Nadia Asparouhova

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How to do the jhanas

The jhanas are a series of eight (or nine) altered mental states, which progress from euphoria, to calm, to dissolution of reality – culminating in cessation, or loss of consciousness. They are induced via sustained concentration, without any external stimuli or substances. This is a practical guide on how to do them yourself.

Table of Contents

Jhanas are learned by doing, not reading

The word jhana comes from Buddhist scriptures, where they were first described. However, as many meditators like to point out, jhanas predate Buddhism. The Buddha experienced jhanas spontaneously as a child, and likely is not the first or only person to have experienced them.

I am not a Buddhist, nor would I describe myself as a meditator. I’m just a curious person who wanted to try a new thing, and was gobsmacked by what I experienced. Prior to attempting the jhanas, I’d guess that I had maybe 30 hours of lifetime meditation experience, scattered over a decade or more: in other words, not much. But with just over 20 hours of practice, I progressed through all nine jhanic states.

I would still say that I do not like “meditation” for its own sake, though I enjoy meditative activities (such as exercise, a deep 1:1 conversation, writing, or other creative work). But I don’t think jhanas are a form of meditation. Rather, they are a rare technology whose instructions are encoded in our bodies. Jhanas are an algorithm in the oldest sense of the word: a set of instructions that, if executed correctly, solve for a problem that you may not have even realized you’ve been trying to unravel. They are an Easter egg hiding in the game of life. [1]

If jhanas are a technology that exists a priori to Buddhism, then I find it strange how they are discussed and taught by most practitioners today, which is pretty much only through a Buddhist lens. The actual, mechanical instructions are buried in what I’d say is akin to computer science: a lot of complex language and spiritual theory, which - it is often implied - are inseparable from practice.

I understand the purpose of the ornate cultural context that is chained – albeit beautifully – around the jhanas. Powerful technology should be embedded in a community of norms and protocols that help people make sense of them and integrate them safely into their lives. And jhana practitioners have done this part a bit too well. It is no wonder that jhanas have quietly passed through civilization for centuries, protected like a rare jewel inside a cave of wonders, with little attention from the outside world.

It’s just that, well. If you had recently figured out how to code, and realized it was really quite simple and teachable to others – then looked around, and all you saw were computer scientists warning off would-be developers from making software, claiming that they needed to understand all the underlying theory before attempting to write a line of code – wouldn’t that make you want to open up a text editor and type out your own version of things?

This post is not intended as a reckless act. Rather, it reflects my personal belief that some types of knowledge are best acquired implicitly, not explicitly. You probably have little interest in reading about grief, or parenting, for example, unless you’re imminently facing these experiences.

To return to the software analogy: these days, most developers don’t learn how to write software by studying computer science first. They learn by tinkering around. They print “hello world.” Maybe they have a problem they want to solve for, so they make a simple app. As they become more experienced and run into more sophisticated problems, they might then revisit the theory to understand why things work the way they do.

This has been my experience with the jhanas. I read little about them beforehand, instead receiving minimal instruction and letting my intuition guide the experience. When I experienced things that were confusing or beyond what I could explain, I went back and read about the underlying philosophy to understand what was going on. (As a concrete example: I tried listening to Rob Burbea’s talks on the jhanas before I’d ever tried them myself, and found myself rather lost and bored. Later, however, I went back and consumed his talks voraciously; they had taken on new meaning. I now find them very valuable.)

So that’s what I’m going to attempt here. Instead of bogging you down with theory, I’ll share the basic instructions that helped me access the jhanas, going from first jhana to cessation in just over 20 cumulative hours. More than anything, I want to instill confidence in anyone reading this post that you can absolutely do this, regardless of how much you meditate. The most important advice I can give is to relax, have fun, maintain a playful and curious mindset, and don’t overthink it. Just follow the instructions as best you can.

But first, just a bit more information and background, so that you know what to aim for.

What the jhanas feel like

Jhanas are like swirling the paintbrush of your consciousness across a palette of altered sensations. These states vary in intensity; some are comparable to psychedelics, MDMA, or dissociatives.

Here’s how each state feels to me. I’ve kept my descriptions vague, because I think it’s more fun to discover them yourself. I’ve also included their short descriptions in parentheses from this wiki.

  • J1 (Pleasant Sensations): euphoric, bright, sunny, yellow
  • J2 (Joy): gratitude, beaming, radiating, hot pink
  • J3 (Contentment): content, reasoned, soft, wide, robin’s egg blue
  • J4 (Utter Peacefulness): dissociative, stillness, bathtub, cashmere, felt, muted lavender
  • J5 (Infinity of Space): disembodied, infinite, outer space, grayscale
  • J6 (Infinity of Consciousness): beauty, benevolence, grace, psychedelic, rose petal pink
  • J7 (No-thingness): —— (nothing in nothingness)
  • J8 (Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception): surreal, dissolution, black velvet studded with colorful ’80s rhinestones and gold that wink in and out of existence
  • J9 (Cessation): [cannot be described; no direct experience; consciousness is switched off]

Why learn the jhanas?

Why bother trying the jhanas? Are they just a weird party trick?

I’ll talk about this more later, but in short: jhanas are a good way to cultivate your attention. When you can skillfully control, deepen, and direct your attention, you may discover that life is easier and more malleable than it seemed.

It may sound hyperbolic, but jhanas are the closest thing to magic that I’ve experienced in my adult life. J1-J4 are especially useful for altering your moods and states of reality. I especially find jhanas to be an important skill in a modern context, where everyone is perpetually distracted. Mastering proactive control over one’s attention is an increasingly rare superpower.

(Spoiler alert: this isn’t the whole story of the jhanas. In fact, practicing the jhanas isn’t really the point of the jhanas at all. But I’ll cover that towards the end of this post. Let’s try to get to “hello world,” first.)

Hours practiced

I primarily learned the jhanas on two Jhourney retreats in 2024. Jhourney is a company that takes a pragmatic, fun, and accessible approach to teaching the jhanas to beginners. They are markedly different from a typical meditation retreat, and I’m grateful they exist, because I don’t think I would’ve learned the jhanas otherwise.

Retreat I (March 2024)

On the first retreat, I experienced jhanas 1 through 7 over the span of four days, at which point I left the retreat early to process what I’d learned. (You can read an account of my experience in Asterisk magazine.)

Here’s an approximation of how many hours I practiced per day; cumulative hours practiced on a given retreat, (t); and when I experienced each jhana for the first time. Each session lasted from 30-60 minutes, and I never meditated solo (not counting group sits) more than three times per day. Aim for quality, not quantity.

Note: (t) includes walking meditation time + group sits (where the goal wasn’t always to practice the jhanas). Dedicated jhana practice time is probably ~80% of this number.

Day 1: 3 hours total

  • J1, possibly J2, t <1 hour
  • J2 for sure, t = 2.25 hrs

Day 2: 4.75 hours total

  • J3, t = 4.5 hrs
  • J4, t = 5.5 hrs

Day 3: 5 hours total

  • J5, t = 10.75 hrs

Day 4: 2 hours total

  • J6 and J7, t = 14.25 hrs

Total hours meditated on Retreat I: 14.75

Retreat II (June 2024)

On the second retreat, I additionally experienced jhanas 8 and 9 (meaning, cessation) over the span of two and a half days, at which point I left the retreat early to process what I’d learned.

Day 1: 1.5 hours total

  • Possibly J8 and J9, t <1.25 hrs

Day 2: 3 hours total

  • J8 and J9 for sure, t = 3 hrs

Day 3: 2.25 hours total

Total hours meditated on Retreat II: 6.75

Practice between retreats

In the three months between retreats, I only did 2-3 dedicated practice sessions, and not very seriously (maybe 15-30 min apiece?). But I did “practice” the jhanas all the time, in the sense of being aware of my body and mind, how I was reacting to things, and guiding myself towards different mental states. I popped into J1 all the time throughout the day, almost reflexively, and I’d sometimes tap into J2-J4 when I wanted to deepen certain sensations. This felt more like wielding a skill, though, versus dedicated practice.

General tips for practice

To access the jhanas, you basically induce the “opposite of a panic attack,” as I’ve heard others describe it. Before getting into my specific method (see next section), here are a few general recommendations. Remember, again, that the number one most important thing is to relax, have fun, and don’t overthink it.

Experiment with different techniques

It really does seem that everyone is different, so my method may not work for you. It’s your brain; go with what feels right. For example, to invoke a positive sensation, some people tap into feelings of gratitude, forgiveness, or altruism. I preferred a fairly mechanical, detached approach where I just thought of my brain as a machine, and which levers I needed to pull to induce various sensations.

Flow state » relaxation

For me, at least, the trick to jhanas was not “relaxation,” but something closer to “flow state.” Relaxing, to me, is like being at ease, where no new thoughts come to mind. Flow state, on the other hand, means I’m highly engaged with a task for a sustained period of time, and that one task is all that matters. IME this is at odds with how I’ve been told to practice mindfulness meditation. So if you’re struggling to “relax,” maybe try tapping into flow state instead.

