The Mental Breath, Nursing the Breath, and Smile Jhana

In the last major post on concentration meditation, I had you fix your attention on a single point, the bridge of the nose, to the exclusion of all else, for sits of at least 30 minutes. This is not the whole story of how to reliably enter jhana, but I needed to give you something straightforward to do to begin stabilizing your mind. It is not an easy nor a pleasant thing, to sit there focusing upon a single point in spacetime, especially when you have been trained into constant distraction by television and Facebook — but it is necessary. Judging by the comments and emails I received, for a few of you this instruction was enough to reach jhana — and, in fact, it is enough, provided certain other conditions are fulfilled (which may occur by luck or by preparation).

This post however aims to take luck out of concentration meditation and is all about working with objects. This really gets into the heart of what concentration meditation is about, which is the creation of mental objects which appear to exist in and of themselves. So, for example, the breath can literally come to be seen as a wisp of smoke, a pulsing energy field, or a flowing river. It can become “seen-felt” — a phenomenon whereby the breath is experienced in a combined sensory modality of the feeling body and the seeing eye. Holding these objects in your mind will leave you dripping with ecstasy.

The Mental Breath

This phenomenon is the answer to the question, “What should I focus on when the breath slows or stops and sensations are hard to perceive?” This happens to just about every meditator, and is a question I receive often in emails and in the comments sections. In the previous post I was advising you to just maintain awareness on the bridge of the nose regardless. One suggestion was just to imagine that the sensations are still there, and to focus on those. This is the same as how if someone shone a laser pointer on a wall then turned it off you could still stare at that point even though the light had gone. At this moment your “object” is in fact an imaginary point in spacetime. It is as though someone gave you a coordinate to stare at, even though there was nothing at that coordinate. This is all good mental training. Concentration meditation is entirely about cultivating mind-made objects — even something as trivial as an imaginary point. Some people got jhana from that, which is completely possible if you mind becomes absorbed in that imaginary point.

As easier object to focus upon however is the “mental breath” — a name Mayath and I gave in some private emails to the following phenomenon. If you close your eyes now and breathe in, even with ordinary physical awareness on your body you should feel a kind of energy wave moving up you. Now, close your eyes again, and spend more time studying this wave — in and out, in and out. If you spend enough time just feeling this wave with each breath (say, a 30-minute sit), you will eventually begin to develop a mental impression of it. You can get to know it really well. You might start to get a visual impression of it moving through your body, expanding and contracting. Congratulations: You have just created a mental object. Now, even if you just sit watching this breath come and go exactly like this (which is called access concentration), if you can stay with it reasonably well you will eventually get a jhana.

This brings me to my first important point: Simply holding a mental object in awareness brings feelings of rapture and bliss, and eventually causes jhana to arise. We don’t know why it does; it just does. My theory is that the universe, at its heart, is a creative entity that draws satisfaction from experiencing its own creations. It operates in an infinite loop of: create→experience, create→experience, create→experience with each new iteration giving rise to a new set of possibilities for the next creation. Concentration meditation temporarily suspends the background noise of previous creations (a.k.a. “life”) and provides a space in which to create and revel in an object anew.

The initial phase, when you are holding the mental object in mind (in this case, the mental impression of the breath), is called access concentration. It feels good. Feelings usually rise quickly and suddenly. The initial feeling is usually one of elation or exaltation; this is known as “rapture” (piti). The time it takes for a full jhana to then arise is dependent upon:

  1. How clearly and stably you are able to hold the mental object in awareness, and for how long in an uninterrupted span of seconds or minutes. So, if you get a mental impression of the breath for just a second, you will likely feel a rush of good feelings. This can actually cause you to lose the image, as can other distractions. Because you lost the image, you won’t cross the threshold into jhana. But if you can maintain that mental impression of the breath for longer, your good feelings will amp up and up the longer you hold it in awareness. The good news is that losing the object does not start you again from zero — the next time it will be easier to create and hold a mental image of the breath, the image will last longer, and the good feelings will be stronger. The longer you can hold this mental object in awareness, the more absorbed in it you are said to be. If you are able to hold an extremely clear, stable, uninterrupted impression of the breath, it is possible to enter jhana within seconds.
  2. Your tolerance for the good feelings (also known as an increase in energy). So, this is training your mind and body to withstand an increased bandwidth of energy (perceived as rapture, glee and delight). If these feelings become too intense (which can be sudden), you should back off your attention a little from the object. Then concentrate again and the feelings will be able to go a little higher than last time. Eventually you will be able to withstand the energy level required to cross the threshold into full jhana, which is an event that will be fairly obvious when it happens. Jhana itself brings on additional feelings of deep bliss (sukha) which fill your whole being with peace and joy.

My second important point is: Even if physical breathing slows or stops, the mental breath can still be perceived. So, you always have a “breath” to place your awareness on. It is sensations that move through your body and mind as a flowing wave. Once you have developed a good mental impression of the breath from sitting and watching it in your practice, you can invoke the mental breath at any time: with eyes closed just imagine you are breathing in, and you should be able to perceive the mental breath flowing through you like an energy wash. I personally benefit from focusing on this energy wash flowing up through my nose and into my head. Now, when you sit to do concentration meditation on the breath, if physical breathing stops you can induce a mental breath and place awareness upon that instead. Interestingly, this usually causes the physical breath to start up again by itself.

This brings me to my final point: If you can synchronize your mental breath with your physical breath, this is a sign of strong absorption and you will find jhana begins to arise very quickly.

This concept of working with the mental breath alongside the physical breath is what Daniel Ingram is pointing to when he says the following in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha (p.139):

If you are using the breath as an object, you might try purposefully visualizing it as sweet, smooth waves or circles that are peaceful and welcome. Try breathing as if you were in a garden of fragrant roses and you wish to experience the fullness of their fragrance. Perhaps these tips will help illustrate the kind of non-resistant and peaceful presence that can help one attain these states. Tune into sensations in and around the primary object that feel good.

Nursing the Breath

I believe the ability of a written guide to teach students how to enter jhana depends strongly upon the metaphors used to describe the technique. Metaphors are really important because they convey something emotional and perceptual which plain instructional words cannot do.

People respond in different ways to each metaphor. For example, all the Buddhist metaphors about making your mind “clear and bright like a full moon” appealed to me because I am very visual and poetic in my mind. (You can say stuff to me like, “Become the colour purple” and I would sit there and soon be bathing in the purple rain.) Other people however might not know what to do with that. Consider also Daniel Ingram’s metaphor above about visualizing the breath as “sweet, smooth waves”. Perhaps you could pick that up and run with it. I couldn’t, until I discovered the mental breath — then I could run with it, by making the mental breath flow like water up and over my head, rather than the physical breath. So, it’s not just the metaphors, but the order you teach them.

One of my goals is to give you lots of metaphors so that one of them will ring a bell within you and you will be able to do something with it. Also, by writing these out in post form, I can figure out which ones people are responding to well and use those more going forward.

The following metaphor is something I came up with recently after asking myself how I actually treat the breath in my mind to enter jhana. This is important because the style of attention you pay to the object is arguably the most important determinant of whether you will enter jhana (and the flavour of jhana you will enter, which is something you don’t need to worry about yet).

In the One-Pointedness post I had you affix your attention on a single point, the bridge of your nose. You may have noticed that if you went to the bridge of your nose very hard with your attention, then the sensations there would quickly vanish. It is like grasping at sand and having it slip between your fingers. This is because, in general, when you push attention on something, attention fatigues quickly and the object appears to fall back or disperse. The solution here is to pull your attention back a little just before this happens. So, you go towards the object, then back off just before it disperses. Backing off too much however will cause the object to vanish — so, the second half of the trick is to then put attention back on the object before this happens. Thus, you establish a rhythm of “towards, away, towards, away” in which the object is not allowed to disappear. There is a sweet spot within this rhythm where the motion back and away is so subtle that you no longer perceive it and the object begins to appear to exist in and for itself, within the back-and-forth sine wave of attention, as though you are holding it in a gravity field in your mind. This back-and-forth motion of attention is also known as “giving the object space to breathe”. It means you don’t grab at it. You let it exist gently in a space within your mind. The back-and-forth rhythm is not necessarily fast, either — in fact, smoothness is way more important, and the ideal rhythm might actually be quite slow, yet with such smooth transitions between the back and forth of attention that the change is barely noticeable. When you imagine the breath as flowing like waves, you are building this back-and-forth motion of attention into the meditation, so it is present from the start — that is why that metaphor is so powerful.

This method can all be quite ridiculous to memorize and attempt to carry out while meditating, which is why we use metaphors — simple language ideas that help us put such methods into practice without having to think too much. The metaphor I came up with when asking myself how I treat the breath in concentration practice is: I am nursing the breath.

So, I am sitting with eyes closed. I breathe in through my nose, and the breath enters my mind. I welcome it with a soft smile, mouth slightly open, and with kind eyes. I hold it gently in my mind, cradling it like it’s a baby. It’s free to move –coming in slightly as it wants, going out slightly as it wants — but I never really let it go. I am handling it very softly, playing with it, and caring for it. I am nursing the breath. I feel very warmly about the breath every time I find it here in my mind.

It is by bringing in such warm imagery and perspectives that the emotional systems are mobilized and the mind can breathe life into the object, having it become its own full-blown experience. All jhana is a creative act in this regard.

Smile Jhana

A tech Mayath and I were synchronistically playing around with recently is using the smile as the object in concentration meditation. A main principle of yoga is, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” In real terms this means that if you place awareness on a spot within the body, electricity will flow in the nerves at that spot. Different nerve activations produce different changes in emotional state and perceptions (hence the chakra system). The nose-bridge spot seems to produce a pleasant, invigorating stimulation, possibly due to a connection to the dopamine circuit as reflected in the phrase, “The sweet smell of victory.”

The nerves of the face which produce a smile are strongly connected to the reward circuit, especially those around the eyes. You are probably already able to effect a slight positive state-change just by smiling, but you might also find the feeling “fatigues” quickly. With the style of attention paid to the smile via concentration meditation however, nerve current flows linking into the reward circuit are able to be maintained far longer and more intensely than normally possible, leading to rapture and — as Mayath and I found — some of the fastest and most mind-blowing jhanas around.

Mayath wrote:

Was just gonna email you because I also did the smile meditation and had a mind-blowing hard First Jhana too! I couldn’t even stay meditating. It was so blissful it hurt. I didn’t get it as quick as you but I got it within 30 minutes. I wasn’t even trying to go for Jhana. I was ignoring Piti but it just completely overwhelmed me. It was incredible. My whole visual field filled with light and sucked me in. I completely lost track of time. I felt like I was only in it for a few minutes but when I checked my watch 30 or so minutes had gone by.

We have slightly different techniques for using the smile as the object (which are actually the same technique, approached from different perspectives and using different language).

Mayath tends to smile and simply become aware of the mental breath flowing in the face around the smile. Breathe, smile, breathe, smile, as one awareness.

I tend to begin smiling slowly, imagining flow in my cheeks from two dots either side of my nose outwards underneath my eyes. All I am doing is smiling very slowly from those points outward, so that there is a constant nerve current flow there. Simultaneously, I become aware of my breath and notice how it has become cooler and more blissful. So, this meditation quickly becomes a hybrid smile-and-breath meditation (and I have yet to find a concentration meditation which is not hybridized with the breath in some way).

As your awareness reaches the ends of the arrows, start again at the dots (pictured below). This prevents “attention fatigue” and keeps the smile fresh. Also, become aware of any tension arising elsewhere in the face which attempts to “block” the smile, and simply let that tension go and return awareness to the nerves beneath the eyes.

