How to practice mindfulness effectively?

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EricJ
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How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby EricJ » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:36 am

In the past few days, I have had a surge of viriya, and I have decided to truly commit myself to Dhamma after a hiatus (if it is possible to have a hiatus before you've really gotten off the ground, that is.) It has happened so suddenly, but I feel more confidence in the Dhamma than I ever have before. I find I am able to meditate multiple times a day for longer periods of time (samatha variant of anapanasati). I'm also going to be moving to Portland, OR from rural Arkansas, which I find encouraging because my opportunities for group practice and teachings will be dramatically expanded. I'm also going to use the move to formally Take Refuge with a bhikkhu/teacher.

This brings me to my question. Although I have been practicing anapanasati 2-3 times per day, I feel some confusion about how to approach the world and myself in amindful manner. Specifically, it seems that there is so much to be mindful of that I sometimes don't know where to start, whether I should jump from object of awareness to object of awareness, or if I should just focus on my breath at all times. Does anyone have any advice about effectively cultivating sati? Also, is mindfulness a faculty which is gradually strengthened? Even when I feel I am being mindful (most noticably after meditation sessions) I eventually begin to lapse in and out of awareness. Also, I would appreciate any general advice for strengthening my practice in this stage, regardless of whether it is related to the subject of mindfulness.

In Dhamma,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Shonin » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:45 am

As I see it, mindfulness can be of two main types: concentrated on one particular phenomenon (eg, the breath), or generalised, with awareness remaining in the here and now without following any particular phenomenon.

Either one can be practiced. The latter may be easier to practice as a default, paying attention to your internal state, sensations and external phenomena as they arise and practicing the former when there is something specific to focus on and when gathering your awareness.

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:11 am

Notice when you are aware, notice when your attention is fully with what you are doing, and notice when it has been drifting off somewhere else and you've just realised it.

That's all you need to do, you don't need to get bogged down in noting techniques, though they can be helpful at times they can also be quite bothersome. You just reinforce awareness by continually noticing what it's like to lose your awareness of the present moment and what it feels like when you are fully aware.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Sobeh » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:55 pm

I have a heuristic which tells me that sati notes the arising, persisting, and ceasing of body senses, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Noting the breath reminds me of anicca, and I try to simply note anicca (or anatta) whenever I recall the breath.

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:37 pm

Greetings Eric,

See...

MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Reductor » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:17 am

Goofaholix wrote:Notice when you are aware, notice when your attention is fully with what you are doing, and notice when it has been drifting off somewhere else and you've just realised it...


Thanks for that Goof, if I may call you that.

This is definitely the simplest and most fool proof place to start.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72


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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby IanAnd » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:05 am

EricJ wrote:This brings me to my question. Although I have been practicing anapanasati 2-3 times per day, I feel some confusion about how to approach the world and myself in a mindful manner. Specifically, it seems that there is so much to be mindful of that I sometimes don't know where to start, whether I should jump from object of awareness to object of awareness, or if I should just focus on my breath at all times. Does anyone have any advice about effectively cultivating sati?

You might do well to read and heed Thanissaro Bhikkhu's essay on The Path of Concentration & Mindfulness. He gives some very good, solid advice about this beginning around the fourth and fifth paragraphs. But read and heed the whole essay. It's very simply and straightforwardly explained.

EricJ wrote:Also, is mindfulness a faculty which is gradually strengthened? Even when I feel I am being mindful (most noticably after meditation sessions) I eventually begin to lapse in and out of awareness. Also, I would appreciate any general advice for strengthening my practice in this stage, regardless of whether it is related to the subject of mindfulness.

Pretty generally, yes. Thanissaro also has some insight about this, too, in that essay. Lapsing in and out of awareness is fairly common for beginners and some intermediate practitioners. You just have to keep bringing the mind back to the point of reference again and again, until the mind learns to settle down and stay relatively fixed on the object.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:30 am

Thanks for the replies thus far. Maybe I was looking for a philosophical secret that was never there? I find the Bahiya Sutta helpful: "In the seen will be merely what is seen..."

