Formless Jhana

Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

Formless Jhana

Posts: 184 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
How can I tell if I'm in formless jhana?

I practice 60 minutes per day. I do a variety of techniques. Lately I've been cycling through the poi so there's not much I've been able to do except go along for the ride. However, when my concentration is strong and I'm able to control things a bit I'm able to cycle through the shamatha jhanas 1-4 pretty effortlessly.

Today I cycled 1-4 in about 20 minutes and then I was lost in subconscious thoughts/imagery for about 35 minutes. Are these subconscious thoughts the formless jhanas? It's difficult for me to piece together my experience when it's so dreamlike. As soon as I have a thought or image it's gone and I forget it almost instantly.

Thanks for your help!

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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
What you describe doesn't sound like the formless jhanas.

When you are in a formless jhanas you experience the characteristic of that jana. For example when you are in the fifth jhana, "infinite space", it feels like you are surrounded by infinite space in every direction without anything material around you. It is very a clear state, not at all dreamlike, the transition, for me often seems llike becoming more alert. [Maybe, just to give you an idea of what it is like, it is as if the part of the brain that creates  your mental map of your environment was deactivated and your sense of being surrounded by things was turned off.] Depending on your depth of concentration, you might or might not be aware of bodily sensation at the same time, (it's not like an out-of-body experience), but that doesn't take anything away from the feeling of formlessness. They are called the formless jhanas not because you are not thinking of form form, but because you feel very distinctly the absence of form.

I find relaxation exercises help a lot to get past the 4th jhana. If you are in the forth jhana you might try doing some kind of relaxation exercise as a form of meditation.
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Stefan R, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 176 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Sounds like dissolution-y type stuff. Or high EQ. Hard to tell without more data. 

Formless Jhanas work as advertised. Form drops away. 4th Jhana is pure stillness, it is very noble. Within the stillness, behind it, or between it, is space. You notice this space and it expands. In noticing the space, consciousness is noticed as its opposite (sort of like North-South on a magnet attracting each other) and the mind flips to seeing consciousness. And so it goes, with more and more refined noticing until there is no noticing yet no non-noticing; simply a suspension. 
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Dream Walker, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 1342 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
High eq as described by you. Formless is cultivated, create expansivenesd, then presence. 
good luck,
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Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 184 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for your responses!

It definitely feels more like High EQ than formless jhana from your descriptions. I figured this path cycle had started over. However, this seems to not be the case! I haven't experienced a cessation in over a year and a half but I keep cycling. I may be stuck in High EQ. 

Any suggestions for getting through it?

Thanks!

​​​​​​​-Kelly
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts


Any suggestions for getting through it?


Make sure you are practicing samatha and vipassana every day.

Practice in daily life.

Throw away the map, stop looking for cessations (they are not necessary for progress), understand that each meditation session may be different because your internal state is variable depending on lots of different things like brain chemistry, when ate your last meal and what you ate, changing stress levels in daily life, when your last meditation session was and how long you meditated for, how much sleep you had recently, etc etc. People will see cycles in random noise if they expect to see them. 

Instead watch your mind and observe how dukkha arises and how it ceases. Don't worry about progress, study dukkha in your own mind and the progress will take care of itself.

If you want to measure your progress, measure it by how you react to dukkha in daily life, not by effects that only occur in deep meditation.


I was lost in subconscious thoughts/imagery for about 35 minutes. Are these subconscious thoughts the formless jhanas? It's difficult for me to piece together my experience when it's so dreamlike. As soon as I have a thought or image it's gone and I forget it almost instantly.



I'm not sure why anyone thinks this is high eq. It sounds like sleepy meditation or poor concentration. Maybe you should get more sleep or meditate when you are not tired, or use a technique that helps you stay in the moment like counting the breath (samatha) or labeling with noting (vipassana). High eq in my opinion is not dreamlike, it is aware, it is when you know the thought and you know your emotional reaction to the thought and you do not cling to either so they fade right away. It doesn't stop when you get up from meditation, it stops when you start clinging.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Formless Jhana

Posts: 184 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Hi Jim,

I think that people are saying High EQ because they referencing my practice log. For the past two months, I've been working through a path cycle. It's pretty textbook. It started with a profound A&P moment going into DN and then EQ and now high EQ. However, I thought that the path ended or restarted when in fact it still looks like I'm still in EQ.

My practice basically comes in two flavors, cycling and not cycling.

When I'm cycling trying to direct attention or do vipassana is futile since I'm beyond first path. I may be on third. Still unsure. Applying the rules of shamatha and vipassana is like applying the rules of chess to Olympic weight lifting. They just aren't relevant and not even possible. Attention is thin, wide and like a veil. It catches some things but a lot pass through. I just have to go along for the ride and observe how space expands and contracts. 

When I'm not cycling I'm able to focus attention and practice in the traditional sense, the shamatha jhanas, noting, compassion, etc. =)

I agree that external factors can have weight. However, my practice and daily habits are uber on point. Wake up, Wim Hof, cold shower, eat, matcha, meditate. I don't feel dull or drowsy when I'm meditating and observing unconscious thoughts. My mind simple gravitates to whatever part of the path I seem to be on.

​​​​​​​I appreciate your feedback!

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