Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

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

Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby suriyopama » Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:42 am

I have no problem at all to be aware of my breath for many hours, but I rarely notice the breathing alone. There’s always breath+heartbeat, and sometimes the heartbeat is even more intense than the breath, no matter in what position I am. And when there's a clock at the room, the heartbeat is always perfectly synchronized with the ticktock.

I exposed this question at E-Sangha one year ago, and the recommendation was “let it go”. But after all this time letting go and dont' worrying, I’m still having a heartbeat!! (lucky me 8-) )

Could there be a hindrance in some way? It doesn’t make me feel annoyed, but sometimes I feel like I am doing something wrong, because everybody talks about “Mindfulness with Breathing” and focusing on one single thing, but nobody says “Mindfulness with Heartbeat”.

There are many instructions about how to fight difference hindrances, they explain with detail how to deal with the most subtle feelings and thoughts, but nobody mentions the heart beat. ¿why? ¿Am I the only one that notice the feeling of the heartbeat when trying to meditate?. It's always present, so what is the meaning of "mindfulness with breathing" for me? I've even tried to focus only on the heartbeat, but I neither can isolate it from the breath.
:heart: :shrug: :heart:

ps: I'm not having any kind of cardiopathy disorder, it's perfectly normal.
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:41 am

Hi suriyopama,

This is an interesting question. I've seen it mentioned in several places, such as "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" by Ven Nyanaponika, in the context of discussing the breath or the rising and falling of the abdomen, that the heartbeat is an unsuitable meditation object, without giving a reason.

There are some comments on a reason here which I believe is a quotation from Mahasi Sayadaw:
http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/02/se ... sting.html
Remember, pain may not go away; it can always come back. The practitioners should see it as their friend. In this way pain will not cause suffering to them. Three parts of the body that must not be noted are the heartbeat, pain in the chest and in the head because they are our major organs and are part of our survival system. If we note one of these parts when we feel tension, pain never decreases and may cause danger. So, just relax them by noting other parts of the body whenever we feel tension at these three points.

Metta
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby suriyopama » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:11 am

Thank you very much for the information Mike. :namaste:

So it seems that there are 2 things that I've been doing wrong for the last 3 years: noting the heartbeat and noting the pain at the head (I have frequent migraines). But I'm also wondering why it's not recommended.

I've recently managed to stop noting the headache by noting the feeling of any of my mosquito bites (I've got plenty of them) and I've even managed to fall sleep with a severe migraine thanks to this distraction. But I don't know how to distract the feeling of the heartbeat because it's deeply integrated with the breath.

I think that I don't do it intentionally anymore (although I used to do it since I was a child) but my breath is usually synchronized with the heartbeat, and that makes it very difficult to separate them.
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:26 am

maybe youre a kasina type of guy and dont know it yet....
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby suriyopama » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:27 am

suriyopama wrote:I think that I don't do it intentionally anymore (although I used to do it since I was a child) but my breath is usually synchronized with the heartbeat, and that makes it very difficult to separate them.


I may add a personal note that could be relevant:

When I was 14 years old (that's 29 years ago) I read the book "Hindu Yogi Science of Breath" by Ramacharaka (with no particular intention, it was just another of the many books at my father's library that I did catch at random) and I started adopting some of the breathing exercises from the book, like sequencing the breath with the steps while walking, breathing in steps, deep breathing... and that could be part of the root of this problem: that I did play with this techniques without supervision, without being aware of what it was, like a childish game.
Last edited by suriyopama on Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby Ben » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:38 am

Hi suriyopama

When observing the breath - just observe the breath. Don't try and change it, modify it or do anything else.
If your meditation instruction is to observe the breath by maintaining awareness of the rise and fall of the abdomen - just do that. If your instruction is to stay aware of the sensation of air moving past the area around, under or in the nostrils - just do that. When we practice various meditation practices we begin to notice other phenomena going on in our minds and body. For the meditation to have benefit, you need to remain focused on the object of meditation, as per your instructions. With regards to your heartbeat, just note the fact that your heartbeat is there and without creating any aversion to your heartbeat, remain steadfastly fixed to your primary object of meditation.
The problem with switching one's attention between one object and another, from the breath to the heartbeat is that it diffuses our concentration rather than focusing it.
metta

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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:08 am

Hi there,
suriyopama wrote:So it seems that there are 2 things that I've been doing wrong for the last 3 years: noting the heartbeat and noting the pain at the head (I have frequent migraines). But I'm also wondering why it's not recommended.

