Are these jhanas? And, how do I develop them further?

Kevin, modified 4 Years ago.

Are these jhanas? And, how do I develop them further?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 11/14/16 Recent Posts
Hello,

For a few years now I've been having an experience I think might be jhanas. If they are jhanas it's been awhile now without seeing any significant development in this skill, so I was hoping y'all could give me some advice on how to progress with this.

When I want to access these states I start with watching my breath. Pretty soon I'll stop watching the intricacies of the breath and instead try to watch it's motion as a single object. I tend to visualize a circle that correlates with the breath (one roation of the circle is one in and out breath). Fairly quickly after doing this a mildly pleasant feeling will present itself. At that point I drop the visualization and just focus on the feeling.

I will then tell myself "first jhana" and it feels like by stating the intention to access first jhana it actually allows me to get there. To me this "first jhana" feels like my mind is right up against an enormous open space. It's like a dark abyss right in front of my eyes. The feeling associated with it is very heavy and intense but also pleasant. Within as little as a few seconds to a few minutes I can then say to myself "second jhana" and that bring on a new experience. That feeling/energy that had felt right in front of me in the "first jhana" now feels like it's fully encompassed me. Where as before it felt like I was really close to this emptiness, now it feels like I'm truly in it. The feeling of this abyss surrounding me is pleasant but also a bit overwhelming. It also takes a good amount of effort to sustain my attention on that feeling. But from there I can normally say " third jhana" and that feeling will immediately intensify. In this third jhana it feels like that space that had surrounded me has expanded. I feel like sometimes I can then go into fourth jhana but not always. Each jhana feels like the volume of the experience has been turned up, and along with that the concentration needed to sustain it is more. For that reason the longer I stay in these states the more exhausted my mind becomes until at a certain point I choose to drop it.

I would say this whole experience tends not to last more than ten minutes.

To be clear when I'm in these states I don't feel totally absorbed or like I forget who or where I am. In fact, throughout all of these states, thoughts will appear, although they rarely actually pull me away from the experience I'm having.

I find that after leaving these states and returning to vipassana, my concentration for the rest of the sit is extremely heightened.

When I'm not messing around with this, I'm normally practicing noting without an anchor object. Doing this has given me great momentary concentration, but whenever I switch to just watching the breath it is very clear how poor my ability is to sustain concentration on a single object. I suspect this might be why I can't seem to truly access these absorption states to their fullest.

So yeah, what's going on? Are these jhanas? If so what would you advise I do to more fully develop them? Thanks everyone!
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Are these jhanas? And, how do I develop them further?

Posts: 3185 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
You are clearly getting into something that has jhanic elements.
However, that it takes so much effort makes it more likely that the primary elements are first jhanic elements: applied and sustained attention, even if some hints of other jhanas are in there somewhere. The world of jhana is a wide and complex one, and there are subjhanas that one can get into, so you might be hitting some quick, light version of j1.j1, j1.j2, and j1.j3, meaning first jhana with some sub-parts to it that have hints of higher jhanas. Sounds like good times. What would happen if you backed off a bit on trying to rapidly cycle higher and allowed attention to deepen a bit more naturally to allow what comes next to show itself a bit more naturally, as second jhana has a welling up, showing itself to you quality.
Kevin, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Are these jhanas? And, how do I develop them further?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 11/14/16 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice. In the past day I've done a couple sits where I didnt try to move rapidly into 2nd and 3rd jhanas, or even necessarily assert to be in first jhana. It's been really interesting. Whereas before I was mostly focusing on the sense of emptiness that would surround me with a secondary light focus on the pleasantness, now I've been holding my awareness solely on the feeling of pleasure. I also didn't make any intention to move to higher jhanic levels, just chilled intently on the pleasure. Freakin blast! For the most part the pleasure never seemed to stabilize at one level but instead would ebb and flow. At times all I could sense was a very low level pleasure that was sometimes difficult to observe, but other times it would well up into something very powerful. At those times, that might last 1-5 minutes, my body would feel energized all over, to the point that I'd actually tense up and my eyes would roll upward. While there were moments of intensity, it never felt like I was forcing anything, or putting an excessive amount of effort into holding my awareness.

I'm excited to play around with this more. It's funny how I can get so stuck in my routine of how I meditate, just a little advice from the outside can show me something thats been right in front of me. Thanks!

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