A question for those more expert than I

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

A question for those more expert than I

Postby dhamma_learner » Wed Jun 12, 2013 12:04 am

Hello all,

This question is particularly directed to those of you who are wiser and more experienced in meditation than I. Recently I have made some (what I believe to be) improvement in my meditation practice, particularly in my concentration ability. What has been happening lately is that, after my concentration focuses and deepens (and my attention ceases to "stick" to the past or future, at least to a degree far less than usual), I will begin to feel a great warmth, tingling, or buzzing feeling in my body (usually beginning somewhere in my chest or torso). While maintaining concentration, I am able to control this feeling, intensifying it, spreading it around, or stopping it completely. If I choose to intensify it and spread it throughout my entire body, it can produce some very pleasurable feelings. Sometimes the pleasure/feeling can be very mild and subtle, or very intense and coarse, but I notice that I can control this to some degree. If I lose concentration, it will end immediately. After it ends and I come out of meditation, I notice that the effects -- a calm, clear, and focused mind, a lack of many negative feelings, and ease of concentration -- will last for a while, perhaps for a few hours.

Since it is difficult to describe a lot of these experiences to a great degree of accuracy, it may be difficult to convey exactly what is happening here. I hope that I have not placed too much attention on mere distractions, and too little attention on what is important. I ask, should I continue to develop this high level of concentration and dwell in the pleasurable feelings, refining them? The feelings seem to serve as a 'shield' to things like pain, ill-will, and drowsiness, so it can be useful. I feel as though the deepness of concentration, the coarseness and intensity of the feelings of pleasure, and the length/duration at which they last could all be improved to a considerable degree. How do I know if these feelings are simply distractions?

With metta,

dhamma_learner
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:25 am

What is your purpose in doing meditation?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby dhamma_learner » Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:29 am

tiltbillings wrote:What is your purpose in doing meditation?


I personally would like to use meditation in order to understand the true nature of consciousness and the "self," but also to dispel illusion, hatred, greed, craving, and ignorance.

with metta,

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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:48 am

Hello dhamma_learner,

dhamma_learner wrote:Since it is difficult to describe a lot of these experiences to a great degree of accuracy, it may be difficult to convey exactly what is happening here. I hope that I have not placed too much attention on mere distractions, and too little attention on what is important. I ask, should I continue to develop this high level of concentration and dwell in the pleasurable feelings, refining them? The feelings seem to serve as a 'shield' to things like pain, ill-will, and drowsiness, so it can be useful. I feel as though the deepness of concentration, the coarseness and intensity of the feelings of pleasure, and the length/duration at which they last could all be improved to a considerable degree. How do I know if these feelings are simply distractions?


May I refer you to the words of Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo:

"When the body feels well, the mind can settle down and rest. And once the mind is rested, you gain strength: the ability to relieve all feelings of pain while sitting in meditation, so that you can go on sitting for hours. When the body is free from pain, the mind is free from Hindrances (nivarana). Body and mind are both strong. This is called samadhi-balam — the strength of concentration."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

:anjali:
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby pegembara » Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:23 am

So to summarize the method for entering the first jhana: You sit in a nice comfortable upright position, and generate access concentration by putting and maintaining your attention on a single meditation object. When access concentration arises, then you shift your attention from the breath (or whatever your method is) to a pleasant sensation, preferably a pleasant physical sensation. You put your attention on that sensation, and maintain your attention on that sensation, and do nothing else.

http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby daverupa » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:08 pm

pegembara wrote:So to summarize the method for entering the first jhana: You sit in a nice comfortable upright position, and generate access concentration by putting and maintaining your attention on a single meditation object. When access concentration arises, then you shift your attention from the breath (or whatever your method is) to a pleasant sensation, preferably a pleasant physical sensation. You put your attention on that sensation, and maintain your attention on that sensation, and do nothing else.

http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm


Rather, one method for entering a state called jhana by some. Just to be clear.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby pegembara » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:27 pm

@dhamma_learner has experienced 1st jhana and he should recollect whatever steps he took to get there so as to be able to reproduce the experience.

