RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/11/23 8:23 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance jhanic ceramic 10/12/23 2:26 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Chris M 10/12/23 4:41 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance jhanic ceramic 10/12/23 5:10 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Chris M 10/12/23 5:22 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance jhanic ceramic 10/12/23 9:13 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Chris M 10/13/23 8:31 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance jhanic ceramic 10/13/23 8:11 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Chris M 10/13/23 8:29 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/13/23 10:26 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance jhanic ceramic 10/14/23 5:20 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/25/23 9:42 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Jim Smith 10/12/23 5:43 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/13/23 10:32 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Jim Smith 10/13/23 10:55 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance shargrol 10/13/23 6:20 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/13/23 11:00 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance shargrol 10/14/23 7:24 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Chris M 10/14/23 7:57 AM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance West Fall 10/25/23 9:46 PM
RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance Ben Sulsky 10/27/23 1:14 PM
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/11/23 8:23 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/11/23 8:23 PM

Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

Posts: 6 Join Date: 10/11/23 Recent Posts
Hi everyone, 

This is my first post here. I have been meditating on and off for a little more than ten years, mostly zazen. I have had some periods of steady practice and did a single three day formal zen retreat, but mostly I have been inconsistent. During the last three years I was in law school and stopped meditating almost entirely. Now that I have finished school, I've been meditating consistently again and am having more interesting experiences than I had prior to my hiatus.

Starting in January I began meditating 20 minutes a day. Then, six weeks ago, I read instructions on entering the first jhana by Leigh Brasington. The same day, I used Brasington's instructions on reaching access concentration and found that I had little trouble arriving at a state in which my breathing became subtle to the point of almost dissapearing, my hearing became more acute, and, if I opened my eyes, the fibers in the carpet in front of looked like they were wriggling. From that state I have tried to shift my attention to a pleasant sensation in the body such as vibrations in my hands, feet, or shoulders. This sensation sometimes expands to take over my whole body and is accompanied by a soft white internal light. My body gets very tense when the sensation expands and sometimes my whole body trembles. Other times I make a conscious effort to relax my tensed muscles. The feeling is incredibly strong and can take my breath away. I often take a ragged deep breath because I feel that I need the air. The state never lasts for long, maybe a few minutes, and then it slowly subsides. I think my desire to go deeper ultimately breaks my concentration on the direct experience. 

Ever since this started happening, sitting has become much easier and has climbed higher on my list of priorities. I am a regular gym-goer and have found little interest in working out since this experience. I now sit for 30 minutes in the morning instead of 20 and I sometimes sit more than once a day. All of a sudden sitting is fun and interesting rather than something I do to feel better.  

Anyway, I have combined my meditation with some Mahasi-style noting as I go about my day, and I have found that reality has started to seem strange. My wife's face looks different to me. She looks more beautiful, but also like someone I have never truly seen before. The same is true of old friends. When walking my dog around my neighborhood, I sometimes feel my perceptual field is a net with holes and that I could almost fall through. It makes me slightly motion sick even just to recall the feeling while writing this. I have also found it easier to speak freely without pre-formulating speech in my head in anticipation of how it will be reacted to, feel a deep intuitive aversion to killing and a desire to cut meat out of my diet, and feel that it would be nearly impossible to intentionally lie. I am also finding music more beautiful, have taken an interest in playing guitar again, and find it easier to give people and tasks my undivided attention. Multi-tasking feels intuitively wrong to me, and also difficult. I also need less sleep than I usually do.

I'm writing this post for three reasons. First, to ask what I might be experiencing with respect to these perceptual changes. Perhaps the first stage of insight, mind & body?

Second, to ask for guidance regarding how to prgress in the jhana practice. I feel that I was quickly able to get to the point that I described above, but that my excitement about the rapture causes me to lose it and I have plateued.

