Author Topic: Close call with Jhana?  (Read 4777 times)

Tobin

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Close call with Jhana?
« on: June 04, 2014, 07:41:43 AM »
Hello everyone,

I've been spending a lot of time working with Tranquil Wisdom Meditation and I've come to the conclusion that I need to go back to the basics. I feel like I have very little concentration to work with, so tonight I worked with just the sensations at the nose. (This whole body breathing thing has been a total frustration!!! But that's another topic.) To my surprise, I found that I was able to maintain concentration for almost the entire 30 minute sit! This was encouraging. I also noticed that at points, I felt like my consciousness was shifting. It was really bizarre and intense. Like a wave of something trying to envelope my body. The problem is that the moment this starts happening, I freak out and my brain takes over. "Whoa, what was that?", "Was that me reaching the first Jhana?", "How can I get back to that?", "Oh, I'll just focus on my breath again.", blah blah blah.

I guess my question is, will I eventually not be so startled by this shift that I don't go into compulsive thought about it? I try my best to just go back to what I was doing before, but my thoughts have a mind of their own. Does anyone have any suggestions for remaining calm and focused? I feel like the answer is going to be "just keep at it", but maybe there is something I'm missing.

Thanks again.

Regards,
Tobin

Quardamon

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 09:53:23 AM »
my thoughts have a mind of their own.
;) That is a beautiful way to say it.
To prevent seeing this as a circle, I would say they have a feeling tone, or a basic thought behind them.

I also noticed that at points, I felt like my consciousness was shifting. It was really bizarre and intense. Like a wave of something trying to envelope my body. The problem is that the moment this starts happening, I freak out and my brain takes over. "Whoa, what was that?", "Was that me reaching the first Jhana?", "How can I get back to that?", "Oh, I'll just focus on my breath again.", blah blah blah.
There seems to be a succession of feelings and thoughts here:
you feel a shifting
there is a kind of physical sensation: enveloping your body
your brain starts to take over
several thoughts come: questions, guesses, wanting to go back.

(With the latter thoughts you will find, in retrospect, that the emotional tone of the thought is more important than the content (in words) of the thought.)

OK. If indeed there is this succession, than each of these steps is an opportunity to stick to your discipline. With training, you might feel a shift, might feel a kind of physical sensation, and if you keep your attention to the meditation object, you might prevent that the brain takes over.

In short, as you say: "Keep at it!"    ;)

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 06:48:50 PM »
Changing the focus likely got you a different result because you may have got yourself too comfortable, or deep down you may have had a sense of "im following all the instructions, now what?".

You guessed it though, keep at it. Don't long for or worry about that shift, it'll probably come again and you'll get less taken aback by it.

Tobin

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2014, 08:40:56 PM »
Thanks guys. I figured that was the general idea, so I'll just keep trying!
Regards,
Tobin

Matthew

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 05:37:11 AM »
Hi Tobin,

I've been spending a lot of time working with Tranquil Wisdom Meditation and I've come to the conclusion that I need to go back to the basics. I feel like I have very little concentration to work with, so tonight I worked with just the sensations at the nose. (This whole body breathing thing has been a total frustration!!! But that's another topic.)

I'd like to hear that story ...

To my surprise, I found that I was able to maintain concentration for almost the entire 30 minute sit! This was encouraging. I also noticed that at points, I felt like my consciousness was shifting. It was really bizarre and intense. Like a wave of something trying to envelope my body. The problem is that the moment this starts happening, I freak out and my brain takes over. "Whoa, what was that?", "Was that me reaching the first Jhana?", "How can I get back to that?", "Oh, I'll just focus on my breath again.", blah blah blah.

Maybe, also possible that you are entering a hypnotic trance - that is a more likely outcome from nose-Meditation.

I guess my question is, will I eventually not be so startled by this shift that I don't go into compulsive thought about it?

Yes. You gotta fall off the bike to learn how to stay on it!

I try my best to just go back to what I was doing before, but my thoughts have a mind of their own. Does anyone have any suggestions for remaining calm and focused? I feel like the answer is going to be "just keep at it", but maybe there is something I'm missing.

I consider it to be more the case that ones mind is a collection of " thoughts of their own " ... bubbling up to the surface, fighting for attention. This is where the whole-body breathing described in the Suttas is foundational, this anchoring of experience in the physical body and calming of the physical body leads to calming the mind. Mind really does follow body in this respect as the calm/serene body reduces stimulation of the neurological systems involved in fight/flight. Right now it seems that when you experience a shift in mind that fight/flight response is being activated ... Developing concentration is important yet developing calm/serenity is the foundation of it all ... indeed the Jhanas are an extension of this very aspect of practice.

Kindly,

Matthew
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 05:39:13 AM by Matthew »
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Tobin

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 07:58:57 AM »
Thanks for the reply Matthew.

It's late and I have to be up early to get on the road for the Goenka retreat. I'm going to give his technique a go just so I can say that I have. When I get back I'll write a more thorough response.

What you say about cultivating tranquility makes a lot of sense. Had I been more tranquil, the shift would probably not have been so startling. It happened after I had been sharply focused on by breath for a while. It was like the more I paid attention, the easier it was to do. The thoughts dropped away and a bit of space opened up. Of course, once the shift started happening, out of shock, so did the thoughts again.

My biggest issue with whole body breathing is focus. There is too much going on to remain concentrated and I feel like I'm wasting my time. This is why I've gone back to concentrating on my nasal breathing. I at least want to develop a baseline of concentration and I don't feel like I can do that while trying to bring attention to my lungs, abdomen, nose, etc all at the same time. Maybe I have the wrong idea.

I'm still also very skeptical about how TWM produces the same insights as one pointed meditation. I was under the impression that the whole reason we are mindful of our sensations is to learn the reality of them (exploring them, watching how they move, what makes up a sensation). How can we do that if we just move our attention back to the breath.

I'm so wrapped up in studying dhamma, learning and reading reviews of various techniques and trying to avoid wasting my time that I fear I'll never make any progress. I don't want to be that guy that wastes 20 years doing the wrong thing. I'm not even sure this is making sense.

Anyways, I'm going to drop it all and just follow the recommendations of the retreat while I'm there. Have a great two weeks everyone and I'll see you on the other side!
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 08:05:11 AM by Tobin »
Regards,
Tobin

VinceField

Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2014, 02:43:01 PM »
Tobin

According to my understanding of Valamasari's technique, the way I have been practicing Tranquil Wisdom Meditation is by keeping my attention on the relaxation of the body and mind.  You do not have to be simultaneously aware of the sensations of every part of the body with detailed awareness, but rather simply be aware of the tranquilizing of the entire body as a whole and the mind.  I do this through intention and releasing tension when it arrises by simply letting go.  It's like feeling a constant wave of relaxation flow through my entire being. 

I believe it is rather easy compared to one-pointed concentration, as it does not result in mental strain, although it allows for more frequent arising of hinderances, as they are not blocked by intense one-pointed concentration- however, this is a good thing, for it allows these hinderances to be properly dealt with in their full capacity without the interference of suppression that may result from an strong one-pointed concentration.

Jacky

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2014, 11:28:42 PM »
Tobin

According to my understanding of Valamasari's technique, the way I have been practicing Tranquil Wisdom Meditation is by keeping my attention on the relaxation of the body and mind.  You do not have to be simultaneously aware of the sensations of every part of the body with detailed awareness, but rather simply be aware of the tranquilizing of the entire body as a whole and the mind.  I do this through intention and releasing tension when it arrises by simply letting go.  It's like feeling a constant wave of relaxation flow through my entire being.

Fascinating! This sounds great formal meditation practice. But i do wonder that does this "letting go" style meditation cultivate enough concentration for jhana? I understand that meditation is about relaxing ones body-mind. But do you get jhanic factors from this kind of meditation like happiness and joy? Then one could just switch attention on those feelings.

VinceField

Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2014, 01:21:58 AM »
Jacky

I have spoken with people who claim to have had great success with Tranquil Wisdom Meditation, experiencing even the higher Jhanas in a relatively short amount of time.  And personally, I definitely see a difference from my prior practice with one-pointed concentration.  There is now no suffering during my meditations using this technique, where as during my previous Vipassana practice, suffering was an obstacle of varying intensities.  Joy arises more abundantly with TWM for me.

Jacky

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2014, 05:45:48 PM »
VinceField
Wow! This seems to be just the meditation for me. =)
I just read Ven. U Vimalaramsi book Ven Vimalaramsi Anapanasati Sutta 2nd Ed. (your method?) Great stuff =) !
I could summarise that book with one word. Relaxation. Its seems to be all about relaxing tensions and the mind.

But he also makes big claims in this book. Quote from Anapanasati Sutta 2nd Ed:

"The 'concentration' meditation is
a form of suppression, a kind of cutting off at one's
experience which causes a kind of resistance to arise in
one's mind. As a result, there is a conflict with reality. On
the other hand, "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" opens one's
mind and is continually expanding it, which does not ever
exclude or resist anything. A 'concentrated' mind does not
meditate in the Buddhist way. It doesn't matter whether one
is talking about full or fixed absorption concentration, or
access concentration. It is still the same. "

*A 'concentrated' mind does not meditate in the Buddhist way?*  :o
Most jhana teachers that i know says that the way to experience jhana is to emphasize one-pointed concentration. Ideally observing breath sensations in the tip of the nose. But here U Vimalaramsi says that such strict concentration is not even Buddhist method!
But still, it makes sense that deep relaxations will eventually allow joy arise. And your answer seems to validate that.

VinceField

Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2014, 07:08:42 PM »
Very cool.  I would also recommend checking out his book Breath of Love (an updated version of his book The Anapanasati Sutta, BOL contains some new information including walking meditation and metta/forgiveness meditation instructions) and Moving Dhamma volume 1.   

http://library.dhammasukha.org/books.html

Alexander

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2014, 12:45:04 AM »
I've found what this chap to be saying as very interesting when comparing it to the Therevadan meditations I've learned previously.

Anyone else think it ties in well with zazen?

yossarian

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2014, 02:29:57 AM »
Just food for thought but I prefer Matthew's shamatha instructions on the homepage. Everything you need to know without Vimalaramsi's craziness and egotism.

VinceField

Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2014, 09:12:26 PM »
There is a good deal of beneficial information not falling under the categories of "crazy" or "egotistic" that can be found in Vimalaramsi's works  that is not addressed in the brief Shamatha instructions on the homepage.  Two important aspects of Vimalaramsi's instructions that are not mentioned is the intentional releasing of tension after a hinderance arises before returning to the object of meditation, and smiling and cultivating an uplifted state of mind. 

yossarian

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Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2014, 10:05:18 PM »
I'm sure there are some neat and probably useful tips in there but you must first wade through all his largesse claims of rediscovering meditation. I also fail to see a distinction between "the intentional release of tension" and "experiencing the body then relaxing the body" (paraphrased)

As for smiling, it's always a good idea!  ;D
« Last Edit: June 10, 2014, 10:07:35 PM by yossarian »

VinceField

Re: Close call with Jhana?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2014, 12:22:04 AM »
The distinction I see is that it is not properly explained that mental and physical tension result from hinderances arising, and that one should release this tension before going back to the meditation object.  I think it is important to recognize this tension or else it may go unnoticed and carry into the meditation.  Other than that I think it's a great basic guide. 

 

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