Jhānas as Insight Laboratories

Rising to each jhana is like landing on a new floor with its own insight laboratory.

Rapid Cycles

I’ve become more aware now and again of rapid cycling of the knowledges (insight stages). For example, Sunday I had to squeeze a 30-minute sit in before going to an IDM concert in Chapel Hill. During the sit, I was in Misery. During the show in Chapel Hill, I was grooving on the music, but I was oddly aware of moving into Disgust and then Desire for Deliverance and finally Low Equanimity. I’ve now experienced Low EQ enough times clearly to know that it mimics the Cause/Effect and Three Characteristics stages, particularly with edginess and body aches.

Jhāna All the Time

I’m growing comfortable with insight practice again, after months of wandering around in my practice while pretty confused, uncomfortably emotionally volatile, and clueless about what my focus or even practice “should” be. The jhanas I suddenly profoundly had after August 8 are a gift. They dominate my experience not only “on the cushion” but often even “in the office.” 

Jhānas as Insight Laboratories

I don’t know why it hasn’t overtly occurred to me before now that I could and therefore should be looking for the Three Characteristics of these rich states. Now that is what I’m doing, and this is by far the richest, weirdest, and most profound my meditation practice has ever been. Much of it is beyond the reach of my words, and that is fine (for once). Some post-sit observations about these jhanas, so far, are as follows:

♦ If I look for the impermanence in Boundless Space, the result is a sense of texture and warp. Boundless Space is sometimes hard to distinguish from Boundless Consciousness. The shift seems to happen when I forget to exert the effort to sense spaciousness. Then I catch that the Boundlessness is really Consciousness.

♦ If I look for the Impermanence of Consciousness, this brings up unease. If I flip back to noticing space and then allow that space into what feels like it is “me,” then that result is very strange and worth further investigation. Hmm, this is one of those things that I mentioned as being beyond articulation at this time for this practitioner.

♦ I think I’m touching into Nothingness a bit here and there. It is scary!

♦ If I open my eyes, my body is still remarkably gone, but something about vision implies a line between “me” and “over there.” How do I work with this? Well, maybe I can see how much of what I consider to be sensations of me I can look at as “over there.” That changes the whole field of sensation somehow. Worthwhile to investigate this further, I think.

♦ Closing my eyes again, awareness can posit Boundless Consciousness as an object. And right there, between the two, is an opportunity to surrender. Really, I think that is it! And to a large degree I felt that old High EQ faith arise and felt some resistance hold-out of me drop. And there were sensations of literally relaxing and dropping. Must keep going with this.

♦ For the first time ever, I got the direct sense that, as DW and I were discussing the other day, jhanas can be invented. I suspect that there is actually nothing hard and fast about the particular jhanas. The difference between Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness seems to be merely a result of impermanence related to effort. Boundless Space requires more effort, even though it is easier for me to enter and be sure that I“inhabit.” Boundless Consciousness is almost an accident, a forgetting to maintain that effort into spaciousness. So I catch “myself” “doing” Boundless Consciousness after the fact. The difference between the two states is a texture wrought by the impermanence of intention and attention.

These sits feel miraculous, and this wondrous tone supports great faith in the process. I think I’m supposed to investigate this wonder, too.

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