Switching the point of awareness...

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

Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Laurens » Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:38 pm

Hello,
I was simply wondering whether it is adviseable or not for someone to switch the focus point of awareness from the inhalation to the exhalation?

When I breathe in I can strongly feel the breath on the pallette area, however on the out breath my awareness is not as strong on this area, I feel it more strongly around the nostrils and the top of my lip, and almost not at all on the pallette area.

What would you advise?

Many thanks
Laurens
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby catmoon » Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:48 pm

There are several methods here. A while ago I ran across a counting method that I found quite useful. The idea is to count "one" on inbreath, and "one" on the outbreath. Next breath you count "two" on the in breath and "two" on the outbreath. Continue to five. Starting again at one, continue to six. Starting again at one, continue to seven and so on to ten.
Although the method is a bit involved, it really does pull you into watching the breath. And it answers the question of whether to count inbreath or outbreath with a resounding "yes". :) Downside: It's going to take a few cycles to get used to and while you are getting used to it, your focus will be more on the method than the breath. I found this problem to diminish rapidly with only a little practice.

I have also heard counting on the inbreath recommended, and counting on the outbreath, and alternating between the two noticing the difference. Then there's my way, which I never heard anyone recommend: For years I counted at the transition from inbreath to outbreath.

Focal points: One way is to begin by observing the breath long, short, fine and coarse. When the breath gets some degree of fineness, let attention move to the nostrils. Another way is to observe the whole breath, meaning shoulder chest and belly movements, balance shifts and so on. There are different schools of thought here, so one must either find one's own way or follow a teacher.

From my own practice, I have found the quiet still moments at the top and bottom of the breath are when the shift to deeper meditation occurs, so I recommend a little pause at those points. I'd be interested to know if that's how it works for you too.

Be consistent. Exactly where your focus is, is not so important as consistency. Why? When your methods are in flux, you will spend most of your time wrestling with the right/wrong ways of doing things, and that's a big distraction.

Fair sailing to you
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Laurens » Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:17 pm

Thanks for the reply. There seems to be a huge variety of interpretations of the Anapanasati sutta resulting in a vast number of techniques. I guess its best not to worry about the method that is the most correct, rather I should go for the method that works.
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:32 pm

it could be just a difference in the movement of air due to a number of reasons or simply the temperatur of the air which makes cerain things more noticable on the in breath than the out!
another way to follow the breath than counting is the mantra Buddho
Dud on the in-breath
dho on the out-breath
I find it easier than countng
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby catmoon » Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:36 pm

Laurens wrote:Thanks for the reply. There seems to be a huge variety of interpretations of the Anapanasati sutta resulting in a vast number of techniques. I guess its best not to worry about the method that is the most correct, rather I should go for the method that works.


Yup. Keep the big picture in mind. It's not about right and wrong, up and down, in and out. It's about ending suffering.
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Laurens » Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:24 am

Thank you for your kind replies :)

I guess my other question would be, how does one know when one has found the right meditation technique?

What are the qualities that I should look for?

I have tried techniques which make me feel very calm and relaxed, others make me feel blissful (an kind of exciting tingling sensation - that is not quite the same as the relaxed/calm state), some don't seem to do an awful lot for me.

With metta
Laurens
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:54 am

use your discernment!

it is simply a case of no-one is you or can tel you what is best at any point, sure we can all debate techneques say what has and hasnt worked for us in the past but you have to rely on yourself here, well for the most part, sure if a particulare problem keeps ariving ask
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Laurens » Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:04 am

Manapa wrote:use your discernment!

it is simply a case of no-one is you or can tel you what is best at any point, sure we can all debate techneques say what has and hasnt worked for us in the past but you have to rely on yourself here, well for the most part, sure if a particulare problem keeps ariving ask


Thanks, I know for myself which method I plan to persue now, I was just making sure there were not any big no-no's before I made the decision.
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Ben » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:26 am

Hi laurens

At some point you may wish to join a residential retreat which will give you access to a teacher, instruction and close supervision. Then you should devote yourself to what you have learned for an extended period of time and then assess the results.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:23 am

there's a BPS book; Mindfulness of Breathing by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. maybe it would help?

