practice thread part 2

practice thread part 2 josh r s 1/19/12 1:54 PM
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 1:54 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 1:50 PM

practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
It's been around a month since i posted and i've been mostly figuring out the solutions to my problems myself and I think i've made a good deal of progress. I had one big moment where I saw myself "pretending" that a sensation existed in a certain place which created a feeling and since then I have been able to dissolve the feeling that is sort of layered on top of tension with regularity. I've also made some progress with jhana and I'd reckon I'm getting to a solid 2nd jhana where there is suffusion of pleasure in all of the body except the head and neck.

-I noticed that the pleasure is created easily if I am continuously sensitive to the needs of the body/mind and I change every single breath slightly in correspondence with whatever it feels like I need.
-I noticed that the pleasure tends to spread all by itself and that I simply get in the way with passion for the pleasure by clenching around it and separating it from the rest of the body in a desire to protect it.
-Also i gained an appreciation for a more continuous practice and an avoidance of non-jhana[1] pleasure and for activities that decrease mindfulness.

I am now trying to figure out where to go because it seems like I run into a bit of a wall with the pleasure because i really can't seem to get it above the shoulders and making it more intense seems really really unnecessary and even stressful.

[1] meaning sensuality, based on a cool thanissaro bhikkhu talk i've started thinking in terms of sensuality, form, and formless pleasure. sensuality being sense contact, form being the pleasure inherent in propioception, and formless being something i don't know anything about
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 10:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 10:02 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Hi Josh!

I would very much like to read about how you practice for attaining jhana. You happen to be at a stage right now where I would like to be myself. Maybe some historical information about the shift from not being able to attain jhana to being able to attain jhana, some information about how that practice evolved, and definitely some masterly formulated how-to, step-by-step instructions for how you do it yourself.

All the best emoticon
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 11:31 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 11:31 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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In terms of history I worked with different ideas at different times.About a year ago I was just practicing concentration, following MCTB instructions, I don't know if i made much progress here.

My next serious attempt at breath meditation was trying to mechanically follow the TWIM 6R style, I think I made some progress here and I'm not sure whether it was made redundant by what I did next, but I basically just would spend all my sits and off-cushion practice relaxing all physical tension. I got into weaker jhanas with less regularity, mostly just got into states without pleasure that were very silent/peaceful and relaxed.

I suppose that period helped me just in general and I probably gained some degree of mindfulness.

Then recently when I started getting into jhana with some more regularity I went back to the thanissaro bhikkhu instructions which are basically to figure it out for yourself. He often starts his talks with "find a way of breathing that feels good" and then talks about the different components of the breath that you can play around with. I'll try and list a bunch of things you can mess around with, by playing with these and being sensitive to what would feel good with the present in/out breath, you can develop some pleasure.

I'm listing these out partly for myself, I think you'll get the idea

physical aspects: how much you expand your chest, how much you expand your abdomen, how much you expand your throat, how you hold your jaw, how quickly the air passes as you breathe in/out, how long each in and out breath lasts, where you tense in different parts of the body during different times in the in/out breath (including seemingly strange places like feet), how straight you hold the back, whether you let your hips/abdomen/lower body carry your weight vs. your back etc.

mental aspects: where you focus on the breath, whether you perceive it as dry and cold or wet and warm (this is connected to the way you hold the throat and chest and nostrils), where you conceptualize the breath coming from/going to (e.g. you can think of in breaths as going from head to abdomen and outbreaths as the opposite), perceiving the breath process as a whole as expanding with in and contracting with out, perceiving the process as something going up as breathing in and something going down as breathing out, focusing on the air aspect of the breath vs. the pure kinetic energy, thinking of the body as pleasure with spots of pain vs. pain with spots of pleasure, having a mental body image which is segmented vs. a whole thing vs. a sort of cloud, thinking of the breath as coming in going out of a certain spot (useful when there is a sense of blockage there)... I could go on for a long time...

Perhaps the main thing that got me into the first jhanas is paying attention to what Ajahn Lee called the "refined breath" which is basically the sense of movement rather than just coarse air. He said there are three levels of breath - coarse, refined, subtle. coarse = air, refined = movement/energy associated with 1st few jhanas, subtle = the solid breath energy which is very difficult to notice and doesn't change with the in/out breath, this is associated with the 4th jhana and maybe 3rd jhana I forget, I don't really notice major distinctions but I'd estimate I'm getting to the 2nd, the one distinct rupa jhana is the fourth because there is no more pleasure and no more perception of in/out breath according to thai forest tradition (haven't gotten there yet).

Anyway, you play with all these things based on a sensitivity to what the body and mind need. I've basically just focused on form-pleasure nearly continuously and I have begun building up stores of knowledge of cause and effect in creating this sense of wellbeing/fullness/refreshment.

to sum up all of that: provide the body and mind with whatever they want each moment again in the form of breath, pay attention to what works...

Here is Ajahn Lee's book that explains the basic principles and gives you a good basis for experimentation/exploration, see "method 2"

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Keeping_the_Breath_in_Mind.pdf

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, here are 8 books of thanissaro bhikkhu dhammatalks focused on breath meditation that should give you some more ideas about this stuff: (i'd suggest you start with his most recent ones, I think he's gotten better at explaining stuff)
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Meditations4.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Meditations3.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Meditations2.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Meditations1.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/eDhammaTalks_3.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/eDhammaTalks_2.pdf
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/eDhammaTalks_1.pdf

This is probably my favorite talk on breath meditation:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/091102%20Anapanasati%20Day.mp3

good luck
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 1:02 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 12:59 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Wonderful post! I'm loading "Keeping the Breath in Mind" onto my iPad as I type this.

josh r s:
I got into weaker jhanas with less regularity, mostly just got into states without pleasure that were very silent/peaceful and relaxed.

