Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

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Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:00 pm

Hello everyone,

In the past few days, during my meditation(Anapanasati) sittings I'm having a problem: I cannot concentrate on my breath! This renders the whole point of Anapanasati(as I understand it) moot. Here's what happens.

Usually I try to concentrate in the area of the nostrils, to observe the breath. However, recently I've started having intense sensations in that area, a gripping feeling accompanied by various vibratory sensations. These sensations are so strong that they override all others, and concentrating on the breath air as it enters and leaves the nostrils has become almost impossible. And it is not just restricted to the nostril/nose area, these sensations spread to my forehead, temple, lips, etc. The 'bite' is very strong, it feels like someone is drilling through(and sometimes drilling out) my peripheries. And nowadays its also not restricted to my meditation sittings, sometimes(usually when I'm alone studying/traveling) I have the exact same sensations, even without trying any sort of meditation/mindfulness of breathing. I tried to observe them hoping they would go away, but that had the reverse effect of making them stronger. I'd be grateful for any kind of advice/suggestions.

I'm sorry if these kind of problems are common and easily dealt with, for I'm a beginner and have no one qualified enough to discuss them with(like a meditation teacher). So I tender my apologies and my gratitude in advance.

Metta,
Dhammabodhi
Last edited by retrofuturist on Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Subject heading changed for clarity
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts'

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 13, 2009 11:29 pm

Hi Dhammabodhi

What you are experiencing isn't unusual. You are developing samadhi and as a result you are becoming aware of psycho-somatic processes that have been there all along. As much as you can, give importance to the rise and fall of the breath at the point of touch. Try and keep your attention anchored at that point for longer and longer periods. The Vissudhimagga on its commentary on Anapanasati, describes the quality of the attention. Buddhaghosa instructs that one should 'place' one's attention, meaning one should have a relaxed and pliable mind. So, you maybe aware of other sensations rising and falling throughout your body, and you may have a myriad of thoughts and emotions coursing through your mind, one tries to maintain a gentle bare awareness of the breath.
And I can appreciate from time to time, it is the hardest thing to do as other sensations and thoughts or emotions are screaming for your undivided attention.

When you find yourself losing attention, or having been distracted for a period of time, just go back to the breath. If you find your breath becoming too subtle to notice, try a few forced breaths to reorient yourself with the point where your breath touches.
Anapana, for me, does bring to the surface quite a bit of physical and mental discomfort. However, I have found anapana to be incredibly profound and deep.
All the best with your practice Dhammabodhi.
Metta

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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts'

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:21 am

Greetings Dhammabodhi,

It might be worth experimenting with different focal points and focal widths.

Look at the translation notes from Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation of...

MN 118 - Anapanasati Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... n.html#n-1

"There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore. [1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.


[1] To the fore (parimukham): The Abhidhamma takes an etymological approach to this term, defining it as around (pari-) the mouth (mukham). In the Vinaya, however, it is used in a context (Cv.V.27.4) where it undoubtedly means the front of the chest. There is also the possibility that the term could be used idiomatically as "to the front," which is how I have translated it here.


Try the nose, try the nostrils, try the face, try the chest, try the lungs, try the entire front half of your body, try focusing on the sensations themselves if they are easier to observe than the breath. See what works for you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:08 am

Hi Dhammabodhi,

Excellent advice here. Just a couple other thoughts.

You might want to make sure you don't have a medical condition causing these sensations. If it gets worse or doesn't go away, maybe you could ask your health-care provider about it.

With regard to this:
Dhammabodhi wrote:I tried to observe them hoping they would go away, but that had the reverse effect of making them stronger.

The "hoping they would go away" part probably is part of the problem. If the recurrance of these sensations is due to a heightened awareness of what always has been present, then you might want to just observe them, and if the thought arises, "I hope they go away," just observe that and be aware of the entire psycho-physical phenomenon to the best of your ability. Just my 2 cents.

