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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Identification of level of concentration

Hi,

I meditate by focusing on a visual point and the breath.

A couple weeks ago I was getting a lot of pressure in my head, though that is mostly gone now.

Recently I have noticed that everything within my field of visual but my point of focus seems to dim. A few times I thought my eyes were closing. I'm able to maintain this through at least thirty minutes. As well, sitting for thirty minutes has become very easy to sit for that long and I usually wish I had set my timer longer.

RE: Identification of level of concentration
Answer
2/3/13 5:32 PM as a reply to Dee Miller.
Hi Dee,

Welcome to the DhO.

I meditate by focusing on a visual point and the breath.

A couple weeks ago I was getting a lot of pressure in my head, though that is mostly gone now.

Recently I have noticed that everything within my field of visual but my point of focus seems to dim. A few times I thought my eyes were closing. I'm able to maintain this through at least thirty minutes. As well, sitting for thirty minutes has become very easy to sit for that long and I usually wish I had set my timer longer.
You haven't asked any question. And your post doesn't include "identification of level of concentration"

So...I'll just add some feedback on what I think of this concentration you've described.

I think of head pressure as associated with the "desire for deliverance" nana and I see the longer sits and the pressure-less head as related to equanimity developing.

So I'd use this occasion to set the timer for 45-60 minutes. It's true that timing and counting can cause a set-back of conceit, but based on your short first post, that's what I'd do, which is what you're also saying you have a natural instinct to do now: "I usually wish I had set my timer longer"

Cheers, dee!

RE: Identification of level of concentration
Answer
2/3/13 5:49 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
What information would help with identifying the level of concentration?

RE: Identification of level of concentration
Answer
2/3/13 6:17 PM as a reply to Dee Miller.
Well, first I think that you can sit with ease is pointing to access concentration, an early equanimity of mind (not 4th jhana equanimity)

Usually however I think healthy-bodied new meditators need to go to 45-60 minutes to see more of the mind. A few things tend to happen after 30 minutes: boredom, sleepiness, sleep, figetyness, discomfort, sudden wakefulness.

If the mind is really getting into accessing concentration (and a person can sit in a chair, against a wall with legs out...crossed-legs is not mandatory) then the mind will seem to brighten. For me the mind gets very, very light before first jhana and in first jhana - the jhana of joy.

So "level of concentration"-- for what it's worth I think you're tapping into an aspect of access concentration (a broad area of experience that precedes very focused concentration of dyhana (jhana)) and all concentration depends on growing basic equanimity. (Fourth jhana, the jhana of equanimity, is a whole different 'animal' - bafflingly unstirred and active)

More importantly, what do you think is happening? You've made two posts and I don't know much about your practice. So what's up? What is your goal/interest in this training?


Also, are you familiar with vocabulary I'm using (e.g., jhanas)?


[edits: a few edits for clarity]

RE: Identification of level of concentration
Answer
2/3/13 6:42 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I just finished a sit. There were a lot of buzzing sounds that didn't seem to be related to any external noises. About 70% of the time, my mind felt very much at 'one' with the objects of my meditation. I had internal talk, but it was very faint and in the background. At one point I tried focusing solely on my breath, and I had a moment where it felt like I could feel every part of my body at once. The world felt alive with energy. This is definitely the furthest I've been.

I often combine multiple rounds of sitting by doing five or ten minutes of walking meditation. Is it important to actually sit for longer periods of time, or does walking work too?

I started meditating regularly at home about three months ago to deal with some emotional turmoil I was having. These days I'm sort caught up in the idea of making progress for its own sake. I also want to be a better person in general. In the past few weeks I've been checking out a few Zen-related places around town, though I'm not even sure I want to join a formal community.

I sort of get the terminology you're using in an intellectual sense, though I don't really have an intuitive 'feel' for the stages.

RE: Identification of level of concentration
Answer
2/4/13 5:06 AM as a reply to Dee Miller.
Is it important to actually sit for longer periods of time, or does walking work too?
To me, no. What I think is vital is that a person keeps learning how to see more of the source of their actions and actions and to take up as sincere and honest a look as possible without becoming some severely scouring, perfectionist lens on oneself. So sitting practice is like being in a quiet lab in which to see the impulses underlying action. But other actions that very naturally occur in life are also excellent trainings to see "why am I doing what I'm doing?" and "what am I?"

We're basically talking about a training that involves sitting quietly and seeing what the mind and body do during an extended very simple, quiet activity: sitting kinda still and upright, being mentally alert by observing care-fully (this is also why walking meditation 'works' and living with paying attention to what's in the present moment 'works' and this is kinda hard!). That's it. It is hugely useful. And these phases of 'easy sitting' come and go, so while it's here, maybe follow your instincts and sit without a timer at all.

These days I'm sort caught up in the idea of making progress for its own sake.
That can be a useful, artisanal aesthetic. Just to practice sincerely during the time allotted, and that's that. This is why "short sits" are also excellent.

I sort of get the terminology you're using in an intellectual sense, though I don't really have an intuitive 'feel' for the stages.
Yeah, no worries. These 'stages' are a kind of double edged sword. We naturally use form to train, but we can all look around and say that nothing really has absolute form. (From the Heart Sutra chanted in zen groups: "form is emptiness, emptiness is form") So the stages do not absolutely exist. They can be useful training tools though, and they can be counterproductive, too. Form is just for training, not to be taking as absolute (in my opinion).

I also want to be a better person in general.
Every religious and secular ethics tradition shares basic ethical concepts: refraining from killing, refraining from stealing/cheating, refraining from sexual misconduct, refraining from lying/deceit/harsh speech, refraining from intoxication. It's amazing how far that can take a person; and it's amazing how hard those can be.


I started meditating regularly at home about three months ago to deal with some emotional turmoil I was having.
Well, if you keep paying attention to the mental feelings and impulses that arise, on the cushion or just in daily life, this is gonna be really informative about how a lot of conditions around us come into being; we often manage to create them. Basically, when I have a strong desire to take action, I have to pay close attention to what's going on in me --- because that interior is likely driving my urges to do something and will strongly color the action taken. Using myself as an example to say that even a useful meditation practice usually doesn't prevent absolutely "emotional turmoil" experiences, but the effort does add up over time and I'd conservatively say it's more useful than not. It sort of trains one in choices and creativity among other things

At present you have an instinct to sit longer. Maybe make use of that. There are also simple things to do in living that can avoid emotional turmoil and seed better experiences. I don't know your living situation though and if you face a lot of external affront or more internal attitude.

What do you think?

[edited: reduced]