EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 9:48 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 11:20 AM

EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
I have made concentration the core of my current practice for some time, but despite that, due to a constitutionally poor aptitude for it, am not familiar enough with how it works. So this thread will be an attempt to map out the concentration territory as I have experienced it, which I will add to based on my own practice. (Sort of a hybrid practice log / summary of notes, but I don't plan to regularly post details of particular sits.) Part of the goal is simply to provide a record that I can use, part is to share it with others who may also be interested in concentration, part is to get feedback from anyone who may have useful information to share.

I should make clear at the beginning that I am not aiming for any of the jhanas as described in MCTB, as those things seem to depend on aggravating the attention wave in a particular way, which I do not see value in. I believe that the jhanas described in the Pali suttas are entirely different (and am interested in those), and tentatively believe that the jhanas described in the commentary are "maximal" versions of those.

Here is my experience so far. If I begin by focusing on the sensation of breath at a particular spot (usually the rim of the nostrils, or, if constricting the throat while breathing, at the base of the throat), at first the mind is fairly uncooperative and continues to do things other than observe these areas, so it is helpful to put a bit of "effort" into keeping the particular location centered in experience.

During this process it is also helpful to generate a unique "sensation nimitta" which I believe the Vimuttimagga describes thus:

To the yogin who attends to the incoming breath with mind that is cleansed of the nine lesser defilements the image arises with a pleasant feeling similar to that which is produced in the action of spinning cotton or silk cotton. Also, it is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze. Thus in breathing in and out, air touches the nose or the lip and causes the setting-up of air perception mindfulness. This does not depend on colour or form. This is called the image. If the yogin develops the image [sign] and increases it at the nose-tip, between the eyebrows, on the forehead or establishes it in several places, he feels as if his head were filled with air.


There is a delicate balance between effort (which keeps the mind steady) and this sensation (which is repulsed by effort). Effort in particular, which generates a tension in the head, prevents the experience that is likened to one's head "filled with air" and which is related to this sensation.

As my mind steadies, effort can be actively reduced, and to the extent that I 1) reduce effort / relax, and 2) stay alert and continue to attend to the breath, the breath becomes less perturbed by the attention wave. What I mean is this: the attention wave is a tuning-out of sense-experience, and when it is present, it makes the sensation of breath appear to "ripple" or have "waves" or have outright gaps in it. As relaxation and effort increase (EDIT: typo; effort decreases), if alertness is maintained, the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.

During this process of "smoothing" the breath, there is a corresponding reduction of attention wave-related tensions in the body. During normal experience, it appears that there are myriad different tension experiences temporally stacked on top of each other, each one related to a kind of dreamy mental activity...I think of it as a "chorus of delusion"...but as the breath becomes smoother, these tension experiences fall away, leaving only a few voices and a perception of stillness. (However, tension experiences typically remain in the head at this point.)

When I have reached the point where there are very few tension experiences in the body (apart from the head), it seems common to experience the beginning of a rapid flickering of light. As I continue to attend to the sensation of breath, two things happen: residual tensions in the body continue to disappear, and the flickering of light is gradually replaced by a perception of "brightness" which is different from what one might see when looking at a real light through closed eyelids. I find this "brightness" difficult to explain. Previously I thought it was connected with piti / sukha, but I have found that it can arise just fine without it, and appears to be connected to the "smoothing" of the breath and the stilling of body tensions instead.

From this point, as I "smooth" the breath, the perception of brightness also becomes clearer (the visual flickering and the brightness seem analogous to the "waves" in the perception of breath), and it is possible to reach a state in which there are no or nearly no body tensions at all (apart from the head), a vast reduction in the experience of the attention wave (perceived as "vast stillness" / "quiet"), and a (nearly?) static perception of "brightness". I am not sure what to call this state, but it seems like a landmark of some kind. It may be "access concentration" according to the commentaries.

Bhante G:
...when samadhi is considered in its broader meaning it involves a wider range of reference than jhana. The Pali exegetical tradition recognizes three levels of samadhi: preliminary concentration (parikammasamadhi), which is produced as a result of the meditator's initial efforts to focus his mind on his meditation subject; access concentration (upacarasamadhi), marked by the suppression of the five hindrances, the manifestation of the jhana factors, and the appearance of a luminous mental replica of the meditation object called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta); and absorption concentration (appanasamadhi), the complete immersion of the mind in its object effected by the full maturation of the jhana factors.


In this state, the hindrances seem suppressed. (Sensual desire and ill will and restlessness seem connected with various tensions outside of the head, and those appear to be gone; tensions in the head appear to me to be some other kind of defilement, but I am not quite sure how to classify it.) The "brightness" may be the counterpart sign. Or, perhaps not; Culadasa (http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/jhanas-and-mindfulness-handout.pdf) distinguishes the counterpart sign explicitly from the perception of light. However, Culadasa also says the perception of light is linked to piti, whereas I am certain that the phenomenon I am describing is not. So, the matter is unclear.

One of the main difficulties for me in attaining this state is that I cannot divert my attention to any tensions in the body in the process of obtaining it, even for a moment, because the act of doing that re-generates them and messes up my concentration. However, in this state, there is a fair bit of stability, and it is actually possible to look and notice the lack of tension. However, I cannot say for sure that there is actually no tension, or just a tiny indiscernible amount, because 1) if I look for too long, tension is re-generated, and 2) the act of looking for tension seems to require the existence of tension in some way, at least so far.

In general, the process of working up to this state is not linear, but more like two-steps-forward, one-step-back. Upon reaching higher and higher levels of "smoothness" in the breath, there is an instability caused by recognizing that, which quickly de-stabilizes the breath again. The process seems to be one in which the mind needs to slowly get accustomed to higher levels of stillness, which means I have to reach them and lose them many times before they "stick". However, once they "stick", they become a kind of baseline level of concentration for that meditation session.

In any case, from the highest level of concentration described above, many things are possible. The "actualizing jhanas" method (juxtaposing any attention wave thing with what isn't attention wave) seems to be very powerful. Simply sitting in that state seems to be useful. It also appears possible to deepen concentration by relaxing tensions in the head (associated with ceasing certain kinds of cognition). From past experience there is an "event horizon" around this point in which, once enough cognition stops, there is not enough remaining to destabilize concentration, and one gets sucked into a state that has no cognition nor sense experience, which, according to my best guess, is jhana according to the commentaries. However, though I have "fluked" that in the past, I have no idea how to get there intentionally.

Everything that is possible at a high level of concentration seems possible at a lower level of concentration, too; it's just more effective with more concentration. It seems that one can relax head tensions / cognition without relaxing body tensions first, but I need to experiment with that some more before describing it. (When trying to do it that way, it seems possible to fall into a kind of "zoned out" state if not careful.)

The relationship between the states of concentration I've described and the jhana factors is not so straightforward, and I need to experiment with that before saying more as well. But, overall, it seems that pleasure helps get concentration off the ground, but it is nonetheless possible (albeit hard) to reach the state that I hypothesize is "access concentration" without any pleasure at all.

Things I definitely don't understand but would like to find out about:

* whether there is any value in attending to perceptions of pleasure instead of the breath
* whether there is any value in attending to the "sensory nimitta" explicitly (it normally seems to be mixed with the breath in a hard-to-describe way)
* whether there is any value in attending to the perception of "brightness" explicitly

More posts in the future.
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 3:38 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 3:38 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 17 Join Date: 1/15/12 Recent Posts
Hi,

End in Sight:
due to a constitutionally poor aptitude for it


Certainly it is the case that everybody that's 'anybody' has a constitutionally poor aptitude for it, so it could here be useful for me to point out that this might be the voice of a hindrance?

End in Sight:
There is a delicate balance between effort (which keeps the mind steady) and this sensation (which is repulsed by effort). Effort in particular, which generates a tension in the head, prevents the experience that is likened to one's head "filled with air" and which is related to this sensation.


"This (...) of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered" [1]

Keep also in mind that what qualifies these qualities as overly sluggish or overly active, inwardly restricted or outwardly scattered will be different at different moments. As the hindrances are progressively suppressed, a progressively lighter touch is necessary. Fortunately, a very well concentrated mind can keep these balanced, just as a practiced entertainer can pedal a bike while balancing something on his nose while juggling something with his hands.

End in Sight:
as I "smooth" the breath (...) the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Does this sound like name-and-form to you?

End in Sight:
In this state, the hindrances seem suppressed. (Sensual desire and ill will and restlessness seem connected with various tensions outside of the head, and those appear to be gone; tensions in the head appear to me to be some other kind of defilement, but I am not quite sure how to classify it.)


Could it be that the defilement (tension) perceived outside of the head is the same defilement perceived inside the head? what might that imply when considering the here suppressed nature of sensual desire, ill will and restlessness? What can you discern about the causality there that might provide a moment-to-moment gauge of favorable / unfavorable conditions? How might discernment of these qualities aid in totally extinguishing all of those tensions? In any case, what is it about the tensions in the head that lead you to think that they are some other kind of defilement?

End in Sight:
One of the main difficulties for me in attaining this state is that I cannot divert my attention to any tensions in the body in the process of obtaining it, even for a moment, because the act of doing that re-generates them and messes up my concentration. However, in this state, there is a fair bit of stability, and it is actually possible to look and notice the lack of tension. However, I cannot say for sure that there is actually no tension, or just a tiny indiscernible amount, because 1) if I look for too long, tension is re-generated, and 2) the act of looking for tension seems to require the existence of tension in some way, at least so far.


End in Sight:
In general, the process of working up to this state is not linear, but more like two-steps-forward, one-step-back. Upon reaching higher and higher levels of "smoothness" in the breath, there is an instability caused by recognizing that, which quickly de-stabilizes the breath again.


Any volatility here is the product of your diverted attention; the diversion happens via volition. It is as if a person, standing next to a lamp that well lights the room were to be startled by an unrecognized sound. Due to past concerns (maybe an unchecked paranoia about 'someone else' seeing into the room from outside the window) they react by quickly turning and rotating the lamp's circular switch to 'off' ... "Am I still in danger or not? Is anybody really out in the dark?"

End in Sight:
* whether there is any value in attending to the "sensory nimitta" explicitly (it normally seems to be mixed with the breath in a hard-to-describe way)


What leads you to think that there might be value in attending to the "sensory nimitta"? What might you attend to instead?

End in Sight:
* whether there is any value in attending to perceptions of pleasure instead of the breath
* whether there is any value in attending to the perception of "brightness" explicitly


Developing and dwelling on various perceptions[1] can be useful to the extent that they aid in suppressing the hindrances. However, the perception of anything is fundamentally a fabrication; as such, it is also the signpost of a hindrance to eventually abandon by means of discernment. Therefore, developing and dwelling on certain perceptions can be practically useful just as it is practically useful to drive a car to the supermarket: one avoids tiring out on the way, one is guarded from the environment during the trip, and so forth. But if, upon arrival, one were to contemplate how to drive the vehicle safely through the store front's tiny door, one would become frustrated with confusion and doubt; and to actually try to drive in would be dysfunctional at best. So it is, when arriving at the entrance to where fruits are abundant, one must leave behind the vehicle that got them there; else wind up on 'you'tube, full of shame and remorse.



[1] http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn51/sn51.020.than.html
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Jeff Grove, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 8:56 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 4:25 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
End in Sight:

"appearance of a luminous mental replica of the meditation object "

The "brightness" may be the counterpart sign


Things I definitely don't understand but would like to find out about:

* whether there is any value in attending to perceptions of pleasure instead of the breath
* whether there is any value in attending to the "sensory nimitta" explicitly (it normally seems to be mixed with the breath in a hard-to-describe way)
* whether there is any value in attending to the perception of "brightness" explicitly

More posts in the future.


Hi EIS,

Everyone's experience is different but from investigating the practices outline in the vitsumaggha what I have found is that the counterpart sign is usually representative of the object of attention.
In this way if I was using an Apple as the object of sustained thought I would not expect an image of beautful blonde in bikinis to appear as the counterpart sign (not being a mental replica of the meditation object)

With breath I have found the sign to be representative of a quality of breath such as sustained pressure almost as if it was an anchor point or handle.

If you look into the kasina practices outlined in the vitsumhagga you will see a pattern in that the 4 lower jhanas are about transforming qualities (factors) and the higher jhanas about transorming the object.

Try attending to the sensory nimitta honing in on its qualities or factors

cheers

Jeff
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:02 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Jeff Grove:
Everyone's experience is different but from investigating the practices outline in the vitsumaggha what I have found is that the counterpart sign is usually represenative of the object of attention.
In this why if I was using an Apple as the object of sustained thought I would not expect an image of beautful blonde in bikinis to appear as the counterpart sign (not being a mental replica of the meditation object)


It's possible that the "brightness" is the counterpart sign to the perceived light. (Although the light is not official the object of meditation, it's extremely salient, so perhaps this is an indication that the light has unofficially become the object of meditation.)

Today I tried using the light as an object, and it seems to work fairly well (though I was not able to get to the perception of "brightness").

The situation with the light and "brightness" reminds me in some ways of Ajahn Brahm's description of meditation, in which (if one focuses on the breath), it becomes "beautiful breath", but when concentration is stable, the breath disappears and there is only the perception of "beautiful".
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:19 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:17 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Null Velle:
Certainly it is the case that everybody that's 'anybody' has a constitutionally poor aptitude for it, so it could here be useful for me to point out that this might be the voice of a hindrance?


It is merely a reflective assessment of my relative strengths and weaknesses.

Keep also in mind that what qualifies these qualities as overly sluggish or overly active, inwardly restricted or outwardly scattered will be different at different moments. As the hindrances are progressively suppressed, a progressively lighter touch is necessary. Fortunately, a very well concentrated mind can keep these balanced, just as a practiced entertainer can pedal a bike while balancing something on his nose while juggling something with his hands.


Agreed.

End in Sight:
as I "smooth" the breath (...) the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Does this sound like name-and-form to you?


I don't follow.

End in Sight:
In this state, the hindrances seem suppressed. (Sensual desire and ill will and restlessness seem connected with various tensions outside of the head, and those appear to be gone; tensions in the head appear to me to be some other kind of defilement, but I am not quite sure how to classify it.)


Could it be that the defilement (tension) perceived outside of the head is the same defilement perceived inside the head? what might that imply when considering the here suppressed nature of sensual desire, ill will and restlessness? What can you discern about the causality there that might provide a moment-to-moment gauge of favorable / unfavorable conditions? How might discernment of these qualities aid in totally extinguishing all of those tensions? In any case, what is it about the tensions in the head that lead you to think that they are some other kind of defilement?


I classify different tensions on the basis of what sort of thinking or inclinations they are associated with, or what causes them. Tensions in the body, for example, may be associated with an inclination to do something (restlessness) or may be generated in a situation where someone makes a loud noise near me (ill will?). Tensions in my head appear to be associated with a viewpoint (as in "looking from here / at this") but not especially with anything that strikes me as one of the hindrances.

It is true that sloth / torpor typically manifest (in part) in the head, but generally these are not issues for me when meditating.

As for whether defilements inside the head are the same as defilements outside, I do not see why that would be the case on the basis of the classification system I described, but perhaps it would be the case on the basis of some other classification system which has not occured to me.

I have noticed that it's possible to aggravate a tension in the head in order to (apparently) suppress a tension somewhere else, but in general I have found this is an illusion: the tension elsewhere generally doesn't go away, but is simply no longer perceived clearly. (I am sure that this is not occurring in this case, as tensions in the head are reduced in the process of reducing tensions in the body...but, they do not appear to be reduced as thoroughly.)

End in Sight:
In general, the process of working up to this state is not linear, but more like two-steps-forward, one-step-back. Upon reaching higher and higher levels of "smoothness" in the breath, there is an instability caused by recognizing that, which quickly de-stabilizes the breath again.


Any volatility here is the product of your diverted attention; the diversion happens via volition. It is as if a person, standing next to a lamp that well lights the room were to be startled by an unrecognized sound. Due to past concerns (maybe an unchecked paranoia about 'someone else' seeing into the room from outside the window) they react by quickly turning and rotating the lamp's circular switch to 'off' ... "Am I still in danger or not? Is anybody really out in the dark?"


Agreed; the state is unstable only because the recognition of stability generates a moment of mental activity.

Apart from factors which should be analyzed in psychological terms, the way this situation presents suggests to me that there is some physiological factor; it's as if touching upon more stable states has a calming effect on the brain, and once it's calmed enough, disruptive mental activity is unlikely to be generated, and I can move towards a higher level of concentration from there.

End in Sight:
* whether there is any value in attending to the "sensory nimitta" explicitly (it normally seems to be mixed with the breath in a hard-to-describe way)


What leads you to think that there might be value in attending to the "sensory nimitta"?


Experimentation does a body good!

End in Sight:
* whether there is any value in attending to perceptions of pleasure instead of the breath
* whether there is any value in attending to the perception of "brightness" explicitly


Developing and dwelling on various perceptions[1] can be useful to the extent that they aid in suppressing the hindrances. However, the perception of anything is fundamentally a fabrication; as such, it is also the signpost of a hindrance to eventually abandon by means of discernment.


As states of concentration, as well as jhana, are fabrications, I can't say I follow your point.

Grosser fabrications have to be exchanged for subtler fabrications, of course, so the question is how to do it efficiently and effectively.
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Gerry T, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 8:19 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:48 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 60 Join Date: 4/4/11 Recent Posts
EIS,
Thanks for posting the details of your meditation effort.
I too am trying to work on concentration, jhana meditation.

When you are focusing on the breath are you also aware of your environment, i.e. sounds, pressure of the cushion, etc?

I can relate to the "dreamy" stuff that you mentioned I've thought that it's due to poor concentration, but after reading the article I am now wondering if I am concentrating my attention too much and not allowing my awareness to be present as well?

On one occasion while meditating I watched the breath but was still aware of other things going on around me, sounds, etc. I could see the discursive thoughts quiet down and I could keep my attention on the breath without much effort required but I was still aware of sounds around me and my body sense but none of it "trapped" my attention.

The article that Null had a link to indicated that mindfulness includes both focused attention and a diffused awareness. Does any of this fit any of what you understand about the process?

Edit: One more thing I'd like to ask you. What do you do with your eyes? When I'm meditating I see the light on the back of my eyelids with all the retinal colors that come and go. But I don't take that as any sort of nimitta. The question is, do you ignore that and just take it as another thing going on, like sounds, for example?

Namaste
-Gerry
Nick K, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 8:21 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 7:59 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

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1. What kind of pleasure? Piti/rapture/gladness of mind?
Take U Pandita's stages of piti here:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/html/factors2.html
These stages seem useful to me. From my judgement I've had 1-2-3 from often-occasionaly-rarely. Well, I've felt comofrable sitting and not have desire to get up, but I doubt it was full rapture.

Consider the classic Anapanasati Sutta insturctions:
[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture'; he trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure'; he trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.'

Or consider LeihB on jhana, where the talks about shifting from breath to pleasure:
http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm
I've definately recognized a warmness, tingling, pleasantness of the hands like he writes.

2. I've seen some say keep attention on nimita like Pa Auk. See his "knowing and seeing". I've seen some say if visual perceptions arise, ignore them: http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html
Richard Shankman talks about Pa Auk vs Sutta a bit on Buddhist geeks:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/author/richard-shankman/

3. I can understand how you are saying brightness may be counterpart sign. Pa Auk in knowing and seeing:

In most cases, a pure white nimitta like cotton wool is the ug-gaha-nimitta (taken-up sign or learning sign), and is usually dull and opaque. When the nimitta becomes bright like the morning star, brilliant and clear, it is the pañ ibhāga -nimitta (counterpart sign). When like a dull ruby or gem, it is the uggaha-nimitta, but when bright and sparkling, it is the pañ ibhāga-nimitta. The other images should be understood in this way too.


But, whatever the shape or colour of your nimitta, whatever your perception of the in and out breath, it is important not to play with your nimitta. Do not let it go away, and do not intentionally change its shape or appearance. If you do, your concentration will not develop any further and your progress will stop. Your nimitta will probably disappear. So when your nimitta first appears, do not move your mind from the breath to the nimitta. If you do, you will find it disappears. If you find that the nimitta is stable, and your mind by itself has become fixed on it, then just leave your mind there. If you force your mind to come away from it, you will probably lose your concentration. If your nimitta appears far away in front of you, ignore it, as it will probably disappear. If you ignore it, and simply concentrate on the breath at the place where the breath touches, the nimitta will come and stay there.
If your nimitta appears at the place where the breath touches, is stable, and appears as the breath itself, and the breath as the nimitta, then forget about the breath, and be aware of just the nimitta. By moving your mind from the breath to the nimitta, you will be able to make further progress. As you keep your mind on the nimitta, the nimitta becomes whiter and whiter, and when it is white like cotton wool, it is the uggaha-nimitta. You should determine to keep your mind calmly concentrated on the white uggaha-nimitta for one, two, three hours, or more. If you can keep your mind fixed on the uggaha-nimitta for one or two hours, it should become clear, bright, and brilliant. This is then the pañ ibhāga-nimitta (counterpart sign). Determine and practise to keep your mind on the pañ ibhāga-nimitta for one, two, or three hours. Practise until you succeed. At this stage you will reach either access (upacāra) or absorption (appanā) concentration. It is called access concentration because it is close to and precedes jhāna. Absorption concentration is jhāna.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 8:22 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Gerry T:
When you are focusing on the breath are you also aware of your environment, i.e. sounds, pressure of the cushion, etc?


In all of the states I described, up to the beginning of (hypothetical) "access concentration", the whole environment is clear to me, nothing is tuned out. However, the more concentration I have, the less reaction environmental things cause. (For example, when the perception of light is strong, if someone were to shout next to me I might be fairly unfazed by it.)

After "access concentration", sensory perceptions begin to disappear, but I don't know how that plays out very well because it hasn't happened to me regularly enough.

