Bumped Offline from First Jhana

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Nathan Frank, modified 8 Years ago.

Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 5 Join Date: 4/7/12 Recent Posts
Hello all! This is my first post. I am very grateful to have found this forum.

About a year ago I was introduced to the teachings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu and began to practice meditation in a more "scientific" manner. Currently I do sitting meditation one and sometimes two twenty minute sessions per day as well as spending a decent chunk of each day doing walking meditation. In the last year I have developed "access concentration" as it is defined in MCTB (which I started reading tonight) and consistently experience what appears to be the first jhana (the factors of directed thought, singleness of preoccupation, and evaluation resulting in rapture and pleasure.) I consistently seem to arrive at this point very quickly while sitting, but am noticing a few things happening and am at a loss as to where to go from here:

1. The rapture/pleasure feels, well, very pleasurable and I don't know what to do next and this frustration "bumps me offline".

2. The rapture/pleasure enables me to see clearly the solution to pressing day to day issues in an outside the box fashion and the ensuing feeling of exhilaration "bumps me offline".

As an aside, regarding number two I have had a few interesting experiences. For example, I was out of work and uncertain as to my next step. During a meditation I brought my mind to this place of rapture/pleasure and "spontaneously" had an epiphany that I could become a dog walker which would have never occurred to me as a viable occupation. Without getting into the details, this may be one of the greatest decision I have ever made for a variety of far reaching reasons. It wasn't just a thought that I could do X, it was experienced as a visceral and immediate knowing that I could shape my life as such and seemed to come from well, somewhere that I don't generally have access to outside of experiences like this in meditation.

The above experience is not as common as number one is (and much less frustrating as well!), but regardless I feel stymied. As much as I like solving practical life problems or how nice rapture and pleasure feels, this is not what I am looking for at the end of the day. I am going to continue reading MCTB and hopefully some of ya'll with a little more time on this path can point me in the right direction. I would like to sit longer than I currently am and know that I can if I set my mind to, but I don't know what "to do" once I get the mind to a place where the directed thought and evaluation seem to become superfluous to the concentration.

Again, I am overjoyed to have found a group of Buddhists who seem to be acting on some assumptions I was beginning to become rather self-righteously convinced (read: "whiny and annoying" lol) I was the only one who held to!

-N
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana (Answer)

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Nathan Frank:
1. The rapture/pleasure feels, well, very pleasurable and I don't know what to do next and this frustration "bumps me offline".
You could try cultivating equanimity in the midst of the elation. Straight noting practice as described in MCTB is likely to be effective, too.
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Nathan Frank, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 5 Join Date: 4/7/12 Recent Posts
fivebells .:
You could try cultivating equanimity in the midst of the elation. Straight noting practice as described in MCTB is likely to be effective, too.


Thanks! I read the article and greatly appreciated a number of distinctions the author made. Particularly that equanimity isn't indifference, but the ability to see both pleasant and unpleasant experience without trying to distort or deny it. As a person in recovery for alcohol, drugs, and compulsive sexual behavior I am all too aware of my tendencies towards trying to "escape" or "deny" or "control" unpleasant sensations through aversion, but until now never realized how these tendencies may be manifesting in my mediation practice. Thank you for helping me to see this.

I also read the sections on noting in MCTB and have a suspicion that this may be the direction my practice will be trafficking in for the time being. I feel hungry and eager to "get down to business" in my practice rather than sitting around trying to get "high" off of mental states. I am going to try for the time being to forget pursuing other jhanic states and use what I have to work towards insight into the three characteristics through noting practice. We'll see what happens! Fortunately I will have plenty of time to work on this over the next six months as I am leaving in ten days on a 2600 mile hike from Mexico to Canada with my girlfriend. -N
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Hey, glad you got something out of the book.

A few things:

The first jhana leads to the second jhana just by staying in it and paying attention to exactly what is going on: the staying with it is the concentration, and as its faults are seen, and as they other ability to let it happen more on its own develop, it will eventually shift to 2nd.

However, if what is going on is A&P-territory, which it could also be, then what happens next is Dissolution, which does feel like being thrown off one's game and leads to the Dark Night, which can involve frustration, so that is a possibility also.

One way or the other, continued persistent, open, clear, investigative, interested, non-idealistic, inclusive, precise investigation of exactly what is going on is the basis of progress, as better data leads to better outcomes in this game in general terms, so keep that up.

Walking meditation, done really well, and including the movement of the whole body and the space it is in, can be extremely profound practice...

Have a good trip!

Daniel
James E P, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 6/17/11 Recent Posts
Jhana can be a tricky thing, if you are mixing your approaches, i.e. noting, but tend to get more concentrated on your breath and wish to cultivate Jhana, this would be what Buddha regarded as Right Concentration and a full mastery is required for the higher paths (3-4), according to the Sutras, but vipassana, has based on Buddha's method, typically taught after Jhana has been obtained, so if you are now getting Jhana Factors, it may be worthwhile to cultivate a bit of concentration and build from there.

