The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

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

Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Sekha » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:27 am

thereductor wrote:
EricJ wrote:Now, for the supportive aspect of this thread, I have a question for anyone willing to answer. How can I get my feet/legs to stop going numb in cross-legged positions? I'm young, flexible and sprightly (until anicca gets me), and I can get in to the position easily. But at least one foot always goes numb.


You don't.

Just sit up straight and stay with your object; let the legs take care of themselves. It ain't easy, but its easy.

If you sit enough your body will get used to it, but numbness, if you're going numb, is likely to persist.


I would answer the same except that no numbness persists forever. The tendency of the body to react with numbness will very probably vanish within 1 week or 2 weeks or 4 weeks or maybe 1 month or 2 months or 4 months. It will happen by itself. No thought, no discussion can make it disappear.

On the other hand, thinking about it, and worse talking about it will certainly increase the aversion you may have towards it, and thus slow down the process of your liberation as regards to numbness in the feet.


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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Reductor » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:21 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:I would answer the same except that no numbness persists forever. The tendency of the body to react with numbness will very probably vanish within 1 week or 2 weeks or 4 weeks or maybe 1 month or 2 months or 4 months. It will happen by itself. No thought, no discussion can make it disappear.


Maybe it depends on hours on the seat more than days and weeks? :thinking: I've maintained my practice for over a year but continue to have numb legs on exit of meditation. Since I know Dukkhanirodha spends a lot more actual time on the meditation seat than I do, perhaps that is the difference.

Anyway, as concentration improves numbness ceases to be a bother. When I'm absorbed in my theme I am not aware of numbness at all. If my concentration is not so deep then I am aware of numbness, but am not bothered by it.

So EricJ, just practice. Don't practice just because you have energy now, practice because practice is the way. I'm a new fan of Ajahn Chah, and he'd say: practice when your diligent, practice when your lazy.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:37 pm

thereductor wrote:Maybe it depends on hours on the seat more than days and weeks? :thinking: I've maintained my practice for over a year but continue to have numb legs on exit of meditation. Since I know Dukkhanirodha spends a lot more actual time on the meditation seat than I do, perhaps that is the difference.

Anyway, as concentration improves numbness ceases to be a bother. When I'm absorbed in my theme I am not aware of numbness at all. If my concentration is not so deep then I am aware of numbness, but am not bothered by it.

So EricJ, just practice. Don't practice just because you have energy now, practice because practice is the way. I'm a new fan of Ajahn Chah, and he'd say: practice when your diligent, practice when your lazy.
Although I trust the experiences of people who have more experience than me, I am still going to look for a solution to the leg issue. It clearly has an origin in something to do with my posture, and I believe it has something to do with an uneven distribution of weight in my pelvic area. "With this arises that."

But in the mean time, I will do everything I can to maintain focus on the breath, in line with your suggestions. :meditate:

I have given to indolence and laziness in the past, so I feel as if I can recognize whenever this hindrance is burgeoning and act accordingly. I feel like I am in a position to address that issue skillfully. I did so last night at eleven, whenever I was feeling tired and went to meditate anyway.

Would anyone like to comment on how to effectively body scan?


Many thanks,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Moggalana » Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:25 pm

Greetings Eric,

have you thought about using a meditation bench? Switching from cross legged to sitting with the support of a bench has been really beneficial for my practice. The knees needed some time adjusting to it, but there are no numb legs anymore and sitting for longer than 20-30 minutes has become a lot easier.
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:48 pm

EricJ wrote:Now, for the supportive aspect of this thread, I have a question for anyone willing to answer. How can I get my feet/legs to stop going numb in cross-legged positions? I'm young, flexible and sprightly (until anicca gets me), and I can get in to the position easily. But at least one foot always goes numb.


I would just stretch out the legs, wait till the numbness goes away, and then go back in the position... repeat as needed. It's not really that big of a deal. Also, I think this is an excellent way to develop the patience, which is important. Eventually (sooner than you might think), you'll be able to sit longer and longer without the numbness.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Sobeh » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:58 pm

Please note if you have knee pain, however, as that means your posture is incorrect and you may be doing damage. Probably the best preparation for sitting is to do some stretching, perhaps yoga, that will open up your hips and loosen those muscles.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:10 pm

Sobeh wrote:Please note if you have knee pain, however, as that means your posture is incorrect and you may be doing damage. Probably the best preparation for sitting is to do some stretching, perhaps yoga, that will open up your hips and loosen those muscles.