 

Awareness applied to the smile in this way causes it to become its own object — the smile begins to exist as a thing in and of itself. Simply turning your attention to the smile object induces rapture each time.

On the night Mayath and I were discussing in the snippet above, I had practised the smile jhana only for 8 minutes before going out. It was so intense I was literally seeing stars. Then, on the night out, I found I could tune into the jhana again just by smiling then putting awareness on the nerves covered by the arrows in the above picture. Stars were literally visible in the periphery of my visual field. In fact, even just smiling regularly would draw me back into the jhana. It was like the jhana was calling me, trying to absorb me again. This is really powerful stuff.

Running nerve current flow as in the picture above is more of a kundalini practice, where energy flow is induced directly by will in a chosen body location. Mayath’s method of infusing the area with the breath is more of a straight concentration practice. Both methods achieve the same thing, just approached from different perspectives.

I predict that many people will find the smile a far easier object to work with than the breath in order to attain the first jhana, and that we will see quite a few positive reports shortly. Let me know your results in the comments below!

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68 Responses

  1. Kautilya says:

    Cheers Bruv!!

    Will work on this today and give feedback

  2. Aldous says:

    Here’s a similar tech I’ve used a fair bit in the past, from Taoist magick, that might be of interest (they love their colorful metaphors too!) – the ‘Taoist Smile’:
    ‘Let a smile dance in your eyes’ says the wise old man on the mountain. I took this to mean smile gently, with your mouth and your eyes – basically what Illuminates describes above.
    ‘imagine a source of smiling energy in front of your face, such as a glowing sun or a babies face’ – I can think of nothing worse then a babies face. If anything, I’ve imagined a ball of warm energy in front of me but generally I’ve just gone with the intention of there being an energy source in front of my face.
    ‘breathe the energy in through the eyes and the smile’ – again, I go with the ‘felt sense’ that I’m breathing some sort of current through my whole face, particularly my eyes – through talking to Illuminates I believe this to cause the nerves in the face to turn on.
    So, you feel/intend the breath through your eyes and smile on the in-breath. On the out breath, you feel/intend it lighting up your brain. Both sides. Keep this up until you feel some nice, blissful feelings. The Taoists describe this as ‘filling the brain with warm honey’. As I said, they do love a metaphor.
    Once some good feelings are going, you then ‘smile down into your throat’. I feel/intend the flow through my smiling eyes and face on the in-breath and feel/intend it down into my throat on the out-breath (again, I now believe this is generating nerve current flow). You then ‘smile down’ into your lungs, then your heart (I tend to go center of the chest here), then your kidneys, liver, spleen, genitals and arse. The Taoists describe this as letting the honey trickle down from the brain into the body. I believe its generating the nerve current flow that Illuminates describes.
    I’ve done this for years sporadically, generally when I’m run down as it does pick you up and also as a pre night out ritual as you do seem to have a glow about you afterwards that others can feel. More recently I’ve made the bliss it generates into an object then ridden that into Jhana.

  3. Mayath says:

    Great stuff. Will respond later on some recent theoretical thoughts I’ve had on Jhana when I have more time. I also think it’d better to see how people get on using this technique first before making things more detailed. But this should hopefully help anyone with good skills to at least hit a decent absorption state or even better a strong soft Jhana or even higher.

    I’d also recommend beginners to try usung Metta with the smile. The heart is always recommended as the place in where you situate loving-kindness feelings but the smile works better in my experience because it so much easier to cultivate positive emotions there. You can apply the exact same principles Illuminatus as described above but combine Metta to the mix and your also adding in some positive emotion which you need to arise for Jhana anyway, so you might as well work with the base materials of Jhana, if pure concentration on the mental breath doesn’t work.

    When I do Metta I try to remember vividly estastic, blissful or loving feelings or I try to fake them if I can’t feel them easily. If you can’t feel this stuff just imagine you can. I feel like I’m drawing in positive energy and producing it out into the world when I’m doing Metta and there’s a strong pulsing feeling to it which relates to the mental breath coming in and out.

    Here’s the best way I find to hold the breath or any meditation object that I currently use. So this is my metaphor. It’s as simple as this. Know the breath. Know it like you’d know anything else. Know it like its something really obvious. Know the breath coming in, know the breath coming out. Know the mental breath. Know what it’s doing. Know it in whatever way you find it best to know your object. For Absolutus that was knowing the sound of it. For me I have a visual/feel knowing of the breath coming in and coming out. My visual tactile sense knows the breath and I just know it. I don’t have to visualise the breath as a light or waves I just know it’s as an invisible flow which I nonetheless can “see”.There’s no straining about holding the objectI just know it like I know Paris is the capital of France. If I know it long enough joy and other positive emotions arise and I know them too. This knowing can be a form of imagination. I’m a very artistic, imaginative, creative person and that is the way I intuit the world. So for me, knowing, has an intuitive, creative quality, that involves the visual and tactile. I know my object with the creative mind.

    If you can be present and know, you’ll go far. It’s that simple but it can take a lot of work to build a foundation in knowing and being present. The more awareness you have, the more you can stablize attention and be present, the more you’ll know. Find out how you can best know your object. No one can teach you this. It’s about finding the best way it feels right to you, which is why we have to speak in metaphors, in the hope it’ll spark in you an eureaka moment where it falls into place.

    If nothing else works for someone, my advice for the mental breath stuff is just to imagine you can feel it. It really is just an imaginative mental object but one more experienced concentration meditators can tap into very vividly that it feels really real. If you still struggle to find the mental breath I recommend doing whole body scanning breath meditations. For TMI readers, this is a stage 6 practice.

    But this is the nults and boots of the practice.Try to find breath sensations in every part of the body, especially in tiny places like the fingernails or you little toe. Really focus in on these areas and see if you can discern something related to breathing. It’s really difficult at first but eventually you’ll be able to feel something even if you think your making it up. You should switch between finding any and all breath related sensations in large parts of the body like a leg to smaller places like the middle of your elbow. It really doesn’t matter if you think your imagining it or not as long as it feels very vivid. You can reach really soft Jhanas doing this practice alone.

    This practice can take quite a while to master and if your reading TMI it’s better to follow that then what I’ve just written because Culadasa goes into way more detail. But essentially finding the breath related sensations in the body will also help you discern energy related sensations which may or may not also be “real” in a materialistic sense but which can feel very, very vivid.

    There’s definitely a strong relationship between the breath and energy but I’m sure Illuminatus knows more about that then I do as I’ve only really begun exploring energy related things in any depth. But in my experience so far the mental breath, which isn’t a phenomena we’ve discovered by any means and probably has tons of names like prana or piti(the way Culadasa describes it) is connected to energy. To me the mental breath has a flowy, contracting quality to it which I can find in any place in my body. It doesn’t feel like a supernatural thing just an extra perceptual thing I’ve grown to notice. It may take time for people to become confident that there feeling it but eventually over time you’ll notice it.

    Awareness of it may also be related to Grades of Piti which Theravadens talk about. So if you can’t find it, you probably still have a lot of Piti to develop which takes time. This stuff can really complicated and technical but at its heart it’s really simple and just happens if your doing things right. Also people shouldn’t think that if they can get easy absorption states that life will get magically easier or there a master meditator. There just a foundation to do more work.

  4. Yuki says:

    To tell the truth it bothers me when people are talking about soft jhana and hard jhana, in jhana it’s completely impossible to think or even to hear sound, the only thing you are aware of is incredible bliss, you are getting completely blisses out.

    The so called soft jhanas are just jhana factors manifesting , but it doesn’t lead to jhana absorption, it’s too gross , your body has to disappear to some degree for the nimitta (bright light) to appear (I simply stay in the breath until it’s impossible to to ignore the nimitta and then it swallows me or evelopes my entire being and takes me to jhana, at that point I am cut off from anything external.

    So it kind of bothers me when I read it or hear people say they were in jhana and did some insight practices while in it. That’d why it’s important to follow teachers like ajahn brahm or PA auk which are truly jhanic masters, and not to go to teachers with low standards.

    Another suggestion is to ignore sites like dharmavoverground completely, I have lost must faith in my practice before when I first discovered them, they have really mislead me .

    • Yuki says:

      Btw this isn’t directed to any post, just my rambling haha

    • James says:

      I’ve read a lot about the Pa Auk monastery and they learn Jhana meditation up to the 4th and then move into insight.

      http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/fourelements.pdf

    • Aldous says:

      Your not wrong re: Dharmaoverground. That place is harmful.

    • Mayath says:

      I see where you’re coming from when you say soft Jhana isn’t Jhana but I disagree. The hard Jhana states are so powerful that the soft states can seem weak in comparison. The most useful way to look at Jhana is as a spectrum in my opinion, with the soft Jhanas being very useful in developing happiness. They are not the end goal but rather a means to an end in developing the hard Jhana states and achieving Samadhi. Firstly, they familiarize someone with the “groove” of the hard Jhanas , secondly they speed up meditation progress and thirdly they are blissful states that are pretty accessible in real life for most people.

      I believe it’s incorrect to say there just the Jhana factors manifesting. At least how I experience the soft Jhanas is that they are very intense states of altered consciousness. Hard Jhana is a heroi overdose and soft Jhana is half a bottle of whiskey To me, the Jhana factors arise in access concentration but you’re not in an altered state in access, just a very focused way of being. The soft Jhanas hep speed up unification of mind which helps develop the hard Jhanas. There very useful tools. You need grade IV Piti to reach the Hard Jhanas which takes at least months to develop and for the brain to rewire itself so that is possible. Cultivating the soft Jhanas speeds up Piti development, unification of mind and concentration/absorption ability speed up these things because you’re setting up positive feedback loops and conditioning the mind to go towards joy and equanimity.

      In my experience it’s more difficult to maintain a soft than a hard jhana. Unless you’re just too freaked out by it, hard jhana is easy to stay stuck in, because it’s simple. All that’s there is the jhana, so you just do that. Soft jhana you’re feeding it and it dies if you don’t get back to it often enough to feed it with right attention and mindfulness.

      There are too many teachers out there who try to make jhana seem so difficult that it is “supernatural” and out of the reaches of people who start to meditate. The Buddha himself talked about how he first experienced his first jhana experience when he was sitting in the backyard waiting for his father.

      Nothing in the Suttas ever talk of the jhanas being a state where you cannot hear anything of the outside. Instead, the first jhana talks of “being withdrawn from sensuality and unwholesome mental qualities”. That is all. It means that one has gained a wholesome mental state (having none of the five hindrances) and has become “detached” to the external senses. Detached not meaning can’t hear or see but rather ignoring.

      More and more, I find it more useful to look at the suttas than the commentaries or what teachers say. The Buddha really said it best. Pa auk sayadaws criteria is so strict that even many of his best monks can’t attain jhana in his system apparently. That’s why he developed dry noting because he believed awakening could not be achieved for most beings through samadhi. His influence is all over the dharma overground and I don’t think it’s been a benign influence.

      Culadasa and Leigh Brasingston make good arguments in their books for viewing Jhana as a spectrum rather than as something almost otherwordly. They teach the hard states but they believe the soft states are extremely useful too. I’d check out their texts if you’re interested in that debate.

      • Yuki says:

        “Nothing in the Suttas ever talk of the jhanas being a state where you cannot hear anything of the outside. Instead, the first jhana talks of “being withdrawn from sensuality and unwholesome mental qualities”. That is all. It means that one has gained a wholesome mental state (having none of the five hindrances) and has become “detached” to the external senses. Detached not meaning can’t hear or see but rather ignoring.”

