Concentration meditation difficulties

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:37 pm

darods wrote:One other thing though I have noticed is that in some sessions I cannot actually feel the sensations of breathing. I may feel something up inside my nose always but sometimes I cannot feel the breath at the end of the nose/upper lip. Or other times I can feel it when breathing out but not in and vice versa. At these times when I cannot feel it, so thus no sensation to focus on, should I be thinking of nothing?

Tilt's advice is good. From time to time discerning a particular sensation at the point where the respiration contacts the body can seem to disappear. Sensation of the incoming and outgoing breath is always there but we're not used to discerning such subtle phenomena. When the mind becomes concentrated the breathing naturally becomes shallower and shallower. As Tilt says, just pay attention. The quality of mind that you bring to the exercise should be light.
As the sensation of contact becomes more and more subtle, it may eventually disappear from "view". One technique that I have used from time to time is to switch the awareness to a change in temperature in the area below the nostrils and above the upper lip. The exhalation will always be warmer than the incoming breath.
The object of the meditation is merely to observe the breath. Don't worry about thoughts - just try to keep your focus on the breath rather than the background noise of mental chatter.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby Sidney » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:28 pm

Dear Darods,

I think what you have been doing is not the problem with concentration as I first understood your question as a difficulty getting concentration. However, when read further it appears to me that you are elaborating on it or analysing it in the wrong direction.

Vipassana meditation has several stages; the first stage is to develop and nuture awareness and to obtain a short one-pointedness concentration. This is usually obtained by closing other five portals of sensation and only contemplate on the touch of air onto the tip of nostrils or upper lip. If you can focus your attention to it for few minutes the next step is to analyse and reflect upon what you have experienced, but should be in the right direction. Instead of analysing the sensation for its quality try to focus on the beginning and the end of the sensation, rather than on the nature and qualities.
If you can contemplate this awareness then, you need to reflect on the dhamma; becoming and ceasation of every sensation; i.e. everything goes in cycles, if there is a beginning there will be an end and vice versa.
If you can master this realisation, then you can shift your contemplation onto every sensation that you come across from the six portals, including your thoughts. If you can master each and every sensation and have realised their nature of beginnings and ends; by this stage your samadhi will be very strong and you would notice few experiences which I have posted in another thread.

If in any case you could not develop strong samadhi do let me know and I will see if I can help you.
best wishes!

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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby darods » Fri Aug 05, 2011 11:50 am

Hi all, I have been practising each day as often as possible, and have come to a new issue that I hope someone can be of help with.

At first, when I sat I would be all over the place mentally. Without realising I would be first having my awareness on an image of my nose breathing, then the sound, then I would lose concentration for a few minutes in thought, then I'd bring it back to the sensation, and within moments it would be back on a visualisation of me breathing.. and so on, jumping around. I don't feel I've particularly progressed in terms of ability in concentration, although I have learnt to get through the issues of restlessness and maintain sitting for the duration I determine at the start.

Jumping to the present, this week I vowed to put in more effort when sitting as I had started to become more about getting through the time, rather than the quality of what I was actually doing.

So this is what I began. When I sit, I clear my mind first. I let my body breath naturally, then begin having my awareness at the sensations of the breath around the nose, not visualising anything, actually staying on the physical sensation, If I realise I am visualising the breath or my nose, I bring it back to the sensation. In the gap between breaths I keep my awareness of the area of sensations. What I have noticed is that after 5 or 6 in and out breaths of doing this.. I begin to get mentally tired.. like a drowziness sets in.. I continue bringing my mind back to the sensation but with each breath the drowziness increases in intensity into almost the sensation you get when you really really want to fall asleep or are about to fall asleep, as it increases it gets harder and harder to keep on the breath until I eventually feel like I'll actually fall asleep so I relent.. my mind jumps around in thoughts for a minute or so as it returns to normal.. the drowziness dissipates very quickly, sometimes here I reapply my awareness to the breath.. for it to happen all over again, othertimes I might lose track completely for 5 minutes before realising I'm not on the breath. Return to it and then it happens all over again. It always seems to happen if I manage to stay on the breath for around 6 to 10 full breaths, other times I might lose awareness before I reach this number and go off on some track of thought.

My question is... am I doing something wrong, or is this just a natural process of my mind being weak in concentration and with each attempt at getting and fighting this drowziness I am making it stronger?

I hope that makes sense.

Thank you for your help


Update:

I have just been experimenting with different postures. Up until now I used a small wooden bench to mediate on, just now I tried sitting cross legged on a cushion.. although it was more uncomfortable for my back and groin/hips, I noted that the above drowziness issue was almost non existant. I'm not ready yet to declare this the solution but I hope it is. The only problem is getting up afterward as one of my legs became completley numb! :D
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby Nicro » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:43 pm

darods wrote:Hi all, I have been practising each day as often as possible, and have come to a new issue that I hope someone can be of help with.

At first, when I sat I would be all over the place mentally. Without realising I would be first having my awareness on an image of my nose breathing, then the sound, then I would lose concentration for a few minutes in thought, then I'd bring it back to the sensation, and within moments it would be back on a visualisation of me breathing.. and so on, jumping around. I don't feel I've particularly progressed in terms of ability in concentration, although I have learnt to get through the issues of restlessness and maintain sitting for the duration I determine at the start.

Jumping to the present, this week I vowed to put in more effort when sitting as I had started to become more about getting through the time, rather than the quality of what I was actually doing.

