Is this access concentration?

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Jimi Patalano, modified 10 Years ago.

Is this access concentration?

Posts: 49 Join Date: 12/3/10 Recent Posts
My technique is anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing. my immediate goal is attaining to the four jhanas.

I sit, eye closed, and purposefully focus on being aware of the breath, of the various movements of the body that follow the breath, and of the sensations that arise with the breath. Specifically I usually pay the most attention to the rising and falling of the abdomen, to the cool and warm sensations in the nostrils, to the expansion and contraction of the chest, and the rising and faling of the shoulders.

After a few minutes - the time gets smaller with every session, as I get more used to "finding it" - a shift occurs.

Before the shift, I find that at best my 'awareness' of my body really consists of single moments of consciousness - like a stop-motion video. In other words, before the shift, my mind tracks, say, the rising and falling of my abdomen in the following manner: "The abdomen is here" [miniscule amount of time passes] "Now the abdomen is here" [time passes again] "Now it's here" etc.

After the shift, however, I find I can track the motion of the abdomen, or the cooling and warming of my nostrils, or whatever, in a truly continuous motion, like a detailed video. I am fully aware of the entire rising motion of the abdomen during the inhale, of the pause, and of the falling motion during the exhale. There are no gaps in awareness of the motion.

Now I am still not capable of maintaining this concentration indefinitely. Usually, I will 'watch' the movement of the abdomen for 3-5 breaths, until a distracting thought throws me off track. Immediately, however, I let the thought pass and forcefully return my conciousness to the present moment, regaining the concentration and continuing to track the motion of the abdomen.

When I am in this lucid state, my awareness of bodily motions and sensations are is not just a compilation of momentary frames, like photographs, but is a continuous "movie" of awareness, undistracted by considerations of anything else. In this state, I consciously and purposely change my focus between the abdomen, the nostrils, the chest, the shoulders, or any other parts of my body. example:

"What are my nostrils doing right now?" [Watch for 3-4 breaths] "OK now what is my chest doing?" [watch for 3-4 breaths] "Ok now what is my right thumb doing?" [watch for 3-4 breaths].

Is what I'm describing access concentration? Note that it this state is accompanied by a sense of stillness and comfort - I feel I coult maintain my position for hours without discomfort.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Is this access concentration? (Answer)

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Jimi Patalano:
My technique is anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing. my immediate goal is attaining to the four jhanas.

After a few minutes - the time gets smaller with every session, as I get more used to "finding it" - a shift occurs.

Now I am still not capable of maintaining this concentration indefinitely. Usually, I will 'watch' the movement of the abdomen for 3-5 breaths, until a distracting thought throws me off track.

Immediately, however, I let the thought pass and forcefully return my conciousness to the present moment, regaining the concentration and continuing to track the motion of the abdomen.

When I am in this lucid state, my awareness of bodily motions and sensations are is not just a compilation of momentary frames, like photographs, but is a continuous "movie" of awareness,

undistracted by considerations of anything else.

In this state, I consciously and purposely change my focus between the abdomen, the nostrils, the chest, the shoulders, or any other parts of my body.

Is what I'm describing access concentration? Note that this state is accompanied by a sense of stillness and comfort - I feel I could maintain my position for hours without discomfort.

Sounds pretty good, Jimi. Without being able to question you more, it sounds as though at times you may have hit the first (or better) jhana.

Generally speaking, you're in "access concentration" when practicing samatha (tranquility) meditation when you are able to remain focused on the object of meditation for at least 3 to 5 consecutive minutes or more (10-20 minutes usually indicates jhana) without becoming distracted or without unnoticed distraction. Appana samadhi (or the jhanic level of samadhi) just means "fixed concentration." Being able to remain fixed on the object of meditation for however long you incline the mind to that object, be it a physical object like the breath or a mental object like observing the five aggregates.

This ability to remain fixed on the object contributes to the arising of insight when one focuses on observing one's experience in terms of the Dhamma. There's really nothing all that special about jhana. . . except that it gives one an extraordinary control over the movement of the mind and the ability to observe whatever one decides to observe without becoming distracted from that. It's like the mind becomes a steel trap locked on the object. It only moves when you want it to move. It's an extraordinary accomplishment when you realize you are able to do it at will.

There are a number of ways that people use to endeavor to enter jhanic concentration levels. But that's another story altogether.
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Jimi Patalano, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Is this access concentration?

Posts: 49 Join Date: 12/3/10 Recent Posts
Thanks Ian for your helpful assessment! I've only been on DhO for 4 or 5 days and I already feel at home emoticon

Ian And:

Generally speaking, you're in "access concentration" when practicing samatha (tranquility) meditation when you are able to remain focused on the object of meditation for at least 3 to 5 consecutive minutes or more (10-20 minutes usually indicates jhana) without becoming distracted or without unnoticed distraction.


One thing that's been confusing to me in terms of analyzing my meditation experiences are the thoughts that I have while concentrating on the breath. I know that complete absence of directed thoughts is not something to expect until reaching at least the second jhana. But I guess what's confusing is which thoughts count as "distracting" thoughts.

