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Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention - Dhamma Wheel

Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

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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Pondera
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Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Pondera » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:12 am

Why the meditation on in breathing and out-breathing shouldn’t be complicated by where one places one’s focus.


In the initial stages of one’s contemplation of breath, the following becomes obvious: the body relaxes with conscious awareness of in and out breathing.

I think that as long as one consciously observes one’s breath, one is practicing the contemplation. I think there’s a good reason why we should hesitate to indoctrinate the contemplation of breath with a focus on one’s nose-tip. I think that as long as the contemplative is focusing on his or her breath, he or she is benefiting from the practice.

The practice essentially trains one to focus only on one’s breath; apart from all other distractions. As breathing is primarily the most essential thing, in an outwardly sense, that a person does in order to survive, meditation on breath directs just such a person towards their most elemental “mode” of being, and removes them from the distractions of an ad hoc existence, where things which should not matter actually do (in the confused mind of us people in our "worlds").

It’s an overstatement to assume that people will be taught to focus on one’s nose in this practice simply because in Buddhaghosa’s commentary and exposition: Path of Purification, he made it a point to say just this. There are likely many people who have attempted mindfulness of breath in a variety of ways only to conclude that the nose-tip is the quintessential focus for the contemplation, having reached a certain level of accomplishment with this certain kind of focus (and not some other kind of focus).

My gratitude towards Bhikkhu Pesala, for the link to the late Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw of Burma's exposition describing a practice which emphasizes focus on the diaphragm, in the thread "So I've Got a Foul Set of Legs".

Reading through the late Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw's short exposition, it appeared to me that many, but not all, of the applications of mindful breathing which are encouraged in the traditional description of the practice (as it is perhaps understood by the majority out there to center on the tip of the nose), with such modes as: eating, walking, bending one’s limbs, urinating, excreting, etc. overlap with a focus on the diaphragm.

Because it is simply the case that when breathing, awareness leads to relaxation - I think it’s fair to suggest that the original sutta on the contemplation can be interpreted with a focus on either the tip of the nose or the centre of the lungs, or the diaphragm itself. In other words, as appicchato mentioned, as long as one "knows" that he is breathing in or he is breathing out, he is practicing the contemplation. It does not matter where one "knows" he is breathing at:

But only if the method allows for the prescribed outcomes. I cannot attest to anything beyond a manifestly impermanent, decaying sense of my body in my attention to breath, so I have no way of knowing if the method leads to all outcomes. I can make a certain kind of statement however.

Attention to the diaphragm ties one to the process of breathing where it manifests physically. Attention to the nostrils ties one to the process of breathing where it manifests in the senses. So there is a pretty big difference in the nature of one’s attention in each of these cases.

With attention to the diaphragm one may experience a relaxing of one’s body in a very physical way; owing to the attention paid to the breathing process. But attention to the air as it comes in and out of the nostrils puts emphasis on the sensation of breathing (not the physical determinant). So, the progress towards a state of understanding that emphasizes a fabricated reality (based on the senses) might only be possible with the awareness of breathing as it relates to sensation and not kinematics.

Possibly. Anyhow.

chownah
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby chownah » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:15 am

Pondera,
I like your post. There are some things I would like to expand on.

We can not "feel" the breath anywhere. What we feel are bodily sensations. All expereince comes through the six sense doors and from nowhere else. "Breathing" then is a fabrication. We feel various things and interpret them as being the breath. If viewed in this light then there is the question as to which bodily sensation which we interpret as being the breath should we attend to? Usually the choices are either the abdomen or the nose area but there are bodily sensations which arise in other places which we interpet as being breath. If one has an inflamation of the mucous lining the respiratory tract then there are sensations that arise there which can be readily felt.

There are different ways to breathe and many people breathe differently when different emotions arise. When angry or fearful many people tighten their diaphragm and utilize the complex of chest and shoulder muscles to breathe. Breathing using the diaphragm only and relaxing the chest and shoulder muscles is best for meditatian and in fact the sitting postures are good at promoting breathing from the diaphragm and is one reason they are so popular. An advantage of starting meditation by focusing on the diaphragm (it is primarily the diaphragm one is focusing on when one focuses on the abdomen) is that it helps to relax the chest and shoulder muscles and this in turn helps to reduce the arising of distracting emotions and thoughts.

