(Practice Thread)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui, modified 10 Years ago.

(Practice Thread)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Hello all,

Thought I'd just get right into the spirit of things with my first post.

I'm looking to get comments recent experiences of what I'm guessing to be 3rd and 4th Jhanas. Want to confirm a few things and get some advice.Most of this was done on a Goenka retreat, and at a Thai temple, reading MCTB inbetween. So most of the analysis comes from experience at the temple. Unfortunately, temples tend to be pretty social places. As there are always chores to be done, visitors to help, and prayers/pre-meal prayers 6 times daily, long sits were difficult to arrange and most were around 40 minutes.

Speeding along, I'm just going to detail the patterns I go through/notice when I sit, and leave them as-is, but follow the MCTB progression for brevity/simplicity. The object I'm using is the breath, about 80% of the formal practice is sitting.

Access Concentration: Came quite easily throughout, in <2mins. I remember MCTB 's description as pretty simple, and all I'm going by is the general idea that "I'm easily able to stay with the breath" for extended stretches, with moments where I notice 'wandering' occuring minimally, especially in contrast to normal mind activity.

1st Jhana: It's hard to describe the feeling of Rapture with any word other than rapture. Being 'taken away' doesn't quite hit the spot. I guess the main feature for me is wheras in AC I would briefly be aware of sensations like a breeze, mosquito, or sound before being back on the breath (under 1 second), in what I assume to be 1st Jhana, I feel like I'm 'glued' in my headspace. A lot of stuff that I'm sure is going on outside me I'm noticing a lot less of now. This effect is more pronounced
for each other jhana description I'll give, so just assume it's always happening.

The 'happiness' and 'ecstacy' aren't pronounced for me. It feels more like a feeling of openness (or perhaps a sensation of openness inside and around my head would be more accurate), but the general theme is positive. It could be because I got bored doing body scanning in my last goenka retreat (my 2nd, about a month ago) and accidentally stumbled into what was probably 2nd Jhana. I remember being extremely attatched to it and happy, cultivating it over and over again for the rest of the
retreat. More on that later. But the point is the "oh my god this feels great" isn't really there for me, but I remember feeling that way the first few times.

I am aware of the need to constantly apply effort to stay in 1st Jhana, more on that below.

2nd Jhana: May have stumbled upon it during a Goenka retreat. I stayed with the breath as long as I could each hour instead of bodyscanning (before reading MCTemoticon, not really having a goal and just working with a very vague idea of staying focused. I started enjoying it a lot. I noticed that I'd really get into the breath sitting right after the bell rang (to let the meditators know to stop), and would always stay for a few minutes alone in the hall because of this. This went on for a few days, and during one sit I distinctly remember a quote by a zen teacher (suzuki, beginner's mind) along the lines of 'meditation not being
meditation', letting go of the idea of sitting and applying effort. So I 'tried' (sort-of a formal resolution) to not apply effort and quickly shifted into the pleasurable state I described above.

Trying to keep it brief, I'm saying this experience stood out in my memory as either hard 1st or entering 2nd Jhana. I knew it was different before I knew what a jhana was. Sensation-wise, it's sorta a stronger version of 1st Jhana but without the effort; the 'shift' is also much more pronounced sitting eyes-open, as I found out a couple sits later.
Obviously I'm not sure about any of this. And think I could be mixing up some aspects of hard 1st and 2nd Jhanas. I've cultivated up to what I think is 2nd Jhana many times(Goenka retreat), but only around 1-2 dozen of 3rd and 4th (thai temple, much less intensive, staggered sitting times). I feel like a fish out of water trying to self diagnose this stuff.

3rd Jhana:
Where the bliss/rapture predominated before (and primarily in the head/upper body area), there's a feeling of "coming down" for me, which seems to match MCTB 's descriptions. I'd confirm this by spot checking the 'head region' and contrasting that with my memory of the earlier state. In any case I was actively looking for 'bodily bliss' (MCTB ) and feel like that was a good way to describe the pleasant tingling and whatnot occuring on my body.

It's really, really easy to ignore distractions in this state. Unlike 2nd Jhana, I can't recall the exact details of the first time, but I remember entering it multiple times at the tail end of a group sit in the main prayer hall (after the chanting), and being caught up in it (basically enjoying, or what I think Ingram means when he says 'getting stuck' in MCTB ) for most of the hour-long dharma talk the head monk gave (in thai). I'd drop out after the talk ended, noticing the after effects would linger for quite some time, 2-3 hours sometimes.

Right now I'm not really noticing much else but the bodily bliss (eyes open or closed). It seems 'simpler' in feeling than 2nd jhana. I don't remember getting confused at all with attention being more focused on the periphery. I noticed the first time it but it just wasn't a big deal with everything else being so pleasant. I might have mistaken it for 'dropping out' of 2nd jhana in the goenka retreat, but have no recollection.

4th Jhana:
I've only done this eyes open, and seem to have trouble noticing any shift with eyes closed. Bodily bliss sort of dissapears (instead of attention 'dropping' from head to body from 2nd to 3rd), and I confirm this with spot checks (shifting my attention for short times). Anyway, there's a noticeable shift that occurs.

But after that, I don't know, there is sorta nothing to describe. It's really peaceful and there's just a lot less going on. Even the feeling of paying attention to the breath is more of an afterthought now, I consciously know it is there and can feel for it, but am not 'aware' of it in the same way as previous jhanas. Even the idea that the general feeling is positive is somewhat muted.

I feel like don't have to exert any effort at all, my posture (maintained with more and more ease as I go up the jhanas, something I forgot to mention) in this state is the best I've had it at any point in my practice. I can easily stay this way, dropping out only if the sit ends, or I try too hard to think of clever ways to force a shift into 5th jhana (usually playing with descriptions and resultions off MCTB ).



I've got other questions but this is long enough. Sorry if I was a little long winded, I thought it'd be more productive to have all 4 in one post. I'm sure I was a little light on some parts and said some unnecessary stuff too, so please post if you need clarification on anything.

I've cultivated 4th Jhana the fewest times, so there's a lot more uncertainty in that description.

To sum up in a sentence or two:
1st Jhana: Rapture, bliss.
2nd Jhana: More rapture, more bliss, minus effort.
3rd Jhana: No rapture, different/'lighter' bliss. Pleasant sensations on body.
4th Jhana: Not much of anything. Peaceful. Pleasant in a muted, tangential kind of way (not manifesting in sensations).


Thanks in advance for your help,
Daniel

let me know if I should just turn this into a practice thread or something. or if it should go in dharma diagnostic



Edit: Changed title. Turning this space into a practice thread to put questions and updates on any progress I made past 4th jhana. Will start a vipassana practice thread also.
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tarin greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: (Long)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hi daniel,

welcome to the dho.

your descriptions are clear and demonstrate that your jhana practice is on-track.

my recommendation is that you now shift your focus to what you intend to do with your jhana skills. beyond the 4 jhanas, is there anything you would like to develop in or experience next? if so, what is it, and how are you going about it?

tarin
Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: (Long)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Tarin,

Thanks for the reply.

Yes, I started with concentration to have something I could use to help with dark nights, as Ingram recommends in MCTB. The plan is to shift into insight practice shortly.

I'll be moving to a new city and living mostly alone. Pretty much just working (for money) and meditating. I'm willing to commit to a minimum of 2 hrs/day to formal practice for about 5 months, after which I have no plans but am considering a long retreat.

Questions/concerns off the top of my head:
1. Tips for maximizing quality of daily practice? I have some ideas of my own (from mctb and elsewhere) but I'd be interested in hearing the things more experienced meditators would stress. I plan on sitting 60-90 minutes early in the morning, and the remainder of the 2 hours in the evening before bed.

2. What kinds of expectations should I have going into this? Provided I can maintain a consistent routine over 5 months with only this forum for guidance, is stream entry a realistic goal for most people? Should I aim for less? More?

3. I'd prefer to have as little bleedthrough as possible when/if I encounter rough patches in my practice. I'm self employed, work pretty long hours, and need to be at least present and functional every day.

Do you think having a good understanding of the 4 jhanas is a good foundation, or should I work through the formless realms first? Perhaps having more concentration experience would have helped back when you first went through map territory; picking 4th jhana was an arbitrary stopping point for me. I understand this varies immensely from person to person, so I'm more asking if there is any advice you could give with regard to long term daily practice and living a life in the wider world, perhaps from personal experience.

4. Touching on guidance again, I'll be using dho as my main resource, and was wondering if you could recommend any others. A lot of people recommend person-to-person instruction, and while carving out enough time for it in addition to daily practice might be tricky, I'm willing to consider it (I assume dropping practice time would be a kind of backwards compromise...then again I could just commit to 2.5 hours, haha...).


Again I have other thoughts but I feel this is enough. The direction of this thread seems to already be moving away from pure concentration practice to logistics of daily practice, so let me know if I should start a new thread or something. Any and all help is appreciated.

Thanks,
Daniel
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tarin greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: (Long)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:
Tarin,

Thanks for the reply.

Yes, I started with concentration to have something I could use to help with dark nights, as Ingram recommends in MCTB. The plan is to shift into insight practice shortly.

I'll be moving to a new city and living mostly alone. Pretty much just working (for money) and meditating. I'm willing to commit to a minimum of 2 hrs/day to formal practice for about 5 months, after which I have no plans but am considering a long retreat.

Questions/concerns off the top of my head:
1. Tips for maximizing quality of daily practice? I have some ideas of my own (from mctb and elsewhere) but I'd be interested in hearing the things more experienced meditators would stress. I plan on sitting 60-90 minutes early in the morning, and the remainder of the 2 hours in the evening before bed.

start well before you sit down and don't miss a single second.


Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:

2. What kinds of expectations should I have going into this? Provided I can maintain a consistent routine over 5 months with only this forum for guidance, is stream entry a realistic goal for most people? Should I aim for less? More?

with your circumstances, stream-entry is a perfectly reasonable goal.


Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:

3. I'd prefer to have as little bleedthrough as possible when/if I encounter rough patches in my practice. I'm self employed, work pretty long hours, and need to be at least present and functional every day.

Do you think having a good understanding of the 4 jhanas is a good foundation, or should I work through the formless realms first? Perhaps having more concentration experience would have helped back when you first went through map territory; picking 4th jhana was an arbitrary stopping point for me. I understand this varies immensely from person to person, so I'm more asking if there is any advice you could give with regard to long term daily practice and living a life in the wider world, perhaps from personal experience.

having a good understanding of the 4 jhanas is a good foundation for insight practice and the attainment of stream-entry. there is no need to 'work through' the formless realms first; if they are at all necessary for your stream-entry, they will arise on their own, spontaneously, dependent on the conditions which give rise to them, from the 4th vipassana jhana. as far as insight practice and stream-entry are concerned, there is nothing you need do in this regard.


Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:

4. Touching on guidance again, I'll be using dho as my main resource, and was wondering if you could recommend any others. A lot of people recommend person-to-person instruction, and while carving out enough time for it in addition to daily practice might be tricky, I'm willing to consider it (I assume dropping practice time would be a kind of backwards compromise...then again I could just commit to 2.5 hours, haha...).

i recommend my guide to stream-entry, found in the wiki section of the website. apply the instructions fully to your practice periods (which you can think of as mini-retreats). pay especial attention to the 'practice reminders' in the appendix.

if you find yourself stalling in 4th jhana, i recommend contacting florian weps, who got stream-entry by using concentration practice to get to 4th jhana and switching to insight from there (a demonstrably effective, time-tested method). find out the specifics of how he got through 4th jhana territory, unless you find appealing the adventure of figuring it out on your own.


Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:

Again I have other thoughts but I feel this is enough. The direction of this thread seems to already be moving away from pure concentration practice to logistics of daily practice, so let me know if I should start a new thread or something. Any and all help is appreciated.

