Keep concentrating? Breath?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Keep concentrating? Breath?

Postby osm » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:26 pm

Hello everyone, long time reader, first time poster...

I recently came to a sort of insight that has basically flipped my entire practice over onto itself. Its been quite stressful.

About a week ago I was doing my usual concentration practice, just simple awareness of my breathing, nothing else. When I was done I got up and walked around and sort of tapped into something. I had this profound insight into Anatta in a very practical way. It was almost as if I found this place that was a dwelling independent of the Khandhas that could observe the aggregates perfectly and clearly unhindered. I had sort of found my no-self and found great wisdom and compassion within this dwelling.
The problem with this is that my breath (which has always been sort of my "center" or my anchor to the present moment and all impressions) had been rendered useless as I could now simply observe everything without the breath being any differing or significant object. Everything I thought I knew about meditation has been for the most part torn apart. :reading: :shrug: :reading: :shrug: :reading: :shrug: :reading: :shrug: :reading: :shrug: :reading:
For the last week I've been reading a lot and torn between 2 methods. My original method which is centered around the breath and allows sort of indirect awareness to come on its own accord (which I feel inclined to continue with for continuity sake) and this new method of basically immediate full present time awareness.
The even freakier part which almost drove me crazy is that yesterday I was doing a seated meditation and this second method led me to the EXACT same jhana that I had been reaching before with my strictly concentration practice... :toilet: Absolute confusion.

So I guess my question is should I keep concentrating and why? recently when I've been trying to simply just follow my breath I've been getting really frustrated, like I'm missing out and should just give in to my new method. But I feel like if I give in on my previous practice I will be doing myself a number of disservices (such as continuity, leaving my longtime practice handed down to be from a teacher, and my fear that eventually without a sort of directed anchor I will lose my present time awareness).
Another question is about what folks do in this context with daily life-non-seated mindfulness, before I was following my breath, or coming back to my breath, throughout the day but I have found my new method to be more beneficial in this field as well.

Any thoughts are truly appreciated.
:anjali:
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Re: Keep concentrating? Breath?

Postby reflection » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:37 pm

Hi!

I found that overal present awareness naturally develops towards breath awareness. Why? Because the breath is the predominant activity of the body. So that's what the mind will usually notice, it'll go towards that. All the other body senses are not changing, so not interesting for the mind. It's just like the mind doesn't usually notice silence, but it does notice sound.

But the mind also goes towards the breath out of habit of course. If it doesn't, you can give the it a nudge towards the breath, but often it's not really nescessary. So the two practices aren't all that different, at least not to me.
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Re: Keep concentrating? Breath?

Postby osm » Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:04 am

Hmm, very interesting, thank you.

So would you say that I'm better off starting out with general awareness and letting that include the breath to the point of focus? or start off my 'returning to the present' with a nudge into the breath?

This question is really the heart of all of my meditation difficulties.

Thank you :)
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Re: Keep concentrating? Breath?

Postby reflection » Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:02 am

I often use 'general awareness' or open presence in the present moment to still thoughts. With a silent mind it is so much easier to watch the breath, it almost comes automatically. This is the method I learned from Ajahn Brahm, you might want to check it out. Here are some classes (also other teachers included)

http://www.youtube.com/user/dhammalokameditation
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Re: Keep concentrating? Breath?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:37 pm

osm wrote:Another question is about what folks do in this context with daily life-non-seated mindfulness, before I was following my breath, or coming back to my breath, throughout the day but I have found my new method to be more beneficial in this field as well.


I think the breath is just a tool, and it can become a distraction to being fully in the present, being aware in a more expansive way.
Well, oi dunno...
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