Going against the advice of the monk?

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
hohohodam
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Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by hohohodam »

I am taught to focus on the sensation of the breath on the rising and falling of abdomen (and to do walking meditation).

And I struggle a lot with it. To the extent that ever since I changed the focus from nostril to abdomen my practice has deteriorated significantly.

I noticed a feedback loop that encouraged me to practice consistently with focusing on nostril - I would notice the difference clearly in my focus and mindfulness everytime I ramp up my practice. Not sure how objective this is but my mind settles enough that I start having many vivid dreams. But not so on the abdomen.

The advice from the monk was to let go of judging and stick to the abdomen. I understand his advice but I really struggle with this. If I had many hours a day to practice I would have no problem taking route that seems to have slower progression but not as it is for me now.

May I get some advice on what to do?

Thank you.
santa100
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by santa100 »

Noticing the rising and falling of abdomen is not the one and only correct method to do sitting meditation. In fact the traditional approach of focusing attention on the nostril gates was mentioned in the Vism. Chapter VIII.193-page 272. So it's perfectly legit. to experiment and find out what works best for you. Also you might want to check again on that "vivid dreams" part for that doesn't sound like the result of a settled mind. Check out Ven. Gunaratana's excellent "Jhanas" writing here for more information. Good luck..
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Vivid dreams or other exciting experiences are not significant in the progress of insight. Concentration can have some interesting side-effects, but the purpose is to gain inisght. Dealing with pain, working through negative emotions, and being patient to overcome the hindrances is more important to the development of one's practice.

Have a look at this video by Phra Yuttadhammo on the practice of noting, which a lot of new Mahāsi style meditators also struggle with.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Pinetree
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by Pinetree »

Maybe it would be helpful if you give more details about your practice, like exactly what meditation you're practicing, how much time during the day, etc.

The advice from the monk was to let go of judging and stick to the abdomen.
That seems like a valid advice.

If you're judging, that is not helping your practice.

If you struggle focusing on the abdomen, means your concentration is weak and you need to practice more, to improve your concentration.

There can be a valid reason to choose a more difficult practice instead of an easy one. Like with sports or weight lifting, you add a little more weight on the bar as you progress. There is little benefit to practicing something which you find very easy.

Oh, and struggle is good, builds character, determination, patience, endurance, skills which are priceless for a meditator.

Also, try to enjoy your struggle, don't practice out of the sense that you're forcing yourself to do something by beating yourself with a stick, but rather that you're putting a little effort to get a useful training which you will eventually benefit from.
If I had many hours a day to practice I would have no problem taking route that seems to have slower progression but not as it is for me now.
For that, you may benefit from some practice during your daily activities. Maybe mindfulness of your body posture or breathing, etc.
dhammarelax
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by dhammarelax »

hohohodam wrote:I am taught to focus on the sensation of the breath on the rising and falling of abdomen (and to do walking meditation).

And I struggle a lot with it. To the extent that ever since I changed the focus from nostril to abdomen my practice has deteriorated significantly.

I noticed a feedback loop that encouraged me to practice consistently with focusing on nostril - I would notice the difference clearly in my focus and mindfulness everytime I ramp up my practice. Not sure how objective this is but my mind settles enough that I start having many vivid dreams. But not so on the abdomen.

The advice from the monk was to let go of judging and stick to the abdomen. I understand his advice but I really struggle with this. If I had many hours a day to practice I would have no problem taking route that seems to have slower progression but not as it is for me now.

May I get some advice on what to do?

Thank you.
Read the Anapanassati Sutta and follow the instructions of the Buddha, you will be surprised.
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5
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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by JamesTheGiant »

Go with what works for you. Ignore the monk.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by tiltbillings »

Ignore "the monk" and listen to the two monks above who just gave you the best advice so far.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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samseva
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by samseva »

If I remember correctly, the area of which one concentrates during meditation is highly debated as there are no such instructions in the Tipiṭaka. Some traditions focus on the abdomen; some on the nostril.

The Burmese Pa-Auk tradition (of which there are many highly trained meditators) focuses around the nostrils:
To begin meditating, sit in a comfortable position and try to be aware of the breath as it enters and leaves the body through the nostrils. You should be able to feel it either just below the nose or somewhere around the nostrils.
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Ignore the people who tell you to ignore the monk.

If he is your teacher, follow his advice and instructions as well as you can. If you find it difficult, tell him why, and ask for clarification. If you really don't want to follow his instructions, find another teacher.

It is vital to be honest with your meditation teacher.
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hohohodam
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by hohohodam »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Ignore the people who tell you to ignore the monk.

If he is your teacher, follow his advice and instructions as well as you can. If you find it difficult, tell him why, and ask for clarification. If you really don't want to follow his instructions, find another teacher.

