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Difficulty achieving access concentration

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Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/10/17 6:32 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Chris Marti 9/10/17 10:48 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/10/17 12:34 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Chris Marti 9/10/17 12:56 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/10/17 1:06 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration CJMacie 9/14/17 6:38 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/14/17 10:38 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Jinxed P 9/14/17 12:06 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Matt 9/14/17 12:11 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration seth tapper 9/14/17 3:40 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration neko 9/10/17 6:04 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/11/17 1:44 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Matt 9/11/17 1:45 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Lars 9/14/17 4:39 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Daniel M. Ingram 9/11/17 1:56 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/11/17 2:12 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration CJMacie 9/11/17 7:32 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/11/17 8:23 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Yilun Ong 9/11/17 11:35 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration David Starflower 9/14/17 10:21 PM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/15/17 2:28 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Yilun Ong 9/15/17 5:27 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/15/17 6:10 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration 5adja5b 9/19/17 9:55 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Yilun Ong 9/20/17 6:06 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Alex 9/19/17 4:54 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration shargrol 9/19/17 6:22 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration Yilun Ong 9/20/17 5:53 AM
RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration alguidar 9/19/17 10:23 AM
Hello all,

I've been trying, and failing, to achieve access concentration for a few months now. Probably atleast 2 months of daily practise, maybe 3, I haven't kept a log. I've been doing four 30 minute sittings (2 hours in total) per day.

My practise involves concentrating on the sensations of the breath at the nose, and either counting until I loose concentration or sometimes just counting to 20, where I then stop and resume the counting if I get lost in thought.

So as I said, I have yet to achieve access concentration and other people I have talked to have said they achieved it in less than a month. My definition of access concentration is being fully absorbed with the breath with next to no effort required to hold the concentration. Thoughts arise but don't have any effect on the concentration. I would say i'm concentrated on the breath around 80% of the time, but there's still mind wandering and short periods of getting lost in thought, which end up disrupting the flow of concentration. If I don't count then my concentration is not anywhere near as good.

So i'm just asking for some advice. Am I doing the practise correctly? Should I have access concentration by now?


RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/10/17 10:48 AM as a reply to Alex.
Quick question before I can say more -- are you really trying, straining or bearing down to concentrate? Does it feel like hard work?

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/10/17 12:34 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
To some degree yes, but if i'm honest i'm sure I could try harder to not get lost in thought. I wouldn't say i'm being lazy though. I set an intention to stay on the breath as much as possible, and i'm quick to re-direct my attention back to the breath once I notice i've been mind-wandering.

The only reason i'm not overly straining or bearing down as you said, is because i've read that it's not helpful to force your mind to remain fixed on the object (Leigh Brasington). But rather just be diligent about recognising when you have become distracted. Is this the wrong approach?

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/10/17 12:56 PM as a reply to Alex.
Leigh Brasington is a guru of concentration practices.This process truly isn't about trying hard. The word "concentration" is kind of misleading in this context. Relax. Don't strain, don't push, don't work. Just rest your mind on an object gently and when (not if) it wanders gently bring it back to the object. The best way to get to access concentration is better described as calm abiding. Give it a try.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/10/17 1:06 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Ahh ok. I thought you were insinuating that I should be trying harder to concentrate. There was a point where I was trying very hard to stay on the breath, but then, as I said, I read Leigh Brasington's book and read through some older posts on this forum and realised that wasn't the right approach.

Appreciate the advice. Cheers.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/10/17 6:04 PM as a reply to Alex.
Depending on the source/author, this:

Alex:

My definition of access concentration is being fully absorbed with the breath with next to no effort required to hold the concentration.

could be more than access concentration. By Culadasa's definitions, for example, this would be stage 8, but access concentration is stage 6 IIRC.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 1:44 AM as a reply to neko.
Interesting. I wouldn't say I have access concentration, but maybe i'm closer than I think. Thanks.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 1:45 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
So as I said, I have yet to achieve access concentration and other people I have talked to have said they achieved it in less than a month. My definition of access concentration is being fully absorbed with the breath with next to no effort required to hold the concentration. Thoughts arise but don't have any effect on the concentration. I would say i'm concentrated on the breath around 80% of the time, but there's still mind wandering and short periods of getting lost in thought, which end up disrupting the flow of concentration. If I don't count then my concentration is not anywhere near as good.