I can relate to the "dreamy" stuff that you mentioned I've thought that it's due to poor concentration, but after reading the article I am now wondering if I am concentrating my attention too much and not allowing my awareness to be present as well?

On one occasion while meditating I watched the breath but was still aware of other things going on around me, sounds, etc. I could see the discursive thoughts quiet down and I could keep my attention on the breath without much effort required but I was still aware of sounds around me and my body sense but none of it "trapped" my attention.


If you can get to this state (less discursive thinking, keeping the object in mind becomes easy), that sounds good, and you should use whatever qualities of attention get you there.

In general I would consider the "dreamy" stuff to indicate low concentration (as I start out with a lot of it, and it goes away over the course of the sit), and I never found that paying attention to it was helpful for concentration, except that there is a (hard-to-express) sense in which it's important to notice it just enough not to get "stuck" or "embedded" in it.

I think it's possible to build a fair amount of concentration with the whole environment as an object, but I also think it's likely to be supremely difficult after a certain point, so I would just allow the environment to be there but not worry about it.

The article that Null had a link to indicated that mindfulness includes both focused attention and a diffused awareness. Does any of this fit any of what you understand about the process?


I use the rule "don't push things away, don't search things out" for my own practice, and that seems to be equivalent to focused (in some ways) but diffused (in other ways). The key is not to generate a perception of "focus" (as in, focused widely / focused narrowly / focused strongly / focused weakly / whatever), just to attend to whatever is there as effortlessly as possible. Having a perception of focus, or searching out one's object, leads to MCTB jhana (which appears to be nothing more than the corresponding nana + high concentration).

Relating this to the "dreamy" stuff, what's worked for me is ignoring it without pushing it away...pushing away is active, ignoring is passive. When you ignore what's happening, you keep noticing it so long as it's happening, but it gets starved of energy...this is what noticing it "just enough" means to me.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 8:53 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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nick j k:
1. What kind of pleasure? Piti/rapture/gladness of mind?
Take U Pandita's stages of piti here:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/html/factors2.html
These stages seem useful to me. From my judgement I've had 1-2-3 from often-occasionaly-rarely. Well, I've felt comofrable sitting and not have desire to get up, but I doubt it was full rapture.


U Pandita's stages don't speak to my experience. I find sukha to be a simple sensation of pure, distilled pleasure, and piti to be a "brightness" on top of it (not the same as the potential counterpart sign). They can be arbitrarily strong, anything from a mildly refreshing gesture to the most physically pleasurable thing that I could imagine, and anything in between. The experience is constant and calm, and not tingly (except some tingling may accompany it at times).

Or consider LeihB on jhana, where the talks about shifting from breath to pleasure:
http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm
I've definately recognized a warmness, tingling, pleasantness of the hands like he writes.


Leigh B:
You find the pleasant sensation, and shift your attention to the pleasant sensation. You observe the pleasantness of the pleasant sensation, and do nothing else. If you can do that, the pleasant sensation will begin to grow in intensity, it will become stronger. This will not happen in a linear way. It'll sort of grow a little bit, and then grow a little bit more and then hang out, and grow a little bit more...and then eventually, it will suddenly take off and take you into what is obviously an altered state of consciousness.


I have found that if I pay attention to pleasure, I can make it stronger, but it never leads to an altered state unless I generate a sense of "focus" aimed at the pleasure (which leads to vibey MCTB jhana, or the skeleton of it, which I don't want).

2. I've seen some say keep attention on nimita like Pa Auk. See his "knowing and seeing". I've seen some say if visual perceptions arise, ignore them: http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html
Richard Shankman talks about Pa Auk vs Sutta a bit on Buddhist geeks:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/author/richard-shankman/


Thanks for the links, I'll check into them.

Pa Auk Sayadaw:
In most cases, a pure white nimitta like cotton wool is the ug-gaha-nimitta (taken-up sign or learning sign), and is usually dull and opaque. When the nimitta becomes bright like the morning star, brilliant and clear, it is the pañ ibhāga -nimitta (counterpart sign). When like a dull ruby or gem, it is the uggaha-nimitta, but when bright and sparkling, it is the pañ ibhāga-nimitta.


This sounds like a good way of contrasting the perception of light and "brightness".

Pau Auk Sayadaw:
If your nimitta appears at the place where the breath touches, is stable, and appears as the breath itself, and the breath as the nimitta, then forget about the breath, and be aware of just the nimitta.


This I don't get. Neither the "brightness" I perceive nor the light appears to be about the breath. If I had to say what I thought it was about, I'd have to say it's about the jhana factors (piti / sukha / upekkha, whichever are manifesting).

If I had to say what appears "as the breath itself", I'd have to pick the the "cotton sensation" I described. (Learning sign?) It seems as if I'm trying to use the breath as an object (getting a tactile learning sign), but having it replaced by some other object for no obvious reason once concentration is deep enough.

Any other authors / books you would advise for specific, practical advice regarding nimittas and what to do with them, apart from Pa Auk Sayadaw?
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 9:14 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
as I "smooth" the breath (...) the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Does this sound like name-and-form to you?


End in Sight:
I don't follow.


From volition (as I smooth the breath) arises name (smooth/rough, fine/course) and form (the breath becomes smoother and smoother) and the perception that it is one way or another is the expression of that aggregated product.

Does that sound like an accurate account of what you experience?

End in Sight:
I classify different tensions on the basis of what sort of thinking or inclinations they are associated with, or what causes them. Tensions in the body, for example, may be associated with an inclination to do something (restlessness) or may be generated in a situation where someone makes a loud noise near me (ill will?). Tensions in my head appear to be associated with a viewpoint (as in "looking from here / at this") but not especially with anything that strikes me as one of the hindrances.

It is true that sloth / torpor typically manifest (in part) in the head, but generally these are not issues for me when meditating.

As for whether defilements inside the head are the same as defilements outside, I do not see why that would be the case on the basis of the classification system I described, but perhaps it would be the case on the basis of some other classification system which has not occured to me.


My point was that with the hindrances suppressed, delusion is suppressed; with suppressed delusion, one may see where the tensions actually reside. They aren't 'in' or 'out' or 'below' or 'above' or 'in front' or 'behind' or any-'where' else. Wouldn't seeing them clearly (without a perception of locality) cut to the chase? My guess is that the ones that are revealed when the hindrances are suppressed are the ones you really need to be inspecting closely.

End in Sight:
As states of concentration, as well as jhana, are fabrications, I can't say I follow your point.

Grosser fabrications have to be exchanged for subtler fabrications, of course, so the question is how to do it efficiently and effectively.


Well, the reason I wrote what I did was to point out the limitation of gross perceptual 'tools' and states arrived at by their means. The reason I thought it useful to point that out is because what you are hypothesizing to be access concentration sounds to me a lot more like fourth jhana. If fourth jhana is what you're really experiencing, then you have likely arrived at a point where it would be a good idea to exchange the gross fabrications of light, pleasure, etc. for states of subtler fabrication (infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness), or to aim for the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, which is vastly superior to all perception attainments in its utility for extinguishing the hindrances. By vastly superior, I mean that the difference is analogous to one's probable rate of success in shooting a far off, quick and randomly moving target as compared to shooting the same target at point blank range.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/15/12 9:46 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
End in Sight:
as I "smooth" the breath (...) the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Does this sound like name-and-form to you?


End in Sight:
I don't follow.


From volition (as I smooth the breath) arises name (smooth/rough, fine/course) and form (the breath becomes smoother and smoother) and the perception that it is one way or another is the expression of that aggregated product.

Does that sound like an accurate account of what you experience?


No, I wasn't clear. "Smoothing the breath" means reducing the attention wave by relaxing and generating less effort. The less volition, the less "rippling" the attention wave causes in the breath, the smoother it appears (should I assess it or describe it).

I see that I mistyped something, which may have led to the confusion:

EIS:
As relaxation and effort increase, if alertness is maintained, the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Relaxation increases, effort decreases.

On the other hand, there have been occasions when I have used "smooth" as a cue to skip forward to the level of concentration at which this occurs.

My point was that with the hindrances suppressed, delusion is suppressed; with suppressed delusion, one may see where the tensions actually reside. They aren't 'in' or 'out' or 'below' or 'above' or 'in front' or 'behind' or any-'where' else. Wouldn't seeing them clearly (without a perception of locality) cut to the chase? My guess is that the ones that are revealed when the hindrances are suppressed are the ones you really need to be inspecting closely.


Let me see if I understand what you're getting at. There is a sense in which tensions reside in the body (which is that they are linked to locations on one's body image)...but one's body image is itself generated by the tensions and not located in the body (as it does not have a location other than "imagination"), and so there is also a sense in which tensions do not reside in the body. You propose ignoring the (imaginary) link between (imaginary) tensions and (imaginary) body image and consider the tensions in an un-located way (presumably as an insight practice rather than a concentration practice)?

This is the only sense in which I understand tensions not to be any-"where", so it's possible you're getting at something else.

End in Sight:
As states of concentration, as well as jhana, are fabrications, I can't say I follow your point.

Grosser fabrications have to be exchanged for subtler fabrications, of course, so the question is how to do it efficiently and effectively.


Well, the reason I wrote what I did was to point out the limitation of gross perceptual 'tools' and states arrived at by their means. The reason I thought it useful to point that out is because what you are hypothesizing to be access concentration sounds to me a lot more like fourth jhana.


I hypothesize it is access concentration according to the commentary. (According to the commentary it is clearly not fourth jhana.)

Is it fourth jhana according to the suttas? Not sure either way. According to this sutta, fourth jhana does not include (the perception of?) breathing: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.011.than.html

If fourth jhana is what you're really experiencing, then you have likely arrived at a point where it would be a good idea to exchange the gross fabrications of light, pleasure, etc. for states of subtler fabrication (infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness), or to aim for the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, which is vastly superior to all perception attainments in its utility for extinguishing the hindrances. By vastly superior, I mean that the difference is analogous to one's probable rate of success in shooting a far off, quick and randomly moving target as compared to shooting the same target at point blank range.


I would count a concentration state as formless only if the formless perception replaces sensory experience (i.e. with eyes open, there is no seeing). So, to go from hypothetical access concentration to a formless experience is not a small undertaking, as from my experience it involves a much higher level of concentration.

I am familiar with different standards for formless experiences; for example, one may count a concentration experience as "boundless space" if there is a perception of space that appears co-incident with form. One major reason I don't use those standards is that I have those perceptions (corresponding to jhanas 5-8) more-or-less all the time.

If you have advice on how to increase concentration in order to transition to a formless state, I'm all ears. As I said, my concentration is constitutionally poor.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Following up on things with a quick clarificatory comment, the state of hypothesized access concentration reminds me of nothing so much as a very high level EE. It fails to be a PCE due to a bit of residual attention wave, and a bit of head tension. But otherwise, it has the qualities of an EE, except that it depends on sitting quietly in meditation for its continuance, and would destabilize upon getting up and walking around, whereas EEs do not destabilize that way.

(It occurs to me that the practice of cultivating felicity [including jhana factors] and inclining towards EEs / PCEs is some kind of hybrid concentration practice.)

One other thing to note, regarding jhana factors, is that I find that they come in sets corresponding to jhanas 1-4, and any set can be present in the process of proceeding through the various concentration states I've described. So, I can climb up to hypothesized access concentration with the factors of jhana 1 the whole way (easier), or I can climb there with the factors of jhana 4 (harder), or I can switch mid-climb.

There is an tendency to move by default to the factors of jhana 4 as concentration deepens, but sometimes the opposite occurs (going from jhana 4 factors to jhana 1 or 2) for no reason I can discern. In general I have little control over this, as I can advert to whichever factors I like, but the mind tends to reset itself to whichever factors it chose by default after awhile. In general I find this to be a difficulty, because piti + sukha are like a "buffer" that stabilizes concentration against whatever impulses or environmental distractions might arise, and it seems that upekkha can only easily stand alone once concentration is very stable in the first place.

Authors I am familiar with who talk about "commentary-level" jhana always seem to indicate that one experiences piti + sukha, and then either 1) enters jhana 1 and travels linearly to some other jhana with other jhana factors (e.g. Ajahn Brahm), or 2) enters jhana n, exits jhana n, enters jhana n+1... (e.g. Bhante G).

Ajahn Brahm:
Imagine a four-roomed house with only one entrance door. Going through that door, one enters the first room. One must go through the first room to enter the second room, go through the second room to enter the third room, and one must go through the third room to enter the fourth room. Then to go out from the fourth room one must leave via the third room, to go out from the third room one must leave via the second room, to out from the second room one must leave via the first room, and to go out from the first room one must leave by the same door through which one came in. Now suppose that the floor surface in all the four rooms was so slippery that it is impossible to add to the momentum within the house. Thus, if one entered the house with only a little momentum, one will slide to a halt within the first room. With a great amount of entry momentum, one may come to a stop in the second, or even the third room. Then with yet more entry momentum, one may reach the fourth room. Such a simile well describes how moving from Jhana to Jhana actually occurs.


Bhante G:
Like the fine-material jhanas[, the immaterial jhanas] follow a fixed sequence and must be attained in the order in which they are presented. (...) A meditator who has gained mastery over the base of boundless space, wishing to attain as well the second immaterial jhana, must reflect upon the two defects of the first attainment which are its proximity to the fine-material jhanas and its grossness compared to the base of boundless consciousness. Having in this way developed indifferent to the lower attainment, he must next enter and emerge from the base of boundless space and then fix his attention upon the consciousness that occurred there pervading the boundless space.


However, the Visuddhimagga states that jhanas can be attained in nonlinear order (here in relationship to developing the powers):

Visuddhimagga:
He skips alternate jhanas without skipping the kasinas in the following way: having first attained the first jhana in the earth kasina, he attains the third jhana in that same kasina, and after that, having removed [the kasina, he attains] the base consisting of boundless space, after that the base consisting of nothingness. This is called skipping jhanas.


So perhaps that explains the possibility of developing concentration with the factors of jhanas other than 1.
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/16/12 6:21 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

End in Sight:
You propose ignoring the (imaginary) link between (imaginary) tensions and (imaginary) body image and consider the tensions in an un-located way (presumably as an insight practice rather than a concentration practice)?


I'm not proposing that, but what I do propose is that you carefully discern perceptions as perceptions, feelings as feelings, volition as volition, form as form, and consciousness as consciousness.

I also think it would be a very good idea for you to not consider there to be a any sort of practical division as to what constitutes 'insight practice' and what constitutes 'concentration practice'.

End in Sight:
I would count a concentration state as formless only if the formless perception replaces sensory experience (i.e. with eyes open, there is no seeing). So, to go from hypothetical access concentration to a formless experience is not a small undertaking, as from my experience it involves a much higher level of concentration.


It's nice to see that you have high standards for what connotes formlessness, but as far as practicality is concerned, a formless state needn't be absolutely formless for it to be more useful than 'access concentration' for suppressing and extinguishing the hindrances.

End in Sight:
If you have advice on how to increase concentration in order to transition to a formless state, I'm all ears. As I said, my concentration is constitutionally poor.


Well, going by the information under your user name, you've written 813 (often very long and detailed) posts in 194 days; that means more than four a day on average. Maybe you could spend more time concentrating instead of posting?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/16/12 7:49 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
I'm not proposing that, but what I do propose is that you carefully discern perceptions as perceptions, feelings as feelings, volition as volition, form as form, and consciousness as consciousness.


As I currently do that to the best of my ability whenever I am paying attention (which I believe is true of practitioners past MCTB 1st path in general), what, concretely, is your suggestion?

I also think it would be a very good idea for you to not consider there to be a any sort of practical division as to what constitutes 'insight practice' and what constitutes 'concentration practice'.


Agreed.

End in Sight:
I would count a concentration state as formless only if the formless perception replaces sensory experience (i.e. with eyes open, there is no seeing). So, to go from hypothetical access concentration to a formless experience is not a small undertaking, as from my experience it involves a much higher level of concentration.


It's nice to see that you have high standards for what connotes formlessness, but as far as practicality is concerned, a formless state needn't be absolutely formless for it to be more useful than 'access concentration' for suppressing and extinguishing the hindrances.


Well, I wrote:

EIS:
I am familiar with different standards for formless experiences; for example, one may count a concentration experience as "boundless space" if there is a perception of space that appears co-incident with form. One major reason I don't use those standards is that I have those perceptions (corresponding to jhanas 5-8) more-or-less all the time.


In fact, the last time I attempted to enter a formless state with moderate concentration, nothing discernible happened (probably owing to this fact).

So, what, concretely, is your suggestion?

End in Sight:
If you have advice on how to increase concentration in order to transition to a formless state, I'm all ears. As I said, my concentration is constitutionally poor.


Well, going by the information under your user name, you've written 813 (often very long and detailed) posts in 194 days; that means more than four a day on average. Maybe you could spend more time concentrating instead of posting?


If it takes me one hour on average to write four posts, that is a small fraction of the time I dedicate to practice each day.

Your calculation does remind me, for better or worse, how much I have simplified my life in order to incorporate dharma-related activities to a meaningful degree. (Unfortunately I have not yet figured out how to simplify it in order to accommodate long retreats.)

As my problems with concentration / attention appear to be physiological, I may explain them in greater detail at some point, since others have the same or similar problems, and may benefit from what I've found.

In general, what benefits my concentration is:

1) Development (= baseline decreases in attention wave phenomena related to paths / etc.)
2) Caffeine
3) Being on retreat

Surprisingly, so far, "practicing concentration" does not have as profound an effect as I would expect.
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 1:53 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:

Surprisingly, so far, "practicing concentration" does not have as profound an effect as I would expect.


Says the person who once told me that incremental practice, doing things bit by bit, eventually leads to exponential rewards. emoticon

What are you expecting? And how do you know to expect that?
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Steph S:
End in Sight:

Surprisingly, so far, "practicing concentration" does not have as profound an effect as I would expect.


Says the person who once told me that incremental practice, doing things bit by bit, eventually leads to exponential rewards. emoticon

What are you expecting? And how do you know to expect that?


Hehe. Well, the rewards seem to come (less baseline attention wave stuff), but they mostly seem to improve my concentration only indirectly. (The attention wave stuff is inherently destabilizing, so the less of it there is, the easier it is to concentrate.) I'm not really sure that my concentration skill itself is much higher than before.

A goal for the practice is less attention wave stuff. emoticon

A goal for concentration is, be able to reach the hypothesized "access concentration" state at every sit. Right now I can get to the point just before it (bright light, almost no tensions) fairly reliably.

I expect the former because it's been happening so far, and the latter because, if I could learn concentration like a normal skill, that seems like it would be the next step.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 9:30 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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What I've noticed recently is that, when concentrating, looking for tensions in the body re-generates them and destabilizes concentration (because they persist after the moment of looking at them, continually taking me away from the object of meditation), but looking at tensions in the head does not aggravate them (only destabilizing concentration as long as I look at them instead of the object of meditation).

It's possible to classify tensions as static vs. dynamic. Static tensions are basically always there (but can fluctutate in intensity), dynamic tensions arise due to coincidental things that may or may not happen in any given moment. Static tension in my body is extremely low, but static tension in my head is higher. Perhaps the rule is, looking for dynamic tensions generates them, whereas looking at static tensions does little.

Thinking that over, it seems to me that at hypothesized access concentration, all the dynamic tensions are suppressed, but the static tensions remain (slowly fading out as concentration improves). This may be why I report tension continuing in the head, and suggest the possibility that in that state, there is much lower, subtler level of tension in the body that is hard to discern.

One difference between static and dynamic tensions is that dynamic tensions are observed to appear and disappear without effort, whereas static tensions require effort in order to observe their fluctuation. It seems as if the mind is actively "stuck" on them and does not care to let go of them, which explains why they are there by default, and which explains why they don't naturally appear to fluctuate. It takes higher levels of concentration for the mind to stop interacting with them.

EDIT: One thing that I have been considering more (based on Null's advice to "discern volition as volition" along with previous observations) is the way that static tensions may be seen as either instances of volition, or caused by volition. (I am not sure which is more accurate.) Their presence indicates that the mind is constantly actively doing something, which I would describe as "actively construing experience as being a certain way" (= mental representation). The particulars of that construing have become very clear in the past during high concentration, when I've been able to turn the tensions on and off. Going back and forth between the two states demonstrates the way that experience is being construed when they are present...however, it is not easy to remember the details outside of those high concentration states.
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 10:37 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

End in Sight:
As I currently do that to the best of my ability whenever I am paying attention (which I believe is true of practitioners past MCTB 1st path in general), what, concretely, is your suggestion?


Uh, well, if you say so … but I sure don’t see much discussion about the topic. Anyhow, my specific suggestion is to discern the aggregates the next time there appears to be a tension ‘outside’ of the head or a tension ‘in’ the head.

End in Sight:
I am familiar with different standards for formless experiences; for example, one may count a concentration experience as "boundless space" if there is a perception of space that appears co-incident with form. One major reason I don't use those standards is that I have those perceptions (corresponding to jhanas 5-8) more-or-less all the time.

In fact, the last time I attempted to enter a formless state with moderate concentration, nothing discernible happened (probably owing to this fact).

So, what, concretely, is your suggestion?


Calling up and discerning a fabricated perception of space, consciousness or nothingness is not at all the same as dwelling on those perceptions persistently, with stability, or exclusively. Furthermore, saying that you more-or-less all the time have a perception about a state of neither perception nor non-perception would be to entirely miss the point (and the state).

With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to refine your discernment of the perception of infinite space, and then cultivate that perception of infinite space while not attending to other perceptions. Of course, moving on to infinite consciousness when you think that is appropriate.

End in Sight:
If it takes me one hour on average to write four posts, that is a small fraction of the time I dedicate to practice each day.


