Are there sensations of meditation?
As a factor of the first jhana, sukha signifies pleasant feeling. The word is explicitly defined in the sense by the Vibhanga in its analysis of the first jhana: "Therein, what is happiness? Mental pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, the felt pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, pleasurable and happy feeling born of mind contact — http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...el351.htmlthis is called 'happiness'
My question is about the sensations of the “pleasant feeling” and “felt pleasure” noted above. What sensations are associated with meditation? As I have been practicing meditation I have the sense of varying depth. The ultimate level of non-dual union, nirvana, Self, God, enlightenment or whatever the name is not what I am asking about. I am not there but merely on the path.
As the settling, stillness and quiet of meditation progresses there seems to be an accompanying shift of awareness of the sensations within the body. At some point these are let go of and disappear. However, they seem to be a resting place, a way station along the way somewhere between routine waking consciousness and “deep” meditation.
What do they feel like? Do you associate any particular sensation with meditation? Sometimes the sensation starts on my forearms like a soft warm humming vibration. At times it shifts to almost a whole body sense like a bowl of jello where when you touch it the whole mass of jello jiggles as one. It feels soft and warm like wearing a well washed thin pair of cotton jeans.
Are the sensations associated with meditation like an airport hub that you can go through to get to a city not on a direct route? I know that we would all like a Star Trek transporter that drops us into nirvana at will but short of that it is like stepping stones across a stream.
meditating with sensations
Mostly, I meditate using the Vipassana technique as taught by SN Goenka. This involves awareness of the sensations on the body. In the beginning one was aware of any physical sensation - aches and pains, numbness, tickling, throbbing etc etc. We were first taught to scan the body slowly a few inches at a time, as we became more experienced and had different experiences we scanned as a flow over the whole body and held the awareness of the body as a whole. The sensations change all the time, but the ones you describe are very like the sensations I experience when dropping into 'Bhanga' the body seems not to be there, and I am aware only of sensations - a bit like champagne bubbles. I can also feel the touch of the mind as I scan.
We are warned that although this is pleasurable - seeking it is counter productive and it is not enlightenment. The main focus of the technique is to maintain equanimity no matter what is happening in the body and understand this manifestation of 'anicca' - the constant change, the non-permanence of our bodies, minds, and all created forms. As the study of physics has shown the world to be only composed of energy, this is experienced in the body in 'Bhanga' as we experience this constant change. It is hard to put into words - the word is not the thing!
From time to time I am also aware of this constant movement in objects outside myself.
It does have its drawbacks! I seem develop awareness and sensitivity much faster than equanimity, so I find some situations are very challenging.
I do notice sensations associated with anger or fear very quickly and often before the stimuli appear - this is great as forewarned is forearmed and it is rare to lose equanimity when I am gifted with this space not to react in.
hope this was informative
peace and joy:)
Thanks your experience is very helpful.
You wrote that sensations come up before the stimuli appear. Do they also go in the other direction? You wrote about sensations like champagne bubbles. Can you think the champagne bubble sensation then experience the sensation and then the associated mind state with that? Like an immediate shift into a meditative mind flow.
If I have not maintained awareness and the mind got involved with something that has arisen, I am only aware of the sensation after I have reacted, either overtly or with a thought. I have no doubt that the sequence remained the same, however. The difference was in my level of awareness.
If I was to try and 'think the champagne bubble sensation' in order to make a certain experience happen, I think that would be running in the opposite direction. This only happens when there is a true 'letting go'. It happens both during formal sitting periods and at other times when awareness is an integral part of whatever activity is going on.
I can, however, drop into a calm and comfortable state that I recognise as a meditative state by taking a deep breath and consciously 'letting go'. It is difficult to put the 'letting go' into words. it's not just relaxing - though that is part of it, not just stopping the flow of thought - though it often stops. It is always accompanied by heightened awareness of the sensations on all parts of the body, though I am not thinking about sensation or about becoming more aware of it. The 'champagne bubble' state - which is not always the same - sometimes just an awareness of immense space, sometimes a throbbing resonance - it is difficult to describe with words - can happen as soon as the meditative state appears, after some time, or not at all. When it first happened, I got excited and it immediately changed, When I am aware that I am somehow 'wallowing' in the sensations, it disappears. It stays as a continuing state only as long as I don't react with craving for it.
I hope these words convey something to you - when I read it back, they seem totally inadequate.
peace and joy:)
I got it, your experience translated into words was very clear. I have a very similar experience with sensation and it does disappear when too much attention is placed on it.
