More Reliable Jhana Access?

John, modified 5 Years ago.

More Reliable Jhana Access?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/14/15 Recent Posts
Back in April, after about 24 days of consistently practicing anapanasati ~30 minutes a day in accordance with Thanissaro Bhikku, I was able to access a state of unprecedented refreshment that practically left me in tears of joy. It was like waking up from the most refreshing nap of my life with none of the grogginess. I am absolutely certain this was the first [samatha] jhana, the after effects lasted for two days.

However, getting this state has proven hard to replicate. It's unreliable still, and so when I pursue entertainment and mental nourishment I go back to what Thanissaro Bhikku calls "the same old roadkill" or alcohol, sex, etc.

Yesterday, I got a light beer, kind of regretted it afterwards, but realized that as much as I was doing this noting practice of late (and am somewhere between Three Characteristics and Reobservation, although my practice this weekend has been so sloppy that I wouldn't be surprised if I'm back to square one) that as long as I can't call at least the first jhana to mind as needed — I will always be tempted to indulge in sensual pleasures; that stream entry will remain just out of reach.

So that said, how do I make this state more dependable? I know I've accessed it at least three times in my life; but that's not nearly good enough to sooth my mind and advance my practice and right livelihood.
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katy steger, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: More Reliable Jhana Access?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi John, It sounds like second mental stabilization, what you've written: the mind developing suffusive joy. And how to develop this reliably? Well, in part what you already know: by your choices. Over time you can see the value of experience derived from the light beer and the value of experience in calming the mind through positive training (the jhana system: a calming down through attention, sustained attention, joy, ease-contentedness, and lastly suffusive equanimity -- very calm steady mind in the presence of arising and passing instants of thoughts/feelings/sensations). So over time you may be more likely to explore the jhana training system for study of mind over the light beer system... out of curiousity and also perhaps from a drive to find what is mind's reliable peace? And mind is said to be the forefunner of action...
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: More Reliable Jhana Access?

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
John, is "a light beer" a metaphor for a bottle of whiskey? Because I do not believe that having a light beer every now and then will preclude stream entry for you.

You don't sound very kind to yourself in this post. Hardness on ourselves and misplaced feelings of guilt and regret can certainly ruin our lives - and that hinders progress on the path.

I suggest allowing yourself to drink in moderate quantities, good sex  with people you have emotional connection with, and some metta practice towards yourself emoticon
John, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: More Reliable Jhana Access?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/14/15 Recent Posts
John, is "a light beer" a metaphor for a bottle of whiskey? Because I do not believe that having a light beer every now and then will preclude stream entry for you.
It was a Coors Light emoticon, and honestly I found it helpful in the sense it gave me a mild bit of perspective. Like "Huh, maybe I should focus on jhana practice a bit more."

You don't sound very kind to yourself in this post. Hardness on ourselves and misplaced feelings of guilt and regret can certainly ruin our lives - and that hinders progress on the path.
That's probably what has lead me to practice in this way in the first place!

But seriously, you're right. Much of what hinders me now, from what I can tell, is restlessness, regret, and anger.

To explain myself a bit more clearly, the one event that drove me to discovering MCTB and similar teachers of the Theravada tradition was the murder of Abdul Rahman "Peter" Kassig by ISIS. I invested a month of tong len and basically prayer towards his safe return, and it didn't come to pass. I didn't know him personally, but I came to identify with him strongly. I became severely depressed and came to question Buddhism completely. There was also some regret that I hadn't spotted him out sooner over social media and communicated with him, although that is a silly notion. I definitely regret his death, and I grieved it for months. It was by chance that I discovered "MCTB" when looking for answers on Dark Nights of the Soul and Buddhism. The aftermath has been fruitful.

However, while the gross sensations of dread over his murder have largely subsided, there is a lot of wrath directed towards ISIS. I read about people who convert to it, or laud it, and it's like something really nasty comes up that wants that entire geographic subcontinent to be blasted away in a nuclear holocaust and the remainder beaten and clobbered into drone-like obedience. There are times when I can let it go and enjoy the simple blue sky and birds over trees, and remind myself of Ajahn Sumedho's words "This is the way it is." and that it has been this way for who knows how long — that these people simply are misguided and are still worthy of life, and I hope for their making amends — and there are other times where something horrible tells me that there are wicked people who have renounced their humanity and deserve to be put down like rabid animals.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot of anxiety regarding terrorist attacks happening in my NYC hometown — or in places dear to my identity like Fire Island, large protests and parades, my subway ride to work. When I sit on the cushion, 85% of the anxiety that may come up relates to those topics. The remainer is either free floating or relates to global warming or something else that is unpredictable, or over which I can only do so much.

I suggest allowing yourself to drink in moderate quantities, good sex  with people you have emotional connection with, and some metta practice towards yourself.
I'm still single, so not quite to the "emotional connection" part of good sex yet. I could definitely use more metta. And maybe on the alcohol, I'll consider it when the occasion allows haha
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: More Reliable Jhana Access? (Answer)

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
About jhana. You sound like you are around the DN to me, not back to square one. If this is the case, a bit of jhana practice can be a good idea. Remember that you have several ways to access them. If using the breath and aiming for jhana does not work well, you can try:
- metta to first jhana,
- accessing second jhana from the A&P (to do this: if you notice pleasurable sensations at any time during noting, focus on the pleasurable sensations, drop noting, drop analysing the 3C, and enjoy the ride).

Also: Do yoga, hang out with friends and loved ones and do not let the DN fuck up your life emoticon
John, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: More Reliable Jhana Access?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/14/15 Recent Posts
About jhana. You sound like you are around the DN to me, not back to square one. If this is the case, a bit of jhana practice can be a good idea. Remember that you have several ways to access them. If using the breath and aiming for jhana does not work well, you can try:
- metta to first jhana,
- accessing second jhana from the A&P (to do this: if you notice pleasurable sensations at any time during noting, focus on the pleasurable sensations, drop noting, drop analysing the 3C, and enjoy the ride).

I will try what you suggest!

I think I might be in Reobservation now. There are moments of equanimity/happiness interspersed with crankiness, irritability, anxiety, and anger. That could also just be called BEING HUMAN.

Yesterday I sat for 90 minutes and I think I accessed something. There were waves of bliss and refreshment, but I looked past them and then hit something softer but even more nourishing where it was really difficult to think at all. I think it may have been the threshold between the first and second samatha jhana, but that might not be it.

Also: Do yoga, hang out with friends and loved ones and do not let the DN fuck up your life
As my other post lets on, I've seen some real shit haha. I think I can navigate anything this practice brings up.

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