RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retreat Nicholas H 3/8/23 5:57 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Martin 3/8/23 7:48 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 6:56 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Aeon . 3/8/23 10:40 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 7:00 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Chris M 3/9/23 8:09 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 7:03 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Walter Young 3/12/23 5:03 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 7:09 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Jim Smith 3/12/23 11:57 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 7:16 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Ben Sulsky 3/13/23 10:02 AM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 8:21 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Aeon . 3/13/23 6:21 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/13/23 8:06 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Daniel M. Ingram 3/13/23 9:52 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Nicholas H 3/14/23 6:58 PM
RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre Noah D 3/14/23 11:47 PM
Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 5:57 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 5:57 PM

Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retreat

Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
 Hello Dharma friends and fellow meditators! 

I come seeking advice on best ways to move forward with this opportunity that I have. Long story short, due to a variety of circumstances, I have the opportunity to spend a year or so staying at home and deepening my practice. Meditation, yoga, and dharma have always been a key component in my adult life, but life, being what it is, along with my old habits, kept those things from being at the forefront of daily living. I have the opportunity to take a year or so off and I'm choosing to use it to dive deep into my meditation practice.

Essentially, the plan is to go as deep and as far as possible with this year of time off. What I wish to accomplish are jhanas and/or stream entry.

Jhana - 
Ever since I first heard about these states 12 years ago (and related meditative possibilities), I was fascinated. I've practiced almost exclusively anapanasati this whole 12 years, with some fire kasina in the very beginning and I'm just now getting back into it, within the last year or so. That said, my practice has definitely been sporadic at times, so I don't have much to show for it other than familiarity with the technique and the fact my mind will settle reasonably quickly. I started getting serious about practice again about a year back, but life was very hectic.

While fascination with these states is pretty high, my interest also lies in utility. As Daniel says somewhere in MCTB, "until you got jhanas, you ain't got squat!" My reasoning is that having jhanas as a foundation for further practice helps in a myriad of ways - once jhanas are achieved, I will be able to sit for much longer periods, thus deepening practice will be much easier; jhanas purify the mind and build equanimity; jhanas super charge the mind to do vipassana; and jhanas provide a safe haven once the dark night arises.

Stream entry and beyond - Do I have to explain why I'm interested in this? I wish to achieve enlightenment not only to help end my own suffering, but to be of most benefit to others.

The conditions available - I live in a quiet neighborhood, have minimal bills, and enough money to comfortably last over a year. The only social life I have is seeing my family once or twice a week (great relations), and two friends I see about twice a month each - but this is all easily modified if I choose to get more intensive. I have a large support group of other close friends and family, they just don't live close by, and my dear girlfriend moved away for a job opportunity that will last 1-3 years. I also have an awesome dog that needs to be walked, and that's really my sole responsibility, besides buying groceries and house chores. Basically, I've got the time, money, and opportunity, and there is nothing I'd rather do than spend it diving deep into my sadhana.

Where I'm currently at - I believe I'm at stage 3 in the TMI model, sometimes in stage 4. Rarely does my mind get pulled from the breath by thought, although thoughts do pop up fairly frequently. Very little dullness and I rarely "get the nods", only if I'm very sleep deprived. I just sat my first 10 day Goenka retreat (I left on Sunday), where I really surprised myself at how well I did - nothing special but the whole time was very pleasant, I learned a lot, enjoyed doing vipassana, and had lots of vipassana-related realizations about things I've read a ton about. Prior to the retreat, my longest sit was 42 minutes - now I can sit comfortably for an hour (sometimes more), and have been waking up at 5 to sit an hour in the mornings and doing an hour before bed, and looking to add a third, possibly fourth, during the day sometime.

Obstacles - Because my girlfriend is far away now, there is a lot of texting. She knows what I'm trying to do and is fine with my not responding to everything quickly, but still, there is quite a bit of texting all through out the day. I try to not engage in task switching throughout the day, meaning I basically will just do whatever I'm doing mindfully, and then try to respond to whatever texts I have, and do my best to not allow the mind to get distracted. Still, having a phone constantly going off is, uh.. a hell of a distraction, which will break up concentration throughout the day. All my other obstacles are minor and part of the learning curve of going from the life of a normal 30-something year old to the life of a mindful stay-at-home meditator.

