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On the brink of 1st jhana?

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On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/6/16 10:32 PM
Greetings, everyone.  Thank you for having this community here; I have so many questions, but I will try to be a little focused and present things one at a time.

I have been working on cultivating the 1st jhana lately.  I have read the descriptions in the all purpose jhana thread and MCTB.  For the last week and a half or so I have been doing an hour a day of just concentration on the breath.  Towards the last 5-10 min of the sit I feel like the concentration gets in a rhythm, and starts reinforcing itself, which I take to be access concentration.  However, I also feel like maybe this doesn't require quite the level of concentration I am gaining (after the sit I feel really wired, and like I'm shooting a laser from my eyeballs).

Just yesterday, towards the middle of my sit, when I felt like my concentration was getting into a rhythm, I tried the technique of smiling to get the pleasant sensation going.  Almost immediately, I got some increasingly strong excitatory sensations, but I was really thrown off because there was no single joyous sensation to hold on to - it was a cacauphony of many sensations: "bubbling" sensations up my chest, strong tingling rising up my body, a rising pressure in my diaphragm area, a lightness of the head and body, the normal physical sensations of the body fading away, and more.  With all that going on, I couldn't figure out a single thing to keep my focus on and my concentration collapsed after 10 - 20 seconds.  So my question is: was this the entry into the 1st jhana I was beginning to experience? and if so, what should I focus on/ how should I keep my concentration going?  TIA

RE: On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/7/16 11:22 AM as a reply to Chris Weeks.
I've been finding the full bodied jhana in Culadasa's "The Mind Illuminated" book very good. Here's a technique from another source that is similar. This method might be useful to try. Culadasa doesn't use "Bud-dho."

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

Method 2  

There are seven basic steps:

1. Start out with three or seven long in-and-out breaths, thinking bud- with the in-breath, and dho with the out. Keep the meditation syllable as long as the breath.
2. Be clearly aware of each in-and-out breath.

3. Observe the breath as it goes in and out, noticing whether it's comfortable or uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or slow, short or long, warm or cool. If the breath doesn't feel comfortable, adjust it until it does. For instance, if breathing in long and out long is uncomfortable, try breathing in short and out short.

As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body. To begin with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let it spread down your right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. Inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine, down your left leg to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. (If you are female, begin with the left side first, because the male and female nervous systems are different.)

Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both shoulders, past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers, and out into the air.

Let the breath at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve at the front of the body, past the lungs and liver, all the way down to the bladder and colon.

Inhale the breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all the way down to your intestines.

Let all these breath sensations spread so that they connect and flow together, and you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being.

4. Learn four ways of adjusting the breath:

a. in long and out long,
b. in long and out short,
c. in short and out long,
d. in short and out short.
Breathe whichever way is most comfortable for you. Or, better yet, learn to breathe comfortably all four ways, because your physical condition and your breath are always changing.

5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind — the resting spots of the breath — and center your awareness on whichever one seems most comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).
If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with the breath — but not to the point where it slips away.

6. Spread your awareness — your sense of conscious feeling — throughout the entire body.

7. Unite the breath sensations throughout the body, letting them flow together comfortably, keeping your awareness as broad as possible. Once you're fully aware of the aspects of the breath you already know in your body, you'll come to know all sorts of other aspects as well. The breath, by its nature, has many facets: breath sensations flowing in the nerves, those flowing around and about the nerves, those spreading from the nerves to every pore. Beneficial breath sensations and harmful ones are mixed together by their very nature.

To summarize: (a) for the sake of improving the energy already existing in every part of your body, so that you can contend with such things as disease and pain; and (b) for the sake of clarifying the knowledge already within you, so that it can become a basis for the skills leading to release and purity of heart — you should always bear these seven steps in mind, because they are absolutely basic to every aspect of breath meditation. When you've mastered them, you will have cut a main road. As for the side roads — the incidentals of breath meditation — there are plenty of them, but they aren't really important. You'll be perfectly safe if you stick to these seven steps and practice them as much as possible.

RE: On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/7/16 11:32 AM as a reply to Chris Weeks.
Chris Weeks:

Just yesterday, towards the middle of my sit, when I felt like my concentration was getting into a rhythm, I tried the technique of smiling to get the pleasant sensation going.  Almost immediately, I got some increasingly strong excitatory sensations, but I was really thrown off because there was no single joyous sensation to hold on to - it was a cacauphony of many sensations: "bubbling" sensations up my chest, strong tingling rising up my body, a rising pressure in my diaphragm area, a lightness of the head and body, the normal physical sensations of the body fading away, and more.  With all that going on, I couldn't figure out a single thing to keep my focus on and my concentration collapsed after 10 - 20 seconds.  
So instead of staying with the meditation as it evolved you chose to try to control the expereince and make it into other than what it was? Are you sure this is the best approach? You might wish to let the sensations move around and just stay in the present moment and investigate at and where sensations are arising. The present moment might then be the concentration object. But if you are adverse to Insight practice then dont.
Chris Weeks:
So my question is: was this the entry into the 1st jhana I was beginning to experience? and if so, what should I focus on/ how should I keep my concentration going?  TIA
So you are focusing on breath right? Can the breath be pleasent? What is the actual sensations of breath? Really dig into this and find out what it is you are really focusing on....describe it in as much detail as you can. This might help you find a particular sensation that you can choose to use as your focus. See what sensations that are already occuring have the most pleasent feeling tone to them.
Good Luck,
~D

RE: On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/7/16 3:28 PM as a reply to Chris Weeks.
I'm not sure why people here can't just say 'Yeah, that sounds like 1st Jhana.' So I will say it.  Yeah, that sounds like the start of 1st Jhana.  That is the piti arising and, if intense enough, can freak you out a little the first time and kick you out of the jhana.  The trick is to go with it.  When you are in access concentration, do what you did and bring the focus to something pleasurable (like your smile) and stick with that as your new meditation object.  When the piti arises, continue on your meditation object.  Be careful not to 'try to make things happen' at this point because then it won't, let things unfold naturally.

RE: On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/7/16 6:35 PM as a reply to Russell ..
Russell .:
I'm not sure why people here can't just say 'Yeah, that sounds like 1st Jhana.' So I will say it.  Yeah, that sounds like the start of 1st Jhana.  That is the piti arising and, if intense enough, can freak you out a little the first time and kick you out of the jhana.  The trick is to go with it.  When you are in access concentration, do what you did and bring the focus to something pleasurable (like your smile) and stick with that as your new meditation object.  When the piti arises, continue on your meditation object.  Be careful not to 'try to make things happen' at this point because then it won't, let things unfold naturally.
Your advice is Piti-ful...emoticon Such a Piti emoticon

Russell .:
The trick is to go with it.
Totally....fear you can get over, but excitement is still a bigger challenge for me...

RE: On the brink of 1st jhana?
Answer
12/8/16 1:47 AM as a reply to Chris Weeks.
Thanks for all the feedback. I typed up a long response, but the board seems to have eaten it when I tried to submit emoticon  Long story short, I will try to be less effortful and more natural with the practice, and I have some idea now what to do with it should I happen to find myself in this terrotory again.