DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Tommy Toys, modified 5 Months ago.

DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
Quoting Kenneth Folk (https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Jhana+and+%C3%91ana+):
There are two very different instructions, depending on whether a yogi is pre- or post- fourth ñana. A pre- fourth ñana yogi, i.e. one who has not attained to the level of the Arising and Passing Away of Phenomena, must put his focus on penetrating the object. A post- fourth ñana yogi must concentrate.
Burmese yogis very quickly attain a deeply concentrated state and it is all the teachers can do to get them to look clearly at an object. Westerners, on the other hand, have no concentration whatsoever. ... When Burmese monks give instructions that were designed for Burmese yogis to American yogis, the result is too much effort and too little concentration. Without concentration, the strata of mind that contain advanced insight are never reached. 
Once a yogi, whether American, Asian, or otherwise, reaches the fourth ñana, it is imperative that the teacher recognize this and change the instruction from effort to concentration. A post 4th ñana yogi is in no danger of becoming "lost in concentration." He or she has all the tools to deconstruct whatever object presents itself to the mind. 

Is he suggesting not to use noting techniques thru D.N.?

There seem to me two ways to interpret/apply his point on concentration:  
1) Just use concentration (presumably breath or kasina) -- i.e. shamatha, and insights will automagickly happen & move along the map
or 2) Train concentration really well (incl jhanas), and then use noting technique

Looking for advice ... what're ppl's views on this? (esp. those of you crossed SE)

As a further context: I just (re-)crossed a&p 2 days ago thru noting. Had couple of failures in crossing DN in prev retreats. My single-pointed concentration (on breathing) is gone with DN kicking in, but I can still get to reasonable concentration/comfy sit through a light focus on the background instead. (Usually breathing becomes automatic / rythmic quickly. Some physical pains, but mostly bearable. Negative thoughts/emotion stuff coming in at times, not hugely disruptive [yet])

Thanks!
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Tommy M, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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Is he suggesting not to use noting techniques thru D.N.?
Kenneth is a seasoned vipassana yogi with strong samatha skills, so there's likely considerable nuance to the quotes you've posted. It may be better to ask Kenneth directly for clarification, he's a lovely guy with a lot of knowledge. Daniel would probably be even better as he's the godmode-vipassana-yogi and can get into specifics that are way beyond my skillset, and intelligence.
1) Just use concentration (presumably breath or kasina) -- i.e. shamatha, and insights will automagickly happen & move along the map
or 2) Train concentration really well (incl jhanas), and then use noting technique
My two cents, for what it's worth: Training in concentration is just as essential as training in insight, both of which are dependent on training in morality. The Three Trainings chapter in MCTB explains much about why morality is, as Daniel says, the first and last trainings.

Sorry I couldn't offer something more specific and helpful.
 




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Chris Marti, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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Those are very, very old Kenneth Folk quotes from 2009. I was an early student of Kenneth's and I can tell you from that experience that his practice advice has changed over the years, sometimes over the months. I'm not even sure he'd agree with those three quotes now, in 2020. Like Tommy M, I suggest you get in touch with Kenneth himself for clarification.
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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A lot of students essentially believe that they can intellectually dissect reality and attain SE that way. It seems to work for A&P, afterall. In A&P you go into into into the finest details of experience and it develops stronger and stronger momentary concentration and then BIG Experience. There is a sense that that is needed for SE.

I think Kenneth was right in cautioning against that mentality after A&P. Instead, it's better to allow experiences to arise to experience those with a sense of accepting intimacy, rather that dissection. Biasing sits towards the jhana side is good advice in my opinion. However, not everyone is wired to be jhanic, so to speak. This is where the very useful idea of vipassina jhanas becomes important. You can keep noting or doing deconstructive "investigation" type practices, but do so in a softer, less intense way. More appreciation of the richness of experience, even the dark night experiences, and less intellectualized trying to get somewhere else. 

I've joked that A&P is like fucking and SE is like making love... and the Dark Night is like the arguments you have with your partner as a relationship gets serious. emoticon  
Tommy Toys, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
shargrol:

I think Kenneth was right in cautioning against that mentality after A&P. Instead, it's better to allow experiences to arise to experience those with a sense of accepting intimacy, rather that dissection. Biasing sits towards the jhana side is good advice in my opinion. However, not everyone is wired to be jhanic, so to speak. This is where the very useful idea of vipassina jhanas becomes important. You can keep noting or doing deconstructive "investigation" type practices, but do so in a softer, less intense way. More appreciation of the richness of experience, even the dark night experiences, and less intellectualized trying to get somewhere else. 
Very intersting xplanation. So for DN, are you suggesitng try to hit jhanas as much as possible during sits?  Does it matter if it leans more twds shamatha jhana or vip jhana? (tbh - i have no idea even how to reach vip jhana).