It is vital to be honest with your meditation teacher.
Thank you all for your input. That was my worry. I understand how important it is to not second guess a path that was successfully walked by others. And my unsatisfactory judging mind kept seeking that feeling of progress that I got from the nostril method. One thing about focusing on abdomen I find is, unlike the nostril because the area of focus is large my weak mind finds it difficult to hold the focus. Can you offer some tips ?

Thank you.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by tiltbillings »

Of course, Ven Pesala is correct. Follow his advice.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

  • Every period of sitting meditation should be preceeded by a period of walking practice. If you have only 30 minutes to spare, do at least 10 minutes of walking before sitting.
  • In sitting, relax, and breathe normally from the diaphragm not from the chest.
  • Mindfulness of respiration at the nostrils is a good method for cutting off distracting thoughts, I use it myself sometimes when writing or travelling. However, if you put down all busy activity and devote a period just for relaxed meditation, thoughts will be fewer, and you can then focus on sensations in the body.
  • There may be a gap between the end of the rising movement and the beginning of the falling movement, likewise at the end of the falling movement before the beginning of the rising movement. Mind the gap! This is where the mind can go out easily. Insert a note of the sitting posture and any point of contact that is distinct, whether that's the hands touching together, or the feet touching the ground. Note as "Rising, touching, falling, sitting;" or "Rising, sitting, falling, touching," etc. When noting the sitting posture, just be aware of the shape or form of the body. Is the back straight? Is the head lolling fowards due to drowsiness? Is there any tension in the shoulders? Checking that your posture is erect, and stable will also help your practice.
  • The rising and falling movements are just the wind element (vāyo dhātu). The characteristic of the wind element — or strictly speaking the element of motion — is pushing, movement, or vibration.
  • Mindfulness of the abdominal movements is obviously related to the breathing, but it is not breathing meditation (ānāpānassati). It is paying attention to the four elements (dhātumanasikāra), which is a different section on mindfulness of the body in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. There are several methods of body contemplation listed there. It not expected that anyone should practice them all. Some meditators will progress well with contemplation of the 32 body parts, or contemplation of corpses in various stages of decay, but these methods are seldom taught. Mindfulness of respiration is the most common. The Mahāsi method of contemplating abdominal movements is paying attention the four elements. The sections on clear comprehension, the four body postures, are included in the Mahāsi technique as walking meditation, and mindfulness of all daily activities.
  • Mindfulness of the rising and falling movement is just the primary object. It is also vital to include contemplation of feelings, thoughts or consciousness, and mental objects. Satipaṭṭhāna is a very broad and comprehensive method, rather than just a particular meditation technique.
Whether I am correct or not should be investigated by doing some reading (but not too much), and asking your teacher for clarification. The correct method will become clear with more practice and systematic study. There are many books by the late Mahāsi Sayādaw on my web site, but don't try to read them all at once or you may get spiritual indigestion.

In This Very Life (in my forum signature) is also highly recommended, but it's not for beginners. It is the result of a three-month intensive retreat at IMS in Barre. It needs to be read and digested slowly, no more than one chapter at a time.
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Bakmoon
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by Bakmoon »

hohohodam wrote:Thank you all for your input. That was my worry. I understand how important it is to not second guess a path that was successfully walked by others. And my unsatisfactory judging mind kept seeking that feeling of progress that I got from the nostril method. One thing about focusing on abdomen I find is, unlike the nostril because the area of focus is large my weak mind finds it difficult to hold the focus. Can you offer some tips ?

Thank you.
Remember that with the Mahasi Sayadaw noting method (which is the one it sounds like you are using) you aren't meditating on the abdomen. You are meditating on the wind element in the abdomen, which is the expansion, contraction, stiffness, pressure, etc...
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
SarathW
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by SarathW »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Ignore the people who tell you to ignore the monk.

If he is your teacher, follow his advice and instructions as well as you can. If you find it difficult, tell him why, and ask for clarification. If you really don't want to follow his instructions, find another teacher.

It is vital to be honest with your meditation teacher.
This is a good advise.
If you have a teacher follow his/her instruction.
You are wasting your time and teachers time if you do not do this.
If you are not happy with the teacher find a new one.
Buddha had many teachers. He followed their instructions and perfected their methods until he resolved to try his own method.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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retrofuturist
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Re: Going against the advice of the monk?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
hohohodam wrote:May I get some advice on what to do?
I think you need to reflect on whether you want to be wedded to this monk's preferred meditation technique. You'll note that the technique being taught to you was not documented in the suttas... therefore, it is not essential to do it this way.

A "meditation technique" is a pragmatic tool, at best... if this tool doesn't work for you, there are other techniques and other non-technique-based approaches available to you.

All the best.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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