Metta
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Guy » Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:32 am

Hello Dhammabodhi,

I have had this problem before, basically the problem was that I was holding on to the breath too tightly. I have heard a similie (I think it was from Ajahn Brahm) that you must treat your breath like you are holding a small bird in your hands. If your hands are too loose, it flies away, if you hold on too tight, you will crush it. This is how I dealt with the problem:

Next time you meditate, try to just relax the body and the mind into the present moment, make relaxing into the present moment the object of meditation instead of the breath. Try to forget about the breath altogether, just relax for 30 minutes. Before you open your eyes to end the meditation, notice how you feel, remember what it feels like and appreciate the value of being relaxed in the present moment. Then, the next time you meditate do the same thing until you reach that very relaxed but aware stage THEN go back to the breath for the remainder of the meditation session.

I hope this is of use to you, please let me know if it works.

With Metta,

Guy
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2) Throwing things away
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:00 pm

Thank you for all your suggestions and advice! I'll try out each one until it works!

@Ben: I was actually trying to do what you have said, but it was becoming harder and harder with each sitting so I thought asking experienced people here was best. I'll continue trying to concentrate on the breath.

@retrofuturist: Thank you for the link, as you have rightly pointed out, the best way is to try things out diligently until something works. :)

@Jechbi: Although I do have a medical condition, I don't think these sensations are a manifestation of a medical problem since they started only after I had done Anapanasati for some period of time. But I'll heed your kind advice and be careful.

@Guy: I appreciate your input coming from personal experience. I'll try your technique out as well.
appreciate the value of being relaxed in the present moment
Wonderful words, truly inspiring! :buddha1:

I'll report back when I feel a tangible change in my sittings! :meditate:

With metta,
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:24 pm

dont let the body sensations cause aversion or agitation in your mind (dont let it upset you- let it be)
some have found that 'including' it with the breath helpful (especially for long term goenka practitioners who are acutely aware of it)
With Metta

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& Upekkha
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dmytro » Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:11 am

Hi,

In the Vinaya, however, it is used in a context (Cv.V.27.4) where it undoubtedly means the front of the chest.


That's the legend which originated from the error of Buddhaghosa:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=21109

I tried to observe them hoping they would go away, but that had the reverse effect of making them stronger.


They are nurtured by attention. The solution is to keep them on the periphery of attention. You may try, when you just wake up, and those sensations have not yet intensified, to meditate on the breath, keeping the main part of body-sensitivity on those places where breath feels comfortable.

For more details, see:
http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings ... yFlame.pdf

Also keep track of the mental qualities expressed in your breathing in and breathing out:

(i) By avoiding consciousness which runs after the past (breaths) and is attacked by distraction, (consciousness) is concentrated in one place.

(ii) By avoiding consciousness which looks forward to the future (breaths) and is attacked by wavering, (consciousness) is fixed (there).

(iii) By exerting slack consciousness attacked by indolence, one abandons indolence.

(iv) By restraining over-exerted consciousness attacked by agitation, one abandons agitation.

(v) By being clearly comprehending about consciousness which is attracted and attacked by greed, one abandons greed.

(vi) By being clearly comprehending about consciousness which is discontented and attacked by ill will, one abandons ill will.

http://bps.lk/bp_library/bp502s/bp502_part3.html

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dhammabodhi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:14 pm

Hi again,

Sorry for being late in reply, I was travelling for the last few days. First of all a big thanks again to everyone who has replied for my problem. I'm truly grateful. I've learnt a lot from each and every response, and day by day my meditation sittings are improving! I've learnt to be more relaxed and to incorporate the important factor of peace and happiness that comes with relaxation. This was an immediate consequence of "letting go" of my awareness of these discomforting sensations and practicing more vigilantly the "I'm-not-my-body" phenomenon. I'll keep trying to better my understanding of these things and practice diligently!

Thank you Dmytro for the links and the pointers!
The solution is to keep them on the periphery of attention.

I was pleasantly surprised by this because this is exactly what I realised I should do! It's like Guy said: to hold the attention just the right amount!

