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Nothing to see here, move along

Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
3/29/14 5:08 PM
Around two years ago now I hit an A&P event whilst folding my laundry. Or rather, it hit me. It took a good while to return to normalcy, and I'm still missing a pair of socks.

At the time of this post I'm about two months into practice and am focused on developing my concentration. My hope is to tag jhana and begin insight practice in earnest from there -- hopefully this doesn't prove to be unrealistic. My long-term aspiration is stream-entry. I'm also noticing subtler shifts in my practice outside of these larger milestones, and it's my hope that maintaining a log can provide better long-term perspective.

I'm also noting the length of my sits, as another data point can't hurt.

A quick word of thanks to Daniel and everyone actively contributing to DhO. I've benefited greatly.


25/02/2014

15m - Scrapped this one early as I was fighting the nod.
43m - Noticing what I assume to be nimittas mostly during the first half of my sit; bright fields of light zipping and morphing around the periphery of my vision. Mostly cloudy, but periodically with an intensity that has me squinting involuntarily. Decent strength of concentration tapering notably toward the end.
45m - About 20-30 breaths between "disruptive" thoughts; that is, thoughts that slip under the mindfulness radar, take my attention by the wrist, and lead it off who-knows-where. Re-establishing vicara after these slips seems to be getting noticeably faster, more reflexive.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
2/26/14 6:27 AM as a reply to John M..
Welcome to DhO John. Subtler shifts in practice are the main thing I've noticed over the last year (as compared to bangs & whistles). Will be interesteing to see how things go.

It took a good while to return to normalcy, and I'm still missing a pair of socks.


That made me laugh out loud (during lunch-break at work) emoticon

Best wishes,

Nick

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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2/26/14 1:30 PM as a reply to Nick Green.
That ought to teach you not to mess with the sock gnomes

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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2/26/14 1:34 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.


You might have missed step one...emoticon

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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2/27/14 4:40 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thank you both for the warm welcome. And yes, I definitely missed step one!

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/7/14 6:12 AM as a reply to John M..
26/02/2014

1hr - Instead of the oscillation between discursive thought and brief sustained concentration that usually typifies my sits, it seems more and more that I am oscillating between brief sustained concentration and what I think is access concentration. There's a much more refined quality to both the headspace and the breath. Dropping out of it makes the breath seem downright ragged by comparison, as though it's been segmented like a sushi roll.
30m - Mostly just trying to power out some mindfulness, didn't do so hot. Crazy nimitta intensity.
38m - Was able to spend some more time flirting with access concentration and noticed another quality within it. Like another note providing harmony within a chord. After placing my awareness on it, there was an odd "sucking" sensation and then - pop - immediately out into another headspace. Very spacious, calm, and with sudden full-body awareness. Faded very quickly, not sure what to make of it.
30m - More sati pushups; getting a better feel for recognizing access concentration, especially how the breath presents. Less like a binary function and more like an endless piece of cloth being continuously drawn across a smooth, hard surface.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
2/28/14 4:22 PM as a reply to John M..
27/02/2014

45m - Pretty standard sit, nothing standing out.
47m - Experienced the odd "suction" again, resulting in the same spacious, calming headspace and full-body awareness. The transition was more gradual this time, lasting almost a full breath as opposed to maybe a half-breath. The state itself lasted long enough this time for me to make out a subtle but definitely pleasurable "buzz" pervading most of my body. I've read here that jhanas can be "hard" or "soft." If that's the case, I'm wondering if this isn't first jhana, albeit seriously undercooked.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
3/1/14 4:15 PM as a reply to John M..
28/02/2014

36m -
44m -
1hr - Not much to note between any of these sits, apart from a few more peaks at what may or may not be first jhana. Still quite brief and fragile.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
3/2/14 4:27 PM as a reply to John M..
01/03/2014

48m -
33m -
25m - Some difficult sits but not unproductive. Definitely spending the majority of the sit with the meditation object, but there's a lot of improvement to be made in the ability to do so uninterrupted.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
3/3/14 6:39 PM as a reply to John M..
02/03/2014

25m - Seemingly effortless sit. Really wish I could have stayed put longer.
40m - I have energetic phenomenon going 24/7, but this sit really stirred things up. There was an especially strange pressure at the bridge of my nose that felt as though someone was firmly pressing on it from one side. Then the pressure dissolved and my head jerked to one side -- I'd actually been exerting a lot of strength with my neck muscles to counter this imaginary force.
40m - More odd pressures, this time accompanied by a ton of mental chatter. A real zoo, with the breath feeling like a candle in a storm. So, I switched gears to more of an insight focus and just noted radar-ping style. That, that, that, that. Very quickly it all calmed down and I was able to resume with the breath as object.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/4/14 6:16 PM as a reply to John M..
03/03/2014

40m -
44m -
15m - Pretty average sits apart from continued atypical neck tension and a ton of energetic pressure around the face during the last session.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/10/14 11:38 PM as a reply to John M..
04/03/2014

40m -
20m - Hit 2nd jhana here and it left no doubt as to what I'd encountered. I was expecting an experience along the lines of "oh, this is new," but instead what I realized was "oh, I've been here before." I've definitely experienced jhanic states before during transitions out of sleep. As if to confirm, the next morning I was able to repeatedly dip into and out of 2nd jhana, deliberately disrupting the state to see how the transition back in felt. It seems almost impossible to avoid rocketing past first jhana when the level of relaxation is that deep.


05/03/2014

1hr - Pretty standard overall, although the level of concentration toward the end was especially deep and steady. Feels good to put a little extra weight on the bar, so to speak, and I hope to push forward with longer sits.

More of the involuntary 2nd jhana later on that night. I was completely exhausted, so it was actually something of a nuisance to be repeatedly slipping into them. The raptures are very pleasant, but by no means restful.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/6/14 11:02 PM as a reply to John M..
Hey John. Welcome. Took a look at your practice log tonight. Looking forward to reading more.

Bill

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/8/14 11:48 PM as a reply to Bill F..
Hi Bill, appreciate the welcome! Thanks for taking a look.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/10/14 11:38 PM as a reply to John M..
06/03/2014

1hr - Starting to feel as though I can "relax" the mindfulness and still motor along with little risk of being hijacked by discursive thought, lending to a more restful feel and seemingly deeper concentration. Random distractions still bubble up but they take on a distinctly impersonal feel when the concentration is strong. If a thought does manage to carry me away, it's clearly an especially seductive issue and worthy in some way of contemplation outside meditation.


07/03/2014

1hr -
40m -
20m - More of the usual unusual as my comfort level with the more interesting/compelling phenomenon is picking up. It seems as though the object is spontaneously shifting to include silence itself toward the middle to end of sits. Doing so lends the breath an interesting sort of "acoustic" quality that relates directly to the spaciousness of mind. For example, with shallow concentration the breath is something like intimate conversation in a small room. As concentration deepens, the breath is more like whispers in an cathedral.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/12/14 1:46 AM as a reply to John M..
08/03/2014

1hr -
40m - Difficult sits. Lots of discursive thought and energetic pressure. Only managed to stay put through bloody-minded stubbornness, really.


09/03/2014

40m -
20m -
20m - Feeling closer to baseline after yesterday's fiasco. Playing more with relaxing mindfulness as concentration deepens. Sometimes this works to deepen the concentration further, other times it does not.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/11/14 3:18 AM as a reply to John M..
Bit of a between-two-sits update here. I was wanting to do a session but was quite fatigued, so by way of compromise I opted to lay my ass out for some samatha practice until dozing off. Instead, I spent the next hour and a half cycling into and out of jhanas and light sleep. About as restful as going for a jog, but there were some interesting observations to be had.

