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Using Pranayama to access Jhana

Using Pranayama to access Jhana
Answer
12/19/19 10:06 PM
Hi All

My current daily practice (on a good day): 

1.5 hours of Ashtanga Yoga 
0.5 hours Pranayama
1.5 hours Vipassana (mahasi)/ Metta

So today some odd things happened and I wonder what you guys think.

There was a lot more "stuff" coming up emotionally in my yoga practice then usual. There was a general feeling of disappointment and self-aversion that manifested as mind states and in physical sensations.

I immediately followed with pranayama as usual. I did my Kapalabhati preparation and then Nadi Shodhana (NS) for 17 minutes. For those who dont know NS is alternate nostril breathing using specific breath ratios. So I would inhale through the left, exhale right and then reverse.

I'm used the 1:1:2 ratio = inhale:hold:exhale. My current unit is 13.5 seconds. So I did my NS practice inhaling for 13.5, holding my breath for 13.5 and exhaling for 27 seconds. (I use the Prana Breath app to keep track). 

I also did my usual visualization and mantra. I visualize the moon behind the third eye when I breath in the left side and the sun in the solar plexus for breathing in the right. There is a specific mantra for each side, "vam" for left and "ram" for right.

So the technique is quite different to Jhana because you are getting the mind to do many different complex tasks at once. Not only do you have the breathing ratio, mantra and visualization you also use a specific "breath wave" pattern and engage different internal energetic locks (bandhas) depending on whether you are inhaling, exhaling or holding.

My teacher (Gregor Meahle) explains that you do all this to completely engage the entirity of the mind's processing ability until you trigger samadhi.

OK so here's where it gets relevent to Buddhist technique. I have struggled with the mantra and visualization often but today I could hold the image of the moon/sun and say the mantra nearly continuously. I finished the practice and lay down in sivasana (resting pose).

I needed somewhere to put my mind so I just picked the pleasent feeling in my body and gently focused on it. Piti and Sukkha quickly arose. Then first Jhana. I dropped in and out of the first Jhana which is usually the best I can do if I'm sitting and meditating on the breath or metta. 

Today though, I'm pretty sure I got in 2nd Jhana because the sukkha became stronger and more and more enveloping. I lost my willpower and suddenly got quite overwhelemed with bliss. My chest started shaking. Like I was sobbing but there were no tears just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. The emotional intensity of all this pulled me out of the jhana. I experimented with trying to get back there and did for a minute or so but my experiementing became grasping which blocked it and I decided to stop and finish there.

Then I decided to see if I could use the after effects of all this for insight. So I started sitting and doing vipassana. I don't think it worked... but then again... I'm not sure. I could have ended up in Equanimity (the part where you think it's all good and it's hard to rouse yourself to practice) but it could have just been a kind of dullness (possibly due to tiredness after doing intensive physical practice for 2 hours). I really can't say. 

I know I might be out on a limb here, but does this resonate with anyone? Has anyone any experience of this kind of practice/mixing nonsence? 

Would love to hear from you. Cheers

Hi All

My current daily practice (on a good day): 

1.5 hours of Ashtanga Yoga 
0.5 hours Pranayama
1.5 hours Vipassana (mahasi)/ Metta

So today some odd things happened and I wonder what you guys think.

There was a lot more "stuff" coming up emotionally in my yoga practice then usual. There was a general feeling of disappointment and self-aversion that manifested as mind states and in physical sensations.

I immediately followed with pranayama as usual. I did my Kapalabhati preparation and then Nadi Shodhana (NS) for 17 minutes. For those who dont know NS is alternate nostril breathing using specific breath ratios. So I would inhale through the left, exhale right and then reverse. 

I'm used the 1:1:2 ratio = inhale:hold:exhale. My current unit is 13.5 seconds. So I did my NS practice inhaling for 13.5, holding my breath for 13.5 and exhaling for 27 seconds. (I use the Prana Breath app to keep track). 

There's a lot more complexity to it then this but the main issue here is the visualization and mantra. I visualize the moon behind the third eye for the left side and the sun in the solar plexus for the right. There is a specific mantra for each side, "vam" for left and "ram" for right.

So the technique is quite different to Jhana because you are getting the mind to do many different complex tasks at once. Not only do you have the ratio, mantra and visualization you also breath in a specific wave pattern and engage different internal energetic locks (bandhas) depending on whether you are inhaling, exhaling or holding. My teacher (Gregor Meahle) explained that you do all this to completely engage the entirity of the mind's processing ability and this will lead to samadhi. 

OK so here's where it gets interesting. I have struggled with the mantra and visualization often but today I could hold the image of the moon/sun and say the mantra nearly continuously. I finished the practice and lay down in sivasana (resting pose).

I needed somewhere to put my mind so I just picked the pleasent feeling in my body after all that pranayama and gently focused on it. Piti and Sukkha quickly arose. Then first Jhana. I dropped in and out of the first Jhana which is usually the best I can do if I try this sitting and meditating on the breath or metta. 

Today though, I'm pretty sure I got in 2nd jhana because the sukkha became stronger and more and more enveloping. I lost my willpower for a second and suddenly got quite overwhelemed. My chest started shaking. Like I was sobbing but there were no tears just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. The emotional intensity of all this pulled me out of the jhana. I experimented with trying to get back there and did for a minute or so but my experiementing became grasping so I decided to leave it and finish there.

Usually I would break for breakfast but I decided to see if I could use the after effects of all this for insight. So I started sitting and doing vipassana. I don't think it worked... but then again... I'm not sure. I could have ended up in Equanimity (the part where you think it's all good and it's hard to rouse yourself to practice) but it could have just been a new kind of dullness (possibly due to tiredness after doing intensive physical practice for 2 hours). I really can't say. 

I know I might be out on a limb here, but does this resonate with anyone? Has anyone any experience of this kind of mettadharma nonsence? 

Would love to hear from you. Cheers

(I might crosspost to r/streamentry)