Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

John, modified 5 Years ago at 3/30/17 3:52 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/30/17 3:45 PM

Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/30/17 Recent Posts
I have a text file in which I wrote any and every question that went through my mind this past week as I began (once more) to meditate. Please indulge me and answer some or all if you can emoticon Thank you very much!

1. Access concentration, is there a big divide between reaching it once and being able to reach it consistently?

2. The furthest stage I have reached so far, was one where I felt relaxed, my mind felt mostly clear, I had a singular distraction every couple of seconds or every second at most and it would not be enough to distract me but for a tiny instant, is this access concentration?

3. Warm feeling arising everywhere in my body, a bit fuzzy, definitely very pleasant though no where near as strong as the first jhana seems to be from descriptions I have read, is that the precursor to the first Jhana?

4. I have a strong pressure on my sinuses (the ones on either side of the middle of my nose) that gets more intense the more I focus on breath, makes it hard to focus on anything except that. Not sure if meditation or sinus related, pressure increases the more I concentrate. I will go to a doctor at some point, though I am quite busy these days. I should add that this pressure continues even after my meditation. It first began when I first meditated 5 years ago and has been with me on and off ever since. That is why I am not sure if it is medical or meditation related. It seems much stronger even when not meditating than before, though I am confused and cannot remember if I used to feel it before I started meditation back again.

5. The deep concentration state I described in the beggining questions was attained like 3 days ago but I haven't been there since. I am not too worried as I figure this is normal, however, how long does it take to be able to reach this state regularly? 

6. Are mantras concentration or can they be insight as well? I'm Muslim so I do Dhikr (additionaly to purely concentration meditation) which is repeating islamic rememberances (like subhanallah = god is free from imperfection or other similar ones). Also, should these be said out loud or in my head? Should I focus on the meaning or the sound or the movement of my lips, or a visualisation of the word?

7. Anyone have experience with sufi specific practices?

8. 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, how long untill I reach first jhana (I realize a precise answer is impossible, but based on your experience talking to and possibly teaching others?) I hope this doesn't come off as impatient, I am quite prepared for it to take long and I try to use Daniel's advice and make my goals method oriented (for example : I will try to do concentration meditation for 20 minutes with the goal of improving my concentration skills that I want to use to be able to become a better, more spiritual person. I am also doing this to have stronger control over my mind and overcome my porn addiction.) I guess this question is now two-fold, the average time before achieveing the first Jhana and if my goal is correct or if my phrasing/motivations could improve.

9. In my experience there are two major factors in learning anything, the first one is intelligence and the second one is consistency. Is this the same with meditation? Do smarter people tend to learn faster or not?

10. Is it more beneficial to mix insight or concentration or do one followed by the other or a full session of only one? At the moment, my goal is to do dedicated concentration in the morning and evening as well as little bits of insight troughout the day.

11. I like to meditate on the bus/train however the environment is very subpar. Do you recommend I go with insight practices (which seem to be easier to do since you can just note distractions) or should I stick with concentration even at that time, since a harder environment might produce stronger skills (just like lifting heavier weights) and that my current objective is concentration not insight? 

12. Has everyone who has done insight come to the same conclusions or are there people who have drastic diversions, altough they practice noting or anothter insight practice?

13. The way I see it is that this world is impermanent but God and the next one are permanent. Therefore the realisations of the three characteristics are valid since they describe our current reality. Does my personal view contradict Buddhism? It doesn't really matter to me as I am not Buddhist and only using the meditation techniques the same way a secular person would, but I was curious.

14. Has anyone advanced quit meditating and come back, how hard was it to regain your skill in concentration? Do you start off at the same place on the map of insight or do you fall off?

15. A beginner exercise I thought of to get a measurable insight (hehe) into my progress with concentration is : try to count my breathes to 100 and then down to 0. Is the fact that I am counting going to stop me from really being concentrated ? Is this a valid method for a beginner? Or is counting better only to make the first few breaths easier but once the mind is settled in it is nothing but a distraction?

16. The pressure on my sinuses feels like a mountain compared to a tiny creek that is the breath, I can still concentrate on the breath but it seems like concentrating on the pressure in my sinuses would be easier?

Thank you for your time, feel free to answer as little or as many questions as you would like. If you have advice that doesn't have anything to do with my questions, please go ahead and give it to me emoticon
Abba, modified 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 6:03 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 6:03 AM

RE: Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

Posts: 22 Join Date: 6/9/15 Recent Posts
1) 2) just stop looking for access concetration. you probably already have it, just can't pin-point it
3) this might be due to hiperventilation (warmth and tingling), are you leaving your breath alone or by any chance doing deeper breaths than usualy?
4) not really sure, but in my experience it can happen. for me it was a third eye area for some time
6) mantras are in every religion - as you mentioned islamic version, in christianity there's for example a rosary - the point is to get lost in repetitions, so repeat it till it cases to have any meaning. i prefer to do it aloud, not sure if it can be done silently
9) you don't learn in meditation, you unlearn (and this is much harder)
13) it doesn't matter what's your background - this is just a frame of referance (plus not everything in buddhism is impernament, there is a concept of dethless gate for example and other similiar themes)
15) it is a valid method. i prefer counting to 10 then back, then to 9 and back, then to 8 and back etc. when you loose it, start over. two rounds and you're set - can continue without counting
16) concentration object doesn't really matter (unless it's nada, nada is the best ;))

general remark: you are too focused on "getting already there", there's no hurry and no points and not "there". I would reflect on that and try to adjust the attitude, becouse you'll get quickly burned out otherwise.
John, modified 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 7:36 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 7:36 PM

RE: Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/30/17 Recent Posts
Thank you for your replies. I will try at least once meditating using nada (which as I understand it an inner sound inside our minds?). As for your general remark, I think you might be right and I will try to focus on making the most of each meditation rather than "getting there". 
Derek2, modified 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 8:16 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/31/17 8:16 PM

RE: Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

Posts: 202 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Once I did a jhāna retreat with Leigh Brasington. That was 12 days of meditating for maybe 8 hours a day, when you add up all the sits. Even then, only some attendees reached jhāna, while others didn't. I don't know the proportion who succeeded.

A book I read by Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen recommended getting comfortable with a 2-hour sit in the morning and a 2-hour sit in the evening before you even start on a jhāna retreat.

In short, I think that your at-home program of 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening is going to take a long, long time.
John, modified 5 Years ago at 4/2/17 1:12 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/2/17 1:12 PM

RE: Tons of questions from a beginner, mostly concentration related.

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/30/17 Recent Posts
That is both intimidating and exciting. Would you say there is a progress before? What I mean is there a noticeable difference in your concentration practice and your sensory experience during sittings as you near Jhana? Or is it only small increases and then BOOM jhana?