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Preparing for the Jhanas

There are a couple of basics you need to do in preparation for reaching the Jhana states in your meditation sessions. Some of these activities can be done well before your meditation session and others happen in your session in real time.

Getting into Jhana doesn’t require some elaborate preparation. It doesn’t need you to be sitting on a mountain top in Southern Thailand with monks ringing temple bells for hours on end. It doesn’t involve chanting, anything magical or superstitious, and it definitely doesn’t require you to have prepared yourself morally to be above reproach.

One need not be a monk to enter Jhana. You don’t even have to be serious about Buddhism at all. In fact, you can ignore 99% of Buddhism and all the fluff that comes with it and enter Jhana in spite of your complete ignorance of the religion.

Though Buddhism has brought us some instructions to help us enter these incredible states of mind, that’s really all we need Buddhism for. It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t look at the finger! Or, you will miss all the heavenly GLORY. (Bruce Lee). Lol.

Pre-conditions Before You Can Reach Jhana


You need not study anything about Buddhist beliefs or instructions for preparing yourself as a more moral person or a person with right speech, right thought, right action, etc. You need not do chanting of any kind. You need not have great karma from your past lives. You don’t need to do anything before Jhana that will prepare you spiritually for entering Jhana.

Jhana isn’t some holy place. It isn’t like anyone’s idea of heaven that I’ve ever heard of. It is not all bliss, contrary to what MANY meditation teachers will tell you. The first and second Jhanas feel great. After that, there’s very little to feel great about at all.

In the 4th Jhana there is nothing like good and bad or any other sort of dichotomy. It’s a feeling of stillness without joy. Jhana isn’t a negative experience either. These are unique experiences that will appeal to your curiousity about what is happening.

Necessary Steps to Reach Jhana in Your Meditation Session

1. Total (100%) Concentration on the Breath

You must have cultivated the ability to concentrate on your object of meditation with 100% focus and uninterruptibility.

What does that mean?

Prior to entering Jhana you must be very well focused on the breath or whatever object you’re using. Let’s say the breath because it’s one of the best objects to use and most people are familiar with this type of meditation.

Your mind must be locked on to the focus of the breath without any interruptions. Without any thoughts entering your mind and disrupting the rock solid concentration you have on the breath at the nose.

Ideally, your point of focus is as small as possible. When you breathe in and out through the nose the feeling of breath is only felt in a very small spot, not the entire nose, not your nose and lungs, not your nose, lungs, and diaphragm. Limit the focus to only where you feel the subtle feeling of breath.

At the start of your in-breath, you’ll feel it strongly. At least as strongly as you’re going to feel it. Focus there on that tiny spot.

As you reach the peak of the volume of your in-breath, the feeling has faded and isn’t even there any longer. The flow of air is too slow to even allow you to feel it.

What that really means is that the air isn’t strong enough to vibrate the hairs in your nose. If you routinely cut the hairs in your nose very short, you may not be feeling anything at all when you breathe. Leave the hairs to grow at least even with the bottom of your nostril for the best experience. Not joking.

Though there are times during your in and out-breath where you feel no air or feeling at all, your attention at that spot must not waiver.

100% concentration is when your mind literally never moves from that tiny spot. Whether you can feel air, or not, the mind is rock-solid on that little spot and is uninterrupted by thought, feeling, and any sensory perception other than what is felt in that spot.

That’s good concentration.

That’s the only concentration I know that got me into Jhana regularly, so it’s all I teach.

Yes, there are some teachers that teach a more macro focus. Even on the entire cycle of the breath. I have tried it, and found it too difficult to get the right feeling often. I was able to reach Jhana in that way a handful of times, but I reverted back to my micro-focus practice and it helped me attain Jhana much more reliably.

If you were taught a more macro focus and like it – great. Why not try my micro-focusing idea and see if it works better for you. I think it will.

2. Switch Focus – From Breath to Nothing

After you have focused on the feeling of the breath at the nose with 100% focus and concentration for a while – 10 minutes or 100 minutes, up to you, you can now change your object of focus to be nothing.

Meaning, just stop focusing on the breath and wait for the next thing to focus on to show up.

Ofte in this stage you will begin refocusing on the breath again because it’s there all the time anyway, right. Keep trying to focus on nothing and see what happens.

What eventually happens is the mind creates a sign or symbol for you.

3. Switch Focus – from Nothing to the Mind Sign

Buddhists call the mind sign a nimitta. It’s created by the mind and gives you something to focus on. It’s odd that the mind does this, but after you were focused 100% on your breath for probably tens of minutes and then stop and focus on nothing, the mind makes something up for you to pay attention to.

Nimittas can be any of dozens of things. Whichever one(s) you get, you should understand that they are not really there. They’re not tangible. You cannot see them with your eyes, you cannot hear them, and you cannot feel them.

Nimittas are created by the mind to give you something to redirect your focus to.

Usually people have nimittas they see in their mind. Their eyes are closed and they see a light or image or shape or something. Many people see a round shape like a moon, of any color or even multiple colors. I saw a round white or yellow nimitta about 20% of the time.

Nimittas can also take the form of a tingling feeling in the hands or feet, or elsewhere.

My hands tingled lightly as if they were about to fall asleep about 70% of the time.

Around 10% of the time, my nimitta started as a tingling somewhere that completely covered my body.

4. Total 100% Focus on the Nimitta

Direct all of your attention to the nimitta object when it shows up. Focus there like you focused on breath prior, with a complete focus.

Smile gently. Relax. Feel good. Feel happiness wherever it is inside you. You’re in a really peaceful state here, enjoy the feeling of that state.

5. Jhana Arrives

It won’t happen every time. It may only happen 2% of the time. But, eventually the door to the First Jhana is opened. You can read here about the obstacles that occur when you’re on the verge of Jhana. In time you can become skilled at navigating your way through the process to arrive at Jhana pretty consistently.

Your first clue that Jhana has arrived is a building of this happiness inside you. It becomes not just a good feeling, but a mind-blowing feeling of bliss/love/ecstasy/joy/rapture that seems to build on itself, growing and overflowing.

It’s really quite something!

Please read more about Jhana at our Jhana Intro Index >

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