It may be a small fraction of your total time when considering all units of your time to be equally fruitful. But as you have noticed (and pointed out in your first post), these matters are not linear. What if that one hour of your time were as fruitful as the two hours before it? It may also be worth considering that there’s (presumably) much more karma being generated during that hour of posting as compared to if you were meditating, which is like taking ‘one step back’; so even if all units of meditation time are equally fruitful, that one hour might actually be more comparable to losing two hours of otherwise more fruitful time. Of course, that is all rather conceptual, but maybe it makes the point clear anyway. After all, it was only a suggestion to your question.

End in Sight:
Surprisingly, so far, "practicing concentration" does not have as profound an effect as I would expect.


So long as practicing concentration has any positive effect on one’s ability to concentrate (and if that’s not the effect, then what on earth are you practicing?), then what could be more profound than the effect you described in your first post? ...

End in Sight:
Everything that is possible at a high level of concentration seems possible at a lower level of concentration, too; it's just more effective with more concentration.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
Furthermore, saying that you more-or-less all the time have a perception about a state of neither perception nor non-perception would be to entirely miss the point (and the state).


Neither-perception-nor-nonperception, in my experience, absolutely is a perception (though indescribable); and the suttas explicitly state the same.

Many authors emphasize that each level of formless experience "contains" the later levels, which is perhaps the easiest way to think about this.

Is your experience of that state otherwise?

With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to refine your discernment of the perception of infinite space, and then cultivate that perception of infinite space while not attending to other perceptions. Of course, moving on to infinite consciousness when you think that is appropriate.


I'll give it a whirl when concentration seems stable enough.

End in Sight:
If it takes me one hour on average to write four posts, that is a small fraction of the time I dedicate to practice each day.


Of course, that is all rather conceptual, but maybe it makes the point clear anyway. After all, it was only a suggestion to your question.


Thanks for the advice.

If you have technical advice regarding concentration, that would be appreciated too.

End in Sight:
Surprisingly, so far, "practicing concentration" does not have as profound an effect as I would expect.


So long as practicing concentration has any positive effect on one’s ability to concentrate (and if that’s not the effect, then what on earth are you practicing?), then what could be more profound than the effect you described in your first post? ...


I meant "...as profound an effect [with respect to improving the skill of concentration]...", which was the context of my comment.

Sometimes I think I write fairly clearly, but other times, it seems that I don't...
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Some quick thoughts.

Culadasa describes the possibility of moving from breath-nimittas to light nimittas here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jhana_insight/message/790

And that seems to be what I've been doing accidentally.

The first sensation of breath, which I related to something in the Vimuttimagga, is probably not what the Vimuttimagga is talking about, but matches Culadasa's "parikamma nimitta". However, it has some kind of texture feature which seems to be additional to the sensation of breath itself, which is likely just idiosyncratic to me.

I noticed that, when the perception of light is somewhat stable, the perception of breath is changed: I will try to describe it later when I have more experience with it. It seems like both of these are Culadasa's "uggaha nimitta", and this is where I have switched off between breath and light. The change in the breath occurs even if concentration isn't too stable; due to the instability, there can be a rapid switch (mid-respiration) between the former presentation of breath and this.

Explicitly using the breath as the object is tricky past a certain point, because it becomes fairly subtle due to shallow respiration, and because there is an inclination to control the breath, which doesn't seem to help.

Explicitly using the light as the object is tricky so far because there is an inclination for my eyes to try to focus on it (which is impossible).

One additional problem is that I can perceive my heartbeat fairly distinctly, and exhaling makes it much stronger for a few moments, which can be disruptive. I also occasionally notice "paradoxical stimulation" when concentration gets beyond a certain point, where my heart starts beating faster in response to relaxation for no currently-discernible reason, which is also disruptive.

I had a fairly strange experience where, when hanging around hypothesized access concentration with the factors of jhana 4 (but not there yet at access as far as I could see) and very relaxed, I either suddenly fell half-asleep or entered a near-maximal jhana 4 or jhana 5 for about half a second, and bounced right out. (There was a single thought starting before the entrance that continued into the state.) I don't think it's likely to fall asleep in the context of that concentration, but I also don't think it's likely to enter jhana without higher concentration than that, so I'm really not sure what happened...and, from the perspective of trying to improve my concentration skill, am not sure why it happened.

Discerning what happened is also difficult because the "no-cognition" states which I associate with maximal jhana are very different states, and (despite being radically different from normal consciousness) have a subtlety to them. This is a fairly good way to characterize the subtlety:

http://www.buddhanet.net/mettac3.htm:
When the mind becomes fixed onto the object it sinks and merges into it to become as if one. The result is the development of a different form of consciousness called (jhana citta) absorption. Very often people say this is like falling into a state deeper than sleep. (...) It has been claimed that the state is so sleep-like that one may not be aware that one has entered into it, especially when it first occurs in only very short moments.


"Like sleep" is not a good description of jhana (except maybe jhanas 7-8) as such, but there is one particular way in which it characterizes them.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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hey there,

One additional problem is that I can perceive my heartbeat fairly distinctly, and exhaling makes it much stronger for a few moments, which can be disruptive. I also occasionally notice "paradoxical stimulation" when concentration gets beyond a certain point, where my heart starts beating faster in response to relaxation for no currently-discernible reason, which is also disruptive.
I get this just at/after "thinking/pondering" stops, about 3-minutes into anapanasati for example. Heart beat seems to pound ("heard" as if in the echoing in the head region), and rate seems to increase briefly. I have not thought of it as a problem and it has only been occurring for a few weeks as far as I can tell (i do not have a consistent practice). my two pesos.

[edit: the increased awareness of (or actual force of?) heartbeat does not last long in my case. It may be relevant to add that I noticed it while starting inner heat focus (which I begin with anapanasati for a few minutes), which triggered a significant inner cold response, which shivering cold and deep fatigue would kick in after about 5-8 minutes no matter how warm/bundled I was. Just this week the inner heat began firing in the abdomen and the heart rate immediately seemed quiescent. Irrelevant? Useful? ]

[edit2: could you clarify what you intend by the conjunction "and" in para5, line2? ....; ) ]
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 6:48 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

End in Sight:
Neither-perception-nor-nonperception, in my experience, absolutely is a perception (though indescribable); and the suttas explicitly state the same.


Could you please direct me to the suttas you are alluding to? Preferably online if that's a possibility.

End in Sight:
Many authors emphasize that each level of formless experience "contains" the later levels, which is perhaps the easiest way to think about this.


I don't think that's a very good way to think about it at all. It's not particularly practical and seems to imply a lot about what are ultimately distinct and fabricated states. Do you find it valuable to think of it that way for some reason?

End in Sight:
I'll give it a whirl when concentration seems stable enough.


How will you decide when your concentration is stable enough?

End in Sight:
If you have technical advice regarding concentration, that would be appreciated too.


I'll give technical advice if there's an opportunity and it seems like it might be useful to you, but probably not so long as you are playing around with neither-access-concentration-nor-non-access-concentration.

End in Sight:
I meant "...as profound an effect [with respect to improving the skill of concentration]...", which was the context of my comment.


Oh okay. Say, have you noticed that concentration doesn't build much in strength unless there's some sense of resistance? Kind of like when building strength by lifting weights or training endurance for a long run.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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katy steger:
]I get this just at/after "thinking/pondering" stops, about 3-minutes into anapanasati for example. Heart beat seems to pound ("heard" as if in the echoing in the head region), and rate seems to increase briefly. I have not thought of it as a problem and it has only been occurring for a few weeks as far as I can tell (i do not have a consistent practice). my two pesos.


Is there anything in particular associated with its returning to normal?

[edit: the increased awareness of (or actual force of?) heartbeat does not last long in my case. It may be relevant to add that I noticed it while starting inner heat focus (which I begin with anapanasati for a few minutes), which triggered a significant inner cold response, which shivering cold and deep fatigue would kick in after about 5-8 minutes no matter how warm/bundled I was. Just this week the inner heat began firing in the abdomen and the heart rate immediately seemed quiescent. Irrelevant? Useful? ]


I'll check if there's some kind of altered temperature-perception when this happens to me and let you know if there is.

[edit2: could you clarify what you intend by the conjunction "and" in para5, line2? ....; ) ]


You mean this?

EIS:
noticed that, when the perception of light is somewhat stable, the perception of breath is changed: I will try to describe it later when I have more experience with it. It seems like both of these are Culadasa's "uggaha nimitta", and this is where I have switched off between breath and light. The change in the breath occurs even if concentration isn't too stable; due to the instability, there can be a rapid switch (mid-respiration) between the former presentation of breath and this.


I meant that, at the point where there is a somewhat-stable perception of light, there is a change in the perception of breath; this has happened to me many times in the past, and in the past, I think I would end up directing some attention to the light at the expense of breath (leading to a perception of "brightness" as the possible counterpart sign, rather than to a perception relating to the breath as the counterpart sign). In other words, two novel perceptions arose (light and altered breath) and I would attend to the light without taking explicit note of the change in the breath.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:

End in Sight:
Neither-perception-nor-nonperception, in my experience, absolutely is a perception (though indescribable); and the suttas explicitly state the same.


Could you please direct me to the suttas you are alluding to? Preferably online if that's a possibility.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.106.than.html:
There is the case, Ananda, where a disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'Sensuality here & now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here & now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here & now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here & now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness; perceptions of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception: that is an identity, to the extent that there is an identity. This is deathless: the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging/sustenance.'


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.121.than.html:
Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.


What is your experience?

End in Sight:
Many authors emphasize that each level of formless experience "contains" the later levels, which is perhaps the easiest way to think about this.


I don't think that's a very good way to think about it at all. It's not particularly practical and seems to imply a lot about what are ultimately distinct and fabricated states. Do you find it valuable to think of it that way for some reason?


Authors seem to emphasize it in context of showing how to get from one to the next, so on that basis it is eminently practical.

It is also analogous to jhanas 1-4: each further jhana can be thought of as lying within the previous, because each further jhana is produced by removing something from the previous.

End in Sight:
I'll give it a whirl when concentration seems stable enough.


How will you decide when your concentration is stable enough?


Experimentation!

End in Sight:
I meant "...as profound an effect [with respect to improving the skill of concentration]...", which was the context of my comment.


Oh okay. Say, have you noticed that concentration doesn't build much in strength unless there's some sense of resistance? Kind of like when building strength by lifting weights or training endurance for a long run.


I haven't really thought about it, but my impression is that it would work in the opposite way (the easier it is to concentrate, the further concentration goes, the more the skill is effectively practiced, the easier it is in the future). In other words, an analogy that would seem plausible to me is to something that has a technical component, such as playing music: if you experience playing your instrument at ever-higher levels of musicianship to be unnatural or effortful, that's probably a sign of doing something wrong in training yourself.

(This is not to say that one need not make an effort to be a better musician, but that the form of the effort starts off as very gross and ought to become more refined as skill increases.)
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
It is also analogous to jhanas 1-4: each further jhana can be thought of as lying within the previous, because each further jhana is produced by removing something from the previous.


Of note: this is not true for MCTB jhanas (which generally bear little resemblance to each other, as the nanas they are based on bear little resemblance to each other), but it is true for the jhanas that I am interested in.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 8:47 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Of note: this is not true for MCTB jhanas (which generally bear little resemblance to each other, as the nanas they are based on bear little resemblance to each other), but it is true for the jhanas that I am interested in.

I found this to be the case with the jhanas I would access on the way up to and down from MCTB-NS. It's most obvious when going 'down' the jhanic arc (if you ever did that practice).
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Is there anything in particular associated with its returning to normal?
Frankly, this last time I jumped back into thinking and repeated something like, "Ok, you are afraid", as a test, because I experienced cold in the earlier insight stages. At that exact moment, without identifying anything specific - just fear itself (and only positing it as a test to try to figure how I had turned "on" inner cold while aiming for inner heat, the shivering stopped, everything got very calm. At that point inner heat was apparent in my abdomen and I was able to expand it for what was about 30 minutes (using balloon periphery technique), with the last 10 minutes or so being a struggle of cold-heat sensation. My interest in the last minutes was conversion of "perception of cold" to "perception heat", back and forth. The motivation for the practice has been self-control and furtherance of ahimsa.

[edit2: could you clarify what you intend by the conjunction "and" in para5, line2? ....; ) ]
I'm so sorry, EiS: I was making light of myself (how I promised to to consider your experience via your words in Florian's thread). However, I found your answer useful for comparison to some of my experience: I do not point direct attention at the light and it expands (with it whole body vibration-expansive light) - as if perceiving the light through peripheral vision. When I turn attention to the light (and I think my eyes actually rotate here as if the light is straight ahead), then it is as though the conceptual mind, without wording anything, has taken up the light and the light dissipates. I don't take much interest in this light phenomena, though it has been quite a display on some past occasions (massively expansive and bright (A&P?) and flashy (DN?)).

edit: clarity
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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This sutta excerpt sort of captures the light nimitta vs breath nimitta (light vs forms), light vs. "brightness" (limited vs. immeasurable) thing pretty well. I wonder if this is what it's talking about?

http://www.palicanon.org/en/sutta-pitaka/transcribed-suttas/majjhima-nikaya/93-mn-128-upakkilesa-sutta-imperfections.html:
As, Anuruddha, I was abiding diligent, ardent, and resolute, I perceived light but I did not see forms; I saw forms but I did not perceive light, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition for this?’ Then I considered thus: ‘On the occasion when I do not attend to the sign of forms but attend to the sign of light, I then perceive light but do not see forms. On the occasion when I do not attend to the sign of light but attend to the sign of forms, I then see forms but do not perceive light, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night.’

As, Anuruddha, I was abiding diligent, ardent, and resolute, I perceived limited light and saw limited forms; I perceived immeasurable light and saw immeasurable forms, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition for this?’ Then I considered thus: ‘On the occasion when concentration is limited, my vision is limited, and with limited vision I perceive limited light and limited forms. But on the occasion when concentration is immeasurable, my vision is immeasurable, and with immeasurable vision I perceive immeasurable light and see immeasurable forms, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night.’
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
End in Sight:
Of note: this is not true for MCTB jhanas (which generally bear little resemblance to each other, as the nanas they are based on bear little resemblance to each other), but it is true for the jhanas that I am interested in.

I found this to be the case with the jhanas I would access on the way up to and down from MCTB-NS. It's most obvious when going 'down' the jhanic arc (if you ever did that practice).


What was your experience of e.g. jhana 2 vs. jhana 3 like?

If you had a perception of jhana 3 being "clearer at the edges than the center", or "out of phase", I would say that this does not fit in the one-within-the-other model, as these qualities are unique characteristics not produced by subtraction.
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 1/17/12 9:42 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:

As my mind steadies, effort can be actively reduced, and to the extent that I 1) reduce effort / relax, and 2) stay alert and continue to attend to the breath, the breath becomes less perturbed by the attention wave. What I mean is this: the attention wave is a tuning-out of sense-experience, and when it is present, it makes the sensation of breath appear to "ripple" or have "waves" or have outright gaps in it. As relaxation and effort increase (EDIT: typo; effort decreases), if alertness is maintained, the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Regarding the tuning out of sense experience... do you think the tuning into and out of sense experience is simply related to the arising and passing of things? Where there is attention wave, there is arising and passing of things, right? So it's possible the seeming tuning out of experience is the discernment of the tail of the cessation of some phenomena transitioning into the arising of a new bit of phenomena. The reason the attention wave gets so subdued when concentration is high, then, would be that the arising & passing tendency itself is drastically reduced... thereby bringing the mind closer to what it is to experience Nirvana - i.e. total cessation of arising & passing tendency of the mind. And I think it's been established before that the cessation of any bit of phenomena is a very mini moment of Nirvana.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
End in Sight:
Of note: this is not true for MCTB jhanas (which generally bear little resemblance to each other, as the nanas they are based on bear little resemblance to each other), but it is true for the jhanas that I am interested in.

I found this to be the case with the jhanas I would access on the way up to and down from MCTB-NS. It's most obvious when going 'down' the jhanic arc (if you ever did that practice).


What was your experience of e.g. jhana 2 vs. jhana 3 like?

If you had a perception of jhana 3 being "clearer at the edges than the center", or "out of phase", I would say that this does not fit in the one-within-the-other model, as these qualities are unique characteristics not produced by subtraction.

Here's the whole list:

the cessation (not experienced) --> weird mental not-fully-there-ness (not perceived clearly/with mindfulness, only really noticed it after-the-fact) -> eighth jhana (felt like not really being there yet not really not being there)

then, sensations of nothingness came in and felt like they 'filled' in the sensations of the 8th jhana. then, sensations of consciousness came in and felt like they 'filled' in the sensations of the 7th jhana. then, sensations of space came in and felt like they 'filled in' the sensations of the 6th jhana.

next, sensations of my body came back (i might not have noticed they were gone until this point) and felt like they 'filled in' the sensations of the 5th jhana. attention had been panoramic this whole time now... but the most prominent thing from 4th to 3rd was a sense of the whole body 'filling in' in some way. and some subtle pleasure pervading everything. from 3rd to 2nd, a buzzy/zappy pleasure came in filling in the subtle pleasure. (note when i say 'filling in', it also obscures what it's filling in making it harder to see clearly.) and then in 1st it was perceptions of apparent effort to maintain the state (which hadn't been there before). i willed the mind down into 'access concentration' (by just using that word and seeing what would happen) and then it was like a sense of the state being maintained came in, even more so than 1st.. like it was nothing special except lots of effort. then i willed the mind to 'no meditating' and that maintaining went away and it's like everything was fuzzy/unclear/not differentiated too well.

i'm not sure about the attention going from 4th to 1st.. i think it did shift focus, or at least it wasn't as clear (i'm sure it was panoramic with the formless ones but not so sure with the form ones), but maybe the more dominant things were the ones i mentioned.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

End in Sight:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.106.than.html:

There is the case, Ananda, where a disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'Sensuality here & now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here & now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here & now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here & now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness; perceptions of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception: that is an identity, to the extent that there is an identity. This is deathless: the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging/sustenance.'


End in Sight:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.121.than.html:

Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.


Also in MN 106—the sutta you first quoted-- there is this section (although I find the phrasing here a bit dubious (‘cease without remainder’ …?) [1]; I'm assuming ‘they’ refers to ‘perceptions’):

Then again, the disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'Sensuality here & now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here & now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here & now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here & now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness: all are perceptions. Where they cease without remainder: that is peaceful, that is exquisite, i.e., the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.'


There is also this section of a similar sutta:


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.036.than.html

"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the dimension of the infinitude of space.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

(Similarly with the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness and the dimension of nothingness.)

"Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two spheres — the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of feeling & perception — I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled in attaining, skilled in attaining & emerging, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them."


I think the use of the word ‘perception’ in the piece of MN 106 you quoted and the piece of MN 121 you quoted are a slightly differently nuanced use of the word [1] from what I meant and what is used in AN 9.36 and what seems to be implied in the section I quoted of MN 106.

Regardless, the way I used the word in our discussion is the same as what seems to be the usage in AN 9.36, and it is there used in a similar context. To reiterate my previous comment: the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is not attained by dwelling on a perception, nor is it's attainment signified by a perception (it is not a ‘perception-attainment’ [2]), but by their peaceful exclusion. Therefore, having a perception about that dimension more-or-less all the time is to entirely miss the point (and the state).

End in Sight:
I haven't really thought about it, but my impression is that it would work in the opposite way (the easier it is to concentrate, the further concentration goes, the more the skill is effectively practiced, the easier it is in the future). In other words, an analogy that would seem plausible to me is to something that has a technical component, such as playing music: if you experience playing your instrument at ever-higher levels of musicianship to be unnatural or effortful, that's probably a sign of doing something wrong in training yourself.

(This is not to say that one need not make an effort to be a better musician, but that the form of the effort starts off as very gross and ought to become more refined as skill increases.)

You might find experimentation with this to be a good idea too.


[1] This could be a translation issue or something along those lines. Thanissaro’s often used and abused footnote that a perception is a ‘mental label’ seems to demonstrate his relatively crude understanding of the word.

[2] I may here be entirely misunderstanding the intended use of that phrase, by the way. However, the way I have constructed my point and the way I used the phrase in that construction is primarily with reference to my experience of the state itself. In other words: I have not tried to adhere to or obey any strict use of the phrase in accordance with scholarly opinions or canonical commentaries ... it is not my aim to prove anything about that, but to instead simply provide some form of plausible sutta substantiation to my statements.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Steph S:
End in Sight:

As my mind steadies, effort can be actively reduced, and to the extent that I 1) reduce effort / relax, and 2) stay alert and continue to attend to the breath, the breath becomes less perturbed by the attention wave. What I mean is this: the attention wave is a tuning-out of sense-experience, and when it is present, it makes the sensation of breath appear to "ripple" or have "waves" or have outright gaps in it. As relaxation and effort increase (EDIT: typo; effort decreases), if alertness is maintained, the perception of the breath becomes smoother and smoother.


Regarding the tuning out of sense experience... do you think the tuning into and out of sense experience is simply related to the arising and passing of things? Where there is attention wave, there is arising and passing of things, right? So it's possible the seeming tuning out of experience is the discernment of the tail of the cessation of some phenomena transitioning into the arising of a new bit of phenomena. The reason the attention wave gets so subdued when concentration is high, then, would be that the arising & passing tendency itself is drastically reduced... thereby bringing the mind closer to what it is to experience Nirvana - i.e. total cessation of arising & passing tendency of the mind. And I think it's been established before that the cessation of any bit of phenomena is a very mini moment of Nirvana.


Thinking of it in terms of arising and passing is reasonable...when the attention wave arises, discernment of sensory objects passes away, while whatever experience is involved in the attention wave arises, and then passes away (and sensory discernment begins again). So, the more concentration, the more this rapid fluctuation of experience arising and passing is brought to a halt.

