Questions about basic breath meditation

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Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby heraclito27 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:19 am

The instruction is often something like: "...and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.."
I have some questions.

-Do I have to focus in one nostril or in both at the same time?

-Do I have to focus in a small specific point not allowing any feeling of breath in any other point of the body? Or it is more like an open perspective from that point?

-What can I do in the moments I don't feel any sensation in the nostrils?

-Is it posible to focus totally in a point and see it perfectly constant, unchanging, without interruption, mind absorved without experiencing anything else than that?
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:40 am

You should try to focus on both nostrils, I think focusing on one would be too much of a challenge.

Breathe naturally, don't control or manipulate your breath in any way. Breathe as you normally would, but simply focus your attention on the nostrils, pay attention to how it feels in that area, hot? cold? rough? smooth? Just be aware of how it feels around that area as you breathe normally, don't worry about controlling your breath in any way.

For me, I focus on my nostrils because that is the area in which I feel the breath more strongly. If you can't feel the breath so well in the nostrils, where do you feel it the strongest? In the throat? the chest? the abdomen? wherever you find it easiest to focus, you can fix your attention there.

Yes you can develop states of deep concentration, however don't think about this when you sit down to meditate. Thinking about achieving this will take your mind out of the present moment, all you should do is watch the breath in the moment. Don't think about what will happen in the next moment.

I hope that helps
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Moggalana » Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:21 am

Ajahn Brahm wrote:Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.

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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby mkk » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:49 am

Here you can find a sutta discussion of the ānāpānasati sutta - scroll down to M 118 and download the pdf. Locate the section 2.4 for information on the term parimukhaṁ which causes the confusion - after that you have to decide by yourself how to put in into practice :).

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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby catmoon » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:56 am

Ajahn Brahm wrote:Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.


Good grief, did he actually ask "How do you know?". The implications of that little question... are rather broad. So much so that I'm not even sure if I want to look at it or not. OK Ajahn Brahm just went up a notch or two on the Catmoon list of significant phenomenae. If he's gonna ponce about the planet asking questions like that, I'm gonna keep a closer eye on him. :spy:
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:23 pm

You may also find these useful, they are guided meditations, listening to them should give you a basic idea of what to do:

http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/GuidedMeditations.rss.php

http://aruno.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=269&Itemid=108
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:35 pm

mkk wrote:Here you can find a sutta discussion of the ānāpānasati sutta - scroll down to M 118 and download the pdf. Locate the section 2.4 for information on the term parimukhaṁ which causes the confusion - after that you have to decide by yourself how to put in into practice :).

Metta,
Micha.

here are my observations on the word
Parimukhaṁ although a word in its own right, meaning ‘in front of,’ could potentially be a combination of ‘Pari’ + ‘mukha’, ‘Pari’ being a prefix denoting ‘all round; altogether; completely,’ and ‘mukha’ meaning ‘mouth; face; entrance; opening,’ so the pāḷi phrase parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā could be translated as sets forth mindfulness all round the mouth, or entrance [of air], but it should be mentioned that this is assuming one of three possibilities 1. The ṁ at the end is an accidental editing addition; 2. The Buddha being skilled in poetry used the word meaning both ‘all around the mouth’ and ‘in front of;’ 3. There is confusion as to which translation is correct as the ṁ is potentially part of the combined word as well as part of the singular word.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby heraclito27 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:14 pm

Hi Moggalana and all, thanks for your answers.

I think my problem is that breath is to complex and changing to find a point to focus.

When the session start I see the breath low detail. I can identify "that is the breath". It seems more stable and simple, as if I can grab it.
But in reality I'm not watching the breath so much, I'm watching the concepts.
Concepts seems to give an illusion of stability that is secure and feels good.

But when (I think) I get a little more concentration breath looks very complex and changing. I can't say "that is the breath". What part of this experience is the breath? nostrils seems big surface, the air passing is a set of irregular vibrations, temperature changes, movement. Sometimes is difficult to identify if it is in or out breath. Sometimes breath desappear. Sometimes breath use all the space available.
Where do I have to focus in this stream changing data?

Then I think "I'm not meditating well", or "It's imposible to meditate because there is not such thing as and stable and uniform point where to focus on".

But the text that Moggalana suggest gives me different practical perspective. Maybe I was giving to much emphasis to the word "focus".
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby mkk » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:37 pm

As pointed out in the article i have linked there are even more possebilities for understanding the term parimukhaṁ:

Ānāpānasati, Piya Tan 2003, p 123:
The Sanskrit has a different reading, pratimukha. This has many meanings, among which are "reflection" and "presence". Both of these would be appropriate in meditative context. But the word usually, as here, occurs in close conjunction with upaṭṭhāna, which means "presence". I think it is likely that here we have another example of that common feature of Pali or Sanskrit, a conjunction of synonyms for emphasis: literally, "one makes present a presence of presence of mind," or more happily, "one establishes presence of mindfulness."


