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Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?

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Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 1/23/10 9:28 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 1/24/10 3:35 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 1/24/10 4:36 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 1/25/10 4:09 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 1/25/10 11:09 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Ian And 1/27/10 1:40 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 1/27/10 8:17 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Ian And 1/28/10 9:51 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Ian And 1/25/10 12:10 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eran G 1/26/10 12:50 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Florian 1/26/10 5:14 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eran G 1/27/10 5:19 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eran G 1/28/10 3:51 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Florian 1/29/10 12:29 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 1/30/10 7:46 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 1/31/10 4:33 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eran G 1/31/10 5:02 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 1/31/10 8:10 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 2/2/10 8:10 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 2/3/10 11:02 AM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? J Adam G 2/3/10 1:57 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 2/3/10 6:31 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 2/4/10 10:09 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eran G 2/3/10 1:40 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 1/31/10 7:34 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? ManZ A 2/2/10 7:43 PM
RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana? Eric B 2/3/10 10:43 AM
I've been focusing mainly on samatha meditation so that it may be easier to do the vipassana portion of the path. The only time I try to practice vipassana is off cushion (eg. when I'm walking or eating). From what I've read, mastering the samatha jhanas makes the path of vipassana easier to traverse (and vice versa?). Honestly, so far I can say I've attained to access concentration. The signs that I take to make this claim are that it is easier to stay on the breath due to less mental chatter, I'm not trying to control the breath all the time consciously (or without knowing it) anymore, and it is almost always accompanied by blissful sensations in both mind and body (but really what is prominent is blissful bodily sensations). Any feedback on this would be great too.

The books that I'm using are only MHCTB and "Practicing the Jhanas" by Steven Snyder and Tina Rasmussen, two westerners who seem to have had success with the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw's instructions. Anyways, according to this book you're supposed to see a light (nimitta) that emerges when your concentration deepens as you stay on the breath as it flows in and out in the "anapana" spot. Not sure whether I'm doing this wrong or not, but I've seen no sign of any nimitta. Does anyone else see a light that supposedly emerges when your concentration deepens between access concentration and first jhana? This meditation doesn't seem too different from any others I've heard about samatha.

Another thing I've noticed is that as my concentration deepens and my awareness seemingly draws closer to absorption, a feeling of fear emerges. I've connected this with the fear of losing the self. It really hinders me when I really start to focus more and more on the breath. Is this common? I've experienced this same fear while doing other things as well. A few years ago, I've tried to consciously induce OBEs and as I recall I failed to have one due to this fear. That was kind of understandable in a way I think. It occurred during sleep paralysis, when you supposedly can roll out of body. During this state, everything seems to be vibrating (it would be a great time for vipassana I think, since I wake up in sleep paralysis sometimes) and as soon as it seems like I'm about to leave body, my fear rolls in and I force my self awake. I'm assuming the best cure for this problem in samatha is to keep practicing though. Just wanted to share my experience. Hope to hear if you have any feedback. emoticon

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/24/10 3:35 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
First, the debate about samatha before vipassana or just straight vipassana is a very old one that shows up a lot.

There are various schools of thought, and each person is different. While there is no right answer, I can tell you that personally I had terrible samatha abilities up until I got stream entry, but I could see stuff come and go really well moment to moment and that got me stream entry.

Once I had stream entry, within a few days I could get all 8 jhanas initial jhanas with curious ease.

Thus, I had both, and did it with really crappy samatha skills.

Others may have had different experiences, but I can tell you you don't need samatha to get stream entry.

As to blissful stuff: most likely A&P.

As to fear as we get deeper, reminds me of 3rd vipassana jhana, though some will have some fear of the wider openings of even the 3rd samatha jhana.

The sleep paralysis-vibe thing is pretty much creepy to everyone who I know who has had it happen, including me. I wouldn't worry about it.

Fear that prevent a full OBE is also common. Look up the Accidental Expert's guide for more on this in the wiki.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/24/10 4:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for your response Daniel. But do you think that it can go the other way as well by having good samatha ability vipassana may be easier? The reason I'm scared to do vipassana is due to the Dark Night stuff, and I can't afford to have to go through all of the potential effects since this year I'm going to be applying to schools and taking exams and such. I understand it's different for everybody, but I don't know how I'll experience it. To be honest I get this urge to do vipassana sometimes I sit down to do samatha as if I can't take it and want it to end. I'm starting to have to change my agenda from samatha to vipassana often. Perhaps retreat might be the best option.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/25/10 12:10 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
Hello ManZ,

You bring up some interesting points from your experience that suggest that you may be mistaken in some of your determinations/discernments. I'll address one aspect of your post (concerning the light nimitta) here, but will have to return when I have more time to better address the other aspects you brought up.

Nimitta can come in different forms, not only visual but also sensual, meaning as a sensation. If you're not getting any visual nimitta, don't worry about it. Just pay attention to whatever arises, be it visual or a sensation.

Personally, I find visual nimitta a distraction and not a very reliable source (just my personal take on this) as a person can tend to play mind games with themselves using visual nimittas. When they arise I usually don't pay any attention to them.

What I have noticed from my life's experience is that when my mind becomes acutely concentrated, that I will generally feel a sensation like pressure building in the center of my forehead, at a point between and above the eye brows. It's not quite a headache, but can take on the characteristics of one. I use this sensation in the same way as a nimitta, indicating that the mind is concentrated on whatever object or subject I am observing. As my practice has matured, I noticed that my attention is clearer and discernment of phenomena is heightened during these states. That's a pretty good indication (to me at least) that my concentration is on high beam.