So i'm just asking for some advice. Am I doing the practise correctly? Should I have access concentration by now?

A framework to consider: getting lost in thought is natural.  You could think of the amount of time you spend in good concentration before getting lost in thought as a measure of how well you can concentrate.  But the practice that leads to good concentration is the noticing-of-wandering part, that's the muscle that needs practice.  I really like Cudalasa's trick: congratulate yourself when you notice the wandering.  If detecting wandering is disapointing, then some part of your mind will avoid the discovery.  If detecting wandering is a cause for celebration then the mind will incline towards that.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 1:56 AM as a reply to Alex.
For most people, kasinas strengthen concentration more easily than the breath, not that the breath isn't a great object, as it is, but for some different reasons.

Might check out www.firekasina.org

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 2:12 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks Daniel, i'll definitely look into it! 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 7:32 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
Hello all,
...I've been doing four 30 minute sittings (2 hours in total) per day...

.
You might try consolidating 2 of those sittings to 1 of 50-60 minutes.

Even given an ability to reach absorption ("hard" jhana), it still usually takes the mind more than 20-30 minutes to just settle down, exhaust the momentum of mundane mental activity; letting the tensions play-out on their own. Can be a big difference, how it s/w naturally quiets down after 40 min or more, and effortlessly slips into access concentration (upacara-samadhi, which I define as a sort of floating in the absence of hindrances, of pressing, bothersome mental activity -- not necessarily raptuous or whatever, just quiet, still).

After that, the mind is far more malleable. Attending and intently sticking to an object (nostril breath, kasina, etc.) is then far easier, and ripens gradually into forming a "counterpart" mental representation of the object (nimitta), which, if held steady in attention, grows larger, or seems to get closer, and at some point, with a certain kind of letting-go (but an unmistakable shift), the nimitta "swallows" the mind, or the mind falls into it, becoming fixed (as some call it), or absorbed; the nimitta (breath sensations, kasina image, etc.) then seems on the outside, surrounding the still center of consciousness. And it's like a bubble-shield, a barrier, where normal sound, sight, etc. sensations are still happening, but somehow just bounce-off, don't get through to grab the mind's attention, aren't reacted to. All motion seems exterior; the mind itself is still, and it's quite pleasant.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 8:23 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks or the advice! I'll try to do some longer sits and see how it goes. 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/11/17 11:35 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
Thanks or the advice! I'll try to do some longer sits and see how it goes.
What I do is I get up if thoughts are swimming, do a version of walking meditation that is as painfully slow as it takes to pull the mind to notice:

1. each intention and movement that follows it, allowing for pauses to confirm, if necessary. (e.g. raising heel, moving feet forward, shifting weight, lowering feet, transferring weight, pressing feet down, sensation of both loss/gain of touch with floor.)
2. all sensations, including muscles, touch of clothing, touch of floor and shift of balance, plus force of contact and movement through the air the movements cut through.

You should be plenty busy enough not to be able to think...

Done slow enough, you will realize it is pretty hard to walk like a sloth and also the mind has nowhere to go. Resume sitting after a good mental concentration workout, being mindful of all transitions from walking to standing to sitting posture. Also do not give yourself ideas of what access concentration is. I will go as far to say that it is a mind state (of focus) which actually permits singular thoughts that do not proliferate, meaning the state of mind which is still is much more important than whether you are having thoughts or not.

After you maintain this state for a few occasions and after awhile, rapture should start to happen and you should be in this focused mind state to be able to notice them and not burn your attention on the meditation object and ignore all else. Remember it is the mind state and not the object...

Good luck! emoticon

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 6:38 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
To back up a bit... we’ve beenswimming in multiple definitions of “access concentration” here:

Alex:
My definition of access concentration is
being fully absorbed with the breath with next to no effort required to hold the concentration. Thoughts arise but don't have any effect on the concentration.

cjmacie:
...access concentration (upacara-samadhi,  which I define as a sort of
floating in the absence of hindrances, of pressing, bothersome mental activity -- not necessarily raptuous or whatever, just quiet, still)...

