Meditation and your breath

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Meditation and your breath

Postby RopeNL » Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:57 pm

Hi all,

As you may have noticed by some posts in the Lounge forum I've recently started practicing (or at least I think I am) Buddhism.
I'm trying to rearrange my life around the precepts and the eightfold path.I'm also trying to meditate to quiet my mind.

Now I have a question about meditating and how it works.

First off, I'd like to say that I do not expect immediate results or instant progress.

I've been trying to apply certain methods. Focusing my attention on the area beneath my nose and the sensation when air flows in, focusing on my chest widening and narrowing when I breath in and out etc.
Now I've had some success in "not thinking" and just placing my attention on my breathing. Sometimes I drift off into thought but then I realize I was meditating and try to get my focus back onto my breath.

However when I try focusing on my breath I tend to also start controlling my breath. I've heard that you should focus on "observing" yet I always end up controlling it the moment I focus my attention onto my breath.
Is there a way to avoid this? Or is this supposed to happen?

-Rope
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Paul » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:04 pm

This seems to be a strangely common thing. It's a habit you will drop eventually, but it is more likely to keep happening if you choose to make it into a problem. If you allow yourself to not care about controlling it or not you will eventually allow it to be natural. There's little problem in controlling it for the moment, really. In the end meditating on controlled breathing is better than not meditating at all.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:28 pm

RopeNL wrote:Hi all,

As you may have noticed by some posts in the Lounge forum I've recently started practicing (or at least I think I am) Buddhism.
I'm trying to rearrange my life around the precepts and the eightfold path.I'm also trying to meditate to quiet my mind.

Now I have a question about meditating and how it works.

First off, I'd like to say that I do not expect immediate results or instant progress.

I've been trying to apply certain methods. Focusing my attention on the area beneath my nose and the sensation when air flows in, focusing on my chest widening and narrowing when I breath in and out etc.
Now I've had some success in "not thinking" and just placing my attention on my breathing. Sometimes I drift off into thought but then I realize I was meditating and try to get my focus back onto my breath.

However when I try focusing on my breath I tend to also start controlling my breath. I've heard that you should focus on "observing" yet I always end up controlling it the moment I focus my attention onto my breath.
Is there a way to avoid this? Or is this supposed to happen?

-Rope


Try a visual object instead of breath probably, standard is an image of Buddha Shakyamuni or similar.

I have the same problem from years of active usage of breath from martial arts, yoga etc.

My understanding is that there is some benefit to sticking with it and getting used to following the breath, but personally if it isn't happening for me (honestly object-focused meditations have never clicked that well with me period - they rile me up almost exclusively), using a visual object might be easier. Also, if you want to take that next step the best bet is to find a teacher that jives with you. The benefit of a good teacher that can personally "get" you and your predilections really can't be overstated for meditation advice. IME there really is no comparison to meditation via just learning from texts, and from the advice you can get from an actual teacher.
"We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull" -Tom Waits
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Jesse » Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:19 pm

You can do visualization, counting, breath, body, It's all the same in that, you have an object you hold in awareness on purpose. each time your mind wanders you bring it back to that object. It's just a type of mind training that becomes useful later on in vipassana. It's also useful immediately because it's helps us be calm and tranquil..
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby SeekerNo1000003 » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:45 am

I'm a beginner too. What seems to be helping me is to realize that breathing will continue regardless of whether or not I control it.
So I might as well just watch it.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby LastLegend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:44 am

RopeNL wrote:
However when I try focusing on my breath I tend to also start controlling my breath. I've heard that you should focus on "observing" yet I always end up controlling it the moment I focus my attention onto my breath.
Is there a way to avoid this? Or is this supposed to happen?

-Rope


Maybe being aware of your breathing (without putting your attention there) instead of trying to breathe with the attention there. Or be aware of your bodily sensations, contact as a whole.

I thought you are supposed to let the mind be free and just sit. :D
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Linjii
―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby tlee » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:14 am

MN 118
PTS: M iii 78
Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing

"Mindfulness of In-&-Out Breathing

"Now how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit?

"There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

"[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.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

"This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit."
- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-1
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby seeker242 » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:42 am

Personally, I think "Don't control your breath!" can be as much of an impediment as anything else. For some people, that's good advice, for others it's bad advice. There's nothing inherently wrong with controlling your breath up to a point. For example, if your naturally occurring breath is nearly the same as your "controlled breath", then there is really no actual problem.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby LastLegend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:00 pm

^ It's not bad I agree.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Jesse » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:56 pm

I've had the problem also, it usually goes away once your concentration increases to a certain point. One helpful method is to split your awareness between two things. The body and the breath is useful. Keep your entire body in awareness along with the breath. It helps because your not focusing solely on the breath.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby madhusudan » Wed Aug 13, 2014 9:25 pm

And also remember to keep your vows and moral ethics well, as meditation increases rapidly in a pure vessel.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Martin007 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:46 pm

RopeNL wrote:However when I try focusing on my breath I tend to also start controlling my breath. I've heard that you should focus on "observing" yet I always end up controlling it the moment I focus my attention onto my breath.


