Flow and Samadhi

matthew sexton, modified 6 Years ago.

Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 313 Join Date: 1/14/14 Recent Posts
Relating Flow and Samadhi came up in this thread: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5660045

Rather than cluttering up thread, I'm posting a new thread here.
Andreas:
.... Like training to enter state of flow regardless of task, flow by Csikszentmihalyi definition. Would be interesting to see how samadhi etc relates to the state of flow.
I sort of did that experiment but backwards to your example:

For my own reasons, I pursued a goal of attaining 'flow' in the context of (simplifying greatly) standing in a circle of people playing 'beach ball', for hundreds of hours.  We'd vary the complexity of our exercise to match our ability to attend to the task.  It was great for various reasons and inspired me to go on my first-ever meditation retreat, a Goenka 10-day.  Long story short, I zipped right along through stages of progress of insight in just the first 5-6 days, certainly beyond the A&P and somewhere deep and maybe beyond the dark night stages before the end of the 10 days.

The feedback I've gotten from some people is that I was super lucky or talented to have 'reached so far into the path of insight' in my first ever meditation experience.  It's only anecdotal information, but I credit my ability to concentrate and apply energy to the experience I had cultivating the state of Flow that Csikszentmihalyi described.

Perhaps spending that time on the cushion instead of practicing 'flow' by hitting a 'ball' around might have gotten me there faster.  I'm pretty sure that there was no way I was going to start my contenplative journey on the cushion.  Everybody finds different ways in.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Bump. I'm going to write an essay about this topic for school, and hypothesis is that first (few) jhana(-s)=flow. But I've got 0 reliable scientific sources so if you have any I'd be grateful!
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
I think jhana and flow have the same self-forgetting quality.  The main difference might be that you don't actually need to be engaged or distracted to forget yourself.  The rapture of jhana is like flow without effort - you are drawn in without expending energy, so it's profoundly tranquil while being completely alert.  The "pull," if you will, into jhana for me seems to happen when I start to realize the things that were distracting me aren't actually distractions.  Which is to say, letting go of more and more and doing less and less until there is just nothing left to do except ride the jhana wave.

If you guys are very familiar with flow, try meditating with that mind-state.  Like, use it as a pointer.  See if you can flow without mental preoccupation or something to keep you busy.  The key to jhana seems to be an absence of aversion.  In a flow state, there is no time for self-correction so aversion can't creep in on you.  To do jhana, you have to get rid of aversion more manually, or apply concentration to such a degree that aversion can't grab you anymore.  The amount of concentration that's needed is directly proportional to how much aversion is present.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Not Tao (1/28/15 6:24 PM as a reply to Pål. )
"Andreas:
.... Like training to enter state of flow regardless of task, flow by Csikszentmihalyi definition. Would be interesting to see how samadhi etc relates to the state of flow."

" For my own reasons, I pursued a goal of attaining 'flow' in the context of (simplifying greatly) standing in a circle of people playing 'beach ball', for hundreds of hours."

Not Tao:
"I think jhana and flow have the same self-forgetting quality."


With respect to sports, if "flow" is similar to "being in the groove," then this phenomenon is arguably that of 'momentary concentration' (khanika-samadhi). Daniel mentions it (in MCTB1, p. 47), in the same sense that Mahasi uses it (e.g. TREATISE ON THE METHOD OF VIPASSANA INSIGHT MEDITATION vol 1, part 1, pp.104-5; and vol 1,part 2, pp.187) – in both cases as a specific vipassana technique.

I have come across the term discussed more broadly – as the kind of concentration a musician, a brain-surgeon, an athelete, a safe-cracker uses, which rings like descriptions used by Csikszentmihaly. This is a more wordly usage, and doesn't carry the morally correct (kusala) connotation it does in the vipassana context, but is potentially neutral, or worse."Wrong concentration (micchā-samādhi) is concentration associated with all karmically unwholesome (akusala, q.v.) consciousness" (BPS Dictionary, under ' samādhi').

1) (Traditional) Viewpoint that access NOT same as momentary:
Good description at:
    http://sharanam.tumblr.com/post/15565543812/vipassana-concentration-is-called-khanika-samadhi
Bhikkus Bodhi's discussion here also differentiates 'momentary' from 'access' concentration:
    http://www.vipassana.com/resources/8fp7.php
Here's discussion of the history, and rather critical of the modernist view:
    http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=312
Here's discussion of the history, and rather critical of the modernist view:
    http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=312
Than-Geof:
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html
Others reflecting this terminological viewpoint:
    http://fraughtwithperil.com/rbeck/2010/02/13/three-levels-and-two-kinds-of-concentration/
    http://www.trans4mind.com/personal_development/buddhist/path8RightConcentration.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammakaya_meditation#Samatha

