this article is part of a series: 🔗📚: collection of articles for an eventual book, "Jhāna Passaddhi Baselines"
1. you need to fart and you can't fart, or it comes out with difficulty. before you fart, there are parts of the body that feel tight, even sharp pain sometimes. Remember those bodily sensations. That's a baseline for jhana blockage. Now how does it feel after you fart? The body is much softer, smoother, pain is gone, body feels lighter. Remember those bodily sensations. That's a baseline for jhana blockage removal.
2. Sometimes some people stutter when they talk. There are energy blockages. If the energy is going smoothly, unhindered, they won't stutter.
3. How many pushups, pull ups, squats, or situps can you do? What does it feel like as your doing them? How does the body sensation change? Someone like Jack la lanne, a fitness expert from the 20th century, he could do pushups effortlessly hundreds at a time, smooth, no muscle stuttering.
How do pushups look and feel for most people? After 5 or 10, you can see their muscles stuttering, their body shaking.
Here's a personal example. When I try to do pullups from a cold start, no warmup, I can do about 3 or 4. But if I warm up with some shake and bake easy cardio exercise, for about 20 minutes so that my body is warm and soft, I can do about twice as many. If I do a little more intense cardio and get my body even warmer and softer, I can can do more than 10 pullups.
In each case, cold start with 3, warmed with with 6, or really warmed up with 10, I'm putting the same amount of muscular energy into it. But with the cold start, body cold, qi doesn't flow well, muscles start to tighten up and stutter by the 2nd or 3rd pull up. When I'm really warmed up, I can crank out 4 or 5 pull ups effortlessly, almost no muscle tightness and no stuttering, by by pullup 7 or 8 muscles are really tight and starting to stutter.
That's what energy blockage does to you, it makes you shake and stutter.
For jhana to work, energy blockages need to be dissolved, melted, removed.
4. Another example. Piano player or musician on a cold day with cold hands. When they try to play the instrument, their reflexes feel slow, sluggish, they feel clumsy, not like themselves. That's energy blockage. Heat up the hands, heat up the body, and they're back to their normal selves.
Actually the whole body is connected, so if any part is cold, there's going to be suboptimal performance somewhere in the body that's going to cause a domino effect on the rest of the body.
When you do pullups, the back muscles are the major player, but what keeps me from doing more pullups, is not my back muscles, it's not getting enough energy into my hands and forearms, that's the linkage that breaks and sets the limit.
5. what does your mind feel like the moment you wake up in the morning?
what it feels like for me, having many years of jhana experience, I wake up sharp as a tack. Mind totally clear, quick, lucid. I never really got into coffee or caffeinated drinks, so I just rely on exercise, healthy diet, and taking naps to keep things in good working order.
But I remember what it felt like when I used to live more like an ordinary worldling. I wake up, mind feels tired, sluggish, want to go back to sleep, sleep a few more hours, still want more sleep, etc.
Energy blockage feels like that. Lack of blockage allows your mind to be fast, sharp, clear.
6. when you chant suttas, is it tiring? When I first started on my own independent voluntary morning chanting practice, I remember after 10 to 15 minutes, my voice would feel somewhat tired, I'd want to and take a break. Energy blockages causes you to tire out quickly.
Now I could probably could chant 2 hours without getting tired. I limit myself to about 20 min. of vocal morning chanting, because talking drains the jhana battery. Thinking also drains the jhana battery, so I limit my evening chanting to 15 min or so of just mental recitation of vitakka and vicara, also moving the lips to practice correct pronunciation.
7. when you chant suttas, do you know if you're chanting accurately? Are you pronouncing correctly, do you understand the words of what you're reciting as you're reciting them? The less energy blockage you have, the more jhana power you have, the more accurately, quickly, and productively your chanting becomes. Things I've chanted everyday for 10 years, I still get sudden insight and a deeper understand of certain passages and words, even though I keep thinking I must have milked all the insight out of those passages already.
8. when you get that feeling of wanting to crack your knuckles, there's that feeling of pressure in your joints (fingers, toes, ankles, elbows, knees, etc.). And then the desire to relieve the pressure. What does it feel like (physical sensations) before you crack, after you crack? How loud was the crack? The bigger the energy blockage, the louder the crack. Those are all jhana and jhana blockage baselines.
I remember my hips, knees, shoulders, used to be crackable all the time. Like every 5 minutes it would reload and be crackable again. Over the years, as blockages dissolve with jhana practice and taiji exercise, it's diminished quite a lot. Now mostly just fingers and toes are crackable. I can see a day when nothing is crackable.
9. boneless-ness: This example comes from taiji practice, and I'd estimate an average person needs 10 years of at least 2 hour a day practice to really start to be able to do this, but it makes a super clear example, through direct experience, of what energy blockage feels like and what it feels like after it's cleared.
when you have heavy blockage and lack of training in how to fully relax, which is the 'normal' state of most people, your arm for example feels like you have a glob of pressure in the shoulder joint area, a mass of pressure where the elbow, wrists, finger joints are. In between those masses of pressure, it's relatively more loose, relaxed, empty feeling.
But if you master kaya passadhi (bodily pacification/relaxation awakening factor), and enough of your blockages have dissolved, you experience your arm, and your whole body as a boneless-bag of water, a contiguous gumby of gooey magnetic energy, with no shoulders, elbows, knees, etc. separating you into segments and joints. You just feel like a bag of water, or a bag of air, or just a bundle of light and energy. It's not metaphorical description, it's literally exactly how you feel, so light, soft, boneless, weightless.
Jhana in sitting meditation should feel like that too, eventually.
Those are all jhana and jhana blockage baselines. If you put in many hours of jhana practice everyday, some of your main blockages may take years to go away and not seem to make any day to day progress, but you'll always notice, if you practice awareness and sensitivity, changes in other areas in the body that are getting less blocked, more comfortable, etc.
On the mental jhana blockage baselines, notice how your memory, clarity of thinking, sharpness, quickness (for example spontaneous insights seems to occur much more frequently), how you more easily get a real and visceral sense of dukkha in existence, how you genuinely prefer the pleasures of seclusion, simplicity, and becoming disenchanted with socializing, 5 cords of sensual pleasure, etc.