Breath Focusing and Staying Present

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Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:47 am

Breath Focussing and Staying Present.

I'm still a bit unsure about the breath focusing - seems to me that when I'm focusing on my breath, I can't also be focusing on the present moment. For example, when I foucus on my breath, the surrounding environment seems to fade. It's as if I get tunnel vison and all I have as far as awareness goes is the breath, the whole breath, and nothin but the breath (to coin a phrase). After a while, I deliberately change my focus to my surroundings and become very aware of them. My body, the distance between objects and my positon in relation to everthing.

Am I doing something wrong?

EDIT: I'm pretty sure it isn't a case of focusing too much either - there's nothing strained, or forced, just a deep focus, there's no brow knitting or anything, just focus. But one seems to be at the expense of the other.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:57 am

If you are following instructions and maintaining awareness of the breath as per the directions you have been given - you are in the present moment.
Observing the breath whether it is the samatha variant or the vipassana variant, involves observing the breath or other phenomenology associated with the breath, in the present moment.
Just follow the instructions that you have and you'll be fine.
kind regards

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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby appicchato » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:21 am

Collective wrote:After a while, I deliberately change my focus to my surroundings and become very aware of them. My body, the distance between objects and my positon in relation to everything.

While some may disagree, my 'focus' in meditation is about what's going on inside, not outside...when you say that when you focus on your breath it is to the exclusion of everything else...to me this is good...and for many not easily accomplished...

Be well... :smile:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:50 am

appicchato wrote:
Collective wrote:After a while, I deliberately change my focus to my surroundings and become very aware of them. My body, the distance between objects and my positon in relation to everything.

While some may disagree, my 'focus' in meditation is about what's going on inside, not outside...when you say that when you focus on your breath it is to the exclusion of everything else...to me this is good...and for many not easily accomplished...

Be well... :smile:

Oh :) Well in that case, I'll stop giving myself a hard time.

Thank you very much for your insight.

I've just come back from my walk, and I got to thinking (something I do way too much of); is focusing on the breath, merely a technique to 'stop our minds from wandering into the past or future? If that is the case, isn't our main objective to be continually present, without the need for the 'hand holding' breath?

Reason I ask, is because I, now and again, let go of the breath focusing and I simply become aware of the presnt moment. If I 'focus' for want of a better word, on the presnt, then, I'm very presnt - if you understand. Probably more so than when I focus on the breath. Presnt focusing seems easier and more productive. But then again, I've only done this on and off for about 9 months, so I could be utterly wrong here.

Anyway that last was a ramble of sorts,

Thanks all again :namaste:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:07 pm

I didn't want to start another Samadhi/Vipassana thread so...

I meditate 3 times a day for 20 minutes a time. I was thinking of doing Vipassana morning and evening, and Samadhi during the afternoon.

I think I'm comfortable with vipassana meditation but Samadhi meditation I'm not so sure about. Isn't that focusing on an object, like a candle, or a flower, or some such object, to the exclusion of all else? Maybe with some soothing background Tibetan chanting? I want to have those blissful states so it can help me to relax during the busiest part of the day. Insight meditation is taken care of morning and evening.

Thank you :namaste:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:12 pm

Follow the instructions you have been given from your meditation kit.
This will lead to better results than doing it partially and supplementing it with something else.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:17 pm

Hi Collective
or the breath!
[removed part forgot about your kit!]
What ben says

Collective wrote:I didn't want to start another Samadhi/Vipassana thread so...

I meditate 3 times a day for 20 minutes a time. I was thinking of doing Vipassana morning and evening, and Samadhi during the afternoon.

I think I'm comfortable with vipassana meditation but Samadhi meditation I'm not so sure about. Isn't that focusing on an object, like a candle, or a flower, or some such object, to the exclusion of all else? Maybe with some soothing background Tibetan chanting? I want to have those blissful states so it can help me to relax during the busiest part of the day. Insight meditation is taken care of morning and evening.

