To Follow the Breath or Not?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Yana » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:31 am

Hello,

I am doing Anapanasati Meditation because i would like to deepen my concentration before i start practicing Vippasana next year.

I would like to know whether I should follow:

1.Follow the breath into my body and out of my body.

OR

2.Stick to one fixed point,people always say the nostrils but i can't do that.It is usually in the abdomen/chest area or at the back of my throat.

Thank you

:anjali:
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:34 am

Hi Yana,
If your aim is to develop your concentration then I would recommend fixing the attention on one spot where you can discern the touch of the breath.
As your concentration improves, the object of meditation will become increasingly more subtle, further developing your samadhi.
kind regards,

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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Reductor » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:46 am

I've never been clear on what people mean by following it 'in and out' of the body, but I'd answer that whatever helps you keep track of the breath at the beginning is sure to be helpful in cutting off preoccupations with outside things.

After you've kept track of the breath for a time, and have ceased to be distracted by non-breath/body related thoughts (that is, to the point that you lose all reference to the breath - a little wobbling of your attention is normal so don't build up mental tension when it happens), you can settle your attention on one general area of the body where the sensations of the breath are prominent. It needn't be the nostrils, and in fact I don't use that method much at all since the nostrils are so subtle (but I sometimes shift my focus to the face area while maintaining awareness of breathing - oddly I remain very alert to breathing even then, while that shift in focus eases certain physical tensions that I'm prone to). Keep it there gently (that is, don't focus so hard you cause bodily or mental tension somewhere). As you do that you'll find that not being distracted is an enjoyable experience, and that relaxed breathing it pleasant. Just remember to keep your mental activity related to the experience of the breathing, even as your naturally become more aware of the whole body and these increasing feelings of satisfaction and pleasantness.

tl;dr start with following, if you find it helps you stay focused. After your focus becomes more steady, then settle on a place in the body where the breath sensations of most prominent. There's no one right way: whatever leads you to a greater experience of 'non-distraction' from the breath.

EDIT: a few nija edits tossed in there.
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:06 am

Yana wrote:Hello,

I am doing Anapanasati Meditation because i would like to deepen my concentration before i start practicing Vippasana next year.

I would like to know whether I should follow:

1.Follow the breath into my body and out of my body.

OR

2.Stick to one fixed point,people always say the nostrils but i can't do that.It is usually in the abdomen/chest area or at the back of my throat.

Thank you

:anjali:

you aim your focus on one area and follow the inhalation and exhalation there. what does the intake and expulsion of air do there. you shouldn't try to go outside of yourself.
when external is mentioned in the texts regarding the breath it is a reflection on others what is the same what is different between breathing (or other focus,) or the wind element.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby daverupa » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:47 am

Just note the breathing. Don't do it any other way, at first, than what you'd normally do.

Just check: are you breathing? Is it in or out?

That's all; with this, you can start anapanasati. Notice how the Sutta instructions don't remark on a place to focus, so feel free not to have one either.

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    "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]
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:24 pm

Yana wrote:2.Stick to one fixed point,people always say the nostrils but i can't do that.It is usually in the abdomen/chest area or at the back of my throat.


I'd suggest paying attention to your breathing where it is most obvious. And don't worry too much about the technicalities at an early stage. :smile:
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby theY » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:43 am

When you drive your car, you will watch follow the road behind your car that you passed, or you will just watch the road in front of your car ?
Yes, you will just watch road in front of your car.

Why ?
Because you need the most concentration to drive a car, so you try to watch only the important things for driving.

What is the importance things for driving ?
1.A road in front of your car, when you drive forward. And road behind, when you drive backward.
2.Your car status display in front of your face.

What is the importance things for Ānāpānasati ?
Long or short of inner breath at nose point (or top lip in some person), and of outer breath at point.

How to know long or short of breath without breath following in body ?
Observe at point continually. People ,who don't continually observe at point, aren't mindful. They can't know long or short, because they just know a part of breath, not all of breath term (You can't measure the building tall, if you see only 1st and 2nd ground, can you ?).

Why you don't understand my reply ?
Because my English is terrible.

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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby pegembara » Mon Nov 05, 2012 4:20 am

If you want to keep things simple, just be aware of the breath moving in and moving out. That is all. Whether you feel it in the nostrils, chest or belly is of secondary importance.

After you are secure in maintaining awareness of the breath, you can place attention anywhere you like.
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Yana » Mon Nov 05, 2012 4:53 am

hi ,

I have tried both techniques to follow the breath or to fix to a certain point.This is what i have found:

1.When i follow the in and out of the breath. I get a calm sensation,like warm sensation like i am absorbing something BUT..when i get up my mind is cloudy.and my body temperature rises to the point where i am really burning and regardless of how cold it is have to take a cold shower.

