Need Help with first jhana

Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
I have been trying to reach the first jhana but I am finding it hard to tell if I have reached it because I don't know what to look for. I have read the sticky about jhanas (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1191517). When meditating on breath I feel like a shift of my vision (even though my eyes are closed) that sometimes is like a shaking and then my body sometimes feels  smaller or different in some way (this is hard to explain) and sometimes it just feels like my visual plane (again my eyes are closed) seems to take different forums, I don't know what this is but I usually can't stay in it long as I become distracted by the sensation with causes thoughts to arise. Can any one help me? Thanks.
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
I have been trying to reach the first jhana but I am finding it hard to tell if I have reached it because I don't know what to look for. I have read the sticky about jhanas (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1191517). When meditating on breath I feel like a shift of my vision (even though my eyes are closed) that sometimes is like a shaking and then my body sometimes feels  smaller or different in some way (this is hard to explain) and sometimes it just feels like my visual plane (again my eyes are closed) seems to take different forums, I don't know what this is but I usually can't stay in it long as I become distracted by the sensation with causes thoughts to arise. Can any one help me? Thanks.


If you are meditating on just the breath, try focusing on just the breath! all the attention you used on noticing your vision changing, on thoughts, etc. - use that attention to really stick to the breath, instead. From MCTB:
MCTB:

For instance, if you were using the breath as an object, try to be aware of every single breath at least in part for a full ten minutes, and then for an hour. This is definitely possible, and a reasonable goal. Try not paying too much attention to the individual sensations themselves, but conceptualize the breath as a coherent and continuous entity, with many different types of sensations all being thought of as being the breath. It is important to know that really getting into a sense of the breath as a continuous entity for ten seconds will do you more good than being generally with the breath on and off for an hour.


As to what to look for, from the same page:
MCTB:

As concentration improves, it is as though the mind “sees” the first jhana and grabs on to it. Having an idea of what you are looking for, i.e. something enjoyable and steady, can be helpful for this. It has the five primary factors of applied and sustained effort or attention, rapture, happiness and concentration. Thus, it is great fun, feels good, but takes consistent effort to sustain.


I'd say once you have a good handle on your breath, try focusing on the pleasant sensations of the breath, or the pleasant sensations of your body moving with your breath. (I realize the pleasant sensations on the body aren't the same as on the breath, and it's a different object, but for me when starting out I seemed to get into it by focusing on pleasant body sensations.)

I'd say to read that whole MCTB page (linked above) if you haven't, or re-read it if you have.
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice, I have read that page two or three times but how will I know when I am in the jhana?
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
Thanks for the advice, I have read that page two or three times but how will I know when I am in the jhana?


Look for pleasant sensations in your body that tend to grow as you stay focused on them. Or maybe your breath will become really connected, free-flowing, syrupy almost. Also see if distracting thoughts affect you less. I think the first few times I got there I just had a general bodily sense of feeling really good, though it was not too obvious (I didn't realize it was 1st jhana till later). I think eventually you'll notice some pattern that keeps happening and you'll recognize it as 1st jhana.

You can also try smiling. Smiling feels good and you can use the little joy you get from the act of smiling to build up into more joy and more feeling good.

I'd try to avoid asking yourself every 10 seconds while meditating, "am I in 1st jhana now?" That's natural, and I've been guilty of that a lot, and you can stay in jhana while being somewhat distracted by that, but it disrupts your meditation. Try doing the whole sit paying attention to breath/body and pleasant sensations, then review afterwards.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
I have been trying to reach the first jhana but I am finding it hard to tell if I have reached it because I don't know what to look for. I have read the sticky about jhanas (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1191517).

When meditating on breath I feel like a shift of my vision (even though my eyes are closed) that sometimes is like a shaking and then my body sometimes feels  smaller or different in some way (this is hard to explain) and sometimes it just feels like my visual plane (again my eyes are closed) seems to take different forums, I don't know what this is but I usually can't stay in it long as I become distracted by the sensation which causes thoughts to arise.

I have read that page two or three times but how will I know when I am in the jhana?