No matter what nimitta you intend on using as a guide (be it visual or sensual), always look to your experience of the state itself to endeavor to determine the depth of your concentration. Your mind should be steady, established, malleable, clear, workable, and imperturbable when placed on an object or subject. When the mind becomes that firmly fixed and unified on an object or subject, insight can arise quite naturally of its own accord.

In Peace,
Ian

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/25/10 4:09 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
One more thing to consider: The chances of you being below the A&P and still being this into all these questions and poking around hardcore dharma sites like this one is pretty low. In other words, the chances of you already being in the Dark Night and not knowing it is pretty high.

It is possible you just somehow got really into the dharma, or were raised in that tradition and so are that engaged with it, but most don't engage with it like you are until the cross the A&P or are in the A&P, as suggested.

Thus, I wouldn't worry about the Dark Night thing, as I suspect you are already there.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/25/10 11:09 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for that clarification on the nimitta Ian. Now that you put it like that, I can say I have similar if not about the same experience as you do in regards to the pressure building in the center of the forehead. I have gotten this quite often, but I've never seen a visual nimitta. So perhaps this is my nimitta? Well in either case I'll use your advice of using the experience of the state in order to determine the depth of my concentration. Most of the time when I notice signs like the pressure building between the brows, I tend to get distracted and start thinking about what it means.

That's interesting you should say that Daniel. I've considered the possibility of already being in the Dark Night, but I can't recall any wild experience I've had (or maybe I did have one and shrugged it off as nothing). My meditation hasn't gone too deep either as the most I can say I've attained is access concentration. I've practiced vipassana "informally", in that I do practice it alot off cushion, but not to the point where I can see 10 or more sensations per second. When I read the section about the Dark Night in MHCTB, the "symptoms" seemed to fit well enough. Honestly, it could possibly be that somehow I got really into the dhamma (which I am into a lot). This might be a good place to mention, one of the reasons I'm practicing. It could be considered kind of like an experience that I had, but not exactly. It's not an experience I had, but an experience I ALWAYS have. It's like this awareness that is so crystal clear, it seems to pervade everything. I honestly have no idea how to describe it at all. It's there every waking moment of my life. It gives the sense as if "God" is here or however you want to call it. The best I can say is it's like mindfulness, like I'm doing vipassana every waking moment. Any feedback would be great.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/26/10 12:50 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
What I have noticed from my life's experience is that when my mind becomes acutely concentrated, that I will generally feel a sensation like pressure building in the center of my forehead, at a point between and above the eye brows. It's not quite a headache, but can take on the characteristics of one. I use this sensation in the same way as a nimitta, indicating that the mind is concentrated on whatever object or subject I am observing. As my practice has matured, I noticed that my attention is clearer and discernment of phenomena is heightened during these states. That's a pretty good indication (to me at least) that my concentration is on high beam.


Ian,

I've seen the description of the pressure in the forehead and it's usually been associated with Access Concentration. It's definitely been my sign post the couple of times I think I've hit Access Concentration. But with the lack of a visual nimitta or a tactile one (as described by Bhikkhu Sona in http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html), how do you then proceed to enter jhana? Most nimitta-based instructions tell you to focus on the nimitta but what does one do without one?

Thanks!
Eran.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/26/10 5:14 PM as a reply to Eran G.
Hi Eran,

Eran G:
... with the lack of a visual nimitta or a tactile one (as described by Bhikkhu Sona in http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html), how do you then proceed to enter jhana? Most nimitta-based instructions tell you to focus on the nimitta but what does one do without one?


Here's an analogy I find helpful: Jhanas are shy, wild animals. They can be attracted with some bait (stable concentration). To look at these strange beasts, I can't go poking and beating at the undergrowth in the place I last saw it: that will just keep it away (i.e. can't strain to enter jhana). Instead, I have to be quiet and attract it with the bait. Once it approaces, I can't hold on to the bait too tightly, or it won't be able to nibble at it and instead go away again; I can't let go entirely either, because it would just run off into the undergrowth and eat there.

So I sit, and concentrate real hard, full throttle. Jhana is attracted, or adverted, or whatever you want to call it. Now, I have to ease up just enough on my concentration thrust. This is where nimittas are really useful: by "switching" to the nimitta, I'm releasing the throttle a bit - whoof, jhana! There are other tricks to releasing the stranglehold on concentration without completely dropping it: for example, by looking for the perceived spot of resistance to the full-throttle concentration thrust (for me, "up and to the back" of the eyes), and gradually easing up on the push, inching towards equilibrium so to speak. No nimitta necessary (or if you like, the "resisting brick wall" is the nimitta). Leigh Brasington has another neat trick: smile! Then "switch" to the pleasant sensations of smiling.

Another hint: try a different meditation object. After a long stretch of breath meditation, I tried gazing at a saucer-sized gray cardboard circle for a change, with surprisingly short-term results regarding jhana. My guess is Jhana doesn't like boredom very much, which makes sense to me, as boredom is a form of aversion. Of course, the fairly solid (breath-) meditation practice I had by that time was an important contributing factor as well.

Eww, what a weird bag of tricks and anecdotal evidence. Maybe there's something useful in there.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/27/10 1:40 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
Thanks for that clarification on the nimitta Ian. Now that you put it like that, I can say I have similar if not about the same experience as you do in regards to the pressure building in the center of the forehead. I have gotten this quite often, but I've never seen a visual nimitta. So perhaps this is my nimitta?

Most assuredly it is. If you focus on the pleasantness of the breath during those times, you might stumble into the first absorption (almost by accident).

Check out this thread discussion on another forum for a more detailed treatment of the subtle phenomena of concentration on the breath.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/27/10 5:19 PM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:

Here's an analogy I find helpful: Jhanas are shy, wild animals. They can be attracted with some bait (stable concentration). To look at these strange beasts, I can't go poking and beating at the undergrowth in the place I last saw it: that will just keep it away (i.e. can't strain to enter jhana). Instead, I have to be quiet and attract it with the bait. Once it approaces, I can't hold on to the bait too tightly, or it won't be able to nibble at it and instead go away again; I can't let go entirely either, because it would just run off into the undergrowth and eat there.


Thank you for your reply, Florian. The wild animal analogy initially made me giggle but I find it very helpful in illustrating the process. I think it helps me see the common thread running through the various methods I've seen to reach jhana: getting to strong concentration but also learning to let go of that, a little, at the end and trusting the mind to do the rest. I'll definitely keep it in mind next time I set my bait.

Florian Weps:

There are other tricks to releasing the stranglehold on concentration without completely dropping it: for example, by looking for the perceived spot of resistance to the full-throttle concentration thrust (for me, "up and to the back" of the eyes), and gradually easing up on the push, inching towards equilibrium so to speak. No nimitta necessary (or if you like, the "resisting brick wall" is the nimitta).


I'm not sure I've experienced this resistance or "brick wall" you mention. Can you expand on that a little?

Florian Weps:

Eww, what a weird bag of tricks and anecdotal evidence. Maybe there's something useful in there.


I sometimes think anecdotal evidence is all we have. Some might be based on collections of different anecdotes but it all boils down to personal experiences. I find it very helpful (and sometimes inspiring as well) to hear a direct account of someone's experiences, as opposed to 2000 year old texts translated from an ancient, foreign language so thanks again for sharing your experience!

Eran.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/27/10 8:17 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
ManZ A:
Thanks for that clarification on the nimitta Ian. Now that you put it like that, I can say I have similar if not about the same experience as you do in regards to the pressure building in the center of the forehead. I have gotten this quite often, but I've never seen a visual nimitta. So perhaps this is my nimitta?

Most assuredly it is. If you focus on the pleasantness of the breath during those times, you might stumble into the first absorption (almost by accident).

Check out this thread discussion on another forum for a more detailed treatment of the subtle phenomena of concentration on the breath.


It's interesting you mention focusing on the pleasantness of the breath. Do you mean I should switch my attention and concentration from my breath to the pleasant sensation that arises from concentrating on the breath? Most of the sources I've come across have stated that one should keep their attention and concentration on the breath no matter what arises regarding samatha practice. The other book I'm reading says switching your attention to one of the jhana factors such as bliss or rapture would break up the jhana or keep you from attaining jhana. Perhaps I'll experiment with your suggestion as well. Maybe I'll also try kasinas as well since my awareness tends to stay in my visual field most of the time.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/28/10 9:51 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
Ian And:
ManZ A:
Thanks for that clarification on the nimitta Ian. Now that you put it like that, I can say I have similar if not about the same experience as you do in regards to the pressure building in the center of the forehead. I have gotten this quite often, but I've never seen a visual nimitta. So perhaps this is my nimitta?

Most assuredly it is. If you focus on the pleasantness of the breath during those times, you might stumble into the first absorption (almost by accident).

Check out this thread discussion on another forum for a more detailed treatment of the subtle phenomena of concentration on the breath.


It's interesting you mention focusing on the pleasantness of the breath. Do you mean I should switch my attention and concentration from my breath to the pleasant sensation that arises from concentrating on the breath?

Can you not be aware of both? Since the sensation arises dependent upon the breath, it arises simultaneously with the breath. Therefore, it should be easy to pick up. What you are endeavoring to accomplish with breath meditation is to relax the mind, to settle it down so that it will be at ease. That's what samatha meditation is all about: calming the mind, which results in greater mental clarity and tranquility as well as increased concentration ability. Also, you can use this method to induce absorption, as this is what the Buddha recommended in the Anapanasati Sutta.

If you haven't already, I reiterate that you should read the thread above that I linked to for a more complete treatment of this subject. I'm not going to repeat it here, and you would be doing yourself a disfavor by not doing so.

ManZ A:

Most of the sources I've come across have stated that one should keep their attention and concentration on the breath no matter what arises regarding samatha practice.

And generally, that is good advice as long as one is aiming at calming mental formations. But once the mental formations are calmed, one can then avert the mind toward achieving absorption. Once the mind achieves absorption, it begins to become conditioned by that state, resulting in more mental calm, tranquility, clarity, and higher levels of concentration. This is EXACTLY what you want to be striving to achieve if you wish to practice for awakening using insight meditation.

ManZ A:
The other book I'm reading says switching your attention to one of the jhana factors such as bliss or rapture would break up the jhana or keep you from attaining jhana.

That is simply not true, from my experience. It actually assists the absorption to grow and to continue. Once again, read the thread above that I linked to. It will explain this phenomenon in more detail. That's all I'm going to say.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/28/10 3:51 PM as a reply to Eran G.
OK, may have answered my own question here...

Eran G:

Florian Weps:

There are other tricks to releasing the stranglehold on concentration without completely dropping it: for example, by looking for the perceived spot of resistance to the full-throttle concentration thrust (for me, "up and to the back" of the eyes), and gradually easing up on the push, inching towards equilibrium so to speak. No nimitta necessary (or if you like, the "resisting brick wall" is the nimitta).


I'm not sure I've experienced this resistance or "brick wall" you mention. Can you expand on that a little?


Got into access concentration just now and was trying different ways to let go of the throttle. One of the things I tried to focus on in addition to the breath was the pressure in my forehead. This felt very much like trying to sink my forehead into a brick wall. Strangely, not unpleasant at the moment but I think I can still feel the echo of that.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/29/10 12:29 AM as a reply to Eran G.
Well, there you go - that concentration pressure or thrust in the forehead is what I was referring to.

Another image I find useful to illustrate this is: teaching a kid to ride a bike. I jog along, holding onto the bike, it wobbles this way and that, but as it speeds up it becomes more stable (trust in the physics of torque, i.e. trust in the process of jhana) and I can let go of the bike. I still jog along, of course.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/30/10 7:46 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
How often and for how long do you sit?

I've been doing the jhana practice as taught by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw since December 2009. I went on a retreat that Tina and Stephen, the authors of the excellent “Practicing the Jhanas”, did on this practice over the summer at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center. While I have not yet attained jhana, perhaps I may be of some benefit.

The nimitta in this practice which appears visually to the mind’s eye (as gray smoke, cotton wool, light, “like the morning star”, etc) arises specifically as a result of following the breath at the anapana spot (i.e., beneath the nostrils or above the upper lip. They stress that when undertaking this practice you should use only these instructions and set aside any other jhana practice techniques you may know about. The breath and then the anapana nimitta (or later the white kasina nimitta) is the only thing you take as object; you never change the object or take one of the jhana factors as the object. There are other types of nimittas; Ian discusses them in another post in this thread.

They also note that there are no short cuts or big breakthroughs in this practice. I can attest to that; it often feels like a 3 step forward, 2 steps back (some weeks 2.85 steps back). Some even question the efficacy of this practice to achieve jhana outside the retreat environment, although I remain convinced that it can be done for no reason other than my own steady, albeit at times glacially slow, progress.

I have found that the key to developing this practice is to sit more and longer. I had to extend my sittings over 60 and 70 minutes to really begin to get deeper as opposed to just getting quieter at the same point. They talk about the awareness of the spot becoming an energetic knowing of the spot. This seems to go hand-in-hand with vicara (sustained thought) locking on to it. At this point there is what I call the “Closing the Car Windows” effect ; it’s like that moment when the car window shuts completely and there’s that immediate muffling of the outside sound. These points seem to really require one to letting go ; this “receptive effort” (p.64) is something I’m still working on.

You’re able to stay with the breath (vicara) and some bliss (piti), but no nimitta. Perhaps longer sittings might make a difference.

The authors also have some great talks on the subject at their website, www.jhanasadvice.com, that make great listening for commuting and going to the gym.

I hope this helps.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/31/10 4:33 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Thanks for that thread (and forum) Ian. I've read over the thread and I'll keep the information in mind and apply what was discussed in my practice.

Hi Eric,

I practice for about 30-40 minutes everyday sometimes two or three times. The only reason I haven't increased my practice time is because my legs start to get uncomfortable or I'll experience pain after a while. I've tried to meditate laying down, but I just fall asleep. I tried sitting on a chair, but it's hard to concentrate for some reason in that position. Maybe I just need to try it more often. I haven't tried walking samatha though, I'm not even sure how one would even do this. Wouldn't all your concentration go to your breath and it would be hard to walk if you entered absorption (I may be wrong since I don't know of any time that I entered jhana).

As for the anapana spot, it's really hard to pick one spot and use that consistently every time. They do mention in the book that after your concentration gets stronger it would be easier to locate and stay with one spot. There's also another thing I wanted to discuss, do your eyes move to the spot that your paying attention to as you try to concentrate on it? This seems to be a real distraction, I've noticed that I'm aware of the sensation of the breath, and then there is the image of the spot in my head that appears after it and seems to alternate one after the other. After a while of this my eyes open as they move to "look" at that spot. So really the distraction is the image in my head that forms after each sensation of the breath. It's quite frustrating after a while, but I'm staying with it.

A retreat might be the ideal opportunity and time to do this. So I'm really considering doing one myself. You may be right about trying longer sits, and so I'll try my best to do that as well.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/31/10 5:02 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:

I practice for about 30-40 minutes everyday sometimes two or three times. The only reason I haven't increased my practice time is because my legs start to get uncomfortable or I'll experience pain after a while.


Regarding pain and length of practice, I find that normally my capacity varies quite a lot; sometimes 30m is easy, sometimes I start getting antsy 5m into the practice. This is usually correlated with presence of pain early in the practice. However, I do find that in those times where I have the energy and drive to really focus I start getting (what I think is) waves of piti where suddenly my visual field (with eyes closed) is much brighter, sometimes too bright, my posture suddenly becomes erect without me even trying and almost all presence of pain is gone. When this happens I can easily extend my practice to an hour or until the energy subsides and I get bored. It's also these times that make me want to practice more and longer...

