Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

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Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Collective » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:13 am

Not so long ago, I mentioned how I had shifted my observation from the breath to observing just the mind. I think the former is more to do with Samatha and the latter Vipassana. I think.

Can the two be combined?

I ask because I was thinking about observing the breath, and if/when any phenomena arise (physical or mental), I could observe that. When it passes, as all things pass, I then go back to oberving the breath. This would be different for me because initially, when I first started meditating, I would observe the breath but 'ignore' any phenomena that arose. A case of 'stay with the breath at all costs'.

By doing it this way, I feel I am combining Samath and Vipassana.

If I think about it, the only real difference was when I used to observe 'just' the mind, when no thoughts were present, I'd be observing nothing. Now if there are no thoughts, I'm thinking I should be observing the breath.

This may seem like a very obvious way to do things, so forgive me if I am indeed just stating the obvious.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you.
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Re: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:46 am

Collective wrote:I ask because I was thinking about observing the breath, and if/when any phenomena arise (physical or mental), I could observe that. When it passes, as all things pass, I then go back to oberving the breath.


That's similar to the approach I've been taking. For samatha I focus on the breath and keep returning to it. For vipassana I use the breath as an "anchor" ( ie with less focus ) and broaden out awareness to observe generally, eg arising and ceasings in the mind. I use "samatha" and "vipassana" rather tentatively here because there seem to be different views of what these terms actually mean. :thinking:
In terms of the Satipatthana Sutta this would be starting with mindfulness of breathing and then "broadening out" to mindfulness of feeling, mind and mind objects. I think this approach is also consistent with the Anapanasati Sutta, but I need to look at that more closely. :smile:

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Re: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jun 19, 2010 2:15 pm

I think using the breath as an anchor is good, if samadhi is not that well developed. However if a person can stay with the breath with only a few disturbances within an hour (ie-the five hindrances well controlled) then it maybe even better to drop the anchor and simply note arising phenomena. This is because the sense of an 'anchor' may be seen as a permanent fixture and get in the way unconsciously of seeing everything is impermanent through and through. Better to be lost in the fleeting nature of phenomena to get its full impact -because our delusions of permanency are buried deeply in the mind aren't easily shifted.
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Re: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jun 19, 2010 8:48 pm

The way you've described is how breath meditation generally taught, unless there is a specific objective to cultivate samatha.

However when you observe the mind there is a lot more than just thoughts, there is never nothing, if you are just noticing thoughts then probably you aren't ready to make the mind your primary object.
"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: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Collective » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:25 am

Goofaholix wrote:The way you've described is how breath meditation generally taught, unless there is a specific objective to cultivate samatha.

However when you observe the mind there is a lot more than just thoughts, there is never nothing, if you are just noticing thoughts then probably you aren't ready to make the mind your primary object.

Good point.

Thinking about it, when I observe the mind I also encounter mental images, and certain emotions too. Not sure there's anything else to experience, but I wouldn't know anyway.
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Re: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:32 am

rowyourboat wrote:I think using the breath as an anchor is good, if samadhi is not that well developed. However if a person can stay with the breath with only a few disturbances within an hour (ie-the five hindrances well controlled) then it maybe even better to drop the anchor and simply note arising phenomena. This is because the sense of an 'anchor' may be seen as a permanent fixture and get in the way unconsciously of seeing everything is impermanent through and through. Better to be lost in the fleeting nature of phenomena to get its full impact -because our delusions of permanency are buried deeply in the mind aren't easily shifted.


I'm sure you're right, and I probably need to work more on samadhi myself. :smile:
In practice I notice that awareness of the breath naturally fades as I open up to the messiness of the mind. :rolleye:

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Re: Observing the Breath Observing Phenomena

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:35 am

Goofaholix wrote:However when you observe the mind there is a lot more than just thoughts, there is never nothing...


I agree, there always seems to be something. :smile:

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