Is this normal...

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

Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:49 pm

Hi everyone,

When practicing Anapanasati, I get to a certain point (maybe 20mins in) when my mind seems to naturally want to rest in a sort of gentle awareness. This renders the effort of focussing on the breath almost like an intrusion as much as any other feeling or thought.

The awareness I experience is likened to what I have heard our' Zennie brothers talk about when discussing Shikantaza or Silent Illumination. Particularly the latter in terms of Sheng Yens descriptions in The Method of No Method'.

Its a very calm, gentle awareness un-clouded by any external phenomena. The problem is I cannot see any parallel in Theravadin literature and I am keen to establish if this is a wholesome progression or am I turning into a Zennie too?

Are there any commentaries that may explain what this is?

Thanks,

BB...
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby James the Giant » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:42 pm

Hi Beautiful.
When I encountered the same thing, I asked my Ajahn what to do, whether to hang out there in that nice gentle awareness space, or switch to Shikantaza/Vipassana, or what.
He said something like "Don't get sucked in by that nice drifty state. It's easy to stabilize that and just drift pleasantly in it for a long time, and it is not very useful. Stay sharp, stay focussed on the breath, keep going. Keep your attention keen. Get through it."

I don't have any sutta or visuddhimagga references sorry, just what he said.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:08 pm

Hi, (I had to laugh at being called 'Beautiful'.... 48 year old Psychological Therapist here in the UK....I don't think I am beautiful....my wife does though) :woohoo:

"Don't get sucked in by that nice drifty state. It's easy to stabilize that and just drift pleasantly in it for a long time, and it is not very useful. Stay sharp, stay focussed on the breath, keep going. Keep your attention keen. Get through it."


This is really useful, this is just what it feels like too.....what do others think?

BB (Tony...)
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:24 pm

Right effort seems to be missing in such a state, doesn't it?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:54 am

daverupa wrote:Right effort seems to be missing in such a state, doesn't it?


Well its certainly effortless thats for sure. But thats not a bad thing is it? some of the more sublime states I read about have such a flavour.

I really do need some practical advice re this as I am completely unsure whether to pursue it (as it were) or to treat it as a distraction.

Thanks,

BB...
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:34 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:But thats not a bad thing is it? some of the more sublime states I read about have such a flavour.


There are all kinds of sublime experiences, and all kinds of meditations and states, as a short anthropological survey will reveal;* but the Dhamma dictates that the foundation must be sammavayamo.

Now, there are cases where uppekha is appropriate, usually to do with asavas that are to be endured, but I tend to see many self-descriptions of meditation practice shaded with a certain zen-like passivity, rather than right effort, and this is not a useful flavour, however concomitantly sublime.


(* These assorted sublime states are probably often confused for jhana, I expect.)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:15 pm

daverupa wrote:
Beautiful Breath wrote:But thats not a bad thing is it? some of the more sublime states I read about have such a flavour.


There are all kinds of sublime experiences, and all kinds of meditations and states, as a short anthropological survey will reveal;* but the Dhamma dictates that the foundation must be sammavayamo.

Now, there are cases where uppekha is appropriate, usually to do with asavas that are to be endured, but I tend to see many self-descriptions of meditation practice shaded with a certain zen-like passivity, rather than right effort, and this is not a useful flavour, however concomitantly sublime.


(* These assorted sublime states are probably often confused for jhana, I expect.)


So how should I (and others in the same boat) proceed? Ignore these states and try to re-establish Samatha on the initial Apana?
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby egodeath48 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:31 pm

Greetings BB,

I also encounter this state in longer periods of meditation. I tend to attribute this "effortless" state to natural tendency for breath meditation to calm down the mind. I find it useful to just recognize it as a pleasant feeling/state and re-establish concentration on the breath; more specifically following the steps outlined in the Anapanasati sutta, especially the first four. Maybe even doing a body scan might be useful when you encounter this state to keep your mind sharp and alert.

Best Wishes,
Stephen :anjali:
"Only one book is worth reading, the heart." -LP Chah
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:48 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:So how should I (and others in the same boat) proceed? Ignore these states and try to re-establish Samatha on the initial Apana?


Well, I suppose it depends on your method for anapanasati.

I'm willing to bet it involves a relatively intense focus on the breath, rather than a broad awareness wherein one aims to calm kaya-sankhara, citta-sankhara, etc. during any particular inhalation or exhalation. Intense focus on the breathing, or on spots where the breath can be noticed, is an instruction which I think is contraindicated by the third step of anapanasati, but there is a difference of opinion here.

Either way, subdue the hindrances via satipatthana, continually engage the brahmaviharas, and use anapanasati to develop the seven factors of awakening.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:30 am

Interesting the dissonance between the Theravadin interpretation of this phemonena and the welcome it seems to have on Soto Zen forums... Like the song says, "two men say they're Jesus, one of them has to be wrong". :thinking:
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby daverupa » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:57 am

Beautiful Breath wrote:Interesting the dissonance between the Theravadin interpretation of this phemonena and the welcome it seems to have on Soto Zen forums... Like the song says, "two men say they're Jesus, one of them has to be wrong". :thinking:


Not to be flippant, but the comparison would be between the Jesus of the New Testament and the Jesus of the Book of Mormon. One of them has to be wrong, indeed.

(hint: it's the made-up one)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is this normal...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:13 pm

daverupa wrote:
Beautiful Breath wrote:Interesting the dissonance between the Theravadin interpretation of this phemonena and the welcome it seems to have on Soto Zen forums... Like the song says, "two men say they're Jesus, one of them has to be wrong". :thinking:


Not to be flippant, but the comparison would be between the Jesus of the New Testament and the Jesus of the Book of Mormon. One of them has to be wrong, indeed.

(hint: it's the made-up one)


YAY! ....I gotchya!

You get the gist though.

BB...
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