Concentration Cycles..

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

Postby Zimesky » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:47 am

My meditation has lately been proceeding like this lately:

I sit down and focus on my breath after Metta. I try to focus on the presence of the breath going in and out through my nostrils. I also try to pay attention to the texture/hot-cold sensation/ and length of each breath. About 20 minutes In I start to lose focus. My mind seems to get caught up in a cycle of Sloth/Torpor/Lethargy, I'm honestly not sure which one. My mind almost seems to wander away from the breath without me even noticing. I'll get stuck up in a waking-lucid dream play, or start seeing vivid images. The last one I had when I was sitting, and my mind was creating the imagery of the room I was in as if I had my eyes open (not assuming this is in anyway the divine eye, or whatever, fyi...). Anyways, this goes on for a time and then seemingly all by itself, my awareness or mindfulness becomes briefly very acute, and alert. This is often times accompanied with comfortable tingling sensations. I try to be indifferent to it, and focus on my breath. Not long after this happens though, I'll drift back into a phase where I have great difficulty concentrating.

Any thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated.

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Weakfocus
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Re: Concentration Cycles..

Postby Weakfocus » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:37 am

As a novice meditator I can confirm I have somewhat similar experience.

Concenteration level does not stay the same during the sitting. I usually start strong, get weak in the middle while my mind builds fantasy worlds, then I suddenly realize that time is almost up and I have nearly wasted another sitting so I make stronger attempt at remaining focused on breath, its length, etc. This makes the last few minutes of the sitting very focused.

I think this is normal and nothing to get too worried about. With sustained effort we should get better. The key is to make a mental note ("mind has wandered away", or just "wandered") and bring back the attention to breath without getting impatient or disheartened. For me, it is working in that I now 'come back to my senses' a bit sooner than when I started. Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

Aside, I also experience a fluctuation in day-to-day concenteration levels. Yesterday evening I had strong concenteration, one of the best I have experienced since I started meditating couple months ago. Today morning was horrible. I was barely able to observe breath for 2 minutes (total, not at one go) in a 40 minute sitting.

I am finding that it is best to not track day-to-day progress too closely, but rather judge by overall improvements over a longer period of time, say a month or more. This way some weak sittings do not dampen me. But I have only been meditating for 2.5 months, more experienced meditators can doubtless guide us better.

Zimesky
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Re: Concentration Cycles..

Postby Zimesky » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:27 pm

Thanks very much for your input! It's interesting as to the sorts of problems beginners like us seem to go through. Sometimes I feel like I could write pages about the mercurial nature of the problems that arise in meditation. These days I think I can sum up most of my problems with the hindrances of lethargy and doubt. Lethargy manifesting as a loss or lapse of awareness. Doubt manifesting as a lack of confidence, firm resolve, and always wondering if what I'm doing is the correct way of practicing. I would love to meet a living meditation master, but I don't believe there are any near me. On that note I've considered getting into contact with Thanissaro Bikhu at his Forest Monastery. I don't know what I'd say to him though. "Hello, I'm interested in getting into contact with a living meditation master, can you help me with this?" Who knows??

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daverupa
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Re: Concentration Cycles..

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:17 pm

Zimesky wrote:Anyways, this goes on for a time and then seemingly all by itself, my awareness or mindfulness becomes briefly very acute, and alert.


I was reminded of

SN 35.203 wrote:"When, monks, a monk lives and practices like this, it occasionally happens that, through a lapse of mindfulness, evil and unskilled states arise, memories and thoughts[5] pertaining to the fetters. His mindfulness is aroused only slowly,[6] but then he soon abandons that state, drives it out, abolishes it, puts an end to it. Just as if, monks, a man were to let fall two or three drops of water into an iron pot that had been heated all day, those few drops would soon be wiped out and vanish — in the same way it occasionally happens to a monk living and practicing like this... but he soon puts an end to 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]

K.Dhamma
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Re: Concentration Cycles..

Postby K.Dhamma » Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:03 am

I can confirm this, and all I can say is that it will pass. The same thing happened to me and it feels completely normal. Although I don't do it often, it still happens from time to time now. I think eventually you get to a point where your mind catches you beginning to wander before you drift off to dreamlike world and you re-divert back to the meditation subject. Just keep doing what you are doing. Good luck! :D
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah

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IanAnd
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Re: Concentration Cycles..

Postby IanAnd » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:48 am

Hi Zimesky,

Have you thought about giving yourself some direction before you sit down to meditate? In other words, during this meditation, "I'm going to focus on accomplishing this or that." The "this or that" may be increasing your concentration; it may be endeavoring to stay with your meditation object without losing sight of it, or without unnoticed losing sight of it. In other words, have a "game plan" to challenge yourself with before your begin your sit. Have a goal that relates to some ability that you want to develop and cultivate.

This helps to begin establishing mindfulness before you sit to meditate. It is important to establish mindfulness first, then everything else during your sit will have a tendency to go more smoothly, and you will be able to actually begin accomplishing some things that you have set as goals to achieve rather than just fighting a tendency to nod off or space out.

Zimesky wrote:My meditation has lately been proceeding like this lately:

...About 20 minutes In I start to lose focus.

My mind seems to get caught up in a cycle of Sloth/Torpor/Lethargy, I'm honestly not sure which one.

My mind almost seems to wander away from the breath without me even noticing.

These are all indicators of a lack of sati (mindfulness). You might find some interesting suggestions for overcoming these hindrances in this thread. Look at / read the first six posts for some suggestions for increasing mindfulness.

Zimesky wrote:I'll get stuck up in a waking-lucid dream play, or start seeing vivid images. The last one I had when I was sitting, and my mind was creating the imagery of the room I was in as if I had my eyes open (not assuming this is in anyway the divine eye, or whatever, fyi...). Anyways, this goes on for a time and then seemingly all by itself, my awareness or mindfulness becomes briefly very acute, and alert. This is often times accompanied with comfortable tingling sensations. I try to be indifferent to it, and focus on my breath. Not long after this happens though, I'll drift back into a phase where I have great difficulty concentrating.

Any thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated.

If you get to the point where you are experiencing the pleasant tingling sensations, endeavor to explore that pleasant state more. What you will inevitably find, in time, is that this can lead the mind into an absorption state where concentration becomes centered around that pleasant sensation. Regular practice in being able to reach and maintain absorption states can help you to increase your level of concentration. Once you are able to settle into a concentrated state of mind on a regular basis (over several sittings), then you are ready to begin exploring insight meditation objects.

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV


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