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.

Re: Breath

Postby Kenshou » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:59 am

salmon wrote:How can you be in fourth jhana if you are AWARE that you are not breathing? :thinking:


Are you implying that physical awareness in general should not be present in the fourth jhana? Or that "awareness" in general should be absent? I don't think anyone describes jhana as a state of un-awareness, so I'll assume you mean the former, though the argument about weather awareness of physicality is present in the rupa-jhanas or should have been lost as a prerequisite to any jhana is a subject of debate with conclusions that differ among teachers.
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Re: Breath

Postby Ben » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:07 am

Hi all
Out of respect to the original poster, please keep your posts relevent to her original question and situation. Anything else is off-topic and is liable to be removed without warning.
Thanks for your cooperation.

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Re: Breath

Postby salmon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:26 am

Sorry Ben...I shan't discuss the fourth jhana anymore in this thread. :oops:

Collective, what is the state of your mind at the point when you realize that your breath is too subtle to detect?
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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:20 pm

salmon wrote:Sorry Ben...I shan't discuss the fourth jhana anymore in this thread. :oops:

Collective, what is the state of your mind at the point when you realize that your breath is too subtle to detect?

Slight frustration, agitation, nothing major. I realise these will pass, and try to focus as much as possible on the breath. Even if I cannot locate it, I tend to focus on the breath going through the nose cavities. It's like, well I can't feel it, but I 'know' it passes through there.

Hopefully this is enough.

What I also do, is become aware of my breathing in general, the 'concept' that I am breathing in and out more than the 'feeling' of me breathing in and out. I find this easier to do.
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Re: Breath

Postby PeterB » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:38 pm

I would try to " find" your breath again Collective, rather than cultivate the concept of the in and out breath. It has not actually gone anywhere. As you allow the mind to settle you will be come aware of it again. You will notice that some days the sensation of the breath is stronger in the left nostril, and vice versa. Dont grasp it, just settle into it.
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Re: Breath

Postby limbo » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:07 pm

Collective wrote:What I also do, is become aware of my breathing in general, the 'concept' that I am breathing in and out more than the 'feeling' of me breathing in and out. I find this easier to do.


Ajahn Brahm talks about the physical breath disappearing at some point during meditation and recommends watching the nothing that remains saying that you'll eventually notice the mental breath and will be able to observe that instead. More about that around 18:14 on the 3rd track (Nov 09 Retreat Track 03 Q&A) here: http://www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads ... php?cid=74. I also recommend listening the the previous track about Stillness.
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Re: Breath

Postby RayfieldNeel » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:02 pm

When engaging in samatha, my breath (completely on its own) becomes very shallow over time, almost to the point of being undetectable. It was recommended to me somewhere to do exactly what you (the OP) do, that is, breathe "with my whole body". This works nicely to me; access concentration comes pretty easily on most occasions. It's basically just detecting the very subtle movements of the body (shoulders, arms, chest, etc) as you naturally breathe...however I can still detect the breath at my nostrils when doing this, though it is a pretty small sensation.
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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:47 pm

RayfieldNeel wrote:When engaging in samatha, my breath (completely on its own) becomes very shallow over time, almost to the point of being undetectable. It was recommended to me somewhere to do exactly what you (the OP) do, that is, breathe "with my whole body". This works nicely to me; access concentration comes pretty easily on most occasions. It's basically just detecting the very subtle movements of the body (shoulders, arms, chest, etc) as you naturally breathe...however I can still detect the breath at my nostrils when doing this, though it is a pretty small sensation.

This sums my experiences perfectly.

And thank you everyone for your input :namaste:
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Re: Breath

Postby salmon » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:01 am

Collective wrote:
salmon wrote:Sorry Ben...I shan't discuss the fourth jhana anymore in this thread. :oops:

Collective, what is the state of your mind at the point when you realize that your breath is too subtle to detect?

Slight frustration, agitation, nothing major. I realise these will pass, and try to focus as much as possible on the breath.

You should be watching these mind states at that point in time.
Even if I cannot locate it, I tend to focus on the breath going through the nose cavities. It's like, well I can't feel it, but I 'know' it passes through there.

You shouldn't, coz imagination encourages delusion.