For example, here are some verbalizations of a few common thoughts that arise while I'm in concentration:

1) "I'm observing this part of my body"
2) "This part of my body is doing this."
3) "Now I want to switch to observing another part of the body. Here I go."
4) "Wow, I'm really doing a good job at concentrating right now!"
5) "Now, if only I could maintain this state for a few more minutes..."
6) "Hm, I wonder if what I'm experiencing right now is what the Buddha was talking about when he described [x, y or z]?"
7) "I feel really comfortable right now. This is nice!"

Which of these thoughts are inherent, or at least common, in, say, the "directed thought" of the first jhana? Which, if any, are considered not inherent in first jhana, and/or distractions to be noticed and then let go of?

Since my immediate goal at the moment is reaching the first jhana and dwelling there for an extended length of time, I ask this in order to know which kinds of thoughts to allow to effect my experience, and which to simply let pass.

For example, when the thought arises "now I'd like to switch to observing the nostrils, instead of the abdomen", should I 'listen to' that thought, (i.e. start observing the nostrils), or should I just let it pass without listening to it?

Or, by looking for such a distinction, am I missing the point?

Thanks again for you help. I hope I'm being clear in what I'm, asking.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Is this access concentration?

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Jimi Patalano:

One thing that's been confusing to me in terms of analyzing my meditation experiences are the thoughts that I have while concentrating on the breath. I know that complete absence of directed thoughts is not something to expect until reaching at least the second jhana. But I guess what's confusing is which thoughts count as "distracting" thoughts.

For example, here are some verbalizations of a few common thoughts that arise while I'm in concentration:

1) "I'm observing this part of my body"
2) "This part of my body is doing this."
3) "Now I want to switch to observing another part of the body. Here I go."
4) "Wow, I'm really doing a good job at concentrating right now!"
5) "Now, if only I could maintain this state for a few more minutes..."
6) "Hm, I wonder if what I'm experiencing right now is what the Buddha was talking about when he described [x, y or z]?"
7) "I feel really comfortable right now. This is nice!"

Which of these thoughts are inherent, or at least common, in, say, the "directed thought" of the first jhana? Which, if any, are considered not inherent in first jhana, and/or distractions to be noticed and then let go of?

As long as you are able to maintain contact with the breath in terms of attention (as on the periphery, for example) then these thoughts are just momentarily arising and passing. It's when you begin exploring a thought (as for example like #6 above) that you can become distracted from the breath. You begin exploring a thought and five minutes later you discover, "Whoa, I've lost contact with the breath, and my mind has been wandering. Return to the breath." It's all about awareness and where it resides with regard to distraction.

Jimi Patalano:

. . . the "directed thought" of the first jhana . . .

The thoughts you mentioned above would not be considered "directed thought" in the context of attempting to enter into jhana. If you read the discourses describing meditation (such as the Anapanasati Sutta), it tells you about the context there. When inducing a samatha jhana using the breath, one endeavors to find a pleasant sensation to focus on through directing the mind (to a fabricated experience, for example) and following where it leads the mind into a "pleasant abiding in the here and now." This induction of the samatha jhana is the kind of "directed thought" that is meant in the stock description of jhana found in the discourses. An excellent example of this kind of inducing of jhana can be found in Thanissaro Bhikkhu's ebook Mind Like Fire Unbound starting at Habits & practices on through to Doctrines of the self.

You may also wish to read carefully through the thread A General, All Purpose Jhana Thread to find other hints about this.
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Is this access concentration?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Jimi Patalano:
Thanks Ian for your helpful assessment! I've only been on DhO for 4 or 5 days and I already feel at home emoticon

Ian And:

Generally speaking, you're in "access concentration" when practicing samatha (tranquility) meditation when you are able to remain focused on the object of meditation for at least 3 to 5 consecutive minutes or more (10-20 minutes usually indicates jhana) without becoming distracted or without unnoticed distraction.


One thing that's been confusing to me in terms of analyzing my meditation experiences are the thoughts that I have while concentrating on the breath. I know that complete absence of directed thoughts is not something to expect until reaching at least the second jhana. But I guess what's confusing is which thoughts count as "distracting" thoughts.

For example, here are some verbalizations of a few common thoughts that arise while I'm in concentration:

1) "I'm observing this part of my body"
2) "This part of my body is doing this."
3) "Now I want to switch to observing another part of the body. Here I go."
4) "Wow, I'm really doing a good job at concentrating right now!"
5) "Now, if only I could maintain this state for a few more minutes..."
6) "Hm, I wonder if what I'm experiencing right now is what the Buddha was talking about when he described [x, y or z]?"
7) "I feel really comfortable right now. This is nice!"

Which of these thoughts are inherent, or at least common, in, say, the "directed thought" of the first jhana? Which, if any, are considered not inherent in first jhana, and/or distractions to be noticed and then let go of?

Since my immediate goal at the moment is reaching the first jhana and dwelling there for an extended length of time, I ask this in order to know which kinds of thoughts to allow to effect my experience, and which to simply let pass.

For example, when the thought arises "now I'd like to switch to observing the nostrils, instead of the abdomen", should I 'listen to' that thought, (i.e. start observing the nostrils), or should I just let it pass without listening to it?

Or, by looking for such a distinction, am I missing the point?

Thanks again for you help. I hope I'm being clear in what I'm, asking.


in my personal experience, even when reaching 5th to 7th jhanas (and what I think is 8th jhana), I'll still have thoughts coming in. If i follow them too much then my concentration breaks. but they can just hang out there.

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