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Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi - Dhamma Wheel

Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Sati1
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Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Sati1 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:15 am

Hello,

I have been meditating for about 1.5 years, and through this time the depth of my meditation has been fluctuating substantially, with some periods in which I can enter deep absorption after sitting for only a few seconds and other periods in which I don't get into absorption at all even after sitting for half an hour. At first the fluctuations were probably due to craving for the bliss of absorption, but more recently I can't detect any craving, just a natural diminishment in the depth of the meditation sessions. This happened just recently after about two weeks of incredibly easy establishment of absorption into what seemed to be the first and second jhanas, followed by the last week or so during which it has been difficult to simply steady the mind and establish basic absorption through an entire sitting session. I was wondering if other meditators have had similar experiences and if such fluctuations are natural, or if there is more likely something that needs to be changed about my method in order to re-establish the depth of past sessions.

Many thanks,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Goofaholix
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:54 am


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m0rl0ck
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:32 am

I experience this too. Sometimes it seems that it takes 30 minutes of a 45 minute period just to settle down a bit.
Some things that i think are helpful to me are, meditating first thing in the morning before my mind and body have been stirred up by events, food, noise, people and caffine.
If you cant sit first thing in the A.M. sitting at the same time every day, a few hours after you have had food or caffine, might be good, it seems to be of help to me anyway.
20 minutes or so of yoga before practice also seems to help in this regard.

Also sometimes i can make a sort of conscious agreement with the chattering, grasping, progress seeking part of my mind to just take a break and leave me alone for a few minutes till im done with practice.

If i can just surrender to being where im at and remember that this is MY path no matter what happens, or how fast it happens, this is also seems to help.

Grasping of course is non productive, but so is aversion, so i just try to happily co-exist with whatever thoughts i do have, as suzuki said "let them come in the front door and go out the back door, dont invite them for tea".

Thats all i got. I have been sitting on and off since the 90's since 08 or so more regularly. What i lack in talent i try to make up for in regularity :) For me, effort, persistence and regularity are important, but just surrendering to the process is too imo.

EDIT: Just wanted to note that i do not do jhana practice, but another kind of concentration/absorption practice which results in (when im lucky :) )samadhi.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:51 am

Whenever questioned about Samadhi all that seems important to the teachers is that I'm aware of the changing nature.

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Sati1
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Sati1 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:22 am

Dear Goofaholix, M0rl0ck and the pea,

Thank you for your encouraging words.

Goofaholix - I was not aware of how fortunate I am being able to enter into absorption. My impression from reading books about entering the jhanas (eg. Ayya Khema's "Who is my self?" and Shaila Catherine's "Focused and fearless"), and from the fact that there are "jhana retreats" (eg. Ajahn Brahm's) was that many people must be able to enter the jhanas by just following the instructions, and that absorption is normal for most practicioners.

M0rl0ck - it is good to know that someone with as much experience as you has also experienced similar fluctuations in depth of meditation. I agree that it's important to remind ourselves that this is our path no matter "how well" it seems to be proceeding at a given time. My own sessions are usually deeper in the evenings than in the mornings, probably because my job enables me to practice mindfulness throughout the day, which serves as a "warm-up" for the meditation that follows after work.

the pea - this is good to know. It seems then that the fluctuations themselves are a valuable object of insight.

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby martinfrank » Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:17 am

Dear Sat1

What you experience is what I experience. We could call it "normal" but should we?

Aren't we always in danger to consider meditation something like morning gymnastics or tooth cleaning? Something which makes us feel awake and balanced like a weekly Yoga lesson?

That is when we have lost the sense of urgency Lord Buddha is teaching.

I found that writing a List of Attachments and trying to deal with them string of glue by string of glue can help me to get aware of where I stand... and attack again!

May you attain your goal!

Martin
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.

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Sati1
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Sati1 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:00 pm

Dear Martin,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's good to hear that others are also going through this. I agree that we should not grow complascent about our practice, but stay alert and mindful towards it every day. Does your list of attachments feature attachments related to meditation (eg feelings of concentration or bliss)? I was also wondering what you mean by "string of glue by string of glue" (sorry, English is not my first language!)?

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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martinfrank
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby martinfrank » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:07 pm

The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.

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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:30 am


thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:04 pm


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Goofaholix
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:36 pm


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Sati1
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Sati1 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:55 pm

Dear Martin, Goofaholix and thepea,

Thanks for the comments. Martin - that's interesting; I actually wrote down a similar list of attachments a few months ago. I find that it helps to not only write down the ones that are still there, but also those that have weakened or disappeared altogether due to The Path. I get your point about the strings of glue. I have noticed something similar when it comes to our self-identities.

Goofaholix - that's very useful information, since my assumption was that everybody is practicing for the jhanas, not only because of the books that I mentioned, but also because the jhanas are mentioned so often in the suttas.

It recently struck me how valuable these fluctations in meditation depth can be for insight, as for example for seeing the nonself nature of the mind, our attachment to pleasures, and the unreliable nature of our minds & bodies. Thus, what was frustrating at first might actually be very useful.

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:00 am


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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:43 am


thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Thu Aug 21, 2014 4:00 am


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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Aug 21, 2014 4:13 am


thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Thu Aug 21, 2014 4:58 am


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Sati1
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Sati1 » Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:31 am

The jhanas can be entered through various subjects of contemplation, including the breath, body sweeping and loving-kindness. Some subjects, like the breath, can take one to the highest jhanas, while those that carry some form of thinking, like loving-kindness, are only suitable for the lower jhanas, which are nonetheless still very useful for the insight practice that follows. What matters is for there to be a certain steadiness in one's attention, a regularity, an opportunity to slow the mind down and rest it. Day-to-day insight practice usually doesn't have that.

It is true that these states can easily be craved due to the intensity of the pleasure. But my personal opinion is that this should not be reason enough to deliberately avoid them.

Wth metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:49 am

"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

thepea
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Re: Wildly fluctuating depth of samadhi

Postby thepea » Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:31 pm



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