Breath is an intrusion now...

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:33 pm

I have been practising for some years now and have used the breath as a focus. However, over the last few months its been almost impossible to focus for more than a few minutes. I have been here before and followed the usual procedures to maintain a focus but believe me its not working and hasn't for some time now.

I moved from Anapanasati to a more Zen orientated practice - Silent Illumination - some time ago. No real reason other than I was trying to get to grips with Dogen after many years of struggling with the whole idea of Shikantaza practice. I seemed to get on with this practice so stayed with it, a little disappointed that there are not any similar practices in the Theravada (correct me if I am wrong).

I am just concerned as to this new utter inability to stay focussed on the breath at all now. It calms the mind after about 15mins, then feels like an intrusion, like its agitating the surface of a pond that wants to be calm and still. After stilling the mind then allowing an objectless awareness to take over the mind seems more open and alert than if I focus it on the breath.

I don't frequent any centres or have access to speak with a teacher face to face very often so appreciate your advice.

Thanks in advance and a Happy New Year to everyone
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby daverupa » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:31 pm

What has happened to your satipatthana practice, during all of this?
    "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: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:38 pm

It's only an intrusion because of your attitude towards it.

You are always breathing, when you are walking, when you are sitting at the computer, when you are sleeping, does it feel like an intrusion then? So why does it feel like an intrusion during meditation? It's your attitude that is different.

It's easy to get uptight about breathing when you have a history of focusing on the breath and then choose to drop it as your primary object, so just be aware of that.

Breathing is just one of many things that is happening as you meditate, what's important is what the mind is doing, if the mind is consistently calm and aware then that's all you need, it doesn't matter what it's aware of it's the ability to maintain that awareness to the point of being continuous.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby thelotuseffect » Wed Jan 01, 2014 1:15 pm

It is just a phase :) Don't reject the breath, and don't believe in the permanence of your issue.

The breath is very useful as a neutral sign post to maintain mindfulness, so its worth it for you to keep trying.
Find a teacher to relate this to maybe he/she will help.
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby kirk5a » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:35 pm

Myotai wrote:
I am just concerned as to this new utter inability to stay focussed on the breath at all now. It calms the mind after about 15mins, then feels like an intrusion, like its agitating the surface of a pond that wants to be calm and still. After stilling the mind then allowing an objectless awareness to take over the mind seems more open and alert than if I focus it on the breath.

I don't see the problem, other than thinking the breath has to be your exclusive focus.
The same holds true if you focus on keeping the breath in mind. Whether the breath is heavy or refined, simply be aware of it as it normally is. Don't set up any expectations. Don't force the breath to be like this or that. Keep your awareness with the breath, because in meditating by taking the breath as your preoccupation, you're not after the breath. The breath is simply something for the mind to hold to so that you can reach the real thing, just as when you follow the tracks of an ox: You're not after the tracks of the ox. You follow its tracks because you want to reach the ox. Here you're keeping track of the breath so as to reach the real thing: awareness. If you were to start out just by holding on to awareness, you wouldn't get any results, just as you wouldn't be sure of finding the ox if you simply went around looking for it. But if you follow its tracks, you're going to find it for sure. Your meditation word has to keep moving in. This is called following the tracks of the ox step by step until you reach the ox, or what knows: namely the mind.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... tml#tracks
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:44 am

thelotuseffect wrote:It is just a phase :) Don't reject the breath, and don't believe in the permanence of your issue.

The breath is very useful as a neutral sign post to maintain mindfulness, so its worth it for you to keep trying.
Find a teacher to relate this to maybe he/she will help.


So, do I need to persevere with the breath as a focus and bypass what feels like a very calm state of mind that focus on the breath fractures?

Or allow the breath to fade being replaced by the open calm I describe?

Thanks...
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:02 pm

Myotai wrote:
thelotuseffect wrote:It is just a phase :) Don't reject the breath, and don't believe in the permanence of your issue.

The breath is very useful as a neutral sign post to maintain mindfulness, so its worth it for you to keep trying.
Find a teacher to relate this to maybe he/she will help.


So, do I need to persevere with the breath as a focus and bypass what feels like a very calm state of mind that focus on the breath fractures?

Or allow the breath to fade being replaced by the open calm I describe?

Thanks...


Why not, while inhaling, experience and gladden and calm and release the mind, also doing this on the exhales? There's no need to choose breath or mind, you can do third tetrad anapanasati and keep rolling right along with both aspects under calm observation.

I don't know what a Shikantaza-ja would do.