Another practical q is ... my concentration capability dropped significantly with DN and keeps mind wandering (requires huge sustained effort to avoid distractions). MTCB mentions about the center of focus is vague, is there a way to reach high concentration / jhana through kinda perpipheral view instead?  (am using Leigh's Right Concentration as a guide previously)

Thank you!!
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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For the Dark Night, there is a different kind of "concentration" that is needed. It's different than the normal way we think about the english word concentration, which tends to mean clarity, precision, knowing, and even effort/control. 

In the Dark Night, we need to get used to the sense of vagueness, confusion, difficulty, uncertainty. The interesting thing is all of these experiences are clearly experiences that can be observed and known ---- but our usual feeling is something is wrong, this isn't right, I need to get somewhere else, etc.

What is wild is when we allow ourselves to inhabit this weird space, then we start making progress through the dark night. When we accept and are cool with dissolution we obtain "knowledge of dissolution", when we accept and are cool with Fear we obtain knowledge of fear, etc for misery, disgust, desire for deliverance, and reobservation.

And the really wild thing is the more that we can center within the vaguenes, that's when the third vipassina jhana happens -- cool, blissy, numb --- honestly it's my favorate jhana (which tells you maybe how long I was a dark night yogi, it feels like home to me in a way).

Hope this helps.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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Very cool discussion as this is the territory I am currently traversing. I finally feel like I am getting this bit about being "intimate" with whatever arises.

My take on this would be to practice concentration in a pretty standard straightforward way, just keeping Shargol's advice in mind. I spent about a month post-A&P just working on concentration about an hour a day, and it made a dramatic difference in my insight work. It's incredibly helpful to understand what an absorption is so you can lean into it as you're practicing insight. My teacher has made a big emphasis on the importance of concentration and leaning towards the jhanas, particularly when working up to Equanimity. All that subtle stuff is hard to catch if your mind is not in a very quiet, concentrated place.

In my current practice I start with concentration on the breath until I reach access concentration. Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, sometimes 20. After that I do a vipassana practice, but one is fairly open and with minimum effort. You can do it with straight noting too. It's just a matter of cultivating that sense of calm, well-being that can lead you up to more refined states of mind.
agnostic, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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I remember the first time I found a dark night enjoyable. I had just finished a really unpleasant meditation and I was walking down the street feeling a bit spooked out. Suddenly I had the thought 'just roll with it, see if you can enjoy it' and just like that it started to become fun. You have to allow yourself to dig the creepiness of it and sort of roll with the eerie waves. It's definitely an acquired taste but it's a nice skill to develop. Think of it like going through a haunted house and allow yourself to be spooked out for fun! emoticon ... emoticon ... emoticon ... emoticon
Tommy Toys, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
What is wild is when we allow ourselves to inhabit this weird space, then we start making progress through the dark night. When we accept and are cool with dissolution we obtain "knowledge of dissolution", when we accept and are cool with Fear we obtain knowledge of fear, etc for misery, disgust, desire for deliverance, and reobservation.
And the really wild thing is the more that we can center within the vaguenes, that's when the third vipassina jhana happens -- cool, blissy, numb --- honestly it's my favorate jhana (which tells you maybe how long I was a dark night yogi, it feels like home to me in a way).

Shargol, this is brilliant (as usual, of coz). It worked like charm (think it helped me got to low/mid Eq stage now). You have an amazing way with words.


Just saying that silence is not necessary nor is absorption. They can happen but no reason to wallow in it. However noticing (noting) experience unfolding, arising and passing without laps during the sit is important,  in my own experience that is. 
This is another great point. I'm trying aloud noting. 

Thanks agnostic & brandon too for sharing your great experiences!

Tommy Toys, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
shargrol:

And the really wild thing is the more that we can center within the vaguenes, that's when the third vipassina jhana happens -- cool, blissy, numb --- honestly it's my favorate jhana (which tells you maybe how long I was a dark night yogi, it feels like home to me in a way).


Technically - what's the best way to get into 3rd vip jhana for a pre-SE person? Is it diff from getting to 3rd shamatha jhana? thanks
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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If we are talking Noting then just be interested in any and all sensations arising and passing away. Interest, curiosity, intimacy = Jhanic trip. You let the mind be gladdened by really seeing objects for what they are. Popping in and out constantly. 

You don't desire Jhana to get there. You see and note that Desire and you sink into that feeling tone and body sensation and mind states associated with that particular desire-thought.  

This is the way to Vipassana Jhanas in my experience. 

The Samatha Jhana is same but you choose only one object to get absorbed in rather than noting the flow of dependent origination as in Vip. 