Third, to ask for advice regarding deeping my practice without disrupting my life. Law school is over but now I'm a full time attorney. On top of that, I will soon start studying to take the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Work and bar prep are demanding, but I can feel my interest in my (fledgling!) legal career waning as I become more interested in insight and concentration. I want to continue to deepen what I am experiencing, but I do not want to put myself in a state of mind where I torpedo much of what I have worked for. 

Any response is appreciated. Thank you to everyone who reads this. 

Westfall
jhanic ceramic, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 2:26 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 2:15 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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Hi Westfall,

I've been going through the same thing since my concentration retreat a few months ago and as my practice has deepened over the last few months. My insight practice has no noting in it, I do a softer insight approach taught by Rob Burbea that relaxes the push and pull of craving and aversion everytime it arises in meditation without really worrying about the content of experience. My concentration practice is akin to Pa-Auk's concentration meditation and the one I mostly do. If I feel aversion, striving etc creep into my practice, I just do the insight practice since it's very relaxing before engaging in concentration. I've got my practice dialed in pretty well (for now) and I'm working with a teacher (Beth Upton, who is really good and has group interviews and personal interviews she does over zoom).

The perceptual shifts (particularly the ones about people and the world appearing more vivid and beautiful), the aversion to killing, music being more beautiful, sitting being more fun rather than a chore and something I look forward to are all things I can relate to. If I'm on a family vacation, I will literally plan my time around finding a peaceful time to sit. As my practice has deepened the breath stays in the background of my attention as well while I'm doing non attention intensive tasks (like driving, or walking the dogs). My teacher basically encouraged me to keep going, exploring concentration practice and just enjoy the benefits of concentration. I also relate to the loss of interest in a career, it seems totally pointless. I work as a statistician in a tech company, my job is literally trying to make an already rich company richer.

So in a way, greetings, kindred spirit emoticon. I can't answer if they are any of the stages of insight, my sense is that concentration practice develops differently than pure insight practice or at least it's harder to identify because the markers aren't the same.

In terms of advice regarding soft jhana practice check out Rob Burbea's jhana retreat (up to the first jhana and some of the q&as). It's one of the best set of talks on the soft jhanas that I've ever seen. If hard jhanas are more your thing (like they are for me), these are fun to explore, but ultimately not the goal of concentraiton practice. 

Here's a link to the transcribed version of the retreat: https://airtable.com/appe9WAZCVxfdGDnX/shr9OS6jqmWvWTG5g/tblHlCKWIIhZzEFMk/viw3k0IfSo0Dve9ZJ/reclPrrvlXhJ1Oqq1/fldJfzyMJCDaGCKom/att6YgkcOYnIawJNK 

Here's a link to the audio for the retreat. If you have time, listen to the talks up to the first jhana (which is around where you're at): https://dharmaseed.org/retreats/4496/

If you're interested in going super deep on concentration, you could also try reaching out to Pa-Auk trained teachers who teach a considerably more deep version of the jhanas (Shaila Catherine, Beth Upton, Tina Rasumussen or Stephen Snyder). They would probably be reticent to call any of the pleasure states jhana and have a much higher bar for what constitutes a jhana. Personally, I think you can explore both (which is what my teacher, Beth recommended to me as long as I don't conflate the two, and put more of my efforts into progressing towards attaining the "harder" states). 
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 4:41 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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 If you're interested in going super deep on concentration, you could also try reaching out to Pa-Auk trained teachers who teach a considerably more deep version of the jhanas (Shaila Catherine, Beth Upton, Tina Rasumussen or Stephen Snyder). They would probably be reticent to call any of the pleasure states jhana and have a much higher bar for what constitutes a jhana. Personally, I think you can explore both (which is what my teacher, Beth recommended to me as long as I don't conflate the two, and put more of my efforts into progressing towards attaining the "harder" states). 

Do you have personal experience with these "hard" jhanas? 