Wörterbuch Pāli-Deutsch (Klaus Mylius):
parimukhaṁ: Adv gegenwärtig (present) , vor; ~satiṁ upaṭṭhapeti sich vor Augen führen, sich vergegenwärtigen

And PTS:
Parimukha
Parimukha (adj.) [pari+mukha] facing, in front; only as nt. adv. ˚ŋ in front, before, in phrase parimukhaŋ satiŋ upaṭṭhapeti "set up his memory in front" (i. e. of the object of thought), to set one's mindfulness alert Vin i.24; D ii.291; M i.56, 421; S i.170; A iii.92; It 80; Ps i.176 (expld); Pug 68; DA i.210. Also in phrase ˚ŋ kārāpeti (of hair) Vin ii.134 "to cut off (?) the hair in front" (i. e. on the breast) Vin. Texts iii.138, where is quoted Bdhgh's expln "ure loma -- saŋharaṇaŋ."


My experience is:
"Focusing" on a spot - where ever it might be - leads to confusion (in the beginning these feelings are nice).
Just observing that breathing in and out takes place in that moment and "knowing it" in that moment is (for me) a better way to practice this.

Metta,
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:58 pm

Some reccomend "following" the breath, rather than fixing your attention on one spot. Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, for example in his book 'Mindfulness with Breathing' suggests the following:

We first develop and train sati (mindfulness) by using a technique called "following," or "chasing." We imagine the in-breath starting from the tip of the nose and ending at the navel. We imagine the out-breath starting at the navel and ending at the tip of the nose. In between those two points is the space through which the breath runs in and out. We contemplate with sati the properties of this movement in and out, from the tip of the nose to the navel and back again. Back and forth.Do not allow for any gaps or lapses.This is the first lesson: contemplate the breath with sati.


There are so many different interpretations of the Ānāpānasati Sutta, most of which claim to be the 'true method' as taught by the Buddha himself. I think it is best to follow the technique which you find works for you personally. No one really knows which of the many methods (if any) is the actual technique laid down by the Buddha.

Things that helped me were to follow the technique taught by a particular teacher that you admire, this is useful, because if you admire the teacher it can inspire faith that their meditation technique will work in taking you beyond the five hinderances.

Also before you dismiss a particular method its important to know that the chances are, rather than the method being the problem, it is probably more likely to be your approach to that method. If, for example you have little faith in the technique, you think that it won't work, then the chances are it really won't! If you stick at a particular method zealously and faithfully, after a while it will achieve results.

Another thing that helped me immensely was to view the breath as a delicate creature, if you hold on to it too tightly you will hurt it and if you are too loose with your grip it will slip away. I bring this to mind at the start of my meditation, just so that I treat my meditation object in the right way. To me (maybe I am wrong) it seems that you are holding the breath too tightly.

Try not to make things too complicated in your mind. Don't think about it, just breathe! You really have two things in meditation; paying attention to the breath, and bringing your attention back to the breath (once you've noticed that its wondered off somewhere).
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:47 pm

Hi heralclito27,
heraclito27 wrote:I have some questions...

You have some good answers there. Be aware that one reason why instructions from different teachers may sound contradictory is that they are giving instructions with different aims. It is possible to use the breath to become very absorbed, and it is also possible to use it in a more "insight" sort of way.

See, for example: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1311#p18145

My advice, like Laurens, is to pick instructions from one teacher and follow those for a while.

Metta
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Collective » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:26 pm

People talk about 'picking' a teacher like they are falling out of trees.

The reality for some is that they ain't any around for many miles

Frustrating!
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:20 pm

Collective wrote:People talk about 'picking' a teacher like they are falling out of trees.

The reality for some is that they ain't any around for many miles

Frustrating!


There isn't a teacher near me either. This quote was enough for me to stick to one particular method of mediation:

In this monastery we concentrate our attention on the tip of the nose and develop awareness of the in- and out-breaths with the mantra Bud-dho.

- Ajahn Chah


I have a huge amount of respect for Ajahn Chah, so this gives me faith in the technique that he taught. It might not seem like much, but using the method of a teacher that you particularly respect, whether they be 100 miles away or in the next village, living or dead, having their 'seal of approval' as it were, for me at least inspires more confidence and faith in the technique.
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Moggalana » Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:41 pm

In the end, it's not so much a question of which object you choose, but how you relate to it. Basically, you can use almost anything as an object for your meditation. It depends on what you are trying to do. If you are aiming at samādhi, you choose an object, place your awareness upon it, and gradually let go of anything else. Ajahn Brahm describes this process pretty accurately in the link I posted above and in more detail in his book Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond.
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:58 pm

Moggalana wrote:In the end, it's not so much a question of which object you choose, but how you relate to it. Basically, you can use almost anything as an object for your meditation. It depends on what you are trying to do. If you are aiming at samādhi, you choose an object, place your awareness upon it, and gradually let go of anything else. Ajahn Brahm describes this process pretty accurately in the link I posted above and in more detail in his book Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond.