I'd love to hear what your experience has been like so far as far as the 5 factors and such especially at times when you've attained access concentration.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/31/10 7:34 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
I practice for about 30-40 minutes everyday sometimes two or three times. The only reason I haven't increased my practice time is because my legs start to get uncomfortable or I'll experience pain after a while. I've tried to meditate laying down, but I just fall asleep. I tried sitting on a chair, but it's hard to concentrate for some reason in that position. Maybe I just need to try it more often. I haven't tried walking samatha though, I'm not even sure how one would even do this. Wouldn't all your concentration go to your breath and it would be hard to walk if you entered absorption (I may be wrong since I don't know of any time that I entered jhana).


I had orthroscopic surgury on my right knee years ago as a result of trying to sit half lotus when practcing Zen. I've been chair-bound for practice ever since. Stephen and Tina advocate using chairs if needed for longer sits. At the retreat, they switched back and forth between chairs and cushions,

ManZ A:
As for the anapana spot, it's really hard to pick one spot and use that consistently every time. They do mention in the book that after your concentration gets stronger it would be easier to locate and stay with one spot. There's also another thing I wanted to discuss, do your eyes move to the spot that your paying attention to as you try to concentrate on it? This seems to be a real distraction, I've noticed that I'm aware of the sensation of the breath, and then there is the image of the spot in my head that appears after it and seems to alternate one after the other. After a while of this my eyes open as they move to "look" at that spot. So really the distraction is the image in my head that forms after each sensation of the breath. It's quite frustrating after a while, but I'm staying with it.


I used to stare at the spot through my eyelids, practically crossing my eyes while they were closed...if that makes any sense. I was exerting too much effort. I've had major issues with striving and bodily tension. At the end of each out breath I would drop all tension/crossing/straining/whatever, then reconnect with the sensation on the in breath. I did this through trial and error. I never had the exact thing you describe with the after image.

ManZ A:
A retreat might be the ideal opportunity and time to do this. So I'm really considering doing one myself. You may be right about trying longer sits, and so I'll try my best to do that as well.


I try and do three sits in a row with walking in between on Saturday mornings and it is a big help. I've done a couple of weekend retreats since Cloud Mountain and they help alot.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
1/31/10 8:10 PM as a reply to Eran G.
Eran G:

Regarding pain and length of practice, I find that normally my capacity varies quite a lot; sometimes 30m is easy, sometimes I start getting antsy 5m into the practice. This is usually correlated with presence of pain early in the practice. However, I do find that in those times where I have the energy and drive to really focus I start getting (what I think is) waves of piti where suddenly my visual field (with eyes closed) is much brighter, sometimes too bright, my posture suddenly becomes erect without me even trying and almost all presence of pain is gone. When this happens I can easily extend my practice to an hour or until the energy subsides and I get bored. It's also these times that make me want to practice more and longer...

I'd love to hear what your experience has been like so far as far as the 5 factors and such especially at times when you've attained access concentration.


I got intense waves like that for a while. It is piti of the showering variety. I was tensing up against them on the in breath and would "pop out" of mediation. This happened over a period of several weeks. The intensity decreased and I worked on un-tensing myself on the out breath and not tensing up again on the in breath. The whole thing sort of faded to what when I notice it now it is like a hum, but a hum with no sound and kind of just a feeling. Some one told me it was a kundalini experience where energy was working its way through blockages (sounds reasonable to me).

I also used to get tons of what I characterize as non-specific generalized brightness or light. It never turned into a nimitta or any thing else. It just sort of went away and doesn't show up any more.

What you describe though certainly sounds (to me) like the hindrances going into abeyance as the jhana factors emerge and grow stronger--awesome. Where I am now, I can't begin to separate the sukha from the piti, but if sukha eliminates restlessness, and your antsiness/restlessness goes away, I would infer the presence of sukha

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/2/10 7:43 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Eric Bause:
ManZ A:
I practice for about 30-40 minutes everyday sometimes two or three times. The only reason I haven't increased my practice time is because my legs start to get uncomfortable or I'll experience pain after a while. I've tried to meditate laying down, but I just fall asleep. I tried sitting on a chair, but it's hard to concentrate for some reason in that position. Maybe I just need to try it more often. I haven't tried walking samatha though, I'm not even sure how one would even do this. Wouldn't all your concentration go to your breath and it would be hard to walk if you entered absorption (I may be wrong since I don't know of any time that I entered jhana).


I had orthroscopic surgury on my right knee years ago as a result of trying to sit half lotus when practcing Zen. I've been chair-bound for practice ever since. Stephen and Tina advocate using chairs if needed for longer sits. At the retreat, they switched back and forth between chairs and cushions,

ManZ A:
As for the anapana spot, it's really hard to pick one spot and use that consistently every time. They do mention in the book that after your concentration gets stronger it would be easier to locate and stay with one spot. There's also another thing I wanted to discuss, do your eyes move to the spot that your paying attention to as you try to concentrate on it? This seems to be a real distraction, I've noticed that I'm aware of the sensation of the breath, and then there is the image of the spot in my head that appears after it and seems to alternate one after the other. After a while of this my eyes open as they move to "look" at that spot. So really the distraction is the image in my head that forms after each sensation of the breath. It's quite frustrating after a while, but I'm staying with it.


I used to stare at the spot through my eyelids, practically crossing my eyes while they were closed...if that makes any sense. I was exerting too much effort. I've had major issues with striving and bodily tension. At the end of each out breath I would drop all tension/crossing/straining/whatever, then reconnect with the sensation on the in breath. I did this through trial and error. I never had the exact thing you describe with the after image.

