Summary of Jhāna Development to Steph
Hi, Steph. I’m so glad you joined us! Maybe the gals here can fulfill the social secretary role so many women find themselves in everywhere, for patriarchal reasons or whatever reasons—and start a DhU retreat tradition! Followed, of course, by a hedonistic afterparty that involves intelligent dance music!
About my jhana development—I had to work off jhanas as platforms because vipassana was too harsh for me. I have a fragile brain—rare migraine condition in which I experience multiple bizarre “auras,” or neurological deficits. After I encountered MCTB and crossed the A&P Event soon thereafter, I literally lost normal vision. I had metamorphosopia, warped vision so bad that I couldn’t read, as if funhouse mirrors surrounded me, only not fun. I was like that for 6 weeks, and the first time I chatted with Daniel was from the ER where he went to medical school, because of the persistent aura I got while using his book, hahahahaha. (I was later to find out that he and I were both earning English degrees during the exact same years, in the same building, 25 years ago! Moreover, he recently showed me a picture of himself back then, with long curls, and I remember him! Small world!) Anyway, yeah, I zapped my brain and had to back off and build up that nice, calming samatha and practice vipassana from within or out on top of them.
I had a natural proclivity to see the 3Cs, so my jhanas were soft and went up to fourth before first path. Right after first path, I suddenly had formless realms (5 and later 6), often hard. Nothingness I got only since the new year, I think, and I find it really hard to stabilize—easy to fall out of for the reasons you say. What I do is let sixth really develop and then narrow my focus a lot, narrow in on where not much seems to be happening. However, I invariably start noticing some flickering or strobing, and then I think about that and fall out. I just haven’t practiced much with it.
MCTB2 (I’m Dan’s developmental editor, in case you didn’t know) says that Neither Perception Nor Yet Nonperception is actually easier to stabilize than Nothingness, if I’m remembering correctly. Well, I heard it somewhere, at any rate. I hit that only for the first time last night, and wow is it strange! The sheer weirdness of it made my attention turn on itself, which knocked me out of it. The merest attention to anything demolishes this state—that I know I read in MCTB2 (we are working on the Jhana chapter right now).
I practiced a bit with fire kasina after stream entry, when I was suddenly obsessed with powers. I’d like to try it again. I’ve not had time to listen to the podcast about Florian, Duncan, and Daniel, but maybe this weekend. Perhaps we can start a fire kasina practice thread here and report our challenges and progress—like a support group!