Entering 1st Jhana

Scott P, modified 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 3:51 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 3:51 PM

Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 39 Join Date: 8/17/12 Recent Posts
Hi everybody,

I know there are lots of similar threads to this one, but hopefully it will warrant being a separate thread...

So I've been trying to enter the first jhana by getting to access concentration and then moving my attention to a pleasant sensation. Not had a great deal of luck so far however... just a few questions. Firstly often when moving my attention to a pleasant sensation (my hands usually) the sensation becomes no longer pleasant, it feels odd, or neutral, I find it hard to find it pleasant, if you know what I'm saying. I've been experimenting and just holding my attention there anyway but not with much luck. I've also experimented with feeling all of my hands, just certain parts, or letting attention move around them.

Also often my hands start to feel pleasant before I feel I've reached access concentration, and so I'll move my attention over to them early on, should I be waiting for more concentration to build up first? Or is this itself a sign of access concentration? Any thoughts?

I know it's best to experiment myself and see how it goes, but I was just wondering if anyone had any thoughts, ideas or suggestions on any of this? Sorry again if such a question didn't warrant its own thread!

Thanks,

Scott
super fox, modified 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 4:08 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 4:08 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/9/11 Recent Posts
Hi Scott,

I'm in a similar spot from you, trying to get from access concentration to first jhana.

The way I am trying to handle the pulses of gooseflesh (the tingly feeling that pervades my body every 4-5 breaths once concentration ratchets up) is that I simply don't pay attention to the pleasure. Instead, I simply keep my focus on the anapanasati spot. This seems to increase the amount of pleasure... when my concentration gets pretty good I notice the pleasure becomes frequent enough that it's somehow sync'ed with the in/out pattern of the breath (so every subtle movement of the breath seems to directly somehow generate/correlate with pleasure). At that point it seems like the useful aspect of the pleasure is that:

A. it makes normal sensations like subtle muscle aches, random itches, random noises from the street outside, etc less appealing/interesting and so my mind isn't interested in them.

B. since my mind can see that following the breath closely correlates with pleasure and the pleasure is pleasurable (in a background kind of way), it becomes more interested in continuing to follow the breath closely.

One question I have for you is if you could describe the frequency/intensity of your "pleasant" sensations?

Best,
SuperFox
Scott P, modified 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 4:44 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 4:44 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 39 Join Date: 8/17/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for the reply, I'm definitely going to try your approach when I meditate tomorrow.

For me it is either small intermittent 'sparks' and along with that a more 'permanent' lightness, spaciousness or even heaviness in my hands. As I said often when I put my attention there I lose all the awareness of it being a pleasant sensation.
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Eric B, modified 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 7:37 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/25/12 7:37 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 187 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Hi Scott,

That's good advice from Super Fox. Keep your attention at the anapana spot, and the piti will become more palpable to the point where it wells up and you can make it the object of attention.

Don't worry about whether the state you are in at any given moment may or may not be access concentration. Just be aware of the sensation of the breath at the anapana spot and the piti will present itself and go from there.

Eric
Russell , modified 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 1:58 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 1:58 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 92 Join Date: 10/19/11 Recent Posts
It can also help to force a slight smile once you are concentrated. I have noticed that if you do this, the forced smile eventually becomes real joy.
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Luke Avedon, modified 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 5:53 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 5:50 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 14 Join Date: 6/26/11 Recent Posts
Hello,

I'm in a similar spot my self. My access concentration is pretty poor -- it takes me a loooong time to get there. But now about 15 minutes into a sit I will get piti and a dull visual nimitta (It matches the descriptions at least -- but Shaila Catherine warns not to think the first light you see is necessarily the nimitta).

Anyway, sticking to the anapana spot definitely seems to work better -- but just giving sort of an intention to let the piti increase. It almost feels like I am following the anapana spot but watching the piti increase -- if that makes any sense.

I did get into Jhana once, I'm pretty sure --- it was quite a show!!!! Piti and the Nimitta got very strong, my thoughts got slower and slower and then stopped, and then it sort of just exploded.

I always get Piti in either the 3rd eye spot or in the back of my neck, back of my head, or top of my head. It's quite strange. Although sometimes I will get a vibrating sensation all over my body----briefly.

At this point the breath usually feels very smokey.

Take it with a grain of salt as I'm not too far along.

Best, Luke
super fox, modified 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 11:32 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/26/12 11:32 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/9/11 Recent Posts
In my practice over the last few days I've found some useful things that have helped me move my practice forward:

1. It turns out that if you want to immediately generate gross piti virtually immediately once you have access concentration, you can do metta. I just sorta imagine the in-breath is taking pain away from some "person" in front of me and the out breath is delivering health-energy to them. This is kinda useful since the gross-piti jump starts me a bit when I'm suffering from sloth/torpor/tension.

2. I was making the error of attending to the mental overlay that sits on top of the breath. So I would focus on the feeling of the breath coming in and out through the nostrils, except after a while it would feel almost like a long, smooth object that was sliding in and out of my nose. Then I couldn't figure out how one was suppose to focus on "a pleasant sensation" as I couldn't find any except for the sporadic outbursts of gross-piti (gooseflesh for me). Then I started paying attention to the subtle turbulent sensation of air at the nostrils. In this case the air-turbulence seems to be composed of discrete sensations that can be focused on (though they still appear too quickly one after another so I can't pick them apart), but I they don't inherently indicate whether the air is going in or out. The reason I think this is the right thing to focus on is that there a very subtle and fine (almost thread like) sensation of coolness that appears in this air-turbulence at the nostrils. I'm in a normal room-temperature room so I don't think this is chilled air chilling my nose, rather I think this "cool sensation" that is pleasant is the "pleasant aspect of the breath" that I should be focusing on. I'll do some more sits experimenting with this and see if it works out.

@Luke: can you describe where/how the piti arises for you?

~Super Fox
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Luke Avedon, modified 11 Years ago at 10/5/12 2:17 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/27/12 3:02 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 14 Join Date: 6/26/11 Recent Posts
Superfox,

Very interesting comments.

1. It turns out that if you want to immediately generate gross piti virtually immediately once you have access concentration, you can do metta. I just sorta imagine the in-breath is taking pain away from some "person" in front of me and the out breath is delivering health-energy to them. This is kinda useful since the gross-piti jump starts me a bit when I'm suffering from sloth/torpor/tension.


I also have found this to be true. Metta was my own breakthrough in being able to generate piti. I was very surprised by this -- as I was extremely skeptical of the value of Metta. When I sit with my local Shambhala group they sometimes instruct us to do Metta (They call it Tonglin) and I have always just faked it and continued to count my breaths. But once I finally gave Metta a shot Piti started to arise.

I have a very difficult time generating Metta do to my own mental defilement. I started with a sick kitten (per Ajahn Brahm's instructions), as I am I a cat person--that sort of worked.

BUT what really worked for me is to think of the most pathetic person I could from reality television. As crazy as it sounds this was the breakthrough technique. I was once watching this program and there was this older man showing his home kitchen. The host asked him, "Do you have a lot of parties here with your mates?" He just replied, "I don't have any mates." I don't know why but thinking about this always sets off my Metta practice like gangbusters.

To generate Piti now I only need a bit of access concentration

The other breakthrough technique was following Ajahn Brahm's famous simile of the cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-QlSW5KwxI I have seen this mentioned many places on this forum. However, I never know exactly how to interpret this. Basically, I do some counting technique then take a break and just let the mind settle, then go back to counting until it feels to course. I Let the thoughts ramble and spin out on their own while I very very gently watch the breath.


I then sort of will the Piti to arise, it feels like relaxaing a muscle in the specific places on my body that piti has a tendency to come out of. It's always either the upper back, the top of the head, or the 3rd eye area. Although occasionally there is a vibration like feeling over the entire body. Right around the time I can do this a very dull nimitta appears.

It feels like I am opening the poors of my skin where the piti comes out of. I know that sounds absurd but it is the closest I can come to describing the sensation. Since piti was only arising from very specific areas I went to a Qi Qong teacher to see if he had any advice. He described this as the upper Dan Tiem (sp?). Doing some standing meditation exercises, with open hands in front of these areas has also helped piti arise more strongly.

The other technique that helped me generate piti is even more eccentric.

I was practicing a technique for a while to help me deal with my social anxiety problems in business. It is from a wonderful book called "The Psychology of Call Reluctance" By George Dudley

Anyway, the technique is called "threat desensitization". But to prime the technique you first practice making a very tight fist while you hold your breath.

You close your eyes and pretend you are looking at your fist through binoculars. You also imagine that there is a button on top of the binoculars. When you press this button the word "SET" appears over your visual field. You then slowly let out your breath, and slowly relax your fist. When the fist is fully relaxed and your breathing returns to normal, you gently touch the forefinger and thumb.

In the therapy you are then just supposed to visualize a threatening situation and then say to your self "set --- relax". By applying this technique to my normal meditation, (just saying set--relax once I am close to access concentration) it sets off piti and sukkah as well.

In terms of Scott's comments about generating pleasant sensation in your hands. It would be difficult to imagine having piti come from my hands as I have never experienced piti being generated in the extremities or below the upper back at all -- only occasionally when I have a fully body vibration type feeling.