I like to think of the attention wave as a kind of mental agitation...concentration stops the conditions for mental agitation temporarily, and seems to contribute to stopping them permanently.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
Also in MN 106—the sutta you first quoted-- there is this section (although I find the phrasing here a bit dubious (‘cease without remainder’ …?) [1]; I'm assuming ‘they’ refers to ‘perceptions’): (...)


It appears to refer to the preceding list of perceptions (up to the dimension of nothingness).

Alternatively, a meditator may be confused about the nature of neither-perception-nor-nonperception, as it is so subtle that one may not recognize that it is different from complete nonperception. The hypothetical meditator in the sutta who makes that statement is not yet liberated and may be confused about that. (I believe that, according to the suttas, the Buddha's previous teacher who taught absorption in the dimension of neither-perception-nor-nonperception had that view, though I am not certain.)

There is also this section of a similar sutta: (...)


Yes, the context indicates that "gnosis-penetration" is impossible for absorptions beyond the dimension of nothingness. In particular, one cannot do this:

There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena...


Cf. MN 111: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.111.than.html

Regardless, the way I used the word in our discussion is the same as what seems to be the usage in AN 9.36, and it is there used in a similar context. To reiterate my previous comment: the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is not attained by dwelling on a perception,


Yes, it cannot be discerned in any normal way, so it cannot be dwelled upon.

nor is it's attainment signified by a perception (it is not a ‘perception-attainment’ [2]), but by their peaceful exclusion.


I say it is a perception attainment, Ajahn Brahm says it is a perception attainment, Bhante G says it is a perception attainment, the Visuddhimagga says it is a perception attainment, the suttas (according to the straightforward reading I provided) say it is a perception attainment...if you think otherwise, I can only suggest that you revisit it. However, if you simply mean that neither-perception-nor-nonperception is not subject to "gnosis-penetration" due to the subtlety of its qualities, then we agree.

Ajahn Brahm:
Within the perception of nothingness lies the perception of not even nothing! If the mind is subtle enough to see this feature" then the perception of nothingness disappears and is replaced by the perception of neither perception nor no perception.


Bhante G:
This jhana receives its name because, on the one hand, it lacks gross perception with its function of clearly discerning objects, and thus cannot be said to have perception; on the other, it retains a very subtle perception, and thus cannot be said to be without perception.


Visuddhimagga:
As he gives attention to it as `peaceful' in the way already described, he reaches the ultra-subtle absorbed perception in virtue of which he is called `neither percipient nor non-percipient'...


End in Sight:
I haven't really thought about it, but my impression is that it would work in the opposite way (the easier it is to concentrate, the further concentration goes, the more the skill is effectively practiced, the easier it is in the future). In other words, an analogy that would seem plausible to me is to something that has a technical component, such as playing music: if you experience playing your instrument at ever-higher levels of musicianship to be unnatural or effortful, that's probably a sign of doing something wrong in training yourself.

(This is not to say that one need not make an effort to be a better musician, but that the form of the effort starts off as very gross and ought to become more refined as skill increases.)

You might find experimentation with this to be a good idea too.


Please make a concrete suggestion, as I don't follow what you're suggesting (unless it's something like: "go somewhere loud and practice concentration, go somewhere where there are continual interruptions and practice concentration...").
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Here's the whole list: (...)


This is a good chance for me to clarify what I meant, since I apparently don't always write cleraly. You indicate that your experience of MCTB formless realms are one-within-the-other, as well as the jhana factors, and, uniquely (I hadn't thought of this), the attention wave distortions of the jhana factors. To the extent that this characterizes a concentration state, then the concentration state will have the one-within-the-other feature...but, MCTB jhanas have other features (whether focused on or not) which appear to be inseperable from them (such as qualities of 'attention', qualities of vibrations, etc.), so MCTB jhanas are one-within-the-other only with respect to the aforementioned features, but not in general.

I'm not sure what to make of the MCTB experiences of the formless realms in certain ways, but even those have additional stuff that makes them not one-within-the-other:

MCTB:
Eventually, the mind will abandon these and shift to the jhana of nothingness. To imagine this state, imagine space with all of the lights completely out, so that there is no vastness, and almost no sensations other than those of nothingness. It is almost as though attention is out of phase with nearly all phenomena except those that imply nothingness.


(Was that your experience of MCTB 7th jhana? It was mine.)

Anyhow, the jhanas I'm interested it have other stuff that isn't one-within-the-other (for example, they may have residual cognition), but it's all incidental to the jhana, i.e. it may as well not be there, and doesn't determine anything about the jhana itself, and is often a residue of what had to be removed to enter the jhana in the first place.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hmm I don't think I follow.

End in Sight:
but, MCTB jhanas have other features (whether focused on or not) which appear to be inseperable from them (such as qualities of 'attention', qualities of vibrations, etc.), so MCTB jhanas are one-within-the-other only with respect to the aforementioned features, but not in general.

What do you mean by 'in general'? My experience was that all 8 of them were one-within-the-other, in their entirety. I don't follow your reasoning on why they aren't one-within-the-other.

End in Sight:
MCTB:
Eventually, the mind will abandon these and shift to the jhana of nothingness. To imagine this state, imagine space with all of the lights completely out, so that there is no vastness, and almost no sensations other than those of nothingness. It is almost as though attention is out of phase with nearly all phenomena except those that imply nothingness.

(Was that your experience of MCTB 7th jhana? It was mine.)

Hmm that's kind of a good way to describe it, but only at first (in its immature form). At first the mind is going towards nothingness and ignoring consciousness, so it feels like it's 'slipping around' consciousness. But once consciousness is sufficiently abandoned there isn't that feeling anymore.
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/18/12 1:09 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
I say it is a perception attainment, Ajahn Brahm says it is a perception attainment, Bhante G says it is a perception attainment, the Visuddhimagga says it is a perception attainment, the suttas (according to the straightforward reading I provided) say it is a perception attainment...if you think otherwise, I can only suggest that you revisit it. However, if you simply mean that neither-perception-nor-nonperception is not subject to "gnosis-penetration" due to the subtlety of its qualities, then we agree.


I am not concerned with whether it is (popularly) regarded as a perception attainment or not. What I am concerned with is whether or not you are mistaking a gross perception of ‘neither perception nor non-perception’ as having anything to do with the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Your response here might indicate that you aren’t doing this, but I’m still not certain (though if you are certain, I will not pursue it further):

Regardless, the way I used the word in our discussion is the same as what seems to be the usage in AN 9.36, and it is there used in a similar context. To reiterate my previous comment: the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is not attained by dwelling on a perception,


Yes, it cannot be discerned in any normal way, so it cannot be dwelled upon.


Why am I still not certain you aren’t making that mistake? Because I know that it is impossible, given the context, to have a more-or-less all the time [experience] of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Why am I concerned with this? Because it is a superior concentration state and it would be a pity for it to be unattended to because of a (perceptual) misunderstanding.

Instead of going around in circles debating semantics, we could try another approach. If you would like to answer these questions, maybe we can arrive at some mutual understanding on the matter: have you found there to be perceptions in the themeless concentration of awareness? And another: can you describe the qualities of the perception you more-or-less all the time have of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception?

End in Sight:
Please make a concrete suggestion, as I don't follow what you're suggesting (unless it's something like: "go somewhere loud and practice concentration, go somewhere where there are continual interruptions and practice concentration...").


I simply meant to suggest that working on a form of concentration that is a bit outside of what you're currently able to do with ease might be worth experimentation, since that might demonstrate what I mentioned about strengthening those faculties. For an example: if you are able to consistently dwell on a perfect dimension of the infinitude of space, doing that over and over again every day probably wouldn't strengthen your concentration nearly as much as (at first) struggling to consistently dwell on a perfect dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. If you experiment and see the same dynamic, it might change the way you approach the matter.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

What do you mean by 'in general'? My experience was that all 8 of them were one-within-the-other, in their entirety. I don't follow your reasoning on why they aren't one-within-the-other.


Let's go back a bit...

Do you think that the nanas are one-within-the-other?

Do you think that the jhanas you experienced are variations of nanas?

If you answer "yes" to the former, could you explain why you think so?

If you answer "no" to the latter, then I would offer the possibility that what you have experienced is not what is described in MCTB, nor what Kenneth had in mind with his jhanic arc practice, but is something else.

Dan Ingram on the jhana-nana correspondence: http://www.interactivebuddha.com/Nanas%20and%20jhanas%20tablep1.pdf

Kenneth Folk on the jhana-nana correspondence: http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/20+Major+Strata+of+Mind
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
If you would like to answer these questions, maybe we can arrive at some mutual understanding on the matter: have you found there to be perceptions in the themeless concentration of awareness?


I am not familiar with that state (either not having experienced it or not having recognized the experience that it names). Could you explain it and how to attain it?

And another: can you describe the qualities of the perception you more-or-less all the time have of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception?


No. (That's the point.)

Think of it this way: in experiencing jhana 1, the qualities of all the other rupa jhanas are experienced. An experience of jhana 1 is not identical to an experience of jhana 4, but the qualities of jhana 4 are a component of jhana 1...and one can experience jhana 4 by removing the excess qualities of jhana 1 until only the jhana 4 qualities remain (specifically, the excess jhana factors).

Similarly, in experiencing jhana 5, the qualities of all the other arupa jhanas are experienced. To me it appears that the perception of space is a gross perception that can be pared down to consciousness...which can be pared down to nothingness...which can be pared down to neither-perception-nor-nonperception. Neither-perception-nor-nonperception is like the last bit of residue in paring away perception, which began by removing form-perceptions and continued until formless perceptions were barely there.

Imagine a person sharpening a pencil. The more the pencil is sharpened, the less pencil there is. There comes a point where there is virtually no pencil left (too little to describe or discern), but there is still something. Further, that "something" was also there when the pencil was previously more substantive, sitting at the base.

When I say I experience the qualities of jhanas 5-8 more-or-less all the time, what I have in mind is, I perceive "formless qualities"...sometimes they are unpared (space), sometimes they are more pared (consciousness), sometimes they are even more pared (nothingness). The quality of neither-perception-nor-nonperception comes along with all of those, though I have never found it to stand alone as a perception outside of jhana (probably because it can't). I also can't describe it or discern it or mentally represent it in an accurate way due to its subtlety.

There is some kind of perception of something that occurs when adverting to neither-perception-nor-nonperception during daily life, but I don't exactly know what it is.

I simply meant to suggest that working on a form of concentration that is a bit outside of what you're currently able to do with ease might be worth experimentation, since that might demonstrate what I mentioned about strengthening those faculties. For an example: if you are able to consistently dwell on a perfect dimension of the infinitude of space, doing that over and over again every day probably wouldn't strengthen your concentration nearly as much as (at first) struggling to consistently dwell on a perfect dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. If you experiment and see the same dynamic, it might change the way you approach the matter.


So far, I have found that the main bottleneck in the process is "absolute concentration" (the ability to still the mind) rather than anything concerning any of the particular concentration states. I see no obvious difference in difficulty between attaining any of the jhanas (apart from 8, which appears to be all-or-nothing); the difficulty is attaining them (or their factors) at the desired level of intensity.

As such, I would not expect a situation in which (e.g.) I could attain jhana 5 reliably at a set level of intensity but would have to work hard to attain 6 at that level of intensity.

Perhaps my opinion about that will change once my concentration improves (and something else becomes the bottleneck).
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/18/12 11:30 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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From today's practice I see that, when the perception of "brightness" arises (or would arise), if I am paying attention to the breath, the perception of the breath changes to something which is like "breath without physicality". As if the tactile quality is somehow removed to a large degree, so it is experienced in an ethereal, un-earthly way. Perhaps the counterpart sign.

I find that this "non-physical breath" arises very frequently during the approach to what I hypothesize to be access concentration, but only for under a second or so (interleaved with more normal perceptions of breath). It seems that my concentration is high enough that the perception intrudes on my experience, but not high enough to stabilize it. Paying attention to it does not seem to help stabilize it...ignoring it and working on stability may help, but I'm not sure yet.

In general I would say the obstacle to higher levels of concentration is stability (removing more attention wave to smooth the breath), but it's not clear to me whether I need to pay closer attention to the breath, or cultivate more jhana-factors, or just relax and let go more, or some combination.

On another topic, just recognizing that "brightness" is not a nimitta caused by observing the breath (and subsequently observing what seems to be) has been very helpful for my practice, so I'm glad that Jeff pointed that out earlier. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, having a model of how stages of concentration works has helped me find landmarks during meditation that smooth the process of moving from lower levels of concentration to higher levels of concentration. (The landmarks are a good time to try X, Y, or Z tweak to attention and see which may be helpful...and, as landmarks, it's easy to keep applying useful tweaks every time the relevant landmark is reached.)
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
I'll give technical advice if there's an opportunity and it seems like it might be useful to you, but probably not so long as you are playing around with neither-access-concentration-nor-non-access-concentration.

Just a note, given End in Sight has clearly all 8 jhanas by some people's standards, he definitely has experienced access concentration by some people's standards... meaning he is looking for a very high standard of access concentration, currently.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Do you think that the nanas are one-within-the-other?

That doesn't seem to be the cause. They are definitely causal, in that they flow smoothly from one to the next (either forwards or backwards), and the transitions make sense, in a similar way as the transitions between jhanas make sense. But, for example, with 'fear', fear is not present before, then it arises, then it fades, so no, the 1st nyana does not contain all the qualities of 2-11th nyana, etc.

End in Sight:
Do you think that the jhanas you experienced are variations of nanas?

Not the formless ones. They seem to be something else.

As to the form ones... hard to say. I would tentatively posit that the equivalent nyanas can overlap+distort the corresponding jhanas very readily. I would say the jhanas have something to them, and the nyanas twist them, either a heck of a lot (in which there's basically nothing of the base jhana and only twisting) or not at all (in which there's just the base jhana and nothing else).

So, my trip down the jhanas contained both qualities: the jhanas in-one-another, but overlaid on top of 1-4 were some distortions from being used to experiencing the nyana-like things in that territory. Sometimes I would have 7 distinct downshifts (for example) from 4th to 2nd, and I'd notice the nyanas (base staying basically the same with nyanas presenting), othertimes I would just have 2 without noticing any nyanas (more pure base without as much stuff in the foreground).

My claim is that the bases I experienced were one-in-another, but the nyana-distortions on top weren't, necessarily.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
End in Sight:
Do you think that the nanas are one-within-the-other?

That doesn't seem to be the cause. They are definitely causal, in that they flow smoothly from one to the next (either forwards or backwards), and the transitions make sense, in a similar way as the transitions between jhanas make sense. But, for example, with 'fear', fear is not present before, then it arises, then it fades, so no, the 1st nyana does not contain all the qualities of 2-11th nyana, etc.


Would you also say the same thing if we restricted ourselves to considering only nanas 1, 4, 5, and 11?

End in Sight:
Do you think that the jhanas you experienced are variations of nanas?

Not the formless ones. They seem to be something else.


Sometimes I've thought these are related to high equanimity, but I'm not really sure either.

As to the form ones... hard to say. I would tentatively posit that the equivalent nyanas can overlap+distort the corresponding jhanas very readily. I would say the jhanas have something to them, and the nyanas twist them, either a heck of a lot (in which there's basically nothing of the base jhana and only twisting) or not at all (in which there's just the base jhana and nothing else). (...) My claim is that the bases I experienced were one-in-another, but the nyana-distortions on top weren't, necessarily.


I agree with this analysis.

Consider Kenneth Folk's description of one precondition for jhana:

http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/3rd+Gear%2C+The+Direct+Path%2C+Eckhart+Tolle%2C+and+the+PCE:
The direct mode of experience is the perfect complement to the filtered mode. To return to the wave metaphor: in filtered mode, you skillfully create interference patterns in the wave in order to observe specific aspects of the wave. This is how jhanas are accessed, for example, and this is how you systematically investigate experience, setting up one part of the mind to look at another. In the direct mode, however, you simply *are* the wave. No interference patterns are allowed.


In other words, at the time that he wrote this, Kenneth did not seem to accept the possibility of accessing jhanas in Direct Mode (which is in the direction of a PCE, but not a PCE, which is why he indicates that there is still a[n attention] "wave" during it). Does that not suggest to you how much "twisting" was involved in his definition of jhana...so much, that when the attention wave is somewhat subdued but still clearly around, his jhanas were not accessible (due to the impossibility of gross twisting)?

Similarly, consider e.g. Dan Ingram's recent description of 2nd jhana "focused on pleasure" as this overwhelming (= agitated) orgasmic experience...how much twisting do you think was involved in that?

I personally found that, when entering what I understand to be MCTB jhanas in the past, there was a distinct perception of being stuck in some altered state of consciousness, or of entering some state, or of having my mind stuck to an object, or even sometimes of being able to perceive an object I called "the jhana" (which was just the aggravated attention wave)...I used to take those to be the definitive entrance to a jhana, as the change in consciousness characterized the jhana as far as I could see. But those experiences depend entirely on twisting.

So, if your experience of jhana involved experiencing the jhana factors along with some twisting that may have been gross or subtle but was incidental to the state, I would again suggest that you had a different experience than what is described in MCTB (or described by Kenneth)...those forms of jhana, in my estimation, appear to me to be characterized by the twisting, as it appears to have been ruled out by Kenneth when gross twisting is impossible. (I believe Dan has also stated in the past that when there is no attention wave, there are no jhanas, indicating that his experience of jhana required gross or subtle twisting).

To summarize my view: any experience that involves the attention wave can be analyzed into non-attention wave qualities + attention wave qualities. Additionally, some experiences (such as nanas; see Dan Ingram's chart) have been defined by their attention wave qualities. As the nanas are not one-within-the-other, and the MCTB jhanas seem to be defined by the aggravated form of the attention wave corresponding to some nana or other, the MCTB jhanas are not one-within-the-other, even though some aspects of them (jhana factors) are. Whether you experienced MCTB jhanas, or just concentrated states with jhana factors that involved the attention wave in a form that wasn't grossly aggravated, seems to be worth considering.

EDIT: Another point of clarification is that my experience of jhana is not just MCTB jhana minus twisting, because the twisting (aggravation of the attention wave) stands in the way of concentrating in the way that one has to concentrate in order to attain them, i.e. cultivating that feature of MCTB jhanas in moving in the opposite direction of the jhanas I'm talking about. Also, I believe (though am not 100% sure) I have noticed times when I am significantly concentrated and in or near a jhana, and notice that the nanas, although pushed very far into the background, can be perceived to cycle independently of the jhana or jhana factors that I'm experiencing. (E.g. I could be in jhana 4 but end up in A&P, or Dissolution, as judged solely by the way that the residual attention wave flickers).

EDIT 2: To try to add one last bit of clarity to an unclear-seeming paragraph...to enter MCTB jhana, one has to cultivate the jhana factors and aggravate the attention wave. To enter the form of jhana I describe, one has to undo whatever they did to the attention wave...one has to backtrack...so attaining MCTB jhana is, in this sense, moving in the wrong direction in relation to the form of jhana I describe. If one was to proceed like that, the process would not be 1) attain MCTB jhana, 2) subdue the attention wave, but 1) attain MCTB jhana, 2) un-obtain MCTB jhana, 3) subdue the attention wave.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Would you also say the same thing if we restricted ourselves to considering only nanas 1, 4, 5, and 11?

Hmm, not sure that question is relevant, but I would say the same, yes. 1 is about noticing mind & body as two distinct things.. 4 is about rapidly perceiving all 3 chars in a very fine fashion.. 5 is about relaxed fuzziness.. 11 is about total clear-mindedness. not really fitting one-in-the-other.

End in Sight:
In other words, at the time that he wrote this, Kenneth did not seem to accept the possibility of accessing jhanas in Direct Mode (which is in the direction of a PCE, but not a PCE, which is why he indicates that there is still a[n attention] "wave" during it). Does that not suggest to you how much "twisting" was involved in his definition of jhana...so much, that when the attention wave is somewhat subdued but still clearly around, his jhanas were not accessible (due to the impossibility of gross twisting)?

Similarly, consider e.g. Dan Ingram's recent description of 2nd jhana "focused on pleasure" as this overwhelming (= agitated) orgasmic experience...how much twisting do you think was involved in that?

I personally found that, when entering what I understand to be MCTB jhanas in the past, there was a distinct perception of being stuck in some altered state of consciousness, or of entering some state, or of having my mind stuck to an object, or even sometimes of being able to perceive an object I called "the jhana" (which was just the aggravated attention wave)...I used to take those to be the definitive entrance to a jhana, as the change in consciousness characterized the jhana as far as I could see. But those experiences depend entirely on twisting.

hmm, yes, i agree with this analysis. i've noticed those things as well.

End in Sight:
Whether you experienced MCTB jhanas, or just concentrated states with jhana factors that involved the attention wave in a form that wasn't grossly aggravated, seems to be worth considering.

Or it might be that MCTB jhanas contain the non-twisted factors, but they are totally obscured the more one focuses on the twisting. (Same mental territory, differing degrees of attention wave influence.)

End in Sight:
EDIT: Another point of clarification is that my experience of jhana is not just MCTB jhana minus twisting, because the twisting (aggravation of the attention wave) stands in the way of concentrating in the way that one has to concentrate in order to attain them, i.e. cultivating that feature of MCTB jhanas in moving in the opposite direction of the jhanas I'm talking about.

This raises the question of what you are defining as the 'sutta jhana' - to what extent does it differ from having large amounts of those factors be present? Is it not a smooth transition from more-attention-wave MCTB jhana, to lessening and lessening of the attention wave (and concomitant boosting-up of non-attention-wave jhana factors)?

End in Sight:
Also, I believe (though am not 100% sure) I have noticed times when I am significantly concentrated and in or near a jhana, and notice that the nanas, although pushed very far into the background, can be perceived to cycle independently of the jhana or jhana factors that I'm experiencing. (E.g. I could be in jhana 4 but end up in A&P, or Dissolution, as judged solely by the way that the residual attention wave flickers).