Sounds like my current situation. I seem to have only one problem: there's no piti/sukkha.

Hmm... But there is a certain way I can breath which quite consistently produces what one might call ecstasy/rapture, but I have never really given it a real try because... well, I will just describe what I do:

I breath in heavily, filling the lungs with air, like you would do on a fine-sand beach, gazing out at the bright, expansive, sparking ocean on a warm, sunny day. Just breathing it all in, the fresh, oxygen rich, life-providing, invigorating air. Or the way you might take a deep, spiritual breath while standing at a mountain top, looking out over the ever-white, fairytale looking scenery of forever-winter - air as clean as the water in the small, trickling river is crystal clear.

This is all quite heavy to be doing on each in-breath which have to be very full each time (filling the lungs). The scenery, I think, is a burden (or at least will become a burden as I move through the jhanas). In addition, the piti is pretty much confined to the in-breath and it's following pause. I also find it strange if this rapture is the rapture of the suttas. The reason is that I can generate this at anytime, without any preparation, as long as I am sufficiently calm. Instant jhana-piti? Just like that? Hmm... I wish!

EDIT: Oh, and I usually can't keep the "rapture" up for more than maybe three breaths, tops.

josh r s:
I went back to the thanissaro bhikkhu instructions which are basically to figure it out for yourself. He often starts his talks with "find a way of breathing that feels good" and then talks about the different components of the breath that you can play around with.


I very much like this idea.

***

Recently I've been trying to piece together what has been called "EiS-style jhana", "sutta-style jhana", and some other information.

The Yogi Toobox: Anapanasati Sutta Instructions [sic]
The Yogi Toolbox: A Letting Go Approach to Jhanas
Tips on generating pleasure by breathing (especially the last post, which includes this link: The mystery of the breath nimitta)
EIS' concentration thread (especially the link: Nimittas: further clarification)


1. "COARSE BREATH"


I dissected the first tetrad in the Anapanasati sutta and found it to mean something like: focus on the

Culadasa:
breath as complex conceptual formation (called the "parikamma nimitta")


I came up with this collection of concepts tied to the breath:

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
One can attend to the "parts" of the breath: in-breath + out-breath.
One can attend to the "length" of the breath: long + short.
One can attend to the "pauses" of the breath: breath + pause.
One can attend to the "phases" of the breath: start + middle + end.

One can combine the above in different ways:
- in-breath + pause + out-breath + pause
- long or short in-breath + long or short out-breath.
- long or short in-breath + pause + long or short out-breath + pause
- start, middle, end of in-breath + start, middle, end of out-breath
- start, middle, end of in-breath + pause + start, middle, end of out-breath + pause

One can count the breath in some way, closely tying it to the breath:

One can count on each out-breath, or each in-breath.
One can count on every other out-breath, or every other in-breath.

One can count up to ten, then start over from one.
One can count up to ten, then down to one.

One can alternate counting on the out-breath and the in-breath after each counting cycle, e.g.:
- count up to ten on the out-breath, then start over from one counting on the in-breath.
- count up to ten on the out-breath, then down to one counting on the on the in-breath


Culadasa:
This is the parikamma nimitta, the initial or preliminary appearance of the breath, no more than a refined version of the ordinary non-meditative perception of the breath. This appearance of the breath continues to predominate for a very long time and until a significant degree of skill in sustaining attention on the breath has been achieved.

So the "coarse breath", the breath one starts out with (or the first appearance of the breath, aka. the first nimitta), is mostly mental concepts tied to the "actual" breath. Using concepts makes it easier to anchor attention for long enough for the mind to settle and reveal more and more of the "actual" breath, which is the locationless, phaseless, lengthless sensation created by breathing, as we will see...


2. "REFINED BREATH"


The breath turns "fine", "refined", "whispy"... so many different words have been used to describe the breath at this stage. As explained by Culadasa:

Culadasa:
At some point, continuity of attention has been mastered, the mind no longer wanders, the breath is rarely if ever lost or forgotten. The meditator will soon enough discover that, through habituation, all of that conceptual noticing is no longer necessary to keep the attention engaged, and all of that conceptual thought is also just a distraction from the simple observation of the breath. Now the mind follows the breath naturally, and so awareness of the sensation (which is in truth the only thing that was ever present other than conceptual formations anyway) begins to predominate.

Although the meditation object is still the breath, it is now the sensation of the breath in a very real sense, relatively free of conceptual formations, and this marks an important change in the appearance of the object. This change in appearance is distinctive enough that it seems to deserve a label of its own, and since it has been acquired as a result of all the practice that has gone before, the label uggaha nimitta, or acquired appearance seems very appropriate.


He also explained it so:

Culadasa:
breath as purely phenomenological sensation (uggaha nimitta)


Especially interesting to note, for me anyway, is this:

2.5 Mental concepts of the breath fall away (like "location", "in/out-ness")


Culadasa:
[What follows in the next paragraph will not necessarily occur unless the meditator has been trained to identify what is known as 'subtle dullness' in the Shamata tradition, and has overcome subtle dullness through cultivating intensity and clarity of sati, or mindful awareness].

As she becomes more and more skilled at one-pointedly observing just the sensation, more subtle bits of conceptual baggage drop away as well.