        I dont really care what the suttas say or what the buddha said, the fact that I personally, and teachers like ajahn brahm and pa auk are able to access such a profound state where you are cut of from the outside world, and unable to think or even try to think, or have any thoughts is enough for me not to lower my standards for the so called soft jhanas. HELL even at the stage when the bright nimitta appears you barely have any thoughts or mind movements, so its absurd to even suggest any mind movement is possible when sucked inside jhana itself.

        People realize they cant get the jhanas as defined by ajahn brahm, instead they get the so called soft jhanas, they go to other teachers that experience only the so called soft jhanas, waiting to hear the magic words “yes my son, this is jhana”, just to feel good about themselves. in the end its their loss. they are missing out A LOT, its not even a matter if this or that jhana brings you to enlightenment, its about having a great time, knowing you are experiencing such a profound stage fully… not everyone is in the business of attaining stream entry etc… some just meditate to get blissed out… and that’s fine. just like people are having sex for fun and not for producing babies.

        I disagree that you have to meditate hours for months or years to get to those “hard jhanas”
        I know a couple of guys as well who meditate almost the same like I do and are getting those type of jhanas. so in my opinion its more about the way you meditate on the breath then just sitting there for a long time.

        I have been getting those jhanas since my very first time i started to meditate on the breath sensations at the nostrils, within 20 a very bright nimitta would appear, so bright that you fear to go blind, not to mention the incredible bliss the nimitta radiate, that even just a moment of it you will feel blissful many hours after… you get totally swallow by the nimitta and all you are aware of is incredible bliss those 2 words dont justify the experience… when you get out out of jhana you are left with tears and a big smile on your face, your mind is so energized, alert, still, peaceful, that just sitting or laying on your bed is all you need, you dont need anything , you dont have any desires or cravings for a very long time, not to mention that you are completely blissed out you wont feel the need to go in jhana again, even thought its very easy to slip back into jhana even if you change physical posture.

        Anyway, I only became aware of the so called “soft jhanas” when I was following suggestions of sites like dharmaoverground, and the hamilton project (a bunch of idiots who think they are enlightened)…

        eventually I went back to the best way I know how to reach jhana and following ajahn brahm’s books and retreats on youtube (that guy sure knows what he is talking about)

        • Illuminatus says:

          Yuki, can you outline your current method for achieving those jhanas please?

          • Yuki says:

            Its almost exactly the same like yours, I glue my attention on the the bottom inside part of the nose bridge, usually I zoom in the breath sensation as small as possible, however lately I have been using another approach which also builds concentration and stillness very fast, using the breath at the nostrils as a whole but not really zooming in the parts of the sensation, but to see the breath sensation as a whole, for example, when you breath in and out and you feel your abdomen rise and fall, you feel it rising and falling, but you dont nessecary put attention on part of the abdomen… the same should be done with the breath… actually pa auk suggest doing it this way in one of his book written by 2 of his students

            both approaches above work fast, however from my experience the real magic happens when you barely or almost have no pauses on the inbreath and outbreath, this way the breath sensations hold your mind on it like glue very strongly and wont let it go, the most annoying part is that sometimes because there is no pause you might feel you are overbreathing, so trying to manipulate the breath to make it comfortable and trying to stick to the pattern of no pauses between breaths (so you feel the breath sensation at the nostrils the whole time) without overbeathing.

            Ajahn brahm method of watching the breath also summons the nimitta (obviously :P), however I can’t seem to progress so far with it, at most until the nimitta stage, however even then I feel my mind still has many movements that arent easy to still and the excitement factor doesnt go away like when I watch breath at the nostrils which is a hindrance in itself.

            but there is something about the sensation of the breath that does it very powerfully, its exactly like on one of pa auk book describe that the breath sensations turn into a nimitta, and then you keep concentrating the breath-nimitta, until that it gets bigger and bigger and so intense, nimitta gets so energized and powerful that the mind is forced to drop in the nimitta and you get absorbed.

            Anyway I dont think its anything new for you what I just described here… you mentioned all those things on this post and previous as well

        • Mayath says:

          This is a disagreement about terminology more than anything else because I mostly agree with what you’ve said except that you don’t think Jhana is a spectrum. Jhana can be defined as a spectrum.You can’t do anything in Hard Jhana except hard Jhana. I know what hard Jhana is like but most people aren’t going to attain them in a few months. This just isn’t happening. Until someone can the soft Jhanas are worth pursuing. What is wrong with someone attaining them apart from it bothers you that there called Jhana? They are extremely useful states. Anything that increases someone’s levels of happiness has to be a good thing especially when it doesn’t hurt them. The only “danger” of the soft Jhanas is that if someone hasn’t conquered dullness that they can slip into a dull sleepy state that mimics the Jhana factors. If someone can overcome that hindrance, then the soft Jhanas aren’t a problem.

          We’re kind of stuck with this terminology like we’re stuck with the bad translation of concentration, so we just have to get on with it. It’s a useful attainment and isn’t hurting anybody. What’s the big deal?

          The reason I talked about the Suttas is that the original definitions of the Jhana didn’t require the depth of absorption that the commentaries and Ajahn Brahm and Pa auk Sayadaw demand. In fact it’s the extremely high requirements demanded for Jhana that has lead to the proliferation of nearly useless practices like dry Vipassana because most people can’t attain them. It’s these demands that have lead the Jhanas being almost completely ignored practices for nearly hundreds of years. You can do it and maybe your friends can but where are all these high attained practioners online? I don’t see them. If it’s so simple why aren’t there more of them? It would be better if we had different terminology but we’re stuck with what we have and making even more words will just make things even more confusing.

          Jhana has always had a history as a term as with a broad meaning. No one is asking you to lower your standards but if you study the history of the Jhanas, it’s quite simply wrong to just say there the extremely deep levels of absorption that Ajahn Brahm and Pa auk Sayadaw teach. They’ve never been defined as just those extreme states. They’ve always have various levels of depth attached to them?

          My advice is for someone to become well acquainted with the soft Jhanas, really build your absorption skills and then move onto the hard Jhanas, when the mind is unified enough that the Nimmittas start to appear.. But if someone can get hard Jhanas from the get-go, then practice them. No one is asking anyone to only practice the soft Jhanas. I’ve never seen anyone tell anyone to do that in Jhana practice, even on DHO. If you have those hard states then use them.

          But for the people who aren’t as skilled or still learning, there Is still extremely useful things they can experience. They also speed up practice so one can attain the hard states. They teach your brain better concentration and incline you more to absorption.I’m only interested in what’s the most useful point of view and looking at Jhana as a spectrum is the most practical point of view. I’ve seen this argument tons of times online and it’s just one of semantics. Personally I don’t see how anything is being watered down because when you look at the history of the term, Jhana has always had a varied meaning. Things only become watered down when someone is only attaining light states of absorption and proclaiming themselves Jhana masters. You have to really study this stuff to avoid people like that.

          I don’t think someone is a Jhana master until they have all eight Hard Jhanas. I’m not there yet but I’m making good progress. I’ve gone from not being able to concentrate to attaining the first Hard Jhana within a year, so I don’t think these things are extremely difficult but they do take time to happen and for the brain to become inclined to absorption. If I’d only focused on the breath and ignored the soft Jhanas, it would have taken much longer to get to the hard states.

          I would also recommend Ajahn Brahm teachings. If someone followed his advice perfectly they’ll go extremely far.

          • Illuminatus says:

            This input from Patanjali (Yoga Sutras, yogasutrasinterpretive.pdf) might be of interest:

            1.19 Some who have attained higher levels (videhas) or know unmanifest nature
            (prakritilayas), are drawn into birth in this world by their remaining latent impressions
            of ignorance, and more naturally come to these states of samadhi.
            (bhava pratyayah videha prakriti layanam)

            1.20 Others follow a five-fold systematic path of 1) faithful certainty in the path, 2)
            directing energy towards the practices, 3) repeated memory of the path and the
            process of stilling the mind, 4) training in deep concentration, and 5) the pursuit of
            real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained.
            (shraddha virya smriti samadhi prajna purvakah itaresham)

            I consider myself as being in the first category. I experienced hard jhana early on in my practice “accidentally” before I knew what it was and spent a year chasing that state, attaining it a handful of times. That was with zero guidance, without even knowing such as a thing as concentration/absorption practice existed.

            During this time the soft jhanas arose easily and naturally for me and I began writing under the assumption everyone could attain them easily. When I realized most people had literally zero clue what I was talking about I changed the focus of my writing to helping people cultivate the soft jhanas as a bridge to harder states. My guides over the past couple of years have all been about this — trying to help people attain a modicum of concentration so that they begin to get some noticeable benefits, and become more invested in the path. There are tons of benefits of a daily soft jhana, even just for a few minutes. Hell, even a few minutes struggling in access concentration can change your entire outlook on your day. Meditation is about suspending judgment and stilling and deepening perception, and even “bad” meditation with good intent can have remarkable effects on one’s life (which is one reason people should keep up their practice even if seemingly not getting immediate results — the long-term benefits are accumulating all the time).

            In my experience the only real difference in terms of practice between soft and hard jhanas is that a soft jhana usually means you have split your attention early between the object and the piti arising. You are revelling in a combined perception of the object and positive emotions. This builds concentration in some ways since concentration is required initially to maintain the experience. In other ways, it trains concentration to move onto fleeting emotional highs rather than staying with the object. To attain hard jhana, you must simply resist this early splitting of attention and stay with the object. Then, a threshold point is reached where it “explodes” and becomes the hard jhana where only the object exists, and the feelings are an order of magnitude higher than in the soft jhana but appear to be arising by themselves as opposed to the soft jhana where it is pretty clearly “you” who is generating them via concentration.

            There is no discursive thought/judgment during the hard jhana, and afterwards only a crude memory impression remains of the experience. I would describe this memory however as the best moments of a white Christmas Day played on a loop while someone injects heroin into your brainstem.

            I hardly ever do them due to the extra time/energy investment. The truth is this fascia project has taken up almost all my free time for the last 5 years. It has been like a time-sucking demon. (Side note: I have discovered the link between REM, yawning, fascia release, and even how activations at various chakras e.g. crown affect the whole system and allow spontaneously release/unwinding, so it has possibly all been worth it.) Once it’s over I intend to put a lot more time into cultivating the hard jhanas in a more dedicated fashion.

            In the meantime, I am glad we have posters such as yourselves having these debates as they are extremely useful to everyone reading, especially beginners.

            • Mayath says:

              Access to the Jhanas depends on how well Piti is developed in an individual along with strong concentration ability. The hard Jhanas are accessible from grade IV and grade V. Some individuals may have more access to Piti than others for whatever reason, whether that be spritual, genetics or luck. Who knows why? We can’t prove this stuff. But anyway, I’m defining Piti primarily as joy but the development of joy in the mind/body covers a wide range of energetic phenomena such as :

              1:Pacification of the senses(beginning to see an inner light and inner sound)

              2: Energy development(feeling the expansion and contraction of energy, how it flows through the body).

              3: Physical plaincy(you feel comfortable in your body and can sit for hours without discomfort and pain),

              4: Mental pliancy ( attention goes and stays where intention sends it).

              5: Unification of mind( how the different systems of the mind/brain work together, the more unified they are the stronger your intention to stay on your object is).

              The development of the above categories determines how deep the Jhana you can access will be.

