Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Micheal Kush, modified 9 Years ago.

Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 34 Join Date: 6/6/12 Recent Posts
I've been meditating for a couple months now usually developing metta and mindfulness of breathing meditation. Recently, i have attempted to gain concentration by focusing on my breath following through the nostrils. So far as i became more successful, there would arise a subtle calmness and my forehead would sort of get little warm and ive noticed from reading many threads that this is a sign close to entering acess concentration. What is that i should do to induce rapture or bliss? Also, as i became aware of this sensation, i became sceptical of its occurrence because i didnt want to deiceive myself into thinking it was jhana if it wasnt. And it must be noted that my breath becomes quite shallow after this point. So, what can i do to progress forward.

And out of curiousity because i have never expierenced jhana snd became fascinated by the supreme bliss that is articulated, is the bliss really so enduring and pleasurable that it almost out do's everything?? One post i readsaid that it surpassed ohyscadelics and other things, can you please tell me your input of these expierences?

Thanks, Mike
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Micheal Kush:
So far as i became more successful, there would arise a subtle calmness and my forehead would sort of get little warm and ive noticed from reading many threads that this is a sign close to entering acess concentration. (...) And out of curiousity because i have never expierenced jhana snd became fascinated by the supreme bliss that is articulated, is the bliss really so enduring and pleasurable that it almost out do's everything?? One post i readsaid that it surpassed ohyscadelics and other things, can you please tell me your input of these expierences?


Hi Mike,

If you're looking for this type of experience, it's unlikely that the current model that you use (by which you think you're close to access concentration) will help you very much. There are some very different takes on what jhana is...the take according to which access concentration comes easily (rather than being a fairly profound attainment) is a take that calls a variety of uninspiring experiences (compared to what you're looking for) "jhana".

A better reference for access concentration may be Stage 10 from here: http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

As for how to attain jhana, or more information about it, the best resource would probably be a teacher skilled in it; barring that, there are a variety of books by mainstream (orthodox Theravadin) authors which might be helpful. I haven't read much in this regard so can't make a definitive recommendation, but I skimmed "Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana and found it to be very clear and down-to-earth.

Since you mentioned psychedelics, here is a brief article someone wrote: http://www.realitysandwich.com/jhanas_meditative_absorptions

Keep in mind that the author is not describing jhana (EDIT: according to the orthodox Theravadin / Visuddhimagga model, anyway), but some kind of pre-jhanic state. Also, his opinions about jhana are merely that.
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Thom W, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Hi Mike

I would second the advice of EiS, that if you're serious about deepening your jhana practice, find a teacher.
Mindfulness in plain English is a good resource (and available for free - google it) but doesn't compare to "Practicing the Jhanas" by Tina Rasmussen and Steven Snyder. I posted about this last week in this thread.

The chapter on territory before the arising of 1st jhana would be good material for where you suggest you are at.

Regarding your question about the bliss - it is highly subjective. You can use jhana to enter into states of unimaginable quiet, joy, yes bliss...and if it is your longing to do so, then this awaits you. Eventually, you will have to see through this or it just becomes another platform to stage the drama of delusion (avidya), but skillful means it certainly can be.

To say that jhana "surpasses psychedelics" is again somewhat meaningless, what criteria were they using to evaluate this statement? What were they looking for? Wow factor? Insight? Bliss? All the above can come from both - although the patient cultivation of jhana is way more practical and useful and powerful long term. It can however be very effectively combined with careful and intentional use of psychedelics - low levels are in general more practical for this work than higher doses, as the changes in consciousness that they effect can be more easily "worked with" and integrated. High level doses can create experiences so "other" that they can be hard to integrate. And, rather crucially, you risk doing yourself damage by subjecting yourself and your nervous system to things that you can't handle. (By that I mean can create deep level aversion and trauma in the psyche that leaves one more fragmented than before - a very real possibility).

Jhanaic states can be deeply psychedelic as they enable access to levels (or strata) of mind that usually remain "subconscious". Psychedelic does after all mean "mind manifesting". The opening to normally-hidden spheres of mind and psyche is a classic function of psychedelics - the softening (or temporary dissolution) of habitual boundaries in the mind stream. Stan Grof's "LSD Psychotherapy" is a very well informed and supported therapeutic discussion of this. The deeper absorptions and formless jhanas can be similar to transpersonal states of consciousness that psychedelics can facilitate, depending of course, on set and setting (causes and conditions).

Once you become skillful in these realms using "natural" consciousness the psychedelic experience loses its drama somewhat - if you want to become a morphing sphere of light and explore different vibratory realms then you just sit on your cushion.

The path of combining the two is an interesting one indeed, if rather unchartered territory - there is precious little good writing on this from people who really know both paths coupled with a deep level of fundamental insight. The level of insight means that whatever is discussed can be framed effectively with regard to how effective it can be on the path to decreasing fundamental suffering, which is basically what we're all trying to do whether we know it or not.

To summarise, although there are certain frequencies or dimensions of experience that seem almost unique to certain psychedelics, in general, it is all there waiting for you if you purify the mind stream enough with simple practices done to the right amount, with the right guidance from someone who knows their stuff.

Keep up the jhana practice, use the clarity to penetrate moment to moment experience, and whatever you seek will come.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Thom W:
I would second the advice of EiS, that if you're serious about deepening your jhana practice, find a teacher.
Mindfulness in plain English is a good resource (and available for free - google it) but doesn't compare to "Practicing the Jhanas" by Tina Rasmussen and Steven Snyder.


FYI, "Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English" is a different book than "Mindfulness in Plain English". It's not available online.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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A good online reference regarding jhana is here: http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Ajahn_Brahm_The_Jhanas.htm

However, it may or may not have enough nuts-and-bolts info for you to base a practice off of, all by itself.
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Thom W, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Apologies - I didn't notice the "beyond"...
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
I've been meditating for a couple months now usually developing metta and mindfulness of breathing meditation.
Good. Do you live near monastics you may consult/with whom you may practice?

Recently, i have attempted to gain concentration by focusing on my breath following through the nostrils.
Okay. A gentle point here: concentration develops on its own by your gentle and friendly effort of re-placing the mind back again and again to the anapansati place above the upper lip and between the nostrils. It is just a relaxing exercise of repetition: no matter what thoughts or emotions arise and unless an emergency occurs, one just commits to this simple game during the allotted time.

During anapanasati, one doesn't get involved in the arising and passing emotions and thoughts. This can be hard with emotions. But, with practice and a commitment to self-friendly, gentle effort, then hard emotions stop jumping so intrusively, like a squirrel stops jumping on the door screen when it is given no more peanuts - the thoughts and feelings become less impactful; the mind has increasing equanimity, starts to see that it is more than a megophone for thoughts and feelings.

So far as i became more successful, there would arise a subtle calmness and my forehead would sort of get little warm (...)

Nice. Equanimity often begins felt as pleasant or even delightful, because the volatile sway of thoughts and emotions has reduced and the stability allows one to perceive/cause naturally pleasant sensations. The mind - freeing from its usual encumbrances of hard thoughts and hard feelings - is becoming gently curious to freed up space. It naturally starts to look at sensations happening in the body and mind.

If you practice with a teacher - and the monastics near me have never charged anything, just encouraged proper practice - they can help you shape your mind wholesomely as you cultivate your time outside of anapanasati.

What is that i should do to induce rapture or bliss?
In practice, absorption induces itself, it is out of "your control", exactly like the stomach rises and falls with breath - it happens. One doesn't say, "How do I get my stomach to rise/fall?" What precedes this moment of jhana's own induction is stable equanimity: how you have been just gently re-placing the mind back to the anapanasati spot no matter what thoughts and emotions arise/fall away avails the mind to absorption.