Yulin Ong:
Also do not give yourself ideas of what access concentration is. I will go as far to say that it is
a mind state (of focus) which actually permits singular thoughts that do not proliferate, meaning the state of mind which is still is much more important than whether you are having thoughts or not.

Here’s a more-or-less traditional view, in a couple of aspects:

1: Basically it’s considered a mind freed, at least temporarily, of the “5 hindrances”, i.e. (1) not being driven by desire, pulled towards some satisfaction; (2) nor by aversion, pushing away some dissatisfaction; (3) not lazed-out, i.e. s/w alert; (4) not restless, fidgety, worrisome; and (5) not doubting, wavering in uncertainty.

2: According to the Mahasi Sayadaw, access or “neighborhood” concentration (upacara samadhi) is one (a) of the three basic forms of samadhi and specifically a sort of baseline and “gateway” to the other two forms – (b) fixed jhanic absorption (appana-samadhi), and (c) momentary concentration for insight (vipassana kanikha samadhi).

(I believe MCTB roughly follows this. Daniel Ingram has famously written (something like) “if you ain’t got access concentration, you ain’t got zilch.” That is, something like a basic, sine qua non, gateway to practice. He has, however as I recall, s/t characterized it also as “momentary” concentration, as a vehicle for insight. At least in MCTB1 terms; perhaps it’s more closely defined in
MCTB2.)

3: Elaborating on (2), access concentration is then a kind of stillness as being free of factors that would “bother” it, render it incapable of either letting-go into deep absorption (b) or the engaging in the active gnosis (“noting”) process of exercising insight practice. It’s also used as a sort of refuge, a baseline one might fall back into when absorption can’t be sustained (for whatever reason), or vipassana momentary work becomes overtaxing (likewise unsustainable).

Other shades of definition are possible, but should probably be made clear as variations of this traditional direction of thought, or as something distinctly different, IMO.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 10:38 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks for that clarification CJ. But whatever access concentration is, I definitely haven't got it. I'm still just trying to stay on the breath for 5 damn minutes. It's frustrating, but i'm trying to just accept it as it is.

Sometimes i'll sit down and have very little mind wandering, other times I won't even be able to count to 10 breaths without loosing concentration. I don't understand. 

Also, the more I relax and don't 'strain' or 'work' to concentrate, the more I loose concentration. Maybe I just need to get used to this way of concentrating. Maybe i'm doing something wrong, I don't know. Not really sure where to go from here. I've put in so many houres I don't want to just give up now. I will persevere! 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 12:06 PM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
Thanks for that clarification CJ. But whatever access concentration is, I definitely haven't got it. I'm still just trying to stay on the breath for 5 damn minutes. It's frustrating, but i'm trying to just accept it as it is.

Sometimes i'll sit down and have very little mind wandering, other times I won't even be able to count to 10 breaths without loosing concentration. I don't understand. 

Also, the more I relax and don't 'strain' or 'work' to concentrate, the more I loose concentration. Maybe I just need to get used to this way of concentrating. Maybe i'm doing something wrong, I don't know. Not really sure where to go from here. I've put in so many houres I don't want to just give up now. I will persevere! 

Alex, you've only been meditating for a couple of months. That's nothing! I meditated for 10 years and never got close to access concentration until I went on retreat. I know plenty of monks who still spend much of their meditation fighting mind-wandering.  So don't be hard on yourself.  You already have the most important part down, something I couldn't  master during those ten years. A consistent practice. That's half the battle right there. 

Here are some other tips:

- Make sure the rest of your life is conducive to meditation. If you spend all day stressed out, or on Twitter, in arguments, browsing the net, all of that is detrimental to your ability to focus. Lack of sleep, same thing. Make sure you have your life handled for  the most part.

- Make sure you are positively reinforcing those moments when you 'wake up' and catch yourself mind-wandering. Go 'aha!" This reinforces your neural pathways to enjoy the moment of catching yourself mind-wandering and will make your brain more likely to do it again in the future. If you react with frustration that you have caught yourself mind-wandering, your brain will not want to do the wake up process. 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 12:11 PM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
Thanks for that clarification CJ. But whatever access concentration is, I definitely haven't got it. I'm still just trying to stay on the breath for 5 damn minutes. It's frustrating, but i'm trying to just accept it as it is.

