how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

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how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby delora » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:50 pm

Hi there. I'd like to share my experiences over a few years of practising day to day mindfulness. I am not sure I have it right. When I first started reading about mindfulness it seemed like it was a totally new thing to ppl - due to the way it was presenting. I'm more prone to think that is not the case - however the degree to which we are mindful, does vary. I still feel I am an early beginner, and have many questions...

I have often wondered how much concentration one should use for day to day activities of mindfulness. Any thoughts or responses would be appreciated..

1. I am likening the effort applied, to concentration. I find as I increase effort, my sensorial experience feels more concentrated. I am aware of space more.

I find this decreases the amounts of thoughts I have. This can be helpful and not helpful. As in, if I get too concentrated, even reading and studying can be difficult, because I find you do need a bit of thought here.

2. I find that the more effort I apply, or the more concentrated i am, the more my day to day experience changes. Particularly things like my writing and speech. I am more conscious, and concise in writing. Again, this can be a good thing, and bad thing. I find the less concentrated I am, the more manic and perhaps 'creative' I can be. At least when it comes to brainstorming. But these ideas are more hollow and less thought out. Is this a common experience?

3. So I wonder, how much effort or concentration do people apply? I am aware that the ajahn chah lineage ( particularly in the uk - like at amaravati monastery w ajahn sumedho ) talk about not getting too concentrated, and being 'natural', but this does confuse me, as i find myself almost forcing myself to be natural, and denying or 'pushing out' concentration - which seems a very unnatural thing to do!

I have also heard of people say that concentration can be a forced or unnatural process. In my experience, concentration does feel like holding back... all the time. This feels to have it's plusses and minuses. Certainly, I think many people have confused me as being intense or having a bad time, when i have been fine. I was wondering if ppl had any similar experiences.

hope this made some sense,
thanks~
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:47 am

delora wrote:3. So I wonder, how much effort or concentration do people apply? I am aware that the ajahn chah lineage ( particularly in the uk - like at amaravati monastery w ajahn sumedho ) talk about not getting too concentrated, and being 'natural', but this does confuse me, as i find myself almost forcing myself to be natural, and denying or 'pushing out' concentration - which seems a very unnatural thing to do!



It might be useful to draw a distinction between between mindfulness ( sati ) and concentration ( samadhi ), which work together.
Essentially mindfulness just means paying attention - this can be quite expansive, observing whatever arises ( "natural" ), or it can be focussed on one object like the breath ( "concentrated" ). I find that developing concentration "on the cushion" supports that broader mindfulness "off the cushion".
Does that help atall? :smile:

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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby Sobeh » Tue Oct 05, 2010 3:12 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:Essentially mindfulness just means paying attention


In the Dhamma, sati is paying attention to something in a particular way- the satipatthana subjects, with the Anapanasati and Kayagatasati Suttas as guides, oughtn't to be summed up as "just paying attention".
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:35 pm

I think that sati is probably better translated as "recollection." It's basically keeping in mind the goals (hence the word mindfulness), as they relate to the Dhamma... like the seven factors of awakening, for example.
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:27 pm

Hello Delora

Do you know for what purpose you are being mindful of? Mindfulness or concentrations are not ends in themselves.
I suspect some of your questions might be answered then.

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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby delora » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:38 am

spiny - thanks

ryb - I have to say, that I do get lost as to why I am being mindful sometimes. I know Ajahn Sumedho places a lot of emphasis on "being aware" and in the "here and now". But I have to say I do get rather confused. Mindfulness, sati.. these terms seems to have different meanings in different contexts, and I get the impression (this may be wrong) that people, incl Ajahn Sumedho, do see them as ends in themselves. If it is not, then what is the purpose?

Here is an excerpt from an article about mindfulness which loosely related to what i was asking:

"There were dangers. I remember once trying to cross a mountain road, holding my two-year-old's hand, and realising that I simply could not judge the speed of the oncoming cars. In the present moment they were frozen, and the next moment was not in my mind. I decided I must have gone a bit too far. I have no idea what happens if you push this even further, or let go of even more of the mind. I have no idea whether continuing this kind of practice all of one's life is either feasible or desirable, although there are many who advocate it. I only know that I worked hard at it for seven weeks and then stopped. Indeed the whole process seemed naturally to come to an end. "
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:34 pm

delora wrote:I get the impression (this may be wrong) that people, incl Ajahn Sumedho, do see them as ends in themselves. If it is not, then what is the purpose?


I doubt the Ajahn sees it as an end in itself... the purpose is to contemplate the impermanence of things (anicca), the unsatisfactoriness of things because of that (dukkha), and about whether you should view them, or cling to, as a self (anatta).

The result of this should be a reduction of the greed, hate, and delusion (and their eventual eradication if you manage to get that far). Also, you achieve nibbāna... which is the "unbinding", or a freedom from being "born" again, the constant "becoming", and then the eventual "death", etc. People usually view these as literal things, but I think it's fine to view them as just metaphorical.