With metta and gratitude,
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby terryshine » Sat Jun 20, 2009 11:05 am

If the drilling sensation is around the nostrils - could this be a nimitta?
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 20, 2009 12:11 pm

I dont think so. What usually happens is that the practitioner becomes more sensitive to sensation, at the area around the point where the breath touches the nostrils and in other areas on and in the body.
Nimittas as a result of anapana tend to be some form of visual 'object'.

When attention becomes fixed on the out and in-breath (i.e. when a certain degree of concentration is achieved), manifestations appear, such as masses of fluffy wool, or gusts of wind, or clusters of stars, or gems or pearls, or strings of pearls, etc., in various shapes, groups, and colours. These are the counterpart signs.

-- Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, Ānāpāna Dīpanī: A Manual of Respiraton, http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html

Kind regards

Ben
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dhammabodhi » Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:29 am

Hi Ben,

I have a couple of silly questions to ask. :?
What is meant by "manifestation of gusts of wind"? Does one start feeling the wind in their faces? And about the Nimmittas, is there any "reasonable" explanation for the mechanism of the appearance of visual objects when the mind reaches a certain concentration level? I know it doesn't matter, I was just wondering. :geek:

Metta,
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Ben » Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:17 am

Hi Dhammabodhi

Please don't feel that your questions are silly, because they are not. I just hope that I can adequately answer your queries!
My experience of nimittas within anapanasati is that they take the form of a visual image. Apart from the ones Ledi Sayadaw mentions, my own teacher has mentioned that some people will see tranquil jungle scenes, an image of the Buddha and their teacher. My own experiences have been less exotic where I've seen puffs of cotton, clouds and lights. Occassionally, I've seen filagree patterns. As for 'manifestation of gusts of winds', I am at a loss how to explain.
To be honest with you, I'm not sure what the mental process is that causes nimittas to arise in the mind when it becomes concentrated and still. I'm sure there is an Abhidhammic explanation for the phenomenon but at the moment I don''t have time to refer to A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma to check. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can assist.
Metta

Ben
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dmytro » Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:13 pm

Hi Dhammabodhi,

To put it simple, in the context of samadhi, nimitta is a perceptual image of the basis of concentration. When you keep your attention on that basis (say, air), your individual perceptual image of it kind of crystallises into something directly perceptible.
It can be tactile, or it can be visual, it does not matter.

Any perceptual image you keep in mind flavors your perception. For example, if you remember a gentle breeze, you can feel it a little right now. Similar things happen in meditation, but in intensified form.

In the case of Anapanasati, the basis of concentration is the air element, as in the case of air kasina practice.

Kiṃ pana pathavīkasiṇaṃ ādiṃ katvā aṭṭhikasaññāpariyosānāvesā rūpāvacarappanā, udāhu aññāpi atthīti? Atthi; ānāpānajjhānañhi kāyagatāsatibhāvanā ca idha na kathitā. Kiñcāpi na kathitā vāyokasiṇe pana gahite ānāpānajjhānaṃ gahitameva; vaṇṇakasiṇesu ca gahitesu kesādīsu catukkapañcakajjhānavasena uppannā kāyagatāsati, dasasu asubhesu gahitesu dvattiṃsākāre paṭikūlamanasikārajjhānavasena ceva navasivathikāvaṇṇajjhānavasena ca pavattā kāyagatāsati gahitāvāti. Sabbāpi rūpāvacarappanā idha kathitāva hotīti.

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."

(Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200)

More about 'nimitta' in the thread:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=17871

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby nathan » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:12 am

It would be helpful to know if you are trying to develop deeper insight or more complete concentration. The reason I say so is that if you are in pursuit of insight then I would simply allow whatever predominates to take your attention and examine that as closely as possible, noting when possible the three characteristics and the arising and passing of the phenomena. If, however, you are attempting to develop concentration, then, if the breath is not suitable at a given time, it is useful to have alternative suitable themes or objects for the development of concentration. Things such as a brief chant, mantra (simple repeated word(s)) or a kasina (small disc shaped object).

All the best in your meditation efforts.
:smile:
upekkha
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dhammabodhi » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:11 am

Hi all,

Thank you again for the replies.

