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Daylong ahead: Next step?

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Daylong ahead: Next step?
Answer
2/18/10 5:27 PM
I'm new here. Great thanks for this site! I have a day-long retreat coming up this weekend and would appreciate perspectives on how to use that time.

I've been a very interested dillettante of the dharma for over 15 years. Meditating inconsistently for that time. For about ten years, external difficulties made time/resources for practice very scarce--but I have done relaxation practices (breath-work with concentration) consistently for about 3 years.

Now that I have the time and peaceful externals to actually get serious about the dharma and meditation practice, I've been meditating for four months and checking out the dharma scene...same mixed feelings as the last time I checked it out, but that's the way of the world.... Anyway, so very glad to find Daniel's book! I wish I had come across that when I started out years ago--so straightforward!!! I think my meditation would have been a lot more consistent back in the day if. In fact, I think one problem with my motivation was that I had been floating in a soup of differing, poorly differentiated instructions and didn't really have enough goals to create a sense of traction/presence.

For a little over a month, I've really focused on concentration, which has always been a weak point for me (lots of forgetting and distraction). My concentration has improved--I think I'm at access and maybe a little further. Below is a sitting journal excerpt:

Evening sit 50 mins:
Began settling the breath and concentrating--thoughts moving around "am I doing this right?" etc. random planning--no Big Issues. Settled the breath and began to notice the pleasure here and there of breathing--anywhere there was pleasure. Began to feel shimmers along the skin. Then felt a pulsing pressure in the forehead and focused on the pulsing and pleasure of it. It came and went. Made myself remember a former loving-kindness meditation. Then an increasing excitation of pleasure, happiness--on the right side of the chest in a small spot a few inches across almost like a spot of light, very tender/joyful, this started to fill into my lower abdomen and my breath quickened, desiring more--became very sexual for a long while and also radiant--a sense of luminosity filling me. I guess this was a rapture--but it was always shy of "over-the-top". Aware that I needed to keep re-focusing my attention and maintaining my concentration. I kept wanting a sort of "orgasm" or peak and eventually realized I needed to stop wanting/seeking that and stay focused on just the pleasurable feeling. Sometime in here my chime rang and I decided to sit longer...Not sure if it was before or after that that the state became less intense, but more stable and needing less effort. Still luminous, less sexual/abdominal and spacious. Like I was filled with space. Then a sort of shift as most of the attention was in my head--but a very spacious head, not really my body. Stable, less thrilling, but easy. Felt like I could have sat for a long time more, but had to go.

I experienced that again the next day, but not in the five days since--but still a very strong access-type state.

Question is: Was that jhana or A&P?--does it even matter in practice terms? I have a daylong retreat coming up at a "center" this weekend. Is it best to focus on on stabilizing this state/stage or should I try to do insight practice? Noting is not so easy for me. I can note events non-verbally just by being very attentive, but even a "dat" is sort of hard for me. I still haven't really become aware of "vibrations" except for the superfast rhythm of the ringing in my ears (which gets very loud when I sit for awhile).

Thanks for any help.

RE: Daylong ahead: Next step?
Answer
2/19/10 1:16 AM as a reply to boeuf f.
Hi boef f,

Welcome!

Jhana is about specific concentration states while A&P refers to a developmental landmark. Increased access to jhana or other concentration attainments can be an indicator of A&P developmental "territory", but there are many more.

Have you tried a formal resolve to enter that state again? Once you get good at entering it, you can find out more about it.

Retreat: well, if it's a guided retreat with a teacher, follow the instructions of the teacher. It would be a shame for all of you, students and teacher, to make the effort of attending that retreat only to do something completely different. If it's a solitary thing, maybe you'll find Tarin's Reformed Slacker's Guide useful.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Daylong ahead: Next step?
Answer
2/19/10 9:37 AM as a reply to Florian.
Thanks for the link--it's helpful. This is a daylong sesshin with a local zen center. It's a wonderful place, and a great context for retreat. I learn a lot about sila, physical practice, and whole-hearted presence--but zazen doesn't come with much in the way of "instructions."

My family and life circumstances make residential retreats longer than 7 days very difficult to accommodate (there's a 9-day Theravada retreat which I'm hoping to attend this summer and that will likely be the maximum residential retreat that I can fit into this year). This local zen group has regular day-longs and there's a 7-day sesshin coming up which it seems I can actually attend--and still stay in my own home and deal with nominal child care, etc. This is what I have--and if anything, the dharma is about accepting what you have.

Zen may not be the perfect fit for me as I feel drawn more to the Theravada teachings. On the other hand, I do learn from the teachers there, and it's a good balance to the goal-oriented practice I'm reading about. All the same, I'd like to find a Theravada teacher to talk to as well and am working on making that happen. The fact is that I'm still developing/determining a consistent path/practice appropriate to the context of my life. Maybe the DhO has a place in that.

bf