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Jhana achievement: Tips, Tricks, and Traps

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3 x 5 card of personal how-to items to get to the first jhana in meditation -- bullet points - not exhaustive: 

1. Be patient with yourself. Think in terms of skills that require months or years in which to acquire mastery  -e.g.  musicianship, running. Put aside 40 minutes a day. 
2. Be aware of the suppression of the hindrances. When you are able to observe your mind free of craving, ill will, sloth/torpor, restless/worry, doubt, it is very encouraging -- you are still aware of the stimuli but you avoid the manifestation of the hindrance - very satisfying
3. There are several lists that should be memorized and reviewed or turned to cyclically if/when full attention to the breath temporarily fades as it inevitably does. 
     a. Iddhipada: 4 bases of power - desire/aspiration | effort/energy | persistence of thought | investigation/descrimination (most helpful for me - dogged exposure of any sense of falseness or magical thinking or superstition - this stuff is absolutely real - not some imaginary or fantasy state) 
     b. 4 noble truths - suffering, its cause, its end, the path to its end.
     c  7 factors of enlightenment - mindfulness, investiagation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration, equanimity
     d  5 steps to perfect jhana (from Vissudamagga I believe)  Advert, Attain, Resolve, Emerge, Review
     e. list of characteristics of the 4th jhana as goal of jhana: mind is purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability.
     f. 3 signs of existence - impermanence, unsatifactoriness, non-self
4. Fully accept the bathman metaphor in the suttas - bath powder rolled into a ball with the perfect amount of water so the powder is fully saturated with water yet does not "leak" 
5. Four factors are mentioned for the first jhana - applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, pleasure -- then a 5th is added in Vissudamagga - single pointedness. I think the reaon single pointedness is not specifically mentioned in the suttas is that it is implied in the verse- but IMO it is very helpful to maintain awareness of it as you aspire to the jhana. There is a sense of the mind and the four factors being forcefully brought together into a single whole and a quantum leap of attention domination by the jhanic state - quite unexpected and remarkable. 

RE: Jhana achievement: Tips, Tricks, and Traps
Answer
3/7/17 3:08 AM as a reply to James Young.
wow.

pretty extensive list.  pretty impressive.  holding all of that in my conciousness would prevent jhana in my case but the internalization is certainly a good goal.

as you know, jhana is a state which arises when the conditions are right and is not something to be forced.  as you point out, knowing what the hinderances are, and not encouraging their traps is the basis for deep relaxation and simplification.

encouraging those comforting and then joyful FEELINGS and staying with them as they disssolve toward ever more subtle sensation is the way to the first and successive jhanic states.  gross to subtle.

another practical 'signpost' for me was noticing the arising of piti.  for me it was the typical "hair raising' and was in fact first noticable on the edges of my scalp but this is unique to each practitioner.  noticing this allows you to know you are on the right track.

for me, it was a surprise to notice that i had experienced jhana previously but due to my expectations of grandeur failed to notice the subtlety.

i wish you success.

RE: Jhana achievement: Tips, Tricks, and Traps
Answer
3/7/17 5:02 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Thanks for your comments.
You're right about holding all those lists in mind preventing jhana. Reviewing those is a comforting preliminary that can take varying lengths of time for me. What is your experience with nimitta -- a sense of bright light ushering you into the jhanic state? I've touched on it many times but can't seem to summon it at will or "let go" into it. 
Best regards.