Indeed and there is a wealth of info available for those who want to follow his technique. You can read his book, listen to his guided meditations online, and listen to his Dhamma talks. It would be a good choice for someone wanting thourough instruction, who is far away from a teacher.
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:18 pm

Hi Collective,
Collective wrote:People talk about 'picking' a teacher like they are falling out of trees.

The reality for some is that they ain't any around for many miles

If it's me you're referring to, perhaps I wasn't clear. Let me elaborate: If you have some access (even just occasion) to a real-life teacher you trust then I suggest to follow her/his instructions. If not, I suggest following the written/recorded/etc instructions of a teacher you have some trust in.

If you are a beginner and you read instructions from a variety of teachers (e.g. for the sake of argument: Ajahn Brahm, Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Buddhadassa), you'll find that they appear to be contradicting each other. [If you look more closely you'll find that they are taking different approaches, and in the process emphasising different aspects.] Therefore, I feel that to avoid confusion it is helpful to pick one approach and stick with it for a few months, or preferably longer... Of course, it may make sense to read material from several teachers who take the same approach. For example, Mahasi Sayadaw, U Pandita, Joseph Goldstein, and Patrick Kearney teach a similar approach to each other. Ajahn Brahm, Pa Auk Sayadaw, and Shaila Catherine teach in reasonably compatible ways. But mixing up the Mahasi-style instructions with the Jhana-oriented instructions from Ajahn Brahm is going to be really confusing for a beginner.

Metta
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Collective » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:16 pm

My tantrum was not aimed at you Mike, or anyone in particular, just the fact that there's not a single teacher (I know of) around for many a mile

But the advice here (and in this particular post) has been very encouraging

Thank You :)
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby heraclito27 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:48 pm

Laurens friend thanks for the tips, what you say of "breath as a delicate" creature make sense to me.
I've got valuable information and I have time to apply, thanks to Dhamma Wheel citizens.

Laurens wrote:Some reccomend "following" the breath, rather than fixing your attention on one spot. Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, for example in his book 'Mindfulness with Breathing' suggests the following:

We first develop and train sati (mindfulness) by using a technique called "following," or "chasing." We imagine the in-breath starting from the tip of the nose and ending at the navel. We imagine the out-breath starting at the navel and ending at the tip of the nose. In between those two points is the space through which the breath runs in and out. We contemplate with sati the properties of this movement in and out, from the tip of the nose to the navel and back again. Back and forth.Do not allow for any gaps or lapses.This is the first lesson: contemplate the breath with sati.


There are so many different interpretations of the Ānāpānasati Sutta, most of which claim to be the 'true method' as taught by the Buddha himself. I think it is best to follow the technique which you find works for you personally. No one really knows which of the many methods (if any) is the actual technique laid down by the Buddha.

Things that helped me were to follow the technique taught by a particular teacher that you admire, this is useful, because if you admire the teacher it can inspire faith that their meditation technique will work in taking you beyond the five hinderances.

Also before you dismiss a particular method its important to know that the chances are, rather than the method being the problem, it is probably more likely to be your approach to that method. If, for example you have little faith in the technique, you think that it won't work, then the chances are it really won't! If you stick at a particular method zealously and faithfully, after a while it will achieve results.

Another thing that helped me immensely was to view the breath as a delicate creature, if you hold on to it too tightly you will hurt it and if you are too loose with your grip it will slip away. I bring this to mind at the start of my meditation, just so that I treat my meditation object in the right way. To me (maybe I am wrong) it seems that you are holding the breath too tightly.

Try not to make things too complicated in your mind. Don't think about it, just breathe! You really have two things in meditation; paying attention to the breath, and bringing your attention back to the breath (once you've noticed that its wondered off somewhere).
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Re: Questions about basic breath meditation

Postby Laurens » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:06 am

heraclito27 wrote:Laurens friend thanks for the tips, what you say of "breath as a delicate" creature make sense to me.
I've got valuable information and I have time to apply, thanks to Dhamma Wheel citizens.


Not a problem at all :) Whilst you should aim to cut down on thinking in the core of meditation practice, it can be helpful to guide yourself into the right frame of mind to begin your sitting. Thinking of that little analogy about the breath being a delicate creature helps me into the right frame of mind. I also remind myself to discard the past and the future so as to focus on the present.

There's nothing wrong with doing something like this at the start of meditation. "Telling the driver where you want to go" as Ajahn Brahm puts it, but he also reminds us that the driver will chuck us out if we keep constantly reminding them!

Best of luck with your practice

Laurens
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