I understand Leigh Brasington first entered Jhana through piti generated by pleasure in his lower back. I have had piti arise from adjusting my seat before, the pleasurable experience seemed to just translate into having the actual piti feel like it is coming from the upper back per my usual experience.

I hope this is at all helpful.



Best, Luke
Scott P, modified 11 Years ago at 10/2/12 3:44 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/2/12 3:44 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 39 Join Date: 8/17/12 Recent Posts
thanks everyone for your comments, especially luke for some quite unique ones haha

I've not really got into doing metta yet, it always feels quite forced and my attention seems quite chaotic when i'm trying it... the sick cat kitten sounds quite interesting tho

I've been just staying with the breath this week, rather than shifting my attention to the pleasant sensations, not had much luck with this yet but I'm gonna persevere as I think it will hopefully improve my terrible concentration
Scott P, modified 11 Years ago at 10/3/12 4:00 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/3/12 4:00 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 39 Join Date: 8/17/12 Recent Posts
By the way Luke, do you have a link to Ajahn Brahm's instructions on that sick kitten? Could do with some metta help! watched the cup similie video, its great, and think it helped my meditation a-lot today.
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Thom W, modified 11 Years ago at 10/3/12 9:47 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/3/12 9:47 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Tina Rasmussen and Steven Snyder have a whole chapter dedicated to the territory before 1st Jhana in their book Practicing the Jhanas which is excellent - clear, helpful and concise.

They were authorised to teach by Pa Auk Sayadaw and know their stuff.

They also have some excellent talks online, freely downloadable on their website Jhanas Advice. They were also interviewed about jhana practice in Buddhist Geeks episode 159 and 160.

Find what works for you. Trust your own intuitive sense of what supports absorption...allow yourself to be creative and playful with practice.

Good luck!
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Luke Avedon, modified 11 Years ago at 10/5/12 2:18 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/5/12 2:12 AM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 14 Join Date: 6/26/11 Recent Posts
Scott,

Glad I could be of service. The "sick kitten" instruction is from Ajahn Brahm's incredible book "Mindfulness, Bliss & Beyond". Great book even if the word bliss is in the title (yuck). I think he also mentions it in one of his retreat talks on youtube -- but I'm not sure it has been awhile since I watched them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isfuvHljSU4

I have been having great results with "Method #1" in Ajahn Lee's method for breath meditation which Ajahn Geoff (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) of Metta Forest monastery teaches. Lot's more piti and a brighter nimitta (still very dull). I have the excellent good fortune of visiting the monestary for a few days in a couple of weeks so I thought I would give his instructions a shot --- incredible stuff. Here is the link: http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Keeping_the_Breath_in_Mind.pdf

Ajahn Lee's method is breath meditation with a bit of body scanning worked in -- you move the breath awareness to different places on the upper body. All the spots he hits in his method #1 are the same spots where Piti develops on my body soooo perhaps I'm not the only one.

The book Thom mentioned is excellent as well. Extremely detailed instructions -- however, it should be mentioned in the Pa Auk Saydaw instructions

1.) the attention never ever leaves the breath on the anapana spot (sp?) -- i.e. between the nose and the lips
2.) you definitely DO NOT ever take a pleasant sensation as the object.
3.) Don't expect any jhana factors to develop until you can stay with your object without distraction for at least 30 minutes
(however, I can't do that yet and I certainly have jhana factors)

I only recall taking a pleasant sensation as the object in Leigh Brasington instructions (perhaps Daniel's as well?) I assume Aya Kemma taught that to Leigh Brasington.


If you read the Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Lee's short book -- you will notice there method is really quite different from the Pa Auk Saydaw.
Scott P, modified 10 Years ago at 10/13/12 4:04 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/13/12 3:54 PM

RE: Entering 1st Jhana

Posts: 39 Join Date: 8/17/12 Recent Posts
Thanks again for the suggestions, sorry I've taken so long to reply, been crazy at work lately.

I'm trying not to overdo it on lots of different methods/techniques at the moment. Watched a few Ajahn Brahm videos, his style seems almost the oppopsite from MCTB unless I'm wrong, very much about not trying to attain anything. So for the past few days I've kind of been trying this, just trying to relax and let my attention be on the breath naturally and easily. This seems very difficult at the moment tho... I dunno whether my concentration is getting worse or what... I've noticed I almost seem unhappy with the breath, like my attention isn't right, or that I'm trying to control the breath. I also seem to move my attention from the nostrils to the breath going further into my body, then back to the nostrils, then just one nostril etc... I think I sort of struggle with the inconsistency of each breath and my mind is almost searching for something stable... I think this might be why I had greater success earlier on with focusing on the feeling of my hands.

Well that was a large rant. For the time being anyway I'm sticking with the breath and just trying to relax. Thanks again for everyone's advice!

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