So far I have dodged the question about where we should focus. My view is that in the first step of meditating we need to find a way to get focused on the breathing sensations and for some it will be the nose area and for some it will be the abdomen (diaphragm) and I suppose for some it will be some mentally imageined place or some irritated spot on the mucousa.....but the main thing initially is to get with the breath. Once that initial focus is attained then (in my view) the task is to expand the awareness of all of the sensations that we associate with the breath and to be very sensitive to even the very subtle ones.....it is my view that this is a good way to extend the meditative object toward breathing sensitive to the entire body......and notice that where one starts in this process is really not so important and whatever works best for an individual is what that individual should do.....also note that I am discussing how to get to breathing sensitive to the entire body here and for other meditative practices what I have said might not be correct....for instance there are vipassana meditations that I am not familiar with where there is an insistance on using the nose area and for all I know this may be exactly the best way to achieve whatever it is that they are achieving.......I guss.....but don't know for sure....
chownah

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bodom
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby bodom » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:34 am

Speaking from my own experience, I have noticed the breath to be coarse at the beginning of a sit and more noticeable in the chest and abdomen area. As concentration develops and the breath becomes more subtle, attention is more easily centered at the nose tip. It is a naturally occurring process.

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html
http://www.ajahnchah.org/

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Goofaholix
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:43 am

It certainly doesn't matter where or how one is aware of breathing as long as it works, that's because what is important is the awareness not the breathing.

Unless of course one is practising towards jhanas where stability of attention on one consistant object is very important.

As you stated awareness of the breath is very useful to to get us to more a "elemental “mode” of being", it's just a tool for the job. Ultimately awareness of everything coming through the sense doors and an understanding of the mind-body process is what we are trying to cultivate.

In Mahasi method it's the noting of all objects that's important, not just the rising and falling of the diaphram.

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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:53 am


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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:09 am


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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:47 am


befriend
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby befriend » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:02 am

tip of nose or around the nose = samatha,

rising motions of abdomen = vipassana


motion of feet in walking meditation = vipassana

totally different meditations if you want to collect your mind and suppress hindrances do samatha.
if you want to chip away at defilements practice vipassana. thats why they teach samatha first then vipassana, to calm the mind collect it
then its easier to do vipassana cause your not daydreaing so much and your attention isnt like a monkey in the jungle.
samatha will never abolish defilments only suppress them and cause a pleasant abiding. vipassana is taught as what will eradicate defiments because
it gives you panna which is experiential insights into impermanence suffering and nonself.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

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Goofaholix
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:10 am


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Goofaholix
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:13 am


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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby befriend » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:20 am

who is your teacher? this is not how i was taught at all. what is your experience with samatha and vipassana. i know from experience what i posted is accurate.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

Brizzy
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Brizzy » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:47 am

Ignorance is an intentional act.

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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby befriend » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:10 am

why dont you try it yourself and find out before you use your papanca to decide for you. how do you think buddha entererd Jhana as a hindu practitioner before he discovered vipassana? by practicing samatha. how do you think people practice samatha.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby befriend » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:21 am

when i focus on my breathing at the tip of the nose i feel incredibly calm rapturous single mindedly collected happy and have gotten to access concentration. NOW when i do walking meditation or mindfulness of abdominal motions also mindfulness of hand movements i feel energized less calm than the nose meditation and have insights into impermanence suffering and nonself. ive have experienced this for myself not from my papanca, and from my teacher who was authorized to teach by an 80 year old thai monk. who is your teacher or are you just letting your monkey mind express itself the thing in which you so hoped to tame.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

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manas
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby manas » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:23 am

Whatever way the breath can be felt so that it is easy to keep it in mind, is the best way. This will be different for different people, I'd say. Ultimately awareness is going to expand out into the entire body anyway, so the exact place from which we begin is not that important. I'm not sure if others can relate, but the hindrance of restlessness is almost always an issue, and so I examine different aspects of the breath, and focus on the most soothing one I can find. This will be different for different folks too, I imagine.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:57 pm


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Pondera
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Pondera » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:17 pm


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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Viscid » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:41 pm

"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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manas
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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby manas » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:58 pm

Last edited by manas on Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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Re: Does it Matter Where One Places One's Attention

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:03 pm



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