fivebells wrote:I can manage a light first or second jhana pretty easily, now, deep enough to do effective insight work for the most part. I also use infinite space and consciousness (5th and 6th jhanas) and nirodha-datu as objects of meditation a fair bit, though the concentration is so ephemeral that I would not call them jhanas (just use them to calm down, mostly.)
Without knowing your method of determining first or second dhyana
, yet assuming these to be the same as my discernment of these states, I will endeavor to provide some food for thought.
With regard to your comments about the fifth and sixth dhyanas
, have you tried entering (through focusing on a samatha
practice — i.e. calming the mind to deeper and deeper levels of calm and tranquility), the third and fourth dhyanas
, where your mind "feels" workable, malleable, imperturbable, and established
in tranquility to such a degree that you are able to incline the mind to any subject matter you wish and to observe it from that calm state? This is a state that, once again, "feels" as though it could go on and on, lasting indefinitely, should you so desire it.
If you haven't been attempting this you may want to spend more time focusing on calming the mind down to the degree necessary for reaching this kind of fourth dhyana
so that your mind easily becomes established on any object (or intellectual subject) it wishes to examine. This is possible. But it takes painstaking practice in the beginning. Yet, once you are able to achieve this state a few times, you should be able to figure out how to re-establish it at will
simply by observing how you got there the previous times (using insight observation).
fivebells wrote:I can see some similarities between fashioning a jhana and intellectual labor, but I have some pretty deep conditioning about "concentrating" when it comes to making an intellectual issue — like how to move forward in writing a computer program — the object of attention. I quickly become a "searcher" in the solution space, and there is an enormous amount of head tension associated with this. There is also often a lot of anxiety and hostility to the problem, though I'm getting better about that. I can fairly reliably release the tension/anxiety/hostility using the methods I outlined in the first paragraph, but then I'm back to square one in terms of actually exploring the issue I'd picked up.
How can I think about complex things without this happening? I think I need a new "searcher" becoming without the tension/anxiety/hostility, but I don't know how to fashion one. The old conditioning takes over every time I pick up an intellectual problem. ...The solution must be in the way I pick the problem up, but I'm having trouble figuring out a smart way to do that. I've tried starting with metta for the problem the "searcher," but it doesn't seem to help much.
If I understand your description here correctly, it seems to me, at least, that the problem you are having stems from "becoming the searcher." This seems to be the triggering point for producing the hindrances ("tension/anxiety/hostility") that assail you when you get to this point. It's like the movie "Groundhog Day," in that it keeps happening this way over and over again, and you can find no way out! It becomes frustrating and irritating.
After you are able to reach a fairly solid and stable fourth dhyana
, try not
becoming the searcher
and focus on the intellectual subject matter. One way to facilitate this that I have found works is by reading about the subject matter (from an essay or whatever literature that you find intriguing in its discussion of its subject) just before you sit to meditate. This can help to "prime the pump" so to speak as you then transition into a formal sitting. Your mind has been primed by reading about this subject matter beforehand, thus providing it with food for thought, and hence, once the mind calms down and enters a calm abiding, it can then more easily take up this discussion once again from that calm and tranquil space, leading to insight realizations about the subject matter as your contemplation progresses.
fivebells wrote:Holding down a job with this stuff running is pretty miserable.
Yes, that can be a grand distraction. Especially if one lets these outside worldly matters interfere with the development of samatha
meditation. You have to be able to mentally lay worldly concerns down at the doorstep, so to speak, before entering into meditation. Or at least work at letting go of them while beginning your meditation session, if they persist to cause distraction. The letting go will produce wonders for your concentration.
Best case scenario is: put yourself into retreat mode, pretend (if you must) that you are on retreat and let everything from the outside world go, and allow
yourself to focus on Dhamma training as though you were actually on a retreat. I know this can be difficult, but do you think you might be able to do this?
The only other thing I can suggest is: to actually go on retreat and focus on these matters at that time. That's what I had to do. I stopped working for two years, established a private retreat for myself, and focused solely on my training. I knew it was the only
way I was ever going to make this work; and I was motivated
to make it work. To use one of Tilt's favorite ways of expressing himself: damdifitdidn'twork.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV