How to Experience Cessation

Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago at 10/23/23 1:28 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/23/23 1:08 AM

How to Experience Cessation

Posts: 1583 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
I am starting this thread as a place to discuss techniques or tricks to facilitate experiencing cessation. (By trick I mean "a quick or artful way of getting a result")

I don't want this to be a place for discussing stream-entry.

I will start off the thread describing the technique I use to experience cessation. I am motivated to do this because I think the way I do it is very easy and most people can replicate my experience. It is a little bit different from what I have read about in that it based on relaxation.  If there is any trick to it, I think it would be the physical relaxation part.

The technique I use is described here:

I start off with a technique for relaxing the muscles. I move each part of the body five or ten times: curl the toes, move the ankles, the knees, the thighs, twist the spine and curve it side to side and front to back, curl the fingers, flex the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders. Move the jaw open and closed, side to side, front to back, contract the cheeks, form an O with the lips, scrunch my eyes closed and open them wide etc.

The next part is easiest to do lying down but it can be done sitting in a chair or sitting on the floor. Sometimes I sit on the floor with my arms placed on a chair and I rest my head on my arms.

Then, I visualize the colors of the spectrum and say to myself the name an object of that color, a rose, an orange, a daffodil, green grass, blue sky, purple iris flowers (use whatever object is most helpful - fruits and vegetables work well).

Then I do an autogenic relaxation. I focus on each part of the body, saying it is relaxed and heavy, going through the toes, the instep, the ankles, the ball of the foot (or the pad), the arch, the heel, the calves, the hamstrings, the quadriceps, the groin muscles, the abdomen, chest, lower back, mid back upper back, the neck, the throat, the nape, the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, eyes, nose, cheeks, lips, chin, jaws, ears, temples, crown.

I repeat the visualization and the autogenic relaxation alternating over and over. 

The techniques, physical relaxation, visualization, and autogenic relaxation should be approached as forms of meditation, that will develop concentration during the session. Do them mindfully and if you get distracted gently return your attention to the technique. But don't turn them into an intense practice that gives you stress the point is to relax.

One of the helpful things about this technique is that you go through a series of easily recognizable stages so you can tell if you are making progress during the session. And if you don't make progress you know what stage you are stuck at and you know what technique you need to do more carefully.

The first stage is you notice feeling a wave of relaxation as you name the objects you are visualizing. I think this has something to do with being relaxed with the heartbeat and breath being synchronized. This feeling of relaxation increases with additional repetitions of the visualization exercise.

The next stage is you notice during the autogenic relaxation you feel tingling in some parts of the body. With successive repetitions more and more of the body feels tingling/numb and eventually the whole body does.

Then you feel a discrete change and it's like you are floating, or inside your head looking at the darkness behind your closed eyelids, disconnected somewhat from your body. You still feel you have a body but you still feel somewhat disconnected. 

Sometimes this stage is clearly 5th jhana - infinite space but not all the time, sometimes it is just a feeling of floating.

At this stage you can keep repeating the visual and autogenic relaxation or you can just observe the breath or count the breath. If you count the breath don't do it in an intense suppressive what that creates tension. This stage should be done in a relaxing way.

The next stage is hard to explain it is related to the 7th and 8th jhana in the same way the floating feeling is related to the 5th jhana. There is a nothingness about it that is hard to describe.

After this stage cessation may occur. When I do this it can happen a few minutes after I lie down to start the visualizations. If it doesn't happen after a half hour and I have gone through all the stages I don't expect it to happen, and I go on to vipassana - observing the activity of the mind in meditation and daily life. If for some reason it take me more than 30 minutes to go through the stages preceeding cessation I might continue depending on the specifics of the situation.

But since there are discrete stages and you know the techniques that get you to each stage you can usually figure out what the problem is.

The most common problem I run into is I don't get the tingling feeling with the autogenic relaxation and that is usually because I skimped on the physical relaxation.

I usually recognize cessation because of several factors.  I have mild tinnitus and it stops and restarts from the cessation, when it restarts it sounds like a tone. People describe cessation as your brain rebooting. It's like that.  I feel the afterglow. This is not like piti or sukka. One way I describe it is like when you are watching a video of someone speaking and the words are not interrupted but the you can tell there was a cut because the image does not line up from one frame to the next. Going from the nothingness of the 7/8 jhana to cessation is kind of hard to notice - from one kind of nothing to another kind of nothing. So cessation is something I notice after the fact.

Multiple cessations in a session are not unusual. I am not aware of having experienced much duration, but I don't check a clock or have a way to tell how long the cessation lasted since I practice alone.

So that I my "easy technique for experiencing cessation". If there is any trick to it I would say the physical relaxation is important and approaching it as a relaxation exercise rather than an exercise in concentration might also play a role in making it easier.