RE: Access concentration?

azalea rees, modified 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 4:12 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 4:12 AM

Access concentration?

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/29/22 Recent Posts
I have been practicing samatha focusing on the breath at the nose for 7 months now. I find it somewhat boring and struggle to do it daily and for longer than 30 minutes.  Recently I attended my first 6 day retreat with Tina Rasmussen. When I got back I learned about fire kasina practice and started working with that maybe 30-50 mins 1-2 x per day. Immediately I felt more interested in this than the breath. Concentration felt easier. After a week of practice during one session I felt like I popped into the present moment and locked on to my object, the visual field. I felt like I was in a slightly altered state, almost like when mushrooms first kick in (I did them several times when younger). I also felt a body buzz, joy, and a feeling of excitement. I then was not sure what to do. Should I stay focused on the visual field or switch my focus to the feeling in my body? When I started to think I popped back out of this state. This has happened 3 times in the last 3 weeks when my concentration was good. Is this the start of access concentration? If so should I stay focused on the visual field or switch to pleasurable feeling to promote entering a Jhana. Any feedback is welcome. 
Thanks
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 5:55 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 5:55 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 384 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Hi azalea,

Welcome to Dharma Overground!

Yes, in my opinion it sounds like Access Concentration. What you should do next, depends on what sort of goal(s) you have for your practice. There are (at least) two main directions you could take. One is the samatha way, deepening your concentration, getting in to the jhanas; there are several ways of doing this. Another is to use your Access Concentration to begin some sort of insight practice; again, there are several ways of doing that.

While you ponder on what you want to achieve with your meditation, my advice would be to just continue with the fire kasina, since your mind, at least for now, seems to be more interested in the visuals than in the breath. And interest, curiousity, fun are good qualities to cultivate.

Also, you could let us know what sort of ressources (books etc.) you are familiar with, and what kind of knowledge you are seeking. There are a lot of very knowledgable yogis here who could give you recommendations.

Best wishes!
George S, modified 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 7:52 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 7:52 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 2475 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
The body buzz and feeling of joy are the jhana factors of piti and sukha, which you are starting to experience during access concentration. As you discovered, they are exciting and can disrupt concentration if you switch to focusing on them too soon! If you try to ignore them and stay focussed on the original meditation object, the feeling of piti-sukha should become smoother and start to fill the whole body/field of awareness, until you can no longer ignore it and become completelty absorbed in it (some people experience this as a "merging" of the meditation object and the beautiful blissful feeling of piti-sukha).
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Sigma Tropic, modified 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 7:01 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 6:56 PM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 332 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
The body buzz and feeling of joy are the jhana factors of piti and sukha, which you are starting to experience during access concentration. As you discovered, they are exciting and can disrupt concentration if you switch to focusing on them too soon! If you try to ignore them and stay focussed on the original meditation object, the feeling of piti-sukha should become smoother and start to fill the whole body/field of awareness, until you can no longer ignore it and become completelty absorbed in it (some people experience this as a "merging" of the meditation object and the beautiful blissful feeling of piti-sukha).
I disagree with this classification of piti sukkha and I think people erroneously take that as the object- then when the tension inevitably arises between object and person trying their best-est to not get distracted from the object, they get all tense, lose the jhana sensations and fall out and wonder why their jhana sensations don't do what they're supposed to do. Focusing on piti sukkha as an object is not useful for some people and especially in 1st jhana if you try to take undeveloped "piti" which is incomplete unification of mind (hindrances still present), then they will often get harsh sensations and it becomes not jhana. People who do this will say jhana wears them out or they feel like they have a hangover- that's because they didn't have the hindrances subdued before trying to focus on a pleasant object- with hindrances like desire mostly it will very quickly break the jhana if you relate to the bliss as an object that has to be focused on. You can have desire and piti but that's not jhana. At access concentration what seems more helpful advice to a beginner/relative novice is to take the best 100% from the pleasant sensation, detune the rest, then inhabit the bliss with the mind. You make your mind go into the (part of the mind) that is 100% blissful and you try to zoom the mind into this and detune. It's a different dynamic for me than focusing on an object. Going into jhana is nore like expanding the mind into the jhana that's already there, as the mind zooms into the blissful part of experience that is ever-present, a key difference between trying to elicit something that's not already there. 

This is why I liken jhana to tuning into a radio station- you are basically making your mind resonate with a certain level of experience, and it's almost like the jhanas are just taking all the spectrum of senstation that are already there, and specifically tuning to desirable qualities. That's why the general trend in the jhanas is toward less and less phenomeonological "intensity". Tuning to a higher jhana has a very narrow bandwidth that detunes almost everything. 

