Meditation Experience Guidance

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Robert » Tue May 15, 2012 9:59 am

Hi guys.

I just want to share one of my recent experiences with meditation, since I do not have a teacher and hope that perhaps someone in these forums can give me some guidance. I meditate twice a day, based on the anapanasati sutta, once in the morning and once in the evening after work, normally for around one hour each time. I try to keep this up regularly, i.e. 5-6 days per week and have been doing it for a few months now.

I just want to relate the way I go about my practice and what I experienced (I keep a journal of my meditations as I find this allows me to focus and remember the various things I find that I do wrong or correct) and would appreciate if anyone has any suggestions or insights they can offer.

The other day while sitting down to meditate I affirmed to myself that the way to progress is through a firm attention and unwavering will in going deeper into the path. I close my eyes and relax the body. I notice the blackness of my closed eyelids and place the attention in front of me, always focusing of the feeling as the breath passes in and out at the point of contact with the nostrils.

Began by counting the breaths and firmly let go of any distracting thoughts that arose. I recognise what they are and what hindrance they correspond to and I let them go, bringing the attention firmly back to the breath. Once momentary piti arises (tingles in various parts of the body) regularly as I go through a few cycles of breath, I proceed to concentrate on a long breath (in and out). The in breath revitalises the body, while the out breath "relaxes" it. I do not verbalise that it is a long breath, but as I focus on the point of contact, I am "aware" of the length of the breath.

Again once piti develops and becomes more stable at this point I proceed with the same but for the short breath. The distracting thoughts are less in number at this point, and I start to realise that when my attention is firm on the breath, there is an absence of hindrances, which in turn brings about piti. Whereas at the beginning it was a few tingles on different parts of the body, it is now more vibrant, with more of an "after-effect" if that makes sense. The image I can give to describe the feeling is when a wave touches the sand on a shore, and then retreats leaving the sand it touched wet though the wave has now gone.

Once I feel that this is stable I focus on the whole breath. I find that this is just a slight change in awareness of the breath. Whereas before I was aware of the length, now I watch it somewhat more "deeply", observing each breath fully. The breath becomes less coarse at this point and more subtle as time goes on.

Just as an aside, even though I feel piti in the body throughout my sitting, I do not let it distort my concentration. I am aware of it, and enjoy the sensations, yet my focus remains on the point of contact.

From this point on when the breath becomes more subtle I then breath in and out while tranquilising the bodily formations. I see this as a form of letting go. Letting go of thoughts, emotions, and especially control. I am aware of the pleasant feelings yet I am focused on observing the breath while letting go of any form of control I have over it. At this point piti became very strong. My body became erect, I smiled and pleasant feelings were sweeping over me to such an extent that certain parts of the body became tense. As I realised this I brought the attention gently back to the breath and told my self to let go of everything and trust in the experience.

Suddenly as all my awareness was being flooded with pleasure and joy, everything changed. I was sitting and my mind just felt, "expanded" and "bright" if that makes sense. I felt a deep sense of peace, serenity and joy. The body was completely relaxed, the breath was very subtle and the mind was just aware. I don't know how else to describe it. Nothing could ruin that moment and no thought could or did enter it. I just knew that that is what it was. It was like being pumped with such intense emotions that become extremely overwhelming and then this transforms into the peacefulness of a calm lake. I was aware of it and felt that I could stay there for hours. It was just beautiful.

Two days after that experience I still feel extremely happy and at peace. I just want to know what the experience was and if anyone has had anything similar? Is my practice correct? Should I try and attain the state again? Are there things I am doing wrong or correct? Any sort of guidance is appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Robert
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Ben » Tue May 15, 2012 1:21 pm

Greetings Robert,

Keep doing what you are doing. Keep your attention firmly on the primary object of meditation for as long as possible without interruption.
My advice to you is not to develop an attachment for nor craving for the experience or other exotic experiences.
Keep up your practice.
with metta,

Ben
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby befriend » Tue May 15, 2012 1:41 pm

do not look to replicate this state again, meditation is not all rainbows and butterflies, and you will be disheartened if it doesnt happen again when you want it to and is considered craving. even craving for meditative states is a hindrance. also bring your attention back gently, vipassana is always gentle. when i do metta for about an hour my mind really wants to cling to the pleasant sensation as it is more pleasant than any worldly sensation but you have to maintain equanimity, as lovely as a meditative state is it is anicca (impermanent). dont meditate trying to have an outcome. just like compassion we are compassionate but we dont really know if our deeds will produce happiness, we could donate a million dollars to some feed the hungry but it could be stolen by warlords. dont look for stability in unstable things.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Cittasanto » Tue May 15, 2012 8:22 pm