2.When i focus on a fixed point.i am also calm BUT i don't get a warm sensation like the one above.My temperature doesn't rise.I feel cool actually. AND my mind brightens up.It is a lot clearer and focused.Like refreshed.

So my conclusion is:

1. Following the in and out of breath calms the mind,maybe if your stuck somewhere in the cold and don't have anything to keep you warm it might help :tongue: ,it give you a sense of bliss or pleasant sensation.It calms you down so i use it when i am anxious or about to get mad.

2.Focusing on a fixed point sharpens your concentration.It's not that it doesn't give me a blissful sensation i don't really get any sensation,i'm kind of life empty and just focused.Which even though isn't blissful it is very serene and peaceful.

So logically i think i should start with #1 then after a few minutes before i burn up change it to #2.

What do you think?

:anjali:
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby Reductor » Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:07 am

I think you try that for some time and see if your satisfied with it.

In my own practice I've found different approaches worked, but for various reasons I'd come to be dissatisfied with them after a time. Now I have settled on a simple scheme which works and doesn't seem to have any drawbacks for me. I imagine you will too, if you're attentive.

Also, that's very interesting about the heat thing.
Michael

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To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:36 am

Hi Yana,

I think it's great that you can discern such differences. As Reductor says, if you are working out what to do for yourself, you have to just try it and see (since such details are not in the suttas).

If you were following a particular teacher, in person, or via books/internet/etc, I'd try out what they recommend for a while (weeks), and see if what they say is useful for you. That calm and brightness is the sort of thing that Ajahn Brahm or Pa Auk Sayadaw discuss in their meditation instructions. Pa Auk recommends starting with the breath at the nose tip. Ajahn Brahm a general awareness, but they lead to the same place, an eventual focus on a mental conception of the breath.

Ajahn Brahm wrote:The fifth stage is called full sustained attention on the beautiful breath. Often this stage flows naturally and seamlessly from the previous stage. As briefly
discussed in the previous chapter, when one’s full attention rests easily and
continuously on the experience of breathing with nothing interrupting
the even flow of awareness, the breath calms down. It changes from a
coarse, ordinary breath to a very smooth and peaceful “beautiful breath.”
The mind recognizes this beautiful breath and delights in it. It experi-
ences a deepening of contentment. It is happy just to be watching this
beautiful breath, and it does not need to be forced.
...
This sixth stage is achieved when one lets go of the body, thought, and
the five senses (including the awareness of the breath) so completely that
only a beautiful mental sign, a nimitta, remains.
...

Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, pages 19 and 21
http://ebookbrowse.com/ajahn-brahm-mind ... -d84597124

Pa Auk Sayadaw wrote:To begin meditating, sit in a comfortable position and
try to be aware of the breath as it enters and leaves the
body through the nostrils. You should be able to feel
it either just below the nose or somewhere around the
nostrils. Do not follow the breath into the body or out
of the body, because then you will not be able to perfect
your concentration. Just be aware of the breath at the
most obvious place it brushes against or touches, either
the top of the upper lip or around the nostrils. Then you
will be able to develop and perfect your concentration.
...
The concept of the breath is the object of mindfulness-of-breathing.
It is this object you must concentrate on to develop concentration.
...
Just before the nimitta appears, a lot of meditators
encounter difficulties. Mostly they find that the breath
becomes very subtle, and not clear; they may think the
breath has stopped. If this happens, you should keep
your awareness where you last noticed the breath, and
wait for it there.
...

Knowing and Seeing, Page 21...
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/know-see.pdf

These books may be helpful (or they may make little sense, it depends on your experiences and tendencies...). Other teachers have different interpretations of anapanasati. There is plenty of room for creativity in technique...

:anjali:
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:41 am

Yana wrote:hi ,

I have tried both techniques to follow the breath or to fix to a certain point.This is what i have found:

1.When i follow the in and out of the breath. I get a calm sensation,like warm sensation like i am absorbing something BUT..when i get up my mind is cloudy.and my body temperature rises to the point where i am really burning and regardless of how cold it is have to take a cold shower.

2.When i focus on a fixed point.i am also calm BUT i don't get a warm sensation like the one above.My temperature doesn't rise.I feel cool actually. AND my mind brightens up.It is a lot clearer and focused.Like refreshed.