              Piti has five different grades according to the Theravadens and Culadasa. The soft Jhanas are accessible from the lower stages and the hard Jhanas from the higher stages. The reason dry Vipassana practioners don’t get access to the hard Jhanas even after years of practice, good concentration, stream entry and so on is that dry noting stalls the development of joy. Rather than cultivating joy they see it as another phenomena. They still undergo energy development but in a different way. I will post my theory for why I believe that is, which involves the Dukka Nanas but these are the five grades of Piti along with Culadasa’s stage where they can be accessed.

              There are four different grades of incomplete and interrupted arising of piti are described – (1) minor, (2) momentary, (3) wavelike (or showering), and (4) exhilarating (or uplifting). The fifth and final grade of completed piti is described as pervading:

              1: The minor grade consists of brief and unpredictable events in which the meditator might experience a tingling sensation spreading over their face, together with some colored light. Or there might be some twitching in the thumbs followed by a pleasurable sensation in the hands and arms and a feeling of happiness. Minor manifestations can occur at any stage in the practice, but rarely before the 4th stage. They become more likely in the 5th and 6th stages, and are almost invariable present by the 7th stage. Soft Jhanas are accessible but they take a lot of effort and tend to fizzle out. However consistent access to the soft jhanas creates a positive feedback loop which speeds up Piti development and the five categories I mentioned above.

              2: The momentary grade differs from the minor grade in that many different categories of phenomena – light, sound, movement, physical sensations, and autonomic reactions – are typically present. Pleasurable sensations in the body and feelings of happiness can often be a part of this experience as well

              The episodes are brief, hence the description as momentary. It is common for meditators to experience this momentary grade of interrupted pacification in the 7th stage, but it is not unusual in the 5th and 6th stages either. It is most typical of and consistently occurs in the 8th stage.

              The pleasurable sensations can be used for access to the soft Jhanas. These are very powerful Jhanas and are somewhat between the middle of hard and soft Jhana. I call them soft because the mind isn’t completely absorbed, done discursive essay is happening and their may be done phyiscal sensation happening. Again, consistent access to these will quicken Piti development and unification of mind.

              3: Wavelike Piti The next grade is called wavelike because, although each episode usually continues for a fair period of time, the intensity alternately increases and decreases, and so it is wavelike. All of the attendant phenomena – lights, sensations, movements, and sometimes physical pleasure and joyfulness – tend to be much more intense than with the earlier grades. A feeling as though currents of energy are moving between the core and the periphery of the body and along the spine is common in meditation. A combination of pleasant and unpleasant experiences is also not unusual. The severity of the unpleasant experiences can vary depending on the individual. I personally had to suffer through months of agonising pain in this stage as it felt like my entire body was trying to destroy itself. I believe this period was basically the same as the Dukka Nanas but without the psychological aspect. Some people might be lucky and avoid it.

              4th grade: The exhilarating grade, the pleasant aspects come to predominate and the negative stuff hopefully ends. The description as showering that is sometimes used to describe this grade reflects the often sudden spreading of intense sensation throughout the body. Wavelike manifestations are characteristic of the 8th stage but may occur as rare events even as early as the 4th stage of the practice in some individuals. Hard Jhanas can be consistently accessed now if the light Nimitta develops.

              The exhilarating grade involves particularly intense and sustained experiences. Pleasurable sensations and strong feelings of joy are intermittently present. Sensations that feel as though there is electricity or currents of energy moving through the body are common, and the whole body may be experienced as being a field of very fine, rapid vibrations. Ordinary bodily tactile, temperature and pain sensations are usually absent. It often seems as though the body is light and floating weightlessly in mid- air. Distorted perceptions of body position and location are typical, as are uncontrolled bodily movements such as twitches of the face or extremities and/or back and forth swaying movements of the trunk. The illumination phenomenon can be particularly intense as a part of this. The exhilarating grade of incomplete piti finally culminates in the complete development of the pervading grade.

              This is where I personally think I am now.

              5: Pervading grade. The intensity of the previous stages dies down. This marks the full maturation of phyiscal pliancy and joy. Energy now runs smoothly through the body. This marks the end of stage 8 in Culadasa’s system and entry into stage 9. Hard Jhanas should be pretty accessible from here if enough time is given for Piti to develop.

              Some people can go through the grades quickly without noticing much and other people like myself go through months of access. Unfortunately the only way through is to keep going with equanimity and mindfulness.

              • Mayath says:

                Hopefully the above post has cleared up why hard Jhanas aren’t as easily accessed. It depends on Piti and attention control. The only way you can provoke Piti development and unification of mind is through mindfulness and concentration.

                Here are my thoughts on the Dukka Nanas and Piti development. In short, someone practising Samatha correctly may undergo something phyiscally similiar to the Dukka Nanas but without the traumatic psychological aspect. Illuminatus as mentioned before how he believes his kundalini experience, and his concentration and insight experience all lead to the same place of development. I believe he’s right and the the progress of insight describes one way of developing energy and the mind, while the ten stage model describes another way to develop energy and mind but with both ending up in the same place and emphasising different things. However path of spritual or psychological development worth its teeth as a dark night of the soul stage. Thelema has the Abyss for example. Everyone thinks it’s the purification stages in Culadasa’s system but the real intense stuff is the mid to late grades of piti(3 and 4 particularly). There’s something about energy development that causes a lot of phyiscal and mental suffering. I have no idea why this and perhaps Illuminatus can comment on what he thinks. It defintely has something to do with the brain rewiring itself and the mind changing.

                Anyway, The big difference, however, is that samatha/vipassana is a completely different paradigm of practice, compared with noting, in that you experience things through the lens of pleasure, joy and no-self. You’ve also worked through you “stuff” and purified yourself hopefully of any of your major psychological problems in stage 4′ 6 and 7. If you haven’t by stage 8′ don’t worry you’ll defintely be forced to do so then. “Your stuff” has to be worked on in Samatha practice or you simply don’t progress as it becomes a roadblock to absorption. It will simply demand to be attended to eventually.

                The ability to develop joy, tranquility and equanimity, and not experience the Dark Night depends on how much insight you have into no-self, how much you can genuinely accept and surrender to your present moment experience and how much mindfulness you’ve cultivated.

                From what I can gather about the progress of insight dark night, the meditator’s task is to come to a place of genuine acceptance of their present moment experience, no matter how uncomfortable or unwanted it might be. To fully surrender to and embrace all the discordant, difficult physical sensations and to bring a real curiosity and openness to any mental imagery or emotional states that arise. After all, these are the knowledges of suffering. They show you that it’s your own craving for things to be different than they are that is the cause of your suffering. Without craving, the Dukka Nanas are like anything else, just sensations.

                It seems to me that stage 8 and hard Piti development experiences offer the same lessons as the Dukka Nanas do. Just as the dry notes as to surrender, in Stage 8, the Samatha meditator needs to fully surrender to allow unification of mind to occur, despite the intensity of the piti that may be arising and how painful it is.

                Just as a meditator can get “stuck” in the dark night, if they identify with the psychological content that arises and enact aversion towards it and their physical discomfort, a meditator can also get “stuck” in Stage 8 by not being able to let go of the need to be in control, or by getting attached to the intense pleasure that can arise during that stage. Aversion, agitation due to worry and remorse can all stall someone’s progress. To overcome these hindrances the meditator should practice developing mindfulness with clear comprehension in which they can metacognate any unconscious intentions. With metacognition they can locate the unconscious intentions that are hurting them, that have aversion and craving and agitation in them. Being mindful of them. Changes them over time. They should also practice loving kindness to help overcome these deeply negative intentions.

                You really need to develop equanimity and non-attachment. Of course non-attachment is easier when your not dying from phyiscal pain. So if you can cultivate whatever Jhanas you can and surrender to them.

                Both the dukkha nanas and Stage 8 are pointing at the same need for acceptance, surrender and non-craving.

                In the noting technique, the meditator is taught to vigorously dissect and ‘penetrate’ every sensation and mental object that arises, including manifestations of joy and pleasure. The idea is to see them all as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. It’s my guess that impermanence and unsatisfactory news , by far, the easiest of the three characteristics to notice because normal people notice them.The problem in the progress of insight is that the meditator gets really good at seeing everything as impermanent, and therefore unsatisfactory. When this kind of intense deconstruction of momentary experience is brought to the sensations and mental activities that make up one’s sense of self, the result can be very disturbing for some people, especially if they have also deconstructed any joy or pleasure that arises during their practice, and even more so if they have not yet had sufficient insight into no-self. Culadasa’s 10 Stage System seems to work the other way around: you get a much deeper insight into no-self before you really get into a deep investigation of impermanence and unsatisfactoriness. What I noticed with this approach is that, by Stage 6, because of the broad context provided by metacognitive introspective awareness, there is a significant attenuation of a sense of being a separate self. Then Stage 7 brings a wondrous effortlessness of attentional stability, which further underscores the lack of a “self that is the one who is paying attention”. It becomes clear the self is just a construct hanging in the middle of the mind and that the mind is just a bunch of different systems that sometimes work together and sometimes don’t. Personality and everything else you’d think would be effected by this stay pretty much the same there’s just this awareness that clinging and craving happens because of the self’s melodramas. Not to say you won’t still get involved in that stuff, you probably will but you can see through it way easier. There is also a way out of suffering now if you focus on that no-self and get over yourself a bit.

                Energy development continues on until stage 8 and has many of the phyiscal symptoms as the Dukka Nanas but lacks much of the psychological torture of them stages even if they are pretty phyiscal arduous and intense. Your also not cut off from joy or happiness despite being sore or nauseated.

                So really, all this stuff is about energy(whatever that is) completing a full circuit through the mind and body.

  5. Kautilya says:

    Hello – took a bit longer for me to give feedback as when I read the post again some other toughts came to mind. I’m going to give them as a set of ‘accusations’ or ‘contradictions’ – because I know the are not and you knos what your talking about.

    1) The mental breath is a very good concept and it feels like your talking about prana or chi. a few things about it however:

    – You are saying this can be anywhere in the body? heart, spine, knee etc. and watching the wave

    – You mentioned an ‘energy wash’ moving from nose to head

    – You encourage visualisation of it

    That sounds to me like some great meditation e.g. ‘green fog’ of high energy washing your whole being (relaxing, healing, purifying you) and the point of any meditation is to be immersed in it.

    To me however whatever I’ve learnt – a lot from yourself – how is this concentration meditation? observing and visualising an entire wave, and even following it all the way into your head (great tip by the way about the space that gets created that diminishes the ‘fuzz’ that dissatisfaction and thoughts emerge from)….. essentially this seems to kinda cntradict that one things you said distingushied concentration meditation from pure midnfulness – one-pointedness.

    2) I completely get the ‘nursing’ – is this an attitude – like how Culdasa says in TMI to really look for the joy? crading the breath, loving and welcoming it.

    3) The smile has been suggested to me before for other meditations.

    – Is this an attempt to cultivate joy therefore piti as a first factor?
    – Is the smile itself – and holsitically the energy and feelings around it now merged with the breath as the new object of meditation?
    – My face starts to shake when I force a smile – but I feel something in my heart are and belly. Is this an indication that you have abandoned the nose and breath around it as the pre-eminent object for concentration meditation?

    Right now I’m doing longer sits but incorporating focus on the various parts of the breath cycle, my emotional feelings of joy and power from Plant Medicine, sound of the breath – bit much sometimes especially when I’m trying to still be at the nostrils and not ‘travel with the breath’.

    So this advocation of really loosening the reigns on a tight focus from someone like yourself has me a bit at a crossroad.

    Thank you!

    • Illuminatus says:

      1) The actual meaning of “one-pointedness” is that your mind is unified and all attention is pointed toward the object (whatever it is). So there is no verbal thought or distraction whatsoever — you are only aware of the object. I used it in the last article in a hack kind of way to introduce you to the idea by giving you a LITERAL “one point” (the bridge of the nose) to point your attention at. Perhaps that was a mistake, but it’s done now.

      But you can have the “breath” as a stable flowing object appearing to exist in the mind in its own right, and by one-pointed towards it — in fact you need to be rather one-pointed to even create it that way since it requires a lot of attention to manifest such a stable object.

      I feel another reason you are thinking that the post above, working with objects, is not “concentration meditation” is that you are conflating “concentration” with “staring at a single point”. That is an unfortunate result of the translation “concentration”. A better one is “absorption” but I am using the term most commonly used currently. The style of attention in this meditation is rather different from what you think of when you think of ordinary everyday “concentration” (= staring). This is unfortunately a major problem many new meditators get stuck on and I wish that translation had never been used.

      2) If you can build the jhana factors (pleasure, bliss) into the object from the outset then jhana is easier to achieve. That’s why these metaphors are excellent.

      3) Yes the smile will cultivate piti, which is why I believe new meditators will find it an easier object to work with than the breath (which is very neutral).

      “– Is the smile itself – and holsitically the energy and feelings around it now merged with the breath as the new object of meditation?”

      Yes. The breath tends to infuse any object and bring it to life.

      “– My face starts to shake when I force a smile – but I feel something in my heart are and belly. Is this an indication that you have abandoned the nose and breath around it as the pre-eminent object for concentration meditation?”

      In a way this shows you are cracking through tension in the face, which is a good thing, because you are conditioning the nerves and muscles to accept joyful emotions (where clearly there is resistance, currently). This is a fairly typical response in many people when starting out and will subside over the weeks. The heart/belly activation is actually a good thing, probably vagus nerve activation. That will become cool bodily bliss in time. The movement of attention away from the smile nerves should be treated as a mild distraction; just bring attention smoothly back to the face and creating the “smile as a thing in itself”.

      Mayath, do you have any thoughts on these points?

      • Mayath says:

        Perhaps people are confused because they believe they have to limit their attention to one spot or object like they are always told to do in concentration meditation? It’s true that you have to do this until stage 7 when piti starts developing but once piti starts developing, it can be taken as an object and as long as exclusive attention is kept on it, it should hopefully flourish into the soft Jhanas.

        The breath should be seen as a key in the soft jhanas. You keep twisting the key until the door opens(piti) and then you walk into the house (jhanas). You don’t keep twisting the key when you’re in the house. Instead hold it in your hand and enjoy your surroundings.

        1) The mental breath is a very good concept and it feels like your talking about prana or chi. a few things about it however:

        – You are saying this can be anywhere in the body? heart, spine, knee etc. and watching the wave

        – You mentioned an ‘energy wash’ moving from nose to head

        – You encourage visualisation of it

        “That sounds to me like some great meditation e.g. ‘green fog’ of high energy washing your whole being (relaxing, healing, purifying you) and the point of any meditation is to be immersed in it.

        To me however whatever I’ve learnt – a lot from yourself – how is this concentration meditation? observing and visualising an entire wave, and even following it all the way into your head (great tip by the way about the space that gets created that diminishes the ‘fuzz’ that dissatisfaction and thoughts emerge from)….. essentially this seems to kinda cntradict that one things you said distingushied concentration meditation from pure midnfulness – one-pointedness”.
        We don’t need to make this more complicated than it needs to be :).

        Smile, imagine the breath coming in and out of your smile and enjoy. The visualization stuff is just an aid. Don’t worry about concentration. Just sit and enjoy breathing. Know the breath coming in and out at the smile. It’s really, really simple. Hold the breath with the right grasp, like if you were holding a soft jelly in your hand that you don’t want to squish but don’t want to slide out of your hand. Tap into the side of yourself that knows. Know your breathing. If you know you’re breathing eventually it will take on a “mental” quality which you can switch to over from the physical aspects of breathing. Visualizations are just a tool to click into the mental quality of the breath. Know that mental breath and what it’s doing. Eventually this will become really enjoyable and you’ll notice how fun this is. You’ll want to pay attention. The mental breath can appear anywhere in the body, just know it and know the smile. Because it’s mental and not really real, it can be found anywhere in you’re body. Go exploring. Jhana will either happen or it won’t depending on your’re stage of development, the grade of piti in your mind/body and you can tap into that and hit Jhana.

        2) I completely get the ‘nursing’ – is this an attitude – like how Culdasa says in TMI to really look for the joy? crading the breath, loving and welcoming it.

        Yes, this is exactly it. Smile and enjoy. Get interested in the breath. Know it. Have fun.

        3) The smile has been suggested to me before for other meditations.

        – Is this an attempt to cultivate joy therefore piti as a first factor?
        – Is the smile itself – and holsitically the energy and feelings around it now merged with the breath as the new object of meditation?

        Breathing can become very pleasurable. The smile can become merged with the breath and it can be it’s own point where piti can be accessed. Both can be used for Jhana. Play around with it and see what happens. Don’t worry about the theory. Do you’re own thing, see what works for you and make you’re own theory.

        – My face starts to shake when I force a smile – but I feel something in my heart are and belly. Is this an indication that you have abandoned the nose and breath around it as the pre-eminent object for concentration meditation?

        Could be a sign of early piti or it could be nothing. I like Illuminatus’ response. Their is no “pre-eminent” object for concentration meditation. There’s what works for you. I personally play around with whatever I feel like on the day. Sometimes I ‘ll focus on the nostrils, sometimes I’ll focus on the smile and sometimes I’ll try to keep phyiscal sensations of breathing to a minimum. I really find “knowing” the breath really useful at the moment. After a while it doesn’t really matter, which will happen around stage 8 in Culadasa’s system.. But for beginners, focus on what is easiest to focus on and what is most fun/interesting.

        “Loosening the reins of focus”.

        This really depends on where someone is in their development. You seem familiar with Culadasa’s stages. Where would you locate yourself? If you’re below stage 7, you shouldn’t be loosening your focus but maintaining it strongly and following his instructions for where you’re at. Nobody should be trying to hit jhana below stage 7.

        I tried to do it myself and it never really worked out and just made me frustrated. Work on where you actually are and not where you want to be. Guides like this will still be here when you get back. Patience is the fastest way in meditation.

        Side note:
        Meditation isn’t a set of rules or a lab formula. People need to start thinking of it like art. You are creating and imagining. You need to play around and make mistakes. See what works and doesn’t work. Take a creative and playful attitude towards your object. This is a creative act, rather a prescriptive one.

  6. James says:

    I think ultimately what you are talking about is samyama?

  7. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Illuminatus! Do you have any knowledge of healing via laying on of hands or similar?

    Any ideas as to how one should get started?

    • Illuminatus says:

      Yes. It is a projection of intention through the hands. You think-feel what you want to achieve while imagining it passing through the hands as a kind of thick energy which can press into the other person.

      If, while on LSD, you press your fingertip into a wall, the spot that you are pressing on apparently becomes pliant (it sinks in a little bit) and coloured light ripples around where you are pressing, revealing that the supposedly hard surface is just another projection of the hologram. This is the kind of understanding you should have while working magick on people through the hands — that they are pliant, and are just another part of “you”, the source of all this. I use this for massage, and also to make women orgasm. You can pass the same energy-intention force through your penis to make yourself an amazing lover. The thought you should have while doing any of this is, “what you are doing to them you are doing to yourself”. You should intentionally experience the emotions you wish to convey to the other person while doing either activity.

      I only came across an explanation of how this works recently while reading Liber Null & Psychonaut, which says that you are actually projecting your “double” (astral body) into the surface of the other person, and that your double can carry your intentions strongly. (He then gives instructions on how to extract your double and have it do your bidding — the book is pretty wacky, and I will be reviewing once I’m done reading it.) I’m not sure I agree with that explanation, as I prefer the nondual explanation I just said, which is that by working on the other person you are working on yourself and that that should be borne in mind while doing so.

  8. Kautilya says:

    Thanks all you guys,

    Illuminatus you really cleared a lot of shit up for me. The Yuki Mayath interaction was very good too!

    Overall this post and its mow subsequent comments are an excellent read!

    I am going to a short retreat this weekend, and am trying to sit longer. I’m actually experiencing a lot of ‘fear’ for lack of a better term when considering sits over 45 mins. Any advice?

    Right now I’m trying to cultivate a soft whole body jhana – with the whole body-breath as the object.

    Still need to handle the ‘fuzz’ and wierd shit in the background – any advice once again will be much appreciated!

    The thought however that just a few months ago I forgot the breath, mind wandered, day dreamed very regularly – that doesnt happen much now and I’m so grateful for it.

    Thanks

    • Monk Bro says:

      For removal of distracting shit:

      Explore it with gentleness and ask yourself matter of factly what’s going on. When you have a hum of what’s happening and why (investigate using thought why there’s fear) simply try your best to use one of the five methods described in this sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel021.html

      Hey guys, this is my first post. I’ve been practicing pretty much exclusively Thai Forest Tradition Buddhism (early, basic “untouched” teachings of the Buddha) and I will ordain to be able to do this stuff full time. Hope you guys can appreciate a strictly buddhist perspective on some things :).

      • Illuminatus says:

        You are appreciated and welcomed. 🙂

        I will in fact be splitting the site into two “schools”, Buddhism and Yoga, which is an idea I had while writing this post: http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/sadhgurus-kriya-meditation/#comment-85199

        Seems like I’m finally getting some direction now!

        • Monk Bro says:

          I’m really fascinated by your blog, mainly because of how interesting it is while still teaching people some of the most important things you can learn. If you want some help with anything I’ll be glad to write some little bit on some topic or something, just let me know. I want to write down what I’ve learnt on the internet, if I can influence you at the same time then maybe you’ll make sure it’s passed on to a large community hehe ;). I just don’t wanna waste my time while still being of use. I tend to be too full of myself to ask anyone for advice, unfortunately. But I’m happy to share what I have.

          Good luck on splitting the site!

          One thing that I would like to suggest is that it’s a misunderstanding that the Buddhas teachings aren’t complete in themselves. Everything you need to know about getting out of suffering is in there. The problem is that we don’t have enough western teachers that can explain it well. Those who can explain it the best are ofcourse the arahants, and the only one I know of is Ajahn Brahm, and he is very popular. Both because he’s charismatic and because he’s actually fully enlightened. But I’ve realised that even though Jahan Brahm is an arahant, he’s still not that good at explaining things on a technical level that is satisfactory to young men, like those reading this blog. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that the potential for a very, very effective path to enlightenment, or just less suffering, is there in the teachings, it just hasn’t been explained yet in a way that is very attractive or alluring. So because it’s not alluring people don’t take the time to explore it. I have though and I can say it’s really subtle but it’s very much complete.

          • Monk Bro says:

            Hmm, so I really shouldn’t be writing comments right before bed. I wanted to add that there’s a lot to say on this, I’m only bringing up an idea I’ve seen been unchallanged (maybe? I think so) so just putting that out there as another voice in the room or whatever.

      • Mayath says:

        Are you on this forum: https://www.reddit.com/r/genuinemeditation/

        It’s a secret subforum that is very traditional on it’s outlook on buddhism and meditation. I think a lot of people here will find the information on this site very good. I have a lot of time for the Thai Forest tradition.