At some point she may suddenly become aware that she no longer knows which of the two patterns of sensation that arise and pass away in alternation is the one from the in-breath and which is from the out-breath.

She is also aware that she could know in an instant, but that a distinct and separate shift of the attention away from the sensation to the conceptual formations of the mind would be necessary.

At another time she may suddenly realize that the apparent location in space of the sensations no longer coincides with where her nose should be, that it is off to one one side or above or below.

She knows that all she needs to do is to turn conscious awareness to the conceptual formation of the body shape and position, and then the two will immediately coincide, but once again, it will involve a separate attentional shift. The product of this awareness is a profound insight into nama and rupa.

And although this is a very one-pointed meditative state, the meditation object is still very much tactile sensation.

Emphasis was added by me. The bold text is something which I have noticed time and time again.


2.9 EDGE OF ACCESS CONCENTRATION


Culadasa:
A meditator can achieve a high degree of one-pointedness with the sensation of the breath (uggaha nimitta) that will still be unstable enough that subtle distractions in the form of thoughts arising in the 'background' of awareness can occur, or she can slip into subtle dullness. Preventing these lapses requires an ongoing vigilance and a periodic 'tightening up' of awareness on the sensation of the breath to sustain it. But eventually this one-pointedness becomes self-sustaining and effortless. When this effortless one-pointedness occurs, the meditator has entered into Upacara Samadhi.



3. ACCESS CONCENTRATION


This is where things get very, very murky. There seems to be an awful lot of seemingly contradictory information about this particular state, but in my opinion, it is possible to reconcile most of it, like the light nimitta, "brightness" and so much other seemingly idiosyncratic stuff.

In access concentration the meditation object is the "subtle breath". Or as Culadasa says:

Culadasa:
mental abstraction of the qualities of the sensation (patibhaga nimitta)

This nimitta should be fully developed by the time Upacara Samadhi (access concentration) is fully developed.

Of course there is much more to write, but I'll end here.

What do you think?
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:46 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:46 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
Sounds like my current situation. I seem to have only one problem: there's no piti/sukkha.

Hmm... But there is a certain way I can breath which quite consistently produces what one might call ecstasy/rapture, but I have never really given it a real try because... well, I will just describe what I do:

I breath in heavily, filling the lungs with air, like you would do on a fine-sand beach, gazing out at the bright, expansive, sparking ocean on a warm, sunny day. Just breathing it all in, the fresh, oxygen rich, life-providing, invigorating air. Or the way you might take a deep, spiritual breath while standing at a mountain top, looking out over the ever-white, fairytale looking scenery of forever-winter - air as clean as the water in the small, trickling river is crystal clear.

This is all quite heavy to be doing on each in-breath which have to be very full each time (filling the lungs). The scenery, I think, is a burden (or at least will become a burden as I move through the jhanas). In addition, the piti is pretty much confined to the in-breath and it's following pause. I also find it strange if this rapture is the rapture of the suttas. The reason is that I can generate this at anytime, without any preparation, as long as I am sufficiently calm. Instant jhana-piti? Just like that? Hmm... I wish!

EDIT: Oh, and I usually can't keep the "rapture" up for more than maybe three breaths, tops.


I think I know what your talking about with the super-invigorating thing, is it unrefined and almost painful? Is it coming specifically out of an area in the upper abdomen by any chance? If so, I had that going for a while but I stopped pursuing it, and the pleasure that comes from that is really too intense and unstable to build any concentration on, and it's very effortful and not very pleasant. If you just literally breath in a nice refreshing way, that very weak sense of refreshment can just build as you keep breathing in nice ways. Don't breathe in ways that seem to create the most intense feeling but just ways that are pleasant, so if you are creating unstable intense "pleasure" sensations then try to find away that is more refined and less intense but more pleasurable. Eventually you connect the weak refreshment sensation temporally, so that it is continuous through each breath cycle and then physically so it is consistent throughout the body.

I very much like this idea.


that's good, because for a while i was half-intentionally misinterpreting it because I wanted meditation to be very mechanical so I wouldn't have to trust myself and could just trust the technique.


So the "coarse breath", the breath one starts out with (or the first appearance of the breath, aka. the first nimitta), is mostly mental concepts tied to the "actual" breath. Using concepts makes it easier to anchor attention for long enough for the mind to settle and reveal more and more of the "actual" breath, which is the locationless, phaseless, lengthless sensation created by breathing, as we will see...


2. "REFINED BREATH"

The breath turns "fine", "refined", "whispy"... so many different words have been used to describe the breath at this stage. As explained by Culadasa:


I've usually thought of it as just sensations that exist at the same time, when the attention becomes more subtle it can pay attention to the more pleasant refined breath, then the same thing happens with subtle breath, then space, awareness etc. and it's interesting that different ways of thinking about this stuff influence what you experience

What do you think?

I'm not even sure that he is talking about the same thing, because I don't really just focus on the sensation, I also focus on different perceptions of the sensation, and I think it is possible to trick yourself into thinking you are just focusing on the sensation when there is also a perception but the perception is one of "just sensation." It seems useful to use different perceptions and play with them and see how they affect the other aggregates. I think a good general tip is to try to control everything, because otherwise you can easily make yourself believe you aren't, then you don't have the benefit of being aware of what the results of your actions are because you don't think you are acting. It seems that as soon as you start paying attention to stuff that is within your control, you control it, you can't really just "be natural" but sometimes using the perception that the breath is going naturally might help create pleasure.