So this is what I began. When I sit, I clear my mind first. I let my body breath naturally, then begin having my awareness at the sensations of the breath around the nose, not visualising anything, actually staying on the physical sensation, If I realise I am visualising the breath or my nose, I bring it back to the sensation. In the gap between breaths I keep my awareness of the area of sensations. What I have noticed is that after 5 or 6 in and out breaths of doing this.. I begin to get mentally tired.. like a drowziness sets in.. I continue bringing my mind back to the sensation but with each breath the drowziness increases in intensity into almost the sensation you get when you really really want to fall asleep or are about to fall asleep, as it increases it gets harder and harder to keep on the breath until I eventually feel like I'll actually fall asleep so I relent.. my mind jumps around in thoughts for a minute or so as it returns to normal.. the drowziness dissipates very quickly, sometimes here I reapply my awareness to the breath.. for it to happen all over again, othertimes I might lose track completely for 5 minutes before realising I'm not on the breath. Return to it and then it happens all over again. It always seems to happen if I manage to stay on the breath for around 6 to 10 full breaths, other times I might lose awareness before I reach this number and go off on some track of thought.

My question is... am I doing something wrong, or is this just a natural process of my mind being weak in concentration and with each attempt at getting and fighting this drowziness I am making it stronger?

I hope that makes sense.

Thank you for your help


Update:

I have just been experimenting with different postures. Up until now I used a small wooden bench to mediate on, just now I tried sitting cross legged on a cushion.. although it was more uncomfortable for my back and groin/hips, I noted that the above drowziness issue was almost non existant. I'm not ready yet to declare this the solution but I hope it is. The only problem is getting up afterward as one of my legs became completley numb! :D



Its good you are getting over the drowsiness. Are you just trying to do a straight Samantha meditation with Jhana as a goal? If so here is how I tend to do it:

Sit and take three large breaths in and out just to settle in.

Then you can either say "in" on an in breath and "out" on an out breath, or count 1, 2, 3 etc... But only count on the in OR out breath. Not both. While doing this don't get lost in the words, concentrate on the sensation and use the words to help keep the mind fixed there and from wandering and having other thoughts come up.

Unlike Vipassana if I'm trying to just do concentration I don't pay attention to thoughts. Think of it like walking though a field of bubbles, like kids blow. In Vipassana you pop all the bubbles as they come at you(you examine every thought, sensation, emotion, etc.. as it arises) while if you are doing concentration, you just walk through the field and let all the bubbles(thoughts, emotions etc..) pass you by with out giving them mind.

Eventually if you practice consistently and with effort you can gain very good concentration. You can also drop using "in" and "out" or counting once your concentration is built up as well.

Beware of the drowsiness though, people can fall into the "void" during meditation when that happens. Basically they will just go into an empty blank state removed from any concentration. You want to gain Jhana, which comes from very high concentration. Sloth is one of the hindrances, you must battle it.
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby chownah » Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:22 am

nicro,
"Then you can either say "in" on an in breath and "out" on an out breath", Do you mean we should say it (with the mouth) or we should think it (with the mind only)?
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby Nicro » Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:53 am

chownah wrote:nicro,
"Then you can either say "in" on an in breath and "out" on an out breath", Do you mean we should say it (with the mouth) or we should think it (with the mind only)?
chownah



Just mentally. Its important to concentrate on the sensation though, only use the "in" and "out" to help maintain that concentration.
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:32 pm

Nicro wrote:
chownah wrote:nicro,
"Then you can either say "in" on an in breath and "out" on an out breath", Do you mean we should say it (with the mouth) or we should think it (with the mind only)?
chownah



Just mentally. Its important to concentrate on the sensation though, only use the "in" and "out" to help maintain that concentration.


I'd go one farther: after in-out, add long-short, per the first tetrad of anapanasati.
    "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: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby Nicro » Sat Aug 06, 2011 8:22 pm

daverupa wrote:
Nicro wrote:
chownah wrote:nicro,
"Then you can either say "in" on an in breath and "out" on an out breath", Do you mean we should say it (with the mouth) or we should think it (with the mind only)?
chownah



Just mentally. Its important to concentrate on the sensation though, only use the "in" and "out" to help maintain that concentration.


I'd go one farther: after in-out, add long-short, per the first tetrad of anapanasati.



See, I always interpreted that as just being aware of it. Because, it seems you would have to wait until the end of the breath to know if it was long or short, if you do it while your breathing then you will just end up breathing long when you say long or short when you say short.
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Re: Concentration meditation difficulties

Postby daverupa » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:58 pm

Nicro wrote:
daverupa wrote:I'd go one farther: after in-out, add long-short, per the first tetrad of anapanasati.
See, I always interpreted that as just being aware of it. Because, it seems you would have to wait until the end of the breath to know if it was long or short, if you do it while your breathing then you will just end up breathing long when you say long or short when you say short.


In meditation, I experience "the moment" not as a point-instant, but rather as something of a saddle-back. Thereupon, knowing long as long or short as short becomes part of the in-out mindfulness already established in the preparatory stage ("just mindful he breathes in, just mindful he breathes out") - the "it seems..." appears to suggest that you haven't tried it this way, that perhaps you imagine breathing as happening over a series of point-instants. This idea makes anapanasati a much more chaotic practice than treating "now" as having a broader application, in my experience. "Ack! that was a microsecond ago, therefore in the past, gah keep the mind on the present" is neither helpful nor in keeping with the instructions the Buddha gave. Anapanasati is a much more relaxed affair.

The first and second aspects of the first tetrad of anapanasati call for knowing long or short as they occur. It's having mindfulness encompass the whole breath in this way that allows you to experience the {breath <--> body} conditional relationship, the third aspect of the first tetrad. I'm not aware of any reason to choose to remain at the prep stage "just mindful he breathes in, just mindful he breathes out". The tetrads are wholesome practice.
    "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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