Enrapturing, joyous experience

Luke Grove, modified 7 Years ago at 8/5/14 3:37 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/5/14 3:33 PM

Enrapturing, joyous experience

Posts: 9 Join Date: 8/5/14 Recent Posts
I started meditating about 9 months ago. Nowadays, I try to do 35 minutes a day, which I usually manage about 4-5 times a week. I have recently started having a very peculiar experience. It feels like it should have a name, since it is clearly brought about by mindfulness practice and it is a very well defined state of mind, but I haven't been able to find a good match in the texts I read. I can almost make this happen at will, provided my mind is calm enough at the moment. I guess it's best described by an example.

The last time it happened when I walked from a point to another on the street, and decided that since it's idle mental time, I could as well practice some mindfulness. I took a breath or two, stopped the self-talk and tried to pay attention to the raw sensory experiences, noting each of them as they come, which is how I understand what insight meditation is, and the sensory experiences came flooding my mind.

In these cases, there is a moment of elation, and I either get overwhelmed by it, in which case it is over quickly, or manage to "surf" it, be aware of the joy itself but not wrapping my mind around it. In this case it feels like physically balancing on a thin plank, manuveuring between being too dull to be aware of everything and overfocusing on the bliss of the moment. 

It's as if I was aware of all the sensory input that hits my mind: the warm sun bathing my skin, the touch of the ground on my soles and through my shoes, the noises the tram passing by makes, rainbow in the arc of water in a nearby fountain, the wrinkles on the face of an old man on the street, the fear that I will eventually also get old and frail, the face of a pretty girl with every single dimple and barely visible strand of hair, a light touch of lust she evokes in me... all these and much more just come and go. The trick seems to be to pay the right amount of attention to each of these: enough to be aware, but not too much so that my mind stops in its tracks. It feels like droplets of water hitting the ground while it's raining heavily, each of them a single experience.

It's also as if I could feel the chains of causality that resulted in me having these experiences: if I focus on it, like one focuses a camera or aims a searchlight, I feel the trace of droplets in the arc of the fountain, see the young boy the old man was and the coffin he will eventually be buried in, see the factory my shoe was made in, the animal whose hide its leather was made of...

It's an overwhelmingly blissful, enrapturing feeling. I'd have to think hard of anything that even comes close. Part of it is the flow of becoming aware of all the sensory input, sort of like playing a fast-paced video game perfectly, part of it is the effort required to keep up this state and part of it is the pure joy of experiencing. It's as if every, even the most mundane sensory experience suddenly acquired cosmic significance. It's certainly something that I do want to experience again and again. Almost addictive.

What's this? Is this a known landmark, or one of the "nothing to see here, move along" unusual things one experiences during meditation? It sort of feels like the descriptions of first jhana I read, except that I haven't managed to reproduce it on the cushion yet, and that I expect that achievement to take more practice. I do admit that my judgement is clouded by the fact that I do want to achieve it, though.
x x, modified 7 Years ago at 8/5/14 6:54 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/5/14 6:53 PM

RE: Enrapturing, joyous experience (Answer)

Posts: 122 Join Date: 8/18/13 Recent Posts
Hi Luke,

Sounds like you're describing first and/or second jhana. First jhana is fairly strong, even kinda buzzy and just a little bit manic. Second jhana is more mellow, more like the joy of sunbathing -- happy and content.

Third jhana is often characterized as cool and blissful.

Fourth jhana is more like clarity and wide-openness.

It's difficult to create these experiences, because the really happen just by letting things happen. But they are a nice reward when we take a non-manipulative approach to life or meditation practice. You can kinda cultivate these states by focusing on breathing sensations during practice and remembering the joyful and happy feeling. Having a slight smile helps too. It's wonderful. Enjoy!

This kind of access will come and go, of course, so don't get too attached or think that practice will always be this way... but enjoy the feeling, notice how it seems to suggest your basic good nature, notice how it makes you naturally want to be good for other people.

In fact, you can even cultivate the feeling that you are beaming this happy feeling to all those who need it. Dedicate the practice to those who need comfort... and feel like you are sharing an unlimited suppy of happiness to whoever needs it. Enjoy!
tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 3:25 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 3:25 AM

RE: Enrapturing, joyous experience (Answer)

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
Howdy Luke,
really nice descriptions and metaphors.  imo, what you are describing is not an 'event' nor a 'stage' but rather your increasingly deepening insight into the the process of how your world is stitched together.

your 'surf' analogy is one i have used here a few times to describe the 'standing wave' nature of experience.  from one perspective there is this wave (our entire world of experience) just there and we are obseriving it and taking experience for granted.  as we start to see more clearly how this wave is constructed, we can surf around, forwards and backwards, from the direct physical sensory input, to the feeling tones that arise, to the pictures and mental templates which arise (quicker than we can blink) to our reactions to those...

this is my rough interpretation / description of how we can experience the five aggregates.  it is also described in parts of the satipattana sutta in verious of those excercises.

so , surf around a little during your sits.  pause at feeling tones ( are they positive, neutral, negative?), hang out at that place you described well, that beginning where sensations are arising on their own before being tainted by our preconceptions,  hang ten where the perceptions flash up from the abyss and wonder at the speed with which they present themselves.  wonder at your sense of wonder too.

and have a blast.

Luke Grove, modified 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:54 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:51 AM

RE: Enrapturing, joyous experience

Posts: 9 Join Date: 8/5/14 Recent Posts
Thanks for the quick replies!

A blast, this experience certainly is emoticon The observation that it suggests the basic good nature in me is spot on, as is the desire to be good to other people. It certainly engenders feelings of empathy and kindness towards everyone. And this empathy and kindness certainly feels like something that can be cultivated in daily life, which I intend to do, mainly because it's pleasant. Seems to be a very good example of a win-win game: it's a pleasant feeling to be kind. Yay!

The "first buzzy and manic, then happy and content" description also rings a bell,  as does the phrase "unlimited supply of happiness". These support the theory that this is jhana #1 / #2, although having read the MCTB, I sort of expected that one would need a greater ability to concentrate to achieve these states (I still keep having trouble keeping my mind from wandering on the cushion)

So the next step (unsurprisingly) is to keep sitting. Again, from MCTB, I inferred that once these states are reached, they serve as a basis upon which insight meditation is built, but your words seem to imply otherwise. Am I correct that this should be treated as a nice perk that is pleasant, but ultimately not helpful per se on the way, except as motivation to keep going? It seems that a few things did open up which can be observed, as Tom said.
x x, modified 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 11:54 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/6/14 11:54 AM

RE: Enrapturing, joyous experience

Posts: 122 Join Date: 8/18/13 Recent Posts
My only caution is to not get too attached to this state. Enjoy it, use it, and don't feel back if/when it goes. The old joke is either it will get worse, get better, or stay the same  ;)

It will come and go, and when it goes, don't fight to get it back. It came on it's own, it goes on it own. 

There is a lot of wisdom in positive and jhanic states (points to basic goodness, basic generosity, helps build a gentle kind of equanimity towards what arises) as well as negative and difficult states (points to impermenance, renunciation/not clinging, doing what needs to be done even when it is difficult, helps builds a tough kind equanimity towards what arises).
Luke Grove, modified 7 Years ago at 8/7/14 2:35 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/7/14 2:35 PM

RE: Enrapturing, joyous experience

Posts: 9 Join Date: 8/5/14 Recent Posts
Will do! May take a while to be free of attachment, though, since it's easy to get attached to things so pleasant emoticon