Hi Ian,

The question you asked ("How will I know when I am in the jhana?") is among the difficulties of attempting to discuss these subtle states when on the Internet. It is, of course, better to have someone with whom you are able to discuss these matters in person. It can be a tricky and slippery phenomenon (jhana, that is) to describe to someone who has not had any contact with this level of concentration, and therefore has little experience to fall back on in order to be able to make these determinations.

All that difficulty aside, though, I will endeavor to describe the first jhana in terms that you may be more able to relate to from an experiential standpoint. I have been preparing just such an addendum for the "General, All Purpose Jhana Thread" so as to help out other people in a similar predicament. I'm not finished with it just yet as it is a secondary writing project for me, and I haven't been able to return to it for more than two weeks. But I will share with you the section that applies to the question you asked, which may help you to better understand this from your own experience.

The sections from Daniel's book that Beoman has quoted are pretty good and accurate. Yet, as you say, being unfamiliar with the territory, they leave you with little idea of what to look for in terms of the first jhana.

It might be good at this point not to be too concerned with being able to identify all the traditional jhana factors themselves and just to focus on the overall "feel" of the state itself. In that regard, let's see if we can arrive at a description that yields itself to your understanding.

When I was first learning about jhana and how to attain it, I came across an intuitive description of it by long-time practitioner Leigh Brasington. I used his description map to help me be able to determine whether or not I had attained jhana. Rather than refer you to that map (as there are several things in it that I do not currently agree with any longer) I will quote the parts of it that I think will help you to understand how to discern this first level of jhana from your own experience.

Entry into the first Jhana from a physiological perspective proceeds something like this:

1. You quiet your mind with the initial and sustained attention (vitakka and vicara) to the meditation subject [the breath].

2. By shifting your attention to a pleasant sensation (piti), you set up a positive reinforcement feedback loop within your quiet mind. For example, one of the most useful pleasant sensations to focus on is a smile. The act of smiling generates endorphins, which make you feel good, which makes you smile more, which generates more endorphins, etc.

3. The final and most difficult part of entering the First Jhana is to not do anything but observe the pleasure (sukkha). Any attempt to increase the pleasure, even any thoughts of wanting to increase the pleasure, interrupt the feedback loop and drop you into a less quiet state of mind. But by doing nothing but focusing intently on the pleasure, you are propelled into an unmistakably altered state of consciousness (ekaggata).

Now, I don't agree with his characterization of the first jhana as an "altered state of consciousness," but I do agree that it is one-pointed (ekaggata) and that it has the feel of a unification of the mind on its object.

The practice of jhana, in my experience, has been revealed to be a fluid process, in many ways similar to a moving river, not standing still but always moving forward in whatever direction the mind is inclined to place its attention. Often, the movement is so subtle and quick as to be almost invisible to the conscious mind, making it nearly impossible for the practitioner to observe in real time. And yet practitioners may in general be dependent on making these observations of subtle mental movement in order to confirm which level they might have attained.

A better way of viewing this process for someone who is inexperienced and does not have access to a meditation guide might be to use the map provided by Leigh Brasington wherein by following the description in the "Suttas" column one may find some general descriptions which more accurately match up with one's experience of the process while one is in the early stages of its development within their practice regimen. These descriptions are more easily recognized and may serve at this early stage as a more solid knowledge base for the practice.

Using Leigh's map, the only stage that might seem to be somewhat vague and indistinct could be the stock description of the first jhana. Without an experienced instructor, it might be difficult to figure out the relationship of vitakka and vicara to the arising of piti (the momentary upswell of rapture or elation) and sukkha (the smooth arising of pleasure or joy) as the mind begins to become fixed on an object (either mental or physical), producing a pleasant sensation or mental effect.

At this point, one might examine a passage from the Mahasaccaka Sutta (MN 36) in order to help fill in some missing information about the attainment of the first jhana. In the sutta, Gotama describes his difficulty in obtaining enlightenment to a Jain ascetic. He tells the Jain that after realizing the futility of his ascetic practices of starving his body, he recalled an occasion that occurred to him as a young child:

"I recall that when my father the Sakyan was occupied [ploughing in the field], while I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Could that be the path to enlightenment? Then, following on that memory, came the realization: 'That is the path to enlightenment.'

"I thought: 'Why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states?' I thought: 'I am not afraid of that pleasure since it has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states.' "

In this passage Gotama relates his experience as a young boy attaining the first jhana. Key to the description of this passage is the young Gotama's experiencing such a pleasurable state by being “quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states.” Instead of finding pleasure by engaging in the many distractions and activities that would have interested a boy of that age, the young Gotama finds pleasure through being secluded from these activities. And he determines that this kind of mental pleasure is not an unwholesome state nor does it have anything to do with unwholesome sensual pleasure.

What is important to note about this passage is that it does not convey any notion at all that the young Gotama entered into any type of concentrated mental "absorption" that shut out the world. Quite the contrary, the passage conveys a sense of effortless relaxation and relinquishment with no mention nor any hint of an idea of losing all contact with the surrounding world. The young Gotama used this pleasantly relaxed state to discover the natural process of the unification of the mind while also experiencing inner tranquility.

The first jhana had demonstrated to Gotama that for the mind to quiet down (become tranquil) it was necessary for it to be at ease (to be secluded from unwholesome states or thought) and to be so concentrated as to be unified (a oneness of mind, focused on its object). Such a state of mind can foster a sign in the form of a sensation (such as a pressure in the center of the forehead between the brows) which may signal the onset of deeper levels of concentration. (At least this distinction has been reported by countless practitioners, each of whom has experienced this pressure in the center of the brow along with the corresponding increase in concentration.)

Gotama then went ahead and began to cultivate those states that offered an experience of pleasure or joy, which turned out to be his description of the first jhana. It is likely that the pleasurable feeling in the first jhana was something similar to the relaxing, blissful feeling of disengaging the senses which Gotama experienced as a young boy, yet arrived at through the formal skill of meditation by directing (vitakka) his mind toward this pleasurable state and cultivating its continuation through its examination (vicara). It is in this way that I understand the terms vitakka and vicara to be used within the context of their reference in the discourses to the first jhana. In other words, if one is making the attempt to enter into jhana from the standpoint of a busy and occupied mind, as is usually the case right before one engages in a meditative sitting, then one uses one's ability of concentration to induce a relaxed and pleasurable mental state that is maintained through directed attention and examination of this pleasurable activity in the first stage of its occurrence and development, which we call the first jhana.

As the second stage of the development of jhana begins to occur, a slightly different set of mental factors come into play in which vitakka (directed attention) and vicara (examination or evaluation) are dropped as tools to maintain the emergence of the jhana, and inner tranquility and unification of mind along with piti (rapture or elation) and sukkha (pleasure or joy) take precedence.

In the second level of jhana, the jhana factors of vitakka and vicara are replaced by this "positive reinforcement feedback loop" that Leigh writes about. This feedback loop is something that develops all on its own within the unified atmosphere of the mind which is absorbed in or on its object. In other words, it is an effortless phenomenon that arises as the mind becomes enveloped in the pleasurable sensation of the absorption state.

Therefore, the things to look for in terms of the first jhana are the ability of the mind to remain concentrated (upacara samadhi or "neighborhood concentration") on an object which is pleasurable to observe or to stay focused upon. As this pleasurable feeling or sensation is realized (comes to fruition), one can be inescapably impelled forward into the second jhana (often literally within seconds after having reached the first jhana) wherein this "positive reinforcement feedback loop" takes over, and the second jhana is held in place in the mind without your having to make any effort at all except to focus on the enjoyment of its arising.

As you can perhaps now begin to appreciate, these subtle states can be very difficult and slippery to describe in words. But once you've had the experience, then you begin to understand what the words are referring to in terms of your direct experience.

I hope this helps you to begin solving, in your own mind, just what the first jhana is and how to enter it. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Ian
C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
I'm also trying to stabilize my concentration Ian. I found Kenneth Folk's description helpful. He uses metaphor a lot, which I think is the ideal way to describe such subjective phenomena.

http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/Jhana+and+%C3%91ana
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
Thanks Ian (feels odd saying that lol). I feel like I may have experienced the first jhana but I don't want to trick myself, so please tell me if you think this was it or not. After a few minutes of being mindful of breath, I began to follow my breath to the pit of my stomach where my breath touched the bottom and turned up I found a great source of pleasure there and which I then set my concentration on. Though I was still having trouble focusing on it, there were moments of what felt like absorption but I was drawn out by thoughts about the future and thoughts wondering if I am in it or not, I know this can be corrected by practice though. I think I may have gotten to the positive feedback loop for mere second but was quickly drawn out be thoughts. I am still not completely convinced that this was the first jhana because I have found that I can access this pleasure in seconds anytime I want without meditation and I am worried that it might just be effects of my medication that I have never noticed before, what do you think?
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
Thanks Ian (feels odd saying that lol). I feel like I may have experienced the first jhana but I don't want to trick myself, so please tell me if you think this was it or not. After a few minutes of being mindful of breath, I began to follow my breath to the pit of my stomach where my breath touched the bottom and turned up I found a great source of pleasure there and which I then set my concentration on. Though I was still having trouble focusing on it, there were moments of what felt like absorption but I was drawn out by thoughts about the future and thoughts wondering if I am in it or not, I know this can be corrected by practice though. I think I may have gotten to the positive feedback loop for mere second but was quickly drawn out be thoughts. I am still not completely convinced that this was the first jhana because I have found that I can access this pleasure in seconds anytime I want without meditation and I am worried that it might just be effects of my medication that I have never noticed before, what do you think?


You might be on the right track. See if you can maintain it for longer.

When you say " I can access this pleasure in seconds anytime I want without meditation," how are you accessing the pleasure in seconds? By what method, I mean, and how is that method different from 'meditation' as you are using the word? When did you learn how to do that?
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
I just follow my breath and feel it in my stomach. It's not to say that it couldn't be considered meditation but it happens so effortlessly.
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
I just follow my breath and feel it in my stomach. It's not to say that it could be considered meditation but it happens so effortlessly.


Try a few formal sits where you do just that, and see what happens. Effortless is a good sign (as long as it is effortless concentration, attentiveness, etc., and not effortless spinning-in-thought).
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
Ok I will try this some more and see where it takes me.
Edit: I would still like to know what Ian or anyone else has to say about this, thanks.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
Thanks Ian (feels odd saying that lol). I feel like I may have experienced the first jhana but I don't want to trick myself, so please tell me if you think this was it or not. After a few minutes of being mindful of breath, I began to follow my breath to the pit of my stomach where my breath touched the bottom and turned up I found a great source of pleasure there and which I then set my concentration on. Though I was still having trouble focusing on it, there were moments of what felt like absorption but I was drawn out by thoughts about the future and thoughts wondering if I am in it or not, I know this can be corrected by practice though. I think I may have gotten to the positive feedback loop for mere second but was quickly drawn out be thoughts.

Hi Ian,

When you find yourself up to your hips in alligators, just remember that your only objective was to drain the swamp! Now. . . what do I mean by that?

Go back to the third point in Brasington's description and re-read it. To save you the time of tracking it down, I'll repeat it for you: "The final and most difficult part of entering the First Jhana is to not do anything but observe the pleasure (sukkha). Any attempt to increase the pleasure, even any thoughts of wanting to increase the pleasure, interrupt the feedback loop and drop you into a less quiet state of mind. But by doing nothing but focusing intently on the pleasure, you are propelled into an unmistakable [absorbed state.]"

It sounds as though you are doing well. Just on the doorstep. But just remember Brasington's advice quoted above when you feel like you are being "drawn out by thoughts about the future and thoughts wondering if I am in it or not." That's where you are getting hung up. But don't feel bad. Everyone gets hung up there. Keep practicing to just observe (remain focused on) the pleasure and let the mind go deeper and deeper into the calm of a samatha meditation. It's only natural to wonder whether or not you are there yet. Whenever those thoughts arise, re-focus the mind on the process at hand, which is to observe the pleasure. That's all you have to do. It's not easy at first; but it gets easier the more you keep bringing the mind back to the task at hand.