:heart:
    "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: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:06 pm

Myotai wrote:So, do I need to persevere with the breath as a focus and bypass what feels like a very calm state of mind that focus on the breath fractures?


You will get different opinions here, but I view the breath as an "anchor" to return to, as and when necessary.
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:08 pm

daverupa wrote:
Myotai wrote:
thelotuseffect wrote:It is just a phase :) Don't reject the breath, and don't believe in the permanence of your issue.

The breath is very useful as a neutral sign post to maintain mindfulness, so its worth it for you to keep trying.
Find a teacher to relate this to maybe he/she will help.


So, do I need to persevere with the breath as a focus and bypass what feels like a very calm state of mind that focus on the breath fractures?

Or allow the breath to fade being replaced by the open calm I describe?

Thanks...


Why not, while inhaling, experience and gladden and calm and release the mind, also doing this on the exhales? There's no need to choose breath or mind, you can do third tetrad anapanasati and keep rolling right along with both aspects under calm observation.

I don't know what a Shikantaza-ja would do.

:heart:



Thanks...can you elaborate - sounds interesting :anjali:
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby thelotuseffect » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:32 pm

There really are no right and wrong techniques for this. Its all about how happy and receptive you are to what is happening, even if you don't like it. If you understand this point, meditation opens up easier. A good teacher helps shorten the time to correct understanding so you can attain magga.
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:51 pm

thelotuseffect wrote:There really are no right and wrong techniques for this. Its all about how happy and receptive you are to what is happening, even if you don't like it. If you understand this point, meditation opens up easier. A good teacher helps shorten the time to correct understanding so you can attain magga.


Thanks, but as I said I don't frequent any centres or have access to speak with a teacher face to face very often so appreciate your advice.

M...
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:00 pm

Elaboration may be difficult without an understanding of how you already understand the third tetrad of anapanasati, or cittanupassana generally. Maybe you could also say a few brief words about your shikantaza practice? In any event, some brief thoughts come to mind, a bit like a scatter plot...

You had said "stay focused on the breath". As far as I understand things, the third tetrad does not employ a narrow or laser-like focus on the breath. As the mind is found to be one way or another on the inhale, so it is noted. And on the exhale, so noted. This is experiencing it, per the first instruction of the third tetrad - and the breath is simply like a metronome, or a ticking clock. Not ignored, not made a focus - and thus, your problem is averted, I think.

The mind can then be gladdened through appropriate means & antidotes, calmed, and then released, but throughout the breath ticks away. It isn't even the case that I consider whether it's the same mind or different minds over time - this would just be papanca, I think, in the context. Instead, the point is that for the in-breath, just this is my worktable, my workzone, for bringing mindfulness to bear on the mind (or whichever category). Then, when it is the out-breath, just this is my worktable, my workzone.

This awareness of breathing, which is to say, the presence of breathing within whatever scope of awareness obtains, persists even through most jhana. But it's not the focus.

:thinking:
    "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: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:42 am

daverupa wrote:Elaboration may be difficult without an understanding of how you already understand the third tetrad of anapanasati, or cittanupassana generally. Maybe you could also say a few brief words about your shikantaza practice? In any event, some brief thoughts come to mind, a bit like a scatter plot...:thinking:


I looked into Shikantaza as my practice was seemingly slipping into a formless meditation as I have described. It seemed to me that after the breath was no longer the main focus and faded into the background, what was left was a bare awareness of sorts. A crisp awareness that did not avoid or avert itself from external phenomena (I felt like the more I focussed on the breath the more anesthetised I became to the senses and the environment - and this felt wrong, like a meditational spliff :rolleye: )

Although the 'Just Sitting' practice was more in line with the Chan practice of Silent Illumination than classical 'Shikantaza'. See here: http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/lib/wcf////what-is-silent-illumination/

I guess my question is as a result of feeling at a fork in the road. Do I pursue the Chan practice as I seem naturally to have dropped into the above method without any prior knowledge of it, would this mean moving on from the Theravada (that would make me sad) or can I reconcile this practice within the Theravada.

Cheers Dave
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:28 pm

Myotai wrote:Do I pursue the Chan practice as I seem naturally to have dropped into the above method without any prior knowledge of it, would this mean moving on from the Theravada (that would make me sad) or can I reconcile this practice within the Theravada.


To approach this, I would want to see some comments on the first question I asked: what does the satipatthana practice look like, generally, for you, within which your meditation practice is contextualized? Because for people to do only precepts and meditation is for people to skip bridging practices such as posture mindfulness, general mental collectedness, guarded sense gates, moderate food intake, and so forth.

