Jhana: Smell the Air
Your recent posts on concentration meditation are brilliant. I agree with you that calling it “concentration” meditation is a terrible name. Absorption meditation is much better. Why anyone decided to call it concentration meditation is beyond me. It’s such a misleading term. This led me to just staring and furrowing my brow, trying desperately to keep the object in my focus but ultimately failing and then getting frustrated. I’ve done a few sessions of the sine wave breathing meditation you posted about the other day and I am already getting the benefits from it. After controlling the muscles to control the breath, they spontaneously began to relax and feel pleasurable, which made each breath more and more pleasurable. By the end of the 30 minute session I had full on visual effects in my eyes corresponding to the waves of pleasure I was feeling with each breath. I was giddy for hours after and my body awareness was much better than it normally is. I was still slipping back into thoughts quite a bit but at least now I see a way forward. Thank you, I had become despondent with meditation recently due to the pitfalls of the staring approach that you mentioned. I wonder how many other people have fallen down a similar path due to the conventional generic Buddhist advice of “just watch the breath”, and just given up completely.
Considering how many Buddhist schools there are out there, their methods are surprisingly vague and shit. I’ve not seen the pleasure/absorption principle detailed anywhere but your site, yet it seems as if it is the first step towards the jhanas. Presumably every Buddhist has to go through this path yet none of them are capable of articulating this to others? I have been to numerous meditation workshops and not once have I been told by this principle.
What Rigz achieved here is jhana. It is unmistakable. Jhana is a state independent of and removed from “normal waking space”, the pre-meditation conditioned state. Jhana is a space temporarily free from the myriad formations you carry with you, weighing you down. With time and cultivation, that state can begin to permeate all your waking hours.
Smell the Air
Concentration meditation is an active process. It is not just staring, or looking at, or watching something. It is not thinking. It is about doing something which engages your mind and body on a level above normal thought. This is the reason I am giving you active things to do in your concentration meditation practice recently, and the following is another such active exercise.
Close your eyes and begin to smell the air very finely. Imagine that there is an almost imperceptible, sweet smell somewhere in the air. If you just smell finely enough, you at some point will surely find it — and it will be pleasurable.
If your eyes go toward your nose, allow that. If your ears begin to somehow also point themselves toward the tip of your nose, allow that too. In fact, by smelling so finely, you will find that your entire sensory system begins to focus upon that single point — just in front of and underneath your nose.
Hey presto, you are now completely engaged in body and mind with a single point in conscious awareness. That’s all concentration meditation was ever supposed to be.
When it starts to feel pleasurable, allow that to engage and enjoy the sweet pleasure, allowing it to grow with each fine inhalation. The more you smell the air at that point, and the more finely you smell, the more pleasurable the scent you will find. Your aim is to cultivate the finest, tiniest, sweetest and most pleasurable point of smell in your conscious awareness.
Now go and practise that for 30 minutes. You are doing jhana.