Preventing these lapses requires an ongoing vigilance and a periodic 'tightening up' of awareness on the sensation of the breath to sustain it.

This also doesn't sound like what I'm doing exactly, but it could just be different ways of explaining the same thing. I find thanissaro's way of explaining more useful, but no ones words match your experience perfectly, you have to figure it out for yourself.

This nimitta should be fully developed by the time Upacara Samadhi (access concentration) is fully developed.

I think this could possibly cause trouble because you might get into step-by-step thinking, i think its more useful to just do what is pleasant, and eventually you start to forge a pathway to jhana through your memory of what works and what doesn't in your own terms.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 8:58 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 8:58 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
several sits today, focusing on proprioception seems to be the thing that actually creates the pleasure. is this what the buddha meant by "breath body?" that seems like an apt name for it. anyway, i've just been tuning in totally to this feeling of the body from within the body, this breath energy inside the bones as Ajahn Fuang described it. anyone else have this experience or come to this conclusion? that rupa jhanas are sort of just amplifications of propioception?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:45 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:45 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
several sits today, focusing on proprioception seems to be the thing that actually creates the pleasure. is this what the buddha meant by "breath body?" that seems like an apt name for it. anyway, i've just been tuning in totally to this feeling of the body from within the body, this breath energy inside the bones as Ajahn Fuang described it. anyone else have this experience or come to this conclusion? that rupa jhanas are sort of just amplifications of propioception?


There are ways I've experienced the breath (which I think have generally always been associated with pleasure) which that ("breath energy inside the bones") seems like a fair way to describe. I'd describe it as noticing the breath as "body-breathing-experience" rather than as specifically an air flow sensation or anything like that.

Perceptions of the breath in relation to the body can get really exotic depending on how deep into concentration you are (and possibly how strong the jhana factors are), if you keep attention on the body as a whole.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 2:04 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 2:01 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
I think i got to 4th jhana just now.

- Sat down, focused on breath
- Started paying attention to the breath energy flowing forwards and backwards through the bones with in/out breath
- Immediately got some pleasure
- Let it spread until it was everywhere but neck and head
- Focused attention on the purest pleasure, not the "edgy" stressful, unstable pleasure
- Used something posted on EiS's practice thread
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 reflected on the lack of the hindrances and the unsatisfactoriness of sensory stuff, and it really clicked and made some intuitive sense. The pleasure started dropping away as I wasn't intending it as much, but the concentration kept increasing. I kept this reflection in mind until there was no discernible attention wave. In the minutes after this at least (now) I feel very confident that I won't be inclined to distract myself with any pleasure or pursuits that are clearly not based on seclusion peace and freedom.

a lot more excited for upcoming retreat now
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 4:06 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 4:06 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
wow, did basically the same things in the same order and got basically the same results. i tried turning to perceptions of space, but didn't really get anywhere, couldn't find any sensations that were obviously space, so i just tried to focus on the sense of stillness and peace, paying attention to any movement (suffering) and simply calming it.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 4:26 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 4:26 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
Ok, i did the same thing and got the same results, seems like i have this hypothetical 4th jhana nailed down... this time i had around 1 hour and 20 minutes to sit so i figured I had 1 hour after getting into 4th. I just started sort of casting awareness outside of the body and paying attention to the sense of energy right outside the skin. for a while i didn't get anything ~20 minutes but there was some perception of space beyond the body. fairly suddenly my limbs (proprioceptive sensations) started feeling as if they were being pulled inwards, just sort of a tugging inwards sensation, not towards any specific point necessarily but just being pulled in. this was accompanied by some image of being sucked in and there was a sense that somehow my body was being sucked in but that at the same time it was some sort of giant Pillsbury doughboy balloon thing.

The width of my arms seemed massive and it seemed that the sensations stretched for yards across them. the tugging inwards sensations continued and the balloon was sort of inflating and there was some sense of fairly weak pleasure in some random points on the body like the shoulders and arms. i kept trying to grow this for a while and when i couldn't really seem to go anywhere i started paying attention to my awareness of the space which had become obvious as a separate perception. the doughboy remained but there was some difficult to explain change and there was some pressure at the back of my head, the pleasure shifted inwards from around the shoulders and arms to the chest.

I stayed with this for a while and noticed that the pain of my congestion was extremely weak, i chilled there for a while and then deflated the expanded awareness and space and hung out in the (hypothesized) fourth jhana again.

does this sound familiar?

side question: when i went back down to the 4th jhana i managed to get a higher level of concentration and there was even less sense of attention bounce. it was the most pleasant thing i've ever experienced but i was having a really difficult time pinning down why. there was a sense of just a total view of everything that happened as all the sensations were included clearly all at once... i don't know exactly why this was so unstressful, anyone have ideas about that?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 6:56 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 6:54 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
does this sound familiar?


The spatial distortion and sense of "pulling" doesn't sound specifically like 4th jhana (or 5th jhana) to me, but I sometimes get an experience like that (distorted sense of size, sensation of different parts of my body violently spinning clockwise and counterclockwise as if they were being torn apart) when my concentration is pretty good. When it ends, there is generally some new clarity about some aspect of my experience, which is beneficial.

It does seem to happen when I hang around 4th jhana territory.

I've wondered about whether it's a modified A&P, but I have no idea.

side question: when i went back down to the 4th jhana i managed to get a higher level of concentration and there was even less sense of attention bounce. it was the most pleasant thing i've ever experienced but i was having a really difficult time pinning down why. there was a sense of just a total view of everything that happened as all the sensations were included clearly all at once... i don't know exactly why this was so unstressful, anyone have ideas about that?


