First formal practice, stuff happened

Alex  , modified 9 Years ago.

First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 3 Join Date: 5/13/12 Recent Posts
So a few days ago I was searching for a practical book to introduce myself to meditation and luckily MCTB was just what I was looking for. I got a few pages in and read through The Three Trainings chapters, then decided to have a go at "access concentration" and begin daily practice right away.

I didn't restrict how long my practice should be. I just sat down on the floor, took a big yawn to let my breath flow naturally and started concentrating on it. I had thoughts but none of them were "active" enough to make me forget that I'm supposed to be observing my breath. They were more like occasional mumblings in the background ("your foot is numb" or "saliva"). In about 20 minutes I noticed my body was feeling heavy. My limbs seemed to be in some kind of "sleep mode". I could pop them back into wakefulness by moving, but I was too embraced into the laziness of it all and had no intention to do it. My eyelids were twitching from time to time. After a while the darkness behind my eyelids seemed to have gained depth. It started pulsating like I'm getting sucked into it. The back of my head was buzzing or vibrating in a very low tone (like a bass sound). I didn't know if I was either hearing or feeling it. I was getting excited and was hoping this wouldn't ruin it. After a few breaths the buzzing turned into a moderately intense (but not unpleasant) goosebumps/tingling which quickly spread from my head/neck throughout the whole body. It lasted only a few seconds though. I stood up and ended my 40 minute adventure.

I have actually felt this multiple times before, the first being around an year ago while I was messing around with lucid dreaming. If I wasn't too tired at night, I'd try to either directly enter a dream or just fall asleep trying to. Sometimes this would lead to the buzzing and intense tingling. I thought all of this was just me nearing sleep paralysis but never quite reaching it because of my excitement. Now that I experienced it while meditating though, I'm not sure what to make out of it.

The next day after my first "formal meditation" I spent 80 minutes trying to reach it again. The environment wasn't very meditation-friendly though and I got interrupted/distracted a few times. I always seemed to catch a faint glimpse of the tingling, but lose it right before it really happened. All of this was annoyingly aggravating. My leg was numb and my posture was uncomfortable. I was tempted to stand up but was curious to see how long it takes to get to the tingling sensation. In the end it was very short and mildly intense but it was enough for me to finally let go and stand up.


You can imagine how confusing all of this is to a new meditator. I don't know if I should begin insight meditation. I'm not even sure if I have access concentration. There isn't any place around here to go and have a down-to-earth chat about this stuff either, so I'm on my own. And MCTB of course :-)
Alex  , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 3 Join Date: 5/13/12 Recent Posts
Last night this thing packed quite a punch. I was falling asleep, my mind was a mess. I was wrapping my head around the Three Characteristics chapters I just read about. I even tried testing them on whatever I find, a slight buzzing, breath, heartbeat, etc. Not constant? Yes. Not me? Yup. It didn't seem to work very well though. I ended up trying to remember any dreams from the other night. All of a sudden I thought "hey, is that pleasantness?" and a few moments later - BOOM, intense tingling. It lasted a bit longer than usual.When it began calming down I was thinking I lost it, but it actually just stood there along with the pleasantness for a while. Later I tried sleeping again but I was shivering. It took a few hours to finally fall asleep.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
A&P. Read the standard warnings and advice and proceed well-informed.

Daniel
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Welcome to the DhO, Alex.

I'm not even sure if I have access concentration. There isn't any place around here to go and have a down-to-earth chat about this stuff either, so I'm on my own. And MCTB of course :-)

If you're stuck for people to talk with about this stuff with then you've come to right place!

As for access concentration, you might find this article I wrote to be of use to you.
Alex  , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 3 Join Date: 5/13/12 Recent Posts
Your article was helpful for making things about access concentration more clear. I tried the breath-counting technique today for about 15 sets. I couldn't help but ask myself though, what does getting distracted actually mean? Losing/forgetting count, or noticing something else while simultaneously keeping track of the count? The former seems ridiculously easy to avoid.
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Adam L, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 45 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Alex  :
The former seems ridiculously easy to avoid.


Speaking personally, I can say that in the beginning of my practice (and still at times, depending on life circumstances), losing track of the count can be done quite easily emoticon Lately, when establishing concentration via breath counting, I'll restart my count if I'm not mindful of (nearly) the entire in- and out- breath. Establishing access to jhana happens in far fewer than 15 sets if I remain mindful of the entire breath, even if awareness is centered only on a single feature of the breath (e.g. the sensation at the nostrils), as opposed to the breath in the larger context of the experience.

EDIT: I should note that counting can be done in an almost autonomic way (which, if you've ever done repetitive tasks that involve counting, like weight training, you'll get what I mean). In this case, one is not establishing concentration and thus the effectiveness of the technique of counting breaths is largely diminished. In my opinion, the quality of one's execution of the technique, and thus its effectiveness for establishing access concentration, can be measured by how singularly one is focused on discerning the individual sensations involved in (an aspect of) the breath.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Adam L:
I should note that counting can be done in an almost autonomic way (which, if you've ever done repetitive tasks that involve counting, like weight training, you'll get what I mean). In this case, one is not establishing concentration and thus the effectiveness of the technique of counting breaths is largely diminished. In my opinion, the quality of one's execution of the technique, and thus its effectiveness for establishing access concentration, can be measured by how singularly one is focused on discerning the individual sensations involved in (an aspect of) the breath.

Excellent observation and something definitely worth being aware of, thanks for highlighting this 'cause it's a really good point. You should be aware of the entire breath in each phase of the cycle, "be" the breath; if you become concentrated enough this can lead to some very interesting experiences for shattering the illusion of continuity...just remember the 3C's and see things clearly. emoticon
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: First formal practice, stuff happened

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Glad that was of use to you.

I couldn't help but ask myself though, what does getting distracted actually mean? Losing/forgetting count, or noticing something else while simultaneously keeping track of the count? The former seems ridiculously easy to avoid.

I would describe "distracted" as being when you lose the object entirely, for example: if you get caught up with the inner narrative, or if some particular mental fantasy draws your attention from the breath for x amount of time, that, in my experience, is being distracted. It's noticing that you were distracted that tells you you're back where you want to be.

If you want to get into jhana, stay with the breath/count itself; it you're doing insight practice, the breath is the anchor which allows you to safely explore, just notice whatever else is arising at that moment and come back to the breath if you get distracted or spooked; imagine you're learning to swim at the local pool, you gradually learn to move out a little further from the edge until you're able to stay afloat by yourself. In this case, the breath is the edge of the pool away from which you can move as you become more confident and skilled, which in this case would be your ability to investigate with clarity and accuracy.

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