Yes, cycles within cycles within cycles. I noticed that a ton around 2nd/early 3rd MCTB path. i also noticed nyanas cycling within themselves (entire progress of insight in A&P... then entire progress of insight in Dissolution.. etc), and jhanas cycling within themselves (going through all 4 jhana factors.. then a shift into a more 2nd-jhana-lke baseline, cycling through all 4 jhana factors.. etc).
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 11:48 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, having a model of how stages of concentration works has helped me find landmarks during meditation that smooth the process of moving from lower levels of concentration to higher levels of concentration. (The landmarks are a good time to try X, Y, or Z tweak to attention and see which may be helpful...and, as landmarks, it's easy to keep applying useful tweaks every time the relevant landmark is reached.)


To further this goal, I have been looking at Culadasa's stages of meditation (= concentration): http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

The state near hypothesized access concentration that I am regularly able to attain sounds like it corresponds to Stage 7-approaching-8.

One telltale characteristic of what I hypothesize to be access concentration is what Culadasa seems to describe as the "mental and physical pliancy" of stage 8. The perception of light that I describe seems to be the "inner light" that Culadasa describes at stage 8 also. However, that perception begins earlier than stage 8 for me, but is only extremely stabilized at 8.

My concentration seems to have a lot of variability (meaning, qualities of earlier and later stages intrude into it for short moments), so the perception of the presumed counterpart sign first begins once the perception of light is moderately stable (around 7?), is clearer at 8, but (from recollection) begins to dominate the experience only afterwards, as sensory experiences start to fall away.

I don't really know how to distinguish between 9 and 10, that territory is still unclear to me.

It's possible that the suttas would define jhana as concentration at level 8 or above (which is a higher standard than I previously considered), and the Visuddhimagga define it as a state of no-cognition that easily (?) occurs at stage 10 if it is allowed to. These correspondences, while interesting, are not extremely useful, because each concentration state seems incrementally more valuable in terms of practice, including the ones below 8.

(As a side note, it is possible to cultivate lots of jhana factors long before stage 8, though Culadasa does not talk about this.)
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
End in Sight:
Whether you experienced MCTB jhanas, or just concentrated states with jhana factors that involved the attention wave in a form that wasn't grossly aggravated, seems to be worth considering.

Or it might be that MCTB jhanas contain the non-twisted factors, but they are totally obscured the more one focuses on the twisting. (Same mental territory, differing degrees of attention wave influence.)


I agree that MCTB jhanas contain the same jhanas factors. What I meant was that the state defined by (jhana factors + gross twisting) is not very similar, experientially, to the state defined by (jhana factors + incidental attention wave stuff), so which you experienced is worth considering.

End in Sight:
EDIT: Another point of clarification is that my experience of jhana is not just MCTB jhana minus twisting, because the twisting (aggravation of the attention wave) stands in the way of concentrating in the way that one has to concentrate in order to attain them, i.e. cultivating that feature of MCTB jhanas in moving in the opposite direction of the jhanas I'm talking about.

This raises the question of what you are defining as the 'sutta jhana' - to what extent does it differ from having large amounts of those factors be present? Is it not a smooth transition from more-attention-wave MCTB jhana, to lessening and lessening of the attention wave (and concomitant boosting-up of non-attention-wave jhana factors)?


I'm not an authority on where exactly the suttas draw the line, but the requirement does seem to be "seculsion from sensuality" (part of the stock description of jhana 1), which to me means a big reduction (at least) in attention wave stuff.

If one wanted to go from MCTB jhana to this other style, I believe it would be experienced as first having to exit the MCTB jhana, and then subdue the attention wave. In other words, the quality of the attention wave in MCTB jhana is not just whatever the default level would be when cultivating jhana factors, it is different in some way (corresponding to the perception of entering / being in an altered state), and that different-quality attention wave has to stop as a first step.

(EDIT: You could still say that the algorithm is just 1) subdue the attention wave, and 2) get more jhana factors, or keep the ones that were already there. So you could call that a "smooth transition" if you like. It's just that I don't think it would be experienced, subjectively, as smooth at all, due to the weird attention wave thing that happens that has [for me, maybe for others] marked entering and being in an MCTB jhana.)

There may be an exception to this at MCTB jhana 4, where perhaps one could cross over more easily, as MCTB jhana 4 is more placid, but I haven't experienced MCTB jhana 4 for a long time and so might have forgotten some details related to this.

Subjectively, I would say that the characteristic of the sutta jhanas is that they are all "still", even if the piti / sukha are really extreme.

End in Sight:
Also, I believe (though am not 100% sure) I have noticed times when I am significantly concentrated and in or near a jhana, and notice that the nanas, although pushed very far into the background, can be perceived to cycle independently of the jhana or jhana factors that I'm experiencing. (E.g. I could be in jhana 4 but end up in A&P, or Dissolution, as judged solely by the way that the residual attention wave flickers).

Yes, cycles within cycles within cycles. I noticed that a ton around 2nd/early 3rd MCTB path. i also noticed nyanas cycling within themselves (entire progress of insight in A&P... then entire progress of insight in Dissolution.. etc), and jhanas cycling within themselves (going through all 4 jhana factors.. then a shift into a more 2nd-jhana-lke baseline, cycling through all 4 jhana factors.. etc).


I think this is different from what I'm saying...if I am in or near jhana 4, but notice this cycling, the cycling has no effect on the quality of the state (i.e. no change in jhana factors, and the jhana does not become more like 1 or 2 or 3), it is just a change in the flickering that seems to happen independently of the jhana. (However, I would have to examine this in more detail to be sure.)
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:59 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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My basic theory: more concentration, independent of the level of piti / sukha, possibly independent of the level of jhana factors altogether, leads to more "static tension" falling away permanently when the state is maintained for some time, compared to less concentration. (In other words, more concentration produces bigger shifts, and possibly faster.) I define "more concentration" simply as less attention wave stuff, which means more "stillness" or mental stability.

I observed that to be true of my experience today (reaching what seemed like Culadasa's stage 8 and staying there for awhile, and then losing it and staying at lower levels of concentration for awhile, and comparing the effects of each on static tension), and have suspected that on the basis of lots of past experiences as well.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:38 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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do you mean that simply being in highly concentrated states for a while leads to static tension falling away? by static tension do you mean the tensions you described in your earlier post "letting go?"

during your experience today do you think you experienced a permanent change? or am i misreading
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/21/12 8:10 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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josh r s:
do you mean that simply being in highly concentrated states for a while leads to static tension falling away?


Yes...though, my concentration method is related to the 4NTs (I have to actively recognize what the mind is doing to create suffering, and stop doing it, and actively recognize what inclinations will lead to suffering if pursued, and avoid indulging them), so the concentrated state is sustained by some kind of discernment practice.

by static tension do you mean the tensions you described in your earlier post "letting go?"


Yes, also here:

EIS:
It's possible to classify tensions as static vs. dynamic. Static tensions are basically always there (but can fluctutate in intensity), dynamic tensions arise due to coincidental things that may or may not happen in any given moment. Static tension in my body is extremely low, but static tension in my head is higher.


during your experience today do you think you experienced a permanent change?


Yes. But these permanent changes are actually fairly frequent...paying attention chips away at whatever static tension is there, leaving a clearer perception of the body (among other things). It's just a question how how big each "chip" is.

Even though shifts like this happen frequently, and even though many seem significant, I am always surprised at my inability to estimate how much stuff remains. (There's always more than I expect...it tends to become visible after the shift.)

I don't know what led to this occurrence where just paying attention led to clear and frequent shifts. I think it may be a consequence of paying attention to the body in a certain way. I don't know when it started, but I began to recognize it sometime after starting with Kenneth's Direct Mode practice. Goenka talks about it (equanimous attention --> emerging of stored sankharas --> release of sankharas), so it's probably pretty common. I think Bhante V also knows about it and associates it with the 3rd noble truth.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Had a decent stretch of time that seemed like Culadasa's level 7-right-on-the-edge-of-8. "Brightness" was distinct during a few points at which I turned my attention to it...at one point I got breath sensations, body sensations, and "brightness" mixed up, like they were all one unitary thing, or all aspects of some unitary thing. Strange.

During this level of concentration I noticed that I had randomly adverted to boundless consciousness. I realized that this (adverting to formless jhanas around this point without thinking about it) happens pretty often. (I have generally not noticed it because the experience is not so distinct from my normal experience with formless qualities.) However, it does not seem to make a difference in terms of how useful a meditation session is. Usefulness for me seems to be determined by

1) Primarily, level of concentration,
2) Secondarily, jhana factors (especially at lower levels of concentration)

Cultivating one jhana (or one type of jhana) over another probably does make a difference, but I suspect it's minor compared to the other factors at this level of concentration. At a higher level of concentration (i.e. at the point when sensory experience would disappear when adverting to the formless jhana), it might matter more. For now, I'm not going to worry about the jhana being cultivated at all except on a practical level (i.e. concentration improves faster at the beginning with piti / sukha).

For the record, the defining characteristic of stage 8, for me, is the sense that meditation could go on forever and it would be just fine. There are lots of cases when someone may experience this (for example, during A&P); the distinction here is that 1) it could go on forever not because it's enjoyable, but because the hindrances are nearly or completely suppressed, and so there is no (non-rational) inclination to get up....no obvious suffering involved with sitting, so no reason to move unless it makes sense to, or unless the concentration state destabilizes, and 2) the continuation of meditation / attention is effortless, compared to earlier states where the hindrances are reduced, in which I can sit for a long time, but there is a small sense of effort involved in continuing to sit...small enough not to be a practical issue, but still there.

The fact that strong concentration suppresses the hindrances seems to make it a good test for anagami, because it explicitly demonstrates what is meant by "sensual desire" and "ill will". One could check out, experientially, what it means for sensual desire and ill will to be suppressed...one is not an anagami unless one's normal mode of experience is identical to the experience of strong concentration (with respect to those particular hindrances).

It might also be a way to examine one's progress towards anagami. I have noticed that the difference between my normal mode of experience and strong concentration (with respect to those particular hindrances) is not nearly what it was a few months ago.
Nick K, modified 10 Years ago at 1/21/12 10:09 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Here is a slightly different take on Culadasa's stages:
http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/A%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism/Authors/Dagom%20Rinpoche/Calm%20Abiiding/Calm%20Abiding%20%28Samatha%29%20Meditation.htm

You mentioned "breath without physicality". Here is Shalia Catherine (Pa Auk taught) in Focused and Fearless:

The deepening of samadhi involves this distinctive shift from the physicality of breath sensations as the object of concentration to what is called the counterpart sign or nimita. The nimita often appears as a vibrating pearly bright light resonating with the in-and-out-breath, or a soft luminous perception likened to cotton wool. Please don't jump to the conclusion that the first appearance of light in the mind is the nimitta. The mind progressively brightens long before the breath nimitta appears. Many meditators stall their progress by following after "false nimitas"-- changing colors, changing images, flashes, motely fields of light, or visual impressions of light that remove the focus of attention from the breath-point to another location (most commonly above the eyes, or in the head).

The breath nimitta usually appears as a stable, smooth, white radiance associated with the focus on the breath. It is a mental reflection of the breath and includes no physical aspect; the light and breath may appear to have merged into a single mental experience of breath. The counterpart sign arises as a result of the concentration and serves as the first landmark of a state conductive to absorption. By learning to notice when this sign arises, you will be able to retrace your steps in the future and attain jhana when desires. Discerning the nimitta is the first step in stabilizing this refined object for concneation. From this point forward, there is no attention to coarse physicality. The term nimita, or counterpart sign, will refer to the object of breath when the breath is known as a stable, luminous, mental focus without sensation

A skilled meditator should have the capacity to direct the attention at any time either back to the physicality of the sensation of breath or to the mental experience of the counterpart sign. If the mediator decides to remain attentive to physical sensations, rapture will still arise, but it will be known as physical delight. If you accept the subtler luminous mental sign as the object for concentration, this shift to the subtler mental perception will lead to absorption. To attain access to jhana, you would choose the perception of pleasant, radiant light as the new nimita and allow the attention to remain steadily focused on the luminous perception that is known by direction attention to the upper lip area. But to confirm that you do have the option, it is helpful to sometimes choose the physicality. There is a choice: stay with physical sensations or shift to the counterpart sign.

(skip 1 paragraph)
How strong does concentration need to be to be sure access is attained? Access to jhana has been achieved when there is a sustained experience of a unified mind free of all hindrances imbued with strong factors of vitakka, vicara, piti, and sukha. Attention, undistracted by thoughts or sensory perceptions , remains intensely focused on the mental nimitta. The mind is utterly bright, the heart is relaxed. Fundamentally, access describes an absence of hindrances conjoined with the presence of strongly developed jhanic factors. These conditions are recognized prerequisites to jhana, as the Buddha describes:

And when he knows that these five hindrances have left him, gladness arise in him, from gladness comes delight, from delight in his mind his body is tranquilized, with a tranquil body he feels joy, and with joy his mind is concentrate. Being thus detached from sense desires, detached from unwholesome states he enters and remains in the first jhana.

With the absence of hindrances, the presence of joy, happiness, tranquility , nd concentration, there is a feeling of great relief. The feeling of relief characterizing access to jhana increase to a sense of safety with the arising of jhana: safe from distraction, safe from hindrances, or, as the ancient scriptures describe, removed form the forces of Mara.

The jhanic factors of connecting, sustaining, delight, and joy will continue to strengthen. If your energy drops, you may find sounds or sensations intruding on the meditation. Gentle, joyful persistence is essential. If the mind becomes distracted, simply let the distracting perception be, and reconnect with the nimitta. Nurture equanimity; by happy to connect with the whoel breath, or the light nimitta; direct your attention to whichever object is apparent there. Reconnect repeatedly, clearly aware of gladness infusing the connection. Keep lifting the mind up to its object. Use this power of vitakka to refresh the connection whenever the energy sinks or attention scatters.

When the prerequisites to jhana are stable and sustained, focus the attention for just a moment on the distinctive absense of hindrances. Consider if true happiness can ever be found though sensory experiences. Once you achieve the certainly that happiness will no be found by getting more sensory pleasure or thinking more interesting thoughts, your commitments to inner exploration will deepen. Recognize that this variety of seclusion is a source of joy and relief. After reflecting in this way, continue to develop the basic practice of connecting ad sustaining attention on the light that infuses the breath point.

Let go with relief and allow the withdraw from thoughts, personal concerns, and sensations to continue, unforced and unbroken. Mental brightness will continue to increase. A sense of cohesion and mental unification will grow. Since at this stage concentration is still fragile, this deep release is often interrupted by distraction. Quickly but gently bring energetic interest to connecting and sustaining activity.

With this practice, the mind is preparing itself for the altered state of jhana--a deeply absorbed state of mind that can retain its unity without effortfull striving. When vitakka and vicara are strong and infused with delight, you won't need to continually refresh the connection of fuss with the energy. It is natural for the mind to stay attentive to that with is delightful. So harness this power of happiness an let it totally permeate the nimitta, allowing the mind to become increasingly stable, cohesive, and bright.

These references to delight, gladness, happiness, and rapture could cause you to expect dramatic ecstatic pleasures. The process is more subtle however. A unified mind experiences such refined pleasures that, alight the quiet presence of sublime happiness permeates consciousness and accompanies each stage of jhana, the jhanic factors will barely be noticed while in jhana. This is discerned primarily in the moments prior to absorption and upon emerging from jhana.

Are there thoughts and hindrances that you can set aside, or is there an absence of hindrances in the mind? When you perceive the genuine absence of hindrances, you will feel happy, the happiness I've described as "a great relief." Becomes sensitive to the subtle pleasant quality of rapture when connecting with the nimitta. When attention is quiet and steady, piti does not have to be gloriously exciting. Enjoy the ease of a mind that is growing in purity.

(Next Chapter 11, the first jhana. Preemptive thanks for allowing the extensive quote on copyrighted work)
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 9:09 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Thanks for the long excerpt, Nick!

Going to repost stuff from it that seems especially helpful, so I remember.

The counterpart sign arises as a result of the concentration and serves as the first landmark of a state conductive to absorption. By learning to notice when this sign arises, you will be able to retrace your steps in the future and attain jhana when desires. Discerning the nimitta is the first step in stabilizing this refined object for concneation.


A skilled meditator should have the capacity to direct the attention at any time either back to the physicality of the sensation of breath or to the mental experience of the counterpart sign. If the mediator decides to remain attentive to physical sensations, rapture will still arise, but it will be known as physical delight. If you accept the subtler luminous mental sign as the object for concentration, this shift to the subtler mental perception will lead to absorption.


When the prerequisites to jhana are stable and sustained, focus the attention for just a moment on the distinctive absense of hindrances. Consider if true happiness can ever be found though sensory experiences. Once you achieve the certainly that happiness will no be found by getting more sensory pleasure or thinking more interesting thoughts, your commitments to inner exploration will deepen. Recognize that this variety of seclusion is a source of joy and relief.


(I highly recommend this exercise to everyone; helps clarify the first noble truth.)

These references to delight, gladness, happiness, and rapture could cause you to expect dramatic ecstatic pleasures. The process is more subtle however. A unified mind experiences such refined pleasures that, alight the quiet presence of sublime happiness permeates consciousness and accompanies each stage of jhana, the jhanic factors will barely be noticed while in jhana. This is discerned primarily in the moments prior to absorption and upon emerging from jhana.


My experience agrees with this in a way. I would say that expecting "drama" is wrong, as drama is produced by thinking, and the full absorption has no thinking...it is sleep-like in a way...there is no drama in sleep, so there is no drama in jhana, no matter how strong piti / sukha are.

I don't have enough experience to know whether every instance of full absorption in jhanas 1-3 has the same level of jhana factors as other absorptions in that jhana, or whether there can be variability. (Possibly some absorptions have less piti / sukha than others.)

(Next Chapter 11, the first jhana. Preemptive thanks for allowing the extensive quote on copyrighted work)


It's for educational purposes. emoticon
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 10:47 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

End in Sight:
I am not familiar with that state (either not having experienced it or not having recognized the experience that it names). Could you explain it and how to attain it?


It is an intentionally resultant concentration of the mind on itself. It's kind of like putting one's toes just a bit over the edge of a bottomless pit, looking straight up at the sky, then jumping upward with no concern of whether you'll ever feel the ground again, or with no concern of whether there's such a thing as gravity.

Null Velle:
And another: can you describe the qualities of the perception you more-or-less all the time have of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception?


End in Sight:
No. (That's the point.)


Okay, so you cannot describe the qualities presumably because there is no expression (of qualities). But doesn't that seem to disqualify it as a perception?:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.063.than.html
"And what is the result of perception? Perception has expression as its result, I tell you. However a person perceives something, that is how he expresses it: 'I have this sort of perception.' This is called the result of perception.


End in Sight:
Think of it this way: in experiencing jhana 1, the qualities of all the other rupa jhanas are experienced. An experience of jhana 1 is not identical to an experience of jhana 4, but the qualities of jhana 4 are a component of jhana 1...and one can experience jhana 4 by removing the excess qualities of jhana 1 until only the jhana 4 qualities remain (specifically, the excess jhana factors).

Similarly, in experiencing jhana 5, the qualities of all the other arupa jhanas are experienced. To me it appears that the perception of space is a gross perception that can be pared down to consciousness...which can be pared down to nothingness...which can be pared down to neither-perception-nor-nonperception. Neither-perception-nor-nonperception is like the last bit of residue in paring away perception, which began by removing form-perceptions and continued until formless perceptions were barely there.

Imagine a person sharpening a pencil. The more the pencil is sharpened, the less pencil there is. There comes a point where there is virtually no pencil left (too little to describe or discern), but there is still something. Further, that "something" was also there when the pencil was previously more substantive, sitting at the base.

When I say I experience the qualities of jhanas 5-8 more-or-less all the time, what I have in mind is, I perceive "formless qualities"...sometimes they are unpared (space), sometimes they are more pared (consciousness), sometimes they are even more pared (nothingness). The quality of neither-perception-nor-nonperception comes along with all of those, though I have never found it to stand alone as a perception outside of jhana (probably because it can't). I also can't describe it or discern it or mentally represent it in an accurate way due to its subtlety.


Left unchecked, one’s logical imagination will seek out the intuited safety of 'simplification' in matters like these by relating familiar phenomena to others. It does this by trying to fit together all the 'pieces', by trying to connect all the 'dots'; by making a 'map'. One looks for (and therefore creates) relationships with and within all manner of things, under the guise of trying to figure stuff out. In this thread, I see comment after comment of your attempts to reconcile various states, speculating as to which qualities they share, which models might line up with what, who agrees with who about these things, and so on. The problem with this whole venture is that what seems to be a sensible is actually just complicating the matter.

It looks like you are trying to relate your existence of ‘being’ with your other experiences of ‘being’ similarly, or with other ‘beings’ that might experience likewise. In other words, the apparent obsession you have with modeling the (imagined) complexities of disparate systems of conceptual thought is the very seed from which your existence is sprouting. That is your identity to the extent that you have one. I bet that you will continue to experience the associated stress until you decide to wander or walk away from all of that; until you leave all logical sense-making behind.

End in Sight:

There is some kind of perception of something that occurs when adverting to neither-perception-nor-nonperception during daily life, but I don't exactly know what it is.


Could it just be the changes discerned when turning one's awareness toward the (state of the) aggregate of perception?
Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 11:05 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Hi,

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Null Velle:
I'll give technical advice if there's an opportunity and it seems like it might be useful to you, but probably not so long as you are playing around with neither-access-concentration-nor-non-access-concentration.

Just a note, given End in Sight has clearly all 8 jhanas by some people's standards, he definitely has experienced access concentration by some people's standards... meaning he is looking for a very high standard of access concentration, currently.


