I seem to have too much of a binary approach to all these concepts. That’s good to realize.

But how can people be jhana junkeys if there is no desire involved? Do they just let go of their desire momentarily, enough to be able to reach the mind states that they are clinging to?

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/4/19 7:29 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Right, the mind experiences no desire while it is in jhana but after it drops out the desire is powerful to get back in.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/5/19 3:07 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Right. Makes sense, I guess. Thanks!

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/6/19 10:19 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Just giving a bit of general theory, there are reasons to think of jhana categorically and dimensionally, and both have their uses and downsides.

Categorical jhanic thinking asks the question, "Was that a jhana?" in a way that is binary, yes/no, black/white, without any nuance or shades of grey. Plenty of people think about jhanas this way, even some very senior famous teachers, and it has its points. Generally, these traditions have very specific criteria for the type of jhana they are interested in, or how they conceptualize jhana if they acknowledge only one type. People who use words like "sutta jhanas", "bodily jhanas", "Ayya Khema jhanas", "Visuddhimagga jhanas", "luminous jhanas", "Pa Auk jhanas", "Ajahn Brahm jhanas", "B Alan Wallace jhanas", etc. are thinking this way. Some acknowledge multiple discrete types, e.g. Culadasa, while others, such as BAW, only acknowledge one type of jhana as really being "jhana". These different "types" of jhana have criteria that sometimes diverge widely from each other, and, at the high end, can sometimes get pretty macho. There are experiences that can validate and reinforce these strict, dichotomous perspectives, such as suddenly shifting strongly into a very specific state that meets very specific criteria or expectations.

Dimensional jhanic thinking is more nuanced, more shades of grey, more concerned with the specific phenomenology of whatever experience is arising, and less concerned with whether or not some specific state meets some, potentially arbitrary, fixed set of categorical jhanic criteria. Dimensional jhanic thinking is more along the lines of identifying the jhanic factors present and assessing the degree of strength with which each one is presenting at that time and the difference between what is being experienced from some sense of "ordinary, non-jhanic mind". For example, one might be experiencing very strong concentration, a bit of bliss, some rapture, a moderate amount of tranquility, a large degree of freedom from the hindrances, pretty narrowly focused attention, and a moderate amount of applied and sustained thought, and one might thus think about that as being somewhere in the range of experiences that fall into the general neighborhood of the first jhana, which is a pretty large neighborhood from a dimensional point of view, with a very wide range of possible manifestations depending on the practitioner, technique, strength of concentration, etc.

I use both categoricaly and dimensional thinking when thinking about jhana in my own practice and when talking with others about practice, and each has its pros and cons. More interesting to me is the question of the pragmatist, which asks, "Ok, what do you value and what are you trying to do, and how do dimensional or categorical thinking help or harm that process?"

Said another way, categorical thinking helps if there is something specific we wish to accomplish that we can only accomplish with a specific type of jhana, and so we can guage whether or not we have attained to that jhana so we can know if we have an appropriate foundation for whatever it is that is useful to do with that jhana. That goal for many may simply be, "I really want the personal merit badge that comes from having felt or been told that I met someone's specific jhanic criteria they wrote down," and that is ok, as chasing specific jhanic criteria can develop interesting skills that may have other utility also and can lead to various valuable experiences and lessons along the way beyond just the specific type of jhana.

Dimensional thinking helps a lot when just trying to identify and develop varoius jhanic qualities and the degree to which they have been developed/are presenting, as well as identifying degrees of other factors, such as dullness, restlessness, etc that might be reduced or transmuted into something positive. For example, we might notice that a bit of rapture is showing up, tune into that rapture, and learn how to amplify it while also learning what makes it fade. It also holds up better across a wide range of experiences that contain jhanic factors to various degrees, providing a totally different meta-perspective on jhana that can be useful to the practitioner, particularly when talking with people who cultivate jhana differently from the way you do. A dimensional thinker may be more inclinded to explore and learn more individual factor control, doing things like learning extended, compound, and custom jhanas, for example.