More on jhanas - and worth a read:  https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/25990690
jhanic ceramic, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 5:10 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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That's my post emoticon. I have experience with the softer jhanas, and my experience with access concentration getting deeper is that the felt experience of concentration in deep access concentration is deeper than the felt experience of concentration in a soft jhana.&nbsp;<br /><br />I haven't experienced hard jhana yet, but I'm working with a teacher who's quite adamant about the distinction between the two.
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 5:22 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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"My teacher says your teacher is full of it." We can find a teacher who will opine on pretty much anything. You can see where this goes, right? Better to stick to personal experience as opposed to introducing anyone's opinions as if they're facts. 
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 5:43 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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West Fall
...

Third, to ask for advice regarding deeping my practice without disrupting my life. Law school is over but now I'm a full time attorney. On top of that, I will soon start studying to take the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Work and bar prep are demanding, but I can feel my interest in my (fledgling!) legal career waning as I become more interested in insight and concentration. I want to continue to deepen what I am experiencing, but I do not want to put myself in a state of mind where I torpedo much of what I have worked for. 

Any response is appreciated. Thank you to everyone who reads this. 

Westfall


Try to find ways to practice mindfulness in daily life. It might be hard to do while at work, but during commuting, meal times, and on weekends might be possible. 

Read this book: The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer.

The Surrender Experiment is an autobiography of Singer's life in which he decided early on to always take the path that life presented to him without regard to his personal likes or dislikes. The result was that he started out meditating in the woods and step by step, trying to help people who came to him, he ended up the CEO of a billion dollar company and the director of a spiritual temple where yoga and meditation were practiced and taught.

Also a warning, I used to go to the local Zen center for group meditations and they would have a talk once a week by a member. Quite often someone would say they gave up a well paying career to pursue spiritual development. I thought they were crazy, until I did it too.
jhanic ceramic, modified 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 9:13 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/12/23 9:13 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

Posts: 40 Join Date: 7/25/23 Recent Posts
Chris M
"My teacher says your teacher is full of it." We can find a teacher who will opine on pretty much anything. You can see where this goes, right? Better to stick to personal experience as opposed to introducing anyone's opinions as if they're facts. 

Sure, my personal experience is that the felt experience of concentration I experience in what Pa-Auk's system defines as access concentration is deeper than the jhana I go into when I practice using Leigh Brasington's instructions. It's signficantly more refined, significantly more subtle, significantly more beautiful and I'm not even at the point where I have the brilliant translucent anapana nimitta. The intuition that I have is that whatever it is that my concentration is moving towards, it's quite a bit different than whatever Leigh describes. That said, I still love exploring soft jhana states, they're super pleasurable and really give a juice to my practice.

I really don't think it's a big deal that hard jhanas exist, are something one can aspire towards, and that some teachers have very strong opinions that anything but a hard jhana is not really a jhana. If one feels called to develop spiritually in that direction, I think they should have the resources and the opinions of teachers (because who else do we learn from, either through books or working directly with them) available to help them get there.. 
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 8:31 AM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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 It's signficantly more refined, significantly more subtle, significantly more beautiful and I'm not even at the point where I have the brilliant translucent anapana nimitta. The intuition that I have is that whatever it is that my concentration is moving towards, it's quite a bit different than whatever Leigh describes. That said, I still love exploring soft jhana states, they're super pleasurable and really give a juice to my practice.

"My jhana's better than your jhana."

​​​​​​​emoticon

EDIT: It's interesting to see this arise here. In a way it mirrors the kind of thing we saw years ago on DhO in regard to the level of awakeness various folks would claim. There was a group of people who followed a thing called "actualism" and made claims that the actualist awakening was far deeper, far more beneficial, than the "standard Buddhist" awakening. In fact, they claimed to have successfully eliminated their emotions,and thus were harmless to others. It became a "thing" and it was pretty obviously a way to "better than" everyone else. These folks disappeared after a while. Their claims were not replicable and their own behavior couldn't match the claims they were making.

