A bit lost about techniques, types and more

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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carlosm
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Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:25 pm

A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by carlosm »

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the long explanation, and my English (not a native speaker), but I'm a bit confused about meditation and would like to someone to clarify some points and guided me in the right direction.

I've been meditating for about four months kind of on my own, even though I had attended some soto zen class in the past long time ago. I've been reading quite a lot of books articles on meditations and buddhism in general, from different traditions. My initial ideas was that there's a distinction between concentration( samathi) and insight (vipassanna?), that you could work both separately but they also complement each other, one is needed for the other one to develop. At the same time, virtue, concentration and wisdom are the trainings and and related, wisdom needs concentration.

From all this I thought that the first thing to do was strength my concentration in order to then gain wisdom and practice those techniques later. In some articles from different authors I've read about focusing in the upper lip/nostril, and bring the attention back to it, does not matter how many times, just do it. Don't try to control the breath, just watching and focus in that point, one-pointless, the mind should be really narrow...

BUT at the same time I've been reading a lot in http://www.accesstoinsight.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;, and seems to me that Thanissaro teachings another kind of meditation, he does not talks about fix the mind in the upper lip, he talks about breathing with the whole body, and modify the breath to heal it. Seems to me that this approach is more like a mixture between insight and concentration.

So during the past weeks my meditation has been quite bad, because I don't know what exactly do, what's the proper way to meditate. At the beginning of my practice when I focused in the upper lip I gained what I think It was access concentration, but lately trying to use the Thanissaru technique seems that I'm unable to be fully focus in the breath trying to breath with the whole body.

So, what would be the "proper" way? I assume that both ways works, all depends on the school that you follow. I
Is It useful to work only on concentration (upper lip/nostril)? Or should I just use something like Thanissaru approach?
Jhana4
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by Jhana4 »

There isn't a proper way. The directions for meditation in the suttas are vague, perhaps deliberately vague. The most important thing about meditation is practicing consistently every day. Do what works for you. You have the rest of it right.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
daverupa
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by daverupa »

Jhana4 wrote:There isn't a proper way. The directions for meditation in the suttas are vague, perhaps deliberately vague. The most important thing about meditation is practicing consistently every day. Do what works for you. You have the rest of it right.
I don't think it's valid for the "vagueness" of satipatthana to warrant the inclusion of any old meditation method one comes across. The instructions for anapanasati seem to encompass what we might call a proper scope...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
santa100
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by santa100 »

Carlosm wrote:
So during the past weeks my meditation has been quite bad, because I don't know what exactly do, what's the proper way to meditate. At the beginning of my practice when I focused in the upper lip I gained what I think It was access concentration, but lately trying to use the Thanissaru technique seems that I'm unable to be fully focus in the breath trying to breath with the whole body
Try to stick with what worked for you for a while. If you keep trying different techniques as suggested by Venerables X, Y, Z, etc.. then it will only confuse you more..
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Ben
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by Ben »

Greetings Carlosm,

my recommendation is to attend a residential meditation retreat of 7-10 days in a tradition that you feel comfortable. Practice what you learn with diligence during and following the retreat experience for up to one year to give it a decent trial. If you find that it gives you benefit - continue with it. If not, try something else.
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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2600htz
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by 2600htz »

Hello:

Im sorry but thats just the natural way of how things work :).
At first we meditate just based on intuition and a few advices, and meditation works well (to certain level, but it gets to a point where u cant go further).
Later we want to improve, so we start reading and adding a lot of intellectual ideas to the practice, and this usually will cause a relapse in the meditation, because u will be trying to do concepts . And this is hard at first (in any discipline).

Hope it helps.
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bodom
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by bodom »

carlosm wrote: I've been reading quite a lot of books articles on meditations and buddhism in general, from different traditions.
Don't read too much it will only increase your doubting. If you are able to concentrate the mind by following the breath at the nose tip then keep with it.

:anjali:
This is our foundation: to have sati, recollection, and sampajañña, self-awareness, whether standing, walking, sitting, or reclining. Whatever arises, just leave it be, don’t cling to it. Whether it’s like or dislike, happiness or suffering, doubt or certainty... Don’t try to label everything, just know it. See that all the things that arise in the mind are simply sensations. They are transient. They arise, exist and cease. That’s all there is to them, they have no self or being, they are neither ‘us’ nor ‘them’. None of them are worthy of clinging to.

- Ajahn Chah
chownah
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by chownah »

I agree with many here who say to not skip around but rather stay with one thing for awhile. If you think you should be expanding the scope of the breathing then you might try abdominal breathing.....that is following the breath by concentrating on the sensation of the abdominal area. Some people have observed that focusing on the upper lip area tends to create a more cerebral and visual experience while focusing on the abdominal area tends to createa a more bodily sort of experience although some people do say that one can start either way and have expereinces of either sort....it's not a "one way or the other" sort of a thing....some people respond better one way and some respond better the other but either way can lead to the full range of experience. Since you seem to respond really well to the upper lip area I think you might be good to not abandon it....but you might establish concentration at that point and then when well established try to move focus to the abdomen....or as many people have said just stick with the upper lip and continue since you are getting good results....
I also want to point out that some people think that it is best to get advise from experts about how to modify one's techinique while other people think that it is best to do as much as possible on your own. I think one advantage is that if you go get advise from an expert you will probably be getting a balanced lesson including range of Dhamma stuff which for many is what is needed to keep moving forward. If you more or less go it alone you should be sure to include some self study about the Dhamma in general as meditation without some sort of overarching experiential context is probably limited in depth.
chownah
carlosm
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Re: A bit lost about techniques, types and more

Post by carlosm »

Thanks for your replies.

Seems to be the common consensus is to stick to have had worked. I wanna clarify, focusing on the upper lip/nostril was something that I've got from different places, not reading from a only/proper master, just reading here and there, I think most of it from some general jhana advice/website collection of resources.

I wanted to change the technique a bit after reading Anapanasati Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;):
"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
that talks more about body breathing, and not just being focused in one point.

Also I started reading Thanissaro's teachings and thought about giving it a chance, then was when everything got a bit confused. I have to mention that the only Theravada group in my town is from the Mahasi school, so, another completely different thing, another way to go! I thought of asking to the teacher there, but seems to be they focus on noting technique, that I'm interested too.

I have to think a bit about this, because the thai forest tradition interests me. I would probably try to Thanissaro properly for a while and be consistent and be what I got from there. I was thinking doing a retreat in amaravati or another tha forest tradition, reading Ben's comment. But (another one), I'm open to all theravada traditions, don't have any preference for one or another, seems to me that even if I understand intellectually the difference, I don't SEE it since my meditation experience is really short.

If you have any other comments. Anyway, I would keep working (being having two session everyday) and get back to you. Also, thanks for the warm responses, being lurking for a while and I'm really happy to found this rofum.
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