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Concentration

48 hours for practice... what to do.

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48 hours for practice... what to do.
Answer
1/30/10 9:44 PM
So my daily routine is sitting concentration practice for an hour... been doing this for about a year. From what I can discern from Daniel's book and discussions here, my daily practices put me in second jhana pretty easily, though the stability of this state varies day to day. I use the breath as my vehicle, and center of forehead pressure/tingles are common... even outside of practice. With a little intention I can "zoom" into this state anytime. I've had some alright bliss and rapture, but nothing earth-shaking. I guess to sum up where I'm at... sitting for an hour is no problem and getting absorbed into the breath and having the body drift away with good focus is common.

In a couple weeks I'll have an entire weekend to myself to practice and I wonder what would be most productive. My goal is to try for a good breakthough to take my practice to the next level. This opportunity for 48 hours of undisturbed practice is a rare thing in my life and I want to make the most of it. With my family and work, long retreats just aren't going to happen anytime soon.

I'm wondering if I should take this opportunity to deepen my concentration with tools like a candle flame and explore further jhanas, or would this be an appropriate time to dive into noting practice and begin insight? I get the feeling from this forum that lingering on concentration practices isn't really important once you have the basics down and overall jumping into insight gives better results.

Suggestions?

RE: 48 hours for practice... what to do.
Answer
1/30/10 5:03 PM as a reply to D M D.
You could probably have very good results whichever path you decided to work on -- concentration or insight. In the end, working on one will help you with the other anyway. In the Dhammapada, it says "There is no wisdom for him that has no jhana, and there is no jhana for him that has no wisdom. He that has both wisdom and jhana goes beyond." Or something like that. I can't remember what word in Pali was translated as "wisdom," so it might not be the best choice of words.

The decision depends on what's most important to you: insight as soon as possible, or insight with minimal bleed-through of the dark night. If getting large chunks of constant practice (like retreat time or several hours of meditation a day in your everyday life) is problematic to you, it might be wise to really strengthen your concentration now so that when you start doing regular insight practice, you have enough of the Five Faculties (mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, energy, trust/confidence) that your insight practice will be able to progress well. In other words, if you are limited in your resources of time for meditation, you'll want to use your time most efficiently when you start insight work. The qualities strengthened by correct, powerful jhana practice will help you use insight meditation hours more effectively.

On the other hand, you definitely have enough concentration now that you could start practicing insight meditation now so that by the time you get to the weekend, you have the hang of how insight is done. Then you could use the weekend to make lots of progress with insight. People have done stream entry without even having access concentration, so you're already capable of starting insight any time you want to. How much more you want to prepare is up to you -- just as long as you do see concentration practice as a preparation and aid to insight, and not as something to cultivate on its own. It seems like you already get that, so maybe I'm just rambling.

My basic point is this: check out what I've said, and what other more experienced people here say, then make a strong, firm decision about what you want to do. If you're going to use that weekend for insight practice, it's best to start getting ready before the weekend arrives. If you want to do concentration, then gather resources and find out what goals you want to set for your progress.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope it reduces your suffering and gives you peace!

RE: 48 hours for practice... what to do.
Answer
2/1/10 9:20 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
I agree with that. All sound advice. Nothing to add, really. He covered it nicely.