my concentration practice

C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

my concentration practice

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Can someone help here please?

When I concentrate on my breath, I find it easiest to visualize the breath going in and out of the nose. Is that ok?

I can get to a point where my breathing settles and becomes smoother and sort of silky - is this access concentration?

If I continue, the blackness behind my eyelids sort of widens out and becomes spacious and quiet, which grabs my attention. If I bring my attention to this spaciousness, it disappears immediately. So then I just decided to go back to the breath, but I never seem to break through to first jhana.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
C C C:

When I concentrate on my breath, I find it easiest to visualize the breath going in and out of the nose. Is that ok?

Not sure about the "visualization" part. Awareness of the breath will do. Yet following the breath at the tip of the nostrils is perfectly fine, if you know what you're doing and where you're going with that.

C C C:

I can get to a point where my breathing settles and becomes smoother and sort of silky - is this access concentration?

It might be. Not enough information in your description to go on, though. What about your concentration? Where is the mind and what is it doing during these moments of "smooth and silky" breathing? Are you able to gain any clarity of observation?

C C C:

If I continue, the blackness behind my eyelids sort of widens out and becomes spacious and quiet, which grabs my attention. If I bring my attention to this spaciousness, it disappears immediately. So then I just decided to go back to the breath, but I never seem to break through to first jhana.

If you don't mind my asking, whose instruction are you following? And what, exactly, is the instruction?
C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Hi Ian and thanks,

When you say awareness, do you mean awareness of the sound it makes or the feeling or something else? Is it ok to be aware of a few different aspects of the breath?

Some clarity, yes definitely. I don't get lost in trance-like state.

Broadly following your instructions, as per the sticky thread on all purpose jhana.

When I read through others' descriptions of 1st jhana, sometimes I wonder if I was in it. If I was to find an oasis in the desert, I'd feel relief, comfort and peace, but not bliss or rapture.

My main sticking point seems to be what to do when things 'widen out and quieten down'. It draws my attention away, I lose both my concentration and the new wider quieter state.
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Beoman Claudiu Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
My main sticking point seems to be what to do when things 'widen out and quieten down'. It draws my attention away, I lose both my concentration and the new wider quieter state.


You may be on the right track here, but I'm not sure. In any case, is it that you get excited a bit by the widening happening, then you try to focus on it and maintain it or have it expand, and that just makes it all fall apart? Try getting to that same place again, but don't grab onto the widening, and don't shy away from it, either. You probably just need to find the sweet spot to be able to maintain it, so keep getting back there and see if doing it more helps.

You might also like doing an open-eye kasina instead of the breath... it's easier to tell where you are in the jhanas with that.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
C C C:

When you say awareness, do you mean awareness of the sound it makes or the feeling or something else? Is it ok to be aware of a few different aspects of the breath?

Awareness of the breath overall. Nothing specific except perhaps the difference between a long breath and a short breath as described in the Satipatthana suttas. But even that can be modified depending on what you wish to observe. The idea is to be aware of the actual phenomena that is happening; to be able to discriminate, for instance, between a long and a short breath. The long and the short breath is just an example of what to become aware of.

This is very simple instruction, yet difficult to do when the mind is caught up in diffusion and unable to maintain concentration on any given phenomenon for any length of time in succession. In a diffuse mind, long and short get mixed up and combined such that the meditator has no idea from moment to moment what the breath is doing because his concentration is all askew. It doesn't matter what aspect of the breath you are paying attention to as long as you are consistent in your practice. Consistency helps to develop concentration ability. You can pay attention to a sound or a feeling or whatever else. I just find it less confusing to just follow the sutta instruction with regard to the length of the breath.

After a while, you should experience a pleasantness to the breathing process, which should manifest as a sensation or feeling. If you follow that sensation or feeling it will lead you to the first jhana. But don't be overly anxious about attaining jhana, or self-questioning: "Am I in it yet?" Just let it happen of its own accord. Maintain your focus on the pleasantness of the breathing process and follow that. Everything else will happen of its own accord.

Once you have been able to establish recognition of this process for entering jhana, and you're able to understand the subtleties of how to enter it, then you can experiment with different ways to enter it. Because then you will understand what it is all about. But until then, take it slow and easy, and don't pressure yourself about it.