Thank you :namaste:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Guy » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:48 pm

Hi Collective,

First I think I should include a disclaimer: All the replies I give are from my own understanding and experience in the style of meditation taught by Ajahn Brahm, based upon the Anapanasati Sutta. If you are interested in hearing Ajahn Brahm's analysis of the Anapanasati Sutta (which has been of benefit to me on both a theoretical and practical level) then you can download it here: http://www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads/visit.php?cid=3&lid=319

The present moment includes everything except for thoughts about the past or future. This means that your awareness can be on any thoughts connected with the present, any sounds, and feeling in the body. Presumably your eyes are closed, there are no tastes in your mouth nor odors in your nose.The feelings in the body include the sensations of in and out breathing. Therefore, the breath is a small part of the present moment, it is not seperate from it, instead it is a close up of a particular area of the present moment.

Typically when we first sit down our mindfulness is not particularly bright, our awareness is scattered all over the place. Sitting down narrows the focus of the awareness already, since we don't have to be concerned about motor control. Closing the eyes means that we don't have to be conscious of any visual impressions since we aren't receiving any. Then, the stage Ajahn Brahm calls "Present Moment Awareness" narrows it down further. The breath - more concentrated still.

The simile of focusing the power of the sun's rays through a magnifying glass is useful here. By gently, patiently, kindly bringing the mind "into" the present moment, "into" silence (no thoughts even about the present moment), "into" the breath - we concentrate the mind's power and energy onto just one object. Being kind and gentle with your mind is extremely important in this process and the indicator of how kind you have been to your mind is how calm it becomes.

What you do with that calm mind is up to you, what I like to do is to investigate impermanence by watching phenomena arise and pass away. Also before I open my eyes I ask myself what type of attitude and mental qualities did I bring to meditation and what were the results? What is missing (with regard to the Seven Factors For Awakening), what do I need to work on?

Disclaimer #2: This is just my (very limited) understanding and I am aware that not everyone meditates like this. If this makes sense to you then you can try it out and see what happens, if I am just talking nonsense or if it is counter-productive to the instructions you are already following then please disregard it.

With Metta,

Guy
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1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:56 pm

No it all makes very good sense.

This 'anapanasati' sounds intriguing. A bit of both, rolled into one? I fully intend to read right through my meditation kit, but I'm still learning about what is best for me. Anapanasati sounds perfect, as it incorporates both samhadi and vipassana.

Re: the concentrating on 'anything' at the present moment, sight, sound, tough, semell, taste, sensations etc, that makes a lot of sense. And that is what I was trying to describe earlier - when I focus on 'just being in the present moment'.
Last edited by Collective on Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:59 pm

Ben wrote:Follow the instructions you have been given from your meditation kit.
This will lead to better results than doing it partially and supplementing it with something else.
kind regards

Ben

:thumbsup:

As for " just staying in the present moment" that sounds good in theory. In practice everyone I have met who states that as their intention either gives up, or starts a more formal practice.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:13 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:
Ben wrote:Follow the instructions you have been given from your meditation kit.
This will lead to better results than doing it partially and supplementing it with something else.
kind regards

Ben

:thumbsup:

As for " just staying in the present moment" that sounds good in theory. In practice everyone I have met who states that as their intention either gives up, or starts a more formal practice.

I consider myself warned.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Feb 11, 2010 4:02 pm

Good. I am not claiming that my experience is universal, but its just a fact, the people I know from a few years ago who are still maintaining a practice stick to a method amd follow it. The people I know who have a vague interest in the Dhamma but dont follow a method, spend all their time talking about it or reading books about it or posting on Buddhist websites. :coffee:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby baratgab » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:01 pm

Guy wrote:First I think I should include a disclaimer: All the replies I give are from my own understanding and experience in the style of meditation taught by Ajahn Brahm, based upon the Anapanasati Sutta. If you are interested in hearing Ajahn Brahm's analysis of the Anapanasati Sutta (which has been of benefit to me on both a theoretical and practical level) then you can download it here: http://www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads/visit.php?cid=3&lid=319

...


