Breath meditation vs space meditation

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
Schuberty
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Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Schuberty »

I can’t for the life of me meditate using my breath as an object. The breath starts putting on an act, it becomes too shallow, i don’t notice it, or i start puffing like a bull, and all the naturalness goes out of my sitting practice. I find the practice narrow. I’ve sat for about a year now, a few minutes everyday, and i’ve naturally avoided focusing on my breath.

I’m better able to focus on an image and listen to sound, be aware of my body, the sensation, and the environment. A calm and clear mind seems like a far fetched idea to me and i wonder if it’s because I didn’t begin properly, i.e. by working with my breath? Because I’ve read it’s the standard practice for beginners. But i do get small insights now and then while sitting.

So, can i avoid the practice of breath meditation for the rest of my life? Also there’s a constant inquiry while sitting, who’s breathing? Seeing? Feeling? Hearing? I heard it’s Vipassana. Can i do Vipassana without getting a hold on Samatha first?

I’ve been listening to YMR’s teaching on YT. He talks a lot about awareness of awareness. He talks about being aware of the space in your room first, and then your surrounding, the valley, the world, universes…
Bingo! my kind of practice! I’ve always enjoyed looking at the sky and found certain freedom and expansion while doing so. I’m able to sit for a still longer period of time just being aware of the space around me.

But i heard it’s an advanced practice (Dzogchen)? So can i practice space awareness without having calmed my mind first?

As I said before, a 24 hours “clean clear” mind seems like a myth to me. Because I don’t trust myself in my ability, hence I don’t believe i can transform my self? Is it my own lack of self belief that’s making me come up short in my sitting practice? I suffer from many neurosis, one being that i’m hard on myself and i’ve self destructive habits.

To many questions , please help this confused being 🙏
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Tao »

>I can’t for the life of me meditate using my breath as an object. The breath starts putting on an act, it becomes too shallow, i don’t notice it, or i start puffing like a bull, and all the naturalness goes out of my sitting practice. I find the practice narrow. I’ve sat for about a year now, a few minutes everyday, and i’ve naturally avoided focusing on my breath.
>So, can i avoid the practice of breath meditation for the rest of my life?

Should you avoid the problem? You have a problem here. that's not usual or right, you have a problem but unfortunalty from here I cannot help much.

But I think you shouldnt avoid or ignore the problem but looking for help and fix it.

Anyway, answering:

Can you avoid meditatinf of breath for life? Yes I think you can. There're usuful alternatives.

>I’m better able to focus on an image and listen to sound, be aware of my body, the sensation, and the environment. A calm and clear mind seems like a far fetched idea to me and i wonder if it’s because I didn’t begin properly, i.e. by working with my breath?

I think it's that the same problem with breath arises when you meditate on another object and brings a nervous mind. Not because you didnt meditate on breath but because of the same problem in a lesser degree. But just guessing.

>Also there’s a constant inquiry while sitting, who’s breathing? Seeing? Feeling? Hearing? I heard it’s Vipassana. Can i do Vipassana without getting a hold on Samatha first?

Yes, that's some kind of informal vipassana. You can do it without samatha. But who is breathing? looks a lot like a Vedanta self-inquiry to me, there're no Who's in Buddhism,

> He talks a lot about awareness of awareness. He talks about being aware of the space in your room first, and then your surrounding, the valley, the world, universes…

They're two different things, being aware of being aware is just "being present and conscious of it", no object at all, a bit difficult at the beginning. Like "only being there attentive".

Being aware of the space on your room or other places is a different practice. Difficult at the beginning too.

> But i heard it’s an advanced practice (Dzogchen)? So can i practice space awareness without having calmed my mind first?

You cannot. Your mind is calm or either you are not meditating, I dont know what are you doing, sorry... Are you trying to say that you can be nervous and not calm but stay looking at space and being attentive to it without losing your focus and not moving for, lets say 20minutes? It will be strange that you can do that if you are nervous...

>a 24 hours “clean clear” mind seems like a myth to me.

Maybe your expectations are too high here, you wont have a clear mind 24 hours initially. Maybe for years. For now try see if you can meditate and be calm for 20 minutes. But it's not a myth, of course.