Yes, ignoring this pain WILL lead to unnecessary knee problem in the future. It comes from twisting the knee (which you shouldn't do). It depends on the ability to rotate your leg out from the hip joint. If this rotation is limited, then the knee will twist, no matter what.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:14 am

My challenge is going very well so far. I have solved the numbness issue by practicing in half-lotus position. I think of this as the middle way. I think I have really gotten a grip on my breath, in terms of being able to stay with it without taking long forays into lala land. I have been sitting for forty minutes each session. Today, I sat three times (two forty-one minute sittings and one forty-five minute sitting). During the forty-five minute sitting, I experienced this vague tingling sensation on my forehead. The sensation would arise and persist, and then kind of fade and come back. I tried to be aware of it (while being aware of my breath simultaneously). Probably a mistake on my part. I can still kind of feel where the sensation was at, as I sit here. Also, I had this strange feeling (I can't even really describe it) in the spot where my chest connects to my neck, between my collar bones. Maybe my body is just freaking out from sitting?

I am having one issue. During my meditation sessions, my breath starts to become shorter and quicker. I try to allow it to be that way, but I start feeling as if I need to take a deeper breath and it spontaneously happens. Problem?
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Sekha » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:29 am

EricJ wrote:During my meditation sessions, my breath starts to become shorter and quicker. I try to allow it to be that way, but I start feeling as if I need to take a deeper breath and it spontaneously happens. Problem?

I think this is absolutely normal. In regular ten day courses, my teacher implicitly says 'let it be' although I read some teach that you should refrain from taking these deeper breaths. I would say, just know this phenomenon is bound to disappear on the long term, so just watch you're not increasing its strengh. This way I think it will fade away naturally in due time without you bothering yourself about it.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:30 am

Some updates (I find it helpful to post my experiences for feedback):

I've decided to abandon half-lotus position in favor of full-lotus or Burmese. Half-lotus seems very unstable to me (my unsupported leg often starts to shake), since there are only two points of contact with my sitting surface (one knee and the pelvis). I think moving to a three-contact position will help straighten my spine some, without requiring me to exert effort to maintain the spine. I am still having some issues with the numbness. Today, I was perusing the Internet Buddhist community for answers, and I found one on ZFI. Apparently, the numbness is caused by pressure being placed on the aciatic nerve, which is located in the hip along the curve of the butt. On ZFI, a user on the post I read mentioned that this issue can be helped by stretching before meditation, elevating the butt a few inches (all ready do this), and by positioning the legs and then moving the seat under the butt as opposed to sitting and then positioning the legs. In the mean time, I will try to maintain focus on the breath.

I also read today that anapanasati should not become too focused on the nose because such a fixation can cause us to ignore the part of anapanasati which calls for "breathing sensitive to the entire body." I think I can confirm this from personal experience. I have tried a couple of different points of focus. I find that whenever I center my focus on the space in between my eyes (I think of this as literally setting my mindfulness "to the fore"), my concentration often improves and I find it easier to relax my body.

Any advice concerning posture? Meditation practice is truly turning out to be an experiment, as everyone says. :meditate:


In Dhamma,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Ben » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:51 am

Hi Eric
EricJ wrote:I also read today that anapanasati should not become too focused on the nose because such a fixation can cause us to ignore the part of anapanasati which calls for "breathing sensitive to the entire body."


with all due respect, are you sure?
Precise meditation instructions are specific to particular methods that have definite and different outcomes (samatha and vipassana). "Fixation" on the nose, the nostrils, the point of contact under the nostrils and above the upper lip, is a time-tested method for developing samatha and single-pointed concentration: citta ekagatta. That being said, the particulars for the vipassana variant of anapanasati are different to that of samatha.
Also, "breathing sensitive to the entire body." has different meanings in praxis depending on what particular method you are using.
May I recommend: Satipatthana - the direct route to realization by Venerable Analayo.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:40 am

As Ben rightly points out, there are different ways of approaching breath meditation, depending on what you are trying to do with it. See, for example, the discussion here: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4631#p70910. Not that any of the different ways is "wrong", but if you start trying to mix up different approaches it can be extremely confusing. My advice is to pick the instructions of one teacher (a real life one, or one who has a good book and/or web site and/or recordings) and stick to those instruction for a few months.