It could just be that you're trying too hard and creating some tension, so try to relax into the practice. It might help to do a body scan to release any physical tension, also you could try taking a few deep breaths and then relaxing.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:52 pm

Counting the outbreaths may be a good alternative for people who find themselves unconsciously controlling the breath. Give that a go if you haven't already.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby TaTa » Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:09 am

RopeNL wrote:Hi all,

As you may have noticed by some posts in the Lounge forum I've recently started practicing (or at least I think I am) Buddhism.
I'm trying to rearrange my life around the precepts and the eightfold path.I'm also trying to meditate to quiet my mind.

Now I have a question about meditating and how it works.

First off, I'd like to say that I do not expect immediate results or instant progress.

I've been trying to apply certain methods. Focusing my attention on the area beneath my nose and the sensation when air flows in, focusing on my chest widening and narrowing when I breath in and out etc.
Now I've had some success in "not thinking" and just placing my attention on my breathing. Sometimes I drift off into thought but then I realize I was meditating and try to get my focus back onto my breath.

However when I try focusing on my breath I tend to also start controlling my breath. I've heard that you should focus on "observing" yet I always end up controlling it the moment I focus my attention onto my breath.
Is there a way to avoid this? Or is this supposed to happen?

-Rope


Hi. This is common. You realizing that you are controling the breath is a good thing, it means that your mindfullness is increasing and you are noticing things that you didnt notice before. When this comes up just drop very gently like anyother thought. With practice you wont even have to use words and this will become a habit, it takes practice.

I have found alan wallace method of mindfullnes of breathing very clear and helpfull for learning how to set your body and breath in its natural state, you should check out his podcasts or read his book " the attention revolution".http://sbinstitute.com/phuketpodcasts
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby VinceField » Sat Aug 23, 2014 2:16 pm

Hey Rope

I had this problem when I first began breath meditation. It took a little over a month of daily practice until the habit dropped. It wasn't really a gradual cessation of the habit, but it was more like an insight that suddenly came to me one session that allowed me to relinquish control of my breath. Based on my experience, once you get past this point your meditations will improve significantly. Just keep at it buddy and good luck.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby RopeNL » Fri Aug 29, 2014 8:08 pm

Hi everyone!

Sorry I didn't respond for such a long time! I've been busy studying to get accepted to University to do a master's degree (For which I got accepted! With a lot of help from lessons learned in the past few months, and thus this forum :D!).
Anyway, I haven't been meditating for maybe a week or so because I had a little incident which caused me to become afraid of meditating. It also brought back a lot of fears I used to have. However I'll start a topic on that in just a sec.

I'll start reading everything now with a bit more attention. But what I already noticed that the thing I should take away from all your comments is that "it will come". Am I correct in assuming that?

Thanks again!
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Greg_the_poet » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:36 pm

From a Soto Zen perspective you should not try and control anything, including breath, thoughts, sensations, sounds, etc. Ironically when I don't worry about focusing on my breath I find it it easier to BE with the breath and allow it to flow naturally. The moment I try and manipulate the breathing technique my brain/ego/body fights back and it then becomes a struggle. Awareness of breath is different to concentrating on breath, I find the former much more natural.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby RopeNL » Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:46 pm

Hi greg,

Could you explain how I do that? I seem to continue concentrating and not being aware. I tend to do that with every kind of breathing technique. I focus on a certain thing and than I tend to concentrate not be aware.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:12 pm

It's okay to control your breath a little bit in my opinion. In fact in some systems of this kind of meditation you are supposed to do that and slow down the breathing to an extent. The main point of the whole instruction not to control the breath is that you understand it as an observational process instead of a series of breathing exercises. The breath should be natural instead of forced, but gently calming down your breathing rate on purpose is fine in my personal opinion.
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Re: Meditation and your breath

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:24 pm

RopeNL wrote:
Could you explain how I do that? I seem to continue concentrating and not being aware. I tend to do that with every kind of breathing technique. I focus on a certain thing and than I tend to concentrate not be aware.


One way to do it is to just feel the expansion and contraction of the abdomen and chest on the in breath and the out breath. You don't have to pick just a single point to put your attention on, and it can be a more relaxed kind of attention than simply pushing the mind onto one spot. It can be more like going for a scenic walk and just taking in the sights than concentrating on just one thing that you have to get done.
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