thereductor wrote:Now days I don't get the big body, nor the small body, sense anymore, but just a gradual awakening of the body as the mind also calms and latches onto the breath. A point comes where the breath and my attention do not separate, with the body feeling like a statue: present, relaxed, comfortable and seemingly immovable. I can move, but there seems almost no inclination in the mind to move, even when pain sets in (from sitting on a hard floor I do experience the onset of pain after a time; not sure how long into it). At that point I can rest with the breath as backdrop with very little effort. Mostly I just avoid adjusting the breath and this state will persist. If I focus in on the breath again then things start to change.
There's more, but maybe I should stop here. Mostly, does this sound like it's progressing how it should?
Although we have never met, I've been around these Buddhist forums for quite some time. I'm also a former monastic (Western contemplative monastic, old Catholic) who left the religious order several years ago to take up a study of Buddhist meditation and the Dhamma. Also, I've been a meditator for over 29 years, the last nine of which I have practiced Theravada Buddhist meditation techniques as taught in the discourses. I have also read/contemplated most of the Nikayas in translation (Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta, and 1/10 of the Anguttara Nikayas, along with volumes in the Khuddaka Nikaya: the Itivuttaka, the Udana, and the Sutta Nipata). Over the last nine years I have been able to corroborate my meditative experience and Dhamma understanding with other highly developed Buddhist practitioners, both in person and over the internet, so I have a fairly solid background in the Dhamma and meditation practice. The bulk of my work in Buddhist meditation has taken place during a five year period of secluded practice devoted solely to the practice (i.e. no outside involvements) on private retreat (quite a luxury, I might add, if you can afford to do it). Indeed, I live in seclusion even today. Since I am not tied to any monastic vows or niceties that might prohibit my speaking about my experience, I am able to speak freely about that which I have experienced.
From your description above, it does sound as though you could be experiencing absorption. It is not so much the various sensations or images that one should necessarily go by in order to arrive at this determination as it is the unification of mental faculties on the object of meditation, just as you have described above. While there can be a variety of experiential sensations that one in absorption experiences in the beginning stages of the practice (much of which can be due to the preconceptions set up in the mind regarding whatever the meditator has read or been otherwise taught of these descriptions), the most telling is the establishment of the mind in unification on an object or subject wherein the mind is malleable, workable, imperturbable, and it will go with ease wherever the person directs it to go for knowing and seeing phenomena.
Absorption helps establish the mind in concentration (that is, it helps one to strengthen one's ability at concentration). The time one spends in samadhi
assists in conditioning the mind to remain still and calm, not only during meditation, but also during moments of normal consciousness. Gradually, the mind's calm is extended more and more into one's waking conscious moments, which in turn helps strengthen concentration abilities there also.
As others here have pointed out, sila
is important when establishing a Buddhist practice in meditation. This is primarily for very obvious reasons: a mind that is restless or worried about one's erstwhile immoral or unethical worldly behavior is not a calm mind ready to experience even more stillness. A guilty or troubled conscience can be a restless mind indeed. You seem to have a decent understanding of this as your description of the level of sila
necessary for successful meditation would qualify you ("When you sit down to meditate you might not have perfected sila, but you will have the peace of mind that comes from non-complacency.")
If you have any further questions and you feel comfortable about asking them, I'm open to them.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV