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Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?

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Hello Dhamma Family

I have been meditating for about 11 years. about 8 retreats by Goenka This year I am about to do a 20 day. 

I love some feedback on my practice from other experienced meditators who have reached the stages of 4 jhanas and developed in insight. 

Thanks to MTCB i have been exposed to the teaching of Ayya Khema and she has been really inspiring me to go for the jhanas and believe it is within reach. 

I love any support or feedback to make sure I am on the right track. 


I am now doing 90 minutes at 4:30 am which includes 40 minutes of ananapan and 45minutes of vipassana + 5 min metta.

Plus a sit mid-day (30-60min vipassna) and at night (1 hr vipassana)  

I want to increase it by doing 3 hours first thing in the morning focusing on anapana for the first 2 hours and 1 hour of insight. 

Followed by 2 other sits mid day and night Vipassana. 


Retreat plan: 

Then this year I am planning to, do a 10-day end of march, and first 20 day September (7 days of anapana) 

I also do 1 full day sit each month and attend weekly group sits. 

I also am practicing brahmacharya sexual celibacy for this year to help with concentration. 

I eat vegetarian and today is 32nd day of quitting coffee - 



 
Question: Do you think my plan is sufficient to reach the first 3-4 jhanas in the next 6 months or year or two or three? 

Any feedback, thoughts, suggestions is appreciated emoticon  


Thanks alot

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 4:22 AM as a reply to Pouya Iranitalab.
Hi Pouya,

I think if you can get to the first (soft) jhana you are practicing enough to get to the next three. 

On the subject of the first jhana I don't have much to add to what I wrote on your other thread

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/18974897#_19_message_18798074

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/18974897#_19_message_19196048

And I agree pretty much with what Ben said:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/18974897#_19_message_19232601


(I also think in any discussion on the subject it is worth pointing out my view that the jhanas can be very helpful but they are not strictly necessary. I would say the jhanas are like a well worn path, if you experience them you know are going in the right direction, but there are other good paths that don't have such blatant indications you are on them. If I had to summarize my own practice I would say I watch the mind and when I see tension or stress (unpleasant emotions) arising from thinking, I try to relax (let go of unpleasant emotions (atttachments and aversions)). In my view Dukkha = stress, letting go (of attachments) = relaxation. I practice a kind of relaxaing meditation to help calm the mind so I have the presence of mind to watch it and so it slows down enough that I can see what is going on. And I do relaxation exercises including but not limited to meditation to help me develop proficiency at relaxing and letting go of unpleasant emotions (to learn to better control my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.) The ideal (but not necessarily achievable) is to be relaxed in any situation. The kind of meditation I do produces the jhanas incidentally. I developed that form of meditation because I felt the relaxing aspect was beneficial and I found almost accidentally that it produces the jhanas.)

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 3:28 AM as a reply to Pouya Iranitalab.
Very commendable practice regimen you have there emoticon

What Jhana can you do now?
Over 11 years of practice and 8 retreats should be already enough to be able to do jhanas so it must be that you keep too much grip over your mind. Loosen it a little so that mind is allowed to do its own things and reconfigure itself without you at the same time loosing focus. Not this focus you normally feel as your focus but something that feels like focus, maybe different focus that you never experienced before or even had any idea you had.

Explanation:
Keep in mind that jhanas unlike your normal concentration are different mind states of consciousness and Buddha himself described them more like states of relaxation that happen when you drop attachement rather than states of concentration or that happen directly from practicing concentration. One way of describing what attachement does to your mind is that it is forcing you to use the parts of your nervous system that process things you are attached to. Brain needs them active because without them you would loose awareness of these things and when you use some parts of brain actively there is no need to use anything else do to similar things, especially in case of attachment which require special kind of exclusivity. There are also power restraints preventing too many parts of brain working and conflicts with signaling preventing you to use parts of mind which did not work together and do not know how to work together. When you stop using parts of mind you normally use your brain starts using other parts and additional pathways in your brain gets activated. When they are activated you will feel ecstatic feelings because for brain it is always extremely pleasurable to use new pathways or generally parts of itself which got a lot of rest. Your awareness will also change because it will be processed differently. Over time brain learns how to use different pathways together and switch between them which also have benefit of spreading usage which in turn helps parts of your brain rest more effectively.

