octathlon wrote: My question (finally!) is how to deal with that-- could I follow the techniques but substitute using the rising/falling instead of the nostrils, or would that be straying too far from the technique, OR anyone have advice on making it easier to detect the breath at the nostrils?
Bhante Gunaratana in 'Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness,' published nine years after 'Mindfulness in Plain English':
"Most people notice the breath easily at the rims of the nostrils; however, some may prefer to focus on the sensation of the breath touching the upper lip, or in the nose, or in the sinus area, depending on their facial structure. Having chosen a place of focus, simply notice the feeling of breath going in and out."
Mindfulness in Plain English, p.69:
"When your mind is wild and agitated, you can often re-establish mindfulness with a few quick deep breaths. Pull the air in strongly and let it out the same way. This increases the sensation inside the nostrils and makes it easier to focus. Make a strong act of will and apply some force to your attention. Concentration can be forced into growth, remember, so you will probably find your full attention settling nicely back on the breath."
You may have a subtle doubt after switching techniques. Know that the purpose is the same, and it can be done because there IS sensation there, and the technique has worked for others, using both locations.
"To handle doubt, simply become aware of this mental state of wavering as an object of inspection. Don't be trapped in it. Back out of it and look at it. See how strong it is. See when it comes and how long it lasts. Then watch it fade away, and go back to the breathing.
This is the general pattern you will use on any distraction that arises. By distraction, remember we mean any mental state that arises to impede your meditation
[this is why I questioned your practice of going from the breath to body sensations until they pass away, because they are always going to be there]. Some of these are quite subtle."
"When we speak of a distraction in Insight Meditation, we are speaking of any preoccupation that pulls the attention off the breath. This brings up a new, major rule for your meditation: When any mental state arises strongly enough to distract you from the object of meditation, switch your attention to the distraction briefly. Make the distraction a temporary object of meditation. Please note the word temporary. It's quite important. We are not advising that you switch horses in midstream. We do not expect you to adopt a whole new object of meditation every three seconds. The breath will always remain your primary focus."
So stay focused on the breath without being a wuss and screaming "distraction" every time you notice you can still feel your legs.
Other tips for relocating the nostril location: touch it with a finger;
stop the breath and notice what the area feels like, then puff a little air out; if it feels the same, then it feels the same, no big deal--you still know you are breathing, right?
Bhante G is still alive, heading the Bhavana Society in West Virginiahttp://www.bhavanasociety.org/
Maybe you could e-mail him with questions if they are not answered on their website?
I like the dude! I was thinking of heading down there myself sometime.