If you are able to use the sensation of your body breathing with ease, then use that. Afterall, nose, belly, body...they all just work as anchors for developing samadhi. The important thing is that the state of your mind should be getting calmer and not more agitated.
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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:35 am

Then I have a real problem.

I just sat for 20 minutes and came out of it feeling agitated and frustrated. Why? Because I just cannot locate any sensation of breath anywhere, not in the nostrils or the abdomen, it's just not detectable. It's not a case of me having to build more awareness to it, it's just too subtle. I can't describe it anymore accurate than 'the subtle sensation of my breathing is so subtle that it cannot be located'.

I've really tried to be aware, focused, or however you care to label it, but it doesn't work - and I'm talking at all. There is absolutely no sensation whatsoever to be found. I know I am breathing because I'm alive, but that's as far as this goes.

So it's like I said, I've just spent 20 minutes with a real deep effort to keep my focus on my breath, and it's just too subtle to be located. The result: more agitated than when I begun. I need another technique because at the risk of repeating myself, breathing just does not work for me. There's a major problem if meditstion makes one feel more agitated.

What about meditating to relax, and not to gain insight, to just simply feel blissful and relax totally, what is that called? Where you attain the jhanas, Samadhi? Is it any different in its technique? Because with my history of stress and anxiety, I need to relax more than gain insight. And right now, insight isn't relaxing me. Perhaps I've been following the wrong meditation.
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Re: Breath

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:45 am

The deep effort might be part of the problem here Collective. You need to take your time. As I understand it you have only been practising this for a couple of weeks. It takes many people months before they see any result. Buddhist meditation is not a quick solution, it unfolds in its own time depending on a number of factors.
Also , I dont want to keep raising an issue that might present practical problems, but, there is no substitute for hands on instruction. It can make a huge difference .

Rereading your post it also occurs to me that this might not be good time in your life for you to attempt formal meditation of any kind. meditation is not a cure for clinical anxiety. Even in those who have no underlying clinical anxiety, meditation can raise anxiety levels initially as we become aware of all sorts of stuff that we normally are not conscious of.It may be that you have to have help in managing your anxiety levels first and return to formal meditation later. In the meantime you can study, walk, observe Sila,practice Metta Bhavana, and attempt to do everyday things with mindfulness.
Last edited by PeterB on Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Breath

Postby salmon » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:49 am

Collective wrote:Then I have a real problem.


If you have an issue with the meditation anchor, change the anchor. Breath too subtle for you to be aware but mind states are not? Then use the mind state as your anchor. Watch as your mind states drift from being restless to calm to agitated and back to calm again.

And don't be too anxious for results. Sometimes, anxiety is the very reason why you seem to end up without progress. Only when you stop expecting results, can you really get any.

Good luck.
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Re: Breath

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:55 am

You do not need disclose here, but one suggestion is to get any medication that you are on ( I am not assuming that you are ) reviewed.
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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:11 am

But if I shouldn't meditate right now because of my anxiety I'll never meditate because I've always been an anxious person, ever since I was a young lad. I've also been meditating now for about 7 to 8 months, and I have read a good bit about it as well. It's just that I realised this morning that my location of the breath is impossible, or seeminlgy impossible to locate. I find my self skipping from nostrils, to chest, to abdomen, to nostrils.

To be fair though, I sat again for another 20 minutes, and this time I simply closed my eyes and this helped me a little bit. It was better, not ideal, but I think this definitely may be the way to go. Eyes shut, it focused my awareness like a lens, and it limited distractions. Also, and this is important, when I say I inject a good deal of effort in my focusing, I dont mean to say I'm sat there brows knitted, sweat pouring down my face - I mean to say I'm applying the right effort, a real focus on the breath. Again, using the lens analogy it all focuses to a point on my breathing.

Perhaps I should be mediating to relax, to obtain the jhanas and not any insight meditation. Perhaps I need to focus on just getting relaxed, before I start looking to insights. This makes more sense to me.

Primarily, I need to relax, I've tried both, and I definitely get more results from the blissful states. I come off the cushion feeling relaxed. And that is what I need in my life right now. It's something I've always needed.

EDIT: Please, could someone recommend a book that focuses on relaxation meditstion, namely reaching the jhana states? Thank you very much :namaste:
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Re: Breath

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:20 am

Hi Collective

I just want to build on what PeterB has said.
Firstly, relax!
Your experience of losing the sensation of the breath, losing all sensation, of getting frustrated, feeling worse - its so common.
It happens to me every time I do a retreat, and I've been doing them for 24 years. It takes time to develop the perception of breath. And if you are clinging to this or that desired outcome, no matter how sublte the attachment, it becomes a barrier for attaining that particular outcome. I know from personal experience. Your awareness needs to a relaxed awareness. Within the Visuddhimagga, within the section of anapanasati, the instruction is that one places the awareness on the breath. If we start with an iron-fist like grip on the breath, our mind will lack the subtlety and supleness to follow the sensation of the breath as it gradually becomes more and more subtle. And if you contine to loose the breath as it becomes subtle - don't worry about it. It happens to everyone. As I said earlier, you can re-orient yoursself by making a few hard "forced" breaths before returning to the natural rhythm. Another way to re-orient yourself is to hold your breath for about ten or twenty seconds and observe the area where you normally perceive the sensation of breath.
I recommend that you persevere. You;ve only been doing it for a few weeks from audio and print instructions in the absence of a teacher. If you continue, you will find that your practice will be the ultimate "relaxation" meditation as you develop samadhi and begin the process of eradicating the defilements at the root of the mind.
Take care Collective and i wish you the very best with your practice!
metta

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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:24 am

Tyanks for the insight Ben, I appreciate it. I have to point out though, that although I had the meditation kit a few weeks ago, I've actually been mediating for about 7 to 8 months now, and I've read a quite a bit about it too, with authors such as Gunaratana, and Hagen.

I'm aware iof all the pitfalls etc, It's just this morning I realised "what breath!?"

I think insight is the wrong path for me right now. Maybe the jhanas.
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Re: Breath

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:28 am

No problem Collective.
My post is also relevant for the samatha variant of anapanasati. But from the tone of your last post it looks like you are looking at changing your technique to something non-breath related.
Whatever you choose to do, all the best!
metta

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Re: Breath

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:38 am

Collective I have been meditating for slightly more than 40 years and sometimes life events and so on mean that it takes me quite a while to settle on the cushion, sometimes 15 or 20 minutes before I am with the breath fully. At other times its almost instant.
Reciting the Refuges can help. If you make a habit of that it tells your mind that it is meditation time. meditating at the same time of day can also help, just as your stomache rumbles at lunchtime, your mind will get used to the routine.
Its a middle way, Right Effort is important, but so is the old saying " meditate as you can, not as you cant",
Just to add my good wishes to Ben's.
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Re: Breath

Postby Freawaru » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:00 am

Collective wrote:
I think insight is the wrong path for me right now. Maybe the jhanas.


Hi Collective,

Leigh Brasington wrote:How do you know access concentration has been established? The mind is fully with the object of meditation and, if there are any thoughts, they are wispy and in the background; they do not draw you away from the meditation object. There may also be other signs -- which vary for each method. For mindfulness of breathing, the breath becomes very fine, almost undetectable when you have established access concentration.

First Jhana

Once access concentration has been established, you now induce the next factor of the first Jhana. This third factor is called piti and is variously translated as delight, euphoria, rapture and ecstasy. By shifting your attention from the meditation object to a pleasant sensation, particularly a pleasant physical sensation, and doing nothing more than not becoming distracted from the pleasant sensation, you will "automatically" enter the first Jhana. The experience is that the pleasant sensation grows in intensity until it explodes into an unmistakable state of ecstasy. This is piti, which is primarily a physical experience. Physical pleasure this intense is accompanied by emotional pleasure, and this emotional pleasure is sukha (joy, happiness), which is the fourth factor of the first Jhana.
http://www.leighb.com/jhana2a.htm
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Re: Breath

Postby Collective » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:23 am

After reading all the posts here it seems to me that no matter what my aim is, I'll still be using the breath as a focus. Incidentally I don't want to stop using the breath, as it is right there with me, it's accessible, and everyone recommends it.

It may seem rash of me to stop reading my Insight Meditation kit after purchasing it about 2 weeks ago, but it isn't as if I have no prior experience with vipassana. However, I have little to no experience or knowledge with jhana. I think jhana is the manifestation of the meditation and not the meditational technique itself (told you I know little).

Could someone recommend a book that introduces this type of meditation, cultivating jhana?

Thank you
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