"There were dangers. I remember once trying to cross a mountain road, holding my two-year-old's hand, and realising that I simply could not judge the speed of the oncoming cars. In the present moment they were frozen, and the next moment was not in my mind. I decided I must have gone a bit too far. I have no idea what happens if you push this even further, or let go of even more of the mind. I have no idea whether continuing this kind of practice all of one's life is either feasible or desirable, although there are many who advocate it. I only know that I worked hard at it for seven weeks and then stopped. Indeed the whole process seemed naturally to come to an end. "


That's an odd quote. Usually when you're mindful (or paying attention) you will not let these sort of things happen (i.e., let your own mind go in that state).

I've already mentioned the "seven factors of awakening"... one of the factors is "dhamma vicaya." This is the discrimination of states. You figure what state is good (and therefore conductive for the awakening), and what is bad (unconductive for the awakening). You try to pursue the good, and abandon the bad (of course). That person's vicaya seems like it could be underdeveloped, or else he wouldn't have let himself get to that point where he couldn't judge the car's speed.

Another good factor is pīti... your practice is supposed to give you joy. Of course. If you don't experience this, then you'll not do your practice as well (and then not attain the awakening). The pīti is also an useful hint about whether you're on the right track or not... just a few things for you to think about.
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby Freawaru » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:41 pm

Hi delora,

the main idea of mindfulness is to enable you to know what goes on within your mind. Whatever you think, imagine, feel, know, all memories and images, ideas, intuitions, creative or rational, while sleepy or highly concentrated.

Imagine yourself driving a car. What you need to be mindful of is the traffic. The cars and bikes and pedestrians and horses and dogs and whatever. You need to be mindful of the streets, where you are, where you go, what is where. And still, after some time of regular practice of being mindful to all this one can listen to music or talk to others or think one's thoughts while driving the car.

The mind is like the traffic and the streets. To not "crash" and hurt oneself and others one needs to be mindful of what is where and what goes on in the mind. People often say "I didn't want to say this or that - I just said it because I was angry." Meaning, they had not paid attention to what they do and say because they had not paid attention to what they think. Thinking happens before doing and saying, so if they had been mindful of what they think they would have known what they said or did. But they didn't and "crashed", hurting themselves and hurting others. They are better at driving cars that driving their very own mind.

So to answer your question: recall how much concentration you needed to learn how to not have an accident in the streets in the physical world. How much concentration did you need to learn to be mindful of the traffic? How much concentration did you need to stay mindful of traffic and streets and still be able to listen to the radio? How much concentration do you need when some unusual, potentially lethal situation happens suddenly? How much concentration do you need to stay mindful when you drive an unknown car?

It is just like that.



delora wrote:I find this decreases the amounts of thoughts I have. This can be helpful and not helpful. As in, if I get too concentrated, even reading and studying can be difficult, because I find you do need a bit of thought here.


You can concentrate on reading and studying. In this case the thoughts stay.
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby Freawaru » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:54 pm

delora wrote:
Here is an excerpt from an article about mindfulness which loosely related to what i was asking:

"There were dangers. I remember once trying to cross a mountain road, holding my two-year-old's hand, and realising that I simply could not judge the speed of the oncoming cars. In the present moment they were frozen, and the next moment was not in my mind. I decided I must have gone a bit too far. I have no idea what happens if you push this even further, or let go of even more of the mind. I have no idea whether continuing this kind of practice all of one's life is either feasible or desirable, although there are many who advocate it. I only know that I worked hard at it for seven weeks and then stopped. Indeed the whole process seemed naturally to come to an end. "


This can happen when one practices concentration meditation a lot with good results (jhana meditation). Jhana is not necessary for mindfulness, though. However, in the quote you can see that this person KNEW that he or she was in some odd state that was potentially dangerous in such a situation. The knowledge was there the moment the state arose. Not afterwards. He or she didn't describe that afterwards he/she realised that it had been a strange state but right in the NOW - unlike others who excuse their behaviour by "I was angry". This realising in the NOW enables one to control the mind like the person in the quote was able to decide to not move until it was over.
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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:04 pm

The purpose is mindfulness is no hidden surprise. It is hiding in plain view in the satipatthana sutta:

...he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body...

It is simply to see the arising and passing away of phenomena as it is happening now.

The perceiving of impermanence, bhikkhus, developed and frequently practiced, removes all sensual passion, removes all passion for material existence, removes all passion for becoming, removes all ignorance, removes and abolishes all conceit of "I am."

Just as in the autumn a farmer, plowing with a large plow, cuts through all the spreading rootlets as he plows; in the same way, bhikkhus, the perceiving of impermanence, developed and frequently practiced, removes all sensual passion... removes and abolishes all conceit of "I am."

— SN 22.102

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Re: how much concentration/effort in mindfulness

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:11 am

Sobeh wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:Essentially mindfulness just means paying attention


In the Dhamma, sati is paying attention to something in a particular way- the satipatthana subjects, with the Anapanasati and Kayagatasati Suttas as guides, oughtn't to be summed up as "just paying attention".


So how would you sum it up?

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