On this website, unless stated otherwise, “first jhana” refers to “first samatha jhana”. Samatha is concentration practice. First jhana is the mental state whereby you are able to stay with an object for a long period of time without distraction. An object could be anything you are putting your focus on, and meditators often use the breath as their object.
When you reach a point where your attention is no longer drifting away from your object (e.g. going into thought loops or other distractions), and your concentration is steady, you are said to be in first jhana. Two of the most important aspects of first jhana in the area of personal development are pleasure and equanimity. In this state, one is able to generate one’s own feelings of well-being and therefore is no longer dependent on externalities – so this gets you out of grasping and frustration temporarily. If you then make the pleasure sensation the object of your first jhana, you can “cycle” it and create as much pleasure as you are physically and mentally able to take.
Equanimity is equally important as it allows you to examine your issues dispassionately and gain insight from them, rather than having them drag you down into unskilful mindsets.
It is my theory that anyone who achieves superiority in any field is bringing first jhana to that field, whether it be Tiger Woods making a masterful golf shot or a programmer hitting “the zone”.
The characteristics of first jhana as described in the Buddhist Pali Canon are as follows: directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention.
Mastery of any field becomes possible when you realize first jhana can be applied universally to any object. Cultivating first jhana should therefore be the top priority for anyone wishing to make progress in any area. First jhana is required for practically every technique described on this site.