As you become able to hold your concentration more steady, you'll be able to accomplish this effortlessly. And then distracting thoughts won't be such a problem, because they will pass by on the periphery of your focus while you observe the pleasure undistracted by them.

Also, remember my description of jhana as being "a fluid process, in many ways similar to a moving river, not standing still but always moving forward in whatever direction the mind is inclined to place its attention." The key here is the inclination of the mind while in the moving stream of the jhana. The more you practice the better you will get at this. It just really only takes practice. You'll get there, be assured of that.

The only pointer I would suggest to help with this process is that during this time when you are just beginning to learn about attaining to this level of concentration that you practice to calm the mind further and further until you reach a point where the breath becomes barely noticeable. That was the key suggestion that Leigh wrote about that helped me to begin having success. Maintain your concentration on calming the movement of the mind. When that happens and you can get to the fourth jhana, where the breath becomes very shallow, you will experience the wonder of a quiet mind. And you will also experience a level of clear, bright, luminous concentration that will allow you to then focus the mind on any object (or subject) for observation. ("Object" here is used in reference to a physical object like the breath, and "subject" meaning a mental object like the three characteristics or the five aggregates.)

With practice, you can bring your samadhi to the point of being appana samadhi or "fixed concentration," the kind of samadhi that is characterized as being jhana. So, whenever the mind wants to wander (during this period while you are learning to enter jhana at will) simply incline the mind toward calming. You are seeking to calm all mental movement as much as possible — including piti and sukkha, if you can detect them, which is why these also have vanished by the fourth jhana.

Rather than trying to figure out whether or not you are in jhana while you are meditating, save that conjecture until after the meditation session has ended, when you can review what just happened. Don't worry or be concerned about whether you are "doing it right" while you are doing it. Just do it and focus on calming the mind, and everything else should take care of itself in due course.

Ian Edwards:

I am still not completely convinced that this was the first jhana because I have found that I can access this pleasure in seconds anytime I want without meditation and I am worried that it might just be effects of my medication that I have never noticed before, what do you think?

Oddly enough, it is possible to access this kind of concentration outside of formal meditation, just as you have described. Give yourself some credit. Yet depending on what kind of medication you are talking about, it's not possible for me to speculate on that variable.
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
Okay I decided that the feeling in my stomach was not to do with the jhana, after meditating on it i found that it is always there, I just don't always realize it, so I don't know what it is. During todays morning sit, however, I believe that I successfully entered the first jhana. It really seems like It's one of those things that you can't know what it is till you've experienced it. I was simply focusing on in and out breath when it came to a point where my whole body felt blissful and quiet, it was very pleasant. I still focused on the breath but also felt the bliss at the same time, thoughts arose but it was very easy to push them aside. My timer went off however and startled me, which doesn't usually happen because I am usually anticipating it. But after getting up I felt odd, like a dizzy drunk feeling.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:

During todays morning sit, however, I believe that I successfully entered the first jhana. It really seems like It's one of those things that you can't know what it is till you've experienced it. I was simply focusing on in and out breath when it came to a point where my whole body felt blissful and quiet, it was very pleasant. I still focused on the breath but also felt the bliss at the same time, thoughts arose but it was very easy to push them aside. My timer went off however and startled me, which doesn't usually happen because I am usually anticipating it.

Now that sounds more like it. That's jhana: fixed concentration or appana samadhi.

Each time you sit, try to recall how you entered that state, and you'll be able to do this at will. In the process of learning this, you may also discover other ways to enter into it. It will be at that stage that you will have attain mastery over this practice. Mastery comes with time and practice. Don't worry about developing it; it will happen just in the course of extensive practice.

Ian Edwards:

But after getting up I felt odd, like a dizzy drunk feeling.

Ah, yes. This drunk dizzy feeling is a sign of dull-mindedness. It's not something that you want to encourage. I went through this also when I was developing jhana. Spent several months thinking that this was how it should be done. Then, a good Dhamma friend of mine who was more experienced in meditation than I suggested that I apply mindfulness to this in order to eliminate the dull-mindedness. That dull-mindedness can be a very suggestive state, similar to hypnosis. This is not what you want to cultivate. You want to cultivate mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati sampajanna). Mindfulness and clear comprehension allow you to begin "seeing things as they truly are." Dull-mindedness does the opposite: it fosters illusions and delusions.

