How long does it take to get to jhana

goba g gobasson, modified 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 6:08 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 6:08 AM

How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/22/09 Recent Posts
I've been practicing shamata (with anapanasati) on and off for the last 5 months maybe twice a week or so for 20-40 minutes. Two weeks ago I made a commitment to amp up my practice and since then I've sat for 30mins twice a day everyday.

When I sit a usually can "get into the groove" in about five minutes, totally focused on the breath at the nostrils, not missing a single breath and pretty much no distracting thoughts for the whole duration of the sitting. Sometimes thoughts arise, but not strong enough to distract my attention from the breath and I usually catch the arising thought immediatly and i'm able to let it go.

Now to my "problem":
When I sit, nothing happens. Once I get focused I just sit there breath after breath. I don't get any calmer, I don't get piti or any of the other jhana factors. The only thing that happens sometimes is that I get a urge to get up from the cushion but that urge usually passes if I just stay with the breath.

My questions
1) How long should I sit? I usually sit about 30 minutes.
2) How long did you practice meditation before you could get into first jhana? How long could one
expect that it takes? Months or years?

Best regards
Goba
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Florian, modified 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 6:59 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 6:57 AM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Goba,

Once you're concentrated on the breath, open your focus a bit, without losing the breath of course. See if you can notice a pleasant sensation somewhere in the breath/body. Ven. Ajahn Brahm coined the phrase "find the beautiful breath". Stay on that pleasant, beautiful breath sensation.

A few things from my practice:

Leigh Brasington has a neat short-cut to finding a pleasant sensation: smile! He claims that the smile depicted on many Buddha images is a visual cue for this technique.

Try a different concentration object once in a while. If you usually concentrate on the breath sensation, try a visual object, or sound etc.

Oh, and once the Jhana becomes apparent, remember to stay with your object! It seems to be very natural to let go of the object and turn attention to the new Jhana sensations, but that will just remove the fuel for the Jhana, so to speak. It's actually quite fun to watch the jhana develop by doing something apparently completely different (concentrating on the object).

30-minute sits are just fine. Try a 45-minute sit occasionally, just to see what happens. Also, when using a new concentration object, especially a visual one (Kasina), I go gently at first, maybe 10-15 minutes.

As for time, how long it takes and so on: The chapter on A Clear Goal in MCTB contains the most skillful take on long-term goals I have ever seen.

Cheers,
Florian
PE Ong, modified 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 7:53 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/2/09 7:53 PM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 3 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi, I would like to clarify your point about staying with the object after Jhana arises.

Florian "Monkeymind" Weps:

Oh, and once the Jhana becomes apparent, remember to stay with your object! It seems to be very natural to let go of the object and turn attention to the new Jhana sensations, but that will just remove the fuel for the Jhana, so to speak. It's actually quite fun to watch the jhana develop by doing something apparently completely different (concentrating on the object).


In the Leigh Brasington link you attached, Leigh mentioned "By shifting your attention from the meditation object to a pleasant sensation, particularly a pleasant physical sensation, and doing nothing more than not becoming distracted from the pleasant sensation, you will "automatically" enter the first Jhana".

It gives me the impression that the meditation objection should be dropped and the attention totally shifted to the pleasant sensation (piti , sukha) once it arises.

In my current sitting, I try to tune in to pleasant sensation, but so far could not induce definitive piti or sukha.

Regards
Peong
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Florian, modified 12 Years ago at 11/3/09 3:41 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/3/09 12:28 AM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
About staying with the object: what happened to me was, I'd concentrate, I'd "see" the Jhana, get all excited, want to take a "closer look" and forget to concentrate - poof.

Jhanas are concentration states, they "live" off concentration. The way to get that "closer look", to zoom in so to speak, is to continue to concentrate on whatever it was I was concentrating on.

Once that has worked a few times, you'll gain familiarity with the state, and you can try switching the concentration object, such as concentrating on the pleasant sensations. The thing is, if they are not stable enough or go away, it's kind of hard to concentrate on them.

One of the similes which the Buddha used was that of kneading powder with water. Gently spread the pleasant sensations around the body, but don't lose concentration. I find this easier when doing "full body" breath awareness, such as imagining the breath to come in and out of all skin pores, than by doing very narrowly focused awareness such as the anapana spot at the nostrils. With me, narrow focus is great for starting a sit, but I make it wider once concentration has "caught". The Buddha teaches a similar stepwise refinement in the Anapanasati Sutta. In the third step he recommends changing to full-body concentration, followed by calming the sensations in the entire body (step four), and only at that point, to focus on the rapture and pleasure. (steps five and six).

My general stance: Be gentle - this is about serenity. Have fun - jhanas are really great fun. Do it lightly. This is not heavy lifting.

YMMV. Experiment! Try kasina practice, or some other object, once in a while. Read the chapter on good goals.

If you enjoy listening to Dhamma talks, there's a really good three-hour lecture by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu on the sixteen steps of the Anapanasati Sutta, called "The Breath: a vehicle for liberation", which contains huge amounts of practice advice. He teaches the Thai forest tradition, fused Samatha/Vipassana style which doesn't focus explicitly on the Jhanas or on noting practice, but if you listen closely, what he does (in MCTB terms) is to first set up a concentration state, and then analyse it, understand it, look for its "faults" (i.e. the three characteristics).

Oh, and formal resolves are really astonishingly effective. Before the sit, think in a formal voice, "I resolve to concentrate on the breath for the next 30 minutes. May a concentration state arise". Silly as it sounds, this stuff actually works.

Cheers,
Florian

(edit: added some links, corrected the anapana steps)
(another edit: added the link to the podcast)
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 11/16/09 3:36 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/16/09 3:36 AM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana (Answer)

Posts: 3231 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I played around with taking bliss and ease as objects by manufacturing them initially by remembering times when things were great and simply adopting an attitude of sinking into that imagined sense and then expanding it out from there.

Remember when you felt great, how that was, and sink into the memory of that in your body until it becomes clearer, then sink in more, taking that as object, gently creating more until you feel real bliss in full, easy, wonderful, clean, healing, beautiful breaths with that memory of feeling wonderful in your mind and realize that it could be just that easy.

On a related topic: jhanas are way easier to get into when you have stream entry. Any interest in insight practice? I see lots of people going about it samatha, then vipassana, but pound for pound my stream enterer friends generally beat the pants of my below-stream-enterer friends in terms of concentration skills and easy access to high jhanas, so consider that as a good way to go, and then there is always the enlightenment thing, which is good, obviously.
goba g gobasson, modified 12 Years ago at 11/16/09 6:59 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/16/09 6:59 AM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/22/09 Recent Posts
Yeah I've realized now that insight practice is the way to go. I'll be doing that from now on. Thanks for all the replies guys.
J Adam G, modified 12 Years ago at 11/18/09 1:56 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/18/09 1:53 PM

RE: How long does it take to get to jhana

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Florian "Monkeymind" Weps:

My general stance: Be gentle - this is about serenity. Have fun - jhanas are really great fun. Do it lightly. This is not heavy lifting.


Agreed -- I've never gotten to jhana by force of exertion. Though what does one do when one simply can't keep concentrating on the chosen object without exertion after only about 10-15 minutes of sitting (having planned for 30 minutes), even with formal resolutions to stay in a pleasant state of mind or to maintain energy and concentration? Stop and try again the next day? Or continue sitting for the rest of the allotted time with the mild pleasure of choosing to have a pleasant mood, without trying to concentrate enough to have a jhana arise?

I believe everyone who says that jhana is way easier after stream-entry, but going through a potentially nasty dark night is not something I'll be willing to risk until at least the summer.

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