Getting closer to the breath

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

Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:32 pm

Hi everyone,

How can I get closer to my breath? When doing Anapana it always feels like it disappears almost as soon as I focus on it. Like it's hidden. Not physically absent because I'm conscious of it. Just not aware.

Thanks...
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:49 pm

Myotai wrote:Not physically absent because I'm conscious of it. Just not aware.


That's a contradiction.

Are you saying you know you're breathing but can't feel the physical sensation? something else?

Either way the practice is to keep at it, just experience what you experience, don't try to make a different kind of experience happen.
"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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:57 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Myotai wrote:Not physically absent because I'm conscious of it. Just not aware.


That's a contradiction.

Are you saying you know you're breathing but can't feel the physical sensation? something else?

Either way the practice is to keep at it, just experience what you experience, don't try to make a different kind of experience happen.


Hi,

I don't think it's contradictory :)

It just feels really distant. Like watching a TV from a mile away, or watching a record on a turntable but not hearing anything maybe...
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:16 pm

Myotai wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:
Myotai wrote:Not physically absent because I'm conscious of it. Just not aware.


That's a contradiction.

Are you saying you know you're breathing but can't feel the physical sensation? something else?

Either way the practice is to keep at it, just experience what you experience, don't try to make a different kind of experience happen.


Hi,

I don't think it's contradictory :)

It just feels really distant. Like watching a TV from a mile away, or watching a record on a turntable but not hearing anything maybe...


In which case, you are experiencing the breath distantly. That's fine as an object of meditation, as are your thoughts about what it is like. Once you start wanting to get "closer", then meditation has ceased and the hindrance of desire has arisen.
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby daverupa » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:45 pm

Myotai wrote:When doing Anapana it always feels like it disappears almost as soon as I focus on it.


Which part of anapanasati has you focus on the breath?
    "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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:00 am

daverupa wrote:
Myotai wrote:When doing Anapana it always feels like it disappears almost as soon as I focus on it.


Which part of anapanasati has you focus on the breath?



I don't understand the question??
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:26 am

daverupa wrote:
Myotai wrote:When doing Anapana it always feels like it disappears almost as soon as I focus on it.


Which part of anapanasati has you focus on the breath?


If we're talking about the Anapanasati Sutta then it looks like steps 1 and 2 are directly focussed on the breath.
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby daverupa » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:38 am

Well, steps 1 & 2 involve knowing long or short, which I suppose is a sort of focus, but this is promptly expanded in step 3 which is also the first use of the word 'training', instead of simply 'discerning'.

So, when I asked which steps of anapanasati task us with a focus on the breath - since a focus on the breath was a trouble, in the OP - I was trying to clarify the approach being taken. Even though the breath underlies all the steps, it's not a focus - calming sankhara is.

---

Finally, it's possible that noting breathing and focusing on that is seated kayagatasati, not anapanasati, which might also be clarificatory since seated satipatthana can indeed involve certain foci that anapanasati does not.
    "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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:56 am

daverupa wrote:Well, steps 1 & 2 involve knowing long or short, which I suppose is a sort of focus, but this is promptly expanded in step 3 which is also the first use of the word 'training', instead of simply 'discerning'.

So, when I asked which steps of anapanasati task us with a focus on the breath - since a focus on the breath was a trouble, in the OP - I was trying to clarify the approach being taken. Even though the breath underlies all the steps, it's not a focus - calming sankhara is.


I think of it as the difference between mindfulness of breathing and mindfulness with breathing.

But I don't think the 4 tetrads approach is the only type of breathing meditation used by Theravada Buddhists, so it's worth clarifying.
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:18 am

Ok got a laptop now and not a phone! :coffee:

My 'problem' is this. I sit, I settle. I reach 'off sensation' of the body. I direct my mind to the breath. So no further than this really. Its at this point that the breath in whatever form is elusive. I am nothing more than concious that there is something there to focus upon. But its so nebulous as to be almost just conceptual. Like the old saying says, its like trying to catch a feather on a fan. I can't seem to be able to anchor my mind on anything tangiable to even begin to facilitate access concentration let alone anything else.