Ben wrote:Greetings Robert,

Keep doing what you are doing. Keep your attention firmly on the primary object of meditation for as long as possible without interruption.
My advice to you is not to develop an attachment for nor craving for the experience or other exotic experiences.
Keep up your practice.
with metta,

Ben

:anjali:
I second this advise.
it is difficult to say exactly what you experienced with what you said, but it sounds like you are aiming in the right direction, however, do keep a check on the hindrances and attachments.
I wonder though outside of meditation, in general, are you quite analytical or tranquil?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Robert » Wed May 16, 2012 7:17 am

Hi everyone.

Thank you for your replies and advice.

Based on this, I shall continue my practice in the same manner, while keeping a firm focus on the breath. Indeed, I found that during my meditation sitting yesterday, I did have a small expectation / craving to feel the experience again. Needless to say this was difficult to remove, so I shall bear it in mind for my next sitting.

Cittasanto: Generally outside meditation, I am tranquil. If I find that my mind is overcome by any sort of hindrance and I do become overtly analytical, I bring my attention to the breath, which soothes and relaxes me so I am more aware of the present moment.

The most common hindrance I find my mind wanders off to is sensual desire, which I try to overcome by telling myself that it is not the object that is pleasant but my perception of it. Only on rare occasions do I worry or get angry with anything. All in all I try to incorporate the aspects of practice in daily life.

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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 16, 2012 10:38 pm

Robert wrote:Cittasanto: Generally outside meditation, I am tranquil. If I find that my mind is overcome by any sort of hindrance and I do become overtly analytical, I bring my attention to the breath, which soothes and relaxes me so I am more aware of the present moment.

The most common hindrance I find my mind wanders off to is sensual desire, which I try to overcome by telling myself that it is not the object that is pleasant but my perception of it. Only on rare occasions do I worry or get angry with anything. All in all I try to incorporate the aspects of practice in daily life.

I thought of a better term than "tranquil" today, but forgot to add it when I returned home :(
Maybe "go with the flow" would be closer to a general daily description?

but...
maybe try some more insight centred techniques, reflecting upon the three characteristics, or dis-passion?
I would sugest reading AN10.80 the Girimanada sutta.
may aid you in balancing and calming the hindrances.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby marc108 » Wed May 16, 2012 11:20 pm

My suggestion would be to check the Sutta's and see if your experiences match up with the descriptions of (and instructions) of Jhana. If they do, then you should learn how to replicate and stabilize those states and practice Satipatthana in them. The 'Bright', 'Expanded" mind states are ideal states to pursue insight.

MN 118, SN 46.051, AN 5.28, DN 22 & MN 111 will be useful.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Robert » Thu May 17, 2012 2:50 pm

Thanks for your suggestions and I will definitely look into the suttas you suggest! Although I am aware of insight practices, and do try to bring mindfulness into daily life, I want to first be able to concentrate deeply on a consistent basis before beginning a deeper insight practice.

On another note regarding the meditation experience, is sound. As tranquility deepens there is a "ringing" sound in my ears. First it appears in the right ear but then it is more encompassing. The sound seems to "vibrate" in tune with the rest of the experience, i.e. the breath, body and tranquility. It does not distort the attention, though I am aware of it. Any thoughts on this?
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Travis » Thu May 17, 2012 3:16 pm

Tinnitus?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus

I always have a mild ringing in my ears that can become more prominent during meditation.

Leigh Brasington also refers to this as the "Nada Sound" and mentions its use as an object in concentration practice http://www.leighb.com/practice.htm
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 17, 2012 9:21 pm

Hi Robert
I would encourage merging the two for a while, as this may help overcome the primary hindrance you seam to be meeting, and they do support eachother, but it is up to you. if you click on the sutta name above it links to my translation, so you at least know what you are looking for.

try having a look for Ajahn Sumedho talks on the sound of silence (there is at least one free book by that name and one for money book also by that name if I remember,) I do have experience with it, however I would not be comfortable relaying this openly as it is not and has not been a main practice of mine at any point other than something which commes up from time to time, and I use when it is there at times... although any help in resourses I can provide feel free to PM me directly or hope I see this thread and remember :).