Sometimes i'll sit down and have very little mind wandering, other times I won't even be able to count to 10 breaths without loosing concentration. I don't understand. 

Also, the more I relax and don't 'strain' or 'work' to concentrate, the more I loose concentration. Maybe I just need to get used to this way of concentrating. Maybe i'm doing something wrong, I don't know. Not really sure where to go from here. I've put in so many houres I don't want to just give up now. I will persevere! 
Tone down the expectations, it may be that your frustration is the biggest disturbance to your practice.  Seriously, it sounds like you might be experiencing significant (1-4 minutes) of noticing mostly only the breath?  That would be pretty good.  It's *normal* for our percieved quality of practice to change over time, understanding and being *comfortable* with *that* is a valuable attainment.  Along with all the other good information above, work on the skill of
  1. noticing the exact event (feeling, thought, memory, smell, whatever) at the exact moment that it arrises in your field of awareness. Another way to look at it is simply realizing your mind has wandered or is wandering.  Either will do.
  2. pausing for a second or two and savor that you just succeeded in the most important part of your practice!  
  3. return to your intended object of awareness (breath, whatever it is you decided to meditate on
For example, if you notice train of thought about relaxing, 'I should relax' or "I'm not good at this", do the 1/2/3 above, meaning
  1. say to yourself "I'm thinking about relaxing".  (if you've actually got a ton of muscular tension, release it)
  2. then say to yourself, "Oh, this is what that guy was saying!  I doing it, good!"
  3. then say, 'breath, where was I feeling that?' Oh yes, there you are, I'm on you again!
You can say this stuff outloud if it helps make it real.  Over time the goal is to make those 3 steps quicker, more automatic and a less invasive event.  It's like pull-ups, you don't get stronger by being unhappy about being weak, you get stronger by doing the pullups, one at a time, cleaner and smoother, less conscious effort at it as you build the skill.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 3:40 PM as a reply to Alex.
Have you tried getting a massage?  See if you feel more concentrated meditating after a good massage.  If so, then you can probably use any technique that relaxes the body to help you become calm enough to concentrate.   Yoga, running, sex, massage, dance, etc. 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 4:39 PM as a reply to Matt.
matthew sexton:
I really like Cudalasa's trick: congratulate yourself when you notice the wandering.  If detecting wandering is disapointing, then some part of your mind will avoid the discovery.  If detecting wandering is a cause for celebration then the mind will incline towards that.


An ex girlfriend gave me a book "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron, which had a similar method in it that always made me laugh. She saw a similar tendency to be critical when noticing the mind wandering and had mentioned this to one of her students. She told him to do his noting practise in a more friendly non-judgemental way. When she spoke with him soon after, her southern american student replied that he had replaced "thinking" with "thinking, good buddy". I tried it myself and it really did change the tone of the noting, though of course as soon as you get the point of it you'd drop the "good buddy" part. It was an amusing exercise.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/14/17 10:21 PM as a reply to Alex.
I strongly agree with the previous posts saying "be positive about successes rather than beating you up for flaws". Good attitude to what you are doing is half the thing. You seem like in a spiral of self-doubt and self-anger.

Also, experiment with yourself if you "hit a plateau". Instead of 4x 30min try building up to a 1hr session, choose different places and times of day, what you ate and drank (caffeine...), tightness of cloth/cushion and other sensory input during meditation, .... Maybe try a certain time off or a retreat of 11hrs practice a day. Notice the difference and see what might make a change to the positive/negative. This also gives a kind of "gamification" to meditation which might help in getting a positive attitude towards it.

I consider meditation as an art of living and realising what has an effect on you part of the practice.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/15/17 2:28 AM as a reply to David Starflower.
Thanks for the advice.

I may have come across a little more frustrated and confused than I actually am. I had a rubbish practise session prior to writing my previous comment so that probably sparked what might appear to have been 'a spiral of self-doubt and self-anger'. But i'm fully aware of all my doubts and frustrations, and how they will not do any good for my practise. I usually try to have a fairly equanimous attitude, and just be unnattached to the outcome, whatever it is. For the most part I just get on with the practise and focus on doing the best I can in each sitting. 

In terms of 'congratulating' myself when i've noticed mind wandering, I have been doing this for quite a while now. I read Culadasa's book and Leigh Brasington's ages ago so I kinda' knew it was important. But of course there's still room for improvement. 