        A useful technique that I’m using at the moment is “releasing” distracting/painful shit is the 6rs technique: http://www.dhammasukha.org/the-6rs.html

        I “release” any tension caused by craving in the body if I sense it. I find that craving(and every mental thing actually) has a phyiscal counterpart. I just release and relax that tension. It’s very useful in the real world too.

        A lot of modern buddhism seems to teach equanimity which is just code for putting up with shit. Most of the advice in the past few months has been to put up with pains. I am really sick of that advice because while it is helpful it doesn’t “purify” you like people like Shinzen Young says it does. It just makes you resilient or if your like me fed up. Releasing and letting go of tensions is more useful I find.

        • Kautilya says:

          By ‘Equinaminty’ do you mean the attitude and ability in general or even it being the defining factor in the 4th Jhana?

          • Mayath says:

            I’m talking about maintaining that attitude in daily life. It’s actually a good attitude to have but you need joy as well. Teachers who don’t teach joy tend to emphasize equanimity, which to me seems to be just putting up with stuff if cultivating joy isn’t taught. There teaching resilience instead of happiness.

            Equanimity in 4th Jhana is beautiful. It makes everything okay. Everything is peace, calm and still regardless of sensations arising. It’s different from forcing equanimity in daily life. When it arises as part of correct practice and Jhana, there is a natural sense of everything is okay, everything is perfect as it is. It’s less a cognitive thing but a feeling. Equanimity arises naturally when you’ve become so steeped in joy that you can abandon it because everything has a pleasantness.

            But it’s something that arises after you’ve tasted bliss. When bliss isn’t there, it’s good to still have an attitude of equanimity because it’s impossible to be super happy all the time. But equanimity should just be the first step. You should be able to locate the tension caused by craving and relax into and release it. Let it go. You can’t just put up with things. You have to let them go too. I don’t think the second part of letting go is emphasized enough.

            I’m not sure if I’m being clear? Or contradicting myself?

            • Kautilya says:

              Yes you are…I get its a difficult concept because Equinamity In Jhana has a superior quality and what came before consists of joy also.

              Also as part of letting go – does Jhana sort of purify the mind and these pains and distractions.

              Are you saying for example with Martial Arts:

              Yes, conditioning (equinamity) is essential. A body like iron able to withstand anything.

              But this shouldnt negate the first principle of flowing with the fight, ‘enjoying’ performing the actions and not taking more blows than necessary?

              My new method is going to be 20 mins alternate nostril breathing followed by 40 mins concentration meditation at the tip of the nose (sessions mostly vary between Stage 4-6 TMI)

              p.s. I went to a Ceremony a few days ago. An ex-Buddhist nun was there and I asked her about Jhana etc. she spent a few years there and I asked why Jhana isn’t mentioned much. Her advice was to take DMT and thats a ‘good way’ to get Jhana.

              That otherwise it will take years at least to attain jhana without psychdelic help.

              Hmm…she did seem a bit cracked but 2 years in a monastary with others monks. It does kinda dishearten me when hearing that.

              • Mayath says:

                Yeah, that martial arts metaphor is perfect. Sorry I wasn’t clear. I was basically complaining in my first post that trying to be equanimous for the past few months didn’t really help anything. It just made me put up with pain. I think “letting go” is a better way to deal with negative stuff. I might change my mind next week. I just say whatever old shit comes into my head and I could have a completely different view tomorrow.

                Depends on what type of Jhana she’s talking about. Monks and nuns seems to have various levels of criteria for it. Some say it’s easy to access, some say it’s not. All I know is I’ve had alternate states of consciousness that have been amazing and I’ve only been doing this stuff for a year.

                I’m sure psychedelics would help. I’ve never taken DMT so don’t know how it compares to Jhana. I would imagine it would have more in common with the 5th-8th Jhana than the lower jhanas. It’s not my area.

        • Monk Bro says:

          I don’t really frequent forums. Sometimes I post on r/buddhism when I’m feeling really compassionate (you’re barely helping anyone, usually not worth the effort of writing comments, I don’t do more than an hour at a time or my mind gets scattered) Right now I’m tired so my writing is sloppy. But I still wanted to answer you so here goes.

          I find it funny how westerners emphasise techniques so much. They are helpful but only under certain conditions. What I hear being emphasised by thai forest masters is clear comprehension and then to respond to what you comprehended in a skillful way. Every moment there’s something being percieved and ones technique has to adapt to be able to keep up with what’s being experienced. There is no one true tech that you just have to master and everything will be alright. The Buddha says “calm the mind” for instance in the Satipatthana sutta. You do whatever you need to do to calm the mind, whatever that means. Any tech that calms the mind goes under “calm the mind”. The reason he didn’t explain techs was because he realised that each individual has different karma and what not and explaining a technique to narrow would exclude some people who couldn’t relate to “focusing at the tip of the nose” and “shooting space aliens”.

          Every time is stop being creative and curious about what’s happening I find my progress halting. Using thought creatively should be a tech if anything. Westerners are so used to clicking on a button and being entertained for 2 hours without having to be creative at all. We lose the magic called interaction. You don’t just “do” meditation. You play around with what you’ve got and make something good out of nothing. Over and over again, you make something good. The mind is aloooooooot harder to get a grasp on than people think. Monks that have been sincerely meditating for 40 years still have stupid shit come up that makes them suffer, like jealosy, fear, pride and stuff. Dukkha goes deep. Contentment is a refuge. What are you gonna do besides this? There is only this, now how are you going to respond? You can’t keep changing technique just because you’re not getting any peace. Just look at what’s in front of you and ask how you should respond.

          I hear what you say on equanimity, it’s not a choice, you can’t will equanimity. What teachers should be saying is Patient Endurance or Peaceful Co-existence or Patient Approval. Those are synonyms. The Buddha said this is the most important faculty. That’s because it’s the last resort. You’re not really doing anything but you’re not giving up atleast. That’s what I do when I’m all out of “mind power” or energy, I can’t do anything with my mind so there’s no other option. Like today at work. I usually try to get some concentration on what I’m doing but today I just couldn’t so instead of fantasising about past and future, likes and dislikes, this person and that one (making shit karma) I just patiantly endured the suffering that was present (suffering(they were playing two loud radiostations at the same time) leads to lust ie. Fantasising etc.) So to stop any bad karma being made I just endured. Then I feel great afterwards because I just endured it instead of feeling sorry for my self etc.. I felt very, very happy just knowing that I could still develop very wholesome and useful qualities even in such an enviroment. Patient endurance is a blessing.

          I really am in no position to teach but when extracting what I’m thinking it may sound like I’m a teacher. Probably because I’ve listened to a shitton of dhamma talks, probably around 200-300 by Ajahn Brahm alone. I’ve listened to Brahm on LSD quite a few times too, it’s SO much fun hearing an arahant while on lsd. It’s like you see that they know they don’t exist and it’s really, really, really beautiful, touches my heart. I recommend listing to this talk, on lsd or not: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17382982/Ajahn%20Brahmavamso/Talks%20given%20to%20Monks%2C%20Nuns%20and%20Anagarikas/04%20-%20Nibbida%20and%20the%20Khandhas_27%20-%2001%20-%202010.mp3

          Sorry if this is hard to read.

          • Mayath says:

            This is great, thank you. I also don’t think the creative aspects of meditation are talked about enough. It’s more art than science.

            Do you have any thoughts on the Jhanas? There’s a lot of debate about hard vs soft Jhanas and how long it takes to achieve them?

            • Monk Bro says:

              Honestly, no, I don’t think about them much at all anymore. I focus more on developement than results. But I could drop a few ideas on it.

              First of all I’m really impressed by anyone capable of achieving the Jhanas described by the Buddha (hard jhanas i guess?) as a lay person. That’s fricking cool. I don’t know how reliably one can train oneself to achieve hard jhanas. It depends on merit, kamma. Yeah, I really don’t know how helpful it is for people in general to practice with the hopes of achieving hard jhanas and keeping them. Hard jhanas requieres a very still mind, that’s impossible to achieve for some (most?) people just through watching the sensation at the nostrils for 30 minutes a day. Or hours a day. For most people I think it’ll require more effort and commitment. Not that 30 minutes of nostril watching a day won’t make your life like 3x more enjoyable but it doesn’t touch all the areas requieres for a stable foundation to build upon. I suppose it depends on peoples merit. I think everyone should go for Jhanas with all their might but if their progress is stopping they should look for another area to work on. For example, my meditation and life experience in general has gotten way more joyful, light and easygoing after I started really doing Right Speech. I feel like I bless every person I interact with. I give it all my attention every time I’m with someone. Cracking jokes and having a good time is definitely in right speech, the Buddha condemned those who stayed silent and only spoke of what was necessary.

              Anyway. I think the hard jhanas are way way more useful for the arising of insight. That being said, what do you do with that information? The only thing to do is to cultivate what’s helpful the best one can and hope the Jhanas come.

              I can’t reliably enter Jhanas. I have so little experience with them I can’t really detirmine if I’ve accesed them or if it was just heroin like piti, it’s very hard to say. Soft jhanas though, whatever that means :p. I can reliably generate piti and energy that fuels me for the day. I would say it’s a state profound to non-meditators, so I guess a soft jhana? See this is what I mean haha.

              I think what I would like them to be called instead of soft and hard jhanas would be the following: If you only care about getting enlightenment then go with buddhist terminology and don’t call anything but what matches the buddhist description of a jhana a jhana. Everything else is just meditation, deep meditation, meditation with lots of joy, equanimity, silence of mind, energy. You can get in to really nice states without it being jhana. Why do you have to call it jhana? Just say “I had lots and lots of happiness in my meditation yesterday” or something. You can call it samadhi. Fucking words, they’re quite useless if they don’t mean the same thing to the listener as the speaker. Best thing to do in those cases is to avoid words that could be misunderstood all together.

              But if people get more motivated by words such as soft jhana (that sounds nicer than hard jhana btw haha) then I guess we should use soft jhana/hard jhana. But really the word Jhana is just a word for a bunch of factors together at one time. You could just list all the jhana factors instead of saying first, second and so on jhana. So you might aswell list the factors of the soft jhana instead of saying soft jhana. But aslong as everyone understand each other and is helped by the words used then the purpose of words has been fulfilled and nothing can be said have been wrong in the use of words, if everyone involved benefitted from them.

              • Interesting post,

                I am one of those lay persons who can enter the so called “hard jhana” but I just call it jhana since I don’t agree with the so called “soft jhana” and “full body jhana”.
                I have posted on my blog why this happens, in a nutshell it happens because there is still body awareness left.

                I really disagree that entering jhana is very hard for a lay person, I think it really depends on the attitude you bring when feeling the breath, and how strict your focus is.

                controlling the breath in my opinion is the way to go, slowly inhale and exhale and feel the sensations at the nostrils or bridge of the nose.

                PS: I am Yuki, I started to hate that name 😛

                • Mayath says:

                  Oh what’s your blog? I wouldn’t mind having a read.

                  Have you noticed any increase in creativity or intelligence btw since you seem to have a really good practice? Or the development of Siddhis?

                  • James says:

                    you can click on his username and it will take you to his blog.

                  • I haven’t noticed increase in intelligence… I am much more creative after I exit jhana but nothing that I feel like worth mentioning. however the bliss effects can follow me for days even when I don’t practice. usually in the past if I had negative feelings in me it would linger around me for a long time and no happiness or joy would shine towards me… now when negative feelings come to me, very fast my mind tunes in towards happy feelings and overwrite the negative ones.
                    I feel like smiling most of the time to myself and people around me, it’s a good feeling

                    I don’t know too much about siddhis and other insight terms… right now I am not that interested in them, I would like to become enlightened though XD but I am more following ajahm brahm’s way, he doesn’t really present some insight technique, more like get into jhana, exit jhana, go out there and experience life… not thinking stuff like “what’s the meaning of life”… in the past I have practiced the noting technique as presented on dharmaoverground, there were some interesting experiences including some blissful effects, nothing much… but practicing noting was so boring!!

