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Not Observing Breath - Dhamma Wheel

Not Observing Breath

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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Collective
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Not Observing Breath

Postby Collective » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:19 am

This morning I stopped becoming aware of just the breath, and attempted to become aware of everything. Breath, smells, air brushing against my skin, bumps, clicks, aches, pains, stomach rumbles, bird song, doors banging, car engines, itches, etc, and above all else I started to sit back and just observe the mind. It was quite interesting.

The first thing I noticed was that I didn't become sleepy, my mind/awreness was clear, always switched on as it were, right up to the end. Trouble I get focusing on the breath, is that it envelopes me as my mind narrows in on the breath. But with this all encompassing awareness I'm trying out, I make an effort to be 'in the moment' by taking in everything. I'm not saying I focus on anything that arises to the exclusion of everything else (which was happening when I focused on the breath) I just attempt to wash my awareness over anything that may be happening at any particular moment.

I also find that my mind chatter ia reduced a lot when I observe my mind. The breath I now use as an anchor when I need to focus a little more, perhaps if my mind has wandered - which despite my efforts still does now and then.

Please could someone comment on this.

Thank you :namaste:

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IanAnd
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby IanAnd » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:10 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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octathlon
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby octathlon » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:57 pm


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IanAnd
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby IanAnd » Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:22 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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mikenz66
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:39 pm

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Ian. That does seem to be a common sensation. I generally do Mahasi-style practise, so when sitting I'm watching the rising-falling of the abdomen, and whatever else arises and becomes prominent. This pressure between the eyes arises for me quite commonly and when it does I simply switch attention to it (as for any other sensation). In my case, when I direct attention on it, it usually fades quite quickly, leaving me in a calmer state, at which point I return to the rising-falling. For me it feels to be one of several "barriers" that I "break through" as I get calmer. Though "breaking through" makes it sound a little too deliberate, as if they are barriers to be broken down. It's more a case of something arising that feels like a "barrier", and if I am able to "see" it clearly it disappears.

Mike

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octathlon
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby octathlon » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:51 pm

Hi IanAnd,

Thank you for such an informative answer. :thanks: I'm going to observe that sensation when it occurs and see what happens. In my session this evening, it did not occur strongly or last long enough to observe for more than a brief time. I did notice that just before it, I would feel a "pulling" of my eyes like they want to turn somewhat upward and inward which creates some tension and that may be contributing to the feeling of pressure in the forehead.

Also @ Collective,
Hi, I also use the technique of paying attention to "everything" that is going on. After I have been focusing on just the breath for a while to get concentration going, I then continue paying attention to each breath while also expanding my awareness to the whole body, letting it relax, and observing any sensations. If I start to "wander" and get sleepy, I pay attention to whatever sounds occur and that makes me alert again, more than anything else. It also works well when there are some distracting sounds like dogs barking, to focus specifically on those sounds, then it helps you concentrate instead of disturbing your concentration. :smile:

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EricJ
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby EricJ » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:23 am

Hello folks. :D

After a discussion with one member of this forum, I recently switched from exclusive focus on the breath as sensed within the nostrils to a more holistic focus on the inner sensation of my body, including the breath. I start by intently focusing on my breath at the nostril and then expand to include my body, including the breath. I focus on how my body feels on the inside (so the feeling is kind of 'shaped' like my body). Eventually, I start to feel as if my body is breathing and I focus on this as well. When I inhale, I feel a slight bodily expansion, and when I exhale a contraction occurs.

This practice has been very fruitful for me. Like the OP, I feel much more open, aware, concentrated, and mindful. I can sit for longer periods of time, because I become concentrated and time seems to go by more quickly. Additionally, I become concentrated much earlier in my session. I have moments (during and after each session) where sense-based actions feel somewhat depersonalized. I also have a variety of sensations I'd like to run across some of the more experienced samatha practitioners in this discussion. I feel subtle tingling sensations within my body (especially my face). Certain parts of my body seem to lose sensation or 'disappear' as sensory experiences, and this is especially so within my face and hands. Like other meditators, I have a forehead sensation although the way I would describe it seems somewhat different from other descriptions that I have seen. For me, the sensation is a kind of tingling. It feels cool (temperature-wise). It arises and persists for a while, and then falls if I change my focus (away from the holistic breath-body feeling). Sometimes, the sensation arises or persists outside of meditation by my merely focusing on the spot where it normally occurs or by paying attention to my breath.