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/15/17 5:27 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
But of course there's still room for improvement. 
May I suggest that you try this as a strategy-switch; when you enter into formal practice,
you give up any:

1. preconceivd idea of what access concentration is. If I could place a signpost to show myself when I achieve this phenomenon, it is when I notice 'rapture' - this can be anything out of the ordinary consciousness: vibrations, waves, hearing/sensing 'heartbeats', goosebumps, etc. Basically if you are able to sense any rapture, your mind is calm and you may call that state "around the area of access concentration". Gently remember that state and you will fly after that.

2. set target or goals, simply be an observer, not matter what happens. Tell yourself there is no such thing as bad practice if you managed to observe anything at all. your goal for now is simply capable of observing as much as you can. Whether it is physical, mental, feelings good or bad, having observed them is the achievement.

3. wish of not having thoughts. Throw this target away. It is impeding more than anything else. I cannot speak for others, but I have thoughts that proliferate in higher jhanas - they do not drop me out and they do not stop me from progressing up to higher jhanas. So the thoughts/no-thoughts guide is somewhat rubbish for me - staying in a focused and non-excited state, ready to observe whatever arises is access concentration to me.

I think the above will reduce stress-levels, add a positive ring to practice and guide you gently to 'surrender' to the wonderful process, which is just waiting round the corner for you...

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/15/17 6:10 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Great advice, thanks very much.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/19/17 4:54 AM as a reply to Alex.
Over the past few days i've been implementing a lot of the advice that you guys gave me, and it's been working well, so thanks.

However, what i've realised is that (and this may be the cause of my initial difficulties in concentrating) around 75% of the time I cannot detect any breath sensations on the nose whatsoever. Around 20% of the time the breath sensations are veeery subtle, but just enough to concentrate on. And maybe only 5% of the time are the sensations very clear, making them very easy to concentrate on, of course. These are just rough numbers, but you get the idea.

When there's no sensations I either find my attention moving to the sound of the breath, or just the sensations of the body moving. But I find this switching of objects negatively affects my concentration. More often than not, when there is no breath sensation to concentrate on, the mind wanders.

So my question is, is this normal? And any suggestions or advice?

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/19/17 6:22 AM as a reply to Alex.
This is just my advice, take it for what it is worth...

I never had super-pure samatha meditations, it was always a blend of concentration and vipassina. So when I encountered what you are experiencing I balanced doing two things:

1. gently feel for sensations of breathing at the nose
2. gently notice the sense of "ill will" you have about what is happening (difficulty finding sensations, doubts, frustrations, etc.)

Notice how your mind tends to alternate between relaxing into the sensations of breathing and a different, more aversive and self-critical, mode. No big deal, that's completely normal. But when you notice the tone of "ill will" let yourself take a slightly fuller breath, feel that ill will, and kinda sigh, "ahhh...."

The point here is that you are training the defensive/survival instinct to relax a little and allow yourself to enjoy the very simple sensations of breathing. When ill will clouds the mind you both acknowledge that sensation and indend to relax a little. Don't try to push the ill will sensation away (that's more ill will!) but rather just acknowledge it but intend to soften it.

This kind of practice is very healing and is what is often needed for really being able to be present with the sensations of breathing. Even so, it's completely normal to drift in and out of attention on breathing --- that's why this is a training, a practice.

One last thing, anyone can stay on the sensations of breathing if they take the attitude "I'm going to crush my mind onto this object". Imagine a group a shoulder chanting in/out as they are breathing on a forced march --- sure you're aware of breathing, but it misses the point entirely. The point is to allow the body to breath naturally and to allow the mind to settle on the object naturally. Success is not how often you are on the breath, but rather the gentleness of the mind that rests on, slips off, returns, slips off, returns, etc. You are trying to train >instinctual< concentration, not brute effort. The technique to re-train our instincts includes lots of low-effort, high-repetition practice. You are training yourself to do it with just your intention, not effort, so be gentle about it, notice the subtle sense of ill will that goes with your judgement "this isn't happening right", and simply return to whatever sensations might be present.

Does that makes sense? 

People often go very very wrong by judging the sit by % of time on the breath and not on "am I improving, over time, my ability to gently rest on the object of meditation?"