To put it another way: precepts and sila prepare satipatthana as a daily way of living such that meditation can be a refinement of satipatthana in order to jhana so that panna is hardwired. In this scheme, taking on the precepts and a daily meditation practice sometimes skips over, or otherwise only gives cursory attention to, guarded sense gates, satipatthana, etc. as renewable, daily supporting frameworks.

So I think you will need to investigate whether & how satipatthana and shikantaza can knit together, because the Dhamma without sammasati isn't going to make sense.
    "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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!

Postby Myotai » Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:18 am

daverupa wrote:
Myotai wrote:Do I pursue the Chan practice as I seem naturally to have dropped into the above method without any prior knowledge of it, would this mean moving on from the Theravada (that would make me sad) or can I reconcile this practice within the Theravada.


To approach this, I would want to see some comments on the first question I asked: what does the satipatthana practice look like, generally, for you, within which your meditation practice is contextualized? Because for people to do only precepts and meditation is for people to skip bridging practices such as posture mindfulness, general mental collectedness, guarded sense gates, moderate food intake, and so forth.

To put it another way: precepts and sila prepare satipatthana as a daily way of living such that meditation can be a refinement of satipatthana in order to jhana so that panna is hardwired. In this scheme, taking on the precepts and a daily meditation practice sometimes skips over, or otherwise only gives cursory attention to, guarded sense gates, satipatthana, etc. as renewable, daily supporting frameworks.

So I think you will need to investigate whether & how satipatthana and shikantaza can knit together, because the Dhamma without sammasati isn't going to make sense.


Apologies for delays in replying - got a four month old boy and he's....assisting me in the development of Patience :quote:

With regards to the Third Tetrad, I have always struggled interpreting this. Does it imply and Indo-Tibetan like analysis of the mind and how it functions, the arising and dropping away of thought, its inherent Emptiness and so on? Or is it more in line of my understanding of practices like Silent Illumination where allowing the mond to settle will by proxy reveal its nature?

Your last point has given me an overdue kick up the arse! I don't carry my practice into the day nearly as much as I should. I really should focus on this as a priority.
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Re: !

Postby daverupa » Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:21 pm

Myotai wrote:...got a four month old boy and...


:shock: I can only imagine.

With regards to the Third Tetrad, I have always struggled interpreting this. Does it imply...


I wouldn't try to understand satipatthana through Tibetan/Chinese/Japanese sources at first; even when there is good material it's often in bed with bodhisattva practices & any number of other developments, and there is some methodological bleed that I find confusing & baroque.

Without trying to parse the third tetrad of anapanasati right away, try to explore what cittanupassana looks like in daily living. Walking-around satipatthana has a broader, daily/hourly applicability that helps frame up how it is that anapanasati fulfills satipatthana.
    "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: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby Myotai » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:46 pm

Thanks again, but in terms of the process when in the meditation session how woould you advise I proceed?

Its tricky as I am concious that I develop an attachment to certain practices that over emphasise a sense of self - lit. "... 'I' am now a practicing Theravada Buddhist....." Then I may feel that my practice errs towards the Silent Illumination/Shikantaza practice and I am aware of my self perception changing into; "...'I' am now a practicing Zen Buddhist...". Its odd a this process almost automatically excludes all other attributes and accoutriments that accompany either tradition. Chanting for example, it seems somehow inapproipriate to chant in Pali if I am practicing Shikantaza...does that make sense?

M...
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby kirk5a » Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:01 pm

Myotai wrote:Chanting for example, it seems somehow inapproipriate to chant in Pali if I am practicing Shikantaza...does that make sense?

Nope! :smile:

The quote I provided earlier was from a Theravadin teacher. There is more breadth to Theravada practices than you think. Here is another example, from Upasika Kee Nanayon.
You have to be observant when the mind has firmly established mindfulness and your awareness gathers so that you're aware of the property of consciousness, pure and simple, without any fabrication at all — an awareness pure and simple right at itself. Take that as your foundation.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... imple.html

Practicing with "the property of consciousness" is in the suttas, by the way, in MN140.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Breath is an intrusion now...

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:35 pm

Myotai wrote:Thanks again, but in terms of the process when in the meditation session how woould you advise I proceed?


I'd play a little bit more in the first and second tetrads, coming to terms with what it means to calm kaya-sankhara and citta-sankhara. Calming & releasing citta - third-tetrad instructions - resolve into a subtler shade of these earlier instructions, i.e. they are all methods of 'backing up' from habitual/sensual/unwholesome engagement in order that calm observation can occur.

Fundamentally, the awakening factors and the hindrances guide any meditation session. These are the guideposts.
    "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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