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basic help
concentration 1st jhana advice concentration meditation
Answer
10/30/13 11:14 AM
Hi all,

I have been meditating for over 5 years (30 mins daily), my practice started after going to Shambala ( http://ny.shambhala.org/ ) were I took 2 weekend mini retreats ( 2 levels of their core program) after that I got disenchanted as it seemed to me they were more concerned about making you take every little course than really helping you. Then a friend gave me Daniel's MTCB and I feel it changed my life and really give me clarity of where to go.

Unfortunately I feel a little stuck right now. From MTCB I gathered that I have to attain a very strong concentration before trying to go or explore other things so my goal has been to attain my first Jhana in concentration. Currently in my practice, I sit down (eyes semi-open looking down) focus on my breath and I can be very focused on it for the first minutes, I have conversations (noting??) like: "I am really focused today", "I am breathing fine", "I feel my nostrils", then maybe after 5 minutes I lose that initial momentum and start focusing on feelings, or sounds or whatever is around me, my mind might start wondering a little but I am able to bring it back to the breath and feelings. I might also be feeling relaxed and sometimes pleasure and then suddenly I disconnect, wonder again and have to start focusing on the breath.

I am trying to understand if am I doing concentration at this point or did I move to something else perhaps insight? how far away am I from the first jhana? should I just disregard the rest and focus on my breath relentlessly?

Thanks for your advice,

Peter

RE: basic help
Answer
10/30/13 3:44 PM as a reply to Peter G G.
Peter G G:
Hi all,

I have been meditating for over 5 years (30 mins daily), my practice started after going to Shambala ( http://ny.shambhala.org/ ) were I took 2 weekend mini retreats ( 2 levels of their core program) after that I got disenchanted as it seemed to me they were more concerned about making you take every little course than really helping you. Then a friend gave me Daniel's MTCB and I feel it changed my life and really give me clarity of where to go.

Unfortunately I feel a little stuck right now. From MTCB I gathered that I have to attain a very strong concentration before trying to go or explore other things so my goal has been to attain my first Jhana in concentration. Currently in my practice, I sit down (eyes semi-open looking down) focus on my breath and I can be very focused on it for the first minutes, I have conversations (noting??) like: "I am really focused today", "I am breathing fine", "I feel my nostrils", then maybe after 5 minutes I lose that initial momentum and start focusing on feelings, or sounds or whatever is around me, my mind might start wondering a little but I am able to bring it back to the breath and feelings. I might also be feeling relaxed and sometimes pleasure and then suddenly I disconnect, wonder again and have to start focusing on the breath.

I am trying to understand if am I doing concentration at this point or did I move to something else perhaps insight? how far away am I from the first jhana? should I just disregard the rest and focus on my breath relentlessly?

Thanks for your advice,

Peter


Try this sequential manner of developing the factors for the 1st jhana. Then once each sequence is somewhat learned and somewhat mastered (for now, you are able to keep doing the instruction unhindered for 10 or so minutes at a time), move to the next. You will notice that the instructions further down the line are to do with 'insight', perceiving phenomena in a certain way. If you work on each instruction with the intention to master the art of directing thought, you will soon learn how to and you will develop momentum that lasts.

Nick

RE: basic help
Answer
12/21/13 2:28 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Hi Nik,

I have been diligently working on the Anapanasati Sutta Instructions as recommended by you and I felt I was getting real progress and jumped already to bodily sensations. The problem I am experiencing now is that when I try to focus only on the first step (staying with the breath and thinking if it is long or short) I am having issues with it, like my mind is not obeying me or there is not enough novelty in the instruction to comply, (do't know if I am making sense with this or if somebody else has experienced it) so I get distracted easily again although when I focus on my bodily sensations I can stay there for a while but I feel I am losing the control I had before. Any suggestions? (I also increased my practice to 40mins daily).

I should add that time is definitely passing faster now during my sittings and also I am starting to feel my hands are burning during my practice and I am also perceiving all kind of smells I am not able to perceive while not meditating.

Pete

RE: basic help
Answer
12/21/13 2:34 PM as a reply to Peter G G.
Peter G G:
Hi Nick,

I have been diligently working on the Anapanasati Sutta Instructions as recommended by you and I felt I was getting real progress and jumped already to bodily sensations. The problem I am experiencing now is that when I try to focus only on the first step (staying with the breath and thinking if it is long or short) I am having issues with it, like my mind is not obeying me or there is not enough novelty in the instruction to comply, (do't know if I am making sense with this or if somebody else has experienced it) so I get distracted easily again although when I focus on my bodily sensations I can stay there for a while but I feel I am losing the control I had before. Any suggestions? (I also increased my practice to 40mins daily)

Peter


How about switching to a characteristic that may still trigger curiosity for you, such as the temperature of the incoming breath versus the outgoing breath. Or maybe looking at whether the sensations of the 1st part if the incoming breath are the same as the last part of the incoming breath and the same for outgoing breath? Or maybe looking at the whether the same amount of breath flows in the right nostril versus left-nostril? Or perhaps look at the act of conceptualising 'breath' as 'breath' as you observe incoming and outgoing breath? Or maybe get curious about whether there is extra mental imagery that accompanies the observation of the breath, such as fleeting images of a nose with incoming trails of breath and outgoing too? Or pay attention. To the very act of perceiving the breath? It matters little what pulls thought towards it concerning a characteristic of the breath or of observation of the breath. What matters is the thought, the flow of mind, is directed exclusive towards the object of practice. Simply staring at the breath is hard to do for most. Pay attention to an extra characteristic of the experience of observing the breath and you direct thought. The first vital factor in fabricating the 1st jhana and the Beyond.

Typed on iphone forgive any typos.

Nick

RE: basic help
Answer
12/22/13 2:50 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Try this sequential manner of developing the factors for the 1st jhana. Then once each sequence is somewhat learned and somewhat mastered (for now, you are able to keep doing the instruction unhindered for 10 or so minutes at a time), move to the next. You will notice that the instructions further down the line are to do with 'insight', perceiving phenomena in a certain way. If you work on each instruction with the intention to master the art of directing thought, you will soon learn how to and you will develop momentum that lasts.

Nick


Nick,
Very nice instructions in the link....I bookmarked it...I'm totally going to do a talk on it.

Peter,
When did you read MCTB? I would recommend rereading it. I got so much more out of it the second time thru. Each time I progress I find new things I overlooked the first time...Have you played with the noting practice? Here are additional resources that explain the practice - WIKI
Practical Insight Meditation, by Mahasi Sayadaw
The Progress of Insight, by Mahasi Sayadaw
Insight Practice Instructions #1
Good luck
~D

RE: basic help
Answer
12/22/13 5:56 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Hi Dream Walker,

I have been rereading MCTB here and there, I know there is a lot of good info but I sometimes struggle going from theory to practice that's were Nick has been very helpful guiding me. I also just got those two books from Mahasi Sayadaw to supplement my reading.

Thanks a lot for your guidance, both of you!

PG