Could it be that this practice is just not for me? Should I be taking the hint or sticking with it and perservering?

Thanks again!
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby daverupa » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:46 pm

I'm not sure what the practice is that you're doing, as yet. You seem to get all the way to a good beginning, and then you say you have nowhere to go...

I mean, once you're aware of the breath in the way you describe, what's next? Are you trying to do some sort of blank mind thing, or do you forget to move on to step three, or what are you up to otherwise?
    "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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:34 am

daverupa wrote:I'm not sure what the practice is that you're doing, as yet. You seem to get all the way to a good beginning, and then you say you have nowhere to go...

I mean, once you're aware of the breath in the way you describe, what's next? Are you trying to do some sort of blank mind thing, or do you forget to move on to step three, or what are you up to otherwise?


Hi Dave,

Thanks again for your responses.

My practice, well not so much seeking a blank mind thing :) more leaning towards what the Zennies might call Silent Illumination and possibly 'Just Sitting' as described in Soto Zen. A theravadin monk recently described my practice as "...just sitting and seeing what womce up...".

My issue with using the breath as a focus is as I have described. It feels inaccessable and elusive. I can't relly describe it any other way - I am sure others more articulate might help me out maybe?

The closest allegory I can think of is its like preparing for an exam, revising, the sitting down to do it only to discover you have no pen....nothing to use.

I hope that makes sense.

Tony...
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:53 am

Myotai wrote:My practice, well not so much seeking a blank mind thing :) more leaning towards what the Zennies might call Silent Illumination and possibly 'Just Sitting' as described in Soto Zen. A theravadin monk recently described my practice as "...just sitting and seeing what womce up...".

My issue with using the breath as a focus is as I have described. It feels inaccessable and elusive. I can't relly describe it any other way - I am sure others more articulate might help me out maybe?


These are two very different techniques, it sounds like when you are attempting to focus on the breath you are falling back to the more habitual just sitting practice, isn't that what you want to do anyway?
"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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:33 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Myotai wrote:My practice, well not so much seeking a blank mind thing :) more leaning towards what the Zennies might call Silent Illumination and possibly 'Just Sitting' as described in Soto Zen. A theravadin monk recently described my practice as "...just sitting and seeing what womce up...".

My issue with using the breath as a focus is as I have described. It feels inaccessable and elusive. I can't relly describe it any other way - I am sure others more articulate might help me out maybe?


These are two very different techniques, it sounds like when you are attempting to focus on the breath you are falling back to the more habitual just sitting practice, isn't that what you want to do anyway?


Possibly. I am in somewhat of an hiatus at the moment - I can see the logic in the methods to achieve Jhanas too hence feeling that i should be using a focus of some sort (breath) - if I could find it to focus on that is!
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:38 am

Myotai wrote:Possibly. I am in somewhat of an hiatus at the moment - I can see the logic in the methods to achieve Jhanas too hence feeling that i should be using a focus of some sort (breath) - if I could find it to focus on that is!


If that's the case maybe you're just getting started with watching the breath, try just doing deep rhythmic breathing counting each breath for half the sitting then settle back and watch the natural breath.
"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: Getting closer to the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:49 am

Hi Myotai,

Are you following some particular instructions? Try something by a teacher like Ajahn Brahm, or one of the other teachers mentioned on this thread:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p296291

:anjali:
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Myotai » Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:03 am

Thanks again!

I'll have a look.

I did used to use the breath as my main pratice for a long time....just lost my mojo I guess!
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Re: Getting closer to the breath

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:08 am

Myotai wrote:Thanks again!

I'll have a look.

I did used to use the breath as my main pratice for a long time....just lost my mojo I guess!

Yeah, maybe if you give it some time it will come back. Like riding a bike. :smile:
Peace,
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