In the latter case you get a dualistic relation to the jhana factors and it is anti-jhana and why people have trouble it seems. The best instructions for entering jhana that I've come across are the following:

 "There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal."

These instructions are to be taken quite literally- 1st you have to sequester the mind away from sensuality and unskillful qualiities (the hindrances).  When that happens, you see in the language that the jhana is already there, the monk enters and abides in the jhana. If you take this as literal instructions, it's like the jhana is already there waiting to be entered into, all that has to be maintained is the withdrawal from the hindrances. 

A common problem is people will lose the state of withdrawal from the hindrances, or think that withdrawal from the hindrances means a certain level of sustained, unwavering attention to an object. That kind of attention is possible but in the hard jhanas there is no agent focusing or getting distracted, it's not an issue. Once you get distracted, that's downstream in the chain of mind moments from the contact of the object that pulled you away, and in that chain if craving is strong, then there will be proliferation and what you experience as distraction from the object. In the hard jhanas You enter and exit according to intention. I also learned how to strenghen the lite states into a hard jhana but it's the same principle of expanding the mind into the state that's already there, just at a more refined level. 

​​​​​​​ In the lighter end of the spectrum there can be slight waverings of attention, but whether it erodes the jhana factors is more based on the state of withdrawal from the hindrances, rather than the state of unwavering attention. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 9:18 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 9:18 PM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
 Your analysis is flawless, there are no openings in your stance!

It is middle of night, I woke up feeling someone just might have said something wrong on internet and here I see this...
​​​​​​​Śāriputra you tricked me! :/ 
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Sigma Tropic, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 12:43 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/20/22 11:39 PM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 332 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
I'm glad you were pleasantly suprised. I'm sensing strong Maha-Moggallanalicious vibes coming through the internet. Magickal powers strong in this one for sure. 

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/hecker/wheel263.html

​​​​​​​
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 12:24 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 12:24 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 2459 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
I think I will puke now ... 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 12:50 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 12:49 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 2459 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
I find the "jhanic hangover" to happen after the sit and has nothing to do with what Sigma talks above. It has however much to do with returning from the cushion back into a hectic family or work life where people have tone of request and you just being a blissed out God can't really follow. Here is where hangover shows up. Hence me not fancy having jhanas as a lay person with a family or a spoiled partner who thinks I must immediately do something for her after my blissful sit.&nbsp;<br /><br />There is a reason why monks prefer solitude and protected monastery walls! emoticon Or single life as a lay person who has a chilled out job of sorts.<br /><br />I could not find my copy of the Pali cannon ... looking ... ah there it is propping my microphone on the 1x12" guitar cabinet! emoticon&nbsp;
azalea rees, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 2:27 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 2:27 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/29/22 Recent Posts
Thank you for the feedback. I am interested in both seeing where the visual focus might take me doing fire kasina and in experiencing the jhanas and stages of awakening/non dual experiences. I meet with Tina via zoom once a month for 4 more months and will ask her about this. I'm not sure why I struggle with the breath at the nose so much. It feels tedious and very boring but many teachers advocate this approach. I would love to do another retreat and maybe a fire kasina retreat sometime soon. Possibly a home retreat. This community seems very helpful. I'm glad I found it. I think I will start a practice log on here to keep track of things and share with others.&nbsp;<br /><br />I wanted to share another experience that happened about 10 years ago. I was doing a meditation where I stared at a spot on the wall and just sat in silence. After doing this for 30 minutes a day for a month I slipped into a state where I felt like I was more in the moment than I had ever been before. I felt profoundly clear and very different from normal waking consciousness. I was still thinking and started to walk around looking at my garden trying to figure out what was going on. It was a wonderful state that lasted about 10 minutes. Any ideas about what this might have been?&nbsp;
azalea rees, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 2:30 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 2:30 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/29/22 Recent Posts
Thank you. I will try that, focusing on the object allowing the feeling to grow but not try to switch to it right away.&nbsp;
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 4:42 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 4:42 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Papa, what you should do after blissful sit to have progress in your practice is to remain in jhana and refuse to do anything that has qualities which break jhana. If that means you are catatonic because you cannot move your body because the way your motor cortex works and have always worked break jhana then remain still until you can move properly. In time you will figure out how to move your body without disturbing jhana. Obviously not at first try but because of your understanding of what you need to do your mind will put right effort to make it happen and through experimentation you will figure it out. My practical advice would be to hurry up with entering jhana and make going off cushion without breaking jhana main point of your sit.

