Beginning Again

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Dale Baker, modified 10 Years ago.

Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

I became interested in Buddhism about 15 years ago and started meditating; Mindfulness of Breathing and watching sensations. I have had no formal instruction and everything had to be gleaned from a few books. From the information I had at the time I got the impression there had not been an Arhat for a thousand years and even first jhana was unlikely outside of a monastery! After about a year of dry insight fighting the monkey mind I gave up.

I decided to give it another go a few weeks ago, mainly to stop being such a dick! I have a child now and stress/ lack of sleep means I am quick to react with anger and impatience. I figured becoming more aware of how thoughts form and catching them creating others could help.

Having been inspired by this website and others like it seems that serious progress is possible to householders, so I decided to stick with concentration practice for a while. This is what I'm noticing:-

I am still distracted by thoughts and chains of thought, but nothing like in the past where it could be minutes before I realized I had lost concentration.

There are lots of pleasant sensations: tingling on the face, pressure in the forehead and pleasant waves in the legs that come and go with the breath.

Even though my eyes are closed I sense the focus coming closer and closer in stages.

The heart and breath slow down and with each heartbeat there are often sensations of the body moving side to side.

Last night as the pleasant sensations grew and grew I felt like I had a ball in my belly below the navel that felt like the bite of teenage first love, but better! It appeared at the end of every outbreath and threatend to explode upwards throught the rest of my body. I was unable to sustain it due to excitement and maybe even fear-it felt like it could take my head off! There was a sense of happiness as well as pure pleasure.

I do not have a regular sitting schedule at the moment and grab it when I can, but feel like I am actually getting somewhere. I suspect I am on the brink of first jhana?

Thanks for the inspiration!
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Dale Baker, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
I am now in a position where I can sustain the state I am assuming is 1st Jhana for a period of time.

The first time I managed it, I was concentrating on the breathing and noticed the usual pressure in the forehead. This is not the most pleasant sensation I have during meditation, but I decided to follow it anyway. It started to pulse, then went into spasm! I realised I was holding myself against like hunching your shoulders against the cold.

I let go and whoosh...I was sucked into an undeniably altered state. My pulse started racing and I noticed tingling on the skin and warmth; like prickly heat. I felt like I was holding on for dear life to be honest!

There was certainly physical pleasure, in fact I was immediately tumescent! Has anyone out there had the same experience? I have never seen it mentioned and can't imagine it would go down well in a monastery! That took me by surprise.

I was able to solidly hold onto the breath or sensations, but was surprised by the amount of discursive thought and still had to concentrate to hold it together. Is this the applied and sustained effort?


Since then I have reliably been able to get into the same state, although the transistion is a lot smoother and the 'sensual' content less.

The transition to "jhana" is unmistakeable but I realise I am not always aware I have slipped back to "access" until watching the piti sucks me back to "jhana" again.

So what do you think, is this state 1st Jhana? If so do you have any tips for sustaining it longer and for recognizing the shift back to access?


Thanks x
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 154 Join Date: 3/15/11 Recent Posts
The way you describe what you call the beginning of first jhana in your first post is something I can definitely relate to. The actual "slipping into it" I'm personally still not really good at, but it has happened to me. I will be watching with baited breath to see if those who are experienced in the jhanas confirm that you are actually talking about jhana here, because to be honest with you, I'm still not sure that's what it is. I also don't really care, because I am going the vipassana route and consider jhana a side effect. I actually usually try to avoid it, or rather take it apart and note the individual sensations at the risk of it falling apart / slipping away.

