Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me jhanic ceramic 9/28/23 3:40 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 9/28/23 2:28 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me jhanic ceramic 9/28/23 2:41 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 9/28/23 2:58 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me jhanic ceramic 9/28/23 3:13 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 9/28/23 3:26 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me jhanic ceramic 9/28/23 3:38 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 9/28/23 4:17 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Nick Chab Chab 10/2/23 12:50 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/16/23 3:52 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/17/23 12:11 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/17/23 7:29 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/17/23 6:14 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/17/23 7:08 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/18/23 12:20 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 7:50 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/18/23 8:34 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 8:34 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/18/23 8:44 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 8:45 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me J W 10/18/23 12:07 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 12:12 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me J W 10/18/23 12:15 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 12:29 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Edward 10/18/23 1:31 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/18/23 1:38 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/24/23 11:50 AM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Eric Abrahamsen 10/25/23 1:01 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me Chris M 10/25/23 4:31 PM
RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me shargrol 10/25/23 6:38 PM
jhanic ceramic, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 3:40 PM
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Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I've primarily been a concentration meditator (of some shape or form) for most of my meditative career. I had about 4 years of practice where not much happened, besides a slight subduing of hindrances during concentration practice, and the occasional piti experience, to the last 3 months where my concentration has gotten much stronger (had a retreat in early July) and sitting is something I look forward to every single day. My concentration has made more gains in the last 3 months, than I ever really had over my first 4 years of practice.

Some context about my personal practice: I practice concentration (for now) in the Pa-Auk tradition which is what my main teacher trained in. Currently a householder so my practice can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3h/day. My main practice is following the breath, which as concentration deepens, becomes a very refined object, but also very challenging to maintain attention on due to all sorts of energetic phenomena that can arise during concentration states. I'd probably divide how I actually practice into "coarse" and "fine" practices. The coarse practices help get the mind settled and subdue almost all the hindrances. These can include metta, insight ways of looking (Rob Burbea style), open awareness etc. The fine practices are holding the attention on the breath and titrating the effort levels and subtlety of attention to match the refinement of the breath. Most days I can hit access concentration within a few minutes of sitting, but I'll occasionally have a day (or a few days) where it's just mind wandering or dullness the whole sit.

Access concentration itself however is a very wide space leading up to jhana (at least how Pa-Auk and his students define it). The gulf between ordinary consciousness and early access concentration is something like 5% of the way to jhana, and the rest 95% is spent deepening access concentration until it gets to jhana. Piti-sukha show up pretty early (at least for me, not sure about other students) within access concentration. 

I really love this style of practice, it's incredibly rigorous, rich, and tons of fun if you don't get attached to attainments. Plus, nothing says you can't explore some of the "soft jhanas" on the way there to juice up your practice. My teacher likes to tell me to try and stick to a 70/30 rule where 70% of my time is spent moving towards hard jhana and being very clear about the aim of practice, and the remaining 30% is play time to do whatever practices enrich my life and encourage me to keep practicing. In my "30% time" I explore some of the "soft jhana" states in my practice, but within the Pa-Auk tradition these are seen as just levels of access concentration not to be confused with "real jhana". There's also a movement towards really spending time cultivating love and enjoyment with the meditation object rather than trying to just force the mind onto it.  

That said, I've got some shower thoughts on what makes life more conducive to concentration. My hypothesis is that it's my lifestyle and the causes and conditions coming together just right that have lead to a deepening of concentration, and not time on the cushion or some innate concentration skills I possess. I'm curious to see if anyone else can relate to what lead to much stronger concentration skills for them within their own practice.  

  1. Going to a concentration retreat, but with absolutely no expectations. I went to to have fun and see what would happen, without really worrying if jhana would show up or not 
  2. I simplified my life significantly. I found the things I cared about, only put my time and energy into those things and more or less let the rest fall away. 
  3. I spent 3 years working on childhood trauma (asian tiger family and all the fun physical and emotional abuse that comes with that), forgiving my parents, bullies, and others. I did my best to to get bogged down or trapped in my trauma and turning it into the story of "who I am" but more like just some stuff that happened to me. Trauma rarely comes up now, in meditation, or in daily life. It's quite unburdening. I can't say it will never show up again, but it's good at least right now.
  4. Got rid of most stressors - this one is harder because not everyone can do this. For me, it was always having enough money to do what I wanted. A lot of anxiety around money. I lucked into a high pay low stress job. This one is an unfair advantage because it enabled all other positive life changes in my life. Through practice, I've also learned to let go of a desire to be incredibly rich which was a trajectory I had put myself on and caused a lot of grief and anxiety. It's a lot easier to let go of something if you've had it, tried it, and found that you can do without it. I think if I got laid off tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be that upset about it. More time time to practice emoticon
  5. Got a creative hobby that gave me an understanding of subtlety, refinement, and a flow state (I've written about it here)
  6. Exercise, nutrition and sleep. Making sure that all 3 of these basic human needs are prioritized and met.
  7. Getting a meditation teacher who is wise and kind. My teacher (and many in Pa-Auk's tradition) can be a bit dogmatic, but I don't mind that. She's excellent at helping me progress in my practice which is what I'm looking for, at least right now.
  8. Getting my morality in order and really buying into the idea that I'm not practicing for myself, but for the benefit of all sentient beings. I always thought this was dumb when I started practice (because it's self-development, not other-development), but as I practice more and more, this has become a key reason for practice.   
I think part of the reason why a lot of meditators have more success practicing insight meditation up to stream entry (at least in the Mahasi definition) and then going for concentration is that a bunch of stress just drops away. This allows concentration to flower since the hindrances (which were a big deal pre stream-entry) are just no longer a big deal anymore. Conversely, one can also simplify their life so that they are largely living a happy and moral life (which is what happened to me), and concentration can then take root since there is very little to be stressed about. 

TL;DR:
For me lifestyle changes were far more important for deepening concentration than just sitting down and practicing concentration. 
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 2:28 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I think part of the reason why a lot of meditators have more success practicing insight meditation up to stream entry (at least in the Mahasi definition) and then going for concentration is that a bunch of stress just drops away. 

FWIW, my experience with this was that something occurs at stream entry that allows far easier access to jhanas. I was sometimes pulled into concentration states during normal daily activities. This kind of thing may be due to personal issues like the ones you catalogued, but who knows?
jhanic ceramic, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 2:41 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Chris M
I think part of the reason why a lot of meditators have more success practicing insight meditation up to stream entry (at least in the Mahasi definition) and then going for concentration is that a bunch of stress just drops away. 

FWIW, my experience with this was that something occurs at stream entry that allows far easier access to jhanas. I was sometimes pulled into concentration states during normal daily activities. This kind of thing may be due to personal issues like the ones you catalogued, but who knows?

Were the jhanas you had access to the Pa-auk jhanas (which I don't think can be done walking but haven't confirmed with my teacher) or the "softer" kind, like what Leigh Brasington describes? I find myself sometimes spontaneously in pseudo-soft-jhanic states as well just going about my day. Can be exhilerating but also distracting if it's a task that needs attending to.
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 2:58 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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These experiences immediately post SE were soft jhanas and yes, distracting. My experience is that the distinction between soft and hard jhana is a matter of the degree of absorption. The "strange attractor" that each jhana represents is unique to that jhana, in my experience.
jhanic ceramic, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 3:13 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Chris M
These experiences immediately post SE were soft jhanas and yes, distracting. My experience is that the distinction between soft and hard jhana is a matter of the degree of absorption. The "strange attractor" that each jhana represents is unique to that jhana, in my experience.


I have no personal experience to back this up with, but teachers within Pa-Auk's tradition I think would disagree this statement. My teacher at least has been very clear that Leigh Brasington's jhana is a sustained attention on a jhana factor, whereas Pa-Auk's jhana is sustained attention on a nimitta, which is the mind-manifested light phenomenon (and a very specific one at that, not all light phenomena qualify as nimitta suited for jhana) that arises in deep access concentration. The jhana factors relevant to the jhana one is aiming for are just coincident to the nimitta but are never to be confused with jhana itself. 

Again, having not experienced at least Pa-Auk's first jhana, I can't comment from personal experience, but at the very least I can offer what I understand of their perspective.

​​​​​​​The soft jhanas though are wonderful states. Really quite pleasant abidings and something that's quite resourcing. 
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 3:26 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I have personal experience with jhanas of various depths, and the deep jhanas pretty much always begin as soft jhanas. The way to deepen a soft jhana, for me, is to develop a relaxed focus on the specific jhanic factor (you can call this a nimitta if you like but it varies by jhana). As the jhana deepens contact with external phenomena falls away, the feeling of bliss endemic to the jhana gets more pronounced over time, and the mind's focus narrows into that as the process continues. It can get to the point where the breath and other mental activity disappear, leaving just the jhanic focus.

The light factor you describe is endemic to all the jhanas in my experience, with each jhana having a unique color and aspect to it. I would describe the light factor as being a part of the experience, just like the bliss and the jhana factor. It's all of a piece, like ordering a pizza - the crust and the sauce come together, along with the cheese.
jhanic ceramic, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 3:38 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Chris M
I have personal experience with jhanas of various depths, and the deep jhanas pretty much always begin as soft jhanas. The way to deepen a soft jhana, for me, is to develop a relaxed focus on the specific jhanic factor (you can call this a nimitta if you like but it varies by jhana). As the jhana deepens contact with external phenomena falls away, the feeling of bliss endemic to the jhana gets more pronounced over time, and the mind's focus narrows into that as the process continues. It can get to the point where the breath and other mental activity disappear, leaving just the jhanic focus.

The light factor you describe is endemic to all the jhanas in my experience, with each jhana having a unique color and aspect to it. I would describe the light factor as being a part of the experience, just like the bliss and the jhana factor. It's all of a piece. Like ordering a pizza - the crust and the sauce come together, along with the cheese.

Your experience describes my experience with the first "soft jhana" including what you mention about depth, fading of perception of external phenomena etc. I haven't explored it too much, but that's something we can definitely agree on, at least from a subjective experience emoticon.

Check out this youtube video on distinction between hard and soft jhana: https://youtu.be/yNI35TBibko?si=FhU0JaS6FvjnWaXo&t=1504 . It's a long video but I've started it at the correct timestamp and the portion on the jhana debate that's relevant is only 5 minutes. One of the relevant quotes is that if you've experienced both, you'd never mistake one for the other, or think that hard jhana is just a deeper version of the soft jhana. 

This video has her describing the five kinds of light that appear in deep access concentration, of which only one is actually suitable as a jhana object: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsC__Zp80Xc

I do not think Leigh and Pa-Auk are saying the same thing when they are describing the first jhana (i.e. that they are to different depths). My hypothesis, just based on all the reading I've done on concentration meditation, is that they are actually quite distinct states of concentration with one significantly different, and also deeper than the other. 
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 9/28/23 4:17 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I Iistened deeper into the conversation, though I'm not done with it yet, and I'm not sure she's describing something different than what I've experienced. I'm not changing my attention over from the initial jhana factor to the bliss, or piti. I'm staying with the original jhana factor and piti rides along until a certain point when it fades like the breath, sense of control, and any external sensations. She does admit that there is a very subtle sense of self and other that she experiences, which also matches my experience. I also like her use of the word "samadhi" to describe the experience. I'll keep listening and exploring more.
Nick Chab Chab, modified 9 Months ago at 10/2/23 12:50 PM
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Ajahn Nanamoli Thero has a radically different view about what constitutes jhana. It could be an interesting read for you and another POV from Pa Auk's take. 
https://www.hillsidehermitage.org/new-book-jhana/
You can also check his youtube video about anapassati on youtube.
Let me know what you think !
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/16/23 3:52 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I have continued to investigate, as time permits, the jhanas as defined by Beth Upton. I've watched quite a few of her YouTube videos. This particular video, at least in my opinion, does a good job of describing what she calls jhana:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISip7pGHjHY

I like what she describes and there is, indeed, a distinguishing factor that separates what she's saying in the video and the initial phases of access concentration and beginning the process of jhana when we first sit. The difference is the depth of focus on just one object, not the surrounding jhana phenomena (lights, bliss, etc.). I can attain the early (soft?) phases of jhana easily. This easy access came along with some of the early insights of my practice. One can be in a concentration state that most people in Pragmatic Dharma call jhana, but I cannot attain deeper jhana without a significant investment in time and stillness both in my immediate surroundings and in my mind.

During the early phases of jhana, there is an awareness of changing circumstances - the focus on an object is not singular. Lights and bliss accompany the object - these just happen, they come along for the ride, as I said earlier. One can choose to focus on them or remain focused on the original object - what Upton calls the nimitta. If we stay with the object we can deepen the focus on it and over some period of time the lights, the bliss, and other objects fade until there is uninterrupted focus. Upton describes this process in an interesting technical manner that's worth listening to.

I'm still of the opinion that jhana is jhana and the difference is the nature of our focus - how deep we can go, how singular our focus can be. 
Edward, modified 9 Months ago at 10/17/23 12:11 AM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Chris M
I have continued to investigate, as time permits, the jhanas as defined by Beth Upton. I've watched quite a few of her YouTube videos. This particular video, at least in my opinion, does a good job of describing what she calls jhana:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISip7pGHjHY

I like what she describes and there is, indeed, a distinguishing factor that separates what she's saying in the video and the initial phases of access concentration and beginning the process of jhana when we first sit. The difference is the depth of focus on just one object, not the surrounding jhana phenomena (lights, bliss, etc.). I can attain the early (soft?) phases of jhana easily. This easy access came along with some of the early insights of my practice. One can be in a concentration state that most people in Pragmatic Dharma call jhana, but I cannot attain deeper jhana without a significant investment in time and stillness both in my immediate surroundings and in my mind.

During the early phases of jhana, there is an awareness of changing circumstances - the focus on an object is not singular. Lights and bliss accompany the object - these just happen, they come along for the ride, as I said earlier. One can choose to focus on them or remain focused on the original object - what Upton calls the nimitta. If we stay with the object we can deepen the focus on it and over some period of time the lights, the bliss, and other objects fade until there is uninterrupted focus. Upton describes this process in an interesting technical manner that's worth listening to.

I'm still of the opinion that jhana is jhana and the difference is the nature of our focus - how deep we can go, how singular our focus can be. 

Hi Chris,

I seem to remember from your practice archives Kenneth folk diagnosing you as in 3rd path as you were seemingly effortlessly entering nirodha samapatti. Are you still able to do this? Or do you think he was mistaken?
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/17/23 7:29 AM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Hi, Edward.

Yes, that's true - but getting there certainly wasn't effortless. I sort of stumbled upon nirodha but I wasn't getting fully into it, just into some early part of it. It was lIke finding a heavy, unlocked door and trying to push it open. It scared me and I stopped doing it for a quite a while. It was unlike any other meditative experience I'd had. The after effects were pretty euphoric and that's when Kenneth Folk said I had likely entered third path. 
Edward, modified 9 Months ago at 10/17/23 6:14 PM
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Can you have an early part of it? Surely it's cessation or it isn't. Was the fear before or after the euphoric afterglow?
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/17/23 7:08 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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I described my experience of approaching but not entering nirodha, the onset of which was not at all like a cessation. The fear occurred due to my first experience of it and it kept me from trying again for some time.
Edward, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 12:20 AM
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You're being very slippery about this
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 7:50 AM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Well, as you said before, this experience was (and still is) posted in my practice log at the time it occurred. And, of course, you're under no obligation to believe anything I've posted, then or now.
Edward, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 8:34 AM
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Well I'm not convinced by it. And I'm not convinced that you're convinced.
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 8:34 AM
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Okay, Edward.
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Okay, Edward.


Very slippery
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 8:45 AM
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I'm a dodgy character.
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J W, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 12:07 PM
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Chris, do you happen to have a link to that log? I was trying to find it using the DhO search but couldn't.  