A jhana is like a sneeze

You’ll hear meditators talk about not “grasping” onto sensations or trying too hard with the jhanas. This can be frustrating: what does it mean to both try, and not try too hard? I think of it like sneezing. Sneezing requires some degree of intentionality, but it’s a physical reflex that only happens if you don’t think too hard about it. Like sneezing, jhanas are more like a release than a force of will.

Pace yourself and listen to your body

For me, the jhanas came hard and fast. I struggled at one point between wanting to slow down, versus feeling like I was “supposed” to practice more. And I didn’t trust what I was experiencing at first, which led me to push myself more than I ideally would’ve.

Jhanas are weird because they’re considered a form of meditation, so there are a lot of meditation-like protocols around them (put in lots of hours! no phones or devices! avoid talking to people!). But I think these recommendations are just meant to help you cultivate the attention required to invoke jhanic states: they don’t help you process the experience itself. If you’re going through a transformative experience, locking yourself in a room without friends, family, or outside support might not be such a good idea.

So, make sure you listen to your needs. If things get overwhelming, it’s okay to stop, process, and ground yourself. Spend time with your friends. Go outside. Hug your pets. Write about it. You can always come back when you’re ready.

The biggest milestones for me, which prompted seeking outside input to make sense of my experience, were: J5, J6 and J7 (experienced together), and J9 (cessation). At these points, I made sure to slooowww down and process what was going on. If you get to any point in your practice where you’re feeling WTF about it, I’d highly recommend Rob Burbea’s talks, which are thoughtful, philosophical lectures on each jhana.

Instructions for accessing the jhanas

Here’s the method I used. If it doesn’t feel right to you, I suggest experimenting with different techniques. In particular, try switching what you use as your “object of joy,” and see if that helps.

(Note, of course, that you will likely progress through these stages over multiple sessions, spread out over days or weeks or months. Feel free to just read the first set of instructions, then continue only once you’ve mastered each stage. Pace yourself!)

How I entered J1<>J4

  • Relax your body deeply, clearing your mind of any distractions. (My personal hack: try falling asleep, but stop before you actually do.)
  • Think about someone, something, or a memory that sparks a pure, uncomplicated feeling of joy. I thought about my child. Don’t focus on the thing itself, but on the joy that arises as a result of thinking about it.
  • Allow that joy to grow, then loop upon itself, as you feel more and more joyful. If the joy begins to dissipate, “pulse” more joy by thinking about the person/thing/memory. Don’t think too much about what you’re doing. Your hands and chest might tingle; that’s a good sign. Eventually, the euphoria will hit. Now you’re in J1.
  • To progress to J2, don’t do anything. Just stay in the moment and enjoy the sensation. If it doesn’t dissipate, it will begin to evolve on its own. Notice how it’s changing, until you find yourself in a qualitatively different state.
  • Repeat the previous step to get to the next jhana. Stay with that state, be in the moment, don’t try to change or interact with it. It will evolve into the next state, and so on.
  • As you get familiar with each state and what they feel like, you’ll be able to locate them in your body and move between states using muscle memory. So to get from J1 → J4, I just move the focus of my energy from my head (J1), to heart (J2), to stomach/groin (J3), to flowing out through my legs and all around me (I call this one, J4, “bathtub”). To move from J4 → J1, reverse the order.

As I became more comfortable with the jhanas, I dropped the first relaxation step. Then I dropped my meditation object, or “trigger.” With a bit more practice, I found that I could pop into J1 instantly and progress through my “jhana flow” from there.

How I entered J5<>J7

J5-J7 work a little differently. Because they are dissociative, you no longer have your body for reference. The technique that worked for me was thinking about expansion (or “softening”) and contraction.

  • J4 → J5: Expand and soften my awareness, as if the walls of the “bathtub” were falling away. Imagine you’re sitting in the pitch dark and trying to sense what’s around you, or you’re in a room and you sense someone behind you. You’re not focusing on anything specific, just trying to be more aware.
  • J5 → J6: You’re staring at an infinite space; now become the infinite space. For me, this feels like floating “forward,” as if my consciousness is merging with the space before me.
  • J6 → J7: I just stay in J6, keeping the sensations soft, until it fades into J7. Sometimes I can accelerate this process by reminding myself that the J6 experience is finite, and it has to end sometime. But I find that J6 tends to dissolve on its own.