I'm dubious of claims like "hard" jhana as something different (in kind differences vs in degree). I have no doubt there are folks who can achieve amazing levels of concentration. But, as you asked me to do in the other thread I linked to, listening to your teacher's own descriptions of the "hard" jhanas was no different from my own experiences of deep jhana states. 

Keep practicing "hard" jhanas because, as I said before, the only worthy way to evaluate these things is from personal experience. Once you have experience with these states let's compare notes.
​​​​​​​
jhanic ceramic, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 8:11 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 8:11 AM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

Posts: 40 Join Date: 7/25/23 Recent Posts
Chris M
 It's signficantly more refined, significantly more subtle, significantly more beautiful and I'm not even at the point where I have the brilliant translucent anapana nimitta. The intuition that I have is that whatever it is that my concentration is moving towards, it's quite a bit different than whatever Leigh describes. That said, I still love exploring soft jhana states, they're super pleasurable and really give a juice to my practice.

"My jhana's better than your jhana."

​​​​​​​emoticon


​​​​​​It's incredibly disappointing to me that you ask me to describe what's happening in my personal experience, and then basically make this flippant response when everything I've described is based on my own experience in my practice.

I'm out man, there's no point in engaging in this conversation anymore.
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 8:29 AM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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Jhanic ceramic, you can't seem to post anything about jhanas without making judgmental comparisons. You can't see why that's a problem?
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 6:20 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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West Fall Hi everyone, 
Hi Westfall!
Anyway, I have combined my meditation with some Mahasi-style noting as I go about my day, and I have found that reality has started to seem strange. My wife's face looks different to me. She looks more beautiful, but also like someone I have never truly seen before. The same is true of old friends. When walking my dog around my neighborhood, I sometimes feel my perceptual field is a net with holes and that I could almost fall through. It makes me slightly motion sick even just to recall the feeling while writing this. I have also found it easier to speak freely without pre-formulating speech in my head in anticipation of how it will be reacted to, feel a deep intuitive aversion to killing and a desire to cut meat out of my diet, and feel that it would be nearly impossible to intentionally lie. I am also finding music more beautiful, have taken an interest in playing guitar again, and find it easier to give people and tasks my undivided attention. Multi-tasking feels intuitively wrong to me, and also difficult. I also need less sleep than I usually do.
I'm writing this post for three reasons. First, to ask what I might be experiencing with respect to these perceptual changes. Perhaps the first stage of insight, mind & body?
I definitely remember going through this. Honestly, I don't think it makes sense to link this to a stage in meditation, but rather what generally happens when we get out of our conceptual/narrative mind and actually start living life more directly, more intimately. We SEE our wife. We SEE other people and listen. We empathize with the creatures we eat. Basically we are no longer living so intellectually, we're actually living!
Second, to ask for guidance regarding how to prgress in the jhana practice. I feel that I was quickly able to get to the point that I described above, but that my excitement about the rapture causes me to lose it and I have plateued.
There's no short cuts to this, you basically have to get used to being excited and have it happen so many times that it becomes boring/ and then you don't lose it. emoticon But seriously, all of our meditation "ambitions" have this effect, our excitement/ambitions kills meditation. So basically we have to learn how to chill out. And usually the only way that happens is to experience the "losing it" so many times that we no longer get so excited or ambitious when it happens.
Third, to ask for advice regarding deeping my practice without disrupting my life. Law school is over but now I'm a full time attorney. On top of that, I will soon start studying to take the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Work and bar prep are demanding, but I can feel my interest in my (fledgling!) legal career waning as I become more interested in insight and concentration. I want to continue to deepen what I am experiencing, but I do not want to put myself in a state of mind where I torpedo much of what I have worked for. 
