Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Matt G, modified 1 Year ago at 4/8/23 2:44 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/8/23 2:41 PM

Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Post: 1 Join Date: 4/8/23 Recent Posts
Daniel Ingram has said something to the effect of "If you haven't got access concentration, you ain't got squat."

I feel as though I'm able to enter a state similar to descriptions I've heard of access concentration but it usually takes me about 15 minutes of anapana meditation focusing on the breath to get there. I'm not able to enter into the state at will and on demand.

I'm wondering when the goal of access concentration should be considered as having been attained. Is it the case for everyone that the state must be cultivated each time the meditator sits or should it only be considered attained when one can enter into the state on demand at any time?

The state that I often reach after about 15 minutes of meditation is one in which my attention is generally stable on the breath. Thoughts don't seem to fully "arise" in that I do not fully hear the clear voice of the inner narrator that is usually present. It is more like someone speaking unintelligibly from another room or a subsurface murmuring that, if given my attention, would surface into an articulate thought with language that I could understand.

​​​​​​​I've been thinking of the analogy of a fish. If typical thoughts are like a fish jumping out of the water and being fully visible, the thoughts that I experience when in the state I'm describing are more like briefly seeing the silhouette of an underwater fish out of your peripheral vision without directing your eye's focus on it. If you were to focus with your eyes on the underwater silhouette you would see the fish more clearly and maybe be able to tell what type of fish it was, but because you don't it's only a subsurface impression.

I feel as though if I were to give attention to the murmuring, I could understand it, but generally, these whispy thoughts carry only a subtle emotional connotation that fades fairly quickly. 

Is this state access concentration and have I actually attained it or should I only consider it as being attained when I can enter into it on demand?

Thanks for your time to whoever reads this.
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Dream Walker, modified 1 Year ago at 4/8/23 5:54 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/8/23 5:54 PM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Matt G
Daniel Ingram has said something to the effect of "If you haven't got access concentration, you ain't got squat."
Welcome to the forum. Amazing post for the first time. So you know Daniel's quote but never posted before, amazing.

I feel as though I'm able to enter a state similar to descriptions I've heard of access concentration but it usually takes me about 15 minutes of anapana meditation focusing on the breath to get there. I'm not able to enter into the state at will and on demand.
What descriptions have you heard? how would you compare or contrast your experience vs whatever you have not described?

I'm wondering when the goal of access concentration should be considered as having been attained. Is it the case for everyone that the state must be cultivated each time the meditator sits or should it only be considered attained when one can enter into the state on demand at any time?
The case for everyone is definately cultivated or considered otherwise as the case may be.

The state that I often reach after about 15 minutes of meditation is one in which my attention is generally stable on the breath. Thoughts don't seem to fully "arise" in that I do not fully hear the clear voice of the inner narrator that is usually present. It is more like someone speaking unintelligibly from another room or a subsurface murmuring that, if given my attention, would surface into an articulate thought with language that I could understand.
wow, that sounds like it might be a thing or not.

​​​​​​​
I've been thinking of the analogy of a fish. If typical thoughts are like a fish jumping out of the water and being fully visible, the thoughts that I experience when in the state I'm describing are more like briefly seeing the silhouette of an underwater fish out of your peripheral vision without directing your eye's focus on it. If you were to focus with your eyes on the underwater silhouette you would see the fish more clearly and maybe be able to tell what type of fish it was, but because you don't it's only a subsurface impression.
Cool analogy. sounds kinda fishy

I feel as though if I were to give attention to the murmuring, I could understand it, but generally, these whispy thoughts carry only a subtle emotional connotation that fades fairly quickly. 
Stuff arises and fades, definately

Is this state access concentration and have I actually attained it or should I only consider it as being attained when I can enter into it on demand?
don't be so demanding

Thanks for your time to whoever reads this.
You should ask AEON for more information, he is an expert in many posts.
I personally do not believe in access concentration. You are either in jhana or not. Thats my take on it though not all agree.
Good Luck
​​​​​​​~D
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 4/9/23 11:17 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/9/23 2:36 PM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 1748 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Daniel Ingram
https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-i-the-fundamentals/3-concentration-the-second-training/

3. Concentration, The Second Training
...
Regardless, for the sake of discussion, when you can keep your attention on your object of meditation second after second, minute after minute, without letting it go to other objects, but before any interesting, blissful, unusually steady alteration of perception happens, that is what I call access concentration.

Leigh Brasington
http://www.leighb.com/jhana2a.htm
How do you know access concentration has been established? The mind is fully with the object of meditation and, if there are any thoughts, they are wispy and in the background; they do not draw you away from the meditation object.


I've never really paid attention to recognize when I have access concentration or not. So I don't really think it is something that you need to worry about. I know when my mind is turbulent and I can't concentrate and I deal with that otherwise I don't pay attention to my level of concentration I just focus on the object of meditation. I guess I would say if your mind wanders to the extent you lose track of the object of meditation you don't have access concentration. Otherwise as Brasington says, wispy thoughts in the background are okay. 

The more you meditate the more you become aware of the subtlest movements of the mind - so the better your concentration the more background activity you will notice. That doesn't mean your concentration is getting worse, it means it is getting better.

I've written elsewhere in these forums that I think the biggest obstacle to concentration is stress and mental fatigue which is why I recommend preparing for meditation with the relaxing meditations I linked to above. Now that I am recognizing access concentration I would say that statement and recommendation applies to access concentration.

