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giving up on breath as the object - Dhamma Wheel

giving up on breath as the object

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
mynameisadahn
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giving up on breath as the object

Postby mynameisadahn » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:15 pm

Hello,

I am considering giving up on breath as the object of my meditation, or at the very least changing my approach to breath.

Quick background - I have been meditating for more than a year, doing the "condensed method" of the anapanasati sutta. I focus on breath at the nostrils generally. It has been helpful generally in reducing my stress and worry in life. I also feel much more connected to the Buddha's teachings, which I am thankful for above and beyond any "stress relief" in everyday life.

However, two months after beginning meditation I began to have hyperventilating/panic responses in public speaking events, when giving presentations, or speaking on conference calls. I have a tendency to be overlly self conscious but was good at my profession and able to power through this anxiety in the past, but now, since meditating and being more aware of the breath, my anxiety has become a full blown physiological panic reaction. I now take medications (beta blockers) when doing a presentation, etc.

I hoped to continue with the anapanasati sutta and eventually pass through this difficulty, yet it does not seem to be happening. I am considering changing my practice to one of the following (other suggestions are welcome):

1. focusing on the breath at the belly, instead of the nostrils
2. dropping breath as an object entirely (ignoring it??) but continuing with the four foundations of mindfulness
3. dropping mindfulness practice and only doing other buddhist practices, like metta, chanting, and bowing

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! I am in no way questioning vipassana of anapanasati sutta generally. My concern is that -- given my pre-existing tendencies of being self-conscious - -the focus on the breath is making my life as a lay-person more difficult.

edit - I am going to also raise this with my in-person teacher, when I have a chance.

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marc108
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby marc108 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:58 pm

"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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daverupa
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby daverupa » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:11 pm

The condensed version is interesting, but I think it goes too far since condensing things down to two steps seems to operate on the assumption that the whole of the anapanasati instructions contain superfluous information. I think this interpretation can only arise in the face of confusion about the practice, but I think everyone is somewhat confused, including myself, so it takes careful attention.

Without saying this is right, and other methods are wrong, I want to suggest that locating the breath on any particular body part doesn't make sense to me as part of anapanasati. Instead, you might consider (for example) the idea of "body as a body". Here, rather than the breath as a separate percept in this or that location, instead, refrain from images, imaginings or wordy descriptions & analysis, and instead note just the body in and of itself 'flexing' in order to breathe. You can note the breath any number of places, but in this first tetrad the instructions ask us to experience all the bodies, and not a circumscribed one we've learned to associate with the breath.

The instructions also enjoin us to calm the whole thing, and not simply watch passively, so that will be something to explore.

befriend
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby befriend » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:16 pm

in my experience meditating at the nostrils is a suppression meditation used for entering trances and experiencing bliss and rapture. i would look into that, someone correct me but from what my teacher said and what i experienced focus at the nostrils is a suppressing meditation so maybe all that crap just went deep down and is coming up now.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

mynameisadahn
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby mynameisadahn » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:21 pm

Thanks marc108. You raise a few points and I appreciate your response.

Why do I think breath awareness is the cause of these panic symptoms, and/or awareness focusing on nostrils? This is partly about the timing. I began my anapansati sutta/breath mindfulness meditation practice and my first strong physiological symptoms were about two months later, at my first big court appearance after starting the practice. I had done this same type of court appearance 6x before without the same physiological symptoms.

I agree that maybe the practice is uncovering something that is already there, like my latent self-consciousness. I already had some physiological symptoms of anxiety in certain, very limited settings (hand shaking when eating at business lunches etc). I would therefore think that breath awareness is sort of expanding that anxiety into the area of feeling short of breath, as needing to pause significantly to breath when talking, and that general mindfulness is expanding the reaction into acute awareness of feeling a tight/clenched stomach.

Perhaps I should focus on calming the body more, as you describe, and maybe changing the object isn't the answer necessarily. I will certainly think about that. I at times feel conflicted about whether I should "control" the breath or just "let it be" but the anapanasati sutta does refer to 'calming the body' if I recall correctly, as one of the contemplations.

I will look into the Navy Seals arousal control breathing you describe. this sounds like a great idea, also.

Daverupa - thanks, i think you are correct to point out to the instruction on calming, not just watching passively the whole time. I have also, lately, become somewhat frustrated with the condensed method, and I am experimenting with going through the 16 steps of the sutta in a more methodical, separted-out way.

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marc108
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby marc108 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:02 pm

"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

pegembara
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Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby pegembara » Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:39 am

And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

mynameisadahn
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:35 pm

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby mynameisadahn » Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:15 pm

thanks pegembara and marc108. i will try focusing more on this first tetrad and the 'training'/calming instructions. This might require some further reading, research, and practice on my part.

This may also be the spur I need to better practice sila and live a less distracted life. I feel like other factors in my life are preventing greater progress in calming and concentrating my mind. I can sit and observe a distracted mind or anxious body, but need to move beyond that.

I'd also note that in the last day or so, since my original post, I have tried changing my focus to the belly (as per mahasi sayadaw (sp?)) rather than at the nostrils. So far, I have felt a greater calming effect with this change of focus and less awareness of feeling 'short of breath' or anxiety ridden. While this method was espoused by Mahasi Sayadaw, it is new to me personally, and I am trying to be objective in investigating whether it is effective for addressing my idiosyncracies.

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LonesomeYogurt
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:22 pm

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


mynameisadahn
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:35 pm

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby mynameisadahn » Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:29 pm

that is a good point, i need to review some instructions from the mahasi perspective and see what he or his students would say.

However, why don't you think that the belly approach would work as well for samadhi meditation? Couldn't the rising and falling of the belly be a focus if one is interested in making some progress towards the first jhana? However, I am a "newb" here in forum speak, so I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you.

I had not heard of kasina or the 32 parts meditations, will have to look at those.

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mikenz66
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Location: New Zealand

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:50 pm


mynameisadahn
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:35 pm

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby mynameisadahn » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:54 pm

Awesome, thanks for the link and the information re the classification. I have been practicing for a year but really feel like it has been only a day, in some ways.

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LonesomeYogurt
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:26 pm

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


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Kamran
Posts: 366
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:14 am

Re: giving up on breath as the object

Postby Kamran » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:26 am

As mentioned in Ajahn Lee's method 2 below, you should not focus on the nose if you have nervous problems.

I would suggest whole body awareness with abdominal breath to maintain a centered but broad awareness. I would also suggest listening to a lot of Thanissaro Bikhu's talks (he teaches ajahn lee mthod) at dhammatalks.org.

Basically, you start with body scans, just moving your attention to different parts of the body, and trying to feel the subtle energy there (Thanissaro refers to this as "breath energy" is his talks). Then after you do this for awhile, focus on the abdomen when breathing, but keep a part of your awareness on the whole body at the same time.

The window of your awareness will begin to shrink up after a while (you'll just be focusing on the abdomen instead of the whole body+abdomen). When you notice this go back to doing body scans to bring the whole body awareness back.

When the window of your awareness is large enough to encompass your whole body, the mind does not slip into the past or future...but when it shrinks up to just the nose or abdomen breathing it is easy for your thoughts to slip into the past or future.

Its easy to do body scans while at work, and maintain whole body awareness during the day even without the breath.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi


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