This book brings together the most important suttas from the Pali Canon and extracts from the commentaries dealing with anapanasati the meditative practice of mindfulness of breathing.
Publ. Year 1998, 126 pp. ID: BP 502S
Price: $ 3.50 ISBN: 955 24 0167 4


BPS website link to the page with this book http://www.bps.lk/meditation.asp

google book page with this book online http://books.google.com/books?printsec=frontcover&id=NVfgV9kyISwC#v=onepage&q=&f=false
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby catmoon » Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:05 pm

Laurens wrote:Thank you for your kind replies :)

I guess my other question would be, how does one know when one has found the right meditation technique?

What are the qualities that I should look for?

I have tried techniques which make me feel very calm and relaxed, others make me feel blissful (an kind of exciting tingling sensation - that is not quite the same as the relaxed/calm state), some don't seem to do an awful lot for me.

With metta
Laurens


If you are headed for deep concentration meditation, there are some sign posts along the way. The background mental chatter slows and fades. One can become aware that chatter is about to occur and return to the meditation object before it actually occurs. A sense of single minded focus arises. Less and less effort is required to maintain that focus and it becomes self sustaining.
The meditator may notice that body hairs are standing on end here and there.
Occaisional small jolts of wellbeing may occur, then a sense of wellbeing in an unsteady surging flow. This in turn steadies to an uninterrupted flow of well being, followed by a powerful surge in intensity - bliss. And welcome to the first jhana!

Now the first thing that happens here is we go OH WOW the first jhana and forget everything that got us there, and fall out of it. But the novelty soon wears off, and a new quieting process begins. Distracting mind chatter is pretty well gone at this point, but there remains the periodic arising of intentional thoughts like "I will maintain this state" "This is where I want to be" "That is a distraction coming: return to object". This sustained thought is the next thing to go. But the mind is not yet empty. Although much quieted and still enjoying bliss, one becomes aware that initial intentions, directions that were set like switches at the outset, are still operational. One gleefully realizes that due to the self sustaining nature of the meditation, such intentions are no longer necessary, and may be abandoned. So having left these applied and sustained thoughts behind, one enters the second and third jhanas respectively.


In time one becomes tired of powerful uninterrupted bliss, or at least curious about what lies beyond. You see it's impermanent and a steady diet of anything can get monotonous, even bliss. So one quietly sets bliss aside, or waits it out. This completes the first phase of the journey, and one enters the fourth and last material jhana, which is, if I am not mistaken, the same as calm abiding, but I'm not terribly sure of this. It certainly is very calm and very pleasant. Ahead lie the four immaterial jhanas.

This all gets so very interesting and absorbing that one can quite forget the purpose of it all. But it is all about ending suffering, cuz we are Buddhists and that is our purpose. A funny conundrum arises, where in order to use the states attained, we need the very intentions we have abandoned! Well fortunately we don't really need them. The answer to the conundrum is observation. There you are, let curiosity carry you forward. Investigate what arises, look at whatever comes up, and one can learn by seeing without conceptualization. In this state, insight can arise and these insights can be taken back out into the world with you, and used in the ending of your suffering and that of others.


So as you can see, there are quite a few signposts along the path of concentration meditation.

re reading your question, in terms of qualities: energy, clarity and alertness are desirable. I'm not terribly clear on how qualities interact with practice, so I will only say gently avoid very heavy sleepy trancelike states. It's ok to enter them and use them as signposts but then back up a step or two and maintain energy and clarity. If you find this leads to monkey chatter mind, back off a step or two and relax in the sleepy trance direction - but only a small step or two. In this way you can maintain yourself between the extremes of chatter and dopiness.

Voyage well.
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Re: Switching the point of awareness...

Postby Laurens » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:03 pm

Ben wrote:Hi laurens

At some point you may wish to join a residential retreat which will give you access to a teacher, instruction and close supervision. Then you should devote yourself to what you have learned for an extended period of time and then assess the results.
kind regards

Ben


Thanks, I hope to do a retreat at some point in the near future, the problem currently being that there isn't any Theravada meditation groups or temples etc and I don't drive. I plan to looking into getting the train and going for a retreat as soon as I am able.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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