One post i readsaid that it surpassed ohyscadelics and other things, can you please tell me your input of these expierences?
I don't take intoxicants, but it does surpass some sensations I have known. It is unmistakable. That said, it is a tool in meditation: it is not an end-game. So, just like one may have really, really wanted a toy when they were young, gotten it, then played with it exhaustively over time, one finally sees it one day for what it is: a useful toy that provided a wholesome activity but not a treasure in itself. One passes it on to their children knowing the play-training will be beneficial, not the object. Make sense?

The "wanting the bliss of absorption" is normal (emoting). The cognating "how to do it" is normal (thinking). Doing the very very very simple activity of re-placing the mind gently and friendly on its toy (e.g., the anapanasati spot) without judgement and letting every emotion, thought and mental state arise and pass...well, that can be a little hard. The hardest first step can be just suspending the thought and feeling "I want jhana": just set the meditation timer and mind anapanasati.

It is recommended to be gently and to not take coffee/stimulants in these pursuits. Set a time - a gentle, friendly amount and build on it is reasonable effort levels. It is like exercise: steady and gentle, benefits accumulate over time.

Best wishes
Micheal Kush, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 34 Join Date: 6/6/12 Recent Posts
Thanks everybody for offering piece advice. If yu must know, i dont live near any monastics that i know of but i do planning on becoming a monk when the time is ready. My pursuit for jhana and my path to it is from the orthodox theravada. I believe that i need to study more and be careful of sudden mental movements. However a perplexity occurred to me, i am doing both metta and anapasanati. Can jhana arise in both of these if they are sufficiently devleoped? I feel even though the breath is working, my metta meditation hasnt gotten much more better.

So is this possible?
Micheal Kush, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Srry, has gotten exponentially better
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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If yu must know, i dont live near any monastics that i know of but i do planning on becoming a monk when the time is ready. My pursuit for jhana and my path to it is from the orthodox theravada. I believe that i need to study more and be careful of sudden mental movements.

Perhaps you could contact Ven. Yuttadhammo?

He teaches via internet, has many online instructions.


However a perplexity occurred to me, i am doing both metta and anapasanati. Can jhana arise in both of these if they are sufficiently devleoped? I feel even though the breath is working, my metta meditation hasnt gotten much more better.

So is this possible?
Meaning: metta has not improved with anapanasati practice?

Here is my experience: anapanasati cultivates equanimity and concentration. From this, the mind can cause its own jhana (and the practioner's "job" is to offer gentle effort in a regular practice of anapanasati and the rest happens as is natural: jhana arises on its own).

Metta - is both a practice of concentration (focusing on the well-being of self and others) and it is a natural component of jhana. Aka: jhana is a natural aspect of adept metta. It is very similar to the pure listening of hospice chaplaincy for end-of-life visits.

So, that anapanasati (concentration) is developing well and metta is slower/not so adept/stagnating (at both a concentration and absorptive level) I think that could be, yes, normal for some people.

I would look to your daily sati -- do you have mitto (friend, basis of "metta") in dishes? In laundry? In clothing? In passersby? Mitto does not have to be outgoing volition seeking contact -- meaning it does not need to smile at everyone, for example. It can be "surface" mitto (this does not mean superficial mitto): where you just keep checking to see if your mind-volition is basically neutral-receptive, are the sense-consciousness' welcome to be sensed or are they being occluded by thought-assumptions. Is aversion being seen with neutral receptivity or shunned? Is attraction being seen in neutral-mitto or shunned or aggressively invited?

When cushion-work is stalling, I look to daily sati, because most of my day is not on the cushion. Daily sati is a huge chance for meditation, and it is also a gentle practice, not strained.

Does this make sense?
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Further,
I feel even though the breath is working, my metta meditation hasnt gotten much more better.

If stalling metta is giving you concern, that's ok. For this one practices paramitas. Generosity helps overcome greed and khanti helps with impatience and aversion, building a base for good, non-jhana metta, for example.
Wikipedia:
In the Pāli canon's Buddhavaṃsa[3] the Ten Perfections (dasa pāramiyo) are (original terms in Pāli):
Dāna pāramī : generosity, giving of oneself
Sīla pāramī : virtue, morality, proper conduct
Nekkhamma pāramī : renunciation
Paññā pāramī : transcendental wisdom, insight
Viriya (also spelled vīriya) pāramī : energy, diligence, vigour, effort
Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
Sacca pāramī : truthfulness, honesty
Adhiṭṭhāna (adhitthana) pāramī : determination, resolution
Mettā pāramī : loving-kindness
Upekkhā (also spelled upekhā) pāramī : equanimity, serenity
Two of the above virtues, metta and upekkha also comprise two of the four immeasurables (brahmavihāra).

For me, full jhana arose by and during daily sati, and sati of the foundations of mindfulness in daily life, and this makes its metta component notable, though it is hard to say it is volitional. Volition and intent prior to jhana (such as in daily sati) seem key, and when jhana induces itself, it is clear that it is exuding well-beingness/wellness.

edit:
So, until metta arises clearly, then there are the paramitas to apply in your life, there is daily sati via the four foundations, and there is anapansati on the cushion. This is plenty of training. But if you get in touch with Ven. Yuttadhammo, I think his advice will be the thing to follow.
Micheal Kush, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 34 Join Date: 6/6/12 Recent Posts
Oh im sorry for the misconception. My metta practice has actually gotten much better. Typo lol.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Micheal Kush:
Oh im sorry for the misconception. My metta practice has actually gotten much better. Typo lol.



okay. a change in one minute. fast.

here is this monk again, Yuttadhammo, on meditation and momentness and the naturalness, the natural accumulation of skill, the gentle moment to moment practice. of the practice (versus prescribed hours and schedule). to follow every experience, moment to moment, no force to study oneself

His name means something like Composed of Dhamma, truth from within. He is theravadan and in sri lanka in case you pursue you monastic interest
Micheal Kush, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 34 Join Date: 6/6/12 Recent Posts
So after reviewing and taking some advice, i believe i stumbled upon something during meditation. As i meditated, following the breath there arose a strong pressure on the bridge of my nose and it seemed to embody it. It wasnt of any particular factor like warmth/cold, pleasure/pain just a neutral feeling. Remembering that i read a post asking about the same description and wondered if theres any signifigance to forward my attention to that sensation?

Also, i know that im not suppose to drop the breath but maintain concentration while being mindful if the sensation. However, out of curiousity and just for expirementation, i decided to drop it and follow the sensation. I ended the session with nothing attained because my time expired.

Though i do have questions, is that sensation of any particular signifigance? And am i totally to remain on the breath as the sensation persists? And if you must know, my breath became more subtle throughout this phase, very hard to pinpoint.

Best wishes, mike
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Micheal Kush:
So after reviewing and taking some advice, i believe i stumbled upon something during meditation. As i meditated, following the breath there arose a strong pressure on the bridge of my nose and it seemed to embody it. It wasnt of any particular factor like warmth/cold, pleasure/pain just a neutral feeling. Remembering that i read a post asking about the same description and wondered if theres any signifigance to forward my attention to that sensation?

Also, i know that im not suppose to drop the breath but maintain concentration while being mindful if the sensation. However, out of curiousity and just for expirementation, i decided to drop it and follow the sensation. I ended the session with nothing attained because my time expired.

Though i do have questions, is that sensation of any particular signifigance? And am i totally to remain on the breath as the sensation persists? And if you must know, my breath became more subtle throughout this phase, very hard to pinpoint.

Best wishes, mike

Here is a good example of developing metta in conjunction with your concentration practice.

The pressure in the nose thing: you want to know if it's significant, right?