It is common for categorical and dimensional practitioners to irritate each other, with both having valid critiques of the downsides of the other's approach, and often being pretty attached to their own way of approaching jhana. It is a large topic that I keep thinking I will do a long video on sometime, as the topic comes up again and again and again and again and again and again in converstaions and posts.

Helpful?

Daniel

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/5/19 11:46 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Oh, yes, so specifically, what are you trying to do, and why practically is it is important for something to be jhana or not be jhana?

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/5/19 1:53 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Yes, that is helpful. Thanks!

I think I recognized some jhanic qualities in this experience and other similar experiences and was happy to have at least a vague idea of what happened and also a vague idea of how it could be cultivated into something that could help me to have insights. Then I came across some very binary ideas about what jhanas are and thought that I had misunderstood all of it. It scared me a bit, because I felt that I could no longer trust my judgement and was at risk of scripting my mind into dull states where I would be susceptible to suggestion and unable to have insights.

I want to be able to have insights. I want to avoid imprinting bad habits in my mind, such as behavior that makes me prone to mind states that would make insights unlikely. I want to learn to identify such bad habits so that I can avoid them - without having to avoid great experiences unnecessarily. I want to cultivate habits that make insights more likely. Also, I’m very curious about the components of different mind states just because it is fascinating.

I guess I’m wondering, among other things, whether this particular mind state is something that I should avoid if I want to awaken or if it is safe to enjoy it if it turns up. I also wonder if there are components in it that may be useful and what I should watch out for in meditation practice. I want to cultivate the kind of precision that allows me to work with the components that are beneficial without slipping into old ruts that lead me astray.

I’m still not quite sure if I understand correctly what people mean when they talk about fundamental concepts such as mindfulness and dullness, and it confuses me.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 9:22 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Alright, the question of how jhanas and insights relate, a perennial question in this business.

I should have added "vipassana jhanas" to the list above, but was thinking in more strict samatha-esque terms.

This question is another very old one, going back to the beginning, and you find tensions around this even in the Pali Canon, though there are very traditionalist Suttaheads that would say that the suttas causing the tension are not as authentic, being later additions, and ignoring their high degree of practical utility for practitioners.

There are various schools of thought on this question also, which I will summarize into basic camps.

There are the Jhana First camps, those that say train first to get very stable concentration states, then, having left those, use the power of that trained mind to take on the Three Characteristics and attain to wisdom. May traditional Buddhist suttas clearly favor this approach, including the classic Fruits of the Homeless Life, DN 2. It is popular in Sri Lanka, and among the likes of Bhanta Gunaratana. You also find similar approaches taught by those such as Pa Auk, and some Thai Forest teachers. The pros are basically that it is true that a clear, well-trained mind that can get jhana can often manage the path of insight much more calmly than some of the other approaches, one gets the nice experiences of more pure jhanas (presuming that one can get into them without letting some vipassana slip in, which is actually kinda difficult), and some people have a natural gift for jhanas, and so a jhana approach may get them some early successes, reinforcing intereste in practice.

There are the Vipassana First camps, such as Mahasi and others, that say that one doesn't need jhana, and may proceed straight to insight into the Three Characteristics of the Six Sense Doors. By doing so, one may attain to the vipassana jhanas along the way, being another conceptualization of the stages of insight but noticing their corollaries with more pure jhanas, while avoiding the traps that await for those who get into the track of jhanas and get stuck in them. Pros are that, for those who can take the heat, this method can be very fast. The downside is the heat, meaning emotional and perceptual instability, and that doesn't always go well. Some people also have a natural gift for this style and tolerance for the side-effects, and will do well in such traditions, whereas they might have had a hard time cultivating more pure jhanas, and so have gotten frustrated. I was one such type, but my personal history need not bias me against other approaches, in which I see validity.