What has been happening lately is that, after my concentration focuses and deepens (and my attention ceases to "stick" to the past or future, at least to a degree far less than usual), I will begin to feel a great warmth, tingling, or buzzing feeling in my body (usually beginning somewhere in my chest or torso). While maintaining concentration, I am able to control this feeling, intensifying it, spreading it around, or stopping it completely. If I choose to intensify it and spread it throughout my entire body, it can produce some very pleasurable feelings. Sometimes the pleasure/feeling can be very mild and subtle, or very intense and coarse, but I notice that I can control this to some degree. If I lose concentration, it will end immediately. After it ends and I come out of meditation, I notice that the effects -- a calm, clear, and focused mind, a lack of many negative feelings, and ease of concentration -- will last for a while, perhaps for a few hours.

How do I know if these feelings are simply distractions?


"Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

"This is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Last edited by pegembara on Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby Ben » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:30 pm

pegembara wrote:@dhamma_learner has experienced 1st jhana and he should recollect whatever steps he took to get there so as to be able to reproduce the experience.

What has been happening lately is that, after my concentration focuses and deepens (and my attention ceases to "stick" to the past or future, at least to a degree far less than usual), I will begin to feel a great warmth, tingling, or buzzing feeling in my body (usually beginning somewhere in my chest or torso). While maintaining concentration, I am able to control this feeling, intensifying it, spreading it around, or stopping it completely. If I choose to intensify it and spread it throughout my entire body, it can produce some very pleasurable feelings. Sometimes the pleasure/feeling can be very mild and subtle, or very intense and coarse, but I notice that I can control this to some degree. If I lose concentration, it will end immediately. After it ends and I come out of meditation, I notice that the effects -- a calm, clear, and focused mind, a lack of many negative feelings, and ease of concentration -- will last for a while, perhaps for a few hours.


I would be very circumspect about diagnosing jhana on the information given.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby kirk5a » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:57 pm

dhamma_learner wrote: I ask, should I continue to develop this high level of concentration and dwell in the pleasurable feelings, refining them?

Sure, why not? As you are seeing it has positive benefit, so why not continue to explore that?
The feelings seem to serve as a 'shield' to things like pain, ill-will, and drowsiness, so it can be useful. I feel as though the deepness of concentration, the coarseness and intensity of the feelings of pleasure, and the length/duration at which they last could all be improved to a considerable degree. How do I know if these feelings are simply distractions?

If your practice is resulting in benefits, why would it be simply a distraction? The Buddhist teachings are very clear on the development of meditative pleasure (jhana territory) as a supportive condition for insight. I wouldn't be too quick to throw these conditions away.

Regarding jhana, you might take a look at "Jhana Not by the Numbers" by Ven. Thanissaro.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... mbers.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby dhamma_learner » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:57 pm

Thank you all for your responses. I too think it is too early to declare it to be jhana. Bhante Gunaratana describes very strong, pleasurable sensations that may arise in a certain part of the body (it usually starts in my hands and arms for me) during access concentration. By placing the entirety of our concentration on these sensations, we can use it as a "bridge" to enter jhana. But these sensations are not jhana. In particular, these sensations can cause my breath or heart rate to increase (the feelings are similar to excitement). This kind of pleasure is different from the subtle joy and happiness found in jhana, I believe. However, because they can be a focus of concentration, I will continue to investigate them in my meditations.

with metta,

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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby Zenainder » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:54 am

dhamma_learner wrote:Thank you all for your responses. I too think it is too early to declare it to be jhana. Bhante Gunaratana describes very strong, pleasurable sensations that may arise in a certain part of the body (it usually starts in my hands and arms for me) during access concentration. By placing the entirety of our concentration on these sensations, we can use it as a "bridge" to enter jhana. But these sensations are not jhana. In particular, these sensations can cause my breath or heart rate to increase (the feelings are similar to excitement). This kind of pleasure is different from the subtle joy and happiness found in jhana, I believe. However, because they can be a focus of concentration, I will continue to investigate them in my meditations.

with metta,

dhamma_learner


Be present even with your meditative bliss. I can relate and as great as it is I've recognized it a potential distraction. Recognize it for what it is. Temporal experiences such as there are super cool and encouraging, yet are still temporary. Keep going!

Metta,

Zen
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Re: A question for those more expert than I

Postby Ben » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:32 am

dhamma_learner wrote:Bhante Gunaratana describes very strong, pleasurable sensations that may arise in a certain part of the body (it usually starts in my hands and arms for me) during access concentration. By placing the entirety of our concentration on these sensations, we can use it as a "bridge" to enter jhana

Or as a bridge to develop vipassana, which is what I do, in vedananupassana. Vedana are an interesting meditation object.
But be sure you maintain your practice as per the instructions of Venerable Gunaratana.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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