What could be less stressful apart from less stress?

Perhaps you don't have a clear view of some of the aspects of the attention wave that you nonetheless managed to abandon during that experience, which is why you're unsure about the cause.

In any case, I would make it a point to remember that this experience was good, and try to remember why it was good to the extent that you can, in case it helps your mind reproduce it in the future.

In the past (pre-path, pre-serious meditation), when I would meditate I would very occasionally have high concentration and experience something along these lines in terms of lack of stress (though probably not as powerful as what you're describing), but I could never figure it out at all (as I couldn't see the attention wave very clearly, and never thought to look at it), so I just forgot about it for many years, which was dumb.

As a totally random thought...I don't know if this is true, but it might be the case that if you hang out around 4th (sutta) jhana vs. any other rupa jhana, you are more likely to get MCTB 1st path, as shifting to 4th jhana might correlate with pushing yourself into equanimity nana. (Equanimity nana can be like a concentration state in ways that other nanas are not.)
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:07 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:07 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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What could be less stressful apart from less stress?


normally i can point to something obvious and say that this is less stressful because i lack this painful sensation or have this pleasant sensation, with the attention wave stuff there are the same sensations, but it is more pleasant, though there is no extra pleasant feelings.


but anyway, i think i will hang around the 4th jhana and keep trying to minimize attention wave as that seems most effective atm.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:22 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/23/12 7:13 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
What could be less stressful apart from less stress?


normally i can point to something obvious and say that this is less stressful because i lack this painful sensation or have this pleasant sensation, with the attention wave stuff there are the same sensations, but it is more pleasant, though there is no extra pleasant feelings.


There is some sutta where the Buddha says he does not restrict the label "pleasant" to pleasant vedana, but uses it wherever it is appropriate, which I think is trying to get at this (that the lack of suffering is pleasant, even though lack of suffering isn't a thing, but is a lack of a thing.)

EDIT: I will look around for it to make sure I'm quoting it correctly.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 11:31 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 11:31 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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just did an hour long sit. got into 4th and spacial/gravitational distortions got insane. it was practically a theme park tour in a near-PCE. I went through all kinds of stuff, starting with a feeling of falling. then a feeling that gravity had moved to pulling me to the right, it felt like my head was being pulled to the right but actually resting on the air, as if i were laying on my side on the "solid" air. the gravity shifted to upwards and it felt like i was diving (upwards). then the really crazy stuff started, there was upwards gravity on my top half and downwards gravity on my bottom half and it was as if i was being pulled apart. but it was incredibly pleasant. the gravity shifted to all around me and every part of me was being pulled in every direction at once, a sense of being totally locked in. still very pleasant though there were occasional spurts of fear corresponding with gravity shifts. the gravity stuff stopped and I rested in what was perhaps a full-on PCE for around 15 minutes. I have been walking around/driving/doing stuff for around 30 minutes and the PCE is shifting very slightly in and out. I am getting some insight to the fact that almost every single thing i do in my mind is directly creating suffering. even thinking about this stuff in terms of attainments, progress etc. is causing slight attention wave stuff so i will break it off here emoticon
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/25/12 4:17 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/25/12 4:02 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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last few sits have skipped over the distortions,

just breath in bones-pleasure-pleasure spread throughout body-pleasure becomes constant over breath cycles-pleasure purifies-pleasure is let go of for a better view of 'stillness'

it is very much a letting go process moving from jhana to jhana, sensuality let go of for gross form pleasure, grossness let go of for saturating subtle pleasure, saturating subtle pleasure let go of for purer stable pleasure, stable pleasure let go of for stillness. the stillness seems like it should have a body location, but every time i go looking for it, it runs away, sort of like affective sensations but even more illusive. if i get more concentrated it just seems to be everywhere. the thai forest ajahns talk about nibbana as something, some "lack of dhamma" which is touched, i wonder if that's what this is, touching the lack of caused, changing dhamma (dhamma here meaning something that has causally arisen). it seems like it is, which would imply that it somehow has its own existance, as a dimension.. or something ;)

the way we perceive things as pleasure vs. pain is interesting. as the stillness is obscured by the return of affect the affect seems incredibly painful, the frustration in my chest anxiety in my throat and fear in my gut all return simultaneously in what is clearly low-intensity forms but they are really painful when looked at from the point of view of stillness. similarly the stillness seems to be pleasure rather than lack of pain when entering it from normal-mode.

edit: probably not nibbana considering that i am very much causing it and flickering on and off it, ajahn fuang quote - "if it's temporary it's not nibbana" doesn't technically disprove it, assuming that the "nibbana" is always there and i am flickering between perceiving it clearly and not perceiving it clearly, but my experience of it at least is temporary. (furthermore there is some stress because i have to constantly input intention to cause myself to experience the stillness)

edit 2: probably best to not worry about what it was, i am sure though that i would be totally happy with my experience if that stillness became unchanging and saturating without any effort needed to keep it up.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:19 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:19 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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possible shift... would be prudent for the sake of accuracy to wait for more than a day to see if it sticks around but i don't mind proving myself wrong so i will record this now tentatively to be confirmed or denied by either the input of others or future experiences.

the shift i am proposing to have had is sutta-style stream entry, i am aware this is a fairly extraordinary claim because i have been practicing for a relatively short period of time. however the last few days of meditation have been equally extraordinary and i have been going in and out of PCE and excelling in concentration. the hypothetical shift happened with the period in which i reported that the emotions "hurt" alot (previous post) despite being very weak. from that moment i haven't had a full-fledged emotion. by this i mean

