I have been practicing fairly religiously for forty-five minutes each day for about two years.
Forty-five minutes a session is a fine amount of time. An hour would be better, but 45 minutes will do to start. However, you might find it more conducive to making progress if you increased your sessions to at least two a day rather than one. Once in the morning, and once again in the evening, or some such. More time on the cushion increases the chances of arriving where you want to arrive, so to speak.
I have also, much more consistently a la Leigh Brasington, experienced warm and pleasurable sensations in both head and feet. In addition, I have---on three or four occasions---experienced what might be called "a frisson," that is, something like ecstasy, shuddering, and even tears in my eyes. But I then seemed to have experienced a corresponding tension which had the effect of dropping me back out of whatever state I was in. I have experimented with relaxing my forehead muscles, and find that this induces a quite out-of-the-ordinary feeling of detachment. Since then, I have lost the thread, and my sessions seem to be ho-hum and highly nonproductive. Consequently, I am losing heart.
But I do want to say how much value I have found in the postings on this thread. It epitomizes what I had hoped to find on the forum. Unfortunately, most of the other threads I have found both here and on other web sites are much too nonspecific to be of much value for me, a beginner who needs specific indicators and signposts for assurance that he is on the right track.
What you are looking for is a sensation that is very subtle while at the same time being pleasurable. Something that you can build upon in terms of becoming absorbed in the pleasure of this subtle sensation. It is often best if the sensation occurs in the center of the head region. Are you able to take yourself back to your childhood, when everything you experienced in a body was new and an adventure?
Think about the first time you experienced various activities and whether or not you experienced any kind of pleasant sensations in those relaxed but alert moments.
Are you familiar with an alpha state (of mind) sensation? It can take on many forms, but one of those forms is like tiny little pin pricks in the center of the head that are very pleasant. Or it can take the form of something smoother and more solid than pin pricks but just as pleasant. It all depends upon how your mind reacts to the activity that brings on these sensations. These are very subtle sensations, but you should be able to recognize them when they are occurring. They may be roughly compared to a cat's purring. When a cat is curled up and purring, it is usually perceived by the observer as being a very pleasant state that the cat is in. Hence, the purring.
When this process is done correctly, you should experience a very subtle but pleasant feeling or sensation, almost as though you are as light as a feather. If you experience this feeling, then you know you are doing it correctly. You may experience certain signs, like a slight pressure in the forehead, or a feeling of being in sync with the universe. These are definite positive signs
. Flow with them as they lead you deeper into tranquility and quietude.
As a child I recall being able to enter a very pleasant state of consciousness (sensation and all) just based on someone giving me a haircut. Just their massaging the scalp, or using their scissors to cut the hair could bring on this pleasant sensation.
Another activity in childhood that I experienced the ability to enter into an alpha state of mind was the activity of swinging on a swing.
This technique developed out of an experience I remembered having as a child. I use to love to swing on those long chained, leather strap-seat swings that we found at the city parks. The seat was literally just a seven or so inch wide leather seat-strap hooked onto the chains. You could really get up a head of steam on the back swing, and the long foreswing gave the impression that one was flying (albeit for only a few precious seconds). Anyway, one of the things I notice about this experience as a child was a sensation (kind of like a pleasant pressure building, like air filling the center of my head) that was created in the region of my head when I would swing on these swings.
How this works with meditation is as follows. I used (visualized) the in-breath as the back swing, and the out breath as the forward swing. As I was breathing in, I would picture myself heading backwards on the back swing. Then, as the swing began to change directions (at the top of the breath), as I let the breath out, I pictured myself moving forward on the foreswinging motion. Just picturing these two motions in my mind as though I were actually swinging created
the sensation in the center of my forehead. I used focusing on that sensation in order to enter into absorption.
Do you recall ever having had such experiences as a child? If you cannot relate to this, then I'm not sure what else to suggest.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV