My Experience With Jhana Meditation …


My Experience With Jhana Meditation 

It wasn’t long ago that I came to Buddhist practice. I knew very little about meditation at the time, but I was determined to learn it as best as I could. I started in the Zen tradition, but after months of practice, I felt that I needed to do something differently. In contrast to Zen’s emphasis on sudden insight, I kept reading about the practice of developing deep levels of concentration as the path to awakening. I soon learned this practice to be jhana meditation.

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What is Jhana?

In Buddhism, the jhanas are very deep meditative states that one can enter through sustained concentration. They produce states of consciousness profoundly different from the ones we’re accustomed to experiencing, and with them, we can use our minds to gain deeper insights into the nature of reality. There are eight jhana states, each one deeper than the last, but I’ll only be discussing the first as it’s the one I have had direct experience with.

Jhana in Buddhism

In most Buddhist traditions today the jhana’s are not taught. In fact, many Buddhists aren’t even aware that they exist! Somewhere along the way, insight practices took precedence over the development of concentration and as a result, the jhanas have been almost entirely ignored outside of the Theravada tradition. Everything I now know about these states and how to reach them came through extensive reading and practice. But you don’t have to be a Buddhist to attain them. Anyone with a healthy amount of dedication and patience can experience the bliss that comes through the jhana states.

My Experience

Rather than continue to focus on the insight based practices of Zen, which frequently lead me to frustration, I decided to devote myself to jhana practice. The first step is to focus on observing the movement of the breath. Feeling the sensation of the air moving in and out of the lungs, not trying to control the breath in any way, just observing it’s coming and going. It’s very important that you don’t actively try to stop the mind from thinking, as that’s impossible. The key is to allow everything else other than the breath to naturally fall away and gently return to the breath when distractions inevitably arise. The mind will calm down on its own as your concentration deepens. And if all goes well, your breath will slow down naturally, almost to the point of being imperceptible.

As my concentration deepens, it becomes easier to absorb myself in the breath without becoming distracted. Eventually, my breath becomes so slow and light that I can barely tell I’m breathing. I began to feel a throbbing, almost “swelling” sensation in the center of my forehead. This was a sign that I had reached what is called access concentration. It’s a focused state of concentration that precedes jhana and is necessary in order to reach deeper levels of consciousness. By now, I was beginning to experience a pleasurable sensation in my stomach. This is called Piti, a pleasurable, physical sensation that arises as your concentration deepens. When I reached this point, unlike previous occasions when this sensation had arisen, I was able to maintain my concentration and allow it to grow.

Suddenly, the sensation exploded, sending a rush of energy coursing through my body. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. I began to sweat, my body started shaking, and I felt the room spin around me as my heart raced. I was only able to maintain this state for a few minutes due to its intensity. What followed was a deeper level of peace and tranquility than anything I’d ever experienced. It was easy for me to maintain my focus on my breath and shut out nearly all thoughts. I sat on my cushion for about another 10 minutes as I allowed my mind to slowly ease itself back into reality, like waking from a dream.

Takeaways

Even after my meditation session ended, my mind continued to be focused and deeply calm afterward. I even continued to feel the effects of the session until late afternoon the next day. This practice has brought profound peace into my life, and if you decide to study the jhanas for yourself, I believe it will do the same for you.

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Jason Cornwall

I’m a Buddhist with an ever evolving practice. Never settling, always searching. I pursue knowledge by going deeper within myself.…

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