Well, my conveying the idea that way was only facetious wordplay. In fact, I have no idea whether anybody has attained any jhana by anybody's standards. I'm just reading what is written and commenting accordingly. Maybe you were compelled to say something because of what a contrary presumption might imply about your understanding of the world?
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 11:28 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
Well, my conveying the idea that way was only facetious wordplay. In fact, I have no idea whether anybody has attained any jhana by anybody's standards. I'm just reading what is written and commenting accordingly. Maybe you were compelled to say something because of what a contrary presumption might imply about your understanding of the world?

I was compelled to say something because I had a 'perception', namely that it's possible you might think one thing by 'access concentration', and End in Sight another, and that you might not understand each other if you didn't take that into account. It seems there was no cause for worry, though. My understanding of the world was not threatened - I accept that people can have different standards for different things - but thanks for pointing that out as a possibility.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:26 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Null Velle:
Okay, so you cannot describe the qualities presumably because there is no expression (of qualities).


I suggest re-reading what I wrote more carefully.

In this thread, I see comment after comment of your attempts to reconcile various states, speculating as to which qualities they share, which models might line up with what, who agrees with who about these things, and so on. The problem with this whole venture is that what seems to be a sensible is actually just complicating the matter. (...) the apparent obsession you have with modeling the (imagined) complexities of disparate systems of conceptual thought is the very seed from which your existence is sprouting.


On the contrary, it is simply a practical method that improves my concentration results. Collecting and organizing information, and re-typing the outcome of that process of collecting and organization, helps ingrain a model of how concentration works, which biases my mind towards doing the things (during practice) which aid it without having to reflect on those things nearly as much...I have made a great deal of progress in concentration from the mere fact of doing this.

That explanation is just the tip of the iceberg. Not all minds employ the same learning styles, not all minds function the same way, and not all should be assumed to have the same set of causal processes behind their output, just because the output looks similar.

As a bit of practical advice...when you encounter a person whose mind is different from your own in certain respects, theorizing about their mind in the way that you have will often cause that person to discount the value of all your future contributions concerning their own psychology; the theory you generate is likely to appear ridiculous due to your lack of appreciation for the difference between how you think their mind works (from your own assumptions) and how they think their mind works (from their own direct observation). And so if you care to benefit others, you should investigate sufficiently well so that you are confident that whatever theory you offer is unlikely to be seen as ridiculous.

This case, for example, indicates to me that you have little insight into my mind, so I will ask you to refrain from offering me non-technical advice in the future.

It looks like you are trying to relate your existence of ‘being’ with your other experiences of ‘being’ similarly, or with other ‘beings’ that might experience likewise.


If this implies that concentration experiences are best analyzed in terms of 'being', I will ask you to refrain from giving me any concentration-related advice altogether, as that would indicate that you do not understand what I am doing.

It [themeless concentration] is an intentionally resultant concentration of the mind on itself. It's kind of like putting one's toes just a bit over the edge of a bottomless pit, looking straight up at the sky, then jumping upward with no concern of whether you'll ever feel the ground again, or with no concern of whether there's such a thing as gravity.


How is it attained via concentration?

I have often wondered whether it refers to the PCE (which you appear to be coyly referencing), but never found anything conclusive.
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Nikolai , modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 5:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 5:04 AM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Themeless: how about a fabricated experience 'resembling' the unforced, trying-free apperceptive experiecne that is the PCE (unfabricated paying attention)? And perhaps paying attention to how and when this fabricated PCE-like experience come to be juxtaposed with the real deal will lead to release?



Release

"Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

"He discerns that 'This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.121.than.html

Null Velle, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 3:04 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 3:04 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 17 Join Date: 1/15/12 Recent Posts
Hi,

End in Sight:
I suggest re-reading what I wrote more carefully.


I read it again and don’t see anything new. Could you please point out what you want me to take notice of?

End in Sight:
On the contrary, it is simply a practical method that improves my concentration results. Collecting and organizing information, and re-typing the outcome of that process of collecting and organization, helps ingrain a model of how concentration works, which biases my mind towards doing the things (during practice) which aid it without having to reflect on those things nearly as much...I have made a great deal of progress in concentration from the mere fact of doing this.


I did not suggest that you stop organizing information, or that you stop sharing that information with the community, or that you should stop refining a model of how concentration works. What I was (specifically) suggesting is that the portion of writing which I was replying to (and a few I alluded to) sound like overly imaginative, flawed conceptual ways of thinking about something fundamentally simpler; and that you would do well to notice when you’re over complicating things (even if it doesn't seem like that's what you're doing). Otherwise, you might be spending precious time biasing your mind toward ignorance.

End in Sight:
That explanation is just the tip of the iceberg. Not all minds employ the same learning styles, not all minds function the same way, and not all should be assumed to have the same set of causal processes behind their output, just because the output looks similar.


Learning results automatically from distinctions made via heedfulness, regardless of whether particular individual hindrances prohibit that from circumstantially occurring or not. Heedfulness is just one function of the mind, which is essentially just a function of the brain, and every brain takes its specific form as a result of the DNA inherited from one’s parents … there’s no choice in the matter. With that in mind and considering that you are on a web forum using the human communication medium of language, it’s reasonable for me to assume that you are, generally speaking, a normal human with a normal human mind, and that your ability to comprehend and learn is also normal. That means your mind does indeed follow the same general set of causal processes as the others, and that is, of course, why the output looks similar.

If there is some special circumstance that I am not aware of, which you think would be helpful to point out, then please let me know and I will take that into consideration.

End in Sight:
As a bit of practical advice...when you encounter a person whose mind is different from your own in certain respects, theorizing about their mind in the way that you have will often cause that person to discount the value of all your future contributions concerning their own psychology; the theory you generate is likely to appear ridiculous due to your lack of appreciation for the difference between how you think their mind works (from your own assumptions) and how they think their mind works (from their own direct observation). And so if you care to benefit others, you should investigate sufficiently well so that you are confident that whatever theory you offer is unlikely to be seen as ridiculous.

This case, for example, indicates to me that you have little insight into my mind, so I will ask you to refrain from offering me non-technical advice in the future.


What you appear to be suggesting is that the theories I have put forth are ridiculous because I do not appreciate or otherwise implicitly affirm that your mind is somehow distinct or special as compared to mine or to others, yeah? Yet, it is the very consideration given to your specific conditioning which provides the information that I am comparing against the general causal workings of a human mind; thence, I am able to recognize and point out the apparent contradictions and unfruitful conceptions you’re apparently unaware of.

Given that, I can only guess that you are here referencing your own conceit as a dubious means of justification for scooting my suggestion(s) under the rug. But that would hardly be a surprise… I don’t suspect that there is any human behavior more predictable than doubt. After all, it is what keeps narcissism alive and flourishing.

Anyhow, I will not offer you more non-technical advice unless you retract that request.

End in Sight:
If this implies that concentration experiences are best analyzed in terms of 'being', I will ask you to refrain from giving me any concentration-related advice altogether, as that would indicate that you do not understand what I am doing.


No, I was not implying that concentration experiences are best analyzed in terms of ‘being.’ Please correct me if I am misremembering, but I seem to recall you stating elsewhere that you have completed what some participants of this community refer to as the ‘technical 4th path’, and I see evidence suggesting that in this thread as well. If that is indeed accurate, then your very experience of ‘being’ is jhana (although not necessarily the kind of 'jhana' you have lately described). Consequentially, any obsession you have about jhana is a self obsession. Doesn’t that make sense when considering that two of the final five fetters are associated with lust for material and immaterial experience? Does the paragraph referenced now make more sense?

Do you still want me to refrain from giving you any concentration-related advice?

End in Sight:
How is it attained via concentration?


I don’t think I can provide any instructions that would do much good. You might get an idea if you look at the suttas (especially the context) which it is mentioned in.

End in Sight:
I have often wondered whether it refers to the PCE (which you appear to be coyly referencing), but never found anything conclusive.


I was not ‘coyly’ referencing that because I am not very interested in using Actualism terminology. Furthermore, I think it would be somewhat inappropriate to do so after you stated this in another thread: “I have never been involved in the actualist community, nor practiced actualism, nor accepted AFT dogma, nor had extensive and detailed familiarity with AFT writings (rather than a general knowledge)...”.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 6:34 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 6:34 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Nikolai .:
Themeless: how about a fabricated experience 'resembling' the unforced, trying-free apperceptive experiecne that is the PCE (unfabricated paying attention)? And perhaps paying attention to how and when this fabricated PCE-like experience come to be juxtaposed with the real deal will lead to release?


Whatever it is, how would you attain it via concentration?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:19 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:06 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Null Velle:
End in Sight:
I suggest re-reading what I wrote more carefully.


I read it again and don’t see anything new. Could you please point out what you want me to take notice of?


The metaphor of the pencil, considering whether the base is 1) "expressed" (= apprehended as a component of the experience of looking at the pencil), 2) describable in terms beyond "the base of the pencil".

I did not suggest that you stop organizing information, or that you stop sharing that information with the community, or that you should stop refining a model of how concentration works. What I was (specifically) suggesting is that the portion of writing which I was replying to (and a few I alluded to) sound like overly imaginative, flawed conceptual ways of thinking about something fundamentally simpler; and that you would do well to notice when you’re over complicating things (even if it doesn't seem like that's what you're doing).


What you actually wrote:

Null Velle:
Left unchecked, one’s logical imagination will seek out the intuited safety of 'simplification' in matters like these by relating familiar phenomena to others. (...) It looks like you are trying to relate your existence of ‘being’ with your other experiences of ‘being’ similarly, or with other ‘beings’ that might experience likewise. In other words, the apparent obsession you have with modeling the (imagined) complexities of disparate systems of conceptual thought is the very seed from which your existence is sprouting. That is your identity to the extent that you have one. I bet that you will continue to experience the associated stress until you decide to wander or walk away from all of that; until you leave all logical sense-making behind.


Which demonstrates a gross failure to understand the role that the mode of thinking underlying the modelling has in the functioning of my mind, and / or what that mode of thinking even is (or is a confusing attempt to express what you just claimed you were suggesting).

Otherwise, you might be spending precious time biasing your mind toward ignorance.


As you believe that it would be better not to think of the formless jhanas as one-within-the-other, and not to think of neither-perception-nor-nonperception as a perception, and as numerous elucidators of jhanic practice disagree on the former point, and both the suttas and the Visuddhimagga (and the elucidators) disagree on the latter point, you should consider whether the way in which you think about these things is highly idiosyncratic and thus has been more helpful to you than it would be to others.

Let's put these issues aside, as discussing them further does not appear to be leading to anything beneficial.

With that in mind and considering that you are on a web forum using the human communication medium of language, it’s reasonable for me to assume that you are, generally speaking, a normal human with a normal human mind, and that your ability to comprehend and learn is also normal. That means your mind does indeed follow the same general set of causal processes as the others, and that is, of course, why the output looks similar.


Hopefully in the future you will have the opportunity to interact with many healthy people whose brains are nonetheless wired in some less common way, and gain a greater appreciation for the range and variety of forms in which (functional) human cognition comes.

Until then, I suggest toning down the psychoanalysis-from-afar for the reason I mentioned earlier.

If there is some special circumstance that I am not aware of, which you think would be helpful to point out, then please let me know and I will take that into consideration.


It would be pretty sweet if I were able to describe my own mind to you (or to others), but I don't have the introspective awareness to give an explicit description.

What you should keep in mind is that some psychological analyses that capture how others think will also capture how I think, but other psychological analyses won't, and (as you are not acquainted with me) I don't see a good way for you to guess which case any particular situation will be.

No, I was not implying that concentration experiences are best analyzed in terms of ‘being.’ Please correct me if I am misremembering, but I seem to recall you stating elsewhere that you have completed what some participants of this community refer to as the ‘technical 4th path’, and I see evidence suggesting that in this thread as well. If that is indeed accurate, then your very experience of ‘being’ is jhana (although not necessarily the kind of 'jhana' you have lately described). Consequentially, any obsession you have about jhana is a self obsession. Doesn’t that make sense when considering that two of the final five fetters are associated with lust for material and immaterial experience? Does the paragraph referenced now make more sense?


No, because:

* the form of jhana I assume you have in mind is described in MCTB,
* that form is a solidification of a nana,
* while post-MCTB 1st path experience could be considered an ongoing solidification of (one or various) nanas, the nanas are characterized by sensuality-becoming,
* in Buddhist cosmology (which elucidates the meaning of the fetters in question), realms characterized by form or formless becoming (in which one's ongoing mode of being is a jhana) are heavens whose characteristics are the lack of sensuality-becoming and the presence of constant experiences among piti / sukha / neutral feeling / upekkha or constant pure formless experience
* thus, those realms are not like the experience one has after any MCTB path in any significant way that I can see, and thus, lust for im/material existence does not seem relevant to understanding post-MCTB path experience.

In general, your attempt to relate lust for im/material existence according to the suttas to im/material jhana according to MCTB seems misguided to me.

Do you still want me to refrain from giving you any concentration-related advice?


Your attempt to give me advice (in this recent interchange) has not proved beneficial as of yet, but has taken up both of our time, so I suggest using your discretion and offering technical advice that you think will be beneficial, using how this recent interchange has gone as a guide for your decision.

End in Sight:
I have often wondered whether it refers to the PCE (which you appear to be coyly referencing), but never found anything conclusive.


I was not ‘coyly’ referencing that because I am not very interested in using Actualism terminology.


As you used the term 'being', I assumed otherwise.

Furthermore, I think it would be somewhat inappropriate to do so after you stated this in another thread: “I have never been involved in the actualist community, nor practiced actualism, nor accepted AFT dogma, nor had extensive and detailed familiarity with AFT writings (rather than a general knowledge)...”


If, in writing that, I had intended to abandon AFT terminology, I would have said so.

As I know of no replacement-term for "PCE" and am not sure how it fits straightforwardly into other contemplative systems (though Alex Weith on KFD has stated in the past that it demonstrates "rigpa"), I'm happy to continue using it for now.

So, do you think themeless concentration is the PCE?
John Wilde, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:57 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:46 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
EIS, I get the impression that Null Velle's comments here (including the non-technical ones) are extremely pertinent to your interest in dealing skillfully with the "attention wave" (even if it doesn't look that way to you at a glance).

If I might suggest, try re-reading this thread with the assumption that whatever idiosyncrasies you have aren't as relevant to this conversation as you first thought.

It might also help to 'imagine' that the person you're talking to has attained [something that might once have been described as] AF, and isn't indulging in inept psychoanalysis so much as pointing out something that's really quite relevant to where you're at, and where you want to go.

I may be wrong, just a suggestion based on an intuitive hunch. (Nothing further).

John

[Edit: Sorry if this sounds patronizing; it's just a hunch, and I don't mean to come across as a know-it-all with inside knowledge of the situation - either yours or Null Velle's]
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 9:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 9:02 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
John, I've done that many times previously, (having made the same assumption as you suggest, and not having been keen to dismiss a piece of advice that someone else was kind enough to offer me), but nothing really came of it. Everything I was able to work out, I already am aware of...and in each case, it seemed to me that the suggestion would be based on extrapolating something about my thinking from what I wrote that isn't accurate.

I've dealt with misunderstandings like these for a long time, and have developed a keener sense for detecting when the moment of "misunderstanding-based-on-misapprehension" happens than one might expect. (It isn't infallible, but it tends to be fairly good.)

It's possible, of course, that Null offered me something important which I was not able to see...which implies that our respective communication styles interact very poorly, which would be another reason for him to stick to technical advice.

As a more general point related to practice, it seems to me that the key at this point is not to aim to think about things like-this or not-like-this or not-at-all, but simply to concentrate more. At this point, I don't see any conceptual understanding or lack thereof that I have volitional control over as directly relevant to the practice at all. Instead, I concentrate, the attention wave (and its associated conceptualizing) goes away to whatever extent, and everything else seems to fall into place to that degree. Easy peasy (or so it seems so far). Perhaps that comes from a longstanding anti-psychological bias I have, expressed in terms of how I approach practice ("what needs to be done is the act of concentration, not the re-working of anything about my mind that I can re-work by thinking or volition or the willed cessation of thinking or volition"), but it also seems to be the truth.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 9:58 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 9:41 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Anyhow, new observations.

First, a timely one...this stuff about being mis-analyzed due to incorrect assumptions about how I think vs. how others think used to be a moderate psychological issue for me (even though I eventually "got over it" in the conventional sense, meaning, I learned to shrug it off). Cases in which it happened used to cause all kinds of annoyance, resentment, anger, feelings of moral and practical superiority, as is true for many people when it concerns their issues...not because I had a problem with being misunderstood, but because I had a problem with being misunderstood due to certain kinds of assumptions (generally: where the other person assumes that I think a certain way because they do, or because they did, or because they knew people who did).

Currently, revisiting this issue causes some kind of reaction, but the reaction is all "residue"...more interestingly, it isn't residue in the sense of being a lesser or tempered version of the previous type of reaction, but in the sense of producing a seemingly-unrelated daydreamy kind of experience. It causes dullness. Like some kind of anti-concentration. Strange.

Today I noticed that when paying strict attention to the breath, I would experience a sensation of "hardness" at the rims of the nostrils (like little nodules of some kind), especially at the front, and attending to that very strongly reduces the attention wave. Eventually the "hardness" seems to turn into a kind of luminous circlet that isn't hard (counterpart sign?), and (remembering the Vimuttimagga) I had some success in experiencing it extended through the nose up to the area between the eyebrows. Compared to the other sensations I've worked with so far (anapana spot slightly inside the nose, anapana spot in the throat during constriction, perception of light), this seems easiest, so I think I'll stick with it...even though I'm not exactly sure what's causing it (as far as I can see, the "hardness", once established, doesn't appear and disappear in sync with the breath, but flickers with the attention wave independent of breath).

I mentioned on josh's practice thread an experience I sometimes have while concentrating around 4th jhana (which also happened today), which is a distortion of size (everything seems far away, without opening my eyes), and a sensation like my body is being violently whirled in different directions. The distortion of size is related to the attention wave; the whirling sensation is very hard for me to analyze. Sometimes it seems like a kind of modified A&P event (as it is very extreme) but tends to lead to some increases in my ability to discern experiences rather than to Dark Night-style flickering. Just thought I'd document it in case anything interesting happens concerning it.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 10:48 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 10:30 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Though this is not relevant to the topic of this thread as such, I am going to say something about it anyway, as I think it serves a (rarely-considered) public purpose.

End in Sight:
this stuff about being mis-analyzed due to incorrect assumptions about how I think vs. how others think used to be a moderate psychological issue for me (even though I eventually "got over it" in the conventional sense, meaning, I learned to shrug it off). Cases in which it happened used to cause all kinds of annoyance, resentment, anger, feelings of moral and practical superiority, as is true for many people when it concerns their issues...


In talking to various people, I have found that this sort of thing is not unique to me, but is actually somewhat common among people who are wired differently than the norm but are otherwise healthy and functional. Further, it seems to be a bigger issue for people who are seen as "abnormal" (for example, with gross social deficits, but of normal-or-better intelligence), perhaps because they run into situations in which they are misunderstood more often, while lacking the social awareness to understand what's going on, why it's happening, what they can do about it, etc.

I'm pretty normal-seeming in real life (the mere fact of thinking differently simply leads to different forms of reasoning, different life goals, different interests, etc. but not directly to different behavior in most circumstances...though, in a medium such as text where most of what comes across is reasoning / cognitive style, perhaps the differences are more exaggerated, or perhaps not...I don't know), but I have known people who are not and who end up with meaningful psychological problems due to the resentment that accumulates when people continually assume this or that or the other thing about them (and then place expectations on them, criticize them, patronize them, etc. on the basis of those assumptions), which leads to all kinds of impairment.

So, in summary, in situations like these (giving advice, etc.), don't assume too much about the minds of people you don't know if you can help it; it messes some people up. It's possible to talk about and give advice concerning someone's demonstrated behavior, demonstrated beliefs, and things like that, without elaborate assumptions about what makes them tick; it's possible to ask a person about their thinking instead of assuming things about it if you think you have something valuable to offer concerning it; and, as a bonus, actively rejecting assumptions can make you better at listening and understanding. ("Normal" people are also different from each other, not cast from the same mold, but it's easier to get away with making assumptions about "normal" people, and those assumptions obscure some of the differences.)
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 11:48 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 11:48 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Seems to me like you could benefit from gaining some specific relative wisdom, such as this.
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 1:04 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 12:33 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 669 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts
End in Sight:

So, in summary, in situations like these (giving advice, etc.), don't assume too much about the minds of people you don't know if you can help it; it messes some people up. It's possible to talk about and give advice concerning someone's demonstrated behavior, demonstrated beliefs, and things like that, without elaborate assumptions about what makes them tick; it's possible to ask a person about their thinking instead of assuming things about it if you think you have something valuable to offer concerning it; and, as a bonus, actively rejecting assumptions can make you better at listening and understanding. ("Normal" people are also different from each other, not cast from the same mold, but it's easier to get away with making assumptions about "normal" people, and those assumptions obscure some of the differences.)


although it's difficult to tell intentions when people are offering any sort of prescriptive advice, the advice giver probably *thinks* their general intent is to help. problem is the desire to help, along with the the perceived would-be satisfaction in thinking one will help "fix someone", often becomes the driving force. so attention is not placed on a) whether or not help is needed, b) what would truly be helpful, c) lots of other stuff i'm not thinking of at the moment, but i think a&b are the main two. i discussed recently with a friend that it's not our jobs to save anyone but ourselves, and playing messiah for others is risky business. getting all buddhist about it, right speech is an aspect of practice i've started looking into with more depth.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 9:37 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 8:41 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Bounced between what seemed like Culadasa's stage 7 and stage 8.