- the affective sensations are weakened and lack all "twang"
- the affective sensations are fleeting and non-sticky
- the affective sensations lack a mental wave to "sweep me off my balance" so to speak, so far i can't see that they could influence my actions
- they have no sense of a message

this has also been accompanied by a change in the feeling of being, there is a feeling that exists in the same places and changes in the same way but it is absolutely not felt to be "me." and it doesn't seem to have a sense of location in the same way

another symptom which i am still trying to figure out is that i can't seem to enter jhana in the same way. i will keep experimenting with this, but the initial pleasure seems to lack some edge to it which made up most of its intensity. normally i would hone down this edge to enter into the higher jhanas and then keep moving from MCTB-type factors towards sutta-type factors, but the entry to first eluded me for about 10 minutes (normally takes closer to 30 seconds to get into) at this point i stopped trying to get into it because the thought occurred to me that i could have attained stream entry and since i have been just trying to confirm/deny it. I will have a chance to try again in a few hours... will report on that symptom then.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:34 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:31 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Was the shift as Bhante V says (with some sort of clear observation of dependent origination at the time)?

It could also be MCTB 1st path (as that drastically reduces the sense of 'me' compared to pre-path for many people). (I don't know whether that is the same or different from sutta stream entry...but, it is more precisely defined / understood here.)

Whatever it is, if it sticks, it sounds good!
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:41 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:41 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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no clear observation of dependent origination, not "bing bing bing bing bing bing bing bing bing bing bing bing" (12) or "bing bing bing" (craving, clinging, becoming) more like "bing bing" intention-affect. just a noticing that there was intention which led to affect, clearer than ever seen before at least.

no fruitions, never have had any. but i have never really practiced as MCTB suggested, just did jhana according to thanissaro bhikku's instructions, then actualism, then just attention, then bhante v, then back to thanissaro bhikku style jhana.

two other notes
- embarrassment doesn't seem to be arising at all
- sense of "looking back at whole life" type of suffering doesn't seem to arise at all
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 11:49 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 11:49 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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done considering the nature of the shift. i am too interested in getting rid of the attention wave to waste any time with any other stuff. i am getting into attenuated attention wave stuff by focusing more and more on stillness and ignoring affect. after getting up from a sit (right now) i continue staying with the stillness to keep up the most pleasantness. I wonder though, will I have to turn my attention to the affect to make permanent change... is it a sensible practice to try to keep on stilling all the movement and focusing on stillness and concentrating my way closer and closer to complete PCE(concentration)? or should i take the route of getting to a fairly still place and doing some insight.

in terms of concentration, i can't really perceive infinite space - any suggestions?

in terms of insight i have a few ideas - contemplate three c's, contemplate 4nt's, just pay attention to affect... any other ideas?

ty
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 12:10 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 12:10 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
done considering the nature of the shift. i am too interested in getting rid of the attention wave to waste any time with any other stuff. i am getting into attenuated attention wave stuff by focusing more and more on stillness and ignoring affect. after getting up from a sit (right now) i continue staying with the stillness to keep up the most pleasantness. I wonder though, will I have to turn my attention to the affect to make permanent change... is it a sensible practice to try to keep on stilling all the movement and focusing on stillness and concentrating my way closer and closer to complete PCE(concentration)? or should i take the route of getting to a fairly still place and doing some insight.


This is uncharted territory, so take this advice with a grain of salt...I'd say, keep rocking the concentration as long as it's making a difference.

If you want to try some explicit insight, see if you can perceive the attention wave and stillness integrated together. (Be gentle, it's easy to disrupt concentration this way by accident.) To get it is sort of like...if you have enough dispassion for the attention wave stuff, you stop drawing a distinction between the two things in the same was as before, and they are perceived as happening at the same time (rather than the attention wave grabbing you and distracting you from things).

For me it's been possible to enter this mode of perception spontaneously just by concentrating, so I'd still focus on concentration.

Wouldn't do 3Cs in the MCTB way...for me and probably everyone, that aggravates the attention wave. Maybe you have some other way to do it. AEN probably knows something about alternative ways.

As for 4NTs, is that really different from your method of concentration now?

in terms of concentration, i can't really perceive infinite space - any suggestions?


Hang out around 4th jhana and concentrate more.

When I was doing MCTB jhana, the formless experiences presented first as attention wave things (a picture of infinite space, a feeling in my body of space), so, as you're not interested in looking at those, you may not notice the space quality distinctly until concentration is very high (at which point you will notice a perception of "space" that excludes sense experience whenever it is clearly there).
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 1:29 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 1:28 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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As for 4NTs, is that really different from your method of concentration now?


maybe, because currently i am attempting to just still the attention wave, focusing on the stillness. if i was going to do what my idea of trying to gain insight into the 4NT's it might be looking solely at the affective sensations from a position of relative stillness, trying to observe changes in them and seeing what else is changing in experience in correlation with them.

although, i guess it is the same thing, right effort - stilling the wave, requires right mindfulness, you pay attention to what works and what doesn't and gain understanding of the phenomena you are messing with. I will continue with the concentration, although i often feel like i am running into a wall and the attention is as still as it can be, though that usually lasts for less than a second before a movement comes up.

i remember bhante V saying something about what to do with high concentration, i will get his book, look through it and report here.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:35 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 8:35 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
I will continue with the concentration, although i often feel like i am running into a wall and the attention is as still as it can be, though that usually lasts for less than a second before a movement comes up.