I have had a look at texts on this phenomenon though, and Ajahn Amaro calls it the numa sound (SP? I did have dragosta din tai run through my head when he said it on occasion :) ) and a very good book on this is called the art of attention by salim something-or-other, sorry I can not remember the full name, but will edit this post later with a link to the book (it was Ajahn Amaro who talked the publisher into doing a new edition, i believe)

this sound is found with in a mahayana text the suranayagama sutra (sp?) so although buddhism does have references to it, it certainly isn't developed to any degree I know of within buddhism as a whole or more specifically within theravada, although as mentioned Ajahn Sumedho does teach it and developed it outside of any knowledge of other systems using it. the text talks briefly, one or two lines at most, of Avalokitesvara hearing the sound of all living beings screams in the world, and feel compassion, or something to this effect. when I read that it occured to me, as I was hearing it more than often at that point, that this sound could be seen as our internal world (six sense spheres) scream for compassion, and the phenomenon isn't limited to sound, it can also be seen, felt, tasted... there is always a background neutral element to the senses we just don't notice.

Hinduism does have more of a developed system within their texts but it is a case of if it works and does what you are looking for (i.e. a useful tool to use on the path) use it, if not there are other methods.

if you would like any more or have any more questions I will try to answer, I can relay some instruction I have recieved in the past if you wish.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby marc108 » Thu May 17, 2012 9:50 pm

Robert wrote:Thanks for your suggestions and I will definitely look into the suttas you suggest! Although I am aware of insight practices, and do try to bring mindfulness into daily life, I want to first be able to concentrate deeply on a consistent basis before beginning a deeper insight practice.

On another note regarding the meditation experience, is sound. As tranquility deepens there is a "ringing" sound in my ears. First it appears in the right ear but then it is more encompassing. The sound seems to "vibrate" in tune with the rest of the experience, i.e. the breath, body and tranquility. It does not distort the attention, though I am aware of it. Any thoughts on this?


Cittasanto's post on nada is excellent and spot on. The ringing specifically in the right ear, appearing to emanate from deeply inside that arises specifically during Samadhi is called the nada sound. This is a specific focal point for concentration in [vedic] Yogic meditation and in some Buddhist teaching... In my understanding, it is similar to the idea of a breath nimitta but from sound. The nada sound is distinctly different from tinitus, which will be present outside of Samadhi and present in both ears.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu May 17, 2012 10:53 pm

Anyone ever get a high pitched ringing in their ears for maybe 5 to 30 seconds duration just every once in a while, as in less than once a month and usually just in one ear? I'm not sure if I ever had it in both. I always thought I was just picking up a high pitched sound wave from some sort of technology every once in a while but now it seems like, from what I've read, that I just have very very occasional tinnitus. Is the nada sound this same sort of sound, a steady high pitched technology sounding note that is perfectly constant until it leaves? Also, is nada just self induced tinnitus? People with tinnitus apparently can hear all kinds of different sounds from ringing, to running water, etc. etc. (I've only ever heard the sound I describe at the beginning of this post) is nada the same, can it be different sounds or is it just one kind of sound?

well, the guy above me kinda negates a couple of things I wrote but I'll leave them up, maybe I'll get some interesting answers
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Travis » Thu May 17, 2012 11:35 pm

Nada Sound http://www.abhayagiri.org/index.php/journals/entry/614/

wikipedeia wrote:Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby marc108 » Thu May 17, 2012 11:51 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:Anyone ever get a high pitched ringing in their ears for maybe 5 to 30 seconds duration just every once in a while, as in less than once a month and usually just in one ear? I'm not sure if I ever had it in both. I always thought I was just picking up a high pitched sound wave from some sort of technology every once in a while but now it seems like, from what I've read, that I just have very very occasional tinnitus. Is the nada sound this same sort of sound, a steady high pitched technology sounding note that is perfectly constant until it leaves? Also, is nada just self induced tinnitus? People with tinnitus apparently can hear all kinds of different sounds from ringing, to running water, etc. etc. (I've only ever heard the sound I describe at the beginning of this post) is nada the same, can it be different sounds or is it just one kind of sound?

well, the guy above me kinda negates a couple of things I wrote but I'll leave them up, maybe I'll get some interesting answers



Random high pitched ringing in one ear like you describe seems to be pretty common... common to the point where there is superstition around it, re: if your right ear rings someone is talking about you. This happens to me in both ears often, and as far as I can tell is in no way related to the nada sound. The nada sound varies from person to person, kind of like nimitta does... it can sound like a deep whirring, birds, a flute, trumpets, etc... it varies person to person, and changes depending on what you do with it. I have pretty bad tinnitus and the nada sound is very much different from that. tinnitus is an external type sound, as if hearing a sound coming from outside and the nada sound is much more internal, as if coming from inside. As far as I know the nada only arises when Samadhi is established and only in the right ear initially.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri May 18, 2012 1:11 am