C C C:

Some clarity, yes definitely. I don't get lost in trance-like state.

This is exactly what jhana concentration is supposed to help your mental faculties attain to. Mindfulness and clarity or sampajanna (clear comprehension or clear knowingness of phenomena). This is what the fourth jhana is all about: mindfulness, equanimity, and clear awareness. You want to be able to clearly recognize the three characteristics of phenomena (anicca, dukkha, and anatta) in order to re-condition the way the mind reacts to phenomena.

C C C:

Broadly following your instructions, as per the sticky thread on all purpose jhana.

Broadly, I should say. Perhaps overly broad.

I wouldn't be too concerned with observing the "blackness behind the eyelids." But maybe that's just me. When it comes to meditation, I don't trust visions. Visions can be manipulated and speculated upon in the mind. But sensations are pure and don't need much interpretation. If a sensation feels pleasant, it is a pleasant sensation. That's all that is needed to be observed. Follow that pleasantness as it takes you deeper into the calm (tranquility) of samatha meditation.

As far as the widening out of the blackness into spaciousness and quietness, the reason it disappears may be that you are over-thinking this and trying to grasp at it. It's like trying to grasp at air or water: as soon as you try to hold it, it slips through your fingers. Relax your grip and just enjoy the moment, and you will do fine.

C C C:

When I read through others' descriptions of 1st jhana, sometimes I wonder if I was in it. If I was to find an oasis in the desert, I'd feel relief, comfort and peace, but not bliss or rapture.

The oasis metaphor I gave was meant to help you to define piti or rapture/elation within your experience. If you can imagine those first few moments upon recognizing the oasis and how your emotions arise during those moments, you should be able to identify the rising elation (or rapture) that momentarily overcomes your emotions as you experience relief that you have found a sanctuary where your physical needs may be met. That description was meant to help you understand what piti is referring to using an example that you could imagine as happening to yourself. It was meant to help you recognize piti and to be able to differentiate it from sukha or pleasure/joy/happiness. It helps to have an analogous experience from which to draw comparisons in order to understand what the Pali words are referring to. That's all. That's what I was endeavoring to provide with that description.

C C C:

My main sticking point seems to be what to do when things 'widen out and quieten down'. It draws my attention away, I lose both my concentration and the new wider quieter state.

What you do is just relax while maintaining mindfulness (or "energetic alertness") so as not to wander off into a trance state or dull mindedness, and simply be in those moments without expecting anything more. Soon enough, your concentration should improve to the point that you may then begin to incline your mind toward phenomena (mental or physical objects) for further investigation without losing your calmness or the clarity of the moment.
C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Thanks everyone.

Notes to self: - Less effort (without losing clarity and focus).
- avoid grasping at any pleasant sensations that may arise.
C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Both those things helped a bit.

I just want to ask: is rapture and bliss really what happens, or is it more like comfort and peace and clarity?

My way of describing rapture would be something like the early stages of lust/romance. A very heady intoxication with strong sexual overtones, where your subtle energies are mixing fully and openly and any slight touch is like 'mmmmmm'.

My way of describing bliss would be catching the perfect wave.

Am I really expecting to feel this good with jhana? So far all I have is the peace and clarity and some intermittent absorption with my breath.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
C C C:
Both those things helped a bit.

It can sometimes take extended practice with these states to really feel confident about what you are doing. Don't be too concerned about it; just keep practicing.

C C C:

I just want to ask: is rapture and bliss really what happens, or is it more like comfort and peace and clarity?

My way of describing rapture would be something like the early stages of lust/romance. A very heady intoxication with strong sexual overtones, where your subtle energies are mixing fully and openly and any slight touch is like 'mmmmmm'. My way of describing bliss would be catching the perfect wave.

You've picked a pregnant description to use, but basically, you're on the right track.

Piti has been described by many experienced meditation instructors in many different ways. But, basically, it is that first rush of (mental and physical) delight or elation at experiencing something pleasant and agreeable. It generally only lasts for a few seconds, but can often last longer before it subsides into pleasure (sukha) which is less agitating and a more smooth (less agitating) experience. It all depends on who is experiencing it and how they've conditioned their system when experiencing these phenomena. It helps to be able to relate it to a concrete experience (reaction) that you've had in order to better understand what meditation guides are talking about.

C C C:

Am I really expecting to feel this good with jhana? So far all I have is the peace and clarity and some intermittent absorption with my breath.

Not necessarily, although many people (myself included) wanted to know what all the fuss was about and so didn't give up until they had experienced some sort of "bliss" moment similar to the descriptions they had heard or read about. Getting to a place of peace and clarity is the optimum situation that you can aspire to in terms of insight practice, so in that sense, I'd say that you were doing pretty well with your practice if this is what you are able to experience on a relatively consistent basis.

From my more mature practice, I tend now to view piti and sukha as vehicles that can carry the mind into a place of ease and unification while enhancing the levels of concentration necessary for insight work. Is it aways necessary to experience them while aiming at jhana levels of meditation? I certainly hope not as I tend to view them (or rather piti itself, more so than sukha) as agitating states of mind unconducive to the place I'd like to be when considering insight subjects for observation.

This is to say: If I concentrate on being aware of experiencing them, I will. But I don't think I that one need be too concerned about being aware of these factors when aiming at achieving the fourth jhana, where the mind rests in equanimity and mindfulness fully and clearly aware of whatever phenomenon it is observing and evaluating. I generally don't allow piti much leeway in my practice, only as much as is needed to bring on sukha. Which is to say that I'm more concerned with getting to that quiet, focused, imperturbable state at fourth jhana, because that is where all the magic (insight) takes place. This is, as I have stated, my own personal opinion and way of practicing.
C C C, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
I'm noticing my breath stays smoother now, even during the day when I'm not meditating.

However I'm getting my usual negative reactions:
1. excessive and exhausting dreaming at night. Waking up and feeling totally wrung out.
2. aching in my joints
3. worsening of depression

These are the symptoms I've had in the past that stop me practising.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
C C C:

However I'm getting my usual negative reactions:
1. excessive and exhausting dreaming at night. Waking up and feeling totally wrung out.
2. aching in my joints
3. worsening of depression

These are the symptoms I've had in the past that stop me practising.

These "negative reactions" as you call them may be subconscious pain that your mind is working through (perhaps analogous to Daniel's references in MCTB to the "Dark Night" material). If you don't confront and work through this phase of the training, it will only continue to pop up and haunt you again in the future. Keep practicing while endeavoring to identify during contemplation the specific painful moments that may be causing this. Just being able to confront the pain and accept it (and experience it) once and for all will allow the pain to collapse, blowing it off.

Once you get through this phase it should make insight practice more accessible and meaningful for you.
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Beoman Claudiu Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian And:
C C C:

However I'm getting my usual negative reactions:
1. excessive and exhausting dreaming at night. Waking up and feeling totally wrung out.
2. aching in my joints
3. worsening of depression

These are the symptoms I've had in the past that stop me practising.

These "negative reactions" as you call them may be subconscious pain that your mind is working through (perhaps analogous to Daniel's references in MCTB to the "Dark Night" material). If you don't confront and work through this phase of the training, it will only continue to pop up and haunt you again in the future. Keep practicing while endeavoring to identify during contemplation the specific painful moments that may be causing this. Just being able to confront the pain and accept it (and experience it) once and for all will allow the pain to collapse, blowing it off.

Once you get through this phase it should make insight practice more accessible and meaningful for you.


To use more MCTB lingo, #1 - excessive and exhaustive dreaming - is one of the marks of the A&P. Feeling wrung out and worsening depression is Dark Night stuff. Aching in the joints can be Dark Night or 3 Chars (3rd nyana). Or it can be unrelated symptoms combining in that way. Either way I agree with Ian's instructions.
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adam gregory greene, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: my concentration practice

Posts: 105 Join Date: 2/19/11 Recent Posts
I only recently was able to get into first jhana, I had alot of trouble before that, what changed for me was actually a lessening of effort. breath meditation is sort of like swimming up stream, then switching to downstream, at a certain point just try to relax into the breath without really focusing too hard on not thinking or getting jhana, just sort of be the breath and let the stream carry you

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