The "hardness" thing seems to have an intermediate step: "hardness" --> airy softness --> some kind of counterpart sign. However, I decided that breath was a better object in the middle of practice, and so switched to that. (The apparent counterpart sign, as I mentioned before, is "breath without physicality".)

One of the more surprising parts of this practice is that qualities of later stages of concentration (generally what I take to be counterpart signs) seem to intrude for very short periods of time during earlier stages. They are completely unstable and don't last for more than a short moment, but they do occur. Ajahn Brahm mentions the possibility of getting a nimitta at a very early stage and using this to enter full jhana, but I don't have the skill to do this (or to try). But, sometimes noticing these phenomena give me a temporary concentration boost, which is useful. (There is a skill involved in applying only a little bit of effort in order to possibly make this happen.)

A lot of the "shadow" or "residue" stuff that I used to have seems to have been reduced or transformed in some new way; it's hard to identify what the stuff is at times, and occasionally hard to recognize that there is any stuff. Entering deeper levels of concentration (say what I take to be level 7) does not change my experience of tension in the way I came to previously expect.

I notice that, even in what I consider to be stage 8, there is still some small amount of body tension; my guess would be that it should be classified as a hindrance; either that means it's not really stage 8, or stage 8 doesn't involve the complete suppression of the hindrances (just the "dynamic" ones, perhaps).

It's possible that access concentration in the Visuddhimagga actually corresponds to Culadasa's stage 10, in which, I presume, sense experience is basically shut down. (I know this is possible from previous experience, but don't know how it maps out.) This begins to happen in a way at stage 8, but the senses are still there. (As far as I can tell, the experience of what I take to be a counterpart sign, in itself, is a suppression of sense experience, and that begins to be more obvious and less fleeting at stage 8.)

As a random note, I have a cold today, but that had no effect on my concentration as far as I could tell.

EDIT: Re-reading this, I notice a conspicuous lack of experiential details. The interesting this is, that's kind of how it has to be; unlike Mahasi noting (where one can fill up a practice log detailing the itching, tingling, buzzing, throbbing, burning stuff that assails them from beginning to end), concentration seems to be characterized mostly by what doesn't happen. And what doesn't happen? Cognition, and attention wave / tension / conceptualizing, to whatever degree concentration happens. So, the experience is fairly uneventful in comparison.

But, to throw in something that may be useful...there is a particular way of experiencing the attention wave which is different from the norm, and which seems to be important. Normally I experience a back-and-forth between attention wave stuff and non-attention wave stuff. (This is typical; this is how MCTB describes experience and "knowing".) However, it can also be experienced as attention wave stuff vibrating "on top of" non-attention wave stuff...in other words, the two types of experiences seem to share the experiential field, and one merely covers up the other, instead of the typical experience in which the two are temporally interleaved. This way of experiencing it was associated with my biggest shift (described in the Bhante V / dependent origination thread), and has been associated with many smaller shifts. This way of experiencing it also seems to be more accessible during concentration. I like to shift to this way of viewing things towards the end of practice, because it has typically been destabilizing, even though it's useful...however, recently it's seemed that there's a way to reach out and find this kind of experience which is destabilizing, but a different way that isn't, which sustains or possibly even promotes concentration. So, I'll be looking out for how to do that in the future.

(How is this non-interleaved experience useful? Generally, it coverts bits of static tensions (related to what is being perceived) in into tingling experiences in the body, which go away and leave bits of no tension. Eventually, big pieces of tension are reduced to very little or nothing on an apparently-permanent basis.)

EDIT 2: I have often thought that the experience of attention wave stuff "on top of" the rest of experience relates to this metaphor: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.076.than.html. Characterizing the the attention wave stuff (becoming) as "growing" due to the confluence of relevant causes seems apt to me. Mental representation "grows" on top of or out of the six sense-consciousnesses when craving waters it.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 9:25 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 9:25 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
However, it can also be experienced as attention wave stuff vibrating "on top of" non-attention wave stuff...in other words, the two types of experiences seem to share the experiential field, and one merely covers up the other, instead of the typical experience in which the two are temporally interleaved.

This reminds me of a pointer I found useful: namely that nothing overlaps in apperception. Perhaps looking for non-overlapping experience, or inclining the mind with that pointer, can help lead to full-blown apperception.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 9:29 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 9:29 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
End in Sight:
However, it can also be experienced as attention wave stuff vibrating "on top of" non-attention wave stuff...in other words, the two types of experiences seem to share the experiential field, and one merely covers up the other, instead of the typical experience in which the two are temporally interleaved.

This reminds me of a pointer I found useful: namely that nothing overlaps in apperception. Perhaps looking for non-overlapping experience, or inclining the mind with that pointer, can help lead to full-blown apperception.


That might be an important tip...can you describe it more thoroughly (or in a different way)? I'm not sure I entirely follow.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 10:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 10:13 PM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
That might be an important tip...can you describe it more thoroughly (or in a different way)? I'm not sure I entirely follow.

Sure, I can try.. I'm kind of typing a variety of attempts to point at it, here, so let me know if any of them make sense. A disclaimer: this is my current take only based on my experience and is certainly subject to being wrong. (And if someone does see something inaccurate then I would be glad of a correction.)

One can divide experience into two categories: actual and 'real'. The actual is what is happening all the time, what's always there, the only thing that is left in a full-blown PCE. 'Real' things are things that don't exist in actuality, such as: suffering, affect, attention wavy stuff, etc. As you well know, actual things can be quite subtle, so it's generally a good idea to not label anything as actual (lest you mistakenly take something 'real' to be fundamental/not-suffering, when it is).

You mentioned things vibrating "on top of" other things. This is 'suffering', something 'real'. This is something that is not actual.. this is something that simply cannot happen with full-blown[1] apperception. In actuality there is no sense of location or presence - no 'here' or there', everything is just immediate, happening right here. In actuality there is no sense of time passing - no 'then' and 'now', everything is just immediate, happening right now. Another way of saying it is that everything is in its proper place - just where it is, and that's perfection (as why should it be anywhere else)? This applies to actual sensations, too - they occur immediately, right-where-they-are, without any bounce from a perceiver to a perceived or whatever - no 'attention bounce'.

Another way of saying it is that there is no 'filter' - everything is immediate - so, any perception of something vibrating 'on top of' other things or 'in between' an implied 'here' and an 'over there' (or a 'there' and a 'there', perhaps, if one does not perceive a center point), is something 'real'/not actual.

There is no 'warping' or 'waving' in actuality, no 'layering', no 'filtering'. So, to get back to the pointer, try looking past any 'warping'/'waving' you currently experience. Kind of like tuning it out, except you're tuning out of 'reality' and tuning in to actuality (so in actuality nothing is being tuned out). Just look for the things that don't 'move' at all, that are just where-they-are, each totally and completely independent, not affecting anything else around them[2] - that is to say, non-overlapping. Nothing overlaps in actuality.

Another related pointer: with apperception, when you look around, there is no sense of 'distance'. Sight apparently has the same depth in all directions. If you are staring at an open field vs. a wall, sight seems the same in some sense, occurring infinitely in all directions with no edges, just that in one case there happens to be a wall there. So when you look at the floor, try generating the perception of a bottomless pit, understanding that it's a 'perception' (not actual), but just as a tool to shake the current 'perception' that is happening (that space is limited from here to the floor). If you find that quality of sight being the same in all directions, try tapping into it while looking around.

[1] Strictly speaking the 'full-blown' qualifier is not necessary. I think the term apperception is supposed to be equivalent to the experience in a PCE or when AF, but people say things like "then I apperceived those sensations", which I think is something else. Full-blown just to indicate that I mean a (full-blown) PCE.
[2] I think, in actuality, everything is apparently uncaused, though of course on logical reflection causality can be deduced. There is no affective intuition of causality, though, cause space doesn't move and time doesn't pass.
John Wilde, modified 10 Years ago at 1/25/12 1:46 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Sure, I can try.. I'm kind of typing a variety of attempts to point at it, here, so let me know if any of them make sense. A disclaimer: this is my current take only based on my experience and is certainly subject to being wrong. (And if someone does see something inaccurate then I would be glad of a correction.)

One can divide experience into two categories: actual and 'real'. The actual is what is happening all the time, what's always there, the only thing that is left in a full-blown PCE. 'Real' things are things that don't exist in actuality, such as: suffering, affect, attention wavy stuff, etc. As you well know, actual things can be quite subtle, so it's generally a good idea to not label anything as actual (lest you mistakenly take something 'real' to be fundamental/not-suffering, when it is).

You mentioned things vibrating "on top of" other things. This is 'suffering', something 'real'. This is something that is not actual.. this is something that simply cannot happen with full-blown[1] apperception. In actuality there is no sense of location or presence - no 'here' or there', everything is just immediate, happening right here. In actuality there is no sense of time passing - no 'then' and 'now', everything is just immediate, happening right now. Another way of saying it is that everything is in its proper place - just where it is, and that's perfection (as why should it be anywhere else)? This applies to actual sensations, too - they occur immediately, right-where-they-are, without any bounce from a perceiver to a perceived or whatever - no 'attention bounce'.

Another way of saying it is that there is no 'filter' - everything is immediate - so, any perception of something vibrating 'on top of' other things or 'in between' an implied 'here' and an 'over there' (or a 'there' and a 'there', perhaps, if one does not perceive a center point), is something 'real'/not actual.

There is no 'warping' or 'waving' in actuality, no 'layering', no 'filtering'. So, to get back to the pointer, try looking past any 'warping'/'waving' you currently experience. Kind of like tuning it out, except you're tuning out of 'reality' and tuning in to actuality (so in actuality nothing is being tuned out).


That's really well said.

Of all the possible ways to "tune it out", the one that always worked best for me was to passively[1] tune in to what is already present, prior to and independent of any efforts to find it.

Trying to enter the actual world is analogous to noticing that you're striving to move to where you are. If you were to catch yourself doing that, what would it feel like? Then what would you do?

John

[1] Not by choosing to accept, but by understanding that one is already accepting, without any choice in the matter.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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John Wilde:

[1] Not by choosing to accept, but by understanding that one is already accepting, without any choice in the matter.


The corollary of this is that you only ever seem to be estranged / separated / locked out from it, no matter how much or how little practice you've done.

Edited to add:

Practice is great. Essential even. It's also useful to have very strict criteria for apperception. But none of this adds up to it being an advanced technique or high attainment. It's much more primary than that, much closer than that. I think it pays to remember this, so that technical skill can be used to remove obscurities / hindrances without becoming an end in itself and perhaps getting in the way.

(More would be repetition, so I'll take my leave again).

Best of luck, all.

John
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/25/12 9:32 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Claudiu, the strange things about this form of experience (attention wave "on top of" non-attention wave, rather than temporal interleaving) are:

* the form of experience only "clicks" (= is entered into properly) when the non-attention wave stuff is perceived as movement against a background of constant stillness,

* it is the opposite to the method of concentration that seems to work (= moving towards the stillness, ignoring the non-stillness)

* it generally is only effective (= leading to an immediate permanent shift) in context of concentration, or in context of past concentration, and cannot be repeated indefinitely, many times back-to-back,

* concentration without this form of experience is also effective (= leading to gradual recurrent shifts as it's sustained).

So, even though it seems to be opposing apperception in some ways (a temporary integration of imaginary and non-imaginary into a unified field of experience, rather than the withering away of the imaginary), it appears helpful nonetheless.

The way I think about it (which may not be accurate) is that concentration allows the mind to potentially perceive the details of the process (either during concentration or as a developmental effect of it), and the details related to the attention wave either gradually efface themselves during continued concentration, or can be instantly destroyed by seeing them in this particular way. A metaphor is something like: concentration is a shovel that breaks up impacted soil, and once the soil is broken up it can be left to blow away gradually, or one can stop digging and immediately shovel away what one broke up. (If the soil is broken-up, it stays that way until it's dispersed; it doesn't re-solidify.)

On the other hand, the perception that the attention wave stuff is "on top of" the non-attention wave stuff is probably a perception rooted in the attention wave itself ("on top of" in this sense does not seem characteristic of non-attention wave experience, as you say), so perhaps bearing that in mind more thoroughly will lead to bigger shifts.

I think the term apperception is supposed to be equivalent to the experience in a PCE or when AF,


Richard appears to define it as the moment before mental representation occurs, which is equivalent to the spot in the temporal evolution of experience that Bhante G defines "mindfulness" as, both of which seem to amount (more or less) to "the moment before the attention wave arises".

Richard:
When one first becomes aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of the clean perception of sensum just before one recognises the percept (the mental product or result of perception) and also before one identifies with all the feeling memories associated with its qualia (the qualities pertaining to the properties of the form) and this ‘raw sense-datum’ stage of sensational perception is a direct experience of the actual. (...) In that brief scintillating instant of bare awareness, that twinkling sensorium-moment of consciousness being conscious of being consciousness, one apperceives a thing as a nothing-in-particular that is being naught but what-it-is coming from nowhen and going nowhere at all. (...) When the original moment of apperceptiveness is rapidly passed over it is the purpose of ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ to accustom one to prolong that moment of apperceptiveness...so that uninterrupted [my emphasis] apperception can eventuate.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Ajahn Brahm's ideas about breath meditation:

When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience "that which tells you what the breath is doing", whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact, it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose, then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness; and if you locate it at your abdomen, then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.


I found this to be better than every other object I have tried...however, I have also tried it in the past and had it work poorly. Its advantages are that, by not locating your experience, you undercut the possibility of generating attention wave stuff in trying to look at it. Its disadvantages are that it's easier to lose track of what you're doing or get lost. When concentration is high, it seems good; otherwise, not so much.

I'm not sure how to describe the counterpart sign; partially because I didn't get a good look at it (I found that spontaneously adverting to formless qualities makes the formless quality the counterpart sign while one is doing that), and partially because I'm not sure what the "real" object is here. If I pay attention to the sense of air moving, the object is something tactile; here, I don't know what I'm paying attention to, so I seem to have some problem describing what its counterpart sign is. I think it's some kind of static luminous cottony percept of some kind. (The metaphor of the moon coming out from behind the clouds is reasonable.)

I had some other reflections, but I'll post them some other time.

I also had some interesting shift, but we'll see how it pans out.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 6:36 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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I think it's some kind of static luminous cottony percept of some kind. (The metaphor of the moon coming out from behind the clouds is reasonable.)


Does this ever feel like you're gently encased in a cottony type substance? Gentle, pleasant but slightly firm pressure all over the body?

BTW, EIS where are your instructions for entering Jhana located? (what i've heard people describe as "sutta jhana" sometimes)
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:23 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Bagpuss The Gnome:
Does this ever feel like you're gently encased in a cottony type substance? Gentle, pleasant but slightly firm pressure all over the body?


No, not at any point recently that I can remember.

BTW, EIS where are your instructions for entering Jhana located? (what i've heard people describe as "sutta jhana" sometimes)


I don't think they're located anywhere...I never wrote them up. However, it's not a tricky process...just pick an object, notice it with the lightest touch of attention possible, and let go of everything that you can let go of (cognizing, reacting, assessing, feeling, whatever) to the extent that you can, while staying completely alert. Success is when your mind "moves" less and you have an impression of stillness. (If you're familiar with MCTB jhana, an important cue is "don't enter that".) A summary (for pre-sutta anagami?) would be: "make the vibrations stop". And it helps if you can start with a sense of simple pleasure in the body.

As for the full jhanic absorption (rather than something that one can work with while in it), I have no idea; it happens spontaneously for me at times but the details always elude me.

You might want to keep in mind that the stuff I just said about jhana is the same stuff that lots of authors have said...stuff which I read in the past, ignored or misunderstood (as I had the MCTB model of concentration stuck in my mind), and had to subsequently rediscover for myself. If you read what other authors say while pretending you don't know anything at all about concentration other than what they say, that will probably serve as good advice.

Josh r s seems to have figured out how to do it pretty well (judging by his practice log), so if you can't figure it out, you might have more success asking him than asking me, as you two are at more similar points in practice, so his advice might be more useful than mine.

I never read anything by Culadasa on how to concentrate, but his levels-of-concentration map seems very good, so I'm sure whatever he's written is good too.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:52 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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I don't think they're located anywhere...I never wrote them up. However, it's not a tricky process...just pick an object, notice it with the lightest touch of attention possible, and let go of everything that you can let go of (cognizing, reacting, assessing, feeling, whatever) to the extent that you can, while staying completely alert. Success is when your mind "moves" less and you have an impression of stillness. (If you're familiar with MCTB jhana, an important cue is "don't enter that".) A summary (for pre-sutta anagami?) would be: "make the vibrations stop". And it helps if you can start with a sense of simple pleasure in the body.


Right. That's what I thought. Though i'd thought you'd written them down somewhere. Splitting the attention between the breath and the full body awareness with a leaning towards pleasure/happiness

I have somewhat sporadic jhanic experiences to say the least. I have no idea if I have done MCTB jhana in the past or not..

Josh r s seems to have figured out how to do it pretty well (judging by his practice log), so if you can't figure it out, you might have more success asking him than asking me, as you two are at more similar points in practice, so his advice might be more useful than mine.


Thanks! I'll check out Josh's log.

I never read anything by Culadasa on how to concentrate, but his levels-of-concentration map seems very good, so I'm sure whatever he's written is good too.


I just printed off and read his manual of meditation where he goes through his 10 stages. It's pretty good reading for sure. I've had somewhat of a love for anapana since I started meditating. I'd really like to eventually do that practice to the full, exclusively.

Your own concentration notes are fascinating. Thanks for posting them!
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 9:39 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Bagpuss The Gnome:
Right. That's what I thought. Though i'd thought you'd written them down somewhere. Splitting the attention between the breath and the full body awareness with a leaning towards pleasure/happiness


I wrote some stuff about cultivating pleasure (which is related to concentration, but not the same thing), and there's a thread about it somewhere with an appropriate title, but the name is eluding me at the moment.

I'm not exactly organized, so I don't collect all the potentially useful bits of writing into one place.

By the way, a good cue for you in particular re: this style of concentration would be to move towards the kind of experience you described in the past where all the vipassana "fuzz" disappeared and you had a sense of clarity, effortlessness, and simplicity. What stands in the way of you having that right now? Basically, the gyrations of your own mind. No gyrations, no fuzz, no problem.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 9:58 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Basically, the gyrations of your own mind. No gyrations, no fuzz, no problem.


I figured the fuzz was the 100's of hours of attention to body sensations through the Goenka technique, and pretty much unavoidable. Having said that, when I practice a more one-pointed anapana that stuff doesn't come up for quite some time (usually when I seem to have reached my max-point and the mind starts to rebel a little by wandering again).

When I do anapana spot vs full body, the fuzz is immediate. It seems sometimes the mind will be doing vipassana at this point, and at other times it will be generating pleasure and concentration --and at others, both!
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 7:52 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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As a note, one of the interesting features of concentration practice is that the state of mind it engenders is heads-and-shoulders above everything I experience outside of meditation (in terms of peace, clarity, lack of suffering, "openness" and simplicity, etc.). That makes meditation into a kind of succor...everything else is comparatively unpleasant to some degree or other.

What I've been describing as level 8 concentration (especially deeper into it) is similar in many ways to a PCE. The comparison isn't exact, but that gives the flavor of it. (Again, in terms of peace, clarity, etc. The states are otherwise different; PCEs are not perturbed by thinking and activity, concentration is.) Being able to attain that when I want (when I decide to meditate) is very, very good.

I've been thinking about PCE and the attention wave recently. From recollection, there *is* some kind of subtle attention wave left in them...but, the subtlety is such that it doesn't cause overt flickering. I wonder if gross vs. subtle vs. ultrasubtle attention wave would be a useful distinction in some way.

As far as Ajahn Brahm's meditation advice (quoted earlier), I have been taking it to mean "try to fall asleep while maintaining absolute mindfulness and alertness". Letting go in the way various authors describe, and in the way I have found to be crucial for this practice, is very similar to falling asleep, especially with respect to how cognition gradually and then abruptly starts falling away in the process. Maintaining absolute mindfulness includes being aware, in a very abstract and nonspecific sense, of the breath, insofar as an experience of it remains, and the perception of breathing is a feedback mechanism that lets me know if mindfulness is being maintained or not. If one actually manages to do the equivalent of fall asleep (by eliminating sense perceptions and cognition) while maintaining a brilliant and clear mind, that would be full absorption.

I find this method can only be employed successfully when my mind is well-disposed towards concentration in the first place. If not, the likelihood of losing track of what I'm doing is very high.

Unrelated to that, I used to find that I would cycle endlessly through jhanas (or the jhana factors for) 1-4 (often spending a lot of time at 2), but now my mind climbs quickly to 4, and then cycles between that and formless stuff. I would not say that the formless cycling counts as jhana (my standard requires no perception of form, that is the suttas standard, and the full significance of the formless qualities is not clear until that point), but rather, some kind of enhancement of the formless quality over and above my normal experience. At one point I became disenchanted with piti / sukha (after cultivating enormous amounts of it and staying with it for an hour or more, finding that, despite being pleasurable, pleasure in itself is not desirable in the way I previously thought it was), so perhaps that has something to do with it.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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I seem to be bouncing in and immediately out of full absorption more commonly than before. That, or I'm having some unique concentration experience which does not appear to be cessation, MCTB NS, or whatever else.

The "bounce" absorptions actually appear to be different in some way than absorptions that last more than a moment...it appears as if there's some kind of residual cognition or something which prevents the state from being sustained. I can't really explain what the residual cognition is (it's not anything gross like "aha, jhana!"...it's a very subtle, non-verbal thing).

I don't really have a good sense of why this is happening, as it seems to be more of a fluke than anything. As best as I understand it, my mind flits into a state in which concentration is good enough to fall into absorption, but this happens almost as if by chance (though it doesn't happen when concentration is low; definitely level 7 or above).