Well, this is a bit of a paradox. The point of meditation is to disrupt your life, you could say. So I think to answer this question it becomes important to really figure out why you are doing this stuff? Is it because of the cool/wierd stuff that happens when the mind becomes concentrated? Or is it because the growing enjoyment/intimacy that practice seems to be having on the rest of your life? Etc. etc. In otherwords, what are you specifically trying to get? Similarly, what are you trying to avoid? It's almost a rule that what we fear is what we need to experience to grow and develop further. But it's also okay to draw appropriate boundaries based on where our life is at this time. So  what are you specifically worried about? I know this is answering a question with a question, but for this kind of stuff the specifics really matter.
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:26 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:26 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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jhanic ceramic:
Hi Westfall, I've been going through the same thing since my concentration retreat a few months ago and as my practice has deepened over the last few months. My insight practice has no noting in it, I do a softer insight approach taught by Rob Burbea that relaxes the push and pull of craving and aversion everytime it arises in meditation without really worrying about the content of experience. My concentration practice is akin to Pa-Auk's concentration meditation and the one I mostly do. If I feel aversion, striving etc creep into my practice, I just do the insight practice since it's very relaxing before engaging in concentration. I've got my practice dialed in pretty well (for now) and I'm working with a teacher (Beth Upton, who is really good and has group interviews and personal interviews she does over zoom). The perceptual shifts (particularly the ones about people and the world appearing more vivid and beautiful), the aversion to killing, music being more beautiful, sitting being more fun rather than a chore and something I look forward to are all things I can relate to. If I'm on a family vacation, I will literally plan my time around finding a peaceful time to sit. As my practice has deepened the breath stays in the background of my attention as well while I'm doing non attention intensive tasks (like driving, or walking the dogs). My teacher basically encouraged me to keep going, exploring concentration practice and just enjoy the benefits of concentration. I also relate to the loss of interest in a career, it seems totally pointless. I work as a statistician in a tech company, my job is literally trying to make an already rich company richer. So in a way, greetings, kindred spirit emoticon. I can't answer if they are any of the stages of insight, my sense is that concentration practice develops differently than pure insight practice or at least it's harder to identify because the markers aren't the same. In terms of advice regarding soft jhana practice check out Rob Burbea's jhana retreat (up to the first jhana and some of the q&as). It's one of the best set of talks on the soft jhanas that I've ever seen. If hard jhanas are more your thing (like they are for me), these are fun to explore, but ultimately not the goal of concentraiton practice.  Here's a link to the transcribed version of the retreat: https://airtable.com/appe9WAZCVxfdGDnX/shr9OS6jqmWvWTG5g/tblHlCKWIIhZzEFMk/viw3k0IfSo0Dve9ZJ/reclPrrvlXhJ1Oqq1/fldJfzyMJCDaGCKom/att6YgkcOYnIawJNK  Here's a link to the audio for the retreat. If you have time, listen to the talks up to the first jhana (which is around where you're at): https://dharmaseed.org/retreats/4496/ If you're interested in going super deep on concentration, you could also try reaching out to Pa-Auk trained teachers who teach a considerably more deep version of the jhanas (Shaila Catherine, Beth Upton, Tina Rasumussen or Stephen Snyder). They would probably be reticent to call any of the pleasure states jhana and have a much higher bar for what constitutes a jhana. Personally, I think you can explore both (which is what my teacher, Beth recommended to me as long as I don't conflate the two, and put more of my efforts into progressing towards attaining the "harder" states). 



​​​​​​​Thank you for your response! It seems that we are in a sense kindred spirits. 

I'm very glad you shared Rob Burbea's jhana retreat audio. I've started listening to the talks and am moved by his approach. I've already benefitted from his attitude towards the hindrances, specifically his simple guidance "not to believe" the hindrances. It's a useful reframe from simply being aware of and not indulging in the hindrances. I wasn't familiar with his work, and am both sad to hear of his passing and grateful that he left behind such a library of resources. Can you share a link to anything describing his "softer" insight approach?