I tend to associate this breath-body awareness, as described by the OP/other posters and myself, with the "breathing in sensitive to the body/calming bodily fabrications" aspect of the Anapanasati Sutta method. It seems to me, based on what I have been experiencing recently and on what others have to say, that the sutta's method is less consecutive and layered (focus on this, then switch focus to another object) and more a process of subsuming. So, I think of this method as less about 'not observing the breath' and more about observing that the breath (as a sensory process) is more than just a stream of air. I think of nesting dolls. You have one sensation which contains or enters in to another sensation, all of which are part of one process culminating in complete, unhindered, undifferentiated awareness of body and breath (the large outer doll). Hopefully, I'll get to the outer doll in time. :D

Regards,
Eric
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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Collective
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Collective » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:59 am

Very interestng replies, thank you everyone!

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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:33 am

That all sounds very familiar to me, EricJ. Losing awareness of extremities of the body is something that can happen as the attention settles internally, I think. A little firmer mindfulness is enough to prevent that, if you want. I understand exactly what you mean by the "cool" sensation in the head and the vibrational tingly sort of sensation, which seems to occur as a result of focused concentration on the body/breath, as you've noticed. It's rather soothing, isn't it? That oh-so-hard to describe sensation, I have found, will eventually fill the whole body with a little nudging as concentration is maintained, and results in a very calm and unhindered place of concentration, well unified within the body.

As concentration is continued, this unified calm can mature in a way that I think is well described by a passage from the Sanaññaphala sutta: "Seeing that they (the hindrances) have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad. Glad, he becomes enraptured. Enraptured, his body grows tranquil. His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated." That place of calm unified attention is naturally nourishing and relieving to the mind, and this sense of calm and upliftedness naturally folds over into gladness and that whole string of factors unfolds, one on top of the other, as in your comparison to a matryoshka doll. And as concentration is maintained these very same factors mutually strengthen each other, and with a little proper manipulation of attention and intention (what you might call vitakka and vicara), lead into what is called jhana by some suttantika interpretations. All the junk of this last paragraph really progresses quite naturally as you keep meditating. What personally helped very much for me to start the process rolling into some good concentration was to learn to fill the body entirely with those distinct sensations that arise as a result of the preliminary concentration.

Just some suggestions. Has proved to be a worthwhile direction to go, personally. The fact that it is a pleasant meditation is a minor benefit in comparison to the increase in mindfulness and sharpness that comes from it. There are other ways to develop mindfulness and concentration, but I think this is a good one. :meditate:

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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:40 am


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EricJ
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby EricJ » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:19 am

I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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EricJ
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby EricJ » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:30 am

I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

Reductor
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:05 am

Hi Eric,

It may not be pertinent to you, actually. I have noticed that when feelings are really good and things are going well there is slight tendency to maintain a certain rate of breathing. The breathing feels so good, you see, that you unknowingly prevent it from becoming even calmer and more refined.

You're interfering with it ever so slightly that body and mind don't become as tranquil as they could be. At times I catch myself, let go and it becomes deeper, calmer.

But that is my own experience, which may not extend to yourself. All in all though, it sounds like all is going well for you, to say the least.

Kenshou
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:45 am


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EricJ
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby EricJ » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:33 am

I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:35 am

meditation is fun. the mind and its hindrances and fabrications never cease to amaze me.

when i practiced zen, sitting there eyes open facing a wall not focusing on anything, i never really had any problems with thoughts popping up etc. but sometimes when practicing now eyes closed focusing on just one thing, I'll get like waves of thoughts, every so often to much to handle like in a crowded room. it's like the mind just refuses to settle down or maybe those thoughts just need out , i dont know. so sometimes, I'll just open my eyes and sit. just be aware. let it all go.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

Reductor
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:43 am

Thanks, Kenshou, for another lucid post.

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Collective
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Collective » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:34 am

Another thing I realised is when I focus on the breath, I'm not fully aware of my surroundings.

The breath is all encompassing, enveloping - not sure if this is good or bad.

They say staying with the breath is being in the moment, but my awarenss of the environment seems very hazy, distant, unreal, restricted.

This is not to say I don't sense anything. I'm not sleepy, or fuzzy minded, I actually sense everything. I can hear, feel, smell, taste etc, but these perceptions seem very unsubstantial, almost dreamlike. It got to the point where I was thinking, what's the point of being in the moment (with the breath), if I'm oblivious to my surroundings (restricted awareness).

Was I focusing on the breath incorrectly?

Either way this new 'technique' of being more aware of everything and not one thing exclusively (breath) seems to have sharpened my awareness a lot.

Any thoughts?

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:45 am

it depends on what you're after, you'd want it all to go away if you're going for one pointed concentration, but if you're after insight meditation you'd not want it all to go away, you'd just use the breath as an anchor.

who are you learning meditation from btw?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Collective
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Re: Not Observing Breath

Postby Collective » Sat Jul 17, 2010 11:37 am

Learning from books.

Currently: Mindfulness in Plain English by Gunaratana. Vipassana.

But he teaches to focus on the breath


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