Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose both

Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose both

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
I've been meditating for about two months now. My technique was watching the breath at the very tip of the nose, and several weeks ago I developed what I can only guess is called access concentration, in that my mind never truly loses my object anymore, there is occasional side chatter, and the intensity of the concentration wanes and spills but it is always unmistakably there.

I decided to change the focus of my meditation, I guess the cool feeling of the breath at the nose was not pleasing enough, as within 3 meditation sessions with this new focus something amazing happened which lead me here. I began focusing on the feeling of heaviness, letting go of tension, etc at the outbreath and the feeling of invigoration with the inbreath instead of focusing on the physical sensations at the nose.

Shorty after this, I began losing focus of the vague invigoration with the inbreath, all I felt was the heaviness and relaxation deepening, on the inbreath slightly, and greatly on the outbreath.

Soon it began amplifying as I focused on it more intensely, it amplified itself the more I focused, and what I can only describe as explosions of positive chemicals and feelings began in my head. My eyesight seemed to change even though my eyes were closed if that makes any sense, I saw light flashes, my eyebrows quivered a bit, once of twice a feeling of elation swept my whole body. As I focused on the elation I lost touch with the feeling of heaviness through my body that had created it, all I felt were the explosions and the good feelings in my head. They were erratic though, coming and going, hard to keep a hold of, and quickly I lost track of them leading to me having to "start from the beginning" and rebuild the sensation of relaxation in the body.

I've done the same thing around 8 sessions now, at first I held the level where I left the body and focused on the feeling itself magnifying for around a minute, now I seem to quickly and suddenly leave the body as the relaxation begins to amplify, feel a jolt or two of the joy (it really feels like a jolt or explosion of good in a pocket in my brain almost) and then nothing again.

As far as I can tell I keep entering the first and immediately hovering between first and second only to lose both.

Anyone with advice on how to slow this or progress through it? I almost feel like I'm going straight from first to second as at best I feel a momentary sweep of elation in the body before my mind focuses soley on the feeling in the head and leaves the body (my object) behind.
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hey Matthew, and welcome.

Though you have been doing concentration practice you may have chanced into and through the A&P (lemme know if you're not familiar with MCTB terminology).

Matthew N:
I've been meditating for about two months now. My technique was watching the breath at the very tip of the nose, and several weeks ago I developed what I can only guess is called access concentration, in that my mind never truly loses my object anymore, there is occasional side chatter, and the intensity of the concentration wanes and spills but it is always unmistakably there.

sounds like access concentration, yeah.

Matthew N:
Shorty after this, I began losing focus of the vague invigoration with the inbreath, all I felt was the heaviness and relaxation deepening, on the inbreath slightly, and greatly on the outbreath.
stuff changing in phase with the breath sounds like 1st-3rd stages.

Matthew N:
Soon it began amplifying as I focused on it more intensely, it amplified itself the more I focused, and what I can only describe as explosions of positive chemicals and feelings began in my head.
could be piti becoming more apparent as going into 2nd samatha jhana, but the intensity which you describe it sounds you entered the A&P (2nd vipassana jhana).

Matthew N:
My eyesight seemed to change even though my eyes were closed if that makes any sense, I saw light flashes, my eyebrows quivered a bit, once of twice a feeling of elation swept my whole body. As I focused on the elation I lost touch with the feeling of heaviness through my body that had created it, all I felt were the explosions and the good feelings in my head.
o ya we are used to seeing things with our eyes closed, no worries =). more marks of A&P: light flashing, extra energy (causing the eyebrows to quiver), feelings of elation, explosiveness, good feelings in your head, etc.

They were erratic though
one of the Three Characteristics - suffering,
coming and going,
impermanence
hard to keep a hold of
impermanence/suffering
, and quickly I lost track of them leading to me having to "start from the beginning" and rebuild the sensation of relaxation in the body.