Hybrid approaches are the last option, and we find TMI as one such tradition, and the goal here is to find the right balance of strong jhanic factors along with insight into vibrancy and lack of subtle dullness, the combination of which, at least in theory and in some practitioners, leads to that sweet spot middle ground where they have something of the best of both worlds. That said, not everyone can achieve that balance, and many will drift to one side or other other at various points, either being too heavy on the samatha side but thinking that is insight, or being too heavy on the vipassana side, and getting blind-sided by the dark stuff, as talking about and normalizing the dark stuff is not as much TMI's strength.

What are your natural tendencies? Which method do you think would work out best for you? How do you think about the interface between jhanas and insight?

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/6/19 2:15 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I’m still struggling to find out what my inclination is. How does one know? What I find is that in order to be able to do investigation, I seem to need some of the jhanic factors, if that is what they are. Otherwise I space out or get dull or get caught up in dreamlike states. Maybe it has to do with how I’m wired, being autistic with both ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Finding exactly the right amount of energy is sometimes complicated for me. When the energy is high enough for me to stay alert but not so speeded that I get distracted, then piti always arises in some form. I’m guessing now that the waves and vibrations and flourescent dots are also forms of piti, in addition to the electric shock waves, the showers of bliss and the rapture and the occasional explosions or electric buzzing sounds or psychedelic light shows, but I may be wrong about that. I have had strong experiences of piti much longer than I have been meditating. I get piti from sounds and feelings in my daily life, and from nature. I get it from strong negative experiences as well. It’s like piti is communicating. I have become friends with it, in contrast to my first experiences with fullblown piti which were ruthless and explosive and disruptive. Even then, they were communicating. I don’t mean like an entity with an agenda, but as mental processes within my mind coming together. So whatever I decide to do, I guess I’m kind of stuck with expressions of piti, albeit in much calmer ways nowadays; it tends to fade away and give room to something more spacious and light and subtle. I have gone through all sorts of vibrations, but when they appear now, they are more like soft and large threedimensional loops or something; I don’t know how to describe it properly. So how do I deal with that in a skillful way?

It seems like all these schools have some good points. I don’t really have an opinion on what is most effective or preferable. I just want to do something that works for me. And if some of the mind states that I tend to drop into are problematic with regard to awakening, then I want to know that. In particular I want to know if the mind states are something that have no place in meditation at all. I also very much want to know if they should be avoided outside meditation practice as well (for instance if they are hypnotic states that make imprints on my mind that will cause me to space out during meditation).

In other parts of life I have never really chosen one thing and stayed with that as my universal Method. As a researcher, I’m interdisciplinary. With regard to relationships, I’m polyamorous. I’m a newbie on this journey, but I find that Mahasi and TMI and MCBT2 and Shinzen Young all have important puzzle pieces that I need to meet the challenges in my practice, and I Iisten to others as well, for inspiration (J. Krishnamurti, Rob Burbea, Ken McLeod, Sharda Rogell, Jack Kornfield...). When there is a problem, I use any method that deals with that particular problem in a way that resonates with me. The latest problem I have been dealing with was dropping into dreams (?) during meditation and forgetting to observe. For that particular problem, listening to Culadasa’s talks gave me tools that I could work with, and it helped (for now at least). When struggling with different parts of the dukkha nanas, your book MCTB2 was my Bible (it still kind of is), and it helped. I will soon be working with Michael Taft for ten sessions as I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship, and one of the reasons that I look forward to working with him so much is that he seems to be pragmatic and open to a varity of ways of practicing, so whatever he recommends for me I trust that he does because it seems to fit the particular challenges that I’m dealing with rather than just sticking to a particular tradition or paradigm.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 8:25 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

