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Access concentration?

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Access concentration?
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4/27/16 2:20 AM
Hi, I'm fairly new to meditation and recently I've managed to progress to a point during my meditation where my breathing virtually stops after focusing on my breath for a while and I enter this state where I no longer need to focus on anything. I can maintain this state for a while, but it's hard to do as it requires a lot of concentration to block out distractions and my breathing is too faint to use as an anchor. There is also a lot of pressure around my forehead. The first time this happened it felt like I suddenly saw flashing lights, my eyes started darting around like crazy making it hard to keep them closed, my muscles were twitching and then my breath just abruptly halted.

I was wondering if anyone could verify if this sounded like access concentration. I've been looking for pleasent sensations to focus on to enter the 1st jahna, there are some weird tingling sensations but I still haven't had any luck yet after reentering this state several times.

Thanks

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
4/27/16 4:00 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Access concentration is actually more of a gentle effort thing... kind of like how much presence it takes to shuffle a pack of cards. Enough control that the cards don't go flying everywhere, enough effort to bend and snap the cards, but enough looseness and lack of rigid control that allows the cards have the room and ability to snap out of your hands, and enough sensitivity to feel the sensations and adjust the energy of the the shuffle. Imagine you are gently shuffling an endless deck of cards - that's a good mental image, except the deck of cards here is the meditation object (awareness of the texture and sensation of breathing).

Sounds like you are "concentrating" too hard. The word concentration is unfortunately used to mean "really trying hard at something", but the real intention of getting concentrated is becoming more and more "centered" around the meditation object. Being centered is about balance, a gentle kind of adjustment of effort.

So actually your early stages of sitting are probably access concentration. Try sitting and putting your attention on the breathing sensations... and simply do that. Try using less and less effort while still gently holding the breath in awareness. That's it. If you actually stay with that, gently returning to the attention of breathing if your mind wanders, you will naturally develop a light jhana and go through all of the nanas, through Stream Entry and beyond.

It's actually very simple, people over complicated it. So don't over complicate it! emoticon

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
4/27/16 4:32 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Agree. The symptoms of trying too hard. When so much mental suppression is occuring, bodily 'rapture' can even break out, causing sleeplessness. Such rapture is called 'momentary' rapture. It is not 'jhana'. 

When the mind has distracting thoughts, this is obviously an obstacle to awareness of breathing. Trying too hard to concentrate is the same. The 'willfulness' of the mind is the same as a strong thought, causing awareness of breathing to disappear. 

More gentleness is required. 

Kind regards emoticon

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
4/27/16 7:49 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for the feedback guys. Balencing alertness against dullness is a bit of an art it turns out. After practising a lot yesterday I can maintain this 'breathless' state much more easily; I've been able to focus my awareness on this pleasent 'tingling' sensation which was almost imperceptible before. It's still lingering now and focusing on it with body scanning seems to increase it, I'm guessing this might be 'piti'? I will definitely try to ease up and relax though.

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
4/27/16 10:01 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
The important thing is to maintain clear awareness. There is no need to be concerned about awareness of breathing because if you maintain clear awareness eventually the breath will pop into the mind as an object of awareness or the mind may even pop/drop into the body. No special effort is required to make the mind aware/conscious (of objects), apart from the watchfulness to keep the mind clear.

Apart from that, it sounds like you are doing well with your meditation, in that sensitivity to sensations is developing.

Regards. emoticon

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
4/28/16 5:29 AM as a reply to Nicky.
And, for what it is worth, you can use the tingling as a meditation object, too. This tends to bring out jhana, and also lead through the nanas. 

My guess is if you go this route, you will be on your way to an A&P experience. Are you ready for the dark night that would follow? Do you understand the teachings of how to navigate that territory? Do you have peers and a teacher you can check in with along the way? Fellow student and teachers aren't required but they really do help. Preparing for things is usually a good idea. 

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/1/16 1:15 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Well I have been using that tingling sensation as my main meditation object, and now it's grown to the point where my entire body vibrates. I woke up today and it still was from last night. My mood has also started to improve along with it, feeling much more relaxed and at ease. It's absolutely unreal.

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/1/16 4:18 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
It's quite real. 

You're in A&P territory. As your mindfulness becomes finely tuned, you might be able to see the vibrations and the space between the vibrations. And then there's usually a big-wow experience.

And then comes the dissolution and the dark night, which is like a great purification.

If you can trust in the process and keep sitting a half hour (at least) a day, even if you don't like it, soon equanimity will soon arrive.

And if you can keep sitting a half hour (at least) a day, even though it doesn't seem like you "need" it, stream entry isn't far behind.

But it takes a lot of commitment. In some sense, you're in the easiest phase, where momentum builds and moods tend to be bright. There are harder parts ahead.

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/2/16 2:08 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
And, for what it is worth, you can use the tingling as a meditation object, too. This tends to bring out jhana, and also lead through the nanas. 

My guess is if you go this route, you will be on your way to an A&P experience. Are you ready for the dark night that would follow? Do you understand the teachings of how to navigate that territory? Do you have peers and a teacher you can check in with along the way? Fellow student and teachers aren't required but they really do help. Preparing for things is usually a good idea. 
I totally agree with Shargrol. I am currently experimenting with Culadasa his method. His book(The Mind Illuminated) is really helpful and a wonderful guideline. It is about cultivating a unified and pacified mind before turning to insight, then according to one of his students I talked about the purification is mostly physical instead of psychological. I am still experimenting with this, so I can´t talk from personal experience. All I can say is that his book is currently really helpful and something I would recommend.

RE: Access concentration?
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5/2/16 2:16 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Well my priority so far has been to achieve the normal Jhana's first, as I've heard it's easier to get through the dark night that way rather than through 'dry' insight practice. I'm not sure if the vibrations are apart of the whole body Jhanas that Culadasa talks about in The Mind Illuminated or not or if I'm veering into arising and passing territory like you've said. I've been trying to shift my attention away from the vibrations as they're getting quite intense, although it's like I can't tune them out now.

I've noticed very recently a cool breeze sensation against my skin in my meditation which I've been trying to meditate on to enter jhana, although it's proving pretty elusive.

RE: Access concentration?
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5/2/16 2:21 AM as a reply to John Power.
The Mind Illuminated is an amazing book, it's been my guide so far.