I have another question. I have been reading and making an outline of Venerable Thanissaro's "Wings of Awakening: Part II." I am finding this enormously helpful. I would like to clarify something about satipatthana meditation practice. I have gleaned from this article that in establishing the frames of reference, one starts with the body as object (through anapanasati, for instance) and develops strong concentration to the first jhana. Once this is accomplished, one can extend the frame of reference to encompass feelings (the rapture of jhana, etc.) and gradually move through the other two frames of reference, all the while observing causal relationships so as to develop skillful qualities and diminish unskillful qualities.

Is this a correct interpretation?
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby effort » Thu Jun 10, 2010 12:28 pm

i found out its better to choose the easiest object at the moment, so if in your daily life you are washing then you can choose between awareness of seeing, moving hands, mind, breath... anything thats mind could stay with that better.

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby gavesako » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:09 pm

Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby bodom » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:13 pm

While mindfulness (sati) is often equated with bare attention, my conversations with—and recent studies of works by—the learned monks Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Analayo, and Rupert Gethin, president of the Pali Text Society, led me to conclude that bare attention corresponds much more closely to the Pali term manasikara, which is commonly translated as “attention” or “mental engagement.” This word refers to the initial split seconds of the bare cognizing of an object, before one begins to recognize, identify, and conceptualize, and in Buddhist accounts it is not regarded as a wholesome mental factor. It is ethically neutral. The primary meaning of sati, on the other hand, is recollection, non-forgetfulness. This includes retrospective memory of things in the past, prospectively remembering to do something in the future, and present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality.


:thumbsup:

Thanks for the link Bhante.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Reductor » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:37 pm

EricJ wrote:Is this a correct interpretation?


It has been quite a while since I read that book, so I cannot say just what Than's presentation is. But I would agree with your conclusion in part. The first four steps of anapanasati as listed in the body frame reference of the satipatthana sutta are for body only of course, and the perfecting of them leads to the conditions for first jhana... but it is not until steps five and six, dealing with happiness and rapture, that it is actual jhana.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72


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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:54 pm

thereductor wrote:It has been quite a while since I read that book, so I cannot say just what Than's presentation is. But I would agree with your conclusion in part. The first four steps of anapanasati as listed in the body frame reference of the satipatthana sutta are for body only of course, and the perfecting of them leads to the conditions for first jhana... but it is not until steps five and six, dealing with happiness and rapture, that it is actual jhana.
Does jhana (based on mindfulness of breath) become the means by which one explores the other three frames of reference? For instance, one could explore feeling by being mindful of the rapturous sensation of jhana or mental formations by focusing on/manipulating the mental qualities (whether kusala or akusala) present in jhana.

I came to this interpretation from that article and from discussions on Dhamma Wheel, where users often mention the need to let jhana rapture "fill" the body, like kneading water and bath powder together to form a moisture-laden ball, to use the Buddha's simile.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Reductor » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:12 pm

EricJ wrote:
thereductor wrote:It has been quite a while since I read that book, so I cannot say just what Than's presentation is. But I would agree with your conclusion in part. The first four steps of anapanasati as listed in the body frame reference of the satipatthana sutta are for body only of course, and the perfecting of them leads to the conditions for first jhana... but it is not until steps five and six, dealing with happiness and rapture, that it is actual jhana.
Does jhana (based on mindfulness of breath) become the means by which one explores the other three frames of reference? For instance, one could explore feeling by being mindful of the rapturous sensation of jhana or mental formations by focusing on/manipulating the mental qualities (whether kusala or akusala) present in jhana.


By the time step six is in full swing you would be in a jhanic state. The three frames of reference, body feeling and mind, would all be present enough for you to explore them. But because there remains all three frames there is a good deal of activity which has an obscuring effect on the mind, so the mind frame is not as clear as the other two.