@Ben: Thanks for the encouragement, but I really do think they were silly questions in the sense that I'd never be able to grasp such concepts as nimitta's unless I myself experience and analyse them(if I'm able to). However, to know that there are people who have experienced it is immensely inspiring and motivating! So I'm grateful to you for sharing your experiences with me. :anjali:

@Dmytro: Your explanations were truly wonderful! It answers some questions but, in turn, raised some others(again,silly in the above sense :roll: ) in my mind, e.g. if residual perceptual images in the mind affect what kind of nimitta's one is going to see/experience, wouldn't they also include negative experiences like pain/stress etc. or positive experiences without visual concomitants like feelings such as love/compassion? Somehow I'm tempted to question the "hows" of the process, the chain of events that lead to such experiences. Sorry! :toilet:

@nathan: I'm not qualified to label my practice, because I do not know the exact definition of "insight" in this context. However, I can explain what I do: I try to sense the breath air on my nostrils area, going in and coming out. I try to observe the variety of sensations. Recently I've started observing the lengths of the in- and out- breaths after I sense I've achieved a certain level of concentration. Thank you for your encouragement! :anjali:

Metta,
Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby nathan » Sun Jun 28, 2009 4:21 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:@nathan: I'm not qualified to label my practice, because I do not know the exact definition of "insight" in this context. However, I can explain what I do: I try to sense the breath air on my nostrils area, going in and coming out. I try to observe the variety of sensations. Recently I've started observing the lengths of the in- and out- breaths after I sense I've achieved a certain level of concentration. Thank you for your encouragement! :anjali:

Metta,
Dhammabodhi
If you simply note relaxation and pleasant feelings without getting agitated by them this should be an aid to concentration which should improve in concert with these two. Allow the periphery of your attention to gently converge at the central object of your focus; the simple, pleasant and relaxing sensation of your breathing. For insight to develop you can start to examine the breath very intently, noting all of the myriad changes in what you are aware of. Then you can note the appearance and disappearance of this phenomena. Then you can note the three characteristics within the phenomena of the breath and whatever else arises to conscious and mindful attention.

metta & upekkha
:anjali:

I had a chance to read Ajahn Brahm's short little tract on beginning meditation & breath meditation while on a recent monastery visit. Does anyone know if it is available in electronic form somewhere on the net? I thought it was an excellent introduction to beginning meditation practice.

Ah. Here we are:

http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed035.htm

The Basic Method of Meditation
Ajahn Brahmavamso

(Edited from a talk given by Ajahn Brahmavamso during a 9-day retreat
in North Perth, Western Australia, December 1997)
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:51 pm

Hi Dhammaodhi,

if residual perceptual images in the mind affect what kind of nimitta's one is going to see/experience, wouldn't they also include negative experiences like pain/stress etc. or positive experiences without visual concomitants like feelings such as love/compassion?


The whole layer of impressions related to sensuality, positive or negative, is peeled off:

"Quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, the monk enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. His earlier perception (saññā) of sensuality ceases, and on that occasion there is a perception of a refined truth of rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. On that occasion he is one who is percipient of a refined truth of rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. And thus it is that with training one perception arises and with training another perception ceases."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Nimitta isn't a static thing - perceptual image of the basis of concentration becomes more and more refined.

Just do it :^)

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:57 pm

Hi Nathan,

I have some reservations about the approach of Ven.Brahmavamso:

http://www.bswa.org/modules/newbb/viewt ... 02&forum=2

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: Meditation 'nuts-n-bolts' (anapanasati)

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:02 pm

Hi Nathan,
nathan wrote:I had a chance to read Ajahn Brahm's short little tract on beginning meditation & breath meditation while on a recent monastery visit. Does anyone know if it is available in electronic form somewhere on the net? I thought it was an excellent introduction to beginning meditation practice.

Ah. Here we are:

http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed035.htm

You can also download the first few chapters of "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond" from http://bswa.org which I think goes over the same material in more detail.

Metta
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