Well, I'm no expert and I don't know exactly what sort of practise you are doing, so I can't really give you any useful advice, but I think what the quote is implying is that focussing on those particular objects doesn't work very well, in part, because they don't change when you focus on them, whereas, for example, focussing on the breath tends to make it finer (I'm not talking about "controlling" it, just focussing).

I would advise trying to find a qualified teacher to help.

Metta
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby phil » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:36 am

suriyopama wrote:
suriyopama wrote:I think that I don't do it intentionally anymore (although I used to do it since I was a child) but my breath is usually synchronized with the heartbeat, and that makes it very difficult to separate them.


I may add a personal note that could be relevant:

When I was 14 years old (that's 29 years ago) I read the book "Hindu Yogi Science of Breath" by Ramacharaka (with no particular intention, it was just another of the many books at my father's library that I did catch at random) and I started adopting some of the breathing exercises from the book, like sequencing the breath with the steps while walking, breathing in steps, deep breathing... and that could be part of the root of this problem: that I did play with this techniques without supervision, without being aware of what it was, like a childish game.


Hi Suriyopama and all

This is just my opinion - the advice Ben just gave about sticking with the object we are given or choose and not fiddling with it is obviously the proper answer from the orthodox point of view - but I think if we are really prone to really gross hindrances, a playful attitude is not bad. For example, the meditation I do is pretty much in line with that taught by Ajahn Lee via Thanissaro Bhikkhu. As you may know, there is a lot of playing with the breath in that tradition. Strickly speaking, I think it is not completely kosher when one looks at the instructions in Vism. for example. But if we are really scattered and prone to gross defilements, a whatever works, works approach is called for. Otherwise we won't meditate at all. Not everyone can follow the strictly correct teachings of the Buddha, not everyone has living conditions suitable to follow that way. So if the heartbeat is an effective mindfulness object for you, or playing with the breath while you walk, go with it. If mindfulness develops on that somewhat "incorrect" object, it might provide conditions for going deeper into the strictly correct teachings. That's what I'm going with.

Just my opinion. But if it's the heartbeat that gets you (anyone) on the cushion every morning and keeps you there, it's ok for now. Especially if you've made a diligent effort to follow a more strictly kosher approach and it just isn't suitable. Not everyone can be a meditation master. (I say this more for any seriously struggling, discouraged meditators who are reading, not Suriypama, who is obviously an adept meditator if he can follow the breath for several hours.) I suspect I will never be able to, so I'm using a kind of meditation that at least quiets the worst burning of the defilements.

Metta,

Phil

p.s I think what I have written here is extremely idiosyncratic and doesn't belong in a serious discussion about Buddhist meditation. I should clam up on the subject until I get in line with an Orthodox practice.
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Mindfulness with heartbeat. Is it a hindrance?

Postby suriyopama » Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:54 am

Thank you very much for all your answers :namaste:

Ben, I am going to try to focus only on some concrete aspect of breating, as you say, not on the breathing as a whole (maybe that's why I currently find it hard to seaprate it from heartbeat) Only on some of the many components of the breath. When anapanasati sutta says "body breath" I should have understood that body doesn't refer as a single entity but as a compound made of many parts.

Phil, thank you for your advice. It makes sense to use the heartbeat as far as it makes me stay "tuned" with what I'm doing, and not to worry so much.

About my practice, I've said that I can be aware of my breathing for hours, but not actually doing formal meditation. I am not able to sit down for more than 20 munutes because I can not bear with the pain on my legs, but I can do many things during the day while being aware of my breathing (reading, working, talking, walking, even listening music...). Maybe this is part of the problem: I am used to do many kind of different things and follow the breathing at the same time. Perhaps this attitude keeps me very far from achieving a Nimita. It makes my mind to be continually dispersed, not focusing on a single point.

About the technique, I have read many books with different systems, but for the last year I've been trying to follow the steps of the anapanasati as described by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu at the book "Mindfulness with Breathing", mixed with the advices of Ajahn Brahm's "Mindfulness Bliss & beyond". Maybe it's too much for me, I haven't gone further than the first tetrad.

About finding a Teacher, I'm currently living very close to Wat Wiwek Asom in Chonburi, but nobody can speak English. I think that the closest Wat with western bhikkus is Wat Boonyawad. I hope that one of this days I can get a car to make a visit there.

Thank you very much :namaste:
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