It sounds like you're enjoying working with your teacher. I will continue to explore the soft jhanas, as you've described them, for the time being, but I am curious about working with a teacher. What made you decide to work with Beth Upton?
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:32 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:32 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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Jim Smith
West Fall
...

Third, to ask for advice regarding deeping my practice without disrupting my life. Law school is over but now I'm a full time attorney. On top of that, I will soon start studying to take the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Work and bar prep are demanding, but I can feel my interest in my (fledgling!) legal career waning as I become more interested in insight and concentration. I want to continue to deepen what I am experiencing, but I do not want to put myself in a state of mind where I torpedo much of what I have worked for. 

Any response is appreciated. Thank you to everyone who reads this. 

Westfall


Try to find ways to practice mindfulness in daily life. It might be hard to do while at work, but during commuting, meal times, and on weekends might be possible. 

Read this book: The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer.

The Surrender Experiment is an autobiography of Singer's life in which he decided early on to always take the path that life presented to him without regard to his personal likes or dislikes. The result was that he started out meditating in the woods and step by step, trying to help people who came to him, he ended up the CEO of a billion dollar company and the director of a spiritual temple where yoga and meditation were practiced and taught.

Also a warning, I used to go to the local Zen center for group meditations and they would have a talk once a week by a member. Quite often someone would say they gave up a well paying career to pursue spiritual development. I thought they were crazy, until I did it too.

Thank you for your response Jim. It's funny you suggest the Surrender Experiment, someone important in my life has been recommending Singer's Untethered Soul to me for some time. I will look into it. Your warning is well taken. Maybe once you have a certain perspective, it would be crazy not to give up the career. 
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:55 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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West Fall

Thank you for your response Jim. It's funny you suggest the Surrender Experiment, someone important in my life has been recommending Singer's Untethered Soul to me for some time. I will look into it. Your warning is well taken. Maybe once you have a certain perspective, it would be crazy not to give up the career. 


"The Untethered Soul" is very good too. It is more about his meditation philosophy. I got useful information from it and recommend it, but there are a lot of books on meditation philosophy. "The Surrender Experiment" is more about how to mix spiritual life and work life. There aren't a lot of books on that subject by CEO's of billion dollar companies who are also the director of a spiritual temple, so "The Surrender Experiment" is somewhat unique.

Here is an interview with Singer:
https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/benefits-of-meditation/surrender-experiment/
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 11:00 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/13/23 10:58 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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shargrol
I definitely remember going through this. Honestly, I don't think it makes sense to link this to a stage in meditation, but rather what generally happens when we get out of our conceptual/narrative mind and actually start living life more directly, more intimately. We SEE our wife. We SEE other people and listen. We empathize with the creatures we eat. Basically we are no longer living so intellectually, we're actually living!

Yes.... that's it. I feel that I am seeing and touching things, not just interacting with stories or things I already expected to be there. What a relief and joy to live! 
There's no short cuts to this, you basically have to get used to being excited and have it happen so many times that it becomes boring/ and then you don't lose it. emoticon But seriously, all of our meditation "ambitions" have this effect, our excitement/ambitions kills meditation. So basically we have to learn how to chill out. And usually the only way that happens is to experience the "losing it" so many times that we no longer get so excited or ambitious when it happens.

I guess the excitement and ambition is its own energy that eventually runs itself out. I will work pay attention to my restlessness and try to let the excitement run its natural course. 
Well, this is a bit of a paradox. The point of meditation is to disrupt your life, you could say. So I think to answer this question it becomes important to really figure out why you are doing this stuff? Is it because of the cool/wierd stuff that happens when the mind becomes concentrated? Or is it because the growing enjoyment/intimacy that practice seems to be having on the rest of your life? Etc. etc. In otherwords, what are you specifically trying to get? Similarly, what are you trying to avoid? It's almost a rule that what we fear is what we need to experience to grow and develop further. But it's also okay to draw appropriate boundaries based on where our life is at this time. So  what are you specifically worried about? I know this is answering a question with a question, but for this kind of stuff the specifics really matter.