Hope this helps!

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/19/17 9:55 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Alex:
But of course there's still room for improvement. 
May I suggest that you try this as a strategy-switch; when you enter into formal practice,
you give up any:

1. preconceivd idea of what access concentration is. If I could place a signpost to show myself when I achieve this phenomenon, it is when I notice 'rapture' - this can be anything out of the ordinary consciousness: vibrations, waves, hearing/sensing 'heartbeats', goosebumps, etc. Basically if you are able to sense any rapture, your mind is calm and you may call that state "around the area of access concentration". Gently remember that state and you will fly after that.

2. set target or goals, simply be an observer, not matter what happens. Tell yourself there is no such thing as bad practice if you managed to observe anything at all. your goal for now is simply capable of observing as much as you can. Whether it is physical, mental, feelings good or bad, having observed them is the achievement.

3. wish of not having thoughts. Throw this target away. It is impeding more than anything else. I cannot speak for others, but I have thoughts that proliferate in higher jhanas - they do not drop me out and they do not stop me from progressing up to higher jhanas. So the thoughts/no-thoughts guide is somewhat rubbish for me - staying in a focused and non-excited state, ready to observe whatever arises is access concentration to me.

I think the above will reduce stress-levels, add a positive ring to practice and guide you gently to 'surrender' to the wonderful process, which is just waiting round the corner for you...



This is a really good reply IMO! The third point is of particular interest to me, as my experience is similar and I have wondered why, given the common teachings on absorption and jhana (thoughtless). i rarely enter a state of 'no thoughts', but bliss can sometimes be almost unbelievable. Best I can say with the thoughts is that they are just not usually a problem and appear as any other sensation might appear (or not). Just stuff. Though the relevance and clarity of thoughts can fade out. Maybe this is not jhana.

This is combined with basically bliss and pleasure within seconds of sitting, which gets deeper as time proceeds, and usually illumination of some kind (this I have taken to be Culadasa's higher stages but I may be wrong).

I have found this bliss - which has various grades, from unbelievable that such bliss exists, to intense freedom, to subtle and deeply peaceful - doesn't even need a meditation object and just sitting will result in the same thing pretty much. Sometimes one can feel quite 'absorbed' with something (for instance the breath), sometimes it can be sensations of everything are really really sharp - kind of the opposite of absorption in one thing in particular. It can also work with an active imagination & imagery (some might say dullness & to be honest I don't really know what's going on in this example).

But coming back to the original post, I just wanted to say I think these are great points quoted above and emphasise that the way you experience and interpret things may be different to others. For me, I haven't found no-thought to be hugely relevant (or at least, no more or less relevant to no-sound, no-vision etc) - which may be a hole in my practice, but maybe the lesson is just not to get hung up on it all. I quite like the model of jhana that talks about increasingly letting go, and stillness. Getting feedback as you are doing is hopefully helpful.

A good book on the variety of how jhana and concentration is interpreted is Richard Shankman's book on Samadhi (cannot remember the name offhand). One thing I took from it is that there is no fixed consensus on all of this and multiple approaches. Maybe there is one in there that resonates with you in particular.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/19/17 10:23 AM as a reply to Alex.
hi alex

one thing that is helping me in concentration is to "NOTE GONE" on breath. (shinzen young)



expiration ends you note gone.

inspiration ends you note gone.



try it,

seems to be working on me.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/20/17 5:53 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:

However, what i've realised is that (and this may be the cause of my initial difficulties in concentrating) around 75% of the time I cannot detect any breath sensations on the nose whatsoever. Around 20% of the time the breath sensations are veeery subtle, but just enough to concentrate on. And maybe only 5% of the time are the sensations very clear, making them very easy to concentrate on, of course. These are just rough numbers, but you get the idea.

When there's no sensations I either find my attention moving to the sound of the breath, or just the sensations of the body moving. But I find this switching of objects negatively affects my concentration. More often than not, when there is no breath sensation to concentrate on, the mind wanders.

So my question is, is this normal? And any suggestions or advice?
I think one's ability to 'detect' even the faintest of breaths speaks volumes about how focused and also how calm their minds are.

You should first let go of analysis (e.g. to post the issues in dHo), as you should solidify your hedonistic (yes try to picture it as enjoyable as you can) experience for samatha meditation.

