Guidance concerning the raptures

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

Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby Zenainder » Sun May 19, 2013 12:05 pm

Good morning!

In my practice I've come to experience "showering rapture" as explained by Henepola Gunaratana: "Showering rapture runs through the body in waves, producing a thrill but without leaving a lasting impact." As "thrilling" as this type of rapture is described as I have found that it breaks my concentration near completely. At times, I feel that if I try and "push" through it by continuing my focus on the breath that it increases to seemingly impossible levels. I even feel that I might cease to exist it is so overwhelming. It is a wonderful experience, but I have come to understand that it is not a sustained bliss and I'd rather skillfully continue in my practice.

How can I progress my concentration through this?
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby fivebells » Sun May 19, 2013 4:36 pm

Attend to the anicca, anatta and dukkha in what's arising. Insight practice is usually a good response to elation.
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby kmath » Sun May 19, 2013 5:25 pm

Zenainder wrote: " As "thrilling" as this type of rapture is described as I have found that it breaks my concentration near completely. At times, I feel that if I try and "push" through it by continuing my focus on the breath that it increases to seemingly impossible levels. I even feel that I might cease to exist it is so overwhelming. It is a wonderful experience, but I have come to understand that it is not a sustained bliss and I'd rather skillfully continue in my practice.

How can I progress my concentration through this?


I think I heard Ajahn Pasanno talk about this once. Ideally you want to have all five jhana factors going. It sounds like you have the first three, vitakka, vicara and piti, going quite strong. See if you can evolve that piti into the fourth factor "sukha." As fun as the piti is, piti-sukha is better because it's more like a bright satisfied state, rather than a jumpy excited one.

Anyway I think he said something like that. Good luck!

:anjali:
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby Zenainder » Mon May 20, 2013 1:39 am

kmath wrote:
Zenainder wrote: " As "thrilling" as this type of rapture is described as I have found that it breaks my concentration near completely. At times, I feel that if I try and "push" through it by continuing my focus on the breath that it increases to seemingly impossible levels. I even feel that I might cease to exist it is so overwhelming. It is a wonderful experience, but I have come to understand that it is not a sustained bliss and I'd rather skillfully continue in my practice.

How can I progress my concentration through this?


I think I heard Ajahn Pasanno talk about this once. Ideally you want to have all five jhana factors going. It sounds like you have the first three, vitakka, vicara and piti, going quite strong. See if you can evolve that piti into the fourth factor "sukha." As fun as the piti is, piti-sukha is better because it's more like a bright satisfied state, rather than a jumpy excited one.

Anyway I think he said something like that. Good luck!

:anjali:


kmath,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Happiness (bliss is present) in the showering rapture (a bit like a pulse throughout the body, at least to the best of my ability to explain it concisely). I've started studying jhana even more as of late and now that you point the factors out, I can see what you mean. Which leads me to my next question, is it possible to have the five jhana factors present in a "strong" fashion so early in the practice? If I may humbly reveal, I experienced these my 8th or so time meditating.

My impression of jhana from other posters here, is that it requires an intense amount of concentration, so much so that it requires a special retreat and direction. Neither in which I have pursued. This has taken place at my old apartment. Please know that I am being careful how I share all of this, I have no intention on "flexing" an egoic-practice. I simply am seeking guidance.

Thanks in advance...

:anjali:
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby 5heaps » Mon May 20, 2013 1:41 am

Zenainder wrote:How can I progress my concentration through this?

you need to pause and look at it and identify with it. with ordinary things we do the opposite, do not pause and do not identify but rather return to our meditation object with strong intent to remain unwaveringly undistracted.

however, since legitimate bliss is a very constructive entity of the form realm and is a result of mental and physical pliancy, what you need to do is pause and identify with it so that you can accustom yourself to it. make it a mental factor which will not easily disipate, and rather than distracting you, will actually aid you in concentration when you begin to get used to it. the way to do that is to spend some time looking at it and letting it permeate the body, and later, the mind, when you get mental bliss. once its been somewhat stabilized and accommodated (only takes me a few breaths) you can go back to your object for some real samadhi (desire realm perfect samadhi kind of sucks)
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby Zenainder » Mon May 20, 2013 1:47 am

5heaps wrote:
Zenainder wrote:How can I progress my concentration through this?

you need to pause and look at it and identify with it. with ordinary things we do the opposite, do not pause and do not identify but rather return to our meditation object with strong intent to remain unwaveringly undistracted.

however, since legitimate bliss is a very constructive entity of the form realm and is a result of mental and physical pliancy, what you need to do is pause and identify with it so that you can accustom yourself to it. make it a mental factor which will not easily disipate, and rather than distracting you, will actually aid you in concentration when you begin to get used to it. the way to do that is to spend some time looking at it and letting it permeate the body, and later, the mind, when you get mental bliss. once its been somewhat stabilized and accommodated (only takes me a few breaths) you can go back to your object for some real samadhi (desire realm perfect samadhi kind of sucks)


