Peter’s Jhana Retreat Report

After a significant retreat experience, participants have the opportunity to review what they learned during one of our meetings.  Peter describes the retreat he just completed as one of the most significant of the more than 40 residential retreats he has attended.  Shaila Catherine, the teacher, is internationally known and respected for her knowledge regarding jhana practice and her outstanding ability to describe the “craft” involved in developing very high degrees of concentration.  Traditional Buddhist vipassana, or insight meditation, emphasizes the practical benefits of this level of concentration as a way to prepare the mind for deep and subtle insights into the nature of subjective experience.  Peter’s review includes detailed descriptions of various markers of concentrated attention that must be developed in order to realize a jhana level of focused awareness.  Prior to this retreat, Peter gave a talk on October 19 describing the various levels of jhana experience, and the recording and notes from that talk are posted in the archives.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Peter’s Jhana Retreat Report


Cultivating Jhana

Peter Carlson will be participating in a 10-day retreat soon that focuses on concentrating the mind to the level of experiencing jhana, an extraordinarily focused level of attention that is frequently described in the earliest Buddhist teachings.  He talks about previous jhana experience, the characteristics of jhana states and his preparation for this immersive experience.  After he returns from the retreat, he will review the experience on November 8.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  CULTIVATING JHANA


Self State Integration

During this talk, Peter summarized the effect of overcoming the five hindrances through the cultivation of the seven factors of awakening.  The interaction between the mind’s idealized expected outcome and the self organization that emerges, producing stress, was described as “self state conflicts”.  The example used was “I’ll do this perfectly and everyone will be grateful and admire me” to illustrate that this expectation will not show up as predicted, producing stress and confusion.  Peter described how activating and perfecting the cooperative functioning of the seven awakening factors produces “self state integration”, the clarity and stability of which provides support for using vipassana for “self state transcendence”, the process of awakening, which will be explored at the next meeting.

Here are the notes that were prepared for the talk:


Cultivating Jhana

Peter described the characteristics of jhana from both the “sutta jhana” and “Visuddhimagga jhana” models.  The benefits of jhana practice were reviewed, suggesting the real benefit of jhana practice is the cultivation of the seven Awakening Factors, which will be discussed in depth during next week’s discussion.  Peter’s notes for this talk are posted above this posting, including URL addresses for downloading an ebook relevant to jhana practice, and a page from Leigh Brasington’s site with various articles about the jhanas.

Mindful Breathing And Insight

This Dhamma dialogue reviews three levels of awareness related to mindfulness of breathing and how they interact with the practice of vipassana, that is, insight into the impermanent and selfless nature of personal experience.  The first level is simply being aware “This is the in-breath, this is the out-breath”.  The second level is a cultivated interest in the “textural” quality of the breath sensation, while the third level narrows the focuses the concentrated awareness around a discrete, singular sensation “like noticing the sensation of one nasal hair vibrating”.  How each level relates to the practice of vipassana was described and then there was a general discussion of these practices.