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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:16 pm

EricJ wrote:I've decided to abandon half-lotus position in favor of full-lotus or Burmese. Half-lotus seems very unstable to me (my unsupported leg often starts to shake), since there are only two points of contact with my sitting surface (one knee and the pelvis). I think moving to a three-contact position will help straighten my spine some, without requiring me to exert effort to maintain the spine.


I'm not sure, but if you're unable to get both the knees to touch the ground in half-lotus, then maybe you shouldn't do the full-lotus. It sounds like the hips are not flexible enough.

If your pelvis is positioned correctly, whether in an half-lotus, or even uncrossed (one leg in front of other), it takes very little effort (if at all) to keep your spine straight. This means the bottom two points of the pelvis, "the sitting bones", are right on the ground. Make sure that the pelvis is not tucked under, but set in a vertical position.

To do this, you need to pull out your buttocks from behind, as far as you can. This tilts the pelvis forward, and then gently back off till it feels like the spine is balanced. There is no holding going on with the muscles around the spine... it just balances. The pelvis is very stable, and this provides all the support that the spine needs. The sitting bones are firmly rooted in the ground. It feels like the spine is sprouted right out of the pelvis itself.

It's relaxed and very flexible, and takes no effort. Just make slight adjustments in the spine when you feel a pain in your back (this happens... even when you're experienced, where from practice you would be able to make the adjustments by the millimeters, or even nanometers), but don't try to hold it rigid. Hope this helps.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:14 pm

Ben wrote:with all due respect, are you sure?
Precise meditation instructions are specific to particular methods that have definite and different outcomes (samatha and vipassana). "Fixation" on the nose, the nostrils, the point of contact under the nostrils and above the upper lip, is a time-tested method for developing samatha and single-pointed concentration: citta ekagatta. That being said, the particulars for the vipassana variant of anapanasati are different to that of samatha.
Also, "breathing sensitive to the entire body." has different meanings in praxis depending on what particular method you are using.

Ben
I'm not sure, actually. That's why I posted this new idea I had read here for comment. As to the source of the idea that we shouldn't fixate on the nose, you can find it in the third post within this topic:
http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/ind ... 60#msg5460

I usually focus on the point in the nose where the breath reconnects after being separated by the nostrils or at the end of my nose. I think whenever I said that I sometimes focus on the space between my eyes, I was actually referring to what I do with my eyes during meditation, not with my fixation point. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

:anjali:
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:03 pm

beeblebrox wrote:I'm not sure, but if you're unable to get both the knees to touch the ground in half-lotus, then maybe you shouldn't do the full-lotus. It sounds like the hips are not flexible enough.
The reason I can't get my knees to touch the ground in half-lotus is that the position makes the height of my knees uneven, since I have one leg on top of another. The only thing I find difficult about full-lotus is that my legs have a tendency to push down on one another forcefully. That said, I am doing stretches to ensure that my hips become progressively more flexible.

Also, thank you for your wonderful advice on sitting upright and spine positioning! :D



To everyone and no one in particular: I have read comments around that board that a person should focus on one particular teacher's method of samatha-oriented anapanasati. I don't have access to a teacher/group at the moment (although I will whenever I move to Portland in August), so do you guys have any suggestions? I think I'm doing fairly well on my own (I find I am able to concentrate earlier within my meditation sessions and hold attention for longer periods of time), but maybe I should look into a particular method?

Regards,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Reductor » Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:11 pm

EricJ wrote:
beeblebrox wrote:... so do you guys have any suggestions?


