Early in my teens, unsatisfied by my parents' and local spiritual leader's answers as to the meaning and purpose of life, being an angst-ridden, hormone-fueled teen, I delved into other traditions to figure out an answer for myself. In the years that followed, I traced my way through the Upanishads, The Interior Castle by Santa Teresa de Avila, and numerous Sufi writings.
I couldn't shake off the feeling that Santa Teresa's description of the rapturous states she experienced while praying bore more than a passing resemblance to the jhana states of the Theravadan Saccavibhanga Sutta, and that the Hindu practice of Samāpatti or Samadhi which was eerily similar to the Sufi despite the scores of years and miles and doctrine separating the individual texts.
Last of all, I stumbled across an interpretive translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali during class, and was blown away. Here was a handbook of spiritual practice, with each verse laid out in a cause-and-effect format, offhandedly dismissing 'miraculous' and physics-defying abilities as mere distractions to progress.
Using a hodgepodge of techniques, wanting to see for myself if there might be more to millenia-old texts than metaphor and allegory, I actively set out to realize the 'physical bliss'/first Jhana state, being enamoured by the idea of an on-command "high". After meditating 30 min-1 hr (on and off) for five months, what began as a pleasant tickling in my chest steadily grew to a stream, to a river, to a pulsating wave of near-unbearable sheer bliss, leaving me intensely energized.
I lost focus almost immediately, and the physical sensation gradually receded, leaving me with a background, still very pleasurable sensation grinning from ear to ear, and giggling myself silly. In the following days, my memory was astronomically robust, my attention span and ability to focus boundless, and my enthusiasm for the most mundane tasks intense. Curiously, upon reaching the first jhana, I felt intrinsically satisfied as to my quest for the meaning of life, and lost my fear of death (though I still fear the pain of dying).
Though I reached the same state twice more in the next few months, unfortunately I meditated less and less frequently, eventually stopping the practice altogether for reasons I regret. I have since graduated college and just picked the practice back up, finding myself on the threshold of the first jhana once more, albeit a little older and maybe a little wiser.
I count myself as a Perennialist. The practice of contemplating or today stem from common roots (and though I can't prove it, possibly even predating shamanism and witchcraft). Prayer or meditation (in their myriad forms) are cornerstones of nearly every religion, and this isn't by sheer coincidence.
I only recently learnt about u/Absolutus' controversial AMAs, and I find it a bit suspect that there aren't more first-hand accounts by concentration-meditation vets. Though I can't, and won't, lay claim to 'superpowers' or a mentat-supercomputer of a mind (yet), I believe you guys might be interested in hearing from another practitioner who can at least verify the existence of jhana states, so ask away!
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