ManZ A:
A retreat might be the ideal opportunity and time to do this. So I'm really considering doing one myself. You may be right about trying longer sits, and so I'll try my best to do that as well.


I try and do three sits in a row with walking in between on Saturday mornings and it is a big help. I've done a couple of weekend retreats since Cloud Mountain and they help alot.



Wow then I might need to be more wary since my knee has been hurting (and only my right knee too) for a while as I do sit in half lotus pretty much all the time. I tried meditating on a chair during the past few days and found that I'm able to sit longer as well. Perhaps alternating and trying different sitting positions on the cushion might be the best idea. My mind leans more towards wanting to sit in lotus position since it's often times represented as the "perfect" sitting posture, but realistically this might be harmful in more ways than one.

Anyways, I understand what you mean about the crossing your eyes while they're closed. This is what happens to me, and becomes a distraction only when I become aware of it. I've found that the similes used to show a point about the Middle Way have helped me when I have problems with over or under exerting. The simile about the boat from "Practicing the Jhanas" occurred to me, and after I had taken it into account it helped me see when I was over or under exerting. Usually when I'm overexerting, I tend to get restless and so it becomes hard to concentrate. When I'm not exerting enough I usually start wandering off on thoughts. The best way I've noticed that seems to work for me is simply to accept whatever bodily or mental phenomenon that occurs without considering it as a "hindrance" and return to the breath. After a few minutes of staying with this diligently, my mind starts to calm down and the jhana factors start to become more prominent.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/2/10 8:10 PM as a reply to Eran G.
Eran G:
ManZ A:

I practice for about 30-40 minutes everyday sometimes two or three times. The only reason I haven't increased my practice time is because my legs start to get uncomfortable or I'll experience pain after a while.


Regarding pain and length of practice, I find that normally my capacity varies quite a lot; sometimes 30m is easy, sometimes I start getting antsy 5m into the practice. This is usually correlated with presence of pain early in the practice. However, I do find that in those times where I have the energy and drive to really focus I start getting (what I think is) waves of piti where suddenly my visual field (with eyes closed) is much brighter, sometimes too bright, my posture suddenly becomes erect without me even trying and almost all presence of pain is gone. When this happens I can easily extend my practice to an hour or until the energy subsides and I get bored. It's also these times that make me want to practice more and longer...

I'd love to hear what your experience has been like so far as far as the 5 factors and such especially at times when you've attained access concentration.


I've found this to be true for me as well. The hardest times for me to try and practice is when I'm restless. I can't even get up enough willpower to go and sit most of the time when it's present.

My most recent entry into 'access concentration' was today in the evening. My sit lasted for about 45 minutes today since I used a chair instead of sitting on the ground and so there was less pain. Before I sat I did a little preparatory concentration exercise by focusing on the anapana spot and breathing while walking for a few minutes to settle the mind. One more thing I found helpful is reading a sutta before sitting as this really gets me in the mind frame to meditate. It's also really inspirational for me and gives me the energy you speak of many of the times. I've found this helps alot as opposed to just directly going into the sit and having to deal with the "monkey mind" or hindrances such as restlessness for a longer period of time. Anyways, after x number of minutes of sitting, the mind settled down and there's I suppose the best way to describe is tranquility and contentment accompanied with bliss (piti). It's kind of hard to tell what is sukha, I'm not sure how to differentiate it from piti. I still have to keep applying my attention to the anapana spot (vitakka and vicara) while balancing between over and under exertion though or else the mind wanders off and this is really the hardest part at this point. Thoughts were also very much less of a distraction if any at all. As for today's practice, I started feeling the tactile nimitta around the center of my forehead, and after about half a minute I got distracted by it due to excitement (which really is one of the things preventing me from going further). So I once again returned to the breath and the nimitta occurred a couple more times and the same thing happened. But that's about as far as I went today.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/3/10 10:43 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
Wow then I might need to be more wary since my knee has been hurting (and only my right knee too) for a while as I do sit in half lotus pretty much all the time. I tried meditating on a chair during the past few days and found that I'm able to sit longer as well. Perhaps alternating and trying different sitting positions on the cushion might be the best idea. My mind leans more towards wanting to sit in lotus position since it's often times represented as the "perfect" sitting posture, but realistically this might be harmful in more ways than one.


My knee hurt for a long time, but the real damage was done at a day-long sitting, after which it never stopped hurting. My hips were nor sufficiently open enough for my right knee to go down far enough to the floor; the top of my left foot pressing down on it is what did the damage.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/3/10 11:02 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
My most recent entry into 'access concentration' was today in the evening. My sit lasted for about 45 minutes today since I used a chair instead of sitting on the ground and so there was less pain. Before I sat I did a little preparatory concentration exercise by focusing on the anapana spot and breathing while walking for a few minutes to settle the mind. One more thing I found helpful is reading a sutta before sitting as this really gets me in the mind frame to meditate. It's also really inspirational for me and gives me the energy you speak of many of the times. I've found this helps alot as opposed to just directly going into the sit and having to deal with the "monkey mind" or hindrances such as restlessness for a longer period of time. Anyways, after x number of minutes of sitting, the mind settled down and there's I suppose the best way to describe is tranquility and contentment accompanied with bliss (piti). It's kind of hard to tell what is sukha, I'm not sure how to differentiate it from piti. I still have to keep applying my attention to the anapana spot (vitakka and vicara) while balancing between over and under exertion though or else the mind wanders off and this is really the hardest part at this point. Thoughts were also very much less of a distraction if any at all. As for today's practice, I started feeling the tactile nimitta around the center of my forehead, and after about half a minute I got distracted by it due to excitement (which really is one of the things preventing me from going further). So I once again returned to the breath and the nimitta occurred a couple more times and the same thing happened. But that's about as far as I went today.


