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Access concentration?
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5/16/09 6:05 AM
Author: JamesAlexander
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I'll keep this as technical as possible. Here goes:

I was practicing shamata using the breath as object. The first 15 minutes were very unfocused. I was constantly nodding of and felt very tired. Then, in an instant, something changed and the following sensations occurred in the time-space of a couple of seconds:

- a strait and comfortable posture, some goose bumps and a subtle electric feeling shimmered through the body
- a small eruption of excitement/joy arising up from the belly area causing me to smile and basically feel good

For the rest of the session my attention was stable. I didn't wander of into forgetfulness once. Very little effort involved. Just kept my attention on the breath while other sensory/mental sensations were held in the background of awareness.

During the last 5 minutes I experienced balloon hands, a feeling of being pulled or stretched in both arms and then a slight sensation of first being pulled up a bit, and then everything became "small" (not sure how to explain). Tried to just observe these sensations and let them be..

After the session ended I had a constant smile and felt elated for 5-10 minutes, and I just wanted to go back and sit.

So what's the deal? And now what?

Peace

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/16/09 7:39 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: garyrh

Hi James,

These links should help.

http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/page/The+Arising+and+Passing+Away
http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/thread/1960632/Classic+Description+of+A%26P

The maps will help with making sense how practice will evolve from here.

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/16/09 9:28 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
you were doing shamatha and wandered into a jhana, probably the first jhana by your description. surprise! ;)

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/17/09 5:59 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi James,

I have experienced this too. To me, it feels as if my body swells up, and the world around me becomes very small in relationship. I don't feel any added sense of physical weight, though. If anything, I might feel slightly floaty. I am only beginning a meditation practice, but this has occurred occasionally as I rest before sleep since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I'm really glad that you mentioned it! ... and also interested in the responses of others, now that I know it's not just me having the experience. ;-)

Becky

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/17/09 6:52 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi,

Interesting to note is that these perceptual affects you feel in your body (such as "ballooning") is a strong sign of disassociation (in the psychological sense of the word). I experienced this sort of stuff in during the 2nd two stages of insight after Mind & Body (Cause and Effect; The Three Characteristics).

Buuut similar results can occur with some of the Jhanas, as Tarin points out.

It really depends on the context of where these are showing up. James' original post sounds like a Jhana, but it may be useful to know that this can happen in other contexts and may be indicative of the 1st Vipassana Jhana.

Trent

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/17/09 9:03 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: JamesAlexander

I also had these sensations as a kid while laying in bed, and they have started to come back again during practice. I suppose it's like any other phenomena - it's important not to get hung up on them. However, it seems to "shake something loose" in terms of facilitating a certain dissociation, as Trent pointed to.

Thanks for the feedback guys/girls. Maybe someone could describe the difference between "access concentration" and 1. jhana? It's still find it a bit unclear (I checked the links above)
James

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/17/09 10:23 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
James,

That's a good question. The difference in access concentration and 1st jhana can be a muddy thing to define. I would say that the only fundamental difference is that when 1st jhana is achieved, it is "locked in" as a state relatively more subtle than access concentration. If one has access concentration but has not achieved 1st jhana, it is probably the case that they have just not noticed the subtle 1st jhana layer which is already presenting itself.

Here's an analogy. Lets say you want to find a certain tiny bug on the ground. Before access concentration, you're not even sure what you're looking for or where to look. With access concentration, you're on the right track, using a lot of energy to scour the ground with your magnifying glass. When you finally find the tiny bug crawlin' around on the ground, then you automatically keep your magnifying glass over him, because you have found what you inclined to find. This is 1st jhana. You must continue to use some applied effort to keep up with his movement, but it is not the same as scouring the ground without a clue. Along with that, you'll feel a relative sense of peace, ease, happiness, etc, because your wandering aversion has been settled: you found the bug! Oh god, what a relief! Haha :].

Trent

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/17/09 11:24 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
trent - great description with the bug. and thanks for chiming in about what cause and effect / three characteristics is like for you. its hard for me to think with much clarity about those two stages of the map, particularly cause and effect; i'm used to zipping right through or somehow not noticing what it's like.

james and becky - me too about the childhood stuff popping up in practice, similar to the way you describe it. i remember my first vipassana course, during the first few days, that stuff - ballooning, the world contracting, and the sense of lightness and bliss - coming up and me feeling very satisfied like i knew i'm achieving something worth achieving.

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/18/09 10:53 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
hi james,

im very much a beginner with this stuff, so please take my words with a grain of salt, but sounds like we are in similar places in terms of practice so i thought i would chime in.

this sounds to me like the "tamed attention" stage of the shamatha map:

http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/page/The+Samatha+Jhanas
http://books.google.com/books?id=Ygf4pbnbf5kC&pg=PP3#PPA77,M1

i first started hitting this stage a couple months ago (right around the 1000 hour mark). it would initially happen only during longer, somewhat sleepy sessions and was very much as you describe. reaching this stage was a real breakthrough for me, as it was the first time i could start letting go and enjoying the practice rather than having to constantly fight against distractions.

as for the ballon effect, i got this a lot during my first few experiences of this stage, though it has pretty much gone away as my access to this stage has solidified and become more consistent. (i do still get it during sleepy sessions when i have my eyes closed.) its usually referred to as AIWS ("alice in wonderland" sensations/syndrome) in much of the sleep-related literature ive read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIWS

apparently, it can be experienced as a "shrinking" effect too, although the "ballooning" is what i always get. i also got this a lot in childhood (which i think is typical); its very pleasant and tends to bring back very early memories of my bed/bedroom/wallpaper/etc.

(cont.)

RE: Access concentration?
Answer
5/18/09 10:54 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
anyway, my assessment is based largely on the shamatha map described in AR, and the time frame proposed by wallace is admittedly not as optimistic as that suggested by many folks here. as far access concentration and jhanas are concerned, my current stance is that i still have a ways to go. but like i said above, im hardly in a position to accurately evaluate my own progress at this point, let alone anyone elses ... so if my assessment seems overly pessimistic, perhaps it is emoticon

-emory