Questions
  1. Are there any recommendations on a teacher who would be available and interested in coaching me through this process? I know Tina Rasmussen of Practicing the Jhanas does one-on-one coaching and I'm currently looking into that, if you have any other good pointers, they would be much appreciated!
  2. Would 3-5 hours of practice be feasible to attain to jhana this year? I know there are a lot of variables, but for a dedicated person living a quiet, semi-secluded life, is this feasible, particularly for "hard" jhanas?
  3. Should I focus more on stream entry than jhanas? Or should I give it a few months of dedicated samatha and reassess from there?
  4. Any advice on where to go for retreats? I live in Maryland, closer is better but I will be attending the upcoming Brahma Jhana retreat at Dharma Treasure in Arizona at the end of April and I'm hoping to attend their The Mind Illuminated retreat in October. Any recommendations on other samatha-focused retreats?
Apologies for the massive post and if this should be somewhere else, please delete and let me know! I'll be posting this on some of the Reddit subs as well, and thanks to anyone who took the time to read.

 
Martin, modified 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 7:48 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 7:48 PM

RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Posts: 882 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Here are some teachers:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/21564331

I really recommend working with an experienced teacher who has had formal teacher training. If you are doing TMI, I'd suggest you talk to Nick, if he still taking students. If there is a sangha/sitting group that you can join, that can be very grounding. 

Aim for steady and sustainable first. 
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 10:40 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/8/23 10:40 PM

RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
My 2 cents would be this:

Don't let yourself believe jhanas are difficult to attain. They can be quite easy to learn, if you use a pleasant feeling as a meditation object at first. I picked this up from Leigh Brasington when he was in the Guru Viking podcast, and it simply works.

Texting can drain your concentration capacity, as can social media and TV. If I were you, I would set aside a 30 minute window each day, and then focus on texting or talking or whatever in a concentrated manner.

I wish you good luck with your retreat!
May you achieve everything you set out to, and then some.
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 8:09 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 8:09 AM

RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Posts: 5288 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
JMHO, but the "choice" you present to yourself is a false one. If you have a year off to practice, you can, and should, focus on both finding your way to stream entry and to accessing the jhanas. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. They're complimentary.
Walter Young, modified 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 5:03 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 5:00 PM

RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Post: 1 Join Date: 3/12/23 Recent Posts
Here's a few thoughts on jhāna practice:
  • It might be helpful to think of this as a wonderful opportunity to practice wise concentration rather than getting too hung up on attainments.
  • One distinguishing factor of wise concentration is the purpose for which it is used. This is more important than the depth achieved. If it's wise concentration then it's in the service of bringing about an end to greed, hatred and delusion.
  • The liberation aspect of wise concentration can often be forgotten and replaced by a preoccupation with jhānas (which ends up being another exercise in clinging, selfing and grasping). States of experience can become ends in themselves. 
  • Jhāna states will arise or they won't - too much effort can be counterproductive, so the balance of effort is central. ‘Easeful effort’ is what you're trying to achieve.
  • It's important to take into account differences in temperament. This is why the Buddha had different people undertaking different practices. If a person’s mind inclines towards concentration, jhāna practice can be pursued fruitfully, but if not it can produce a whole lot of unneccessary dukkha. Not everyone can master the jhānas but anybody can achieve access concentration (i.e. the ability to hold concentration quite easily).
  • The benefits of concentration practices are around the way they support our capacity for mindfulness because the mind isn't lost in hindrances. The mind can be deeply uncooperative and disobedient, so an emphasis on developing its capacity to sustain attention can be very helpful. Concentration practices won't bring liberation as an end in itself, but:  - Used wisely they are a rich source of insight  - The capacity to sustain attention is critical to awakening  - They begin to take us out of the reach of the hindrances
  • Practice without the support of a sangha might not be easy. If you're on your own, it's easier to get distracted, especially if you're receiving a lot of texts. Even having access to a device can be a distraction. A good teacher is essential imo.
  • Please be aware that jhāna practice can damage your body if it overrides what your body is telling you. 
  • It's worth considering your motivation around all this. All the jhānas in the world aren't going to help you if you can't hang up the washing with a peaceful heart!
I hope that's helpful. More than anything, I hope you benefit from this opportunity for sustained practice.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 11:57 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 11:50 PM

RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

Posts: 1756 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Nicholas H
 ...
  • Would 3-5 hours of practice be feasible to attain to jhana this year? I know there are a lot of variables, but for a dedicated person living a quiet, semi-secluded life, is this feasible, particularly for "hard" jhanas?
  • Should I focus more on stream entry than jhanas? Or should I give it a few months of dedicated samatha and reassess from there?
  • Any advice on where to go for retreats? I live in Maryland, closer is better but I will be attending the upcoming Brahma Jhana retreat at Dharma Treasure in Arizona at the end of April and I'm hoping to attend their The Mind Illuminated retreat in October. Any recommendations on other samatha-focused retreats?

    ...
     


  • If you mean soft jhanas, I think the reason Jhanas seem hard to experience is that there are factors that most people don't recognize.
    1. Relaxation, I think more in terms of access relaxation than access concentration. Some concentration is needed but relaxation is very important in my opinion.
    2. Brain chemistry. You have to have the necessary brain chemicals to experience bliss. Many (most?) people have fluxuating brain chemistry due to the diet metabolism genetics etc etc. So it won't necessarily work every time. The best way to learn is when you are naturally happy (maybe after a good meal), try to focus on the feeling of happiness and see if that initiates the feedback loop and if the feeling becomes stronger.
    More here: https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/a-quick-guide-to-producing-bliss-with.html


    My opinion is you should not focus on jhanas or stream entry. You should focus on tranquility and when you are tranquil you will easily notice dukkha arising when it disturbs your tranquility. You can use any relaxing meditation to produce tranquility, such as meditation on the breath, noting (in a relaxing way), or jhanas, or metta, or I recommend relaxing meditation exericses. When you notice dukkha, you notice it arising and fading (impermanence), and often you see how your sense of self (ego) is involved. If you practice like that you can get stream entry but many people who awaken never have a distinct experience so focusing on stream entry can lead you astray. Focus on (measure progress by) how dukkha affects you in daily life. If it becomes less and less then you are practicing right and making progress. My opinion: if you learn to produce tranquility and become better/faster at doing it over time, and learn to maintain it longer and longer after a meditation session you don't need a "stream entry event" because you are on the same trajectory. Focus on what you can experience now (tranquility), use that to measure progress.

    I think 3-5 hours sitting meditation is a lot, maybe too much for some people.  Some people can meditate all day and love it, others go crazy so be careful. Try to spend time doing daily activities while you are mindful or meditating. Develop that as a habit you continue after your home retreat is over. Dukkha is in daily life that's where you should practice most. I see the purpose of sitting meditation as quieting the mind so you can be mindful in daily life.  After that just try to live a calm quiet life and notice what (dukkha) disturbs your tranquility and try to get back to a tranquil state through meditation etc. 
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 6:56 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 6:56 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Thank you for the link, that was so helpful! And thanks for the rec for Nick, I will look into reaching him.

    I have steady and sustainable at this point, now the goal is to deepen practice. 

    Thanks again Martin
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:00 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:00 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Thank you for the supportive reply Aeon! I'm certainly not opposed to "sutta jhana" or "soft jhanas" as Leigh B and others teach, but I would like to eventually get to the "hard" jhanas as taught by V Pa Auk Sayadaw. I see jhanas, hard or soft, as both a means to quickly deepen practice and a "leveling up" tool, so to speak, for insight practice. 

    Thank you for the advice and your support!
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:03 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:03 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Thanks Chris, yes I agree they are not mutually exclusive. I'm also not opposed to finding out that my practice veers off into another beneficial arena - however, those are two easily defined (kind of, I know there's debate on what constitutes each) guide posts that I am currently aiming for. 

