Four experiences, no five

Johnny Froth, modified 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 4:07 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 4:07 PM

Four experiences, no five

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
I'm getting kinda pissed off at the moment.. Anyone care to comment on what I'm experiencing. I'm sitting (zazen) for between half an hour and two hours a day (the two hours being split into 30-40 minute chunks). I'm doing the Mahasi noting thing. In each sit, I've been able to identify five different "states of mind".

1. Clear noting. This lasts about 2 to 3 in/out breaths. Each in I note "rising", each out I note "falling". And the key aspect here is that each "note" is purposefully and mindfully connected to the breath event itself.

2. Not so clear noting. This lasts for about another 10 to 15 in/out breaths. The first few aren't much less clear than the clear noting, but the clarity degrades. By the end, I'm manfully still internally voicing "rising" or "falling" but there's little or no connection with the actual breaths. Is that clear? It's not that the noting and the breathing are out of sync. When I breath in, I note "rising"; ditto the out/falling. But it's like they're disconnected. I've gone into autopilot. Sometimes I catch this before it gets too hazy, and then I try to reset to 1. (That resetting gets harder over time though). But often I just fall off the edge of it into 3.

3. La la land. A thought has caught my attention, I unwittingly pursue, and before I realise, I'm off daydreaming. I've simply stopped noting at all. Hard to say how long this lasts since I only become aware of it after some time. But at least 5 minutes I reckon; maybe more.

4. The Jhana-like thing described elsewhere. (I don't know if it *is* a jhana, but it's very different from everything else). Again, not sure how long this lasts, although with this it's not because I'm off day dreaming but because I'm so focused I don't care about time.

5. The periods after 2 or after 3 when I get increasingly furious at myself for being so distracted and not managing to stay in 1.

Probably the largest part of my sitting time is in 3. My expectation is that I really want to be in 1 as much as possible. I wish I knew what 4 was but I don't. And I know I'm not supposed to do 5 (i.e. get mad at myself), but it's hard not to.

So, what's going on. Any comments welcome?


P.S. I started meditating a month ago.
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 5:00 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/10/12 5:00 PM

RE: Four experiences, no five

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
First up, go easy on yourself! It's really not a big deal if you get distracted or wander off with a thought, especially since you've only been sitting formally for about a month so take it easy. Beating yourself up and getting angry will do you no favours.

What you've described sounds pretty normal to me, you find your object and stick with it for a few seconds and then lose it again, try to get back to it but get distracted again and get pissed when it's not as clear as it was at the start before losing it again...been there and it's a pain in the arse. However it's easily solved.

1. Breath counting is a great way to get your concentration chops in order, it's so simple but definitely works and can get you quite heavily concentrated with minimal frustration. Start by counting from one to ten, if you get distracted, lose the breath or go off on a tangent then you just go back to one again. You can also guage how well you're doing with this by seeing for yourself how far you can go before you lose count. It may sounds like beginners stuff or something you'd be able to do easily but it's well worth working with. It can also be used when you're walking around, sitting watching tv or at work. (If you want an extra challenge, try counting backwards from ten down to one.)

2. Kasinas are good too if you're finding it hard to stay with a less obvious, physical object like the breath at first. Having something external and physical to focus on can give you an extra boost, I suggest a candle or a plain bowl.

3. Be gentle with yourself, treat attention like a small child or a puppy. Don't force it or be rough with it, gently and patiently guide the attention back to the object. It's less stressful and more rewarding. Attention is used to being allowed to run wild, flitting from thing to thing through the day so you're re-training it and teaching it to do what you tell it to do. Laugh or smile if you find you're distracted, there's nothing lost if you are and getting pissed about it doesn't make it any better so enjoy it!

4. Every time you realize you've wandered off, you're right back where you want to be: Here. Mindful of your object again. Don't see this as being a failure, use it to your advantage and look at what it was that caused you to get distracted.

5. Breath naturally. Don't force it or try to take big deep breaths, the body breathes because it needs to so you don't need to do anything to make that happen. Your body will show you how much breath it needs in that moment, let it happen and just watch it closely. Be interested in it.

From your other posts and your blog, you're getting to 1st jhana anyway but I think you're getting too caught up in trying to control things or make things happen. Remember, jhana will arise when the conditions are right, not when you tell it to so drop the urge to make it happen, just relax and enjoy the wonderful sensations of the breath in your body. Stay with the breath and pay attention to it, it really is that simple.