Recent Progress in Meditation

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.

Thoughts on Dynamic Meditation (so far)

Today’s 20 minutes got me really sensitive to the subtleties of this. I could feel a sliding crystallization of tension in my mind and in my shoulders. I used a specific technique to counter it - relaxation through anchoring. A thought I had day before yesterday was that I should get really technical about it - I should know tension and anxiety like eskimos know snow. Not only will the delineation of different categories of it help me focus, but it acts as Vipassana noting - separating my mind from being entangled in the feeling.

This type of dynamic meditation is very interesting in comparison to Vipassana and other schools of Buddhism. Vipassana is all about the controlled observation of the mindstream in order to gain visceral knowledge (jñanas) that change its (the mind’s) quality. In Vajrayana, visualization and ritual are used for the same purpose, and for some versions of Tibetan Buddhism mucking about with the Bardo - transitory states of consciousness like before death or dreaming - changes the state of the mindstream.

What I’m doing is purifying the mindstream through habit in order to prevent the arising of negative emotions. The more I think about it, the more I think I’ve stumbled on another school of Buddhism…if it works. I’ll have to come up with a name for it…

Either way, that purifying action is an important metaphor to keep in mind while proceeding.

Dynamic Meditation Revisited Party IV - Last Notes

I just did a 20 minute session while doing some work. It was pretty easy to track some of these things. Here’s what it looked like:

biting lip - anxiety - R
x3 minor anxiety arising - R
minor anxiety arising - x4 shoulders - R
x4 fingers - picking, flicking
x2 lip picking R
x2 caught minor anxiety
X5 laughing

As you can see a lot of these things happen in groupings. And a lot of these things have very clear physical markers - lip picking, picking at my fingers, shoulders tensing up.

The “R” was just my short form for Regular - as in I didn’t use any sort of specific technique - I just stopped it - these were all minor tensions in the mind stream.

“X2 caught minor anxiety” referred to catching it as it formed in the mind. And “X5 laughing” referenced that feeling of cheating at life, that true happiness that seemed to arise as I felt how easy it was to change this.

That feeling is really what I’m after - and it IS easy, but like the rest of this project, extending even the simplest things out across months (or in this case over the course of a full day over time) is very very difficult.

Buddhism and Dynamic Meditation

I’ve been reading a lot on Buddhism lately, and it seems as though some people view Nirvana as getting into this state of equanimity - of completely uprooting the possibility to have these negative emotional arisings at all.

In Vipassana, this uprooting occurs through visceral knowledge of the state of the world through repeated meditative practice. Through just observing the mindstream, you’ll gradually come to realizations - like realizing that we are not angry - anger has just visited us momentarily. This eventually (as far as I understand) will get us to this uprooting. 

There are other ways there - in Rinzai Zen you break the bonds of logic to attain sudden illumination, in Vajrayana you use visualization and ritual to get there (again, I’m still researching this stuff so please excuse my lack of understanding - and feel free to correct it). 

My method of dynamic meditaiton through habit formation is the “quit smoking” version of equanimity - that if you counter the urge enough times, the urge ceases to arise at all. The urge has to be countered minutely from second to second in the mindstream, but as far as I understand it, this might just be another avenue to Nirvana. Which is kind’ve cool.

Now all of this is theoretical - I’m very curious to see how (or if!) it will work - especially next to these thousand-year traditions.