Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

filan fisteku, modified 6 Years ago.

Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Post: 1 Join Date: 4/5/15 Recent Posts
I've been practicing concentration meditation for about a year now by focusing to the sound of my breath.For 8 months on and off with 20 minutes of day and these last 4 months I've gotten into it more seriously meditating whenever I feel mentally capable to do at the moment with about 45-60 minutes , 2-3 times a day.There was a period about a month ago where I had intense meditation sessions with deep concentration where I felt so good (weird because I didn't get much sleep that period , only about 5-6 hours of sleep) andI think it was a soft jhana but I'm not sure.From what I've read from jhana experiences it was definitely not a regular jhana .

Lately I have had free time on my hands and I've been meditating while maintaining my brain on peak condition by abstaining from sex/mastrubation , eating healthy , exercising and taking various supplements that support the brain like fish oil , vitamin B12 and complex , multivitamins etc.But I can't seem to reach jhana yet and it's becoming extremly frustrating to me.Today I kept focusing to my breath and even though the concentration was quite good , I felt stuck , not going anywhere, extremely far from jhana.I eventually became very frustrated and annoyed , had a burst of anger and then I slammed the table in tears.

I have seen many techniques online about entering jhana and tried them over time but with no success.

Am I missing something here ?
How long did it take you to reach jhana ?
If anyone could give any tips and share techniques it would be very helpful
Any reply is much appreciated.
Thanks !
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Check out A General All Purpose Jhana Thread.

If you have already developed good concentration, then the practice of developing dhyana may not be recommended as its practice is used primarily to be able to help with the development of solid concentration levels. If you are able to maintain the mind on an object for 5 to 20 minutes without unnoticed distraction, then you may be ready to learn and practice satipatthana. That is, if you are using the Buddha's Dhamma as your guide to awakening. If not, then you are on your own.
Jinxed P, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/29/11 Recent Posts
jhana is traditionally described as happening once you have momentarily abandoned the five hindrances. Perhaps you should relax more. You can't get jhana if you are feeling angry. Also I wouldn't worry about not having reached it yet. Check out Culudasa's Progressive Stages of Meditation. Here is the handout ..figure out where you are..

http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

He says that the average person meditating 1-2 hours a day, for a couple years could reach level 9, which would be right before jhana. So not having done it in 4 months is nothing to worry about.

Alan Wallace has stated that it in the scriptures  it would take a person 9 months of full time practice to reach Shamatha, but he has quite high standards. He also says it would take the average modern citizen 10,000 hours
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Hey,

From what you've described here, it sounds like you have a misunderstanding about jhana.  It isn't wrong to think of it as concentrtion, but when you say that concentration was good, but in spite of that you were frustrated and became angry, there is a disconnect.  When concentration is good, you are not focused on yourself at all, you are simply watching the object.

If you have expectations and desires about what concentration is going to bring you, that's completely fine, but while concentrating, you can just treat them like any other distraction.  A really helpful hint: you aren't going to notice when you become concentrated, you will just be concentrated.  You want to lose track of yourself. If you are watching how you feel to see if things are changing, you're not watching the object.  Jhana happens when the object is the only thing you're still paying attention to.  So when you feel frustrated, you can just treat that like any other thought.  You don't need to push it away, you don't need to accept it, you don't need to resolve it - you can just forget about it and go back to the object.  Think of it in a positive way.  You don't need to suppress distractions, hitting them away like you're in a batting cage, you just want to sustain more and more awareness single-mindedly on the object.  It's actually quite a relief to think of it this way!  You don't have to do anything, you can just ignore what's hapoening around you and even within you and let your mind settle down on a single thing.  It's about letting go of the constant need to satisfy that voice that says "Look at this!" "Fix that!" "Think about this." "Remember that." "Don't forget about this!" "Change that."  If this voice is focused on feelings it will be saying, "Jhana feels good and you don't feel good, so you're not in jhana." Then it will say, "you must be doing something wrong because you're not in jhana yet." Then maybe your mood changes slightly and you feel a little better and suddenly in clamps down and jumps in saying, "THERE!  What did you just do?!  That was working why did you stop!  Oh this must be impossible.  You could be having fun watching TV, why are you just sitting here like a lump."  Haha...