I have to say, though, that an excellent way to repeat/deepen the cycle of insight after stream entry has been to "just sit" (and concentrate on the breath) every morning for about half an hour and actually go into jhana whenever possible. I was doing this because I was going through a time when I "had to" work from 7:30am to 10:00pm, on my feet, teaching people math, and I simply felt that I needed the "energized feeling" to truly do my best every day. After about three weeks of that, on a Saturday, even though I was at an amusement park "having fun" with friends, I felt the pressing "need" to just close my eyes and be still whenever I could, so as we (they) were watching one of the shows, I had a cessation/fruition. Now to be clear: All this happened a few months after the first insight cycle, which I had reached through sitting and noting, like many people on here.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Heavy pleasure, spontaneous movements, postural stuff, sexual stuff: A&P (4th insight stage, 2nd vipassana jhana).

Enjoy, and watch for what comes next...

Daniel
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Dale Baker, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your reply. I obviously appreciate your expert assesment, but really? Can you be sure from the descriptions I gave?

I only ask because I haven't done any vipassana for at least ten years and only started meditating again about a month ago. To be honest I don't think I'm ready for 'what comes next', I began meditating again to get the crap out of my life!

I'll check the descriptions of A&P in the wiki and forum to see if any applies.

Cheers x
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Dale Baker, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

After checking the wiki I have to agree that my experiences correlate to Daniel's descriptions of A & P especially this:-

"using the breath as object. The mind kicks in, follows faster and faster vibrations, things really engage and speed up, perhaps accompanied by more pronounced shaking or strange breathing patterns increasing in speed, and then finally half-way down an out-breath there is a shift, things drop down slowly, it takes work to stay with things as they slow down, and then things bottom out. The breath may stop entirely for a while. Then things come back up with the breath, attention tends to flag, things relax, and then the cycle begins again "

It feels as though I am dropping into an altered state very time I exhale. Sometimes the exhalation seems to last forever, (maybe I'm trying to hold onto it)then inevitably I have to take a breath and normal reality comes back.

As a side note I realize that with scant attention I am buzzing/ vibrating all the time when off the cushion especially in the legs. I assumed that I was just being mindful of sensations (blood flow) that were there anyway!

I was just following the instructions for 1st jhana; concentrate on the breath, then watch the pleasant sensations. How did I end up doing accidental Vipassana? Would it still be possible to cultivate the jhanas at this stage or should I just go for it with Vipassana?

Cheers x
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Some people are just more insight-prone than others, but trying to concentrate and instead comprehending things is very common, so probably best to just roll with it, meaning realize that, once you are on the path of insight, while concentration may help, insight is the final pathway and past a certain point you have to let it in.

D
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I'd second Daniel's diagnosis, everything you're describing is typical 2nd jhana/4th ├▒ana stuff and the natural inclination towards insight is something I'm familiar with. I got stream entry before ever consciously doing vipassana, I thought I was just paying attention to the natural transience of all sensations, an insight obtained earlier in my meditative practices, as it made me more accepting in what were, at the time, difficult circumstances. Looking back on it now, I can pinpoint each stage of insight I encountered in the months leading up to it but, before reading Daniel's book and finding this site, I had no idea what any of it was!
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Dale Baker, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

Over the last couple of days I've been trying to get into the Samatha jhanas again with some success. To avoid slipping into the A&P, I just stuck to the breathing, avoiding examing sensations....duh! I think I was looking for something a lot less subtle and it took the sledgehammer of the A&P for me to realize anything was happening at all!

As I said it's only been a couple of days, so I can't give very good descriptions yet, but I noticed a lot of shifts. Because it is new I wanted to push on to see what was possible. I am not certain if it is just a deeper experience of 1st jhana, but my instinct says not as the different shifts had different textures. At first I had to stay with it to avoid the A&P, but kept pushing on and soon keeping the state was absolutely efffortless. There was lots of pleasure, but I tended to not look at it too hard to avoid accidental vipassana.