First, what I'm taking to be 2nd jhana is so incredibly effortless that being able to experience a harder version of it is extremely motivational for future practice. It's like having your concentration caught by a fish hook... only a great deal more pleasant than that particular simile might suggest. Secondly, transition from 1st to 2nd is such an odd feeling. Pretty tough to describe, but I was able to cross it a few times, so I feel like I have a better idea of where to "aim" to find it. Lastly, the degree of relaxation seems to have a pretty enormous effect on the ease of entering jhana. Simply inclining myself toward jhana would result almost immediately in absorption. Ditto for the transition from 1st to 2nd. From there the ease and enjoyment of 2nd coupled with fatigue pretty much hijacked any attempt to go further.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/12/14 1:57 AM as a reply to John M..
10/03/2014

30m - Nothing noteworthy.


11/03/2014

45m - Tried to do corpse-posture immediately after waking up. Not hugely successful and I'm dubious as to whether it's an experiment worth repeating. Although, I did have a brief insight into the empty nature of my "stuff."
53m - Notably pleasant with all kinds of coarse, goosebumpy energetic movement throughout the body. Felt quite natural to keep the attention inclusive of the entire field of experience, so I just tucked observation of the breath into that wider field and rolled with it.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/29/14 3:57 PM as a reply to John M..
John M.:
30m - Nothing noteworthy.

That's hilarious emoticon

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/29/14 11:04 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Sometimes my sense of humour is so dry even I miss the joke emoticon

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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3/13/14 3:06 PM as a reply to John M..
12/03/2014

2hrs (ish) - This was across three sits total. I'm not certain of the timings for each, but there's beginning to be a discernible arc to my sessions.

First, I begin by focusing on the breath until the mind stills, and then relax into that stillness, letting concentration deepen. If successful, my awareness widens to be more inclusive of the entire body. Fizzly energy stuff and body-boundary obfuscating things tend to manifest here. Remaining in this state, the movements of attention itself become almost silhouetted against the stillness of mind. Noting the scanning, "spotlight" nature of attention as it passes from object to object is easy when it's the only show in town. If I follow these activities closely (both the arising and passing of phenomenon and the movement of attention in response), perception seems to widen even further as attention itself begins to wobble and finally relent. What remains feels like a single, cohesive field of experience, of which I am just one point.

From there, I either get shunted into first jhana (which is a drag in a way, as this mostly restores all the nicely dissolved perceptual boundaries) or I fuck it up in some way and concentration breaks. At which point I go back to the breath and start over again.


13/03/2014

53m - Had trouble establishing absorption due to some nagging physical discomfort. Still, got some good sati reps in.

1hr - Entered first jhana roughly 20 minutes into the sit. Then slipped out. Then went back in, and so on. Felt a bit like doing chin-ups with my mind. Piti and sukha were quite understated within absorption so I focusing instead on exploring the sense of solidity this mind-space presented. Soon it wobbled and -- pop -- 2nd jhana. Again, not particularly rapturous so I kept on with probing perception itself. Wobble, pop, 3rd jhana. Holy shit is that one ever different.

I recall reading somewhere that the method you enter absorption with will affect the absorption itself. So, for example, someone focusing on the pleasant sensations that present during access concentration and riding those sensations into jhana will have a more rapturous experience. Since I rode in whilst investigating perception, it seems logical that the range and quality of attention itself within the jhanas seemed to be the most dominant aspect. At first, 3rd jhana was incredibly strange. It was like the middle of my attention had just dropped out, or inverted in some odd way.

After the initial "woah," it quickly became really quite... ordinary. Extraordinarily ordinary, actually. Phenomena arise, then pass away. I must have heard that statement a million times, but it seems like only now that I've actually experienced it. I'm beginning to appreciate how the development of jhana is so helpful to the practice of insight beyond simply aiding in concentration.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
3/18/14 8:15 AM as a reply to John M..
14/03/2014

50m -
1hr - Somewhat trying sits with a lot of energetic pressure forming at and fluctuating around the bridge of the nose. Intense enough to make deeper absorption difficult.


15/03/2014

50 -
30 -
55 - Some more distracting pressure toward the end of the last sit, but overall things evened out quite a bit in terms of attention and energetic stuff. Free lessons in impermanence, yay!


16/03/2014

40m -
25m - Much better concentration here. Interesting to note as stillness of mind improves it really serves to highlight the appearance and unsatisfactoriness of times when it is not still.


17/03/2014

25m -
20m - Wasn't able to sit nearly as long as I'd have liked. It's interesting how 20 minutes feels like hardly any time at all now.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/1/14 4:10 PM as a reply to John M..
18/03/2014

56m -
45m -


19/03/2014

45m -
45m -


20/03/2014

30m -
30m -
30m -


21/03/2014

30m -


22/03/2014

35m -
45m -


24/03/2014

55m -
1hr -
55m -


25/03/2014

1hr -
1hr -


26/03/2014

1hr -
1hr -


27/03/2014

1hr -
1hr -


28/03/2014

42m -
1hr -


There's been a definite shift in baseline ability over the span of these sits. Remaining with stillness itself as object seems to have been beneficial, lending an effortless quality to concentration, once that concentration is established. There's also less "preamble" to sits, and it feels as though I can skip straight to stillness. The development of each sit seems to have more to do with the shifting sense of spaciousness and stability of awareness. I've had a couple peeks at how this eventually solidifies into a kind of imperturbability, and my impression is that this is a direction worthy of pursuit.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/1/14 3:09 PM as a reply to John M..
29/03/2014

45m
50m
45m - Pretty standard sits, more "field" manifestation. Later that night passed A&P during a dream, followed by what felt like DN territory. I'm usually hesitant to declare myself at any particular spot within insight territory, but these seemed to rap me on the forehead pretty clearly.


30/03/2014

30m
45m
30m - Still experiencing fields, but within a contracted, mostly somatic space. When I deliberately power mindfulness right up to the "present moment" there is a distinct sense of never quite getting there. I know the Buddha declared that phenomena are "preceded by mind" but in a strictly literal sense I can experience my poor mind's inability to even be current. By the point something has occurred and I have perceived it, much less conceptualized, much less pursued it, that shit is gone. Following this closely leads to a kind of blurred, unreal, time-lapse quality. In other words, reality gets fuzzy along the axis of space AND time.


31/03/2014

1hr - Awoke in hard 1st jhana and decided to roll with hit. I never get jhana with the piti and sukha factors so well defined during "formal" sits so it's good to have these random opportunities to really steep in it.
50m -
1hr - More oddball time-stuff, along with frequencies that I initially mistook for heartbeat given the similarity in sensation before realizing it was going at least double-time. Really the only way to experience any kind of peace or clarity during this churning "stuff" is to adopt the macro view. More mind-wandering than is typical these past couple days as well. Toward the end of the sit, with awareness resting on awareness, there was a peculiar sense of depersonalization. Like I wasn't breathing, but rather watching myself breath. The same odd, unsettling feel when you see yourself projected on a dozen different TV sets in an electronics store.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/15/14 10:36 PM as a reply to John M..
Still sitting. The consistency of my practice (2-3 hours daily) is strong enough that there doesn't seem to be much point in tracking specific times.

Concentration is improving (deeper stillness, less effort, more enjoyment) but jhanas are still a hit-or-miss affair, and I certainly haven't been anywhere past 2nd. Outside of sits there's a noticeable and continued pull toward stillness / mental quietude, and I attempt to stay with and nurture this inclination throughout the day. I'm thinking it might be prudent to start noting, but it feels almost crude and mechanical in contrast to just staying with experience as it presents.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/23/14 6:19 AM as a reply to John M..
Couple things of note within the past few days.