2) Modernist view --  equating access and momentary -- this may be part of the 20th century commentarial rework of the terms:
   http://www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones1/vip-jhana.html
Vipassana view going back to the Burmese modernist:
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement
matthew sexton, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 313 Join Date: 1/14/14 Recent Posts
1) (Traditional) Viewpoint that access NOT same as momentary:
Good description at:
    http://sharanam.tumblr.com/post/15565543812/vipassana-concentration-is-called-khanika-samadhi
Bhikkus Bodhi's discussion here also differentiates 'momentary' from 'access' concentration:
    http://www.vipassana.com/resources/8fp7.php
Here's discussion of the history, and rather critical of the modernist view:
    http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=312
Here's discussion of the history, and rather critical of the modernist view:
    http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=312
Than-Geof:
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html
Others reflecting this terminological viewpoint:
    http://fraughtwithperil.com/rbeck/2010/02/13/three-levels-and-two-kinds-of-concentration/
    http://www.trans4mind.com/personal_development/buddhist/path8RightConcentration.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammakaya_meditation#Samatha

2) Modernist view --  equating access and momentary -- this may be part of the 20th century commentarial rework of the terms:
   http://www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones1/vip-jhana.html
Vipassana view going back to the Burmese modernist:
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement
Wow Chris, you just made my year!  I'm really into understanding this subject, I started meditation 13 months ago to experientially answer this question: what does it takes to make flow/concentration 'right'.  But I've been distracted by the greater world of vipassana, you just brought the nuggets to me.  Thank You!!!
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: matthew sexton(1/29/15 11:22 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie. )

I'm surprised myself by how the situation clears up with simply surveying (googling) a range of sources. I learned the classical terms (khanika vs preparatory -> access -> jhanic absorption concentration) from a teacher trained in the PaAuk Sayadaw (Visudhimagga) tradition. From earlier experience, mostly with music (perhaps comparable to sports), the khanika aspect made sense; the meditation training made the jhana progression aspect experientially clear.

Then exposure to Mahasi and popular VM (Vipassana Movement) notions seemed to muddy the waters. For instance, at a "Concentration" retreat as Spirit Rock Meditation Center, they would mention jhana s/w 'respectfully', but wouldn't go into it, and actually subtly warned against; instead ending the retreat with a focus on 'choiceless awareness.' And then the model in MCTB(1) – 'access concentration'as 'momentary', and things like 'vipasssana jhanas' -- was further confusing.

Now it's clear that there are, today, these two major Theravadan frameworks of interpretation for understanding the various terms for modes of concentration. Neither of them is 'wrong', and either contributes to deep practice, when one accepts the terminological conventions.

In fact, this kind of situation arises often, in Dho for instance, where people argue about differing traditions and terms from positions of understanding some particular one, often almost as a sort of fundamentalism. And questioning or attacking other usages of terms that seem to violate their invested beliefs. But some of the best discussions here also go a long way towards overcoming that.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Hey, Samma Samadhi = the four jhanas!
The suttas never mention khanika samadhi as far as I know. And why so sure that samadhi=concentration? And if samadhi is concentration, then how is ekagatta a factor of right samadhi? what would be the difference between one-pointedness and concentration? 

Look at this:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.008.than.html
C P M, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 219 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
It's been a while, but I've read "Flow" by Csikszentmihaly, and he also gave a talk at the local university. Flow was a concept we studied at our company. We developed video games, and the sweet spot for game design was to put the player in a state of flow. The idea was to present the right level of challenge to the player in order to be fully engaging, but not be too difficult as to be discouraging.

Csikszentmihaly argues much of human behaviour is designed to help us enter into states of flow: sports, art, music, martial arts... If I remember right, he also mentions meditation. My understanding is that flow is a general concept, and that all humans enter states of flow regularly. Some manage to organize their life so that they encourage states of flow (work, hobbies..).

I believe that although meditation can put you into a state of flow, and while entering Jhana's you are in flow, but Jhana's are not equal to flow. Jhana's are a subset of things that happen while in flow. In the same way that a surgeon or mountain climber can be in state of flow while performing those activities, those activities are not equal to flow.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Could flow = upacara samadhi and Jhana = deeper states of flow?

I'm a little sceptical to the concept of upacara samdhi though, since it is never mentioned in the suttas and uses the word samadhi as synonymous to concentration. I think that in the suttas, it might be the case that sati=concentration, samadhi=special states of mind. But I don't know.
matthew sexton, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 313 Join Date: 1/14/14 Recent Posts
Pål:
Bump. I'm going to write an essay about this topic for school, and hypothesis is that first (few) jhana(-s)=flow. But I've got 0 reliable scientific sources so if you have any I'd be grateful!

All I have is the experience I related above.

Tangentially, this article: http://mashable.com/2015/01/26/asmr-youtube/ talks about a 'new phenomania' on the internet, audio/video that gives people lots of tingles and mellow feelings.  My personal take is that it's about people getting lulled into 'mind body' by the sensory input.  Supposedly some serious studies are happening on the subject, there may be something for you.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Flow and Samadhi

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
matthew sexton:
Pål:
Bump. I'm going to write an essay about this topic for school, and hypothesis is that first (few) jhana(-s)=flow. But I've got 0 reliable scientific sources so if you have any I'd be grateful!

All I have is the experience I related above.

Tangentially, this article: http://mashable.com/2015/01/26/asmr-youtube/ talks about a 'new phenomania' on the internet, audio/video that gives people lots of tingles and mellow feelings.  My personal take is that it's about people getting lulled into 'mind body' by the sensory input.  Supposedly some serious studies are happening on the subject, there may be something for you.
Cool. Thanks! "Mind body", was that first nana? I never read MCTB that carefully.