Along the same line of thought/sensation. You may have already done this but if not I am curious as to your experience.
Some years ago I had noticed that when I felt I was happy or in a good mood I could feel a relaxation of the small muscles just under my eyes. Also I noticed that when I was angry on in an uncomfortable mood the same area of my face felt tight and tensed. I started experiementing and found that over time I was able to shift my "mood" by focusing attention to that area of my face. I was able to think "relax and open" to the muscles under my eyes and along with the relaxation a sense of mood shift to feeling good and happy would arise.
This felt like the same bodily sensation of the happiness that comes from something good happening from the outside. Like getting a birdie in golf or seeing a beautiful sunset. Happiness flowing from the inside without any reason for it.
This seems to be similar to the calm comfortable state that you can wrote about above. I wonder if you can associate any particular sensation as a "trigger" that you can touch to shift into that calm state?
I don't know if you have read a book called 'Zen and the art of Archery'
In a zippy summing up;) - an archer is being taught the Zen way of archery. The aim is to be bang on bull's eye every time.
He struggles along, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.
He then finds a particular stance, a particular way of using the bow and a particular release that puts him on target every time.
He rushes off to find his teacher and demonstrate his new-found skill.
His teacher is not impressed - he has missed the whole point - there is no Zen, just technical skill.
He has to start again.
Do I need to elaborate?
peace and joy:)
I did read that book many years ago. I will look for it at home. I am not sure but I do not remember fully grasping an understanding of the book.
Perhaps more elaboration would be helpful.
What I sense so far in relation to this thread is that the movement or shift of body sensation or mood with awareness (technical skill?) is the ??? and that is where I get lost (or maybe even before that).
Mind, body and spirit are connected. Thus, everything that affects my spirit, affects my body, the same way that everything that affects my mind affects my spirit, and so on.
Sensations are part of every process.
being not doing
This is just my view and you are welcome not to see things from my angle.
I think the point of the story was that shortcuts may lead to a perceived goal, but the mistake was in seeing the goal as the aim.
I have also found that the muscles in my face tighten when I am thinking and as I become aware of it, I can relax them and feel lighter and more in the meditative state. It doesn't always last, however, and sometimes it is distracting - noticing and then doing something to change 'what is'
Instead of treading the path of being so in tune with his bow, the arrow, the target - that missing was not a possibility, the archer was 'trying' and in the trying found a technical skill that seemed to deliver what he was after.
For me it's a bit like one-pointed meditation methods that lead to deep samadhi, but not to enlightenment. We are told that the Buddha's samadhi was profound - to 8 jhanas - but he knew there was still something missing. All the austerity, renunciation and effort had not led to the end of suffering. For that he returned to the simple meditation he had found for himself under the rose apple tree as a small child.
I don't see awareness as the technical skill, the technical skill (that is off the path and diddling around in the bushes on the side of the path) is finding some 'trigger' to shortcut oneself into awareness.
I spent many years 'trying'. I achieved good levels of samadhi and I think all I did was strengthen the 'I'.
My meditation now is not about deep samadhi or getting into certain states, but just being aware of the good the bad and the ugly inside.
I am still just taking steps on the path, sometimes finding myself diddling about in the bushes and getting back on the path as soon as I am aware I have detoured.
peace and joy:)
Thanks again for your clear and hepful reply. You truly seem to see into the center of my questions.
I agree the detours of the bushes are not enlightenment and as you wrote may even be a distraction. However, if I am going to be in a detour I would prefer (at times) for it to be something I enjoy. Sort of a resting waystation for the times when being on the path (of exploring and being as fully as I can with what is) becomes too tiring.
A lot of my writing and thoughts are about uncovering and dividing up the big steps of the path into smaller steps that are easier to try on. I imagine that we are all at differing levels along the path and that at every level what may be a detour or distraction for one of us may be a helpful step for another.
If not for many of these smaller steps I do not think I would have been as aware of the hindrances to meditation or the jhanas or to ways to lessen them.
It just occurred to me that developing the expertise of the technical skill (its focus, intention and concentration) while not being on the path and not being awareness may lay the groudwork for being able to focus more clearly and fully when back on the path. Sort of like all the subjects we studied in school that we do not use but which taught and trained us in differing ways of how to think. The thinking can then be applied wherever we direct it.
I sense that there is much more in your post that will surface for me. I will let you know and thanks again for your speedy replies.
I am off to the golf course. I will be practicing my technical skill -- the ball--the club--the swing-- the hole-- missing is not a possiblilty.
Who knows the path may be right under my feet where ever they are touching the ground.
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