I've done the same thing around 8 sessions now, at first I held the level where I left the body and focused on the feeling itself magnifying for around a minute, now I seem to quickly and suddenly leave the body as the relaxation begins to amplify, feel a jolt or two of the joy (it really feels like a jolt or explosion of good in a pocket in my brain almost) and then nothing again.


the fact that it passed pretty quickly, that it happens so suddenly, and so consistently, makes me think you're not getting 1st samatha jhana -> 2nd samatha jhana and dropping out again. you wouldn't so suddenly drop out of the 2nd one, and if you were going to 3rd you'd recognize it as a deepening of the 2nd.

what makes the most sense is that each time you sit you're quickly rising through the 1st 3 insight stages, then hitting the A&P briefly (it's easy once you hit it once), it doesn't last long (since you already passed it), then you're dropping into the next insight stage, Dissolution, where all that elation just goes away and you're left thinking "well that sucks!"

so, next time you sit, pay especial attention to the "before" and "after". the stage right before A&P is 3 characteristics, which is characterized by bodily pains, insight into impermanence,suffering,and no-self (noticing those aspects of all sensations), is generally unpleasant. you catch sensations as they arise, and stuff moves with the breath.
the A&P is the jolt or two of joy you're feeling, very crazy, you might be able to observe many sensations at once (like 10/second maybe). stuff still moves with the breath.
right after is when all that just gets swept away, you might feel light coolness on your skin, it gets hard to perceive stuff again, and you only really notice sensations ending, not beginning (like pre-A&P) or the middle (like A&P). i don't think stuff moves with the breath, anymore, so that could be something to pay attention to.

i recommend reading the stuff on the progress of insight in MCTB and see if your experience lines up with the first 5 stages or so.
Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
Thank you for the insight, I'm not greatly aware of all the terminology yet but I'm trying to learn it as I go.

So are you saying you think I'm already passing the first few jhanas and not even realizing it? I've had feelings of physical relaxation before during concentration but nothing as profound for me to believe I've attained anything until this point.

The only difference I noticed afterwards is my brain felt kind of like it was radiating or I could feel it for awhile and my awareness seemed a bit different, but not sure how. I will try to take notice more next time. If this is supposed to happen I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do next though, as I lose my focus on the sense of the bliss in the explosions, and the heaviness that brought me there has been abandoned, and focusing on it again just brings back the flashes and explosions your saying are A&P, which I can't hold onto for more than a few seconds before they pass. What should my mind be doing then? As of right now I'm just cycling back and forth it seems through this.

Is there nothing I can do to keep these A&P things going? I know I should not be striving towards physical sensations, but these put a smile on my face for like an hour after I first felt them, I kind of wanted to hold onto and explore that a bit, darn.
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Matthew N:
So are you saying you think I'm already passing the first few jhanas and not even realizing it? I've had feelings of physical relaxation before during concentration but nothing as profound for me to believe I've attained anything until this point.

There are generally two kinds of meditation we talk about here - concentration and insight. concentration is what gets you into jhanas, and gives you pleasant bodily feelings and relaxes you, etc. it feels good, and is a good way to relax, but that's about it. insight puts you on the path to Enlightenment, or closer for you - Stream Entry, which is the 1st major perceptual shift that happens, the 1st stage of Enlightenment. I'm suggesting you were inadvertently doing insight meditation (observing the impermanence, unpleasantness, and selflessness of all sensations, whether you were doing it explicitly or not), so now you're on your way to Enlightenment and you passed a major landmark, the A&P. unfortunately, what follows the A&P is a stage called the Dark Night that can be pretty unpleasant, so it'd be good to read MCTB and learn all about it, since if my assessment is correct (which i'm not sure about) you'll start getting unpleasant side-effects soon. luckily they, too, are temporary and pass with more meditating, but if youre not aware of it you might feel you're regressing, doing it all wrong, and beating yourself up for no reason, when in fact you're progressing.