(Not because I'm a doubter, just genuinely interested in reading it)

EDIT: found one link, in this thread: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22657620

or is there another link?
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J W, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 12:15 PM
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Thanks!
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 12:29 PM
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RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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To try and mke this easier for everyone to pass judgment, here's the series of posts that Edward asked me about:

​​​​​​​cmarti Oct 25 2009, 7:26 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 7:26 PM EDT

Sorry for all the posts lately but I did make a promise to update this thread with events in my practice as they occur.I've discovered an interesting thing that happens if I focus my attention tightly on the area between my eyes. A kind of "sinking into blackness" thing begins to encroach on me, and it will just keep getting blacker and deeper and blacker and deeper if I keep pushing at it, until pretty much everything just blacks out. This process feels like the reverse of the onset of a jhana, so it's less like being sucked "up" into the thing and more like being pushed "down" into the thing. The pushing is, of course, willful and it has to be aimed right smack dab at the middle of my forehead. Right between the eyes! It's as if there is an infinity in there.At first I was sort of frightened by this and I've purposely left it alone. But as I get more accustomed to concentration states it gets easier to experiment with them and that fear quality has slowly faded. I think I need to play with this one some more and see if I can make it happen in a smoother, easier manner. And I need to push it all the way a few times, too. This one seems to be a bit more difficult to do, especially at first, but like other concentration states it also seems to get easier and smoother with practice.I continue to be amazed at the difference easier access to concentration makes and the powerful nature of the path to just kind of pull one along. It seems at times that actual formal sitting isn't even necessary, but I suppose that's what I'm doing as most of these experiences come at night while I'm just laying in bed. I've taken lately to not reading or talking to my wife (sorry, wife) but just laying back and letting it rip.This is decidedly not what I expected practice to be like, but here it is.

kennethfolk Oct 25 2009, 8:17 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 8:17 PM EDT

Hi Chris,What happens if you stop pushing on it before you go all the way into it and black out?

cmarti Oct 25 2009, 8:25 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 8:25 PM EDT

Hi, Kenneth.If I stop pushing down into it it stops and I come back "out" and can either start over or do something else. It's not an inevitable process until past a certain critical point. That's more or less what I was getting at when I said "willful." I have to keep going or it bounces back. Sort of like a rubber band.

Khara Oct 25 2009, 9:22 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 9:22 PM EDT

"Sorry for all the posts lately but I did make a promise to update this thread with events in my practice as they occur."Hey Chris,No reason to apologize! Your updates are interesting and informative, basically like an online journal of your evolving progress. I think a lot of people find your reports to be beneficial. Wonderful for us to have the opportunity to "watch" the unfolding of your experiences. Hopefully, it's also helpful to you, too! I'm sure it's sometimes a challenge to articulate these experiences in an intelligible "verbal expression." Our language (particularly the English language) is insufficient when it comes to describing things of this context. You're descriptions are really good!

kennethfolk Oct 25 2009, 9:29 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 9:29 PM EDT

"HI, Kenneth. If I stop pushing down into it it stops and I come back"out" and can either start over or do something else. It's not an inevitable process until past a certain critical point. That's more or less what I was getting at when I said "willful." I have to keep going or it bounces back. Sort of like a rubber band. -cmarti"
If you do this during the day, then get up and do something else, what is your general mind state following the sitting?

cmarti Oct 25 2009, 11:12 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 11:12 PM EDT

Well, I just tried it because I haven't done this during the daytime yet. I didn't take it all the way because that's not easy for me to do. I stopped after getting pretty far into the dark infinity stuff. Now I'm kind of in a fugue-like state. It's a little bit of an "unreality" feeling. Floating, sort of, but mentally. I have a buzz going. This is not unpleasant by any means. Sort of like "being" Jimmy Buffet as opposed to just listening to Jimmy Buffet. This should have a label that says, "Do not drive or operate heavy equipment while under the influence of this state of mind."Is that what you meant by general mind state, Kenneth?

cmarti Oct 25 2009, 11:16 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 25 2009, 11:16 PM EDT

"Hopefully, it's also helpful to you, too!"Honestly? It feels a little "out there" sometimes and I periodically think it might be too personal for a public message board. Sometimes I feel pretty exposed. But I made a pact with myself to do this, so on we go....