This sounds a bit presumptious, but I think I might even have made it to the formless jhanas. There were a couple of shifts where everything was a lot quieter and it felt like the universe was in front of me (5th and 6th?). I pushed on; even with eyes closed the difference in focus was astonishing, it suddenly seemed like I had my nose up against a wall (7th?). I didn't like it (claustrophobic) and tried to push on, fell back, pushed onto the brick wall again, hung around a while, pushed on again...sublime! I can't really describe it, apart from to say effortless and beautiful, utterly relaxed. I was contented and decided to hang out there. After a while...whoosh, there was a sudden involuntary, almost aggresive deepening or shift into something else. It seemed like it would be very difficult to claw my way back to normality...but I didn't want to anyway. Is this the difference between soft and hard jhana or something else?

Eventually I decided to do some vipassana and started to look at the sensations...wham, straight into a powerful version of the A&P I've been experiencing, where I feel I am compressed down and perceptions happen really clearly. Then my two year old woke up! Over an hour was gone and that is a big deal for me with dry insight.

I've also started having the opposite A&P where, when I am at the bottom of the thing, there is a shift and everything starts rising powerfully. The first time that happened my spine arched and head was thrown backwards, I thought I'd been impaled! Classic corny kundalini symptoms.

One thought is that while I am displaying the sypmtoms of progress in insight and I understand the 3Cs rationally, I don't feel as if I have gained any actual 'insight' if you know what I mean. I also never seem to recognize the first 3 nanas, maybe they happen too quickly, subtly or I am looking for the wrong thing. I guess it will all come with time.

I think I'm going to develop this samatha thing a bit before the push into Dark Night. It would be good to have a pleasant refuge and it seems to push the vipassana further anyway. As well as all that, it seems to be a great tonic; I have been working wierd nightshifts and have a rotten cold, normally I would be double grumpy! To be honest, part of the reason I got into meditation was to experience some altered states and I can hardly believe it's happening so quickly.

So, where do you think I might really be with samatha? Hopefully I will have better details in a few days.

Any thoughts/ tips/ advice would be most appreciated.

Cheers
x
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Dale Baker, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Beginning Again

Posts: 71 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

Disregard that last post! I'm definitely into some jhana, but probably getting some experiences confused with insight....again!

The day after the last post I had the A&P 'event'.

I got to the bottom of the A&P canyon where time seems to slow right down and you can see percetions really clearly. I thought I should be investigating in terms of the 3 C's; just noting the impermanence etc after each event.

After a few times another event came and went and seemed to leave a question hanging in the air. For some reason it reminded me of a Monty Python/ excalibur moment..." what is the secret of the Holy Grail!". I shouted 'impemanent!' strongly in my mind...and then the lights went out.

I was stuck on the end of a hyper extended inhalation for what seemed like a scary amount of time. 'I' was definitely present because 'I' had my eyes screwed shut and was thinking 'shiiiiit!'. Then it happened again as I knew it would and I was a bit more prepared.

I felt immediately different; dangerously powerful, a sense of un-ease from the slow vibrations and I started thinking about myself in the 3rd person.

Feels like I gone from Jar Jar Binks to Darth Vader in a couple of months!

[u]Samatha report:-

I am prepared to accept that most of what I have been experiencing as jhana is probably deeping of access/ 1st jhana. A lot of what I think are 'shifts' might just be massive bursts of piti. I also seem to be rising up and falling back alot, especially in the eary stages.

Basically at the very end of an exhalation I experience a sensation that kind of makes my posture wilt, screws up my eyes and I seem to slip into something similar but slightly different. At first these seem to be a sense of greater refinement and more automatic pilot.

Then comes a similar state but much quieter, cooler with a real sense of peace.

Then a wierd one where my body and especially head seems to be inflating! It actually feels like my head is expanding to fill the universe!

Then from that big expanse, the next state seems to be like having my head inside a box, or my nose against a wall. I didn't like it at first, but managed to let it deepen enough to press on.

Entry to the final stage was actually a bit like the A&P event, in that the transition was at the end of an in-breath that seemed to last ages, but only once and with no blacking out. As I have just crossed the A&P, this could be me recrossing it on the first trip to Dissolution, but the state afterwards felt more like a jhana than anything so far and was very intense.

Any ideas?

All comments welcome

x

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