Another yogi lost in the jhanas...

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Andy Hansen, modified 10 Years ago.

Another yogi lost in the jhanas...

Posts: 22 Join Date: 6/15/11 Recent Posts
Firstly, I am not a native English speaker, so my formulations may be imprecise - have that in mind.

My story in brief is that I had been through Tibetan and Zen meditation, although not very seriously. About 6 months ago began doing the 16 anapanasati steps. The usual meditation process was that I after counting out breaths to 10 for about five rounds fell into a pleasant state, which later transformed into a more calm and happy state (while going through some of the steps 1-12). Next I would often go into a sensation of my mind drifting around in an endless black space or my mind transcending the limits of my body to fill the room (closed eyes). This much depended on the focus chosen while meditating. I would never meditate more than 40 minutes at the time. Often I would begin to feel bored after 20-25 minutes and quit. But, I practiced every day.

One day the sensation of drifting around in space was transformed into a state were my body was shaking and my breath almost hyperventilating, while having a feeling of ecstasy and seeing fast moving light symbols/shapes quite clearly (having closed eyes). After this meditation experience, I felt a great mood change in the sense that I could always spot negative emotions rising instantly and choose not to follow them. Also very few negative emotions would start rising. Thus, for some weeks I did not experience emotions of stress, fear, anger, etc. unfolding. In fact, it may be the most joyous period I can remember. Also my concentration improved much, and it seemed like I could meditate much more effortlessly - an hour is no problem if sitting comfortable. Actually, it was at this point that I in an attempt to find out what was next, stumbled on the jhana concept, which I did not know before. Thus, I read the material from Kenneth Folk and Daniel Ingram but I am not sure of where to place my experience. Ingram seems to be stricter in his definitions of jhana states.

After 2-3 weeks of freedom from negative emotions (i.e. not at one single instance letting them get control), I suddenly got feelings of fear and sadness and fear for no apparent reason - nothing important happened in my life. Although I still have good concentration, I now cannot produce as intense joy, see the endless space as clear and produce the feeling of moving outside my body limits as freely anymore. On the other hand, vague feelings of vibrations appear sometimes during meditation - or at least I have begun to notice such. Also I have experienced some ignoring physical problems (leg pains and itching), but nothing extraordinary. If it is a "dark night", it is not very dark - most of the time I still feel quite free from negative emotions and am very happy. Also, compared to the jhana definitions of Daniel, my experiences seem a bit vague to be jhanas.

So, based on this story, anybody got an idea of where I am on a jhana map. And also, what should I do to get back to having clearer meditation experiences again? And fell free to ask for further information. Thanks.

Best Regards

Andy
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tarin greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Another yogi lost in the jhanas... (Answer)

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
welcome to the dho.

Andy Hansen:
Firstly, I am not a native English speaker, so my formulations may be imprecise - have that in mind.

your writing is precise enough to inform readers who are aware of the nuances of meditation of where you are in your insight progress. many of us here are thus aware, having had a number of years, months, days and minutes to develop a personal appreciation of not just the relevant meditative territories but the similitude that often appears in the accounts of different practitioners, particularly in their elementary details.


Andy Hansen:

One day the sensation of drifting around in space was transformed into a state were my body was shaking and my breath almost hyperventilating, while having a feeling of ecstasy and seeing fast moving light symbols/shapes quite clearly (having closed eyes).

the feeling of ecstasy (piti) and the presence of fleeting and detailed closed-eye visual phenomena (nimitta) indicate that you were sufficiently secluded from the five hindrances (of craving, aversion, restlessness, sluggishness, and doubt) and sufficiently secluded from discursive thought to give rise to those particular jhanic factors.

in the progress of insight, as explained and much utilised by mahasi sayadaw (and expanded upon greatly by daniel ingram in his book 'mastering the core teachings of the buddha'), this would correspond to the early portion of 'the knowledge of arising and passing away', which constitutes the beginning of the fourth nana, or insight.


Andy Hansen:

After this meditation experience, I felt a great mood change in the sense that I could always spot negative emotions rising instantly and choose not to follow them. Also very few negative emotions would start rising. Thus, for some weeks I did not experience emotions of stress, fear, anger, etc. unfolding. In fact, it may be the most joyous period I can remember. Also my concentration improved much, and it seemed like I could meditate much more effortlessly - an hour is no problem if sitting comfortable.

...and this, a deepening of 'the stage of arising and passing away' - the maturing of the knowledge of arising and passing.

as it is this capacity for discerning mental subtlety that gives rise to insight knowledge, it is a testimony to the quickening of your mental faculties that you were able to 'spot negative emotions rising instantly and choose to not follow them'.

by the way, this is one of the default mind-states of a path-winner, and being able to 'spot negative emotions rising instantly and choosing to not follow them' is a distinct benefit to attaining stream-entry.