First, jhana has really been unfolding in interesting ways. The rapture quality in particular is becoming less strictly somatic and has taken on a more cerebral quality as well. The sense of spaciousness and enjoyment have increased as well. If the absorption was especially deep, it's as though I can "touch" the more cerebral aspects for quite some time afterward.

Secondly, I routinely do concentration practice in bed prior to falling asleep and it's not uncommon to enter samadhi during this. Recently I entered a brief state -- maybe 5 seconds tops -- that seemed to be completely centre-less. Absolutely no sense of objective boundary between inner/outer. A really vast quality to the experience as well, despite its brevity. No idea what to make of this.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
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4/23/14 10:35 AM as a reply to John M..
John M.:
Recently I entered a brief state -- maybe 5 seconds tops -- that seemed to be completely centre-less. Absolutely no sense of objective boundary between inner/outer. A really vast quality to the experience as well, despite its brevity. No idea what to make of this.
5th jhana - boundless space? The reason they are called arupa or non material is the information telling you have a body is shut down. Cool huh?
Have fun,
~D

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/26/14 4:12 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
5th jhana - boundless space? The reason they are called arupa or non material is the information telling you have a body is shut down. Cool huh?
Have fun,
~D

Wild. The MCTB description sure does seems to match, though I do recall some body awareness. Far too brief to really pin it down, though.

More and more I'm favouring Ajahn Geoff's "post-it note" approach to labelling meditative experience, especially on first encounter. You almost by necessity have to get on the other side of whatever you've run into in order to have another reference point to triangulate it by.

RE: Nothing to see here, move along
Answer
4/26/14 9:18 PM as a reply to John M..
pop - immediately out into another headspace. Very spacious, calm, and with sudden full-body awareness. Faded very quickly, not sure what to make of it.


I noticed this when I first started a while back but it seems to have gone away now. I'm wondering if it's a new baseline that develops - have you encountered this after so much practice? Does it always appear for you or can you just fall into jhana pretty quick now?

Lastly, the degree of relaxation seems to have a pretty enormous effect on the ease of entering jhana. Simply inclining myself toward jhana would result almost immediately in absorption.


This has been my biggest discovery with jhana. There seem to be two ways to do it. You can muscle your way there with a lot of effort and get breif periods of it, or you can relax your way there, and coast on through. You can go all the way to the end by simply relaxing. Don't look for anything to do, simply let go completely. This also makes the whole thing feel much more like a wave. I don't get any kind of popping, they just kind of fade into each other like a rainbow (with a bit of rest at certain points, so they're definitely separate "levels").

I know what you mean about randomly falling into the second during the day. You can actually carry the third around with you if you're relaxed during the day, and sometimes it erupts into random raptures. Very nice way to live, I'll tell you. ^^

I recall reading somewhere that the method you enter absorption with will affect the absorption itself. So, for example, someone focusing on the pleasant sensations that present during access concentration and riding those sensations into jhana will have a more rapturous experience. Since I rode in whilst investigating perception, it seems logical that the range and quality of attention itself within the jhanas seemed to be the most dominant aspect. At first, 3rd jhana was incredibly strange. It was like the middle of my attention had just dropped out, or inverted in some odd way.


You should read this chapter:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB%205.%20Dissolution,%20Entrance%20to%20the%20Dark%20Night?p_r_p_185834411_title=MCTB%205.%20Dissolution,%20Entrance%20to%20the%20Dark%20Night

Whereas one might have felt that one’s attention had finally attained the one-pointed focus that is so highly valued in most ideals of meditation during the Arising and Passing Away, during the Dark Night one will have to deal with the fact that one’s attention is actually quite wide and its contents unstable. Further, the center of one’s attention becomes the very least clear area of experience, and the periphery becomes predominant. This is normal and even expected by those who know this territory. However, most meditators are not expecting this at all and so get blindsided and wage a futile battle to make their attention do something that, in this part of the path, it simply won’t do.


Daniel talks about how the jhanas and the progress of insight are connected in another chapter too. I've had this kind of experience, so I can confirm your theory - at least in my case. When I first started practicing jhana after hitting an A&P experience around new years, I was getting a lot of varied effects, and I think that tends to come from less focused attention. The jhanas can be done accompanied by any number of mind-states or feelings, which will make them feel like completely different mind-states. If you dissociate from the jhana factors, it will make the jhanas appear AS the nanas - seems like.

Toward the end of the sit, with awareness resting on awareness, there was a peculiar sense of depersonalization. Like I wasn't breathing, but rather watching myself breath. The same odd, unsettling feel when you see yourself projected on a dozen different TV sets in an electronics store.


I've gotten this as well too. Did you feel like you were sitting in your head somewhere?

Concentration is improving (deeper stillness, less effort, more enjoyment) but jhanas are still a hit-or-miss affair, and I certainly haven't been anywhere past 2nd.


http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5428764

I made a post at the end of that thread that could be helpful if you want to move on to deeper jhanas. TLDR, I basically said to relax, haha. Don't concentrate, instead, think of it as absorption. Use the same kind of attentiveness you would use to watch TV, and simply watch the jhana factors. Something that helped me was to realize that jhana is letting go. It isn't produced by letting go, and letting go doesn't help jhana factors arise. Rather, the factors themselves ARE the letting go. Relaxation = jhana. You enter jhana with full body awareness - which is essentially letting go of outside distractions. The tingling rapture of the 1st/2nd jhana is always there at a low level. Then you let go of that and emotional comfort arises (it's easy to skip this one if you cling to the raptures, so let them go gracefully, and you'll get a reward that's even better). You let go of that and equanimity is all that's left. It's like the comfort of knowing you don't even need comfort, or the relaxation of all wanting. From there, there's a more difficult shift, so it can take a bit more time, but you'll notice you go a bit numb. This numbness is the letting go of the body. Essentially you become so relaxed that you forget you have a body. If you have trouble it helps to watch the blackness behind your eyes - but don't TRY to do anything! Then everything expands and dissolves outward. But remember, you're simply watching whatever happens with relaxation. Try to simply enjoy whatever good feeling is happening in the present moment, that will move you on much faster than if you try to help in any way.

Secondly, I routinely do concentration practice in bed prior to falling asleep and it's not uncommon to enter samadhi during this. Recently I entered a brief state -- maybe 5 seconds tops -- that seemed to be completely centre-less. Absolutely no sense of objective boundary between inner/outer. A really vast quality to the experience as well, despite its brevity. No idea what to make of this.


5th jhana - boundless space? The reason they are called arupa or non material is the information telling you have a body is shut down. Cool huh?
Have fun,
~D


That's what I'd say too! Nice work. The fact that you can do jhana better when falling asleep means relaxation is probably going to work for you the same way it does for me.

Wild. The MCTB description sure does seems to match, though I do recall some body awareness. Far too brief to really pin it down, though.


You will always be able to find body awareness if you LOOK for it. Same with thinking. If you go "oh, I don't notice my breath anymore," you'll suddenly find it. This is something I got bit stuck on, haha. I'd go "Oh did my body really disappear? I'd better check to see if it's really gone." Then I'd check in to body sensation and see my body was still there and be like, "Oh, sad, I must not be in the 5th yet." Remember, you're just sitting in a chair and retreating into your head. Jhana is like really advanced daydreaming. Don't look for anything outside of the jhana factors to prove you don't see them anymore. Just watch the jhana factors themselves, this is the concentration part of it. I've been hitting pretty strong jhanas lately after a period of struggling, and all I had to do was remove the effort and allow the relaxed attention to do its thing - same as getting sucked into a good movie. There's really no exception to the rule - it's taken me all the way to the 7th for a few weeks now (I'm starting to hit the 8th, but I need to get past the excitement bump ^^)! It's easy to get kicked out of the arupa jhanas if you try too hard with them.

Anyway, I hope this is somewhat helpful!