Try these exercises:

1. Instead of using the physical sensation of the in/out breath, switch to a knowing method without investigating how you know. You should be able to simply know. It is important to focus on simply *feeling* the in's and out's but not bothering at all how you know (let that go along with whatever else you are hugging onto when you are practising, especially any wish/excitement to attain anything)!

2. After you suceed entering samatha jhanas and would like to proceed to insight meditation, investigate how you know as an exercise.

*feeling* : 

In the beginning, this can be air contacting skin, anywhere; or rising falling of abdomen, or sound, etc. - it does not matter what method you use, if you feel the need to switch, that is stress; if you switched but did not notice how or why, you are doing great. After your mind has let go of the method, you know/feel the breath in a way that is undisturbed and your attention is fixed 'happily' on the breath without effort, you start noticing unusual things happening (Piti - rapture), you build the rapture by enjoying it, it gets so pleasurable and irressistable that you are not sure if you dived into it or it sucked you in...

(Do not get too excited and squirt all over the place) You are home, baby! emoticon 

And I hope you noticed that there are a few 'let go's above.

RE: Difficulty achieving access concentration
Answer
9/20/17 6:06 AM as a reply to 5adja5b.
5adja5b:

This is a really good reply IMO! The third point is of particular interest to me, as my experience is similar and I have wondered why, given the common teachings on absorption and jhana (thoughtless). i rarely enter a state of 'no thoughts', but bliss can sometimes be almost unbelievable. Best I can say with the thoughts is that they are just not usually a problem and appear as any other sensation might appear (or not). Just stuff. Though the relevance and clarity of thoughts can fade out. Maybe this is not jhana.

This is combined with basically bliss and pleasure within seconds of sitting, which gets deeper as time proceeds, and usually illumination of some kind (this I have taken to be Culadasa's higher stages but I may be wrong).

I have found this bliss - which has various grades, from unbelievable that such bliss exists, to intense freedom, to subtle and deeply peaceful - doesn't even need a meditation object and just sitting will result in the same thing pretty much. Sometimes one can feel quite 'absorbed' with something (for instance the breath), sometimes it can be sensations of everything are really really sharp - kind of the opposite of absorption in one thing in particular. It can also work with an active imagination & imagery (some might say dullness & to be honest I don't really know what's going on in this example).

But coming back to the original post, I just wanted to say I think these are great points quoted above and emphasise that the way you experience and interpret things may be different to others. For me, I haven't found no-thought to be hugely relevant (or at least, no more or less relevant to no-sound, no-vision etc) - which may be a hole in my practice, but maybe the lesson is just not to get hung up on it all. I quite like the model of jhana that talks about increasingly letting go, and stillness. Getting feedback as you are doing is hopefully helpful.

A good book on the variety of how jhana and concentration is interpreted is Richard Shankman's book on Samadhi (cannot remember the name offhand). One thing I took from it is that there is no fixed consensus on all of this and multiple approaches. Maybe there is one in there that resonates with you in particular.

Yes! I think a beginner should understand that proliferating thoughts are an absolute hindrance to achieving any form of calmness. After they have relative success in keeping thoughts in check by simply being able to notice whenever there are thoughts, they should start to learn to see thoughts as what they really are - a sensation! There should not be aversion nor clinging to it. At this point, the rest will become history soon...

If you use unbelievable, peace and bliss in a sentence to describe jhanas, I hope you have some other powers to achieve these phenomena and teach me! Otherwise, jhanas are obviously your friends. You are also right in that, it does not require an object if you know the strata of the mind to achieve the jhana - some call it concentrating on concentration alone. One may notice themselves, engaged in a task (e.g. reading: it is not even a single-object-focused activity) that places them in the 'right' strata of mind and simply by willing it, enters into jhana.

RE: Books

I think the problem is understanding the strata of mind. If someone writes about samatha jhanas and teach everyone to understand e.g. by reverse engineering the process and eliminating the hindrances to universal standards, there might be a book to rule them all...

I also think Alex should quit reading, try to be as forgetful as he can, think of practice as hedonistic as he can, let go of everything and simply go diving with 'freedom' in 'peace' and 'bliss'. <- your words... emoticon