So my conclusion is:

1. Following the in and out of breath calms the mind,maybe if your stuck somewhere in the cold and don't have anything to keep you warm it might help :tongue: ,it give you a sense of bliss or pleasant sensation.It calms you down so i use it when i am anxious or about to get mad.

2.Focusing on a fixed point sharpens your concentration.It's not that it doesn't give me a blissful sensation i don't really get any sensation,i'm kind of life empty and just focused.Which even though isn't blissful it is very serene and peaceful.

So logically i think i should start with #1 then after a few minutes before i burn up change it to #2.

What do you think?

:anjali:

This is my experience as well - I can pull off really broad full-body awareness but it doesn't seem to do much mentally, whereas holding it at one point really sharpens the mind.

I hate to sound like a missionary, always mentioning this, but Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's "Anapanasati: A Guide for Serious Beginners" discusses all of these issues in depth and ends up recommending the method of #1 > #2 like you do above. You might find it interesting: http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:05 am

Yes, those are cool instructions.

I like the way he calls the techniques "tricks". I forgot he did that (I haven't read those instructions for some time).
[I've often used the term "trick" to try to demystify technique. To me technique is technique. It's tricks. I think that it's important to understand that techniques/tricks are not Dhamma, even though they are useful, perhaps vital, for seeing Dhamma.]

The tricks of Vens Brahm, Pa Auk, and Buddhadassa all lead to a mental image:
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu wrote: A MENTAL IMAGE APPEARS

Now, the breath refines and calms further when we create a mental image (nimitta) at the guarding point. This mental image is only imaginary, it is not real. It is created by the citta, it is mind­-made. You can close the eyes and "see" it, you can open the eyes and you still "see" it. It is like a hallucination that the mind creates by itself to calm the breath. To do so, the mind must be subtle. The breath, everything, must be refined in order to raise a mental image. The breath must become finer and calmer until the image is created.
...
When the mind is one-pointed, there are no other feelings, thoughts, or objects of that mind. There remain only the things called jhananga (factors of jhana*).
[* Jhana means "to gaze, to focus" but the exact significance varies with the context. Here it signifies a high level of samadhi often translated "absorption."]

Ven B is cool... :thumbsup:
[As are all these teachers... :bow: ]

:anjali:
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby theY » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:05 am

I forgot this...

"Following the breath is vāya-dhātuvavatthāna-kammaṭṭhāna method. Fix at point is ānapanassati-kammaṭṭhāna-method"

Pa-Auk.

So, if you are samatha yogi, just try fix at point method.
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:25 pm

Yana wrote:1.When i follow the in and out of the breath. I get a calm sensation,like warm sensation like i am absorbing something BUT..when i get up my mind is cloudy.and my body temperature rises to the point where i am really burning and regardless of how cold it is have to take a cold shower.


So, maybe there's a thing adequately described by the term 'qi', and maybe there's not. But descriptions like this occur with some frequency related to sitting meditation, and some problems are avoided by doing things prescribed by this realm of though. I suppose your mileage may vary, but may I recommend:

A. Keep your tongue up. Nothing fancy, but rest part of your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you meditate. It can keep saliva from building up, but perhaps connects a circuit which lets this 'heat' circulate. Perhaps you were already doing this.

B. When you are going to get up, you will want to park this 'heat' in your abdomen and diaphragm. This should prevent these cloudiness and heat problems.

C. As for doing things with the breath in meditation, I wonder about this; the relevant step in anapanasati seems to refer to calming intentions about the breath, rather than intentionally calming the breath; perhaps I am mistaken? but it seems that following the breath is at the root of qi experiences, while anapanasati, in my experience, differs - I understand the third instruction not as the 'whole body of the breath', which may be a difference of approach...
    "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]
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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:26 pm

Dave raises some interesting point. I've not paid much attention to Qi and so on, but friends have occasionally taught me a few little tricks, like massaging particular (acupunture-type) channels to help wake up and, more to the point here, a sort of circular breathing thing where attention circulates up and down around the abdomen. These techniques do have a noticeable effect, and having experimented with them a little I can see now how some meditation techniques, such as this following the breath inside, or rapid Goenka-style body scanning, could be (usually unintentionally) doing the same sort of "energy activation".

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Re: To Follow the Breath or Not?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:37 pm

And perhaps I should echo what one of my Malaysian friends (who is quite proficient in both meditation and qi methods) has often said me. We should not confuse the aims of these methods. Various techniques, such as qi, can be helpful to get the energy and/or calm one needs for meditation, and meditation gives blissful experiences (sometimes!), but the point of Buddhist meditation isn't about balancing energies, generating feelings of well-being, etc. It's about liberation from those (among other) things...

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