In other parts of life I have never really chosen one thing and stayed with that as my universal Method. As a researcher, I’m interdisciplinary. With regard to relationships, I’m polyamorous. I’m a newbie on this journey, but I find that Mahasi and TMI and MCBT2 and Shinzen Young all have important puzzle pieces that I need to meet the challenges in my practice, and I Iisten to others as well, for inspiration (J. Krishnamurti, Rob Burbea, Ken McLeod, Sharda Rogell, Jack Kornfield...). When there is a problem, I use any method that deals with that particular problem in a way that resonates with me. The latest problem I have been dealing with was dropping into dreams (?) during meditation and forgetting to observe. For that particular problem, listening to Culadasa’s talks gave me tools that I could work with, and it helped (for now at least). When struggling with different parts of the dukkha nanas, your book MCTB2 was my Bible (it still kind of is), and it helped. I will soon be working with Michael Taft for ten sessions as I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship, and one of the reasons that I look forward to working with him so much is that he seems to be pragmatic and open to a varity of ways of practicing, so whatever he recommends for me I trust that he does because it seems to fit the particular challenges that I’m dealing with rather than just sticking to a particular tradition or paradigm.
Have you considered doing one or more retreats in some tradition?
Personally, I have found that after 3 10-15 day retreats I had a good foundation to practice at home.
But before that: not really, especially before my very first retreat. I would frequently lose perspective and treat completely normal conditions as problems and then try to adapt the meditation technique. I would frequently lose faith. I would frequently do some beginner's mistake and forget to note obvious things.

I think that this is the experience of most beginners, and this is also advice in MCTB.
There is something highly valuable in those first retreats for a beginner.
Tuning out the real world for 2 weeks and experiencing at high resolution all the things that happen in meditation teaches you something about meditation that reading books and 60 minutes of meditation a day simply can't.
I would guess that for you at this stage, doing a few retreats would be a very good use of your time.
I believe that this applies also if after the retreat you decide not to follow the specific technique you learned there.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 9:37 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
Oh yes, I have considered going to retreats. Of course. I would love to. The problem is my health. I have really complicated food allergies and intolerances, and the kind of retreats that I can afford don’t cater for complicated diets. I have booked myself for a one day retreat at a Shambhala center in Stockholm, though, because that seemed doable and was affordable, and I hope that the people there were not involved in the scandal. I have done a retreat at home by myself following a recording (Shinzen Young), which is of course not the same thing as attending a real one and get to meet teachers. I don’t agree, though, that home practice is of so little use before going on retreats. It’s the only thing I have had so far and it has given me a lot. I went through A&P at least twice without even meditating. I’m certain that I experienced first Jhana the first time I ever tried Kundalini Yoga. With my home practice I seem to have left the dark night territories, although I temporarily drop down to reobservation from time to time. Dealing with my disabilities in this society kind of forced some insights upon me. The first insights don’t really require meditation. Daily life can be a teacher as well.

This comes out a bit cocky and defensive, I suspect, but that’s not how I mean it. I just think it’s important to bear in mind that people have different preconditions. Not everyone has the possibilities to attend retreats, and I believe that there must be other ways. Also, I think it’s important not to neglect the lessons that life offers outside formal practice. As the newbie here I could of course be wrong, but it is my firm belief that many people in this world could really benefit from more moral training before entering into meditative practice.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 9:51 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Oh yes, I have considered going to retreats. Of course. I would love to. The problem is my health. I have really complicated food allergies and intolerances, and the kind of retreats that I can afford don’t cater for complicated diets.
Are you sure that's true? I attended both Goenka and Ajahn Tong (i.e. Dhammacari in Germany) retreats. Both are donation based, both will support you with lactose-free/gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan diet if you need it.

Another centre I went to wasn't completely donation-based, but it was still free and it lets you bring and prepare your own food if you want to (which drastically cuts the cost, so I occasionally do that although I don't have to deal with food allergies).