Read the following essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Jhana Not by the Numbers. In it he presents practitioners with several different insights about the jhana process. Some of them are specific to his practice, but all can be applied to anyone's practice. Of particular interest to what I've been discussing regarding this dull-minded state, pay close attention to the paragraph toward the end of the essay where he is describing a state he hit "in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep.

"After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, 'Do you like it?' My answer was 'No,' because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. 'Good,' he said. 'As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment.' "

That groggy feeling was dull-mindedness. It is cured by maintaining sati or mindfulness while you are meditating. I know, it sounds almost counter-intuitive. At one point you are told that in order to enter jhana you have to relax; and in the next instant, you're told to maintain mental alertness or mindfulness. But the two can go together. And they must go together if you want any chance of experiencing awakening.

A few paragraphs up from the one I referenced, there is this, which relates directly to my last statement in the paragraph above:

Strong concentration is absolutely necessary for liberating insight. "Without a firm basis in concentration," he often said, "insight is just concepts." To see clearly the connections between stress and its causes, the mind has to be very steady and still. And to stay still, it requires the strong sense of well being that only strong concentration can provide.

So, if you develop your sati (mindfulness) before sitting in meditation and carry it forward throughout your sitting, you should not develop this dull-minded state; rather, your concentration should be clear, bright, illuminating, steady, and imperturbable. This is the perfect state in which to contemplate the truths of the Dhamma, because it allows the mind to arrive at realizations and to break through ignorance.
Ian Edwards, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 11/19/10 Recent Posts
Thanks so much guys, I have successfully gone into the jhana a few times now and it's already improved my concentration a lot. Before I was only able to have 10 minute sits because I couldn't stay focused but I've had to move my time up to 20 min. because I can sit longer now. This is something that has been bothering me for along time now. I just need to work on keeping mindful to avoid the dull mindedness that Ian was explaining. Thanks.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Need Help with first jhana

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Ian Edwards:
I have successfully gone into the jhana a few times now and it's already improved my concentration a lot. Before I was only able to have 10 minute sits because I couldn't stay focused but I've had to move my time up to 20 min. because I can sit longer now.

One thing that will help you to develop stronger mindfulness for jhana meditation is to just realize that in order to enjoy the pleasure that results from entering jhana you don't need to relax your alertness. Just being able to become aware (through mental alertness) of the pleasantness of the breath and continuing to observe it as you meditate will help you to strengthen your mindfulness. The longer you are able to maintain that mindfulness, the stronger it becomes, until you finally reach a point where it stays with you 24/7. The development of mindfulness is the key to awakening.

Along with this would be to increase the amount of your meditation sittings to at least 30 minutes apiece, with the ultimate goal of increasing it to one hour. The sooner you are able to begin meditating for at least one hour a sitting, the more benefit you will gain from having spent that time in contemplation, especially if the majority of it was spent practicing jhana. The jhanic state has a way of carrying over into your waking conscious moments away from the meditation cushion. In other words, it helps to increase the duration of your mindfulness in your everyday activities. Everything becomes easier to accomplish when you practice jhana, because it helps you to increase concentration which in turn helps you to increase general overall mindfulness. This is why Gotama urged his followers so often in the discourses to practice and develop jhana. It is a tool that helps the practitioner become more proficient in a number of mental activities, including mindfulness, which itself is the keystone to the instruction which Gotama recommended in the process of awakening. Increased mindfulness helps one to reduce dukkha (unsatisfactoriness).

If you need some help with understanding mindfulness, read the sticky on The Practical Aspects of Establishing Mindfulness. These are hints and tips for how to go about developing mindfulness.

Maintain your practice in meditation/contemplation on a daily basis. Don't allow excuses to meditate to hinder your progress. Meditate with diligence and commitment and one day you will experience the full benefits of that practice. Once you are able to maintain mastery over the jhanic state, you will be ready to practice satipatthana. Satipatthana is the direct path to realization which Gotama taught. This is the heart of Buddhist meditation.

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