Hi Guy. :smile: Did you listened to Ajahn Brahm's last 9 day retreat talks? If not, I think they are definitely worth listening. It seems that the Ajahn improved his technique of "letting go", or rather the way of teaching it. Now he emphasized that there is no need to any sort of effort; saying that with "letting go" all of the stages of the breath meditation happen naturally, forming a gradual path of cessation that leads to the jhana states, and beyond. He said that even the effort of watching the breath is surplus, since if one settles the body and mind the awareness naturally shifts to the only motion, the breath; and this is the main reason why the Buddha taught breath meditation. Then he used the simile of bodyguards who watch not the guarded person, but in the other directions in which danger lies, making a point that one should guard the breath by simply assuring that there is no mental activity. Of course he talks about counting methods and mantras like the "Buddho" as well, but just as crutches for the "letting go".

I'm not sure how unorthodox this approach is, but on my personal level (with limited experiences, albeit after going through years of stress due to effort) I found it highly coherent and convincing.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Guy » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:18 pm

:goodpost:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby baratgab » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:43 pm

Guy wrote: :goodpost:


Oh, I didn't reply to the topic particularly, but thanks. :) I just thought that I could make a recommendation and a quick narrative about these talks, because I know that we share the interest in Ajahn Brahm's teaching, and I found them quite interesting (I just finished them yesterday).

But, well, to be perfectly honest, I was also interested in the opinion of others about this approach.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Collective » Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:59 pm

baratgab wrote:He said that even the effort of watching the breath is surplus, since if one settles the body and mind the awareness naturally shifts to the only motion, the breath; and this is the main reason why the Buddha taught breath meditation

Again, very similar to what I was saying about just being aware, and being aware of being aware. I can't get my head around the fact that watching the breath is a 'mind activity' - I find it easier to just be aware, of the moment, of anything and everything. It's like, when I'm aware of the breath, I'm not aware of anything else.

When I become aware of the mind, and not the breath, I find less mind chatter and deeper levels of meditation. Neverthless I focus on the breath because that's what others recommend.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:23 pm

You can't be aware of the breath in the past, you can't be aware of the breath in the future, you can only be aware of the breath in the present moment. So breath awareness is present moment awareness by definition. Think of breath awareness as using training wheels, or an anchor, it's a good idea to master this before you go onto broader/looser techniques.

You may choose to narrow your awareness to the breath to the exclusion of other things, this is good if your mind is untrained and tends to wander all over the place.

You may choose to expand your awareness to include anything or everything that comes through your 6 sense doors, this is good if you can do it and maintain it. This does not mean you focus on your surroundings, it means you expand your awareness to the contact all your senses have with your surroundings. The distinction is important, for example you aren't so much interested in a sound and who is making it and why, you are interested that hearing is taking place.

I think focus is never the right word to use, unless you are interested in concentration rather than insight, even then it's really about letting go rather than focus.
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Freawaru » Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:47 pm

Collective wrote:Breath Focussing and Staying Present.

I'm still a bit unsure about the breath focusing - seems to me that when I'm focusing on my breath, I can't also be focusing on the present moment. For example, when I foucus on my breath, the surrounding environment seems to fade. It's as if I get tunnel vison and all I have as far as awareness goes is the breath, the whole breath, and nothin but the breath (to coin a phrase).


Hi Collective,

don't know what you are complaining about. You are doing it right. Approaching samadhi.

Concentration has this effect. Any concentration. That is why it is called concentration, focus. Like a lens. One pointedness. One excludes what one does not want (at the moment). Think of watching TV or reading a book. Have you noticed how everything else seems absent while we are absorbed in something we like? Even physical pain is reduced or absent when I am watching a good movie. This is the effect you want to reach samadhi.