Still same applies; interest, curiosity, intimacy in the one object observed. 

Also good to know is that Concentration starts with Sharp and goes wider and more diffused as mind walks the Jhanic absorptions. I'm sure you know this but just in case someone else might be reading this thread it's good to know this.

In case I'm wrong someone will sure correct my view. emoticon 
Tommy Toys, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
Papa Che Dusko:
If we are talking Noting then just be interested in any and all sensations arising and passing away. Interest, curiosity, intimacy = Jhanic trip. You let the mind be gladdened by really seeing objects for what they are. Popping in and out constantly. 

You don't desire Jhana to get there. You see and note that Desire and you sink into that feeling tone and body sensation and mind states associated with that particular desire-thought.  

This is the way to Vipassana Jhanas in my experience. 


That's really interesting.

Q1. If it's "merely" interest in all sensates moment by moment - then how do you get to say 3rd vip v. 1st vip jhana?  Do you always go progressively from 1st to 4th? Does it depend on your current stage (e.g. DN leads to 3rd vip, Eq leads to 4th vip) ?

Q2. By interest in sensate - do you mean all sensates (e.g. touch on crown, belly moving in, thought image, words, etc.) in and of itself, or also meta-properties (e.g. the clarity of it, the density, heaviness, the scope of observation)? 

Q3. Perhaps more fundmanetally, the question would be - is each sensate itself a "totality" that cannot be captured/comprehended entirely / instantly by the slow "attention" mind and thus must pre-choose a certain "lense" to watch? 

Q4. Among the sensates - thought is a particularly intriguing one. Dharma books seem to suggest that thoughts must manifest in one of the other sensates (esp. sound and image). If that's the case - do they even exist independently as a sensate? Can you truly "sense" them w/o (or at least prior to) its other sensate manifestations emerge?  In my exp. I seem to be able to sense "intent", incl. intent to act, or intent to move attention itself. But as for emotion - they felt to me more like an Instagram filter applied upon all other sensates in the moment (at least once sense of "arising" is over).
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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emoticon I don't ever look how this Jhana goes to that Jhana. Jhanas for me happen as does an itch. They come, they hang about doing their stuff, they vanish just to be replaced by another experience/or Jhana. 

Im not trying to master this stuff hence can't really go deeper into your questions. However I think we do have members who are masters of this stuff. Let's hope they chime in. 

Yes I do mean interest and profound engagement with any and all matter of fact sensate experience, really getting into it. If there is resistance then note fast no matter what until there is feeling that body-mind sink into a certain sensation (usually for me this is palms/hands). Then stuff develops on its own. Clinging to no states or staged, Samsara unfolds in awakeness.

 
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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I'm more like Papa, I don't try to manipulate jhana intentionally (much). Good vipassina practice, with slightly more attention to:

A: doing and grooving on the job (e.g. following the unique sensations breathing, noting, etc), leads to access concentration
1: the pleasure of doing the job, leads to first vipassina jhana
2. the warm (sometimes rapturous) joy of doing the job, leads to second vj 
3. cool contentement (despite dark night) in doing the job, leads to third vj
4. quietly yet fully doing the job... basically is fourth vj, EQ and 4vj are basically the same.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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shargrol:

4. quietly yet fully doing the job... basically is fourth vj, EQ and 4vj are basically the same.
Really? If so, I have either overdiagnosed Equanimity or underdiagnosed 4vj. For me fourth vipassana jhana is a very rare absolutely beautiful chrystal clear neutrality where visions occur and there is no sense of doing anything and yet insights just present themselves. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
shargrol:

4. quietly yet fully doing the job... basically is fourth vj, EQ and 4vj are basically the same.
Really? If so, I have either overdiagnosed Equanimity or underdiagnosed 4vj. For me fourth vipassana jhana is a very rare absolutely beautiful chrystal clear neutrality where visions occur and there is no sense of doing anything and yet insights just present themselves. 

emoticon Funny as I find 4th rather boring and status quo like. All just is and that's it emoticon 
I must say that I never found any of the 4 material Jhanas special in any way (3rd is interesting visually), however the 5th Jhana was breathtaking and if I could at that time solidify that feeling of safety in that utterly vast safe space I would have. Thankfully Anicca made sure it didn't last and after a while I've lost the "ability" to get it. Otherwise I would have turned into a Jhana junky emoticon 

It's interesting to read folks having different experiences in Jhanas. Shows that "my God is not necessarily better than your God" but simply different emoticon 

My apologies if my writing feels like I'm "cycling" (på svenska) emoticon 

Best wishes! 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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Boring? Fourth vipassana jhana? 