                    • Aldous says:

                      Noting the dharmaoverground way is dull as shit! One of the things I dislike about Buddhist thought is the whole ‘just sit there and accept it’ thing. What’s wrong with getting blissful then getting busy? I’ve had Arjahn Brahms Jhana book suiting on my shelf for over a year (my library is way to big, leading to a bit of paralysis by analysis) but you’ve just made me want to dig it out once I’m back home.

                    • That’s why I am attracted to Ajahn Brahm’s teachings, he thinks very highly of the jhanas. also he makes everything sound so simple and fun.

                      I would definitely follow Ajahn Brahm, I would also go with his method of breathing by knowing that you are breathing in and out (it’s important though that you don’t follow the breath on physical body parts like the abdomen)

                      I can get nimittas this way, I have a harder time to get absorbed because the excitement factor is in the way, when I follow breath sensations the excitement factor isn’t there… I still am trying his way though.
                      Another reason is that meditating on the breath at the nostrils is a recipe to headache and also puts more tension, I find it less comfortable than ajahn brahm’s way, that’s why I want to convert to just knowing the breath and ditch the sensations at the nostrils.

                    • BabaFella says:

                      In your opinion, why do other meditators mention that their intelligence en abilities increase after jhana. is it related to the technique, or are they just fooling themselves.? Or is it more a matter of not jhana on its own that makes you smarter but the afterglow that makes it easier to practive what you want to improve?

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      “In your opinion, why do other meditators mention that their intelligence en abilities increase after jhana. is it related to the technique, or are they just fooling themselves.? Or is it more a matter of not jhana on its own that makes you smarter but the afterglow that makes it easier to practive what you want to improve?”

                      If you are locked into the survival circuit (which MASSIVELY suppresses the higher brains) and jhana suddenly releases you from that then your intelligence will shoot right up relative to your prior state because you now have the neocortex to play with free of that suppression.

                      This is especially true of the creative arts. If you are stuck for ideas musically for example you can enter jhana and have the universe sing to you, and pluck the melody line from the heavens. I have literally heard music and had tears in my eyes, before.

                      And, you are generally more effective at certain tasks if you are joyful.

                      Are these the sorts of intelligence increases able to be measured on an IQ test? It might help a bit but generally not, I would say. That’s because an IQ test is designed to measure a very specific kind of mechanical, linear thought (and those types of thought are actually directly linked to survival, e.g. visuospatial and inferences).

                      There are far more types of intelligence. E.g. your ability to read people and social situations can go up if you practise meditation often to the point of being functionally psychic or apparently receiving information from beyond normal means.

                      Another way to use jhana is that if you have a problem you can set a formal intention to have it solved then forget about it, enter jhana, exit it and some time later the answer will just present itself. That is certainly an increase in intelligence in my view!

                      You can also set intentions to become more skilful at something and your mind will organize around that idea and help you when you come to practise it.

                      So, plenty to be done with jhana (and even basic mindfulness meditation where jhana is not attained will help all those things quite a bit).

                    • BabaFella says:

                      That is also how I assumed it would be. I can’t reach jhana because I assume I am still not skilled enough, but I am quite a driven person and the skill set that I have now with regards to meditation has helped me a lot with organising my life. It has basically thought me the relation, to put it in The Mind Illuminated terms, of the conscious and the unconscious mind and how mindfulness can slowly train the unconscious mind to more effectively do the things the conscious minds wants it to do. So I can imagine that jhana makes intentions stronger and makes you able to prime your brain to react in certain ways much faster.

                      I am studying to become a translator/interpreter and I really am curious how I can make this work, if or when I can get jhana anyway :/

                      For example, when learning a new language, making your consciousness more responsive to linguistic cues, or during or after jhana, visualising grammar rules of your target language in order to make the language structure more apparent in your head, which then allows for faster language usage and comprehension which makes you a better language user overall. So basically putting positive feedback loops in your mind which just allow for better and more efficient learning.

                      These are things that I assume things that shouldn’t be a problem with jhana, and what I basically consider to be the definition of getting smarter. I mean these are things you can basically learn without jhana too, albeit a tad slow, it requires a lot of time. Basically I want to speed up the process of learning new skills in life. But I get the impression that a lot of experienced meditators, even those who can attain jhana, never mention how they use their meditative skills to develop skill sets in certain areas of their lives.

                      I remember reading Absolutus’ posts back in the day and he would mention how basically visualizing stuff would make him smarter, but a lot of meditators are so… average… You know what I mean?

                      So it makes me question if I have the wrong idea of meditation, because a lot of meditators don’t seem to be able more efficient in the most basic things out in their lives. Their is just an enormous gap between the likes of Absolutus and other Yogis who claim that jhana gave them the tools to become better in life very efficiently and having extraordinary capabilities and other meditators who keep dwelling in mediocrity and seem to have no clue about the tech that makes live better or straight up deny that meditation makes them smarter. For example, I remember some posts on a forum of a guy who had 2 decades of experience with kundalini yoga, clearly he was very experienced, but when asked if kundalini yoga made him smarter he said no, and said something about, when considering his “logical” mind, the only thing he got better at was thinking deep philosophical thoughts or some shit, and the only thing I could think of was, really that’s it?

                      Anyways I am ranting, I am basically wondering what causes this difference between meditors, and if other people who can also reliably enter jhana could chime in that would be wonderful. I wish I could experience it for myself and find out, but sadly no luck with that yet.

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      @BabaFella:

                      Well, what you have to understand is that jhana changes your views on a lot of things. It is a quick way out of the rat race. So, it is a fair assumption that you want to excel at many things in order to “be the best”. It’s a status game. I don’t know if that’s a correct judgment about you; I’m just basing my guess on 99% of other humans. When you can get jhana, a lot of people recognize all that stuff for what it is (since they can meet their own needs now) and the need for that status just falls away. Some of these changes can literally happen overnight.

                      A couple of other perspectives. I already knew how to get good at things long before meditation and I attribute this to learning piano since age 8. Learning itself is a programme — whereby you learn to apply will to achieve something in a set pattern. So this area was never my major focus when it came to meditation (it was more about the emotional control, initially).

                      On the other hand, these people you talk about who apparently “don’t do anything with jhana” might just not want to. Learning new skills really is not on everyone’s bucket list. Ultimately this is about recognizing that your goals and inclinations might be vastly different to other people’s.

                      Regarding learning new languages, have you tried listening to the musical quality of language? It might add a new dimension besides syntax. Jhana seems to favour or at least strongly activate the right brain hemisphere.

                    • BabaFella says:

                      @Illuminatus

                      thank you for your perspective. I’m definitely asking this because I am part of this rat race, I must admit. University is pretty competitive and there are a lot of fast learners out here, and besides that I have some goals set out for myself in order to excel in academia, so anything that would be give me an edge over others would be nice.

                      It is interesting to think about how people’s idea about life can radically changee when they start hitting absorption states. Because developing spiritually, getting “enlightened” in the traditional sense is also something I really desire. I don’t know, just getting rid of unnecessary suffering basically 🙂 Maybe my interest will shift more towards that.
                      But even now without jhana my life has transformed tremendously, I’m a much more content person.

                      The musical quality of language is def something I pay attention to, but maybe not enough, thanks for reminding.

                • Monk Bro says:

                  Helping the breath become pleasant is very helpful, yeah. I’m glad you’re getting Jhanas, even happier you want enlightenment :p. Why don’t you contemplate the parts that make up the body after finishing your meditation. Set the intention: “I will not stop contemplating until I’ve gone through the whole body” or something then do the contemplation matter of factly, without intentionally trying to be disgusted by it or anything.

                  You could also after exiting jhana listen to this dhamma talk about dispassion for the world by Ajahn Brahm: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17382982/Ajahn%20Brahmavamso/Talks%20given%20to%20Monks%2C%20Nuns%20and%20Anagarikas/04%20-%20Nibbida%20and%20the%20Khandhas_27%20-%2001%20-%202010.mp3

                  Since you like Ajahn Brahm here’s some talks given by him to the sangha in Perth: http://damsara.org/dhamma-talks-in-english/most-ven-ajahn-brahmavamso-maha-thero/dhamma-talks-given-by-most-ven-ajahn-brahm-to-monks-nuns-and-anagarikas/
                  They are super powerful, just listen to the chanting in the beginning. NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO

                  • Thanks for those! yeah listening to ajahn brahm is so refreshing! I watched most of his youtube videos and had more then a few good laughs

                    • “or are they just fooling themselves.?”

                      This is what I had in mind…

                      In my opinion some people feel so incredible good and their confidence levels are so high that they feel their intelligent levels are much more powerful than before, maybe that’s why they mediate in the first place but even if they feel that way it might not be necessary true, it’s just the confidence part tricking them.

                      I am not really seeking jhana to to improve my intelligent, skills or any other abilities, sure it would be nice, but I don’t really care for that.

                      I seek jhana to be blissed out, to have mind blown experiences, to feel happiness and joy most of the time… and ultimately enlightenment.

                      “but the afterglow that makes it easier to practive what you want to improve”

                      This might be true… but after jhana (or even just the nimitta stage) you don’t feel you want to do anything, you feel completely content as you are, you seek more spiritual related stuff, you feel incredible metta radiating from yourself towards your teachers (ajahn brahm, the buddha) you feel thankful for them to the point you want to cry from happiness.

                    • BabaFella says:

                      ok I understand. It seems that it is very related to what your intentions are. it seems that formal intentions can help with using jhana for improving stuff in day to day life and using it as a productivity tool instead of just getting blissed out

        • Monk Bro says:

          Regarding releasing body tension, I have done that aswell. What I found happening after a while was I started trying to relax so much that I got tense elsewhere in the body. It turned into an exercise of will, which is something I always watch out for nowadays. Then I toned it down. I turned that exercice in to more of a recollection: “how is my body feeling?” Gentleness is key.

          It’s funny today at work while listening to a Dhamma talk in my headphones the subject we were discussing came up in the talk. About different states of meditation. Not surprisingly Ajahn Jayasaro says pretty much the same thing as I did, only a lot more in depth. It’s one of the most advanced and interesting talks I’ve heard by any monk. He even says “This is pretty advanced stuff”. Whow!

  9. Mayath says:

    I’m actually experiencing a lot of ‘fear’ for lack of a better term when considering sits over 45 mins. Any advice?

    There’s multiple ways of dealing with this. One way to deal with it is ignore it and think of positive things. Repression is underrated. Another way is to do just do it and fuck it, exposure therapy style. If that doesn’t work check out Illuminatus’s post on beating depression forever is one good way for dealing with negative emotions. Dive right in and see what’s there. Be with the fearful sensations mindfully and with equanimity. They tend to burst. If they don’t burst, you don’t need to change tactics. Do some loving kindness meditation and send it to your fear, along with yourself and everybody else you’re meant to send it to in Metta. Use Culadasa’s mindful review and follow the threads of fear.

    Could you be clearer on the fuzz and weird shit? The clearer you are the more we can pinpoint what’s happening. Try and explain whatever sensations or whatever is happening as clearly as you can. My answer right now will probably be the same as when you tell me though. Let it come, let it be and let it go. That’s the path in it’s entirety. Ignore whatever it is as best as you can. Take a break if it gets too intense and come back to your object when you feel ready. Sounds like you’re making progress and it’s early days piti. You can’t do anything with it yet so just ignore it.

