Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months astrakhan 2/24/15 6:41 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Laurel Carrington 2/24/15 8:29 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Laurel Carrington 2/24/15 8:31 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months astrakhan 2/24/15 8:52 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Jenny 2/24/15 9:24 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Dream Walker 2/24/15 10:29 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Dream Walker 2/24/15 10:24 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months tom moylan 2/24/15 3:15 PM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Michael K 2/24/15 3:37 PM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Noah 2/24/15 7:02 PM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Richard Zen 2/24/15 11:06 PM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Alexander Rice 2/25/15 5:27 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months b man 3/6/15 7:58 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Alexander Rice 3/6/15 8:30 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months b man 3/6/15 10:28 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Alexander Rice 3/6/15 10:56 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months b man 3/6/15 10:54 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Alexander Rice 3/6/15 11:28 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months A. Dietrich Ringle 2/25/15 6:23 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months Alexander Rice 2/25/15 6:28 AM
RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months astrakhan 2/28/15 7:26 AM
astrakhan, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 6:41 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 6:38 AM

Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/1/14 Recent Posts
Hello everybody, I've been lurking on here reading a alot and now I have to ask for the community's help, as I feel stuck in a pre-jhanic state for more than 18 months.

Here is the situation in brief:

I have read MCTB 2 times making notes, along with countless other resources regarding the topic. I've been meditating daily for 1,5 years, with a 3 months break due to personal circumstances. My sittings last 0.5-2hrs and I practice daily in my home, using headphones with white noise to block the environmental sounds.
I think I have managed to touch very shortly a jhanna-like state, but didn't get to a solid state. Just unstable flashes of tranquility. Of course, meditation does lots of good things to my life, but I miss its focal point: access meditation, a stable 1-st jhana and so on.

I am very determined to build my inner life around the practice. I would do more for this than for anything else. Sadly though, it seems I am stuck in this superficial and borderline state, where I manage to control my thoughts for brief moments and get into a higher state for just seconds. The situation is also frustrating, as I cannot see a future evolution out of this, unless something steps in to help me.

So, how common is this situation? What do I have to do to break through and go further in my practice? Is there a possibility to get help from a person who can correct my mistakes and guide me through the process in a more efficient way? What are the odds I will nevertheless remain stuck in this fruitless situation without being able to evolve further?
I don't really even know what to ask for.

I guess one may need more details to guess what's up with me - please ask and I will try to provide anything relevant to the situation.

I really hope to get some help from you guys. Thank you!
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Laurel Carrington, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:29 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:29 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
My ability to access jhana didn't really take hold until after first path, and then it was relatively easy, especially post-second. In your case, I would venture to guess that you are expecting something specific and trying to get your mind under control to arrive at the standard you expect. It might be better for you just to settle for a few minutes, maybe do some breath counting, and then proceed with insight meditation.

There's a video of Shinzen Young describing "do-nothing" meditation. Interestingly enough, he doesn't demand a pristine mind; he doesn't even suggest stopping a thought that has arisen, but rather advises that you let thoughts come and go and be aware of them as they do so. What I ended up doing is counting breaths for a few minutes and then beginning to note. The noting focused my mind better than working at concentration in the beginning. People's minds are not all alike, and what gets one person advancing in practice might be an exercise in frustration for someone else. 
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Laurel Carrington, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:31 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:31 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
One more thing: I'd recommend ditching the headphones. Creating an ideal environment for yourself will just teach your mind to regard any distraction at all as aversive. So step out into the open and work with whatever arises. 
astrakhan, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:52 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 8:52 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/1/14 Recent Posts
As I have understood from MCTB, one cannot proceed with insight meditation (e.g. noting) withour firstly acquiring access concentration and the 1-st jhana (which have nothing to do with Vipassana practice - as in noting or insight meditation).

I quote from MTCB:
once you gain access concentration getting into those states is very easy. Until you can get into access concentration, you ain’t got squat.
So, how could I try to start noting without this Samatha prerequisite?

Thank you.
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Jenny, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 9:24 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 9:24 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
You don't need first jhana to start insight practice, just access concentration. I don't recall anywhere in MCTB that says you need first, just access, which is easy. I would definitely follow Laurel's advice. 

Before SE, I had Jhanas 1-4, but soft and sloppy. As Laurel experienced, as soon as I got SE, the jhanas were suddenly there, hard, and they included some formless realms. I just recently got Second Path, and the jhanas are very hard, and I can call them up, even out of order, 1 through 8.

This said, because of migraine auras that are like seizures, I did have to combine samatha with vipassana from the beginning. I used some Thai Forest meditation guides for doing the two emphases (samatha and vipassana) in tandem, within the same sits.

Check out Ajaan Lee's brief Keep the Breath in Mind. It is free on Thanissaro's free ebook site.
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 10:24 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 10:24 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 1454 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
astrakhan:

I guess one may need more details to guess what's up with me - please ask and I will try to provide anything relevant to the situation.

I really hope to get some help from you guys. Thank you!

Retreat time....
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 10:29 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 10:29 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 1454 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
astrakhan:
As I have understood from MCTB, one cannot proceed with insight meditation (e.g. noting) withour firstly acquiring access concentration and the 1-st jhana (which have nothing to do with Vipassana practice - as in noting or insight meditation).

I quote from MTCB:
once you gain access concentration getting into those states is very easy. Until you can get into access concentration, you ain’t got squat.
So, how could I try to start noting without this Samatha prerequisite?

Squat and do it anyway....note like you never noted before and just see what happens....maybe you will get access concentration by doing...maybe not ...but try it out for a week or a month. Tell us what happens.
Good luck,
~D
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tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 3:15 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 3:15 PM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy,
your situation is not yours alone.  many of us have had long stretches where what we expect to happen does not.  its really the expectation that's the problem.  another thing that might ease your mind a bit is that when i first started seeing the jhanas clearly, it was at once obvious that i had been in those stages previously but had not recognized them for what they were.  jhanas can be extremely deep or very shallow so be open to subtle states and subtle sensations which match up to the descriptions.

access concentration is emphasized in the book as you wrote and it is important. worrying about all of this won't help though. what techniques are you using? what object?  i found counting the out breaths to be a very good way to build longer measureable concentration.  are you focusing on a small patch of skin where the breath slides by?  notice the subtlties, separate the actual sensations from the mental images of that patch.

as noted in a previous answer, a retreat is a great opportunity to make rapid progress and to help you see emerging patterns of your sits.

make it a point to enjoy your sits...don't try to get somewhere, try to be there.
Michael K, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 3:37 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 3:37 PM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 16 Join Date: 5/5/11 Recent Posts
It's great you are aware of jhanas. I was not, still learning, and these things happened regardless of knowing anything about jhana. That worked until a Dark Night crisis caught me unprepared, a very unpleasant situation! Your studying the jhana and nana states will be most helpful.

But don't fret about any of this. If you are doing the practice, you will have results. Just get what you got in this moment, whatever it is. Steep yourself in now. It gets automatic in time, with practice, and patience.
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Noah, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 7:02 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 7:02 PM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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I'd like to second DreamWalkers notion and reccomend that you start noting without 1 jhana and even without access concentration.  This may sound ridiculous to many, but I have made excellent progress through the insight cycles by constantly noting (usually simple, one-word notes) in my daily life, while walking around.  I basically put between 25 and 50% of my concentration power on the noting and let it run like a tape loop alongside whatever else I am doing with my mind in any given moment.  The truth is that both nanas and jhanas can be either "soft" or "hard" but path moments do similar damage regardless of whether one is going super deep in formal sitting meditation or being hit with fruitions while bartending :p   .... Just try to get past the A & P!
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 11:06 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/24/15 11:05 PM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
astrakhan:

So, how common is this situation? 