To get back down from J7 → J4, I contract my awareness. I remember that I have a consciousness (J6). I remember that there is space (J5). I remember that I have a body (J4). Then it collapses down, like closing a book.

As you get more comfortable with J5-J7, you can move between states deterministically by directing your “gaze” (I think this is actually my attention, but I think of it as my gaze):

  • To get from J4 -> J5: I gaze sort of out and slightly down
  • J6: I glide forward into the space
  • J7: I sort of gaze inwards, into my center. This feels like a “flattening” of self, collapsing into a line or a horizon.

How I entered J7<>J9

Jhanas are typically separated into two buckets of “light” (J1-J4) and “deep” (J5-J8), but in my view, J7-J8-J9 form their own special trio, because J8 is a tricky state to navigate.

J9 can’t be directly experienced, because you’re unconscious – just as how you can’t experience being under general anesthesia. And J8 is a fleeting, unstable state, because noticing you’re in it, beyond the faintest bit of awareness, will send you back to J7. But J7 is stable! So we can use that as our anchor. Think of it as your base camp before attempting to summit Everest.

The helpful advice I received was to focus on getting very comfortable with J7, deepening and maintaining that state, and then - when you’re ready - “shooting the gap,” or catapulting yourself across J8 to land in J9. I think of it like skipping rocks. A light touch will get you to the other side (J9), but if you’re too heavy-handed, you’ll sink into the pond (end up back in J7) and start over. (I’m sure there is a way to train yourself to linger in J8, and I’d be curious to cultivate this skill, but so far, this method works for me.)

The best way I can describe J7-J9 is to compare it to lucid dreaming, where you’re dreaming, but strangely alert. J7-J9 is like that, but for the act of falling asleep. First, the heaviness of your body sets in (J7). Then, nonsensical sounds and thoughts begin to arise, also known as hypnagogic hallucinations (J8). And then you’re asleep (J9).

If you want to cultivate your J7-J9 skills, I’d suggest paying attention to what it feels like to fall asleep at night, noticing the progression from wake to sleep. The difference is you’ll be highly aware – not drowsy – while in the jhanas.

So, to get from J7 to J8: relax more deeply into J7, be patient, and notice where reality is breaking down. There are likely fleeting, nonsensical thoughts floating through your mind; try to ever-so gently notice them. Notice that they’re nonsensical. But don’t react to them.

It’s hard to describe how this works. In J8, you have to get comfortable with the fact that they may be thoughts or non-thoughts, you might be noticing or not-noticing, things could be happening or not-happening…and just let it be. The image that comes to mind for me is some cartoon I watched once (maybe Adventuretime, or Rick and Morty?), where the characters end up in a bizarro world where their lines and shapes and colors are drawn in strange ways, and the background is now white and empty, but they’re still talking to each other. Kinda like Picasso’s bulls:


Everything is surreal and breaking apart, but you have to be cool with it. You might flit between J7<>J8 a few times before landing in J9.

J9 is equally bizarre, because you’ll only know you experienced it after you come back. You know how if you’re given general anesthesia, and the doctor tells you to count down from 10 to 1, and you’re counting, totally awake, feeling so confident that you’ll make it to 1…and next thing you know, you’ve woken up again, and the whole thing is over? That’s what J9 feels like. You’re alert, you’re alert, you’re alert…annnnd, you’re back. Hey, where were you? It feels like you winked out of existence for a bit. I found that I almost always regained consciousness in J7 – usually in a very deep and delicious state of absorption. You can also play with inducing multiple cessations within one session – going from J7-J8-J9-J7, and looping that a few times – before voluntarily ending the session.

What’s going on under the hood?

I said I wouldn’t spend too much time on theory, but if at this point you’re still wondering how it’s possible that we can think our way into psychedelic experiences and loss of consciousness, congratulations: I know about as much as you do. Jhanas are still understudied in academia, though interest is growing, and there are a few papers that use EEG and fMRI data to demonstrate that something is actually happening inside people’s brains when they are in jhana that’s comparable to other altered states, like psychedelics or being in a coma. [2]

The explanation that follows has nothing to do with such literature. It’s just me theorizing, based on my own experience and what I’ve read from others so far, on what I think is happening. But I really have no clue! So, don’t read this as an authoritative take; just a peer-to-peer musing out loud as how I would explain these phenomena. (Please note that these aren’t solely my original thoughts, but a composite of things I’ve read and mashed together from all over the place. I’m not sure what I’ve learned where anymore, so proper attribution feels impossible, but I am not claiming these as my views and shouldn’t be credited as such.)