Thanks,
Daniel

you're welcome.

tarin
Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: (Practice Thread)Tentative 4th and Preceeding Jhanas

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Yesterday I decided to do a bit of concentration practice, took some notes from MCTB and the Hamilton Project, 3 hours, and alternated sitting and review to get down the transitions between jhanas. Was productive.
I'll keep it brief as I find when I type about this stuff I tend to get a touch verbose, elaborating on too many details.
Litte things:
each sit was no more than 20 minutes long, I didn't plan this but it ended up the length of time I needed to follow the instructions I made for myself to the point where I got lost in new territory, and then re-consulted texts. Looking mostly for pointers to learn this territory better, and bits where I might be mistakening a jhana for something else or otherwise going off course.


Snippets from my notepad, from yesterday and today. 4th to 8th.

from 4th to 5th: tune into the attention, let the perception of space phase in
-if i pay attention a certain way to the top of my head, it feels like attention expands out from my head to encompass everything around me. For me this marks the transition from 4th to 5th every time I cross it.

5th:
-5th feels like it's named, space. when i try to focus on anything, there's the sensation of the brain looking for a focal point, but attention keep "going" forwards out and out
-like being on a boat far from shore, having a 180 degree view of ocean and not seeing where it ends.
-attention is panoramic, with a subtle feeling of perpetual expansion


5th to 6th: paid attention to space without making it an object of close investigation, which is what moved my last sit into vipassana territory (I think)


-6th: sense of presence (I really don't know how to describe consciousness) phases in, at first like overlapping, but sensation of space becomes extremely subtle.
I had trouble with this as it was a completely new experience. Weird stuff kept manifesting in the visual field, that in retrospect was also vipassana-esque, and I had to refocus on the bare sensation to really see how 'consciousness' was there, and how the qualities of space weren't quite gone but intermingled.

I like to think of it as the space losing it's sense of perpetual expansion as mentioned above, so when i direct my attention somewhere it's not like staring out into the ocean from a boat anymore. It's more like the horizon and space between it are all there in the fore because it's all being paid attention to. I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time and accidentally shifted into insight territory. I'm not quite sure how well I understand these sensations still.

6th-7th: eye trick (hamilton project) is really effective here. Looking below the horizon from 5th to 6th isn't that necessary for me as 6th just phases in, but as of this moment I do have to rest in 6th for a bit, then shift the eyes up and hints of 7th drift while 6th fades.

7th: my experience matches mctb descriptions in my mind almost perfectly. no vastness, no space, no consciousness, no sensations other than those of nothingness. there's just perception. and at first I kept being uncomfortable with there being only perception and subtly investigating it, which moved again into insight territory pretty quickly. I'm not sure what else to say, because I felt my experience had nothing to add to mctb's description.

**Next Day**
developments after some daily practice:

-gotten much better at navigating between states in general, subtle things like being able to 'hold' in 4th while bodily bliss from 3rd faded completely, before the mind jumped into 5th (which it tends to do quite quickly now)
-transition from 6th to 7th more smooth, or rather I'm more cogniscent of it.
-eye trick is still reliable, 7th still matches descriptions really well.

7th to 8th, worked on hanging out in nothingness until bored. Made a resolution to the effect of "this is nothingness, I am bored".

directly from notepad:
got a taste of 8th today but it's just so weird. there's a definite noticeable shift into something else past 7th (same sense of going from any of the previous jhanas to a new one), and while it's hard to describe, the sentences written about it in mtcb seem to hit close enough to the mark.

idea of being simultaneously narrowly and widely focused seems fitting.
I noticed traces of thoughts *starting* to form, but never coming together such that I could focus on them. Like my attention was the end of a laser pointer, quivering on a wall but not quite moving anywhere. As if it was in one specific place, but every other place it was quivering to at the same time. As a metaphor, the particles in an atom existing not in a discrete location but simultaneously at all points in a field, comes to mind.


Will work on stabilizing (what I think is) 8th, and probably post again.
Nothing but immense gratitude for MCTB, I keep coming back to it and it hasn't left me lost and confused.

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