Thank you for posing this question. It's a big question and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on it. For me, the point is not experiencing interesting altered states. I want to be more intimate with the experience of being alive-- with myself, with the ones I love, with the joys and sorrows and curiosities of being a human. I am trying to avoid a life on auto-pilot and a life directed by fear and aversion. For me, fear is a subtle thing that often manifests as passive avoidance, drowsiness, and a clamping down on expressivity. I want to live a life free from this. Ultimately, I want to become an entirely loving and free person. 

Does that mean leaving my career? Not at this point. But I think you are right that disruption is inevitable. I'm just not sure what that means yet.

One good thing about being a lawyer... lots of opportunity to work with the hindrances. 

jhanic ceramic, modified 4 Months ago at 10/14/23 5:20 AM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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West Fall
Thank you for your response! It seems that we are in a sense kindred spirits. 

I'm very glad you shared Rob Burbea's jhana retreat audio. I've started listening to the talks and am moved by his approach. I've already benefitted from his attitude towards the hindrances, specifically his simple guidance "not to believe" the hindrances. It's a useful reframe from simply being aware of and not indulging in the hindrances. I wasn't familiar with his work, and am both sad to hear of his passing and grateful that he left behind such a library of resources. Can you share a link to anything describing his "softer" insight approach?

It sounds like you're enjoying working with your teacher. I will continue to explore the soft jhanas, as you've described them, for the time being, but I am curious about working with a teacher. What made you decide to work with Beth Upton?

Here's a link to a guided meditation on the three characteristics: https://dharmaseed.org/talks/9543/ I use the second method, dukkha all the time in practice - it's my favorite of the three "ways of looking" that Rob delineates. 

As to why I work with Beth, I ran into someone at my concentration retreat who mentioned her name. I looked her up, she has a very easy calendar that I could just schedule meetings on and group interview sessions every week that are not so packed that you can't get a word in edgewise. I also love her style, very compassionate and empathetic, but very high standards for practice which is exactly what I want. 
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago at 10/14/23 7:24 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/14/23 7:24 AM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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West Fall
Thank you for posing this question. It's a big question and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on it. For me, the point is not experiencing interesting altered states. I want to be more intimate with the experience of being alive-- with myself, with the ones I love, with the joys and sorrows and curiosities of being a human. I am trying to avoid a life on auto-pilot and a life directed by fear and aversion. For me, fear is a subtle thing that often manifests as passive avoidance, drowsiness, and a clamping down on expressivity. I want to live a life free from this. Ultimately, I want to become an entirely loving and free person. 

Does that mean leaving my career? Not at this point. But I think you are right that disruption is inevitable. I'm just not sure what that means yet.

One good thing about being a lawyer... lots of opportunity to work with the hindrances. 

There are quite a few of us here who are working professionals and have maintained a career while going pretty far with this meditation stuff. It's definitely been a challenge with the disruptions, but for me at least, it also helped me keep my sanity during stuff that probably would have made me crazy without a practice...

Developing a heartfelt meditation practice is a bit like psychotherapy. A lot of your lingering reactivity bubbles up and your blindspots become clear, which is humbling. It can make you feel momentarily weak and vulnerable and scared. But simply by bringing this stuff into conciousness creates a foundation for growth, for future mental health and resiliency. Frankly, the only way a human can grow more resilent is by confronting their current weaknesses.

Meditation can be of benefit, but it can also be abused. We can try to use meditation to "fix" things by making more of the good experiences happen and push away the bad experiences... but this is just living from the same perspective as usual. It's not that different from psychological repression, the pushing away of experiences we don't want to have. But if meditation is used as a kind of exposure therapy, to safely and gently allow the experiences we don't particularly like to arise and pass --- paradoxically, that allowing/acceptance seems to create a new baseline of bravery and resiliency that applies to more than just that feared experience. We realize that the display of our mind isn't something we need to be afraid of. We realize that who we "are" isn't the contents of our mind, but the mind that holds the contents... and perhaps something somehow "beyond".