5heaps,

Thanks for the advice! This was something I was planning to try, I know it seems so basic to do, it just did not occur to me to observe it as I would anything else. And you are absolutely right when it concerns expecting a "strong intent" to overcome factors that need to addressed and, as it sounds, actually turns to stronger concentration when confronted. :P

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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby 5heaps » Mon May 20, 2013 5:18 am

yes, but also you see, since the bliss from mental and physical pliancy is an entity of the form realm, you actually need to learn how to use them in order to progress up into shamata + the form realm.
its easier than it sounds, just let it mix and pervade your body and mind. several unbeliavable surprises await at the end of actualizing both body and then mental bliss born from physical and mental suppleness/pliancy
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby kmath » Mon May 20, 2013 4:04 pm

Zenainder wrote:My impression of jhana from other posters here, is that it requires an intense amount of concentration, so much so that it requires a special retreat and direction. Neither in which I have pursued. This has taken place at my old apartment. Please know that I am being careful how I share all of this, I have no intention on "flexing" an egoic-practice. I simply am seeking guidance.

Thanks in advance...

:anjali:



Well, if you read the posts on this site, you'll see there is considerable debate about what "jhana" actually is. I don't feel qualified to speak on this. But why not try a retreat and see what happens? There you'd have a teacher you could give you more guidance.

Best of luck,

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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby fivebells » Mon May 20, 2013 4:24 pm

Zenainder wrote:...is it possible to have the five jhana factors present in a "strong" fashion so early in the practice? If I may humbly reveal, I experienced these my 8th or so time meditating.

My impression of jhana from other posters here, is that it requires an intense amount of concentration, so much so that it requires a special retreat and direction. Neither in which I have pursued.


As kmath says, there are different standards for what constitutes jhana. The criteria are usually the same, the difference is usually one of degree. Practically speaking, the degree to which jhana should be cultivated really depends on your objectives. The objectives from the perspective of ending suffering are enumerated here. The way to evaluate the current jhana is in terms of its utility for these objectives. For instance, if, having cultivated jhana, you turn your attention to perceiving anicca, anatta, dukkha in the present moment, and this leads to intractable anxiety, one response would be to develop a more solid jhana. If you're more interested in watching TV than meditating, one response would be to cultivate the pleasure/rapture of the lower jhanas.
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby frank k » Mon May 20, 2013 6:02 pm

Finding a good teacher to guide you personally would be the best.

Thanissaro's new book is a really good reference. I believe there's a chapter where he talks about how to look for a qualified teacher.
http://dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html
"with each and every breath, a guide to meditation"

Having strong piti is a nice problem to have. I would strongly advise you to really protect and nourish your internal energy. Understand what the supporting causes are, and really protect that. I've seen several meditators who were young, healthy, attained lofty meditative states easily, and just assumed that would always be the case. But gradually through indulgence in worldly pleasures over time (what westerners would consider normal and "healthy" ways of pursuing happiness) it greatly diminishes one's internal energy and meditative power as a result. Strong piti has it's causes and conditions, and it's much easier to lose than to develop.

I have a theory that the magnitude of piti is proportional to how great of a need for the body to clear some of the energetic blockages. When big blockages are initially opening, the body will send very strong endorphins and pleasure chemicals in the brain to induce you to keep meditating and open up those blockages. But once the blockages have been cleared, then the magnitude of piti dips and gradually becomes just a comfortable softer buzz manifesting as sukha without piti, and then even sukha diminishes and drops out with the body feeling just very comfortable and light (as opposed to the initial blocked condition which would feel like heaviness, or an obstructive mass). So doing a long retreat, the piti would attenuate and diminish on its own as the body sublimates coarser forms of energy into more subtle and refined energies such as very sharp and clear mind, seeing light in meditation, body feeling young, quick, strong and light.
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby kmath » Tue May 21, 2013 6:56 pm

frank k wrote:
I have a theory that the magnitude of piti is proportional to how great of a need for the body to clear some of the energetic blockages. When big blockages are initially opening, the body will send very strong endorphins and pleasure chemicals in the brain to induce you to keep meditating and open up those blockages. But once the blockages have been cleared, then the magnitude of piti dips and gradually becomes just a comfortable softer buzz manifesting as sukha without piti, and then even sukha diminishes and drops out with the body feeling just very comfortable and light (as opposed to the initial blocked condition which would feel like heaviness, or an obstructive mass). So doing a long retreat, the piti would attenuate and diminish on its own as the body sublimates coarser forms of energy into more subtle and refined energies such as very sharp and clear mind, seeing light in meditation, body feeling young, quick, strong and light.


