I’d say “plan of attack”, but that doesn’t sound right.
Two weeks ago, I was starting a 10-day meditation course, for over 90 hours of meditation. My previous total meditation experience is probably (1 year * average maybe 10 minutes/day) + (1 year * 20 min/day) + (1 month * 30 min/day) + (2 retreats = 20 hrs) = ~180 hours. So this retreat is half as much meditation as I’ve done ever. (now I’ve got 270 hours, so I’m 2.7% of an expert, if you ask Malcolm Gladwell!)
Given that, I figured I could make some real progress. I’ve just been amped up on descriptions of jhanas and stages of insight from Daniel Ingram, and he suggests attaining the first (samatha) jhana first. Two reasons: it’s very blissful, which will make you want to meditate more, and once you’re in this state, you can examine it for the characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and no-self, and go on to insight practice from there.
Sounded good to me. I’m not really sure how to get there, but I think you just concentrate hard. A point along the path to the first jhana is “access concentration”, where you get the ability to concentrate on whatever you want for as long as you want. The ability to, say, concentrate on your breath for an hour and never let your mind wander.
What happened: Over the 10 days, I didn’t experience anything that I’d consider a jhana. I had a couple times I concentrated on my breath for a good half hour without losing focus, and then had some mildly dreamy thoughts/visions, but I think that attaching special significance to those is is wishful thinking. On the other hand, I had a couple times I concentrated on my breath for a good half hour without losing focus, so that’s a start. Both times occurred in the evening, 6-7pm, after a very light dinner and some tea.
So what now? I think keep on track with the concentration. Once I hit the first jhana (or maybe second; it sounds nice and easier to maintain) and can regularly get there, then I’ll start back to insight/Vipassana practice. It feels weird to learn Goenka-style Vipassana and immediately drop it (and Mahasi Sayadaw-style Vipassana) and go for concentration, but it seems good for the two reasons above, and also so I can post “I hit something repeatable and definitely qualitatively different from my regular mind, therefore I’m not just wasting time sitting on pillows.”
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