I'm guessing that sukha is too subtle to be discerable relative to the piti untill either one can get into hard enough jhana to be able to review/see the factors as they describe in the book or get into the third jhana where there is no piti; I suppose something for ekkagata also.

Reading something inspirsational before sitting can be a real help. On the way home in the evening is usually listen to something inspirational on my iPod.

I've been dogged by restlessness these past few days. It's related to "stuff" and just one of those things that has to be sat through. I get settled and quiet and get maybe just a touch of piti and then WHACK...the mind projectile vomits...proliferation...back to square one.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/3/10 1:40 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
It's kind of hard to tell what is sukha, I'm not sure how to differentiate it from piti. I still have to keep applying my attention to the anapana spot (vitakka and vicara) while balancing between over and under exertion though or else the mind wanders off and this is really the hardest part at this point.


I agree, it is very hard for me to tell the difference between piti and sukha. What I'm experiencing could be sukha or it could be low grade piti. I've read description of people being shook around with energy by piti but I cannot say I've experienced this. I'm thinking since piti (and sukha) arise out of vitakka and vicara that means I need to build up my concentration some more in order to build up the piti.

ManZ A:

As for today's practice, I started feeling the tactile nimitta around the center of my forehead, and after about half a minute I got distracted by it due to excitement (which really is one of the things preventing me from going further). So I once again returned to the breath and the nimitta occurred a couple more times and the same thing happened. But that's about as far as I went today.


I know exactly what you mean about the excitement and distraction factor. The first few times I hit Access Concentration (and to some degree this still happens) I had exactly the same reaction. I kept losing it and getting back to it again and again. What I tried to do was "build up" equanimity in response to the excitement. So as soon as the excitement starts welling up, I access this stabilizing factor that quiets the mind down a little bit. I find that I get less excited about it now.

Lately though, there's been a new thing distracting me, I'm not sure where to place it. I feel pressure building up in my temples, this sometimes starts happening just a few minutes after sitting down and builds up as my concentration increases. I'm also pretty sure it increases on the out-breath. At times it feel like balloons inserted under my temples that are being inflated with every out breath. The pressure can get intense enough that it is hard to concentrate on the breath anymore. It's definitely a different type of pressure from the forehead thing, that one does feel more like a solid wall bricks whereas this one is more airy. I don't know if that's the airy feeling I'm supposed to be experiencing all over but it sure is distracting.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/3/10 1:57 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Have you tried using some of the specific antidotes to restlessness? Correct equanimity will help you with probably any meditation problem, but it will be even more effective if combined with a specific antidote to the hindrance which is troubling you most.

One antidote to simply note the distracting though for a few mind moments vipassana-style. This might make it go away. It might be best to decide before your meditation that you will just use a single, general purpose note like "content" when distracting stuff arises, instead of getting specific like "aversion" or "obsession" and the like. You wouldn't want to devote too much energy to generating and recalling complex concepts and language when the idea is to use a simple, dispassionate note to prevent distracting thoughts from interrupting your concentration.

Another antidote if the restlessness is seriously derailing your concentration is to preface your meditation with some breath counting practice. If the restlessness is really screwing up your jhana practice, you may even want to interrupt the practice for a few minutes to do the breath counting, then resume.

There are lots of ways to do breath counting. A common one is to focus on the sensation of a breath in and out, then count "One" before the next inhale begins, and do this up until you count "Ten." Then you can start back at "one" and go up to "nine" this time, then repeat the cycle going up to "eight," and so on. Or, just count up to ten a few times. This is actually a general concentration exercise, but it has a special effectiveness for dealing with restlessness and monkey-mind.

If the monkey mind restlessness is made worse by "stuff" from your life, then you could try a simple formal resolution to pay attention solely to your chosen meditation object during your sit. There are many ways you can word it, and playing around with the wording can help you find a more effective way of getting the desired results.

If the stuff is causing lots of aversion for you, then a few moments of metta practice before you begin your actual jhana practice can help. It doesn't have to be a big intense deal. Just enough to help replace aversion with contentment. For desire, you can use mudita (sympathetic joy) and/or a resolution to be content with right now. For delusion/distraction that doesn't have a strong charge of aversion or desire, the breath counting exercise, combined with pure mindfulness, is probably your best bet.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/3/10 6:31 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Eric Bause:
ManZ A:
My most recent entry into 'access concentration' was today in the evening. My sit lasted for about 45 minutes today since I used a chair instead of sitting on the ground and so there was less pain. Before I sat I did a little preparatory concentration exercise by focusing on the anapana spot and breathing while walking for a few minutes to settle the mind. One more thing I found helpful is reading a sutta before sitting as this really gets me in the mind frame to meditate. It's also really inspirational for me and gives me the energy you speak of many of the times. I've found this helps alot as opposed to just directly going into the sit and having to deal with the "monkey mind" or hindrances such as restlessness for a longer period of time. Anyways, after x number of minutes of sitting, the mind settled down and there's I suppose the best way to describe is tranquility and contentment accompanied with bliss (piti). It's kind of hard to tell what is sukha, I'm not sure how to differentiate it from piti. I still have to keep applying my attention to the anapana spot (vitakka and vicara) while balancing between over and under exertion though or else the mind wanders off and this is really the hardest part at this point. Thoughts were also very much less of a distraction if any at all. As for today's practice, I started feeling the tactile nimitta around the center of my forehead, and after about half a minute I got distracted by it due to excitement (which really is one of the things preventing me from going further). So I once again returned to the breath and the nimitta occurred a couple more times and the same thing happened. But that's about as far as I went today.