    Aim for the moon and even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars, right? Thanks for the input.
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:09 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:09 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Thanks for the detailed reply Walter! I agree with all points raised, and I'm grateful for the reminder of "wise concentration". I realize finding a qualified teacher is paramount. I've begun to reach out, so hopefully I will find one soon - same with a sangha.

    I'm also glad to have found one here at the Dharma Overground and will be starting a practice log here shortly - I'll link it in this thread just in case anyone might be interested.

    ​​​​​​​Thanks again
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:16 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 7:16 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Thanks for the detailed reply, Jim! Are those links to your blog? I will certainly check them out.

    I agree that "focusing" on jhanas/stream entry is not the right approach, but to have a balanced, relaxed effort, making the practice itself the focus of my practice. Craving for these types of experiences is only going to keep them at arms reach.

    ​​​​​​​Thanks again!
    Ben Sulsky, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 10:02 AM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 10:02 AM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 170 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
    I would be careful practicing this much; sounds very intense and hard to maintain safely.
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    Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 6:21 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 6:21 PM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
    I just want to balance the (well meaning and wise) conservative opinions here, and say go full out. If you spend your time wisely, you might attain both SE and 2nd path, and those would make hard jhanas easier from what I gather.

    How long to achieve Stream-Entry on retreat. (Circa 2009) if you can (have) cross(ed) the A&P you should be able to do this on retreat in 1-2 weeks, usually less than that, perhaps a few days,
    https://danielpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#jump-to-101

    2nd Path is a pretty straight shot. Other than the fact that 2nd Path for many has some more emotional aspects to it, that and the increased ability to appreciate subparts of stages for those inclined to those sorts of things, the cool thing about 2nd is that you can basically do the same sort of things that got you First Path and it should largely work for 2nd.
    https://danielpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#jump-to-128
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 8:21 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 8:05 PM

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    I appreciate the concern Ben ;)
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 8:06 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 8:06 PM

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    Thanks Aeon, I will give those links a look in the morning. Cheers!
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    Daniel M Ingram, modified 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 9:52 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/13/23 9:52 PM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
    Stumble towards this moment as fast as you can! ;)

    Said another way, make sure all thoughts of a future where there is an imaged stream entry should be noted to arise and vanish naturally now. 
    Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 6:58 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 6:58 PM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
    Daniel M. Ingram:
    Stumble towards this moment as fast as you can! ;) Said another way, make sure all thoughts of a future where there is an imaged stream entry should be noted to arise and vanish naturally now. 


    Thanks Daniel, I will be sure to put these words to good use! 

    Practice log is live
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    Noah D, modified 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 11:47 PM
    Created 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 11:47 PM

    RE: Jhana/Stream Entry or Bust - seeking advice for a year of at-home retre

    Posts: 1211 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
    In my general opinion (not knowing much about your background), you should focus on insight, not stream entry or jhana.  Focusing on the breath to drop the hindrances & enter a jhana is ultimately a tool to develop insight.  But even after doing all of that you will need to actually investigate your experience, understanding how suffering & delusion arise.  So staying grounded in this investigation towards developing insight is a worthy north star.

    In terms of how you get to that point, of course that can occur through a range of objects (breath, sense doors, sense of self, etc) & ways of relating to those objects (sharp focus, general awareness, inquiry, noting, etc).  The common thread across all of these options is that you will be building skills and capacities like those listed in the 37 factors of enlightenment - https://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=37_factors_of_enlightenment.  Regardless of technique, you will be building capacities which culminate in investigation leading to liberating insight.  

    Knowledge of the progress of insight in the Mahasi sense is helpful to gain perspective & not get sucked into the particular "weather" of your practice that day/week/month.  Learning how the various insight-knowledges create moods, thought patterns, perceptual patterns that one tends to take more seriously than they ought to, will ultimately help you steer the ship back towards that north star.  

    One last thing - don't get involved with limiting beliefs & artificial rules about what is required for liberating insight to arise (i.e. "hard jhana is needed to really go deep enough for liberating fruition moment").  It just doesn't work like that.  In fact, some of these limiting beliefs could be the very things that hold one back from "taking the leap" once in the knowledge of high EQ (or at any other key point in the arc of practice).

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