However, watching TV is not samadhi. Why not? Because while we are absorbed in a good movie we are not aware of the absence of physical pain, everyday thoughts or monkey mind distractions. We are absorbed but only after leaving the absorption we realise that we had been in one. That there HAD been no pain, no thoughts, no distractions. The past. And this is the important difference to samadhi. During samadhi one knows that one IS in an absorption, that pain (etc) IS absent, right NOW, in the present. One is aware. A very specific awareness.

This very specific awareness is called sampajanna and is used for mindfulness meditation. Because it is able to discern in the present whatever happens. It can be prolonged to non-samadhi states like into normal wake (which will make watching a movie also a meditation practice), into dream, deep sleep and so on. With it one is able to know what is going on in mind and body the moment it happens, thus being able to practice discernment in the four foundations of mindfulness not only on the cushion but the whole time.

As others have already written: just keep going in this way. :clap:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby baratgab » Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:20 pm

Collective wrote:Again, very similar to what I was saying about just being aware, and being aware of being aware. I can't get my head around the fact that watching the breath is a 'mind activity' - I find it easier to just be aware, of the moment, of anything and everything. It's like, when I'm aware of the breath, I'm not aware of anything else.

When I become aware of the mind, and not the breath, I find less mind chatter and deeper levels of meditation. Neverthless I focus on the breath because that's what others recommend.


I believe that the deliberate effort to focus on the breath could easily serve as a cause of disturbance. If I may say so, this is like putting a fence around an animal: Even if the animal was comfortable and relaxed about residing in a certain spot, now he starts to feel agitated, becomes wild and wants to break out. Similarly, a mind that is forced to reside on the breath (or anything else) feels agitated, becomes wild and wants to break out. If you give a broad field to the mind, it settles down and becomes relaxed much more easily. And the place of settlement is most likely the breath, because, as we mentioned, it is the most prominent activity while sitting (Ajahn Sucitto also pointed out the same phenomena in a talk).

Previously I used to meditate with the method of forcing the awareness on the breath, and because of this the first stages of meditation were always rather loathsome. I had to "break in" the mind with force every time, by maintaining this forceful awareness until my "concentration" became so strong that I started to feel the ease of one-pointedness. Literally, I was raping the mind; quite nasty business... :shock: In this way even though I had pleasant experience with meditation, I managed to build up a lot of "bad meditation kamma": I was very nervous about starting a meditation session, more and more force was needed to meditate, and eventually I ended up postponing and skipping meditation. Of course this might be one of the extreme examples, which was due to the kammic aggregate of roughness and willpower in my mind.

So, my priorities have shifted since then. Nowadays I would much rather "get nowhere" with meditation while being gentle and friendly, than to use force and "get somewhere". But usually I get at least to the same stages with this approach. :smile:
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Re: Breath Focusing and Staying Present

Postby Terasi » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:57 pm

baratgab wrote:Hi Guy. :smile: Did you listened to Ajahn Brahm's last 9 day retreat talks? If not, I think they are definitely worth listening. It seems that the Ajahn improved his technique of "letting go", or rather the way of teaching it. Now he emphasized that there is no need to any sort of effort;


Sorry to resurrect an old post, but I find this thread very interesting.
Baratgab, the link is broken, may I know where else can I get this talk please? Or at least the title of the talk to search.

I am very new at meditation, but I have been suspecting that once I reach a certain moment of "opening the door to concentration", watching the breath has made me lost focus because I try to "force" the mind. As the OT said, sometimes just sitting there letting it go and ignore the breath (while still hearing traffic outside, or night birds, or any other soft noise) makes me feel calmer and more "at present". I guess it's because this delinquent mind revenges by trying to regulate the breath rather than just watching. I probably should just continue the forcing thing, but I really want to know what's in Ajahn Brahm's talk.
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