It's normal if you strive too much for jhana. You need to be relaxing your body and paying attention to the breath almost in a goal-less state. Do the practice for it's own sake instead of a goal. Feel grateful for this time for yourself regardless of results. Everytime your mind wanders, what builds the attention muscle is simply bring it back to the object again and again without commentary or self-bashing. 

Another secret to understand is how preferences cause stress in the first place. As soon as you say "I want this" the brain will start complaining about any obstacle or imperfection that gets in the way of the goal. You have to not mind that the brain wanders and just return to the practice. Letting go of preferences while still following the instructions is really skillful.

Don't give up practicing because jhana skills are like other skills in that if you abandon them they weaken. This is also another insight. If you have stressful thinking that is a habit then abandoning those thoughts over and over again by not adding fixating stories will weaken them. When you don't have strong habits to ruminate, then you're free.
Alexander Rice, modified 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 5:27 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 5:12 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/20/15 Recent Posts
I found these articles very helpful indeed; 

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Jhana+and+%C3%91ana+/en
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/nicks-current-candle-flame-kasina.html
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/yogi-tool-box-letting-go-approach-to.html


My early experience was similar to yours -- I was so terribly excited if something 'interesting' happened that my mind immediately pounced on it causing it to vanish instantly. I desperately wanted to know if this whole mediation thing was a scam and wanted a definite sign very badly indeed and that was a hindrance. My concentration has been hit and miss with occasional experiences of strong absorbtion but most of the time I'm working from just a basic state of a resonably quiet mind and have managed at least one path albeit with the help of psychedelics.

Last night I managed to attain a variety of jhanic states intentionally for the first time after taking up the candle flame method about a week ago, I cheated initally and used a wee bit of DMT to break down some dark night stuff that was getting in the way, but I can now do it without... mainly because of the understanding I got from Ken Folk's 'chicken herding' metaphor (see first article). I was lost in a DN and for me the first sign that I was 'doing it right' was watering eyes which I initially dismissed as physiological but quite quickly realised was my first really clear experience of the 'misery' stage, so also bear in mind that getting into jana may not be in the least bit pleasurable.

I also found the first part of Maha Bouwa's Path to Arahatship to be very helpful where he's talking about using the mantra 'buddo' repeated alongside breathing all the time. Now, if I notice that my mind is inclined to grasping at exciting phenomena I just go back to awareness of breathing with 'bu' on the in breath and 'do' on the out breath and that keeps it from making mischief. I suspect it is something to do with keeping the linguistic centre of the brain occupied. It's exactly the same concept as noting but I find that the process of trying to label new things all the time gets in the way, whereas just noting the same thing over and over again is helpful.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 6:23 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 5:56 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Maybe you should indulge more in sensual pleasures. If done in an ethical way, this might help subconscious material surface which would then karmically induce jhana perhaps.

Edit: morality is the first and last training, as daniel says
Alexander Rice, modified 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 6:28 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 6:28 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/20/15 Recent Posts
Sense pleasures... or more generally active meditation techniques. Walk, run, yoga, weight lifting, five knuckle shuffle etc.
astrakhan, modified 7 Years ago at 2/28/15 7:26 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 2/25/15 9:29 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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It's overwhelming to know there are people out there ready to spend time and attention for the problem I have. I am so grateful! Thank you!
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b man, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 7:58 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 7:58 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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Alexander Rice:

I also found the first part of Maha Bouwa's [url=]Path to Arahatship to be very helpful where he's talking about using the mantra 'buddo' repeated alongside breathing all the time. Now, if I notice that my mind is inclined to grasping at exciting phenomena I just go back to awareness of breathing with 'bu' on the in breath and 'do' on the out breath and that keeps it from making mischief. I suspect it is something to do with keeping the linguistic centre of the brain occupied. It's exactly the same concept as noting but I find that the process of trying to label new things all the time gets in the way, whereas just noting the same thing over and over again is helpful.

thanks, this is very helpful to me. The reiki lineage I was taught under has a Buddho meditation that I am wondering has relations to this. I will investiage further. It seems like Ajahn Chah used this also. 
Alexander Rice, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 8:30 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 8:30 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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I don't think there's anything terribly special about the word 'buddho' unless it links to memories or concepts you already. I suspect you could incline your mind to different things by picking different words that are meaningful to you -- 'stardust', 'black hole'. 'timeless' seem appealing to me as possibilities that might have more meaning to western ears.