The key is to stop looking for anything.  Don't look at how you feel.  Don't look at what you're thinking.  If that's where the mind goes, don't let the voice punish you.  Let your feelins do whatever they want.  Just keep placing your attention on the object patiently, calmly, and tirelessly.  Treat everything else equally.  Distractions are neither good nor bad, they're just distractions.  As soon a you notice them, ignore them and go back to your object.

I made a thread a while back you might also find helpful: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5666656

Oh, just as a technical note, I've found that it's much easier to pay attention to a mantra (like saying "buddho" in your head along with the breath - breath in "buuuuuuuuuuuuuu" and breath out "dhooooooooooo") or a kasina. It might be worthwhile to give some other objects a try. Don't let the voice talk about that during meditation though! Just decide at the beginning of a sit what you're going to use and stick with it. Try something new on the next sit if you want. That voice is tricky, it will use anything and everything. It's good to know that, if there is any tension anywhere, it's that voice telling you something needs to be done. Jhana is when that voice goes away and you don't feel like there's anything you need to do. Jhana is just teaching the mind to stay still. You can't stay still if you're critiquing anything about yourself, your methods, your thoughts, or the world.
matthew sexton, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 313 Join Date: 1/14/14 Recent Posts
Apparently, when your brain is trained, jhana is this easy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRdiOoTZC3A

After a 10 day retreat and then about 10 months of an hour twice a day I started thinking I was reaching 3'rd.  I saw that video, kept on practicing, had another 10 day that retreat and within 4 months jhanas 1-4 became ridiculously easy.

I found this thread very helpful:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1973107?doAsUserId=U4FYRpmIICQ%3D%2F-%2Fmessage_boards%2Fmessage%2F10842%2Fiw

There was more too it than that, but it's late, going to sleep.
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Nikolai ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
matthew sexton:
Apparently, when your brain is trained, jhana is this easy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRdiOoTZC3A



Post-1st cessation/brain change/perceptual baseline shift it was that easy (for me at least). I did not do any jhana specific training much except for kasina and anapana but with the aim of practicing vipassana as soon as I could. Something about the 1st cessation which made it easy for the brain or whatever to simply give instant shape to the jhanas at will. A result of completing the first insight cycle. Further shifts saw even easier access. 


Nick
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Jenny, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
What are your overall practice goals? Are you also practicing vipassana?

What helps me enter first and second jhana is to really tune into the pleasure. So, if you are concentrating on the breath, make sure that the breath feels good! My advice is to ignore advice to "not adjust the breath." Adjust the length of in-breath, the length of out-breath, and the depths of the breath until is it pleasurable for that particular sit! The breath is just however it is, and that includes adjusted to your heart's content.

Jhanas are pleasurable, so if you are hammering the same nail with relentless effort to fixate on an object as such, then that is bound to be unpleasant, and unpleasant does not = jhana. In first and second jhana, blissful raptures are a jhanic factor; therfore, be sure to tune into that factor. When the pleasure kicks in and you are grooving with it, then the factors of directed thought and evaluation (the grunt work) fall away and second jhana and beyond pretty much run themselves. To me, first jhana remains the most difficult (and least pleasant one) because it still requires deliberate sustained effort.

I wish, also, to second what Nick says: Paths seem to lock in some rewiring that delivers (for many people, at least) sudden access to jhanas. So, for example, I had soft versions of first through fourth before my August path; immediately after that path, I had hard first through fourth and boundless space. Soon thereafter, I had boundless consciousness. At that point, after that path, the jhanas seemed to be "running the show." I would simply fall into them upon sitting, very automatically. After the next (January) path, there was an intensification of the richness and hardness of the states, and then I got all eight and a Pure Land. In short, consider doing insight practices to help jhana access along.

I frequently recommend the very brief little meditation manual by Ajaan Lee, called "Keeping the Breath in Mind." See Method 2 rather than the longer Method 1. This method is really easy for beginners because, like noting practice, it gives the practitioner something to do the entire time--and the doing has variety. If you are busy thinking what to do and do next, then there is no room for distraction, naturally. 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

Also, don't neglect training in morality, which includes kindness to yourself. Give yourself permission to just practice tuning into and having pleasure, without the pressure to "achieve" or "attain." Just really enjoy sitting in deep relaxation and grooving on the sweet pleasure of silky-smooth breath energy.