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... ml#method2

Other than MN118, it is my favorite instruction. Actually it is an expansion and detailing of the first four steps of Anapanasati sutta and works really well.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby EricJ » Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:02 pm

thereductor,

http://vimuttidhamma.org/samatha-meditation

I generally try to keep the method described in this article in mind. Particularly, the part subtitled "On the Respiration Base." I usually start out with a few deep breaths and a body scan, and then move on to direct observation of the breath at the point described in that article, without any attempt to control my breath after that. I can usually feel the breath's effects on the rest of my body, but I don't make any attempt to direct the flow of the breath as in the method you posted.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Ben » Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:06 am

EricJ wrote:
Ben wrote:with all due respect, are you sure?
Precise meditation instructions are specific to particular methods that have definite and different outcomes (samatha and vipassana). "Fixation" on the nose, the nostrils, the point of contact under the nostrils and above the upper lip, is a time-tested method for developing samatha and single-pointed concentration: citta ekagatta. That being said, the particulars for the vipassana variant of anapanasati are different to that of samatha.
Also, "breathing sensitive to the entire body." has different meanings in praxis depending on what particular method you are using.

Ben
I'm not sure, actually. That's why I posted this new idea I had read here for comment. As to the source of the idea that we shouldn't fixate on the nose, you can find it in the third post within this topic:
http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/ind ... 60#msg5460

I usually focus on the point in the nose where the breath reconnects after being separated by the nostrils or at the end of my nose. I think whenever I said that I sometimes focus on the space between my eyes, I was actually referring to what I do with my eyes during meditation, not with my fixation point. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

:anjali:
Eric


No problem Eric
Something that has been of enormous benefit to me has been the section on the anapana in the Visuddhimagga. The Vism isn't everyone's cup of tea because the language is very formalistic and the amount of detail captured in it is incredibly dense. If you have access to a copy, even if you get one via inter-library loan via your municipal library, I would recommend that you have a read through and just concentrate on those pages which are relevant to the tetrad you are working with.
I would also reiterate my earlier advice, recommending Satipatthana: the direct route to realization. While Analayo's work deals mostly with satipatthana, there is valuable material in it on anapana-sati.
The instructions I utilise when doing anapana, and I practice the samatha variant, is to maintain awareness of the touch of the breath - for longer and longer periods. When you notice awareness has slipped away, gently bring it back.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:02 am

EricJ wrote:
beeblebrox wrote:Also, thank you for your wonderful advice on sitting upright and spine positioning! :D


Glad to help. I got these from yoga... these guys really know their stuff. :tongue: The pelvis is really key to the whole thing - just don't let it roll under, or else the spine will collapse. Please be careful with the full lotus. If you get an injury, then it'll be very difficult to get back to being able to do that again. Let me know how it goes.

By the way, I broke my leg last august. Someone fell on it, and the tibia and fibula were fractured (in the left shin, near ankle). I still can't sit with my legs crossed. Even with them uncrossed, the left knee is way up off the ground. For some reason, the fracture made my left hip really stiff. It won't let me do much.

So... I've been sitting with my left knee off the ground. I don't have any problems meditating for half hour, or so. It seems like as the time goes on the knee is lowering a little bit every session... but it's taking a very long while. I still feel uneasy about pushing the leg too much. :? I'm afraid that if I do this and then hold the position, it would twist my fracture out of alignment.

So, I think this has been a good practice... accepting the leg the way it is right now (of course), not being attached to the perfect sitting position anymore, and just things be. It helped my patience a long way.
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Re: The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Challenge

Postby Reductor » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:18 am

EricJ wrote:thereductor,

http://vimuttidhamma.org/samatha-meditation

I generally try to keep the method described in this article in mind. Particularly, the part subtitled "On the Respiration Base." I usually start out with a few deep breaths and a body scan, and then move on to direct observation of the breath at the point described in that article, without any attempt to control my breath after that. I can usually feel the breath's effects on the rest of my body, but I don't make any attempt to direct the flow of the breath as in the method you posted.


I don't have the time to read that page right now, sorry. But, in regard to the method I posted, it is important to note that the initial adjustment of the breath is short lived. I've found that initially paying attention to the breath and smoothing it out and so on will alleviate various tensions in other parts of the body. This is helpful further in the meditation session.

The rest of his talk about the breath sensations is not indicating that you continue to adjust the breath. Rather, it is just a mode of attending to the breath sensations that arise and pass of their own accord. As awareness becomes more still the sensations in the body become more clear, which calms the mind still further, and the calmer mind is still more sensitive to the breath sensations arising and passing.

A feedback loop, as it were.

In time the sense of body is complete and breath sensations flowing through it are soothing, so the mind becomes fixed with it. The sense of body, the breath with-in it and the mind are all clear and calm.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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