This is a good time to investigate in terms of the 4NTs...assume that there is still movement / stress, and see if you can find it. (It may be hard to see it until you let it go at some point, to discern the contrast been having it and not having it.)

I've found it's useful to think of things in these terms: every bit of cognition has some kind of associated attention wave thing it causes, so to the extent that there's cognition (which means, at minimum, to the extent that you remember that you're meditating), stillness can be increased further by relaxing so much that even very basic levels of cognition start to fall away.

Important to do this kind of relaxing of cognition only when concentration is high, otherwise it tends to result in some kind of dullness.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 10:54 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/26/12 10:54 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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I find this exciting!

Would either End in Sight or josh r s, or both, care to give a thorough elaboration of 'attention wave'; preferably with experential/phenomelogical examples/details. That would be very valuable, at least for myself.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 7:56 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 7:56 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Briefly: do you see how attention "wiggles" constantly?

Less briefly: reread chapter 5 in MCTB, on the way that physical and mental experiences constantly alternate, in a way marked by the "impermanence" characteristic. (Bear in mind that this phenomenon is not a fundamental feature of reality...it can be made to stop to varying degrees.)

Examining this will probably make things clearer than any explanation.

You could also read the thread "Duel on Liberation" (latter half) for a different presentation.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 2:35 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 1:51 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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what i thought for a while was that the attention wave worked as if there was a little "you" inside your head which turned its eyes to different things in the field of experience and thus saw somethings, unable to see what it wasnt looking at. it seems that it's actually that everything is already there, but you distort parts such that the parts which you aren't distorting become more prominent.

we have some sense of the distorted parts of the field of experience which bothers us because we want to see everything. so what our stupid (preconscious) minds do is they distort other parts of the field to make the part, which we wanted to see but which was distorted, more prominent. if there is no distortion, the things which we know to exist (field of experience) and the things which we understand (not distorted stuff) become the same and so there is no constant restless urge to understand and know. there is no longer a sense of perspective, because that sense is created by the disconnect between the field of experience as a whole and that part of it which we are understanding at the moment. our desire for understanding/power doesn't extend beyond the things which we don't have some perception of already (the field of experience), so clearly perceiving everything which we have some perception of (stilling attention wave completely) is the completion of desire. perhaps this is what gives rise to things like sense of infinity, because there is a sense of understanding everything (because everything we can have a "sense" about is the stuff within our field of perception)

people of the DhO, is this accurate?

when you introduce some equanimity and concentration you might manage to tone down this process of trying to see everything by distorting everything.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 6:39 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 6:39 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
people of the DhO, is this accurate?


Sounds good to me.

At what point did this all become clear to you?

when you introduce some equanimity and concentration you might manage to tone down this process of trying to see everything by distorting everything.


emoticon
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 7:23 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/27/12 7:23 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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i was just contemplating why it was nicer to have everything perceived clearly, obviously enough it's because we want to perceive things clearly. particularly i was looking at how the front half of my body seemed naturally more in focus than the back, and this was a form of "me-making." doing this created a sense of "perspective" because it created something which clearly existed but which was unknown, literally the back half of my body. the phrase "all-around-eye" made sense, i just aimed to perceive everything clearly at once, it started seeming that trying to perceive anything in particular or look at anything in particular caused distortion (trying to look at the back caused distortion in the front, and vice versa.. rapidly), so i turned towards equanimity, sort of a naivete, happy to be foolish and not-knowing.

i think i understand the thing about no-movement, or at least that is a good description of what i am noticing, which is that when there is a lack of a sense of perspective, there is nothing for objects to move in relation to, there is movement but there are no bearings by which to judge it, so there is no "ultimate movement".
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/29/12 2:27 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/29/12 2:27 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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i am going to introduce some asceticism and more time practicing to see if i can get some full absorption. basically taking the 8 precepts along with maximum possible reduction in talking to people, and just generally spending all my free time concentrating in the 4th jhana. i don't know if i will burn out or anything, but it is worth a try, i will do it for a week and see what happens.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 6:30 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 6:30 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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aiming for more absorption has gotten some fairly strange results. I have tried both getting up to fourth jhana and then concentrating in as much as possible to the point where the senses would fade out for a few seconds at the time and there would be no breath (though I didn't *know* at the time)

I have also tried just concentrating in without being in any jhana, I got near to that point of the senses disappearing, but when I tried to move on to first jhana I couldn't really do it. I think this could indicate what I've already noticed to be true which is that I use the attention wave to enter the first jhana, and keep using it up until some part in the third where I widen out and concentrate to the point of there being almost no attention wave, somewhere in there I switch to 4th. If the only goal is to observe the attention wave in its most subtle form possible then I don't know if I need to even enter jhanas as I can do pretty well pre-first. Anyway, are people able to enter 1st jhana from the position of near-total absorption?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 9:27 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 8:27 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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josh r s:
aiming for more absorption has gotten some fairly strange results. I have tried both getting up to fourth jhana and then concentrating in as much as possible to the point where the senses would fade out for a few seconds at the time and there would be no breath (though I didn't *know* at the time)


Typical for me as well...there is not enough reflective thought left at the time to know it. (EDIT: For clarity, this applies to the stage where the breath disappears, not senses fading out in general. I have found that formless experience can replace the senses while sufficient cognition remains to analyze it.)