Jenny
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Do you see the pleasure of the kind of Jhana produced by the Ajahn Lee method and the pleasure of breathing comfortably as related?

According to Ajahn Brahm, the pleasure on the road to and in the Jhanas is different from sensual pleasure (which is btw also said in the Mahasaccaka sutta if anyone cares ;) ). Maybe this means "his" Jhana is even more different than I thought from the Lee/Fuang/Thanissaro Jhana where one is expected to have full body awareness. In the "Brahm Jhanas" there isn't awareness of like nothing at all except the Jhana factors if I've gotten it right. Really hard Jhana in other words. 

I used to meditate kind of like method 2 but I abandoned it since I found full body awareness impossible. Maybe it will be easier now when my concentration has improved from doing nostril focus and Brahm style "spot less" focus. Do you think changing between Anapana styles now and then slow progress towards piti and sukha? 

@ Not Tao (and Jenny)
you once said meditation that keeps one occupied and has you do stuff all the time (like the Ajahn Lee inspired scanning I used to do) might be bad for attaining your kind of Jhana which is about patiance, right? Could you elaborate on that? I'd love to see a "doing vs just watching" debate! Maybe the Jhanas produced are different emoticon
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Hey Pal,

I think you can get to what I call Jhana doing any kind of method, or none at all - like while sitting calmly by a lake, or while on a walk, or even at work.  For me Jhana comes from a mindset more than a specific practice.  Generally, the mindset is that everything can wait and the world can turn without me interfering for a while.  I think it's important when learning this mindset to have an anchor of some kind (any object of concentration you like) just to make sure the mind isn't wandering into unskillful states. Other than this, though, the most important thing is to allow yourself to become patient and let go of any feelings of urgency, striving, wishing, wanting, etc. So it's about how you go back to the object (like, the moment of returning to the breath), rather than concentration or method, I think.

To put it more simply, if going back to the object feels like a struggle, then that's what you're cultivating. If returning to the object is a relief from stress, then concentration will build by itself because of the pleasant qualities experienced in the present moment. The pleasantness comes first, and this is what creates concentration.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
In your experience, is there a different outcome when doing this with a satipatthana object compared to for example using mantra or kasina only? Or maybe those are satipatthana themes to, I'm not sure.
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tom moylan, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
hi,
as noted in some of the posts here, pleasure is the key...or a key.

for me, having read about the exclusionary nature of the progression of the jhanas helped to build my practice.  another key was finding the sensations which corresponded to "rapture" for ME.  in the suttas and commentaries there are a wide variety of sensations associated with rapture an for me it was the "hair standing on end" sensation near my temple area.  once I started to notice the arising of this sign of rapture i waited for it in each sit and focused on that until it was no longer exciting.  the next step for me was to introduce a though which made me simply happy and then honing in on the FEEL of happy and staying with that, staying with that, staying with that.

i found Leigh Brasingtons methods and descriptions useful as well as Ayya Khemas dharma talks.

once i nailed down the keys to my progression through the jhanas it was simply obvious that i had previously been in jhanic states before but had failed to comprehend the subtle qualities that differentiate them and so had always simply consider that a pleasant or deep sitting.  so dont be surprised if you find jhanic states to be familiar once you start to notice the different shades of them.

Ayya Khemas talks can be found on dharmaseed.org and there are some leigh brasingtom vids and talks around.
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Getting to jhana seems impossible to me

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Do you know any suttas describing the experience of piti in detail? I think it's mostly in the commentaries. All I can find in the suttas is that it is an experience that starts before 1st Jhana and ends after 2nd Jhana, and that you're supposed to fill some body with it. According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu and his lineage that body is the normal physichal body. According to Ajahn Brahm and his lineage, if I rembember it correctly, it's not the physical body but a mental body that's supposed to be filled with piti, since there is no tactile sense in the Jhanas (which might have some support in the Mahasaccaka sutta, depends on how you read it).  

This is just some examples of how much the interpretations of what Jhana and the Jhana factors really are differ. If I've understood it correctly, MCTB Jhana is a separate interpretation from the ones I introduced (if you don't already know them) above, and there are many more. I think the suttas (maybe not the commentaries) are quite unclear about these things. If you know a sutta that explains it in more detail I'd love to know which one! 

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