The key ingredient of the jhanas seems to be attention. If you’ve ever tried to make the best of a bad situation, you’re already familiar with this concept. How, and where, you direct your attention, can heighten and intensify an experience. If you get stuck in an anxiety loop, you can make the experience worse. Everything that happens, no matter how objectively “good” it is, will be re-coded as “bad.” But if you try to relax and look on the bright side, you’ll find that your experience actually improves: things that seem “bad” will be re-coded as “good.” To some degree, then, our perception of reality is influenced by where we direct our attention.

Now imagine that we’ve plotted all emotions along an x-y axis, where x = valence (positive/negative) of emotion, and y = intensity of emotion. Negative emotions (x<0) might include things like anger, anxiety, and fear. Positive emotions (x>0) are things like euphoria, gratitude, and pride. Attention is the thrust, or force, that you can exert to move your state along the y-axis (i.e. intensify any emotion), regardless of its x-position. [3] This is why the metaphor of jhanas as “inducing the opposite of a panic attack” is so helpful. It’s the same y-value, just with a positive rather than negative x-value.

But how do we know the x-positions of our positive emotions? Why are J1-J4 organized the way they are?

It’s often said that the jhanas aren’t any different from the positive emotions that we feel in the “real world.” For example, if you start dating someone new, you might progress from the giddy honeymoon phase (J1); to being so joyful and grateful to know this person (J2); to feeling content with, and proud of, the relationship you’ve built (J3); to viewing the relationship as your anchor in the storm of life (J4).

I don’t know why positive emotions follow this progression (though I’m sure someone else does), but the point is that jhanas aren’t doing something weird and unusual here. They’re exactly how good feelings evolve in any other circumstance, just with the extra “amplifier” of attention (higher y-value). If our emotions are typically capable of lifting us into the sky and back down to Earth, highly concentrated attention enables us to shoot them into outer space (more thrust!). But if your attention is scattered, you won’t go very far. So, learning how to cultivate and sustain attention is critical to practicing the jhanas. [4]

What about J5-J9, which aren’t associated with magnifying any specific emotion, but rather the deconstruction of reality itself? Well…you got me there. I’ve been told (though haven’t read about this myself, so I may be spouting ideas incorrectly here) that J5-J9 are all actually part of J4: so, once you’re anchored in this state of deep calm and equanimity, your brain starts dismantling your consciousness, piece by piece, until there is nothing left. Perhaps it’s akin to how, when you’re very relaxed and calm, it’s easy to fall asleep? But I’m especially baffled by J6, which is an intensely beautiful and psychedelic experience that’s oddly sandwiched between two very dissociative ones (J5 and J7). I wish I had answers here, but I’m still not sure how to explain J5-J9.

Impact of the jhanas

Now that I’ve taken you all the way through this post, I’ll give you the plot twist: jhanas are cool, but they’re not actually the point. The valuable part is the insight gained along the way.

Jhanas, breathwork, psychedelics, MDMA, etc are all tools to for inducing altered states, from which new insights can arise. None of the actual methods matter, so much as putting your brain into what I think of as “developer mode,” from which you can write new rules that govern your thoughts and behavior, then close things up and operate anew. (Some people call this “neural annealing.”)

After I published my account of the first retreat, many people have asked me how the jhanas improved my life. My answers were fairly straightforward. Having better control of my attention helped me navigate challenging moments more easily than before. Things just didn’t bother me as much, even if a moment was genuinely sad or disappointing or hard. I could experience difficult emotions, and sit with them, without letting it all fall apart. I was also prompted to reexamine aspects of my personality, such as a tendency towards grumpiness, and whether I wanted them to be part of my identity. I don’t think the jhanas made me happy, but their biggest impact was enabling me to realize how happy I already was: I just had to direct my attention towards this fact, then update how I thought of myself. Now I embrace and see the joy in life’s moments, big and small, much more easily than before.

I think we could be on the precipice of a modern wave of “natural psychedelics” – like jhanas and breathwork – that are accessible without the red tape (see also: the FDA’s recent rejection of MDMA therapy) and have great potential for therapeutic use. [5] If more people gain access to “developer mode,” they can debug their minds without the use of chemical interventions. One day, we might look back on psychedelics as an early, coarse attempt to do this sort of thing that came with all sorts of weird side effects, like dentists using cocaine in the late 1800s, versus the comparatively “smoother” methods that something like the jhanas might offer. This sort of future is where the bulk of conversation is centered regarding the jhanas’ benefits, and they are very good benefits indeed.