Possibly different words might incline to different jhanas? So something that produces a nice 3d image eg 'red ball' might incline to 4th jhana; 'starry sky' might work for 5th jhana; something that hints a timeless wisdom might work for 6th e.g. 'grandma'; 2nd jhana is central focus so 'pouncing cat'... make any sense? Just theorising here, not tried it myself.
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b man, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:28 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:27 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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Alexander Rice:
...... something that hints a timeless wisdom might work for 6th e.g. 'grandma'; 2nd jhana is central focus so 'pouncing cat'... make any sense? Just theorising here, not tried it myself.

Haha, love it!!

I think I'd find it very hard to keep a straight face in a mediation hall repeating Grandma and Pouncing Cat over and over but yeah I get your point!! 
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b man, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:54 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:52 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 199 Join Date: 11/25/11 Recent Posts
Alexander Rice:
I don't think there's anything terribly special about the word 'buddho' unless it links to memories or concepts you already. I suspect you could incline your mind to different things by picking different words that are meaningful to you -- 'stardust', 'black hole'. 'timeless' seem appealing to me as possibilities that might have more meaning to western ears.

Possibly different words might incline to different jhanas? So something that produces a nice 3d image eg 'red ball' might incline to 4th jhana; 'starry sky' might work for 5th jhana; something that hints a timeless wisdom might work for 6th e.g. 'grandma'; 2nd jhana is central focus so 'pouncing cat'... make any sense? Just theorising here, not tried it myself.

I also wonder if you dont need to drop the word upon reaching Jhana, which seems to be implied here....
http://isaan-life.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/more-on-buddhism-mindfulness-and-buddho.html


...Whichever theme you focus on, be earnest with it, keeping mindfulness in constant touch with the work you are doing. For example, if you’re focusing on the repetition of Buddho, keep constantly aware of the word Buddho, Buddho, as if there were nothing else left in the world for you to become two with this or three with that. There is only one thing: the word Buddho blending step by step with your awareness. As the citta becomes more and more still, the Buddho you are repeating will more and more blend into one with your awareness. Then the word Buddho, Buddho will fall silent, leaving only an awareness that’s more conspicuous than before. This means that you’ve reached the citta. To put it in terms of following the tracks of an ox, you’ve reached the ox and can let go of its tracks. Here you’ve reached the inner Buddha, which is like the ox, so now you can let go of the meditation word.
Alexander Rice, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:56 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 10:56 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

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"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy"
Alexander Rice, modified 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 11:28 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/6/15 11:05 AM

RE: Asking for help, as I feel stuck after 18 months

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/20/15 Recent Posts
I don't think that he's suggesting keeping the mantra while in jhana. He says

"As the citta becomes more and more still, the Buddho you are repeating will more and more blend into one with your awareness. Then the word Buddho, Buddho will fall silent, leaving only an awareness that’s more conspicuous than before."

I think what he's saying here is that at some point when the mind is still enough it will feel natural to drop the mantra, and you should go with that and let the mind move to contemplating the object that the mantra was pointing to in a non-conceptual way (jhana 4&5) and then after a while perhaps the object will fall away too (jhana 6 is 'no-thingness' so no objects allowed) and then let the mind go upwards from there.

While we're talking about words. Say the word 'imagine' to yourself a few times and watch what your mind does. For me it calls up noticing of the emptiness / voiness characteristic.. as sort of 'turning the minds eye inward' feeling located somewere in my head. If I then call that feeling up my mind starts to back out of whatever object it happened to be in, I first notice it as an overlay of noise in my visual field as mind becomes more noticeable than objects. If I keep doing it leads to the 'real world' becoming progressively more obviously not solid.

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