Ella's Concentration Practice Log: On The ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi Pipeline.

Ella Mousekowitz, modified 3 Years ago at 5/11/21 10:25 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 5/11/21 10:22 PM

Ella's Concentration Practice Log: On The ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi Pipeline.

Post: 1 Join Date: 5/11/21 Recent Posts
Dear Dharma Overground,

I would like to document my preparation and ongoing practice. I am about a week away from my first ever retreat, which will be five full days (plus a half day of travel on either side) solo retreat at a meditation center a few hours from where I live. I will be doing a self-guided meditation retreat with some Zoom check-ins with my teacher, Tina Rasmussen, who is a lineage holder of the Burmese Theravada tradition through her teacher, the meditation master Pa-Auk Sayadaw.

I will be doing the traditional concentration meditation with the breath as my object. Although this could lead to jhanic states of absorption, I am trying to keep my expectations low and humble since I have never sat a retreat before, EVER. According to Pa-Auk Sayadaw, following one traditional view of jhanas,  they are wholesome states where the five hindrances (desire, aversion, doubt, regret/remorse, and torpor/sloth) are temporarily absent, and replaced with the five jhana factors of applied attention, sustained attention, physical bliss, mental joy, and one-pointedness. In order to attain this, you must unify and purify the mindstream a tremendous amount, and this is the primary benefit of the practice. The ultimate aim should be to use your purified, unified, powerful jhanic mind as the basis for the insight practices.

I am a huge fan of Daniel Ingram - I have read his book and avidly followed his appearances on podcasts such as Guru Viking - but as I frequently find, the people I like the most personality-wise tend to have practice views that don't actually work for me*. I have a natural aversion to "dry insight" practices, to the point that I thought I did not even want to meditate when I was younger because all I knew about was Mahasi-style vipassana! When I accidentally found a book about Chan practices, which have a lot of Taoist influence and emphasize the dhyana/jhana states and explain them in energetic terms, an intense desire to practice was immediately sparked. Oh my, what a desire. 

I am, through and through (at this stage, in this life, not forever please and thank you) a "desire type," previously a downright desire-monster. I am diagnosed with ADHD and have a hungry mind, always looking for excitement and dopamine. Historically I've sought this through food, sex, ecstatic dancing, dramatic relationships and intensive intellectual stimulation. I have used food and books addictively at times in my life, and although it sounds funny to say someone is addicted to reading, I can promise skeptics that my "use" met all the criteria of addiction!

At the age of 31, I sought out an energy healer and (quite unexpectedly) underwent a spiritual awakening that lasted a few years, and I experienced all of that first chakra (don't @ me, it's all a metaphor :-D) energy of sex, survival and drama bursting upwards and doing a first pass through my energy channels. I underwent profound (though quite difficult at times) positive changes in my morality, philosophy, conduct and view of the world.

Although I no longer act out my desire-monster urges the way I once did, in beginning to explore concentration meditation it has become so obvious just how much purification of this hindrance there remains to do! I try to enjoy the journey and not let my desire for attainments and progress become yet another manifestation of the hindrance.

So yes, although I love Daniel and his book and I absolutely plan to do insight practices in the future, for now I am dedicated to traditional concentration practices as taught in this Burmese tradition. One factor that may influence this aversion to dry insight is perhaps my profession- I am a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, so I rather feel like I "do vipassana," or some flavor that is close, all day long with myself and others. Noticing the most minute movements of consciousness, being sensitively attuned to that in self and others. What I feel I need to counter that is tranquility, calming, going into deep and rich silence and letting my body rest.

I want to also say how grateful I am to live in this time, with material conditions sufficient to meditate daily and go on this retreat, and that I have access to incredible teachings and guidance from so many incredible people. I feel it in my bones, it is not just an intellectual insight. Thank you to anyone reading this, and I welcome any comments people might want to give. Especially from any former desire-monsters who have mastered concentration and successfully learned to drop desire!

I am going to cross-post this on Dao Bums, probably - I'm a big fan of this forum and have been lurking for a while, but not totally sure if I really fit in because of my focus and interests. I have a super soft spot for Taoist mystical noodling, although I also love the rationalist/pragmatic/neuroscience folks. I love the community here, and respect the seriousness of the practitioners so much. 

This practice log will also, hopefully, stop me from info-dumping all my meditation thought and experiences on my patien- though-puzzled friends and relations.

