access concentration

goba g gobasson, modified 11 Years ago.

access concentration

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello everybody!

According to Jack kornfield, Daniel Ingram and i'm sure others as well, access concentration is the minimum requirement in order to progress with insight practices. On page 137 in a Path With Heart, Jack kornfield writes:

"In access concentration we become merged and attentive in our meditation, so that a powerful shift of consciousness occurs and clarity, ease and concentration all begin to flow into our practice."

I feel i'm getting nowhere in my practice (I have not yet attained "mind and body"-nana). I've have not yet experienced this "powerful shift in consciousness" that jack kornfield writes about and i'm wondering if this is my problem.

How long does it take to develop accesss concentration? I've been practicing almost every day (maybe 30 minutes) for 5 months switching between shamata and vipassana (i've been mostly doing shamata).

Best regards
Anaj
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration (Answer)

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
goba g gobasson:

I feel i'm getting nowhere in my practice (I have not yet attained "mind and body"-nana). I've have not yet experienced this "powerful shift in consciousness" that jack kornfield writes about and i'm wondering if this is my problem.

How long does it take to develop access concentration? I've been practicing almost every day (maybe 30 minutes) for 5 months switching between shamata and vipassana (i've been mostly doing shamata).

Be patient, goba. And keep practicing as you have been, focusing on samatha.

Access concentration doesn't take that long to develop. It just depends on what you do with it once you realize that you have achieved it.

One thing that helped me when I was going through this "growing period" was the instruction that the Buddha gave in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta to "establish mindfulness" before yourself. "Mindfully he breathes in, mindfully he breathes out." Before even attempting to meditate, if you first establish sati (mindfulness), your meditation session will progress with much stronger intensity and concentrative focus. It's that intensity/energy and concentrative focus that you want to establish before you begin to meditate.

I'm talking about the kind of intensity that a baseball player has when facing a pitcher. He has to be focused on the release of the ball in order to see it to hit it (and as well to get out of the way if it's coming at him). All this takes place in fractions of a second. So his focus must be established before the pitcher pitches the ball. It's the same way in meditation. Think about that example and focus on increasing your intensity before and during your meditation. And watch how your meditation sessions respond to that.

If you can do that, you will eventually breeze past access concentration to samadhi fairly easily.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration (Answer)

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
While there is wide variation, many people can't get their concentration that strong on 30 minutes/day. I usually couldn't early on.

Thus, consider more intense periods of practice, weekend retreats, or even 5 hours or so one weekend day, or, better yet, a 7-10 day retreat, during which many people will, if they practice according to the instructions, get much further than access concentration, and, having been past it like that, it is much easier to do it again, as then you know what it is like and know you can do it again.

Not everyone notices that access concentration brings a strong shift in consciousness. I personally didn't tend to notice it much, I just noticed that I was able to actually do things like stay with breath after breath, step after step, note after note.

Helpful?

Daniel
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Eran G, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration (Answer)

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
Similar to what Daniel said, I think I started scratching at Access Concentration recently after I found a few days where I can practice multiple times. I find that with each consecutive sitting it becomes easier to relax into the practice and find a solid focus on the breath. Strangely, the few times I've tried it, it's been the second sitting of the day (out of three) that was the most "productive."

I think another factor that contributed much improvement was my dedication and willingness to really be present with every part of the breath, turning my concept of the breath into a fluid, continuous thing that keeps unfolding as opposed to a series of discrete events separated by "holes" in which I often get lost.

The hardest thing for me is letting go of my desire to reach access concentration and the 1st jhana. So far every time I hit something that felt like access concentration I was only able to hold on to it for a few seconds because I either got excited or rushed to get to the next phase.

Hope this helps!
Eran.
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Doc Benway, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
What all has been your experiences of access concentration?

I think I had it today, and I remember that I used to get something similar about a year ago when I did Shikantaza meditation.

Anyway, today after about 30 minutes of sitting and focusing on my breath I suddenly began to feel my scalp sort of crawl. Then I felt a lightness in my head, like I was slightly rising up into it. The only other physicial sensation I experienced was a kind of tightening in my legs and back, like I was slightly curling inward. This is similar to what I occassionally experienced before.

At this point it felt much easier to maintain a clear head. I could have thoughts, but they were more consciously provoked than invasive. Or if I did have a thought, it was only one. And I didn't zone out and have little daydreams.

I also felt slightly like my mind/head was a deep, dark cave with some depth. And my breathing became much loader, whereas before it was barely noticable audibly.

I am not sure if this is access concentration but I think it might have been because it felt perceptually different.

Note -- it happened after I did something a little different I never did before. I was tired and zoning out and having little daydreams. Suddenly remembering the Zen stick, I grabbed my belt and back my back a few wacks -- just enough to wake me up. It really worked and my concentration was much improved. It was just to wake me up, not a big self flagulation thing. Anyway, I had what I think was access concentration about five minutes later.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Body distortion and tension stuff is actually often first vipassana jhana, early ├▒ana stuff.

If it was obviously different from ordinary concentration, you were definitely into something, anyway.

Keep it up,

Daniel
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Doc Benway, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: access concentration

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
Hmmmm, that's interesting. Well, regardless of what it specifically was called, it certainly felt to me to be a more intense form of concentration. Which is cool. I didn't expect anything like that to happen so soon. It may not happen again for a while, but it is nice to have evidence that "things happen," so to speak. I have decided to practice concentration meditation until I can really get into a more advanced stage of focus. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay in that state for long the other day because I'd set my alarm clock and when I entered the state I knew it was about to go off which started bugging me because I wanted to see how long I could stay in there and then I just pulled myself out to turn off the alarm. I think I will skip setting the alarm in the future because I don't want to it ruin last minute "achievements." Also, I have found that meditating sitting in a chair or on the bed is never a good idea -- I simply fall asleep. I need to sit on the zafu to get real results.

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