Maybe what I'm thinking of was actually the door moments. I have been pondering that for a while. That would explain why it is so hard for me to get into that state: it only happens at doors. But if that's the case, then I don't know what fourth vipassana jhana is. I don't think anything else qualifies, so it's probably a safer bet to assume that I'm not concentrated enough to experience it more often. 

Whatever it was, the state I'm thinking of, it's probably the one I would pick if I had to spend a year in one single state that I have already experienced. Or a decade or two for that matter. And I'm very easily bored. 

Haha, yeah, cycling has a whole different meaning in Swedish. I don't think you are. We just have different experiences. Maybe it's because you are talking about shamatha jhanas and I'm currently talking about vipassana jhanas? 

Interesting visuals in third? Are you one of the "cool" people who get to see demons and stuff? I have had visions of ripping my own heart out. It was very matter of fact, not much of an emotional charge, just sort of fragmented dream images flashing by. I feel rather boring in that respect. The one time I saw skulls projected in the murk, they were of poor image quality - and pink. I have seen beautiful chrystal clear sacred geometry in what I have been thinking of as fourth vipassana jhana because of the extreme and very crisp neutrality. Very rarely have they been in 3D. I once saw a version of the flower of life as a spinning toroid. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

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4th Jhana in the visuals looks a bit like an emboss copper painting just more powder white and powder grey-black (open eyes while practicing). In a way it's a 3D image but also kind of 2D emoticon This in between being a 2D and 3D is 4th Jhana for me. There can be small frame "openings" in the image space. Some are bright and some pitch black. They are fast and can pop out anywhere in that all inclusive image space. Btw, the image I talk about is the room I see infront (in the mind-brain of course). 

3rd Jhana has so much dynamics to it and is the one I too would call "home" as it just feels familiar and is the one I never have doubt about (is it or isn't it). Image space (open eyes) gets invaded by the lava-lamp dark lumps and usually come from the sides and never from above. They try to penetrate the center (20-30cm in diameter) but always fail. The center also starts to vanish then reappear  (usually the spot I stare at). 
At times I did have all image space (open eyes) go almost total murk (the rooms I practice in are not dark and I usually sit in day time). Cool skin, long pleasant outbreath and very short slightly unpleasant inbreath is also part of this Jhana as is blissing out. 

2nd Jhana has diffused periphery and very sharp center. Can be very tunnel like at times. Not sure if this is the part when there is a purple haze manifesting in the center (can't remember now and latest few sits didn't have it) Maybe the purple haze is part of the 3rd (I wouldn't be surprised as it is the most interesting one visually). 

1st Jhana for me is mostly in the hands pleasant warm feeling and there is a "sinking" feeling as if Mind-Body sink into each other together. This could also be Access Concentration. Image space can get shaky in this first Jhana but it doesn't last long for me as it turns into 2nd and then 3rd seems to last longest during the sit. 

I ought to talk about this while fresh in memory as this new job of mine leaves me rather tired so I practice only a bit during weekends and even that is not much. I think my first log has most of the info on these Jhana visuals in my practice. 

I shall go to sleep now as I'm getting up early emoticon Good night you all! 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: DN: How to interpret Kenneth's concentration suggestion?

Posts: 1742 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
let me share my journey in case you find it interesting or not. emoticon 

During my final DN plow-through last year I've used freestyle noting aloud with open eyes focused on a "Kasina" spot (any dirt spot or anything small that was infront of me some 2 meters away). Gentle focus nothing forcefull. 

At one stage there was a very vivid thoroid grey cloud arising from the floor and got wider and wider then would abruptly vanish and would arise again and so on and on. After a while I decided to snap out of it and look if anything else was going on beside this 3rd Jhana visuals. My teacher at that time, Kenneth Folk said "that's great! Well done on snapping out of it and Looking if anything else was in the experience instead of just being absorbed". Make your own conclusion as why he said it this way. 

Did freestyle noting with open eyes Kasina spot all the way through DN and EQ. No pondering if this or that technique I should do instead to get me somewhere, but straight freestyle noting aloud 1-5 sensations a second for the duration of the sit without lapse. Sure, this noting style became part of the all inclusive EQ stage and got much slower. But I never shut up in my sits throughout these 5 months of daily practice emoticon 

Just saying that silence is not necessary nor is absorption. They can happen but no reason to wallow in it. However noticing (noting) experience unfolding, arising and passing without laps during the sit is important,  in my own experience that is. 

But then again I only have my own experience so be cautious not to take it too seriously especially because most here keep suggesting choicless open awareness once in EQ. I rather lean on noting longer (and even all the way) than stopping with noting too soon. You see emoticon cessation can also happen off the cushion where noting is not practiced (im not talking about retreats here but home practice and then just lifeing about)

Best wishes to you! 

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