Thanks Marc108 and Travis :namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Robert » Fri May 18, 2012 12:39 pm

Cittasanto: I shall add Ajahn Sumedho's books in my "to buy" list! The concept of sound is interesting, and it would be nice if you could share any sort of instruction in the matter. Just for informative knowledge, and whether this has any other benefits than anapanasati for example? I do not plan on changing to a different form of meditation, as I think it is important to stick to one subject until mastered before moving on to something different.

I found the other book you were mentioning which is The Law of Attention: Nada Yoga and the Way of Inner Vigilance by Edward Salim Michaėl. This also seems interesting and valuable to check out.

Marc: Can you perhaps indicate where one could find out more about this type of concentration, which is found in vedic yogic meditation?

Thanks for your contributions guys!
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Cittasanto » Fri May 18, 2012 7:54 pm

[quote="Robert"]Cittasanto: I shall add Ajahn Sumedho's books in my "to buy" list! The concept of sound is interesting, and it would be nice if you could share any sort of instruction in the matter. Just for informative knowledge, and whether this has any other benefits than anapanasati for example? I do not plan on changing to a different form of meditation, as I think it is important to stick to one subject until mastered before moving on to something different.

Yes we should be well grounded in one techneque....
Although some of Ajahn Sumedhos books are to buy, there are free distribution also, you can easily download them! from the forest sangha publications site
http://forestsanghapublications.org/viewAuthor.php?id=9 I thing the best book for you interest in the sound, is Intuitive Awareness, although as a side point, Mindfulness, and the Four noble truths are both well worth the read. and yes that is the author, I actually found his name as I was looking for the books by ajahn sumedho. "Edward Salim Michael's book : The way of inner vigilance (republished in 2010 with the new title : the Law of attention, Nada Yoga and the way of inner vigilance"" and does answer your question to marc as this is from that tradition or around the same area at least.
I found it interesting although quite new age in appearance but this was certainly due to the writers way of writing rather than content matter, purely surface.

for general purposes I will call it non-sensation rather than sound of silance or nada, as it can be observed through each sense and the techneque can be applied to each.
as you are watching your breath, if the non-sensation arises keep watching the breath, except allow the non-sensation to be the back drop between the breaths, using it to notice the space between.
I think that should cover the full instruction I heard, although as it was on a retreat the instruction was longer.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby marc108 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:54 pm

Robert wrote:Marc: Can you perhaps indicate where one could find out more about this type of concentration, which is found in vedic yogic meditation?


The most reliable source, imo, for using the Nada sound as a focal point would be Ajahn Sumedho or another of the Abhayagiri monastics. I believe his book 'The way it is" & "The sound of silence" talk about this... both are available online for free I believe, check the link Citta gave you. You can also contact Abhayagiri (Abhayagiri.org) directly and ask where to find specific teachings. I don't think using the Nada sound was a method taught by the Buddha (although im unsure), so it may be difficult to find any sort of systematized method to using it.

On a side note, having experience with Yogic and Buddhist meditation, I would not recommend switching to Yogic style meditation... The Buddhist system is, imo, vastly superior... and it seems like you are doing well at working towards Right Concentration (Jhana) with the method you are using, so it would be logical to cultivate and refine your current practice. That being said, if you still want to learn the Yogic meditation, the only teacher I consider to be reliable is Baba Hari Dass (mountmadonna.org)

My suggestion to you would be to contact a teacher that is experienced with Jhana, develop a relationship and work with them to further your practice... there really is no substitute for an experienced teacher. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (watmetta.org) is available by phone from 6-7 PST @ 619-813-8461 and Richard Shankman (mettadharma.org) is also available for phone interviews @ info@mettadharma.org. If you contact Richard, let me know.
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby Cittasanto » Fri May 18, 2012 11:19 pm

hi Marc,
I could not find the free distribution version of the sound of silence, the two books are different, do you know of a link?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Meditation Experience Guidance

Postby marc108 » Fri May 18, 2012 11:35 pm

Citta, you're right as far I can tell there is no free distro of that book. I apologize.

a Ajahn Sumedho on the Sound of Silence:
http://diydharma.org/listening-sound-si ... hn-sumedho
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