At first even if you get in to jhana any activation of main pathways will force you out of jhana because you will not be able to use these new pathways along your main pathways. Over time this will be possible and finally there will be no difference and no main pathways, everything will be "equal in rank", just like this one pure abode name.

tl;dr explanation:
Practicing concentration without letting your brain disable its main pathways will be practice of these main pathways.
Practicing jhanas is practicing how to use more pathways.
When you fall asleep other pathways are used but normally they are not trained along your main pathways so you cannot just switch to them during the day until you practice jhana and jhanas itself feel very much like how you feel during dreaming.

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 11:58 AM as a reply to Pouya Iranitalab.
thank you so much Jim and Ni 

I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. 

I do know I can benefit from more reading on the topic as I still am unclear of the difference of hard/soft jhana

Your suggestion on relaxation has been incredibly helpful actually - I have been practicing much differently and I am trying to create a system to track my progress - 

I have a tracking sheet which I rate each sit from 1 to 10 - I also track my daily wake up times and sleep times and eating times. 

I will reread the previous threads again and contemplate on your shares, thank you again for taking the time to support my practice. 

Metta

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 2:50 PM as a reply to Pouya Iranitalab.
Pouya Iranitalab:
thank you so much Jim and Ni 

I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. 

I do know I can benefit from more reading on the topic as I still am unclear of the difference of hard/soft jhana

Your suggestion on relaxation has been incredibly helpful actually - I have been practicing much differently and I am trying to create a system to track my progress - 

I have a tracking sheet which I rate each sit from 1 to 10 - I also track my daily wake up times and sleep times and eating times. 

I will reread the previous threads again and contemplate on your shares, thank you again for taking the time to support my practice. 

Metta

The hard jhana happens in a very intense state of concentration, one explanation I've read is that it is so intense that you are not aware of any external sense perceptions, such as sounds, that might be happening around you. And the experience of the jhanas are more intense also.

As you track your progress, if you are not already doing so you might consider tracking your levels of compassion and equinimity. I don't really mean that you should quantitatively track them, but if you want to measure your progress over time ... well those are the things I look for to be increasing over time.

Increased equinimity is a natural result of letting go of attachments and aversions, things don't upset you as much. Compassion is a natural result of becoming less selfish, when you are less attached to yourself, you naturally care more about other people.

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 4:37 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I love that so much Jim! 

Measuring equanimity and compassion! So good. 

in fact, each sit can be tracked by 3 different measures, Concentration, Equanimity and Compassion/Love. Also overal rating for the day perhaps. emoticon 

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 9:48 PM as a reply to Pouya Iranitalab.
Pouya Iranitalab:
I love that so much Jim! 

Measuring equanimity and compassion! So good. 

in fact, each sit can be tracked by 3 different measures, Concentration, Equanimity and Compassion/Love. Also overal rating for the day perhaps. emoticon 


In order to accurately understand how your practice is affecting such factors I think it helps to try to understand how other factors in life might be affecting them too. For example if something happens that is giving you stress and it makes your mind turbulent, that will affect your concentration. So if your concentration is inconsistent from day to day, it isn't necessarily your practice, it isn't necessarily your skill at meditating, it could be the other things going on in your life, maybe your job is stressful or something like that. And based on my previous posts it probably wouldn't surprise you if I said I notice my level of relaxation (which is another way of saying I notice my stress levels).

I find that insight comes from trying to see what things within the mind or external to the mind increase or decrease these kinds of factors. That is my reason for noticing them, not just to measure "progress" but to see what causes them to arise or to end - to understand how the mind works. That is one way I practice in daily life, noticing cause and effect. Sitting meditation might make me feel peaceful, relaxed, and happy. What happens after I stop meditating that disrupts that pleasant state? In other words I observe dukkha in action. That is one way to gain understanding of the truth of dukkha, the cause of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha.

RE: Is this sufficient for developing the first 4 Jhanas?
Answer
3/8/20 9:44 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Thank you Jim - you are giving me perspectives I have never thought of. 

I can totally see what you mean. making me question my livelihood also. 

I am in sales - some days are bad sales day and result in worry, somedays are good sales day, and I am so excited and greed takes over me trying to expand - thankfully I am in the process of switching to a more harmonious livelihood position. 

This makes me consider all my life in a new perspective, on what are the conditions that I expose myself to, which creates mental agitation and unsettles my mind, and is there a way for me to reduce/eliminate them.