Jhana: Smell the Air

Rigz said:

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.

(Emphasis mine.)

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.

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2 Responses

  1. Magician123 says:

    Hi Illuminatus,

    I was wondering whether this meditation will help develop single pointedness focus towards things other than the pleasure sense in the breath. My experience with this meditation is an increase in the pleasant sensation at the breath underneath my nose with consistent practice (although I have yet to achieve the critical mass for a bliss state).

    My hope is to one day do the Awareness watching Awareness meditation as my only practice but I wish to start with the strong focus and a positive state of mind that I believe this Samatha meditation will give (you have also stated elsewhere that this practice will ‘purify the soul’ if you direct your attention to the pleasant breathing when you are dealing with negative event, thoughts and emotions so I am hoping this process will make me happier).
    The alternative would just being going straight to AWA but my focus is not good right now to like the meditation and without liking it immediately I won’t have the discipline to maintain a solid practice.

    So I guess I am asking you whether this pleasure of breath meditation could work as a good stepping stone to AWA by making me a happy person with strong concentration ability.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    Magician123

  2. Illuminatus says:

    >I was wondering whether this meditation will help develop single pointedness focus towards things other than the pleasure sense in the breath.

    Yes. Developing concentration on one thing tends to develop the ability to concentrate on any other thing. For example, after learning breath concentration I found that concentrating on visual, auditory and in fact any kind of object came easy.

    The reason pleasure is chosen early on is that the mind “likes” nice things so it is easier to develop concentration on them.

    >My hope is to one day do the Awareness watching Awareness meditation as my only practice but I wish to start with the strong focus and a positive state of mind that I believe this Samatha meditation will give

    Samatha will help AWA but remember that AWA does not focus on an object but rather the stuff surrounding and permeating all objects (awareness itself). In this respect, samatha strips away all the interference in order to present the object in isolation. In that situation, the awareness itself surrounding the object becomes more obvious and can be glimpsed, then eventually “watched”.

    An example is that a few weeks ago I experimented by doing samatha on my body temperature (observing fluctuating cool and warm spots as they occur in my body, without trying to manipulate them). This soon led to something like the extremely basic awareness a bacterium might have. Very “primordial” in its feel. In this state, “awareness” itself stood forward quite clearly, since the “samatha object” (heat) was so diffuse and dynamic. It’s an interesting meditation if you want to try it for 30 minutes.

    >(you have also stated elsewhere that this practice will ‘purify the soul’ if you direct your attention to the pleasant breathing when you are dealing with negative event, thoughts and emotions so I am hoping this process will make me happier).

    This is a pretty ancient post and back then I was “hopeful” in my writings, mixing in my aspirations with my actual findings. In other words, don’t take them too seriously. “Purification” is a result of daily sitting for long periods.

    >So I guess I am asking you whether this pleasure of breath meditation could work as a good stepping stone to AWA by making me a happy person with strong concentration ability.

    I recommend you just get on some regimented system like Culadasa’s “The Mind Illuminated” if you want to develop happiness through samatha practice. I haven’t read all the book (it’s very heavy and wordy) but his students appear to make rapid progress.

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