Khara Oct 26 2009, 2:43 AM EDT

Yes, Chris - it is helpful in various ways... particularly since I'm hoping to eventually be able to assist others with their practice. Although, my focus is Zuowang and Dzogchen practice, I think it's of value to have a broad understanding of various practices and methods. The more personal experiences that I hear about, the better. Again, thank you for sharing these reports.

kennethfolk Oct 26 2009, 9:14 AM EDT | Post edited: Oct 26 2009, 9:14 AM EDT

"Well, I just tried it because I haven't done this during the daytime yet. I didn't take it all the way because that's not easy for me to do. I stopped after getting pretty far into the dark infinity stuff. Now I'm kind of in a fugue-like state. It's a little bit of an "unreality" feeling. Floating, sort of, but mentally. I have a buzz going. This is not unpleasant by any means. Sort of like "being" Jimmy Buffet as opposed to just listening to Jimmy Buffet. This should have a label that says, "Do not drive or operate heavy equipment while under the influence of this state of mind. Is that what you meant by general mind state, Kenneth?" -cmarti

Yes, this is exactly what I was asking about. You seem to be describing nirodha samapatti, which is an important developmental landmark because you have to be at least an anagami (3rd Path) in order to do it.But I don't want to jump to that conclusion just yet, so if you don't mind, maybe we could triangulate a bit. This kind of obsessive mapping may not be comfortable for you, so just let me know if you'd rather not play along. What happens when you ride the jhanic arc up through the jhanas during a sitting? What is the highest jhana you get to before you peak and start back down the arc? Are there 8? If you can get to the 8th jhana, see if there isn't a ninth. (The ability to access more than 8 jhanas is also something that only anagamis and arahats have. There are a total of 13 jhanas, although the final 5 are almost never spoken about in the popular literature.)

cmarti Oct 26 2009, 10:43 AM EDT | Post edited: Oct 26 2009, 10:43 AM EDT

Kenneth, I'm going to preempt you (sorry) and self-diagnose and say I'm not an anagami. When I follow the jhanic arc I can count seven jhanas, and *maybe* an eighth, but that's a big maybe. A new jhana showed up a few days ago but I'm hard pressed to describe it since it appears to have nothing to describe about it.Truth be told the word "in" doesn't even really apply. That dark, black middle of the forehead non-jhana sort of capability has been with me for a while but I have purposely stayed away from it. It honestly scared me and though I knew it was there. After starting into it a few times I stopped because it was hard to push into it and it was pretty freaking dark in there. As I said, it appears to be an infinity of blackness and only recently did I push through it fully.Anyway, I'm still feeling a lot of activity in and around my forehead that arcs up onto the top of my head. From what little I know there's a pretty huge jump into anagami territory and I just don't recall anything like that happening to me.Do I experience the world differently these days? You bet I do! I don't see the world in the way I used to at all. I'm now literally a part of the world and not just an observer. But that has come gradually, albeit with some recent acceleration. I'll try to see if there's anything beyond this new eighth jhana and let you know.I do notice that if I relax into the feelings in my forehead I can conjure up some very, very pleasant experiences, but that's generated not by pushing down into that area with my attention as I described last night but by just relaxing with the feelings that are there already. Is that something that I should know about?

kennethfolk Oct 26 2009, 11:45 AM EDT | Post edited: Oct 26 2009, 11:45 AM EDT

"I'll try to see if there's anything beyond this new eighth jhana and let you know. I do notice that if I relax into the feelings in my forehead I can conjure up some very, very pleasant experiences, but that's generated not by pushing down into that area with my attention as I described last night but by just relaxing with the feelings that are there already. Is that something that I should know about?" -cmarti
Yes, Chris, I would take a real interest in further exploring this territory, which I believe is the cutting edge of your practice. Keep experimenting with these pleasant sensations that are associated with the third eye chakra, and go as deeply as possible into them when they naturally arise during meditation. You may find that you can go directly to any jhana at any time, and that is an interesting exploration in itself. But there is a price to be paid for manipulation, and that price is usually a vague anxiety along with mental fatigue.The most natural way to explore the jhanas is to notice them arise in succession during a sitting. So, the best time to look for the new "very pleasant" state is after the eighth jhana has faded. Don't be discouraged if the eighth jhana is indescribable; that's its hallmark.

