As far as I can tell, I can consistently get up to 3rd jhana.
I have also been able to enter 1st jhana through Vipassana - this happened about a week ago while going to sleep. I was totally not expecting it, but luckily Lydia happens to be reading the MCTB, and confirmed that Ingram says it’s possible. I’ve repeated this in formal practice.
At night I usually watch some shows, and while watching them I’ve been able to enter into first jhana and extend it for the duration of the show. A few days ago I did this for two 45 minute sessions.
I’m beginning to understand why meditation teachers warn against this - jhanic bliss is incredibly addicting, especially knowing you can get into it in informal moments through vipassana.
BUT, it could tie in to being very useful for relaxing at the end of the day. Before starting the project I was looking into hobbies and things that could get me to de-stress - I talk about this a little bit here. Some meditation guy theorized “wouldn’t if people, instead of going out for a drink or whatnot to relax, came home and blissed out in jhana for an hour?” Well…that’s completely within the scope of my skill at this point.
In the last few weeks I’ve dredged up old ideas on this blog that have connected anew with what I’m doing now, and this is another example. At the very beginning of this project I started a habit I called “dynamic meditation” - where I used specific techniques to counter any instance of negativity I felt during the day. Here’s a post where I discuss this - I say that it “feels like cheating.”
That’s not quite detailed enough - it felt good -really really good. There was this feeling of immense freedom and I was grinning all the time with a pleasurable sensation in my heart. It actually felt really similar to 1st jhana accessed through vipassana, and in fact I think it was very close to it - which is pretty cool!
My old protocol was very close to what I’m doing now. My theory then was that moods were static - if depression welled up, I’d have to counter it. Buddhist meditation theory, however, suggests that simply not feeding the emotion will allow it to pass if it’s treated skillfully, as all mental phenomenon do. And this is something I now understand in my own head as I do vipassana these days.
The other thing I’ve been working on is trying to penetrate the mindstream. I’m trying to accurately and specifically note physical, mental imagery, and emotions. I’m attempting to go further to pinpoint when a thought begins and when it ends. And I’ve also found a different category of phenomenon - thoughts before they fully coalesce. Back when I was doing “dynamic meditation” I got good at observing negative emotions before they crystalized and got good at nipping them before they manifested (also noted in the previous link).
This is really good, and I’ve read about this in some of the advanced Buddhist books I’ve been scouring lately.
The problem I feel right now is that I don’t know the progressions for Vipassana - everyone basically says to keep noting more and more rigorously, and that will result in Stream Entry. Samatha Jhanas (single pointed jhanas) are clearer in term of progression right now. Keep concentrating, and you’ll hit these jhanic stopping points. The problem there is that I can’t seem to progress past 3rd Jhana.
But I’m in a good position - meditation is a regular habit, which I’ll continue as I search for the answers.