Abusing meditation is in some sense unavoidable. Our biases will come into play and corrupt things somehow. But that is normal, it's part of the path. That's how we learn even more about our biases.

I think that if you don't get overly ambitious or overly depressive, then meditation can work to untie the knots in the psyche that create limitation. But most of the people that approach meditation as some kind of "life hack" wind up running into a wall caused by their desire to manipulate and control. They focus too hard on making jhanas happen, or making thoughts go away, or making sure they count their breaths without mistakes, or making the stages of progress of insight happen quickly --- those people just become neurotic and miserable. You have to have a measure of trust and maybe faith in a gentle, consistent, daily non-heroic mediation practice. 

This is a lot of words, but basically if you maintain the basic perspective "here I am sitting in a room that is safe, with nothing in particular to do, yet all these experiences flood my mind --- clearly, this display of mind isn't "really real" but it must be something important to experience since it is bubbling up into consciousness. I'm interested in what my mind displays. I'm going to use this sitting session to learn about my own mind. It can't hurt me, I'm in a safe place. I don't have anything to do for the next xyz minutes so anything that _seems_ like I need to do is probably my own fears trying to distract me from studying my own mind. How interesting! For the next xyz minutes I'm giving permission to my mind to do what it wants while I do xxx practice method to help me keep mindfull." 

The last thing I'll say is that the adult development/maturity that happens due to meditation can lead to a softening of career ambitions, but it doesn't mean we all wind up meditating in caves. It becomes clear that the world needs sane people in positions of business/society and so a lot of us are motivated for our careers to take on a flavor of being sane and responsible professionals instead of being a selfish and greedy worker.

Hope this is helpful in some way. 
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 10/14/23 7:57 AM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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+1 for shargrol's post!
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 9:42 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 9:42 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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Thank you jhanic ceramic!
West Fall, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 9:46 PM
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RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

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shargrol:
  Hope this is helpful in some way. 


Your words have been helpful in many ways. Truly, thank you.
Ben Sulsky, modified 4 Months ago at 10/27/23 1:14 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/27/23 1:14 PM

RE: Early insight stages & jhanas; seeking diagnosis & guidance

Posts: 169 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
It sounds like your practice is going well.  

@Q1- Given that your practice sounds fresh and interesting to you at the moment, it doesn't seem helpful to shoehorn it into some insight nana.  My guess is that the energy you're generating in your practice will take you somewhere if you stick with it. 

@Q2- I'll paraphrase Kenneth Folk (who I think was parahrasing Bill Hamiltion?), "Jhanas are defined not by what they are, but by what gets taken away."  A classical description can be found here (https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Anupada_Sutta.htm).  I think the first jhana is defined by pleasant one pointed attention.  When one pointed effort begins to wrankle the mind drops it and turns to the 2nd jhana which is defined by rapture and tends to be very high energy, particularly in the crown.  When the high energy bliss starts to be too much, the mind will eventually drop that and shift to the 3rd jhana which is like low key bliss or tranquility.  An image I often feel here is that the breath becomes like gentle waves going in and out over a smooth sandy beach and my body is the beach.  The sensation tends to be felt on the surface of the skin and through the whole body, and might be accompanied by dreaminess.  You can investigate without judgement how the mind drops the rapturous state you've experienced.  Is it because the mind has had enough rapture?  Is it because the body wants to move?  Is it because the mind is tired?  Is it because there's too much investigation and the state gets broken up?  Is it because you have something to do?

@Q3- I suggest giving things a lot of time and space.  The mind goes through a lot of intense states and changes during meditation, and it's been my experience that making big life changes is best done only if the desire for those changes persists over a long period of time.

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