I have also tried just concentrating in without being in any jhana, I got near to that point of the senses disappearing, but when I tried to move on to first jhana I couldn't really do it. I think this could indicate what I've already noticed to be true which is that I use the attention wave to enter the first jhana, and keep using it up until some part in the third where I widen out and concentrate to the point of there being almost no attention wave, somewhere in there I switch to 4th. If the only goal is to observe the attention wave in its most subtle form possible then I don't know if I need to even enter jhanas as I can do pretty well pre-first. Anyway, are people able to enter 1st jhana from the position of near-total absorption?


How do you enter a jhana (vs. just concentrate)? I saw a distinction between the two for MCTB jhanas (as one has to do something specific with the attention wave to start them up), but I have seen no distinction for myself in this style of practice (as I just concentrate, and jhanas / jhana factors / whatever arise spontaneously and naturally, dependent on the level of concentration).

Strangely, I never got a good absorption in 1st jhana...something about it (compared to 2nd) seems to be a problem for me. Haven't analyzed it, haven't seen a need to.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 10:55 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 10:13 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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I can either go into MCTB stuff and then mess with it and essentially make it sutta-jhana. (actual pleasure, more smooth, no focus) Or i can just concentrate (hasn't led to clear jhanas for me, just minimization of attention wave, with some pleasure), I will see if I can concentrate more and have jhanas arise without trying to make them arise. it is possible that I have just been thinking about what happens with just concentration (no attempt to enter jhanas) differently, because there is pleasure but I didn't think of it as jhana.

I'll do some more sits and see what I think.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 10:55 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 10:55 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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ah ok i moved through 4 fairly distinct jhanas "just concentrating" I had been thinking about them differently before, this makes more sense.

will continue "just concentrating"
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 2/8/12 7:30 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/8/12 7:27 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Well, after some experience with a state of uintended absence of attention wave a few days, I have come to a practice of essentially what TJ Brocoli explains here:

to me it would make the most sense to see to it that those affective or 'being' sensations are treated exactly the same way as every other sensation--no more, no less. no giving special attention or making them the focus, and no ignoring them or skipping over them to maintain felicity. this would best mimic the default panoramic and balanced attention of a being-less existence. if you give them special attention, you lose some of the panorama, and if you give them less attention you might be overlooking important stuff. this sounds like just giving them equal observation time as other sensations, but i also mean treating them with the same equanimity, appreciation, acceptance, non-condemnation, wonder and innocence as sensations of space, sight, sound, thought, touch, etc., so that you're constantly fusing those 'being bits' into the big panoramic sensation soup, whether you're 'pinballing' or chilling with everything at once. it doesn't make a difference if they feel suspended, solid, stuck, still, moving, heavy or subtle. if any sensations of being are there at all, there is some sort of unequal treatment of sensations going on, and that's what you want to de-condition. the more equal treatment, the more stuff gets seen, and the more stuff gets seen, the easier equal treatment becomes.


I don't know why this specific explanation has always been so lucrative to me, I practically memorized this paragraph and tried to practice it at various times, but as she warned without a some degree of concentration and insight, one can fool oneself into believing one is practicing like this due to not seeing subtle reactivity. I think that with my recent big development in concentration, I must have flipped the switch in being able to perceive reactions at their most subtle level, and with some experiences of PCE I have better understood what I am aiming for. My practice is now essentially what I am not doing rather than what I am doing, what I am not doing is reacting, creating tension, creating movement, ignoring parts of the field of experience, desiring and averting. The only thing that I am doing is applying a gentle solvent of opening and general relaxing of underlying tensions which are not seen clearly as constantly intended. I am very happy with this right now, I sometimes sit, sometimes not, sitting has more to do with whether my legs are tired and closing my eyes has more to do with whether my eyes are sore, the stillness is palpable in every actual sensation and exists plainly the moment I let it in. I don't think there will be much to post about while doing this, as it is really quite straightforward, let the PCE happen (possible once the attention wave is experienced clearly enough as a phenomena (would suggest 4th jhana for this) and the stillness is automatically palpable, i.e. it is seen whenever attention is paid to experience)
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 2/11/12 9:50 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/11/12 9:48 PM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Well, I made an effort, but it really didn't end up too successful. The stillness apparent in experience with regular meditation basically just faded out. Each day what i would normally do to magnify it became more and more cloudy, the attempts to relax and clarify caused a sense of nauseousness as I would strain without any satisfaction. Although I think I could still practice like this and still make progress, it isn't as it was for a few days, it is slower. I could get into a state with practically no suffering in it, and I would be so content with it that I would just stop meditating after like 15 minutes and walk around. Doesn't quite work now.

I think the primary benefit which I lost was the "resetting" quality of near-absorption concentration, which would basically clear out any lingering tension and open up a new period of relatively effortless stillness. Without this, the "static" tension builds up and suddenly when I activate attentiveness, and I try to relax and calm attention wave stuff down, I calm down everything I can discern, but the background, subtle, static tension remains and keeps me from total stillness, which can lead to serious frustration because there is clearly suffering, and I can't discern its cause, which can lead to despair as it seems like I am doing the same things as before but they are no longer working.

back to formal sitting anapanasati concentration...
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 2/12/12 5:52 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/12/12 5:52 AM

RE: practice thread part 2

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Some people seem to believe that informal practice is more advanced than formal practice, but I believe the opposite (one reason being more-or-less what you discovered).

I could get into a state with practically no suffering in it, and I would be so content with it that I would just stop meditating after like 15 minutes and walk around.


The motivating force behind this may be worth analyzing...

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