Also if it feels completely unimaginable that you could remain in jhana in waking awareness then perhaps you should reevaluate what jhana is.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 4:56 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 4:56 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 2459 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Oh I see ... emoticon if I had a dump in a public loo and I realise there is no toilet paper I can always blissfully wipe me bum with me finger emoticon emoticon emoticon 

As long YOU are not the one deciding for all what Jhana is or isn't we will be just fine you and I emoticon 
I see a tendency in you as of late to place YOUR WAY as the Right Way. The Way of The Neurons! emoticon 

Kyosaku at the ready! emoticon 

Your arahantness emoticon 
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 5:42 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 5:42 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Doesn't happen all that often someone actually knows dharma hence the surprise. At least I know dharma is alive and well in the world and can focus on important matters... Jhanas are waiting for me to enter them ^^

Actually while I was checking something some time ago I recognized quality of mind which I myself only had for a short while many years ago. I didn't follow through with it though and it was probably a mistake. Then again Buddha always says nothing I am doing makes any sense whatsoever and that I can do anything is some kind of miracle.

Buddha by the way has a quality of mind which is as rare as two horned unicorns. Closer to these, just by proximity at least, but all things considered, and what can be seen in sphere of infinite consciousness, I am not really focusing on them much either XD

To me it all are just speckles of colored light. Colored from some distance, otherwise from up close its the very specific type of grayscale (related to pure scotopic vision) and colors are encoded as patterns. As long as patterns are nice and pretty the resulting colors are also nice and pretty. Colors in this case is the same as all experiences, including jhanic.

And this brings me to post below this one. Hopefully contents in question calmed down or are thus gone. Whatever happened, mixing of local patterns with perceived patterns didn't produce anything nice apparently... kinda like if you put salt and sugar in the cup, put some water and gulp it up all at once. In this case however I wonder where all the saltiness is coming from... emoticon
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:01 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:01 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 384 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Great that you have a highly qualified teacher to talk to! She knows your practice much better than any of us here, who (so far) only have your short description above. Sounds like a good idea to start a practice log. I for one has had huge benefit from the feedback from other yogis here.

As to your experience ten years ago, I'm not really sure what that could have been. Possibly some jhanic state. But it will take a more experienced yogi than me (and some more phenomenology from you) to figure it out, I guess. emoticon
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:01 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:01 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
You almost got it... my way is a Way of Ninja Neurons from Village Hidden in the Skull emoticon

The tendency is there, I'll admit it.
But you see, I am not asserting my way as the right way in all cases.
In fact it seems it only bothers you because you know that your way wouldn't be too different if you recognized yourself in the mirror.

ps. You could do that in this case but perhaps first make sure that there is at the very least running water...
My way, read the only right way of attempting using public places of ultimate release, is to have toilet paper on me, at all times!
 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:26 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 6:26 AM

RE: Access concentration?

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George S, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 11:07 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 11:07 AM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 2475 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
That’s the instructions from the Anapanasati Sutta:

(1) While breathing in long, he fully comprehends, 'I breathe in long.' While breathing out long, he fully comprehends, 'I breathe out long.'
(2) While breathing in short, he fully comprehends, 'I breathe in short.' While breathing out short, he fully comprehends, 'I breathe out short.'
(3) He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the whole body (of the breath), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the whole body (of the breath), I shall breathe out.'
(4) He trains himself, 'Calming the body-conditioner (kaya sankhara = the breath), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself; 'Calming the body-conditioner, I shall breathe out.’
(5) He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing rapture (piti), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing rapture (piti), I shall breathe out.'
(6) He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing bliss (sukha), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing bliss (sukha), I shall breathe out.'
(7) He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the mind-conditioner (citta sankhara = pure mental object), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the mind-conditioner, I shall breathe out.'
(8) He trains himself, 'Calming the mind-conditioner, I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Calming the mind-conditioner, I shall breathe out.‘
(9) He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the mind (citta ~ nimitta), I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Thoroughly experiencing the mind, I shall breathe out.'
(10) He trains himself, 'Gladdening the mind, I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Gladdening the mind, I shall breathe out.'
(11) He trains himself, 'Concentrating the mind, I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Concentrating the mind, I shall breathe out.’
(12) He trains himself, 'Liberating the mind, I shall breathe in.' He trains himself, 'Liberating the mind, I shall breathe out.'

If you find the breath at the nose uninteresting, try switching to the sensations of breathing at the abdomen. You can experience a lot of emotional release there and deep physical relaxation. Whatever your initial object, by steps 5-6 you are experiencing pure physical and emotional pleasure suffused throughout the body. If you get distracted then go back and re-establish concentration.

Once you get a feel for the jhana factors, like sigma says you can tune into them directly and they automatically subdue the hindrances. That would be like starting directly at step 5 or higher.
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 5:33 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 4/21/22 5:33 PM

RE: Access concentration?

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Papa Che Dusko
I finally see your point!

I'll go middle way and then see if that approach needs any further adjustments. Hopefully this is ok with your neurons ;)