cmarti Oct 26 2009, 12:10 PM EDT | Post edited: Oct 26 2009, 12:10 PM EDT

Got it, and will do, Kenneth.As always, your coaching is really helpful. As an aside, I'm not necessarily uncomfortable with maps but I think if I pay too much attention to them they become easy to obsess over and then they can actually hurt my practice as opposed to helping it. It's seems more natural for me to explore in my own fumbling way. I think some journeys require a map and the paying of close attention to it. Other journeys are better if the map is there but used only when the actual journey is at risk. This spiritual journey is the latter type for me. I realize that what is going to happen is just going to happen and will become readily apparent on its own.I don't believe I can make this process go faster and I doubt I could slow it down, either. Wanting to speed this process up is a trap that it has taken me a long time to see. I'm comfortable right here in my own sort of "middle way" now. This is not a contest or a race. If you manage to make it into one you may do yourself and others actual harm.Okay, end of rant.

cmarti Oct 27 2009, 9:40 AM EDT | Post edited: Oct 27 2009, 9:40 AM EDT

Okay, so when I sat last night I was initially drawn right into that new third eye/infinitely black non-jhana. This has never happened to me before. When I sit I naturally get drawn up into the jhanas. I don't know if it was because I experimented with it to answer your question two nights , Kenneth, or.... jeez, I don't know. I was able to draw back and start over, only to have the same thing happen again the second time. The third time restart was the charm and I spent the rest of the sitting following the jhanic arc.Power of suggestion? Has to be. Maybe I was focused on the third eye area too much.

cmartiOct 28 2009, 8:52 AM EDT | Post edited: Oct 28 2009, 8:52 AM EDT

​​​​​​​Wave after wave of warm, numb-like sensations washed over me, starting in my hands and feet, and eventually wrapping themselves completely around me like a cosmic bliss blanket. All I did to get that effect, which lasted a very long time after I stopped the actual meditation, was to follow Kenneth's instructions to let the jhanic arc take me up and then when that faded focus on the already existing sensations in my forehead.Oh.... my.... goodness.If I stay with this process it slowly gets deeper and deeper and deeper. I have a business trip that starts tomorrow and lasts for a week.Gosh, what to do on those long plane rides.....
Edward, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 1:31 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 1:30 PM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Thanks for posting this Chris. 
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Chris M, modified 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 1:38 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 10/18/23 1:38 PM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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You're welcome, Edward.
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Chris M, modified 8 Months ago at 10/24/23 11:50 AM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/24/23 11:49 AM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

Posts: 5331 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Resurrecting this thread to link you to a book on the jhanas that's in public draft form: What You Might Not Know About Jhana and Samadhi  by Kumāra Bhikkhu with Unseen Guidance
Eric Abrahamsen, modified 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 1:01 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 1:01 PM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

Posts: 67 Join Date: 6/9/21 Recent Posts
Hey this was really interesting, thanks from the peanut gallery.

I may not be super invested in the doctrinal arguments about the necessity of jhana, but as a translator I found the discussions fascinating -- it's amazing how much these translation decisions can influence how we as readers concieve of what we're doing.

The idea that ekaggata doesn't mean "one-pointedness" at all is fascinating. I'd also read somewhere that an acceptable translation for samatha would be "gathering" (as distinct from "concentration"), and "one-placedness" for ekaggata fits very nicely with that, as well.

As someone whose initial challenge in meditation was mental scatteredness, I find this idea very compelling. And what a very different meditation experience is indicated by the idea that samatha simply means gathering our minds into a coherent whole!
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Chris M, modified 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 4:31 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 4:27 PM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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Yeah. Somewhere in the depths of DhO (or maybe the Kenneth Folk Dharma message boards) is a lengthy conversation about the unfortunate translation that resulted in Western dharma students thinking they had to develop one-pointed concentration.
shargrol, modified 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 6:38 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/25/23 6:38 PM

RE: Some (not so) brief thoughts on concentration, sample size n = me

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This might be Kenneth's post:

​​​​​​​Jhana and Ñana - Wiki - www.dharmaoverground.org

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