I'm guessing that sukha is too subtle to be discerable relative to the piti untill either one can get into hard enough jhana to be able to review/see the factors as they describe in the book or get into the third jhana where there is no piti; I suppose something for ekkagata also.

Reading something inspirsational before sitting can be a real help. On the way home in the evening is usually listen to something inspirational on my iPod.

I've been dogged by restlessness these past few days. It's related to "stuff" and just one of those things that has to be sat through. I get settled and quiet and get maybe just a touch of piti and then WHACK...the mind projectile vomits...proliferation...back to square one.


Perhaps the best way might be through inference at this point like you said. If sukha silences restlessness, then I suppose it would be alright to infer its presence. At least until actual absorption anyways.

Eran G:
I know exactly what you mean about the excitement and distraction factor. The first few times I hit Access Concentration (and to some degree this still happens) I had exactly the same reaction. I kept losing it and getting back to it again and again. What I tried to do was "build up" equanimity in response to the excitement. So as soon as the excitement starts welling up, I access this stabilizing factor that quiets the mind down a little bit. I find that I get less excited about it now.

Lately though, there's been a new thing distracting me, I'm not sure where to place it. I feel pressure building up in my temples, this sometimes starts happening just a few minutes after sitting down and builds up as my concentration increases. I'm also pretty sure it increases on the out-breath. At times it feel like balloons inserted under my temples that are being inflated with every out breath. The pressure can get intense enough that it is hard to concentrate on the breath anymore. It's definitely a different type of pressure from the forehead thing, that one does feel more like a solid wall bricks whereas this one is more airy. I don't know if that's the airy feeling I'm supposed to be experiencing all over but it sure is distracting.


I haven't experienced the pressure in the temples that you mention. I'm not sure if they are a sort of nimitta or if they're due to some other factor. You do say that it happens after your concentration increases though, so it could POSSIBLY be some type of nimitta. I've read that nimittas can appear as solid, airy, smoky, cloudy, etc. I'm not an expert on the matter so I'm just making a reasonable guess.

J Adam G:
Have you tried using some of the specific antidotes to restlessness? Correct equanimity will help you with probably any meditation problem, but it will be even more effective if combined with a specific antidote to the hindrance which is troubling you most.

One antidote to simply note the distracting though for a few mind moments vipassana-style. This might make it go away. It might be best to decide before your meditation that you will just use a single, general purpose note like "content" when distracting stuff arises, instead of getting specific like "aversion" or "obsession" and the like. You wouldn't want to devote too much energy to generating and recalling complex concepts and language when the idea is to use a simple, dispassionate note to prevent distracting thoughts from interrupting your concentration.

Another antidote if the restlessness is seriously derailing your concentration is to preface your meditation with some breath counting practice. If the restlessness is really screwing up your jhana practice, you may even want to interrupt the practice for a few minutes to do the breath counting, then resume.

There are lots of ways to do breath counting. A common one is to focus on the sensation of a breath in and out, then count "One" before the next inhale begins, and do this up until you count "Ten." Then you can start back at "one" and go up to "nine" this time, then repeat the cycle going up to "eight," and so on. Or, just count up to ten a few times. This is actually a general concentration exercise, but it has a special effectiveness for dealing with restlessness and monkey-mind.

If the monkey mind restlessness is made worse by "stuff" from your life, then you could try a simple formal resolution to pay attention solely to your chosen meditation object during your sit. There are many ways you can word it, and playing around with the wording can help you find a more effective way of getting the desired results.

If the stuff is causing lots of aversion for you, then a few moments of metta practice before you begin your actual jhana practice can help. It doesn't have to be a big intense deal. Just enough to help replace aversion with contentment. For desire, you can use mudita (sympathetic joy) and/or a resolution to be content with right now. For delusion/distraction that doesn't have a strong charge of aversion or desire, the breath counting exercise, combined with pure mindfulness, is probably your best bet.


I've tried what you mentioned here, in fact I do it more intuitively than anything as it seems to be the only way. This is in regards to noting and counting. Sometimes it feels like I'll be noting forever though. One thing I haven't applied in my practice yet would be resolutions. This sounds like it has helped a lot of people on this forum, so I'll give that and the metta practice a go as well. Well from this point it's all on me. I have a bit of free time coming up, so if I do manage to enter first jhana I'll post the details.

RE: Question on Nimitta and Entry into first jhana?
Answer
2/4/10 10:09 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Thanks for your suggestions regarding remedies for restlessness. I've used all these at one time or another. As I said, this current bout of it is "stuff/big issue" based, and I've found that when this is the case I'm better off just backing off a bit with fewer and shorter sittings. Pushing too much doesn't help and just results in frustration that makes things worse. This morning I sat for 45 minutes and tonight for 70 minutes without reaching for the ejector seat button. During the latter one I got some nice stretchs of vicara.

So the restlessness arose on Sunday, stayed around like an army of marauding orcs, then was gone (as I see now with 20/20 hindsight) Wednesday.

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