…But. Even that isn’t the point of the jhanas!

Cessation, or J9, was a completely different experience from the other jhanas. Whereas J1-J7 (I’m not sure where to put J8 because it’s so fleeting and instrumental) were more about being able to improve myself, my mind, and my reality, J9 prompted more philosophical and spiritual reflections on the nature of consciousness itself.

Now I see the jhanas like this: they are an algorithm for understanding some fundamental truths about the world. These truths are not specific to the jhanas – they are visible across many different spiritual traditions and lived experiences – but the jhanas are an extremely straightfoward way of getting to them. And once I had those insights, I didn’t feel the need to practice the jhanas anymore.

After cessation, my practice of the jhanas felt complete. Not only do I not have a desire for dedicated jhana practice anymore, but so far (admittedly, it’s still fresh) I haven’t even felt the need to invoke them in my day-to-day life anymore, like I did after the first retreat.

I find this sense of closure to be a really beautiful thing. How often does mastery of an activity end with true fulfillment, rather than boredom, distraction, or disinterest? There’s something about the innate completeness of the jhanas that speaks to their elegant design, like finding a perfectly round sphere in nature.

I would love to describe the truths I discovered, but something tells me this isn’t the right format. I think some insights – really, most forms of wisdom – can only be learned by experiencing them yourself. It would be hubris to think that I could convey this sort of knowledge using words, in the same way that no one can teach you about love, or loss, or the feeling of pride that comes from accomplishment, besides yourself. You just need to go do the thing. That’s why I’ve explicitly taken the approach of trying to share instructions that are as clear and straightfoward as possible, and emphatically encouraging you to give the jhanas a try.

I guess I’ll wrap here by saying that the jhanas are useful for tinkering with the mind, but after cessation, I realized that neither body nor mind is really all that important. I imagine if my brain gets re-muddled somehow, I could use the jhanas to light up the path again. But right now, I see no additional purpose to practicing them.

To try on one last metaphor before we part ways: it feels like finishing a video game. I might play through the game again if I’m feeling nostalgic, or to uncover new ways of “beating” it, or find any hidden quests or parts of the map I might’ve missed along the way. But that would just be for fun. I know that all those paths will lead to the same ending, and I already know what the ending is. My intrinsic desire to finish the game has been satisfied. [6]

In conclusion: try it!

I hope this post has inspired you to want to try the jhanas for yourself. I came into them rather skeptical, thinking they must be overhyped, and came out of it permanently changed. I do think some aspects of the jhanas are overhyped (not in terms of sensory experience, but in terms of their significance), but it’s still an entertaining – and at times, enlightening – experience along the way, with at least 20+ hours of gameplay. And I encourage you to try to “finish the game,” because the ending is a real humdinger. Good luck!


  1. I’m not thinking about the Three Body Problem game, you are. 

  2. Oshan Jarow’s Vox piece is a helpful introduction to the jhanas that references the research we have so far. 

  3. I’ve been tempted, for research’s sake, to try inducing and intensifying an actual panic attack to see if a distinct set of states emerge, similarly to the jhanas. But I’ve had panic attacks before, and I don’t wish them on anyone. I do also wonder: is valence purely bidirectional? That is, can you only induce and heighten a “positive” or “negative” emotion, or are there any other directions we could send our consciousness down? The jhanas encompass what I believe to be every type of positive emotion, including joy, contentment, and peacefulness (and their associated variations). Can we line up all the negative emotions – such as anxiety, fear, and doubt – along the valence axis in the opposite direction? And together, does that neatly organize every possible human emotion along a single -1/1 axis, or are we still missing others? If so, what happens if we try to intensify and loop on those emotions? 

  4. I suspect this is partly why I was able to learn the jhanas quickly. Even though I don’t meditate, I’m lucky to spend most of my days deeply immersed in focused, creative work. If you want to get good at the jhanas: stop scrolling on your phone, pick up a book or a hobby or some activity, and just do that one thing for hours. Learn to be alone with your thoughts. Go on a long walk. Eat dinner alone, without watching TV or being on your phone. You get the idea. 

  5. After having tried breathwork a couple of times, I personally prefer the jhanas, because they enable you to have a much more precise and controlled experience, without the distraction of external stimuli. (I also couldn’t get comfortable with the idea that I was essentially hyperventilating my way into these states.) On the flip side, breathwork might be a more deterministic way to induce an altered state. 

  6. Of course: never say never. There’s always the possibility that this sequel turns into a trilogy!