Steps 7 and 8 settle most of the activity concerned with body and feeling, while 9 - 12 move the emphasis to the mind while making it steadier and clearer, and so it is much easier to observe its subtle aspects.


I came to this interpretation from that article and from discussions on Dhamma Wheel, where users often mention the need to let jhana rapture "fill" the body, like kneading water and bath powder together to form a moisture-laden ball, to use the Buddha's simile.


The first four steps draw the mind inside and away from external objects. The body is good for this as it is always there and easy to isolate from external things. I would subdivide these four into smaller groups, actually... the first two allow you to steady the mind, the next step (3) turns the steady mind to the bodily sensations, step four allows the mind and body to start relaxing. When the mind is steady inside and the body and mind are relaxed together, then rapture and pleasure arise... the "kneading" of these two together with the body is done simply by keeping body mind and these feelings all in mind - ie, don't let yourself get distracted by the pleasure and rapture but let all these things be there together in your awareness. They'll mingle on their own.

Hopefully this clarifies some for you, both in terms of what Than says and in terms of any additional uncertainties you might have. If not, ask away.

Oh I would note that the fourth frame of reference is a somewhat different beast. Mostly because this frame is not strictly related to jhana, but is a matter of general observation, either in jhana (for all but the five hindrances) or outside of jhana. It is the widest ranging frame and requires the most wisdom to pursue (or, it will develop the most wisdom when pursued). IMO.

EDIT: I don't mean that the other three frames can only be utilized in jhana, but rather that the fourth frame can in some respect only be utilized outside of jhana, as in the five hindrances.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72


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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:36 pm

Thanks for that article suggestion, Ven. Gavesako. I will read through it.

And thanks to all who have helped clarify some of this material. :anjali:

Today, I was meditating (anapanasati). My breath became more refined and short as I was meditating, and I started having some intense sensations. For instance, I worried that my breath was too short and that I wasn't getting enough oxygen. I wasn't in pain or anything. It just felt kind of overwhelming and intense. But I managed to keep the focus on my breath, taking an occasional longer breath or taking more breaths. Also, near the end, I felt as if I was leaning/drifting to in other directions (as opposed to remaining upright), but I don't think I was actually moving. So, here are my questions:

1) Is this normal? Is it progress?
2) Should I actively strive to make my breath more refined, quiet, and short?
3) Should I worry about the shortness of breath?


Many thanks,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Reductor » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:51 am

EricJ wrote:1) Is this normal? Is it progress?


The leaning over feeling happens to me, and I do believe that it results from not having the body tensions settled or the body tension being uneven.

As for the breathing fear: that's normal. Don't worry about the breath, let it go as it will. Unless you have a pre-existing condition that just happens to flare up while you're on your seat you will not die while meditating. Meditation will not kill you, even if the breath seems to have disappeared.



2) Should I actively strive to make my breath more refined, quiet, and short?


Again, don't try to regulate the breath... although if it is really uncomfortable at the start then take a few deep breaths, blow out your lungs and relax the tensions around the breath. Then begin.

When you're concentration improves and you really find your mind digging into the breath, the breath will become more refined on its own but you'll still have it steadily in view.


3) Should I worry about the shortness of breath?


No.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72


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Re: How to practice mindfulness effectively?

Postby Zom » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:28 am

I am able to meditate multiple times a day for longer periods of time (samatha variant of anapanasati). I'm also going to be moving to Portland, OR from rural Arkansas, which I find encouraging because my opportunities for group practice and teachings will be dramatically expanded. I'm also going to use the move to formally Take Refuge with a bhikkhu/teacher.


I think this is a common mistake that people start buddhist practice from meditation. They take the Noble Eightfold Path and turn it upside down.
They start practising 6th, 7th and 8th factors (or even one of them) instead of starting with the development of the 1st one... :cookoo:

Better than nothing, but still not right.


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