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Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation

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Hello Everyone,

I've been meditating off and on during the last couple of years, focusing mostly on concentration meditation with the breath as the object.

Throughout the years I've had this experience multiple times and I'm still not sure if it's something I should just ignore or if I should do something "with" it. I've been told it could be access concentration, access relaxation, or plain dullness.

It can happen 15 or 30 minutes after I start focusing on the breath, always when other thoughts have subsided. It starts growing slowly and it's a feeling of letting go and relaxation, that alters my perception of space. I have described it in the past as a feeling of weightlesness, or as if the space of my mind grew larger than the space of my body so I don't feel the boundaries any longer. The first times I felt it I was scared and it threw me off, but since I've learned to embrace it and enjoy it. Most of the times my skin gets goosebumps, and the feeling of goosebumps actually work to describe part of its characteristics.

My perception of the breath doesn't grow clearer, nor does it grow weaker. If a meditation bell sounds, it won't startle my body and I wont show sudden movements, but there's a small mental startle. If I start to think about it or if I try to get it to grow, then it goes away, but if I embrace it and let it be, it starts to grow until I get either too excited, restless because it stopped growing, or just disenchanted. When I open my eyes afterwards, I'm not more alert than normal, nor am I sleepy, but definitely more relaxed, so it worries me that I'm getting at what The Mind Illuminated calls pleasant dullness. That book mentions the telltale sign of pleasant dullness is getting jumpy when you hear a noise, and that just confuses me more, because I don't get physically jumpy, but sometimes there's indeed a subtle internal jump. Finally, this happens when my breath becomes shallow and while I'm in that state it gets very shallow, just like I've read should happen when entering access concentration.

I'm hoping I can get any guidance and I'll be happy to answer any further questions that might help clear what this is.

Disclaimer: I've never, in my opinion, experienced the first Jhana and most my meditations last around 30 to 45 minutes, only a couple of times I've gone over the hour. I've not been in retreats either, but I think focusing on the breath without getting distracted comes somewhat easily for me after the years. For what it's worth, once during Metta tears of happiness came out of my eyes.

Thanks in advance.

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/14/19 1:43 PM as a reply to Edward.
I'm no expert but I have experienced light jhanas and I don't think what you are describing is dullness.

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/14/19 1:57 PM as a reply to Edward.
If I start to think about it or if I try to get it to grow, then it goes away, but if I embrace it and let it be, it starts to grow until I get either too excited, restless because it stopped growing, or just disenchanted.

This also happen to me when I first started Vipassana meditation and was using the breath as my object. It's pretty common. Quite often people will post about this here on DhO. You're noticing things that were not available to your senses before you started meditating, and that's normal. It's a good sign, and it means that things are working in regard to your concentration. It's not jhana as you have described it, however.

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/14/19 2:01 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
In your opinion, should I embrace it and get it to grow or should I continue to strictly focus on the breath?

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/14/19 2:27 PM as a reply to Edward.
That sounds like progress. Once you have paid more visitations here, you can use this place as a substrate to deeper levels of concentration. However, it seems like you're developing a hindrance due to the unfamiliarity of the experience. Firstly, you can only manage this hindrance by spending more time there by feeling your way further into it. Secondly, once you have become proficient and comfortable with the experience, then bring in some gentle concentration on some dharma concept. Mind has quietened here and this allows deeper levels of processing to occur. It would be a shame to miss out on that area of mind.

There are many phenomenological descriptions of jhana and thus many people report their experiences of jhana using different words. It's not necessary to get hung-up with that. Instead, go into the experience, become familiar with it and decide for yourself if it has any significance to your practice. It is helpful to receive guidance from others but nothing can trump your own direct experience. If you want to explore jhana descriptively, then I would recommend using the sutta descriptions as a baseline here.


There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. 

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/14/19 4:43 PM as a reply to Bardo.
I think that's good advice. I have found it very helpful to enjoy the exploring without worrying too much about following a protocol. Trust that you will notice whether or not something is helpful. 

RE: Recurrent experience when practicing concentration meditation
Answer
11/18/19 2:05 PM as a reply to Edward.
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Thanks to all of you, I will follow the advice and investigate this state to see if it's benefitial or not.[font=verdana, geneva, sans-serif][size=2][b][/b][/size][/font]