Andy Hansen:

Actually, it was at this point that I in an attempt to find out what was next, stumbled on the jhana concept, which I did not know before. Thus, I read the material from Kenneth Folk and Daniel Ingram but I am not sure of where to place my experience. Ingram seems to be stricter in his definitions of jhana states.

thus far, you have described in brief the second vipassana jhana, which maturation marks the first turning point in an insight meditator's practice.


Andy Hansen:

After 2-3 weeks of freedom from negative emotions (i.e. not at one single instance letting them get control), I suddenly got feelings of fear and sadness and fear for no apparent reason - nothing important happened in my life.

and here begins your foray into the second half of the progress of insight ... the half that has less to do with the content of experience ('what happens' in one's life) and more about the insight into it (how directly 'what happens' is experienced).

this can be a whole 'nother world, as far as the practice is concerned, for though the second vipassana jhana required you to attend more to insight than you had done previously, its requirements are not so strict, and because there is an abundance of energy released (and sustained for a period) during this stage (before it starts fading into the third jhana), much of this energy can remain oriented toward content, rather than insight, and can lead to the experience of (the more mental) ecstasy to overshadow the much more subtle experience of (the more physical) serenity.

up to and through the second jhana, you can get away with with frittering away precious attention and mental energy in this fashion.. and technically speaking, you can also do this within the third vipassana jhana. however, here the pay-off won't be the same as in the second jhana (as you may have discovered - the content is not so pleasant), and if you spend your mental energies doing this, you won't properly discern the qualities of this jhana and, discerning them properly, come to discover what a pleasant abiding it can be.

finding meaningful absorption into the third vipassana jhana requires a sufficiently direct understanding of the illusion of control and brings about greater insight into one's utter lack of it, as far as causality and the nature of momentary experience are concerned. this very lack of control is the spontaneity of anatta (no-self).

a sufficiently direct understanding of this same point then leads one into the fourth vipassana jhana.


Andy Hansen:

Although I still have good concentration, I now cannot produce as intense joy, see the endless space as clear and produce the feeling of moving outside my body limits as freely anymore. On the other hand, vague feelings of vibrations appear sometimes during meditation - or at least I have begun to notice such. Also I have experienced some ignoring physical problems (leg pains and itching), but nothing extraordinary. If it is a "dark night", it is not very dark - most of the time I still feel quite free from negative emotions and am very happy. Also, compared to the jhana definitions of Daniel, my experiences seem a bit vague to be jhanas.

the factors and qualities of jhanas become more clear the more time one has spent in, and has spent progressing through, those jhanas.

and the 'dark night' is not usually quite so dark as what ingram warns about (he does state this clearly several times in his book).

those vague (feelings of) vibrations can decent objects of meditation, by the way - to the extent that they hold your attention, orient it toward increased subtlety, reveal impermanence at ever-deeper levels, and do not fuel craving or aversion.



Andy Hansen:

And also, what should I do to get back to having clearer meditation experiences again? And fell free to ask for further information. Thanks.

ok, i will: what would you like to get out of having clearer meditation experiences again?

tarin
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Andy Hansen, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Another yogi lost in the jhanas...

Posts: 22 Join Date: 6/15/11 Recent Posts
Tarin,

I am thankful for your answers. They were very comforting. It is a bit scary, this sudden mind change - it seems like my meditation practice have taken over my life in a matter of weeks, which implies I have not been able to work much lately or felt like being social.

So to be sure I understand you: I am at the end of A&P/2th jhana, and to move into the third jhana, I will have to focus more on how sensations are experienced, rather than the sensations?

To your question: the reason I was so happy about seeing endless space and not being confined by my body limits was that I associated such experiences with the fourth triad of the anapanasati. So it felt like a setback having my focus more unclear. But in the light of your answer and reading MCTB again ("In the second jhana, wherever we look we see clearly, whereas in the third jhana the wide periphery of our attention is clear and the center of our attention is murky.") - it may be a good sign ;-)

Best Regards

Andy
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Another yogi lost in the jhanas...

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
tarin, that is beautiful. emoticon
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-- Timus --, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Another yogi lost in the jhanas...

Posts: 47 Join Date: 5/17/10 Recent Posts
tarin greco:
... finding meaningful absorption into the third vipassana jhana requires a sufficiently direct understanding of the illusion of control and brings about greater insight into one's utter lack of it, as far as causality and the nature of momentary experience are concerned. this very lack of control is the spontaneity of anatta (no-self). ...

Thanks!

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