RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
I've been working through what I thought were the jhanas according to Daniel Ingram for the past 7 months. I thought that I'd try reading additional material to further my practice.

I picked up Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington and read through the part about jhanas 1-4 and how to enter them. 

Interestingly, I find that her descriptions of the jhanas do not match my experience at all, which means either there is a wide range of experience within the jhanas between people, or I'm just doing them wrong.

For example she states that 3rd jhana will have no sign of piti and to turn off piti to enter 3rd. This is interesting because I've never been able to turn off piti. It's always present on or off the cushion so I guess that means 3rd jhana isn't possible for me? Also, I've never felt that joy and happiness dominate in the heart center in 2nd jhana. To me it feels spread out and radiating in the entire body. 

The descriptions by Daniel Ingram seem to be more relevant to my practice in that they have more to do with the object and how we perceive it in our experience. 

I suppose I'm disappointed because I thought I was on to something with this book but it seems that it may not be relevant. Either that or I need to start over with my concentration practice and relearn everything. 

​​​​​​​-Kelly
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 1158 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
nothing to add  yet but a little note. Leigh is a man emoticon
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
So am I! 
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 972 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Kelly Gordon Weeks
I've been working through what I thought were the jhanas according to Daniel Ingram for the past 7 months.
...
​​​​​​​-Kelly


Can you provide a reference for where you are getting your information about "jhanas according to Daniel"?

Otherwise I would say you do not need to start over. Different people experience this (and a lot more differently). Everybody's brain is wired differently because of their different developmental experiences, genetics, and chance. The first time I learned to experience any jhana it was was the 5th and that was long before I experienced 1st etc. The conventional order of things, jhanas or progress of insight, does not happen for me which is why I am skeptical that they are real. I am mostly self taught and was never biased by traditional teachings which I think are the cause of a lot of confused people stuck on false dogma. To me it looks like the teachings are too simple for people to accept so they cling to mystical and complicated doctrines. In reality all you have to do is relax and watch the arising and cessation of dukkha in your own mind. Meditation is different from that process, it is a technique to help you develop the mindfulness (quiet mind, focus mind, willingness to look into dukkha opnely and honestly )needed to do that process in meditation and in daily life.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for this Jim! Daniel talks about the jhanas specifically in MCTB in the "Wide World of Jhana" section. His description of the 4 jhanas has more to do with perception and the way attention changes. From what I can tell he doesn't mention piti or happiness/joy. This seems to be the case for me as well. I find that I can move through the jhanas but the object changes within the realm of space itself. For example, let's say the object is in the dead center of the room. Depending on which jhana I'm experiencing my perspective changes by me moving up, down, left, or right of the object, thus making it appear to be in a different place.

I'm self-taught as well, and it seems as though our experiences with meditation are vastly different. I think that's what makes this so interesting! 

Cheers!
Robert L., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

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I find that Leigh Brasington's discription of the jhanas is accurate, at least to the 5th which is as far as I've gone after about 3 years of steady practice. If you still have piti in what you consider the 3rd jhana, it probably isn't 3rd jhana, as piti is not the object of concentration. Intense piti happens outside of jhanas as well. Many people spend weeks in jhana specific retreat to reach first jhana. I'm not discounting your experience, as your concentration practice needs to be on point to experience piti at all. I would be honest with yourself and assess your experience, maybe ask a teacher that specializes in jhana about what you described. The danger is fabricating an experience into what you think is jhana, but it not being jhana at all.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks Robert for helping to figure this out. I'm thinking I'll have to find a teacher as this territory is pretty difficult to navigate on my own. Even with the help of you good people. ;)

Piti is always present and has been for over a year. I can feel it raging right now as I type this, right at the base of my nose. I'm not sure how to get it to drop away off the cushion, let alone in jhana!

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David Matte, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 81 Join Date: 8/3/19 Recent Posts
Hi Kelly, Nice to talk jhanas with you again emoticon
I picked up Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington and read through the part about jhanas 1-4 and how to enter them.  Interestingly, I find that her descriptions of the jhanas do not match my experience at all, which means either there is a wide range of experience within the jhanas between people, or I'm just doing them wrong.
There is certainly a wide range of interpretations and definitions of what constitutes the jhana states. Leigh B jhana's in his book are based on his interpretation of the jhanas as described in the Pali suttas. 
For example she states that 3rd jhana will have no sign of piti and to turn off piti to enter 3rd. This is interesting because I've never been able to turn off piti. It's always present on or off the cushion so I guess that means 3rd jhana isn't possible for me?
Piti (rapture) drops away in 3rd jhana as described in the suttas:

"Further, with the fading away of rapture, one dwells in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, and experiences happiness with the body. Thus one enters and dwells in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare: ‘One dwells happily with equanimity and mindfulness.’ One drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses one’s body with this happiness free from rapture, so that there is no part of one’s entire body which is not suffused by this happiness.” (DN 2)

If you have trouble abandoning piti, and feel it both on and off the cushion, there may be another issue at play. You might have Leigh B calls in his book "piti stuck-on", a side-effect of jhana practise where the piti doesn't go away after leaving the absorption and is always present. I have encountered this issue and it just went away with time and less practise. It occurred after I was riding in 1st jhana too much and too long. I believe Leigh gives some ideas to remedy it in his book
Also, I've never felt that joy and happiness dominate in the heart center in 2nd jhana. To me it feels spread out and radiating in the entire body.

​​​​​​​This could just be that you're more deeply concentrated than the depth to which Leigh describes the quality of jhana here. There is a range of depth to which the qualities of jhana can be experienced.

 
The descriptions by Daniel Ingram seem to be more relevant to my practice in that they have more to do with the object and how we perceive it in our experience.  I suppose I'm disappointed because I thought I was on to something with this book but it seems that it may not be relevant. Either that or I need to start over with my concentration practice and relearn everything.  ​​​​​​​-Kelly

It's true Daniel talks more about the object and it's shape of attention and characteristics like that. But still, his descriptions of the qualities present in each jhana seem close enough to what is described in the suttas. I just checked MCTB and he also wrote piti drops away in 3rd jhana.

​​​​​​​Peace.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks again ;) for your help. The piti is definitely stuck on. I've felt it for over a year right at the base of my nose. It's very overpowering, even as I write this message.

How about this...If it can't drop away and it's not the object does that still disqualify 3rd jhana? Kind of like a sore back, it's always present regardless of what's happening. 

I'm definitely experiencing different states of concentration that seem to align with Daniel's descriptions, besides the piti obviously. Thanks for keeping me honest on the MCTB. I missed that even after rereading it a few times!

Side note, things get even wilder when I start doing vipassana after becoming super concentrated. That's a whole different topic that I have yet to understand.

Thanks again David!
Hector, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 91 Join Date: 5/9/20 Recent Posts
I have no idea what jhana means, but when I generate too much pleasant sensation and get 'full' of it, it seems to naturally fade away into contentment. Maybe one way through is to spread the sensation at the base of your nose to the entire body so it feels like a waterfall and when it gets too much just ride it out until it decays into contentment? The contentment seems a little more refined and clearer than the buzzy excitement of the pleasure sensation. Like going from carbonated water to some cool mountain sourced spring water.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
According to Leigh, I'm the unfortunate "3 in 1000" people that get semi-permanent piti that is stuck. Mine has been there persistently for over a year. Apparently, there is no solution.

It's good to be different! =D
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 1771 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I've had "stuck piti" for most of the last two years. When it's not stuck then I can progress through soft jhanas, but when it's stuck then I tend to be stuck in a soft first/second jhana. I know that I’ve never been in a hard jhana but I find it counter-productive to worry about whether my state “qualifies" as jhana, leading to results/future-oriented practice and frustration rather than acceptance of the present moment. From what I’ve seen, jhana is all about acceptance and letting go. At the end of the day, your current state is what it is and the only variable you can really control is the way you relate to the state – resisting, clinging, ignoring or accepting. Also, jhana is not nibbana! Awakening eventually involves letting go of meditation states themselves. It’s not that you give up getting into deeper states, but at some point you realize that it’s still samsara and nibbana must be something different from deeper states.

I also find it counter-productive to think about the piti as being “stuck” because that’s also future-oriented – seeing it as an obstacle preventing me from getting into deeper absorption. For me it goes in cycles. When I get into deeper more relaxed states then that opens up deeper emotional-physical knots/tensions, which take time to digest. I find there’s two ways to work with these knots and I oscillate between the two. One way is to ignore them as much as possible by focusing on an unrelated object. The body basically knows how to release this stuff and the rational/controlling mind just tends to obstruct that process. The other way is to focus on them with a mindset of complete relaxation and acceptance. I find it helpful to actively look for how I am resisting the process, e.g. thinking of it as being “stuck” or physically tensing in certain areas (which are often so habitual that I don’t notice unless I look for it). If I get really interested in the present moment experience without judging it, then the knots become more dynamic and flowy. Generally the energetic flow is downwards, out of the head/over-thinking and towards the belly/root and deeper more relaxed breathing and feeling of physical embodiment. The most unsatisfactory approach is being caught between the two, trying to focus on a different object but with the “stuck” piti still in awareness, being unconsciously resisted, leading to frustration.

As for Leigh’s “3 in 1000” comment, if you read between the lines a lot of people on here mention “energetic pains” or "rewiring" difficulties which are probably in similar territory. There could be some selection bias, because the kinds of people who tend to go on jhana retreats may be more relaxed and accepting whereas the kinds of people who post on DhO could be more tense and insight-focused! Or maybe that’s just my bias :-)
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
I'm not sure how to copy/paste quotes from previous replies so...

"From what I’ve seen, jhana is all about acceptance and letting go. At the end of the day, your current state is what it is and the only variable you can really control is the way you relate to the state"

This is helpful. I think that I'm trying to control the absorptions and I need to be allowing them to occur naturally.
"I also find it counter-productive to think about the piti as being “stuck” because that’s also future-oriented – seeing it as an obstacle preventing me from getting into deeper absorption."

This is spot on. Thanks for pointing it out. Yesterday when I focused on the "stuck piti" it made me obsess about how to remove it instead, sabatoging concentration for the majority of my sit.

I think I need to just accept the absoptions as they happen and not obsess about "where I am" and "where I need to be." Today I let go of the idea of control and enjoyed the 60 minutes while I sat!

​​​​​​​Thank you for your input. I appreciate it!  
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David Matte, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 81 Join Date: 8/3/19 Recent Posts
The piti is definitely stuck on. I've felt it for over a year right at the base of my nose. It's very overpowering, even as I write this message.


​​​​​​​I know that feeling. I'm curious how this happened in your case though. How often do you practise jhana?  My guess (and hope) is the skilled energy based practitioners may know a thing or two to move or lessen that spot of piti. I would say it's worth some research or asking one yourself since it sounds like a persistent thing for you.

How about this...If it can't drop away and it's not the object does that still disqualify 3rd jhana? Kind of like a sore back, it's always present regardless of what's happening.


Well if the piti is just stuck on your nose and you can turn it off everywhere else, then that's pretty close. The suttas describe 3rd as "happiness (sukha) free from rapture/piti" so ideally there shouldn't be any piti. But personally I wouldn't get too hung up on whether or not it exactly meets some definition but think more practically along the lines of how the jhana you can access helps or is useful to you.

Side note, things get even wilder when I start doing vipassana after becoming super concentrated. That's a whole different topic that I have yet to understand.
 