    The method for whole body Jhana’s is different than that for soft Jhanas. You do mean the whole body Jhanas Culadasa talks about in Stage six? For that you need to fill you’re entire attention bandwidth with every sensation of the body you can muster. There’s alot of effort involved and you can get into a type of flow state. It’s an excellent technique for combating dullness, distraction and cultivating exclusive attention. Sounds like you’re making a lot of progress! Keep it! You’ll be surprised. Things start developing pretty quickly from here on in if you practice right :).

  10. Kautilya says:

    Thanks Mayath,

    So your saying ignore or embrace the fear and anxiety around long (1 hour sits) ? – until that is, that I experience flow or some kind of happiness?

    The ‘fuzz’ was something Illuminatus wrote a little while ago concerning the spaciousness in the head. He said where the dissatisfaction and stray thoughts emerge from. Would be great if he could go into detail with that a bit more actually.

    In a sense, like today I was for a bit in a very clear state, for no reason at all I felt quite content feeling the waves of breath in my nostrils to be blunt. I guess this is around subdueing subtle thoughts. Why after a while would Ironman or an image of the Eiffel Tower pop into my head – I’m ok, the meditation is peaceful, I’m grateful then they pop in and though usually they don’t replace my attention for long – its enough for me to then have to ‘breathe strongly and deeply’ like a broom just to eradicate the thoughts like ants keep coming. Right now I’m getting by through by habit, motivation by coming here, techniques and a lot of faith that this will lead me to something I can’t comprehend right now and totally worth it! ……… wish I had something more that really sucked me in though …not gonna lie!

    I think the whole body jhana is ‘softer’ than the soft ones?? Kind of what you mentioned earlier – to prepare me, give me some ‘bliss’ as motivation and to speed up progress.

    I’ve actually made this my main prority kind of in life right now – ahead of power, relationships or business because despite my varied talents and for certain reasons my powerful mind has actually caused more chaos in my life than the benefits it has given me. I feel if I can access inner power, bliss, peace and inspiration – then external ones will follow if supported by right action.

    It has been difficult for someone like me to keep this or any habit up but I really do get motivated by all this. Reading this particular thread today actually got me though my second 45 min sit today which is good. I’ve started practicing Yoga Nidra again simultaneously which I feel will have a powerful impact – considering what I know about the kind of role mindfullness has involved in absorption states.

    Are we a bunch of wierdos talking about this like thousands of others talk about Sports, A.I code, Revolutions, Intelligence Services, Nootropics, Porn etc. etc. etc……or essentially are we the few truly working on that thing which the great ancients talked about – Mastery over the Mind – which is the actual source that spawned these countless other topics in the first place???

    • Illuminatus says:

      “The ‘fuzz’ was something Illuminatus wrote a little while ago concerning the spaciousness in the head. He said where the dissatisfaction and stray thoughts emerge from. Would be great if he could go into detail with that a bit more actually.”

      Not sure what post you are referring to but I’ll say this. The mindfield is an empty spread of potentials. Items bubble up from it, and what appears depends on karma.

      In modern physics they found that even in a perfect vacuum there is “vacuum energy” meaning a particle can just appear from nowhere. When they are studying these things I believe they are finding the “mindfield” of the universe which is common to what you have in your own head (they are just fractal copies of each other — as above, so below).

      “In a sense, like today I was for a bit in a very clear state, for no reason at all I felt quite content feeling the waves of breath in my nostrils to be blunt. I guess this is around subdueing subtle thoughts. Why after a while would Ironman or an image of the Eiffel Tower pop into my head – I’m ok, the meditation is peaceful, I’m grateful then they pop in and though usually they don’t replace my attention for long – its enough for me to then have to ‘breathe strongly and deeply’ like a broom just to eradicate the thoughts like ants keep coming.”

      Just working here at my job, not meditating in a formal sense, I will often get piti on the breath (unexpectedly) and it will often be accompanied by memories — locations, family outings, holidays — often from childhood. These are like little bubbles arising and bursting and fill me with a total sense of wonder at a life well lived (despite not feeling that way most of the time, yet, though this is becoming a far more common feeling recently). It is quite wonderful.

      For sensation arising in the moment there are matching karmic imprints, whether they be some memory or just random thoughts. You can consider it as just being part of associative memory in a traditional psychological sense. As for what to do during meditation, for concentration you can just pull your attention away, back to the breath. Breathing hard, as you are doing, might work, but you want to train the act of actually moving attention away from distractions gently and smoothly rather than creating a “bigger object” via deep breaths, because you will need to learn to make attention pliant in that way. Ultimately this will develop through practice anyway. 🙂

      “Are we a bunch of wierdos talking about this like thousands of others talk about Sports, A.I code, Revolutions, Intelligence Services, Nootropics, Porn etc. etc. etc……or essentially are we the few truly working on that thing which the great ancients talked about – Mastery over the Mind – which is the actual source that spawned these countless other topics in the first place???”

      We are enacting the solution to the problem that the intellect has cast over our existence. This is something wonderful we are doing.

    • Mayath says:

      “So your saying ignore or embrace the fear and anxiety around long (1 hour sits) ? – until that is, that I experience flow or some kind of happiness?”

      Sorry if I’m not clear. I need an edit button so I can go back to some of these posts :p. I gave you multiple options because you can tackle negative sensations in a couple of difference ways. I’m not you so I don’t know which will work best for you at this moment. Keep this in mind. Shinzen young puts it perfectly: Suffering= pain multiplied by resistance. If you don’t resist, you’ll still have the pain but it won’t bother you so much. If the fear isn’t that intense, I would personally ignore it but it fits a big deal, embrace it and sit with and see what happens and if it has something to tell you. Releasing any type of negative sensation tend to release some positive emotion. Not always now, but it’s happened to me a lot. Cultivating happiness and joy is always a good thing and I would encourage that. Happiness begets more joy which will make you progress quicker..

      If your having subtle thoughts I would do the whole body with the breath practise and aim for the whole body Jhanas. You won’t be able to have subtle thoughts because you’ll be focusing so hard. Do that for a month and try and go through all four whole body Jhanas. Once you’ve mastered the fourth whole body Jhana and subtle thoughts have noticeably decreased you can start aiming for the soft Jhanas.

      I like to think of the fourth Jhana in each of the three types of Jhanas in TMI, as their own achievements. Once you’ve achieved regular consistent mastery over the fourth whole body Jhana, you can move onto the soft Jhanas provided you have enough Piti developed. Once you have regular consistent mastery over the fourth soft Jhana, you have the concentration to move onto the hard Jhanas provided Piti is developed enough that the light nimitta appears.

      “Right now I’m getting through habit and motivation”

      I was where you were last summer. Just keep practicing diligently and intelligently. Progress will happen. It might feel like it never will but you just gotta keep on it. The next few months will probably be unrewarding as stage 7 can be very dry even though have you effortless attentional stability you won’t have any Piti. When the soft Jhanas start happening, things will get fun and progress will shoot off from there. Don’t worry about ordinary things. Eventually your interest in ordinary stuff will come back and those things will be more enjoyable even if you don’t take them as seriously as you used to pre all this.

      Also a little warning, progressing really quickly has its own downsides. I’ve made a lot of fast progress but I’ve had to undergo a lot of psychological and phyiscal changes that have been really gruelling. I’ve had basically every bad aspect of pacification and purification Culadasa mentions. It’s been intense. I’ve wanted to quit sometimes but once your on this path, your on this path. It’s worth it though. Eventually joy and bliss start happening randomly. This can be overwhelming too but it’s also great. I’ve had some shitty times caused by all this but I wouldn’t trade one day of the bliss, creativity and ease I feel some days for a hundred years of what I was like before this stuff started happening. I’ve only had a taste of what the mind can show and I’m so hungry for more. My experience is immeasurably richer and it just grows more interesting and more fascinating over time. I’m mastering and transforming my mind. I’ve personal insight into how I create reality. These are priceless treasures. If it’s all bullshit, it’s still way fucking better than the shit ordinary people waste their lives on.

      Illuminatus put it perfectly :).

      • Vick says:

        I just wanna thank you for this and your comments in general, I’m recovering from shift work and finally making progress again, and the physical changes are really a pain in the ass and beyond distracting. During an LSD trip i had thorns, and all sorts of disturbing visuals coming when I put my attention of my neck and left shoulder (It basically pulled my attention there), it’s pretty bad.

        And of course I want to give thanks to Illuminatus and all the other regular contributes in the comments, reading this and stuff about meditation in general seems to help progress and gives motivation to keep going.

  11. Kautilya says:

    I came across this article and throught this post was the best place to post it:

    THE MYSTERY OF THE BREATH NIMITTA OR THE CASE OF THE MISSING SIMILE

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

  12. Kautilya says:

    (TL; DR ??)

    Ok – here are some points:

    – Nature of Nimitta from another perspective

    – Metaphors used in originals scripts

    – Breathing through the mouth (which I was going to ask at one point)

    – Air element as central to bliss

    Sorry was this useless or are you suggesting to summarise points as often as possible as opposed to pasting a link??

    • Illuminatus says:

      Yes.

    • Yuki says:

      I tried the breathing through the mouth many times, it just won’t work for me…

      However I came across this article long long time ago, it’s very good and have mention great points.

      Many people seem to ignore the existence of the bright light (nimitta) and instead are trying to enter jhana through bliss which is possible but won’t always take you to the end, for me it’s all about making the nimitta bright and energized as possible, you do this by 2 ways:

      1. you keep on on the breath, when the bright light takes your attention away of the breath or you see the nimitta on the background, you totally keep ignoring it and return and stay on the breath… you do this every time the bright light takes your attention away, until the nimitta is so big, powerful, and bright that you can’t bring your attention on the breath again, this is when you are most likely glued to the nimitta and that;s all you will be aware of.

      2. smiling, like mentioned on this post makes the nimitta strong and bright, it can be an inner smile and it can be a physical smile, both work, but not for everyone inner smile is easy, so better go with physical smile.

      3. you can either smile the whole meditation session you spend on meditating on the breath, or once every interval during the meditation, a smile not only makes the nimitta bright, it also energized your mind and concentration and stillness comes stronger and faster.

      if you dont enter jhana and the time of your meditation is up… just keep sitting or laying on your bed and do nothing, sometimes the nimitta this way grows and might or might not even develop further and take you to jhana… this doesn’t happen a lot, but you can at least experience a great deal of bliss the nimitta is radiating.
      also, again you can combine this with the smile, even better! just smile at the luminous nimitta, it will smile back to you 🙂

      • Kautilya says:

        Thanks

        So is Nimitta a sign of access concentration?

        In other words….is anything regardless of its quality still ‘pre-access concentration’ if Nimitta wasn’t present?

        • Illuminatus says:

          I consider access concentration to be the moment when the object becomes fixed in mind — held in the “gravity field” of the concentration muscle — and thoughts and other distractions begin to flow “around” the object (meaning they no longer disturb concentration, and at that point will begin to diminish rapidly). Once this moment happens then all the other stuff — the nimittas, the piti, the eventual jhana — begins to happen naturally, organizing itself around the object.

          Access concentration itself is a noticeably altered state with piti and, if eyes are open, physical objects becoming clearer and appearing to exist in their own “space”.

        • Yuki says:

          The bright light appears when the mind is very still and concentrated. But yeah what Illuminatus said

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