A Shamatha Discussion

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

A Shamatha Discussion

Postby JohnJigmeHeimrShmidt » Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:59 pm

Hello,

I thought I'd make a post to see if we could get a thread going on training the mind in Shamatha. I am hoping that we can exchange experiences, advice, and resources.

Shamatha being the widespread meditation that it is in Buddhism (and beyond), there are many resources, but one that I find particularly helpful is The Attention Revolution by B. Alan Wallace. It is a great guide that draws from instruction from Tibetan sources and others.

One specific question, I'd like to bring up is related to mindfulness of breathing. The breath is my object of observation when I meditate, but I find that I'm prone to make a mental image of what is going on in my body when I'm breathing. However, Wallace instructs, " As you attend to the ... sensations of breathing, mental images of your body, based on visual memory, are likely to arise together with the bodily sensations themselves. Recognize the difference between the tactile sensations of the breath as they appear to bare attention, as opposed to the mental images of what you think your body looks like, which are superimposed by your conceptual mind. As soon as you note the presence of these mental images, release them and direct your attention solely to the immediate, tactile experiences of breathing."

I find this very difficult! It just seems so hard to me to "release" these sort of images and just focus on tactile sensations without the images arising again. Does anyone have any experience with this?

Thanks and hopefully we can get a good discussion/exchange going!

John
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Re: A Shamatha Discussion

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:53 pm

It's a habit. We are visually super stimulated, perhaps, so the tendency to visualize nearly everything.
When those images appear, focus on the sensations and not the images. Image appears, shift focus to sensations again and again, without stress. Just focus on the feelings and don't exert too much pressure. Change focus gently. Are you sure you are relaxing properly?
OTOH, why don't you choose a different object? The sensations of the breath are not the best object for everyone. Have you tried? You may choose a visualization, for instance.
By the way, that's a great book. You can always write Alan if you need advice. It may take a while, but I'm sure you'll get an answer.
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Re: A Shamatha Discussion

Postby JohnJigmeHeimrShmidt » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:55 pm

For others looking for more good resources on Shamatha, the first half of the book "Calm Abiding and Special Insight" is on Calm Abiding (Shamatha) by Geshe Gedun Lodro, so a source from the Tibetan viewpoint.

Dechen Norbu wrote:It's a habit. We are visually super stimulated, perhaps, so the tendency to visualize nearly everything.
When those images appear, focus on the sensations and not the images. Image appears, shift focus to sensations again and again, without stress. Just focus on the feelings and don't exert too much pressure. Change focus gently. Are you sure you are relaxing properly?
OTOH, why don't you choose a different object? The sensations of the breath are not the best object for everyone. Have you tried? You may choose a visualization, for instance.
By the way, that's a great book. You can always write Alan if you need advice. It may take a while, but I'm sure you'll get an answer.


Hey, thanks. I'm sure I can always relax more before my practice, I'm working on spending more time doing so. I've tried a visual object as my object before, but I don't think that it is for me. Plus I am one of those "discursive types" that they encourage to use the breath as the object! I will try to work on this focus of tactile sensation for now, then maybe try to contact Alan some time later if I'm still struggling with it. I just discovered he is posting podcasts of the current shamatha retreat going on now, how cool!

For those interested: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/spring-2011-shamatha-retreat/id431523153
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