So you’ve finally grabbed your meditation pillow, picked out that perfect meditation spot, and found 20 minutes in your day in which to turn your focus inward. Sitting in lotus position you close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. You’re good for about 10 seconds when all of a sudden a thought comes into your head so compelling that it launches you on a 5 minute drama before you finally realize that you’ve forgotten about your breath. Fear not young meditation journeyperson, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. For most beginning meditators, and even those well versed in the practice for that matter, staying with the breath without distraction is the exception rather than the norm.
Buddhist practitioner Bodhipaksa discusses the exception in his latest Wild Mind post. Called jhāna, the meditation state where a person is able to stay with one’s experience occurs when the mind is calm and free from distractions. According to Bodhipaksa, there are four level of jhāna, each level deeper than the previous and only possible with right concentration.
So if we’re serious about freeing ourselves and others from suffering, we should be serious about deepening our experience of jhāna. How, then, can we move beyond having jhāna as an experience we sometimes stumble into accidentally, and make it more of a regular occurrence in our meditation? Getting into jhāna is easier than you might think. I’m going to outline an approach that I’ve found to be useful in cultivating jhāna. Before we begin, I’m assuming that outside of your meditation practice you have trained yourself to be reasonably ethical. After all, you meditate with the same mind that you carry around in the rest of your life. My approach is based on an adaptation of the traditional list of jhāna factors that’s found in the suttas (early Buddhist scriptures). In the suttas we find that there are four “jhāna factors” described.
Read more from Bodhipaksa about meditation and the the four level of jhāna here.