Thank you for listening,


* Another example: I love Tibetan people, Tibetan culture, and Tibetan Buddhist teachings- but I am not attracted to their meditation tradition AT ALL. It is really puzzling. I love esoteric Buddhism in general, and the pomp and circumstance and magick of it, but somehow I also know that at least for now, that isn't my path.
Josef C, modified 3 Years ago at 5/12/21 3:32 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 5/12/21 3:32 AM

RE: Ella's Concentration Practice Log: On The ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi Pipeline.

Posts: 85 Join Date: 6/16/20 Recent Posts
Hello Ella ! Welcome to DhO emoticon I agree with the personality wise part in regards to practice   and also about Vajrayana .So far I have nothing to comment on since I also am just starting on the path. I can only say , keep up the practice with patience  ! emoticon 
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Years ago at 5/12/21 7:27 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 5/12/21 7:26 AM

RE: Ella's Concentration Practice Log: On The ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi Pipeline.

Posts: 2464 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi Ella, and welcome to DhO. What a great first post, a surprising amount of pure fun in it, a bonus of playfulness. So thank you for that too.

Have you had an environmental impact study done on your ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi pipeline? It's an idea whose time has come, for sure, God knows we need more good cheap high-quality applied attention, sustained attention, physical bliss, mental joy, and one-pointedness, but not at the expense of the subarctic tundra ecology. The caribou need bliss too. But assuming the impact on the planet will be benevolent, a safe assumption with the jhanas in general, it's a great project.

I think you'll probably find the environment here friendlier to the concentration practice pipeline than you might be expecting. This is indeed a sangha of generally serious practioners (though we have our doubts about me sometimes, but on the whole, serious practioners), and we have a host of very strong vipassana practice people. But the range here is extraordinary. Right off the top of my head, I think of Martin---

Martin's sporadic log - Discussion - www.dharmaoverground.org

Martin's Log 2 - Discussion - www.dharmaoverground.org

--- Martin has been plumbing the depths of the shamatha jhanas for a while now very explicitly, lucidly, and with clearly increasing skill and knowledge, in those two practice logs, and it has really been a great ongoing seminar. So check him out.

As for your "super soft spot for Taoist mystical noodling," of course, you will be vilified, shunned, and burned at the stake at the first evidence of it.

I actually am a Taoist mystical noodler myself, to a great extent, I started with the Tao Te Ching, first spiritual book I bought, way back in the day. It was a coffee table book, large glossy format, with the short chapters on facing pages to these luscious black and white nature photographs. So I set out to be a wandering Taoist hermit and live in those photographs, and got quite a ways with the wandering part, lol. And to this day, my preferred state is cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.

Again, welcome to the community. How great that you're on the cusp of your first retreat! An auspicious moment on your path, and thank you for sharing it here. Now let's get that pipeline laid. Fuck the caribou, come to think of it, if they can't take a joke. You go.
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 3 Years ago at 5/18/21 7:47 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 5/18/21 7:47 AM

RE: Ella's Concentration Practice Log: On The ADHD-to-Jhana-Yogi Pipeline.

Posts: 83 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Welcome to the forum, Ella! It is great that you are on the cusp of this reatreat + have a great teacher + might have crossed A&P at least once (you mentioned energy awakening + having read Daniel's book so you should be able to diagnose yourself if you decide to do so).

One thing I personally discovered for Jhana practice is that certain objects work muuuuch better than others, based on our disposition. E.g. for me anything visual (staring into a candle candle, led light, the moon, the stars, the leaves on a tree, empty space) was always super easy to boostrap into jhana, whereas the breath was at least initially very difficult (I literally couldnt concentrate on 3 consecutive breaths). Some people want to have a more rounded grasp on meditation objects, and I can see where they are coming from. I am of the opposite camp, - especially in the beginning, stay with what works easiest/best. The idea is to progress with this awakening thing, and not necessarily to have 360 degree mastery of any possible meditation object. Once this awakening thing progresses, we suddenly find we have much better baseline concentration, and then if we are so inclined, we can come back to the 360 degree concentration mastery project.

I am not familiar with how ADHD manifests in different people, one thing I have heard is that more flashy objects tend to catch the attention easier for them. If you are compfortable with the breath, and you want to stick to that, then go for it, but if you find it difficult, you might find things that more easily and naturally engage your attention (visual, auditory, mantra, kasina, other body sensations) easier.