Full absorption in Jhana, will be known only really after the fact, since you can't really observe the Jhana factors (one-pointedness, rapture, bliss, etc) while fully absorbed, due to the level of one-pointed concentration required for full absorption to take place, but the Jhana factors do arise prior to full absorption, for me Piti, is a regular occurrence during meditation, even if I am not aiming for absorption, for instance. Although a Jhana factor or factors are present, the only thing this signifies is the purification of the Hindrance that offsets the factor, it doesn't not imply full Jhana (http://www.dhammacenter.org/the_3_trainings/training_in_mentality/jhana_factors - I.e. Ill Will is offset by Piti) - Although with them arising it does indicate you are close to Jhana.

In order to get full Jhana, continue to concentrate one pointedly and when it's ready, you should get pulled into Jhana, if you chase factors or shift your object of meditative focus, you will lose concentration and may not get fully absorbed.

Longer sessions might help you with some of your session dedicated to building concentration, you might want to instead of doing 2x20 minutes sessions, do a 40 minute, 20 minutes pure concentration then switch to insight. If you indeed get to first Jhana, fully absorbed, then take time to stay there and master it before moving on, typically if you do not do this and try to hit the 2nd Jhana (which involves the dropping of the more coarse Jhana factors - a greater refinement), both will fade and you will be back in access concentration.

Now in order to keep Jhana you need to maintain concentration on your meditation object, any application of momentary concentration or directing will create your attention to be lost and bump you out of Jhana.

Best of luck
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Nathan Frank, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 5 Join Date: 4/7/12 Recent Posts
Thank you both for taking the time to give me feedback. I am really grateful that this forum exists as I am not currently part of a sangha and therefore don't have anyone to talk to about this besides my partner who also practices. What I am going to take away from both of your suggestions is to not worry so much about what I am going to label the experience as, but to to continue to strengthen, cultivate, and stay with the concentration for longer and deeper periods of time.

As far as vipassana practice is concerned, I admit I am a T-O-T-A-L newb. I was introduced to what is referred to on this website as "hardcore meditation" primarily through the teachings of the Thai Forest tradition. From what I gather, this tradition appears to be more jhana oriented than insight oriented. I am growing steadily more interested and open to any ways I might be able to come to see the three characteristics of experience first hand in my meditation. If this is what vipassana is about, where the do I sign up? :lol


If anyone reading with appropriate experience cares to indulge me in one more IMPORTANT question, I would be VERY grateful. Please keep in mind that the following question is very hard for me to ask as it is something I don't generally talk about.

I oftentimes I feel a sense of "presure" or "expanding and contracting energy" where the third eye is said to be while meditating. Sometimes I feel this in my hands too. It is as if some form of energy is radiating out of them and they are pulsating or aglow. It has an almost tangible quality to it. The only analogous experience I have to compare it to is from when I younger and involved with a Pentecostal church that practiced "the laying on of hands" and being "slain in the spirit".

Lately I have been trying to conjure this "energy" up at will and, not to sound crazy, I feel it in my third eye as I write this. I know I am not imagining this, but I have NO idea what this is all about. To run the risk of sounding delusional or grandiloquent, this experience has on a few occasions been accompanied by a sense of "absolute certainty" or "absolute faith" that this energy could do things that are miraculous. The first time this happened was when I was at a Pentacostal church with my brother. I felt this energy well up in my hands and just "knew" that he would drop like a rag doll to the floor if I touched him. In order to test it I snuck up behind him and lightly touched his shoulder. Sure enough I felt what I can only refer to as a "transfer" and he dropped. That was nearly fifteen years ago and I have done my best to push it out of my memory since it is something of a non sequitor. I am a rather level headed, rational minded guy for the most part, but all I can say regarding this is WTF?! I've done more than my fair share of LSD as a teen, but have been sober for over two years and practicing Buddhism for one and have no idea what to make of this!

-N
James E P, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Bumped Offline from First Jhana

Posts: 31 Join Date: 6/17/11 Recent Posts
You're welcome.

Traditional methods and and dry insight, such as Mahasi style noting (for instance, which took off in the West, due to Mahasi's influence) are fine. The reason dry insight is so popular is because some Burmese people were abusing concentration, getting "caught within" so to speak and therefore there was a movement out of developing heavy concentration, due to this. Dan speaks of the dangers of getting "addicted" to Jhana in MCTB. Having said this, just be aware that deep concentration is a tool use to pierce reality. Buddha said he found awakening by neither stopping nor by moving, meaning he stopped flightiness of mind and didn't get caught in the deep bliss of Samadhi. Typcailly he would teach concentration first, but pure insight is sufficient for awakening. My suggestion is depending on your practice do a concentration session and an insight session if you do 2 or more and/or divide a session into anapanasati and vipassana (or concentration and insight) in 2 halves. Ajahn Chah has remarked that concentration leads to insight, insight leads to concentration, but the higher paths require a mastery of concentration.

In my experience, yes you can manipulate energy under the right circumstances, in application though it's unimportant. If you are noting, I would note the sensations and move on, no benefit getting caught up in it or trying to manipulate it explicitly, let things unfold as they would.