Samatha meditation to the extent it is done in a relaxing way (and not as intense, thought suppressing, stress-inducing concentration) will help with vipassana. This could be one of the reasons Buddha taught both samatha and vipassana should be cultivated.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 4/10/23 4:46 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/10/23 4:46 PM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
Thats a lot of snark @dreamwalker

Is everything all right with you?
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 4/17/23 1:42 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/17/23 1:33 AM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 1748 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
I think it is also useful to be aware of the type of distractions that you experience when meditating. There is a difference between thoughts of things that happened during the day or maybe something that caused stress that keeps playing over and over in your mind versus random dream like thoughts like those you experience just before falling asleep that occur because you are sleepy when trying to meditate. The latter type is actually a sign, at least in my experience, that one has relaxed and let go of the thoughts and stress of the recent past and the mind is ready to work at vipassana - particularly mindfulness in daily life where being physically active will dispel sleepiness. Also it might indicate a situation where it is better to get some sleep and meditate later. I think it's unlikely that further sitting meditation will dispel sleepiness so if you continue to meditate hoping for stronger concentration I don't think that is a good plan.

I was at a retreat once where the leader of the meditation sessions was nodding off, when it became time to do walking meditation in-between the sitting sessions he would lead us outside and walk rapidly trying to wake himself up. It was funny because our robes were billowing behind us due to the rapid pace of the walking meditation.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 4/17/23 2:46 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/17/23 2:46 PM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 1748 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith  
...
The latter type is actually a sign, at least in my experience, that one has relaxed and let go of the thoughts and stress of the recent past and the mind is ready to work at vipassana - particularly mindfulness in daily life where being physically active will dispel sleepiness. 
...


I probably should have said:

"The latter type is actually a sign, at least in my experience, that one has relaxed and let go of the thoughts and stress of the recent past."

There could still be a lot of distracting thoughts before access concentration is reached.
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Pawel K, modified 1 Year ago at 5/12/23 2:08 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 5/12/23 2:08 AM

RE: Is access concentration attained over time or on demand?

Posts: 1172 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Access Concentration is achieved by having sustained effort
This sustained effort refers to having sustained effort moment to moment. Literally from one to other moment effort should be sustained without gaps.

Sustained effort have specific feeling to it which feels like effort is longer than normal while the same time passed otherwise, it feels in a way denser and heavier. Not that there is more sensations than normally but they themselves individually feel denser/heavier. It is not about having more sensations which normally would be identified as indicating you putting effort but having effort built-in sensations. Having two sensations arise one with normal effort and other with sustained effort there will be interesting effect of sensations with sustained effort will draw mind to it more than normal sensations.

Why does mind not move to sensations with sustained effort if it draws mind more to them?
It does but because of all the spam that mind does without sustained effort overwhelms it.

It is enough to refuse to interact with any sensation which doesn't have sustained effort and let mind fill itself with experiences which feel like sustained effort to make Access Concentration and eventually 1st Jhana happen.

In formal concentration meditation with object what you should do is to focus on object - but not on object as it is but on object which is entirely made out of qualities which feel like they have sustained effort. You do it by refusing to interact with object as it is and only focus on object with quality of sustained effort. Once object literally transforms in to object made from sustained effort keeping your mind on it will be very easy. With this practice 'your' effort is not important, only how much sustained effort you feel in object itself. Qualities from object will radiate and you will experience yourself also put/have sustained observing object but in this practice its not important how you feel but how object feels like.

At first it might be hard to tell what is going on and which sensations have more sustained effort and which do not. This is however not about you doing anything. Quite the opposite, you should not try to do anything, not try to cause anything. Mind which has quality you want should arise naturally and if it does not then it means there is too much activity which lack required qualities which you yourself are causing. Then do not do anything and required qualities will arise and eventually you will be able to operate normally but with your mind made with required qualities. This is how you achieve Access Concentration and eventually Jhanas in your normal waking consciousness and do not let this experience end. If you are in Jhana and feel increase in arising sensations without Jhanic qualities just do not pay any attention to them as they are and refuse to interact before these same sensations arise with Jhanic qualities.

For example some of the emotions can quickly generate lots of non-jhanic (or non-AC sensations in case of Access Concentration mind) qualities and if you try to do anything like eg. perhaps stop these emotions then it will seem they do not react to your Jhanic/AC mind in what feels meaningful way so there is urge to interact with them using more compatible sensations - just do not do it, do not match your actions to feel compatible with arising sensations but wait patiently for these sensations to figure out they won't get anything that way from you and they need to match their qualities to yours and arise Jhanic/AC which they will eventually do if you do absolutely nothing.

The only difficulty in this is being too much used to automatically reacting with qualities of arising sensations which cause mind state to deteriorate because usually non-Jhanic qualities arise in droves. Then you get to normal mind. Instead not giving in to these qualities you can remain in Jhana.

Also something to keep in mind for formal practice when you manage to get to AC or Jhana - when you end meditation session you should not let yourself be overwhelmed by lesser qualities. If at first it feels you are unable to do anything then do not do anything. Do not move a finger if that action doesn't feel exactly the same as quality you managed to have during meditation. If that means you have to sit more then too bad, you will be stuck on cushion for some more time. Only move if its really important for you to act eg. you sat there whole weekend and its monday and you have to go to work.

Just joking of course. It is enough to give yourself some more time each meditation session, do it few times and eventually you will start getting grip on how it works. Doing it this way will also make you able to enter AC/Jhanas outside formal meditation conditions. Simply by being mindful of your mind state if you notice there is too much non-AC/Jhanic sensations do the same thing to refuse to use these qualities to operate, do not interact with these lesser qualities and mind will fill with good vibes. It is also how one "practices" all day long and practicing this way brings rapid development of your concentration and mindfulness skills. Right concentration and right mindfulness is really Jhana.

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