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 11:27 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
The home page for the Goenka retreats here in Sweden explicitly says that meditators should accept the simple meals that are offered. If one has been ordered a special diet by a doctor one is asked to inform them, so I suppose they are prepared to offer gluten free or milk free food, but my dietary requirements are much more complicated than that. In addition to gluten intolerance and sensitivities to milk and eggs and allergic cross-reactions to nuts and several fruits and vegetables, I’m also histamine intolerant. That means that most foods make me ill, including legumes and many vegetables and spices and salt that has iodine in it and bouillon that contains yeast extract and any food that has been cooked for a long time or spent more than very little time outside the freezer. I have been planning to ask if I could bring my own food in frozen portions to be warmed up just before I eat, because that would be a possibility (I would have to check if I can eat lentils again or if I need to put hemp seads or pumpkins seeds in all my meals for the proteine), but up til now I have also had to visit the hospital every week for my hyposensibilization treatment. Now the treatment is only every fourth week so I guess it would be possible now if I can get somebody to take care of my cats for ten days. One of my cats is chronically ill and needs to be medicated, and not everyone is able to do that, but I can always ask.

I haven’t found any other retreats that I can afford here in Sweden. If someone knows of retreats I would be most grateful for information. I could always look up Germany, but then I would have to pay for the trip which is not possible right now. I struggle to pay my veterinary bills because the insurance dosn’t cover this kind of illness as my cat was ill when he was a kitten.

Anyway, I will focus on my coaching sessions now and the homework that I’ll get.

...

About single-pointedness, which was mentioned earlier, I learned from one of Culadasa’s talks that it is not required for jhana. According to him, that’s a bad translation. Unification of mind is what is required. The object can be broader. But yeah, if there is the tiniest bit of desire in the mix,the absorption does not qualify as jhana according to him, so the example I asked about would probably not qualify for that reason. The other factors seem to have been there, though. I wanted to understand the components so I could avoid the ones that would make me go into a trance state instead of meditating, and I had difficulties understanding what mindfulness means with regard to jhanas, but I think I understand now. It’s not that I particularly strive for jhanic mind states, although I did for a while. I’m thinking that if they appear, then so be it. But I do wish to avoid other kinds of altered states in my meditation. I’m still wondering whether they should be avoided outside of the meditation practice as well.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 2:26 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I have had my first session with Michael Taft now, and it’s a bit clearer to me where I am at. I’m not intentionally trying to make Jhanas arise, but I tend to fall into light jhanas naturally and that’s okay. What I do with them is investigating them. I have mainly worked with body sensations and experienced them turning into vibrations and dissolve. I didn’t know what to do with the more spacious state that I get into now, but I was adviced to use it to investigate my sense of self by focusing on mental images, mental talk and feelings - phenomenologically, not the content. Eventually they will also become vibratory and dissolve. This makes sense to me.

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/8/19 9:39 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I’m still struggling to find out what my inclination is. How does one know? What I find is that in order to be able to do investigation, I seem to need some of the jhanic factors, if that is what they are. Otherwise I space out or get dull or get caught up in dreamlike states. Maybe it has to do with how I’m wired, being autistic with both ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Finding exactly the right amount of energy is sometimes complicated for me. When the energy is high enough for me to stay alert but not so speeded that I get distracted, then piti always arises in some form. I’m guessing now that the waves and vibrations and flourescent dots are also forms of piti, in addition to the electric shock waves, the showers of bliss and the rapture and the occasional explosions or electric buzzing sounds or psychedelic light shows, but I may be wrong about that. I have had strong experiences of piti much longer than I have been meditating. I get piti from sounds and feelings in my daily life, and from nature. I get it from strong negative experiences as well. It’s like piti is communicating. I have become friends with it, in contrast to my first experiences with fullblown piti which were ruthless and explosive and disruptive. Even then, they were communicating. I don’t mean like an entity with an agenda, but as mental processes within my mind coming together. So whatever I decide to do, I guess I’m kind of stuck with expressions of piti, albeit in much calmer ways nowadays; it tends to fade away and give room to something more spacious and light and subtle. I have gone through all sorts of vibrations, but when they appear now, they are more like soft and large threedimensional loops or something; I don’t know how to describe it properly. So how do I deal with that in a skillful way?