Oh yes. Nice that you noticed that! Makes it easy to see why many people are in the camp of developing concentration before insight.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​Peace.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
I'm not sure exactly how piti became stuck on. I practice jhana daily. Actually, most of the time I don't intentionally practice jhana. It's somewhat effortless. Right now I feel like I'm in access just sitting at my computer.  

Today when I decided to do vipassana practice instead of jhana I cycled through some forms of jhana. They seem to happen naturally. Even the luminous one. Today it felt like I was absorbed into a white cloud and floating in the sky. My body had no form. I'm not sure if this is normal or if my mind is extra trippy!

Anyway, what I've decided is that I need to stop trying to control the concentration states and let them occur naturally and I also need to stop obsessing about "where I am" constantly while meditating. 

Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it!
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Dream Walker, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 1333 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Kelly Gordon Weeks
I've been working through what I thought were the jhanas according to Daniel Ingram for the past 7 months. I thought that I'd try reading additional material to further my practice.

I picked up Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington and read through the part about jhanas 1-4 and how to enter them. 

Interestingly, I find that her descriptions of the jhanas do not match my experience at all, which means either there is a wide range of experience within the jhanas between people, or I'm just doing them wrong.

For example she states that 3rd jhana will have no sign of piti and to turn off piti to enter 3rd. This is interesting because I've never been able to turn off piti. It's always present on or off the cushion so I guess that means 3rd jhana isn't possible for me? Also, I've never felt that joy and happiness dominate in the heart center in 2nd jhana. To me it feels spread out and radiating in the entire body. 

The descriptions by Daniel Ingram seem to be more relevant to my practice in that they have more to do with the object and how we perceive it in our experience. 

I suppose I'm disappointed because I thought I was on to something with this book but it seems that it may not be relevant. Either that or I need to start over with my concentration practice and relearn everything. 

​​​​​​​-Kelly
Stop using the word piti, whaever that means. 1st jhana is intensity, 2nd is body bliss, 3rd is mental joy, 4th is calm quietness.
Moving from 2nd to 3rd is letting go of the effort and annoying quality of sustaining 2nd jhana. Mental joy is wonderful and effortless compared to 2nd. A lot of people get stuck as bliss bunnies, its your thing to be blissfull in the body. Try to notice the annoying qualities of sustaning this. Relax into the 3rd. Only when you get tired of the bliss will your mind want to go there. Mental joy is so nice and calm, it will draw you in. 4th happens on its own by just relaxing again even deeper.
good luck,
~D
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 115 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for this. I'm finding that the "standard" definitions to be one-dimensional as well. I'll think about this tomorrow in my sit.
Stickman3, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/15/21 Recent Posts
What I like about Brasington is his attempt to equate meditational "energies" with neurotransmitters. I think it'd be nice, in a demystification way, to have all the pali terms harmonised with biochemistry terms. Although acknowledging that the practise is way ahead of the science so the Pali may go where the science terms can't, yet.
There must be someone who can more closely define piti and sukha etc in plain English or biochemistry... ?
Piti and sukha sound wifty wafty mystic schmystic. If you can put it in terms of - "my norepinephrine system became active as I focused on an object because (it would be nice to have a proper because here)" - it sounds more concrete, in the realm of normal psychology.

So that's a good question - why should focussing on the nose for a while stimulate norepinephrine ? That's to do with the fight or flight mechanism isn't it - which isn't really relevant to sitting on a cushion. You might think sitting doing nothing is a risky business from the way the body can react to it :-)
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 1771 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I wonder what was the evolutionary purpose of feeling pleasure from doing nothing. Unless it is a spandrel, it must have some survival value - maybe a counterbalance to our instinct always to want more (which could drive the species to extinction if run unchecked).
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Zero, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington

Posts: 40 Join Date: 2/21/18 Recent Posts
Perhaps the mind rewards one for a job well done for setting up the conditions to allow one to not need to do much of anything to ensure their survival. 

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