Interesting. I'd love to hear more. For instance, what led you to believe this?
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby frank k » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:41 am

Kmath, on what led me to believe this:
Observing my own practice over short and long term, being mindful of what produced piti sukha, what nourished it and what types of conditions could vary the magnitude predictably. For example, if I'm doing 6 hours of sitting meditation a day and no other activities that are energy depleting (labor intensive chores, talking to people, etc), then pitisukha tends to be very mild, because all the batteries (every cell in the body) is pretty much fully charged. What I feel in these meditations are just very comfortable, unusually comfortable but subtle piti sukha. The body feels light, strong, quick. If I do for example one 1-hour sit in the morning, followed by say 4-6 hours of energy depleting activity, and then do a 1-hour sit in the later afternoon, then I get much more intense piti-sukha closer to showering rapture end of the spectrum, it feels like all the batteries are getting charged and the brain is getting endorphins to discourage you from ending the meditation prematurely until it's charged again. But once I'm all charged up piti-sukha drops off again.

The other way I can get piti-sukha to show up in small localized patches is if I stretch (muscles,tendons,ligaments), do qigong, acupressure on my self, and any places that were tight and opened up a bit, then I feel localized piti-sukha in those areas. So places that are clear and free flowing energy, zero to very little local piti-sukha, but places that were tight and now opening up due to stretching/exercise etc, get a charge of piti-sukha.

When my microcosmic orbit first opened up, I had been stuck around the head/throat area for years, when it first opened up it felt like a plugged up bathtub had it's clogged drain opened just slightly, and I could feel a sensation of a small thread of water flowing down from the throat to the dan tien (abdominal) area. As the front side of the channel opened, then piti-sukha got to be intense. At times it felt like an orgasm was revolving along the path of the microcosmic, and particularly intense in areas that were tightest. While doing anapanasati, if I focused my spatial attention on a hot spot (that was formerly tight) I could get a mini to strong orgasm localized to that area. Different meditators open up differently, mine was more piecemeal, but I could understand how some meditators feel like their entire body is having orgasm. That's the more extreme end of the spectrum. As the front side of the microcosmic opened up, it felt like a highway that was being expanded to 2 lanes, 4 lanes, etc, and then the 1 revolution around that formerly took several minutes, as the channel cleared started approaching 1 inhale/exhale cycle per revolution.

There's a reason the buddha uses water in the jhaana similes for 1-3, because often the piti-sukha feels like water flow. But also heat, electricity, comfortable vibrations.
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby barcsimalsi » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:31 pm

frank k wrote:I have a theory that the magnitude of piti is proportional to how great of a need for the body to clear some of the energetic blockages. When big blockages are initially opening, the body will send very strong endorphins and pleasure chemicals in the brain to induce you to keep meditating and open up those blockages. But once the blockages have been cleared, then the magnitude of piti dips and gradually becomes just a comfortable softer buzz manifesting as sukha without piti, and then even sukha diminishes and drops out with the body feeling just very comfortable and light (as opposed to the initial blocked condition which would feel like heaviness, or an obstructive mass). So doing a long retreat, the piti would attenuate and diminish on its own as the body sublimates coarser forms of energy into more subtle and refined energies such as very sharp and clear mind, seeing light in meditation, body feeling young, quick, strong and light.

Thanks frank k, i was trying to figure out why i always got more pleasure when meditating during drowsy state and this post of yours pretty much answers it.

Going by this case, is it advisable to try to sleep less at night so i can have more piti when meditating in the day as regard to having the blockages?
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby Kamran » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:32 am

Very helpful theory frank and corresponds to my experience as well.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Guidance concerning the raptures

Postby frank k » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:43 pm

Barcsimasi, I found that for myself, it's important to get enough sleep (talking about regular long term sustained practice). At various times for me, this could be 8hrs/day avg., or 6hr, or 4hr, or on a long intensive retreat 2 or 1hr/day, all depending on lifestyle, activity level and diet. But I do think it's valuable to experiment with varying amount of sleep to find one's limits. And also helpful to reflect on the fact that at the time of death, illness, or other times when we really need the fruits of our meditation practice, it's helpful to have some occasional and deliberate practice meditating under duress whether that be lack of sleep, noise, etc. When I'm too sleepy, the quality of sati and sampajaano (mindfulness and clear comprehension) are compromised so in general I don't like to meditate under that condition except for very limited, targeted deliberate stress testing. My opinion is if one uses drowsiness as a way to stimulate the endorphins from the body trying to encourage you to sleep and recharge, this type of pleasure only leads to a kind of comfortably numb haze, not a samma samaadhi that the Buddha advocated. While I don't think your idea is suitable for a regular meditation practice, I do think it's a worthy practice to attempt to practice mindfulness, wakefulness while one is napping, falling asleep, just waking up and experiencing that endorphin buzz, etc. My best naps (meaning I feel most rejuvenated) is when I'm able to not fall asleep, but just on that edge of falling asleep and experiencing the comfortably numb buzz of hormones that are encouraging the body to rest deeply. If I fall asleep(unconccious), then there is the danger of oversleeping, or dreaming and then not feeling as refreshed upon waking.

from the 7 sambojjhanga (factors for awakening) we see that Piiti is listed in there, so it is something to be developed and used to nourish our spiritual practice. At the same time, piti and sukha can vary greatly in intensity from person to person, we shouldn't get the idea that everyone gets full body bliss bombs. As long as there's enough piti sukha to advance our practice, fulfill samma samadhi, then that's more than enough.
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