Matthew N:
If this is supposed to happen I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do next though, as I lose my focus on the sense of the bliss in the explosions, and the heaviness that brought me there has been abandoned, and focusing on it again just brings back the flashes and explosions your saying are A&P, which I can't hold onto for more than a few seconds before they pass. What should my mind be doing then? As of right now I'm just cycling back and forth it seems through this.

hmm so there are two possibilities...

1) the insight thing i mentioned. in this case you're moving past the A&P, and moving back into it by trying to re-focus on it. what you would do to continue on the path of insight (and lead to the 1st stage of Enlightenment) is to notice everything you are feeling, and to pay attention to those 3 characteristics (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness) which are inherent in all sensations. then you'd start going thru the later stages. a formal meditation that makes this easy to do is called 'noting', you can read about it here[pdf]. i recommend reading the MCTB link (the whole book, really) if you plan on doing this as it really lays it all out and you know just what to expect, helps to understand what you're doing and why, what Enlightenment is, etc.

2) you might just be getting jhanas like you were thinking. in this case, the flashes and stuff are signs of the 2nd jhana, and are signs of piti (bliss). those go away on the 3rd jhana, so don't try to cling to them - instead notice that though they are pleasant, they're kind of intense and disturbing (like disturbs your calm), and the sukha (pleasantness) that is underneath is and more all-pervasive and calming is really nice too; that sukha becomes apparent in the 3rd jhana. but i really thing if it is explosions and flashing (and not just bodily bliss) that it's the A&P and it's insight.

Matthew N:
Is there nothing I can do to keep these A&P things going? I know I should not be striving towards physical sensations, but these put a smile on my face for like an hour after I first felt them, I kind of wanted to hold onto and explore that a bit, darn.
hmm with enough concentration it is possible to remain in the A&P thing, but i don't know how feasible it is at this point.. generally once you understand a stage (like you have with A&P if you passed it), you don't linger there anymore, and you just go on to the new stuff (which is less pleasant than A&P, unfortunately). it is a common thing (mentioned in MCTB ) that someone who just got out of A&P wants to go back in and feel the awesomeness there (one of the first times it happened to me i just got really blazed afterward to attempt to up my concentration, heh), but trying to cling to it will not work, unfortunately. if you want to try, you just try willing your mind / resolving to stay in it, but i recommend progressing onward.

oh ya once you get to Stream Entry you get to Review the A&P, so you'll be spending more time in it then, and with good concentration you can remain in it and check it out a lot more (which is recommended).

though the dark night stage is unpleasant, there is an Equanimity stage after it which is really quite nice, much calmer than A&P and quite relieving and neat - so there is good stuff ahead! just gotta get thru the unpleasant stuff (and understand it), first. then after Equanimity is 1st stage of enlightenment, stream entry, and that's always fun.. your concentration will increase dramatically and you'll likely be able to get 1st 4 jhanas easily, without much practice on them. indeed, i might even say it's a shorter route to mastering the jhanas to get Stream Entry first, since once you're there it is a lot easier.

Matthew N:
I know I should not be striving towards physical sensations...
ah don't feel bad that you are feeling good! we won't judge you. and indeed if you are doing concentration you want to initially focus in on the bliss & pleasure and suffuse your body with it until you're filled with it, and once you're satisfied with that you move on. but if it is insight you're doing then it probly won't work.
Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
Thank you for the insights once again. I had been using this as jhana reference http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/janas.html
and the descriptions of the first two were what was leading me to believe it was concentration jhanas. It was interesting that the idea of focusing on good sensations just sort of epiphany came to me the night before I did this and reached this state, then to read about it later on as the technique to achieve jhana. Made me realize how the path through mediation can be inevitable and natural.

I have no conceptual awareness of gaining the 3 insights. I practiced body scan like meditation techniques I read as Vipassana for several weeks of my 2 and a half month journey but decided to abandon them as I didn't believe I was making any progress, I believed I hadn't built the concentration necessary to move forward so decided to focus on that.
This is actually pretty similar to my first A&P experience last summer. I had been working on trying to get into first jhana, and had gotten some of the bliss, with occasional stronger rushes of piti. One day, I lay down on the bed to meditation and had an intense physical bliss, excitement, and vibration ride, complete with all kinds of eyelid lights. When all was said and done, I had meditated for over two hours.