It seems like all these schools have some good points. I don’t really have an opinion on what is most effective or preferable. I just want to do something that works for me. And if some of the mind states that I tend to drop into are problematic with regard to awakening, then I want to know that. In particular I want to know if the mind states are something that have no place in meditation at all. I also very much want to know if they should be avoided outside meditation practice as well (for instance if they are hypnotic states that make imprints on my mind that will cause me to space out during meditation).

In other parts of life I have never really chosen one thing and stayed with that as my universal Method. As a researcher, I’m interdisciplinary. With regard to relationships, I’m polyamorous. I’m a newbie on this journey, but I find that Mahasi and TMI and MCBT2 and Shinzen Young all have important puzzle pieces that I need to meet the challenges in my practice, and I Iisten to others as well, for inspiration (J. Krishnamurti, Rob Burbea, Ken McLeod, Sharda Rogell, Jack Kornfield...). When there is a problem, I use any method that deals with that particular problem in a way that resonates with me. The latest problem I have been dealing with was dropping into dreams (?) during meditation and forgetting to observe. For that particular problem, listening to Culadasa’s talks gave me tools that I could work with, and it helped (for now at least). When struggling with different parts of the dukkha nanas, your book MCTB2 was my Bible (it still kind of is), and it helped. I will soon be working with Michael Taft for ten sessions as I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship, and one of the reasons that I look forward to working with him so much is that he seems to be pragmatic and open to a varity of ways of practicing, so whatever he recommends for me I trust that he does because it seems to fit the particular challenges that I’m dealing with rather than just sticking to a particular tradition or paradigm.
Hey Linda, you seem to have similar phenomenon going on as I did when I started insight work. Electric buzzing sounds, little luminescent orbs (still have those) and the general tendency to have intense pyschedelic experiences. I was also confused on which tradition to follow or what techniques to stick with. After a while I realized what was working was just noticing what was happening through all sense doors. Just sticking with the bare sensations. Half the time I didn't even use a primary meditation object as it would tend towards dullness. It was difficult to not forget or get lost in mental content (or dreams) but after a while I was simply not bothered by the mental content (even though it was still happening).

When you get some momentum you'll learn to trust your intuition of where to give your attention. I was dabbling a bit in TMI and think it is a great practice but I knew deep down that I just needed to trust in my gut and let the damn thing unfold along the path of least resistance. Maybe it's just my own inherent aversion to strict discipline that gives me a distaste for following a specific practice for too long.  I think it was Alan Watts who said something along the lines of "Your spirituality is none of your business." I take that attitude into practice and just see what happens. 

That's awesome that you are working with Michael Taft. His podcast changed my life.

Hope my ranting helps emoticon Good luck! 

RE: Absorption beyond concepts or dullness?
Answer
2/9/19 3:13 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Thanks Nick! Yes, that does sound similar, although I’m not right now in a stage where this is very intense. I started out just following my intuition, and apparently what I have been doing involves some existing techniques that I had never heard of. Michael’s advice brought me back closer to where I started, albeit with a new direction that is better suited for this new spacious territory. At this point subconscious stuff comes up during practice because the surface is quiet. I need to dig further into that layer cake. Thus, there are objects there to investigate phenomenologically. It makes more sense to do so than just seeing them as distractions. I get bored too easily (I’m working on it), and even though those mental processes that are into meditating are not bored, there are other processes that would rather do something else than investigating the breath over and over again, so yep... the variation helps keeping me alert. An ADHD thing perhaps, or maybe I just share your aversion. Whatever method I use, I do the same thing, though. Like you said, I investigate the bare sensations. Intuition should not be underestimated. Sometimes it’s a bumpy ride, but it’s interesting all the way.

Yeah, that’s a great podcast. I have learned a lot from it.

Thanks for sharing! I appreciate it.