Well, I'll say that I've commonly felt a little 'click' in my sinuses when in meditation, and then the sinuses seem to open. Is it significant? Well, I know that it has regularly happened, and I think it relates to some aspect of my practice. I do not think all meditators should or would feel a sinus click. Not significant and not non-significant. It just has happened. May not happen tomorrow.

There are a lot of sensations that are perceived during mediation. It is easy to gratify oneself with sensations and use this pleasurable gratification to avoid/shun other arising thoughts and feelings. This is why it is good to meditate when you feel irritated and tired after eating a heavy meal (I refer to your other thread here): those unpleasant sensations are bringing up actual feelings and thoughts to which you are playing the aversive bouncer at the door of the Gratification Pleasure Bar ,"Get lost you irritated feelings arising from overeating heaviness and tiredness. Go bloat, be gone! My meditation is for gratifying, pleasure feelings!"

Here is what is significant in this post, in my opinion: wanting to measure significance. The desire to value-measure this experience. If the experience "is significant" you will feel some gratification. If it is not significant, what will you feel?

It is totally natural to want to value measure many things in life, and it has an apt and skillful use. For example, addicts-in-recovery are encouraged to hang out with people who are also addicts-in-recovery versus active addicts.

But in meditation, value-measuring an experience as "significant/insignificant" is not necessary, may hinder insight and may be dangerous.

Not necessary: it's just not necessary to measure events going across the mind. It is necessary to observe the connection one has to events (such as, the want-connection to gratifying thought-feelings and the not-want connection to disappointing thought-feelings) crossing the mind.

May hinder: measuring experiences in meditation (versus just paying attention to them with neutral-metta awareness) is causing one to overlook what else is happening. One is trying only to meditate when the mind feels its own conditions of pleasure. One is gratifying themselves when meditation feels good and avoiding meditation when it doesn't look very gratifying. This is a fine way for a beginner to start. You know, kayakers start in nice conditions, but if they keep kayaking off the coasts of England, say, they really should take a BCU 4-start training on a few really shitty days or not kid themselves into thinking they are a 4-star paddler...

may be dangerous: ...one skillful consequence of a concentration practice like anapanasati is it develops equanimity in regards to all thoughts and emotions arising and passing from the mind. In paying attention to physical sensations you can create many senstation-based experiences: See Bhante Yuttadhammos' youtube talks on coffee and on astral body. When a meditator develops ability in sensations without equanimity in their own arising thoughts and emotions, dangerous releases may happen during the exploration of sensations. It can cause a psychotic break.

So, it's skillful to have observed the sensation in the nose/subtle breathing, and its very skillful to acknowledge any emotions and thoughts that are attached to that experience and are otherwise generally arising and passing in the mind.


There's also the subtle danger of not dealing with everything that arises and passes in meditation with metta-equanimity: one wastes their time and remains in delusion.

Makes sense?
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

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Also, when Bhante Y replies to your inquiry, I do prefer (here's that wanting emotion) to bow out. I think (here's that thinking), based on your goals and a general wisdom that it's good to have one source of guidance at a time (which guiding person you may analyze and evaluate, not just have blind faith) - and, without knowing this monk personally, think he probably has "significantly" more depth of experience that I (There's my own speculative measuring)

Good luck with your practice. Thank you for the dialogue.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Trouble with jhanas, need answers

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
And, knowing you've mentioned your metta is betta' now, I add anyway,

Metta gets betta' when one attends care-fully their own emotions and discomforts, like a hospice nurse takes up the entire patient, sores and all, not shunning any unsavory signs and symptoms. This is letting hindrances die with dignity, in a calm attendant light of mind (and yet training to let not the hindrances take action outside of the mind, where its nurse attends it carefully-- a challenging practice)

So, when I start a metta practice for someone specifically, I start with observing thoroughly what thoughts and emotions arise in me when the concept of them arises/when actually in their company.

Ok, Micheal Kush, best wishes.

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