I could get some body glow/bliss for a couple of weeks afterward simply by thinking about it, but it faded away. I started keeping a journal. I went for quite a while trying to reproduce the experience, but it kept getting shorter and weaker. Eventually, I read a post here that clued me into the fact that this was not jhana, but was an A&P passage. Things made a lot more sense to me after that, even though I had read MCTB before all this had happened.

I agree with Claudiu on the Dark Night stuff. Pay attention to it, and realize that it may affect your emotional life (your mileage may vary, depending on speed and passenger load. Keep your hand and feet inside the vehicle at all times.). Read MCTB if you haven't already, and ask lots of questions.
Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
I have been playing more with it today. (I am basically on a mini-retreat in my own house for spring break, spent about 4 hours in mediation today) May have better descriptions to it now.

Does 1st jhana have waves of bliss throughout the body? Or just a general pleasantness?

I have tried shifting the focus to the sense of pleasing heaviness/relaxation throughout the body, deepened at the outbreath. This is what brought me to an A&P like experience of exploding feelings in my brain. I realize I am pushing the heaviness feeling below my body itself, like I'm trying to make my legs go through my chair almost through relaxation, and start feeling strong sensations in my legs which my mind grabs onto, when I try to focus on them I get the wild explosion feelings in my brain. When they end I feel like my brain must have been vibrating or something and I can feel its outline in my head kind of a deal, like it's tired.

I tried focusing on the heaviness without going below my own body, and after awhile I seem to lose sense of the body but the strange sensation is still there to an extent, just a bit different? When I realized this I lost it though. Could that have been 1st and 2nd concentration jhana? Did I just wander into some further one pushing below my body?
Matthew N:

Does 1st jhana have waves of bliss throughout the body? Or just a general pleasantness?


Matthew N:
I tried focusing on the heaviness without going below my own body, and after awhile I seem to lose sense of the body but the strange sensation is still there to an extent, just a bit different? When I realized this I lost it though. Could that have been 1st and 2nd concentration jhana? Did I just wander into some further one pushing below my body?


If you haven't already, you might want to take a look at Ian And's sticky thread, A General, All Purpose Jhana Thread

Also, take a look at this thread

The jhanas aren't very clear for me yet. For me, first jhana is a general pleasantness, and I need to focus on it to maintain it. Second jhana turns up the dial on the first, increasing the pleasantness to bliss and makes it much more obvious and central, but I never get waves of it. It remains pretty steady, and I can let go of the focus a bit, and almost let it ride.

Third and fourth jhanas are noticeable calmer, and seem to be more about what goes away. But, they still seem to be located squarely inside my body.

For me, waves of bliss, and the "wild explosion feelings" were aftershocks, so to speak, of a particularly strong A&P event. Sometimes, they took several weeks to subside. Later passages through A&P got shorter and subtler.
Matthew N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Attain 1st jhana momentarily, immediately start going to 2nd and lose b

Posts: 8 Join Date: 3/14/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for the input! I think I am just getting excited since I'm cycling through these things so fast right now (Decided to do a self retreat for spring break and I'm 3 days in now).

I think just reading some of the info here and meditating more all will become clear to me in time.

By practicing more I achieved some other jhana like experience so I guess understanding what stages I'm at isn't even necessary to move forward. While reading about Mahari noting and starting it for about 10 minutes I somehow got a flash of brilliance, something clicked, and I entered it almost instantly. It was like my tiny refined breath focus area (I have refined it to like half the size of a penny above my lip, makes the concentration extremely strong with such a tiny area with so few sensations), could be multiplied and I could notice all the pleasing sensations in my body by using the noting function of my consciousness really quickly throughout my entire body, tired my head out extremely fast though.

Breadcrumb