There is a kind of aftereffect once the absorption ends, which is an uncommon kind of clarity. This clarity is not exactly related to concentration as such, as I don't see to be able to concentrate better (or worse) in any practical way while it's present. Probably because the absorption is short, it only sticks around briefly. Perhaps things would be different if absorption were longer.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/29/12 12:46 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Concrete advice from the Thai Forest tradition:

http://thaiforesttradition.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-knowing-too-much-pali-abhidhamma.html:
For example, once when I was his attendant novice, a senior monk of the Mahanikaya sect came and placed himself under his direction as a beginning student in meditation. Ajaan Sao taught him to meditate on "Buddho." Now, when the monk settled down on "Buddho," his mind became calm and, once it was calm, bright. And then he stopped repeating "Buddho." At this point, his mind was simply blank. Afterwards, he sent his attention out, following the brightness, and a number of visions began to arise: spirits of the dead, hungry ghosts, divine beings, people, animals, mountains, forests... Sometimes it seemed as if he, or rather, his mind, left his body and went wandering through the forest and wilderness, seeing the various things mentioned above. Afterwards, he went and told Ajaan Sao, "When I meditated down to the point were the mind became calm and bright, it then went out, following the bright light. Visions of ghosts, divine beings, people, and animals appeared. Sometimes it seemed as if I went out following the visions."

As soon as Ajaan Sao heard this, he said, "This isn't right. For the mind to go knowing and seeing outside isn't right. You have to make it know inside."

The monk then asked, "How should I go about making it know inside?"

Phra Ajaan Sao answered, "When the mind is in a bright state like that, when it has forgotten or abandoned its repetition and is simply sitting empty and still, look for the breath. If the sensation of the breath appears in your awareness, focus on the breath as your object and then simply keep track of it, following it inward until the mind becomes even calmer and brighter."
And so the monk followed the Ajaan's instructions until finally the mind settled down in threshold concentration (upacara samadhi), following which the breath became more and more refined, ultimately to the point where it disappeared. His sensation of having a body also disappeared, leaving just the state in which the mind was sitting absolutely still, a state of awareness itself standing out clear, with no sense of going forward or back, no sense of where the mind was, because at that moment there was just the mind, all on its own. At this point, the monk came again to ask, "After my mind has become calm and bright, and I fix my attention on the breath and follow the breath inward until it reaches a state of being absolutely quiet and still — so still that nothing is left, the breath doesn't appear, the sense of having a body vanishes, only the mind stands out, brilliant and still: When it's like this, is it right or wrong?"
"Whether it's right or wrong," the Ajaan answered, "take that as your standard. Make an effort to be able to do this as often as possible, and only when you're skilled at it should you come and see me again."

So the monk followed the Ajaan's instructions and later was able to make his mind still to the point that there was no sense of having a body and the breath disappeared more and more often. He became more and more skilled, and his mind became more and more firm. Eventually, after he had been making his mind still very frequently — because as a rule, there's the principle that virtue develops concentration, concentration develops discernment, discernment develops the mind — when his concentration became powerful and strong, it gave rise to abhiñña — heightened knowledge and true insight. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the true nature of the mind, that is, knowing the states of the mind as they occur in the present. Or so he said.

After he had left this level of concentration and came to see Ajaan Sao, he was told, "This level of concentration is fixed penetration (appana samadhi). You can rest assured that in this level of concentration there is no insight or knowledge of anything at all. There's only the brightness and the stillness. If the mind is forever in that state, it will be stuck simply on that level of stillness. So once you've made the mind still like this, watch for the interval where it begins to stir out of its concentration. As soon as the mind has a sense that it's beginning to take up an object — no matter what object may appear first — focus on the act of taking up an object. That's what you should examine."

The monk followed the Ajaan's instructions and afterwards he was able to make fair progress in the level of his mind.


The method seems to be:

1) Get to a point where there is stillness and gross cognition is gone (level 8?)
2) From there, get to a point where gross and subtle cognition and sense experience are gone (full absorption)
3) Examine the very subtlest arising of the attention wave as soon as full absorption ends.

The indication, to me, that 2) is full absorption is that no object of concentration is described, and no ability to analyze, just an experience of stillness (sounds like 4th jhana).

I interpret 3) the way I do because the attention wave is what gives the sense of the mind taking up an object. Without it, there is just whatever the experience is. (Compare: no experience of an object in jhana, just the jhana factors)

In general, what has worked for me is simply getting concentration as high as possible. The attention wave gets observed by default in such a lucid state (no effort needs to be made to do it), and that leads to shifts and fewer defilements. The higher concentration gets, the more refined the attention wave is, and the bigger the shifts are. I suspect the method here (get to maximum concentration) is the ideal, and lesser levels of concentration can be useful but are not ideal.
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 1/29/12 4:13 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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This line from Ajahn Brahm is killer advice:

If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose, then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness; and if you locate it at your abdomen, then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.

I hadn't read that until now but I'd come to see it for myself in practice, he's put it really nicely there. It's quite subtle but the difference that makes to clearly experiencing the entire breath is, in my experience, quickly noticeable.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/29/12 9:58 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Interesting that you brought that quote up, I was going to write something about it. emoticon

I found that Ajahn Brahm's method is very strong, but in my case, needs to be applied carefully. When my mind is inclined towards concentration, it works (and as you say, you experience the whoooooole breath). But, if my mind is not inclined that way, I get to a state where things are fairly still but vibrations are prominent, and I can't go any further. What happens seems to be that, without an explicit object, I tend to "mindfully space out"...every vibration is a kind of spacing out, so, no matter how mindfully and equanimously I observe them, the fact of observing them in such a gross fashion perpetuates them and impedes further development of mindfulness and equanimity.

Surprisingly, it took me a bit of time to realize that today, because it seemed like I was doing very precise vipassana with a huge tilt towards tranquility...I had to remember that this "precise vipassana" is actually a kind of heedlessness.

The solution was to follow a particular object (the sensation of breath moving), which made the vibrations quickly recede and increased concentration rapidly.

This could just be my particular constitution, as my mind is bad at concentration and by default seems to look at vibrations much more than normal.
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Occasionally I have a sit where my concentration is just too poor to go beyond a certain point, despite all the stimulants, and so I've found a useful way to "salvage" those sessions is to listen to sounds occurring outside (e.g. car noises) in a way that's attentive to the first moment of sense-experience. I am not quite sure how to explain how I do this, but the experience reminds me of certain things that happened to me when practicing Kenneth's Direct Mode in the past, minus the emphasis on the body...the sounds are perceived as extremely fresh, unique, and wonderful, and part of a still, static layer of experience over which random things fluctuate. There is a limit to how far this seems to be able to go for me as a concentration practice, but it does seem to bring me to a respectable level of concentration, which is sustainable, which can be a much higher level than the alternative.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 8:33 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 8:33 AM

RE: EIS' concentration thread

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sounds are perceived as extremely fresh, unique, and wonderful, and part of a still, static layer of experience

If you are interested in pursuing a PCE, may I suggest you try the following:

Use your 'right brain', the 'silent self' (as opposed to the 'narrating self'), notice context and relationships ("the lines connecting the dots, instead of the dots themselves"), establish wide-open attention (it is characterized by silence and spaciousness), attend to experience in this way you describe (pre-symbolic aka. apperceptive) and then nail down the present, this moment - not the specifics of this moment, not the content of it, but the nowness of now. 'Feel' the nowness of the present, it's infinitude, timelessness, foreverness, never-anything-but-now-ness, OMG-IT'S-SO-NOW-RIGHT-NOW.

This seems like rambling, I guess it is. I might be posting some much more coherent stuff in the near future.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 9:20 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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"Just relax"...a good cue, similar to Ajahn Brahm's method (if one stays alert while relaxing), possibly limited in terms of how close to full absorption one can get without any formal object, but useful anyway. Is this shikantaza?

A random thought: many skills show decreasing returns on investment. For example, practicing music for 16 hours a day is not likely to make you much better than practicing for 12 hours...but, practicing for 6 hours is likely to make you much better than practicing for 2 hours. The extra four hours do not add to your musical skill in an absolute way, but add to it relative to how much practice you already do. Meditation is very different...in my experience, the return on investment may even be increasing (!), but at least, adding one hour to a 12-hour meditation session is at least as beneficial as adding it to a 2-hour meditation session. It seems that whatever benefits one gets from meditation, they come via a mechanism that is different than the mechanism by which most skills are learned.

Not sure what useful things I can write in this thread. I have a lot of observations that are specific to me, but not easy to write up and probably not useful for others. At the moment I'll just say that concentration really works in terms of producing permanent and significant results. Highly recommended, possibly as one's sole practice.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/4/12 9:23 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Bhante G, Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English:
Some teaches say that the jhanas are unnecessary, perhaps that they are rather like playthings for advanced meditators. It may be technically true that some can attain final release from craving, delusion, and suffering without jhanic meditation, but there are many benefits to achieving the jhanas. (...) The jhanas taste like liberation, a total freedom from all the mental and emotional woes that plague is. But the jhanas themselves are not that total freedom....but still, they give you the absolute assurance that more is possible, that your mind too holds the seeds of complete freedom; through the jhanas you can be assured experientially that liberation is not just a theory...
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/5/12 10:20 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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I seem to have gotten to the point where I can fairly reliably generate a good amount of pleasure just from concentrating, not from going out of my way to generate it.

I'm having trouble figuring out where that point is in terms of the strength of my concentration, as I had been using "strength of [static] defilements" (EDIT: i.e. noticing their strength under the haze of the attention wave / dynamic defilements, as those are reduced) as a way to measure the strength of my concentration, much more than I thought I was, and those defilements are greatly reduced in strength compared to before, so judgment concerning this is proving difficult.

It seems to me that once discernment is raised to a sufficiently high level (via MCTB-style vipassana, or whatever) on a permanent basis, all that's required is to concentrate, and things fall into place. The act of "doing vipassana" seems counterproductive, as everything that should be noticed is automatically noticed by itself to the extent that I am alert (i.e. not requiring any additional volitional input in order to happen), so all I have to do is be as alert as possible. Alertness requires some discernment (one must discern what stands in the way of alertness, and abandon it), but for the moment that [discernment] isn't difficult, despite [discernment / abandoning] being important.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/6/12 5:41 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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What is concentration beyond what I've thought of as Culadasa's level 8 like?

First off, I don't know how to relate it to what Culadasa says, as his levels 9-10 are not described in as detailed a way as I would need them to be in order to try to draw a relation.

Once there is stillness, and once the perception of effort subsides, the next stage is very similar to the descent into the state in between wake and sleep. There is a kind of "openness" corresponding to a diminishment of tension in the head. Cognition seems like it's "freer" or less bounded by normal ways of thinking about things, and the constant cognition that construes the world as like-this or like-that is suppressed, the lack of which is metaphorically akin to floating obliviously down a river. Sense experience is "muffled", but that doesn't exactly capture what it's like...it isn't unclear, but it seems irrelevant in some way, and so is being tuned out, but not by virtue of the attention wave occluding it, but by virtue of the mind not processing it fully or something like that.

(There is no actual dreaminess, no wandering discursive thoughts, no elaborate hypnagogic imagery, and no dullness. If any of these things present, it's more likely that the state is the regular non-meditative one that occurs before sleep, which means alertness was lost. I have fallen into this (the non-meditative state) a few times, and it seems impossible to rouse myself from it, while continuing to meditate, so the best thing to do is probably to get up and walk around for 15 minutes, and then try again.)

There can be some miscellaneous thinking in this stage, and it has a bit of the character of mind-wandering dreamy thought, but there is a distinction, albeit hard to describe. I would say "strong clarity" captures what's relevant from a practical point of view.

The stage itself is very stable, and so I could actually indulge in various kinds of thinking if I cared to without disturbing it. What is more likely to disturb it for me is losing alertness and having it degenerate into some kind of dull sleepy experience, rather than thinking about something that aggravates the attention wave.

When formless qualities become dominant at this level of concentration, the experience is very impressive, as the qualities are very strong (and there is a special kind of peace associated with them which I don't really see at lower levels). But, sense experience is not overcome at this point...I haven't opened my eyes to check, but there is definitely a residual perception of darkness, which is sensory.

Some very strong levels of concentration follow from this (so strong that touching them for a moment has let to instant, powerful shifts). After a couple of iterations of that kind of thing, I currently find myself in a state that is like a PCE, but defiled by restlessness. Despite the restlessness (manifesting as tension in the abdomen), everything seems honey-like and soft. (The state appears to be permanent, though I will update this if it turns out not to be.) Though I cannot find any overt sensual desire or ill will (and this includes the "shadow" type), I think they persist at a subtle level that is not easy for me to discern. So, this isn't anagami; it's no better than sakadagami (if even that).

(Edited for clarity.)
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Nikolai , modified 10 Years ago at 2/6/12 5:48 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:


Some very strong levels of concentration follow from this (so strong that touching them for a moment has let to instant, powerful shifts). After a couple of iterations of that kind of thing, I currently find myself in a state that is like a PCE, but defiled by restlessness. Despite the restlessness (manifesting as tension in the abdomen), everything seems honey-like and soft. (The state appears to be permanent, though I will update this if it turns out not to be.) Though I cannot find any overt sensual desire or ill will, I think they persist at a subtle level that is not easy for me to discern. So, this isn't anagami; it's no better than sakadagami (if even that).


Not that I know where the hell I am either, as it all depends on how one defines the absence of a 'fetter', but an interesting interview with Dipa Ma sort of muddies it even further. Hehe!

http://www.tricycle.com/interview/enlightenment-lifetime?page=0,3

Crazy Speculation Elert: Maybe between fetter SE, fetter 2nd path and fetter 3rd, it is all about the eroding away of sensual craving and illwill in all forms (and midway is just termed sakadagami for convenience) till eventually there is so little of it, a path moment occurs to clear out the residual? I have had 2 shifts since the July shift. And it has gotten 'sweeter' and 'sweeter', yet there is still residual.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/6/12 5:49 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Nikolai .:
Not that I know where the hell I am either, as it all depends on how one defines the absence of a 'fetter', but an interesting interview with Dipa Ma sort of muddies it even further. Hehe!

http://www.tricycle.com/interview/enlightenment-lifetime?page=0,3


Do you experience anger at all? As soon as it comes, at the very start, I’m aware of it. It doesn’t get any nourishment.

What do you do when you begin to feel irritation or anger? Anger is a fire, but I don’t feel any heat. It comes and dies right out.


Yes, perplexing; could be a lot of things. I think at one time I figured she was talking about Kenneth's 6th stage; now I have no idea.

I actually see little practical value in trying to match things up to the suttas (concerning attainments) in this way, but it's a weird habit I have, which does itself at this point. So I've been trying to proceed by directing that habit towards thinking about where I'm likely not to be, which is fairly practical, since it makes clear what remains for me to work on, without pinning me down to any particular claim about attainments (which I prefer to avoid at this point).
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Nikolai , modified 10 Years ago at 2/6/12 5:51 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:

I actually see little practical value in trying to match things up to the suttas (concerning attainments) in this way, but it's a weird habit I have, which does itself at this point. So I've been trying to proceed by directing that habit towards thinking about where I'm likely not to be, which is fairly practical, since it makes clear what remains for me to work on, without pinning me down to any particular claim about attainments (which I prefer to avoid at this point).


Yes, I agree. This is sound advice and is most practical in avoiding that tendency to look for a 'resting point' which can become a trap.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/6/12 6:24 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Two random concentration tips:

1) Suppose you're observing the tip of your nose for breath sensations. The sensation will appear "choppy" due to the attention wave, with discernible gaps in it. Each gap is some kind of mental movement, so one strategy is to let go of whatever you're doing that's producing these gaps...but another strategy is to assume that the gaps are merely apparent, and that the breath is perfectly smooth, and try to see that...if you can see it, that will probably reduce mental movements too. (When movements are lessened and the breath is smoother, concentration is by definition higher.) Either direction seems to work, and the ideal concentration method may involve a little of each.

2) No matter how deep my concentration gets, I always seem to be able to open my eyes, stand up, and attend to normal tasks or normal conversation immediately if I have to. There's no hangover or adjustment period or whatever. But, there have been times when there has been a hangover or adjustment period...and, without fail, those were times where I lost alertness during meditation, or when I accidentally generated something vibration-y and got stuck with it. So, though it may differ for others, but the lack of a need for a transitional period is probably a sign of concentrating in an appropriate way.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/7/12 7:44 AM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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End in Sight:
Some very strong levels of concentration follow from this (so strong that touching them for a moment has let to instant, powerful shifts). After a couple of iterations of that kind of thing, I currently find myself in a state that is like a PCE, but defiled by restlessness. Despite the restlessness (manifesting as tension in the abdomen), everything seems honey-like and soft. (The state appears to be permanent, though I will update this if it turns out not to be.) Though I cannot find any overt sensual desire or ill will (and this includes the "shadow" type), I think they persist at a subtle level that is not easy for me to discern.


What is the difference between restlessness and ill will? Bearing in mind that I take ill will to apply not just to experiences concerning people, but to experiences concerning situations, etc....

Restlessness = agitation, ill will = annoyance

Ill will leads to the desire or non-reflective inclination "this annoying experience should go away" (indeed this may be another form of ill will), restlessness is just restlessness and at worst seems to lead only to the detached reflection "it would be better if there was less of this" and doesn't necessary lead to any reflection.

Generally the two are yoked together (when one is agitated, one is annoyed by being agitated and wants not to be agitated), but apparently they're separable in principle, and when separated, the experience is kind of novel (to me). Analogous to piti / sukha; in normal situations, they are yoked together, but in 3rd jhana, piti can be separated off from sukha, and one may come to regard that sukha-only experience as novel (so long as piti is regarded as a sensation co-extensive with sukha, rather than the tingly vibration-y agitated non-co-extensive thing which is probably best regarded as craving for piti or something like that, whose absence probably isn't novel)

It also occurs to me that when people say they're feeling unhappy, a good part of that is ill will (annoyance and displeasure towards things, annoyance and displeasure towards those experiences of annoyance and displeasure). Restlessness is unpleasant but the conventional sense of "unhappy" seems to denote something apart from it.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 6:26 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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After the shift I described earlier, my concentration is much better.

The difference between that shift, and the one that sent me from normal affective stuff to "residue", is that the latter was across-the-board attenuation of suffering (while leaving the attenuated forms of the various kinds of suffering clear and easy to discern), whereas this is a very specific attenuation of certain kinds of residue (leaving the residue of the residue unclear and hard to discern). There is still something left of what was attenuated, but it doesn't pop up often, and is hard to find when it doesn't pop up.

Restlessness remains as before.

The attention wave as a whole has "simplified". The attention wave itself is a composite of multiple threads of suffering-experience; when some are attenuated or removed, the wave itself is not as intrusive, not as overt, etc. (This is different from the affective stuff --> residue transition, where the attention wave could be just as gross as before, but the particular experiences comprising it were reduced in intensity.) This gives rise to a sense of softness (fluctuating depending on various factors) as well as a sense of clarity.

On the other hand, I woke up last night in a confused and unpleasant state, so temporary weird things can still happen to me.

Back to practice...
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 7:05 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

Posts: 669 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts
regarding restlessness -

probably not the cause, but possibly adding to it - how about chilling out on consuming any caffeine for a bit to see if it makes a difference? (unless you already have, but i remember reading that you drink some caffeinated stuff before sitting).
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/11/12 6:24 PM
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RE: EIS' concentration thread

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Nick was talking about the mutability of experience at the point of contact, or something like that, a while ago. I think that the experience of nimittas / etc. concern the same thing; one pays attention to the breath, notices some subtler aspects of it, noticing them exaggerates them, now the breath sensation is manifesting in a unique way which appears to be different from the way it manifests normally...

I've been getting more full absorptions (or what appear to be full absorptions) recently. As is said about the PCE, I cannot accurately remember what they are like, as they are too different from any "normal" experience, and so my mind confabulates various things that happened in place of them when I try to recall them (e.g. unconsciousness). I have noticed in the past that it has a tendency to do the same for all jhanas, but the confabulations are somewhat more believable for jhanas 4 and beyond (as piti / sukha are obviously not compatible with being unconscious). However, they are easier to recall immediately after they end (as the mode of experience is similar at that point, and so the confabulation-tendency does not manifest to the same degree), and it can be confirmed that they are fully conscious states. (On the other hand, I still find myself sometimes confused about whether a state was jhana 7 or 8, vs. something nonperceptive, as they are very subtle.) Other ways to rule out having fallen asleep are the presence of powerful clarity and strong concentration when normal cognition returns, as opposed to dullness.

Full absorption is so peaceful that even the tiniest bit of tension that arises afterwards seems like a terrible affront. (The bar gets raised very high.)

I still have no idea how the territory leading up to them works. I'm far from having mastered it. It's more like I can "fluke" the experience with more reliability than before. It seems that it would be good if I could hang out at a level of concentration a smidgen before full absorption, but that prospect seems very far away for now.

Ajahn Brahm says full absorption lasts a long time, but the length depends on one's "letting go" power. My experiences don't seem to last too long, judging from the clock (though occasionally the clock is, say, 30 minutes ahead of where I would have expected it to be at the end of a session...e.g. I thought I sat for 2 hrs, judging by the amount of time spent in non-full absorption, but the clock says 2.5 hrs). As my mind is fairly jumpy, I buy Ajahn Brahm's explanation.

About restlessness and caffeine, I'm thinking about keeping closer tabs on how much I use and how well different quantities work. Sometimes too much causes restlessness, but at least as often, too little (!) causes restlessness. I often err on the side of too much in the morning (to wake up) and too little at the end of the day (to protect sleep).

It occurred to me that if I had more caffeine at the end of the day, and did 4 hours of extra concentration, but only slept 4-6 hours, that tradeoff might be a good one. So, I may experiment with that.

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