>I suffer from many neurosis, one being that i’m hard on myself and i’ve self destructive habits.

Probably you should fix that before... that's is what probably is preventing your meditation.

I'm very exceptical of using meditation to fix or avoid that kind of problems, and on the opposite I think that fixing o reducing them is a pre-requisite for meditating (if they're intense).

But dont know for sure, of course...

Hope it helps!
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Schuberty wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:58 am I can’t for the life of me meditate using my breath as an object.
The point of breath awareness isn’t to perfect watching the breath. It’s to minimize distractions.
It’s a tool. Anything can be that tool. Breath is always with us, so it’s the preferred tool. A candle, for example, isn’t always available. Chanting is good, but maybe not always convenient. Otherwise, whatever works is fine.

You can even minimize distraction by meditating on the word, “distraction” over and over again!

Breath awareness is still a distraction, but it’s just one distraction, instead of many distractions.

Mingyur Rinpoche used the familiar analogy of ‘monkey mind’ which means that our minds are always jumping from one thing to another, like a restless monkey. He said that breathing meditation gives the monkey something to do… just one thing to keep it occupied. But it’s still a distraction, and the point, as I said, isn’t to become a master breath watcher. The point of (shamatha) meditation is to allow your mind to rest in awareness without ‘moving’. To just “be aware” of all objects of awareness: your surroundings, your body, outside, inside, space, light, whatever there is, to just allow the mind to rest in that awareness. Just raw awareness of the immediate “now” without fabrication, intellectualization, or making preferences.

Actually, as long as you can return to your one pointed focus awareness, practically any moment can be meditation practice, because everything is a distraction anyway. What that means is, any time during your busy day, as soon as you remember to return to your object of focus (breath or whatever) you are practicing meditation, if even for only a few seconds. It doesn’t mean that you are engaged in deep meditation for a few seconds, but you are still keeping the practice of returning the mind to your one-pointed focus. The more you can do that, the better your formal sitting meditation will be later.

What you describe as issues with breath meditation can also happen when a person is meditating with expectations and what one might call ‘meditation goals’ which can include trying to reach some kind of mental state or repeat some experience of tranquility that one had before. Then breath meditation becomes a struggle, like trying to open a pickle jar in order to get the pickles. It becomes forced. But you don’t need to do that, and you shouldn’t try to do that. The mind’s original nature is already calmness. The practice of meditation is to simply allow the mind to return to that original calmness. You can’t impose calmness on it.

All this fear of failing, wanting perfection, this sounds like what you are dealing with. Just let go of that baggage and don’t worry about it.

Whatever method works for you is what works for you. Go with that. But I’m not so sure that I would give up on breath meditation just yet. It’s just a tool. But you may not be using that tool correctly.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Breath is one object you can use, among many. Usually shamatha without an object follows shamatha with one. So, you could try using a visual object. I think everyone is a little different though, I took to shamatha without an object quickly too, and breath focus alway revved me up.

Expectation of a calm mind quickly is probably not realistic though, in most accounts of shamatha one of the first things that happens is that we notice just how chaotic our minds actually are. Ultimately that’s a good thing, but it’s a shock.

Also on breath meditation specifically, having the right teachings helped me. It is a somatic practice, not some laser focus on a abstract “breath”.
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Queequeg
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Queequeg »

Agree with the above about the necessity of taking breath as an object - its not necessary, and many other objects are perfectly suitable, too.

I find that breath is a good object precisely because breathing is so intimate and it tends to track with my mind - if I'm agitated, my breath is agitated; if I'm calm, my breath is calm. Also the fact that breathing can be both voluntary and involuntary is practical. If my mind is agitated, I can regulate it by regulating my breath.

As for the breath acting up - that's actually integrated into the mindfulness of breathing practice - there are 16 factors we can be aware of in the breath according to the Anapanasati Sutta:
"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.
One of the methods I've studied and practiced, there comes a point where the mind becomes relaxed and subtle to the point that following the breath as above comes to feel coarse; the mind is so relaxed that following the breath feels jarring. At that point, one can relinquish following the breath and settle into the stability of that subtle level of mind - its a samadhi. When this is really mastered, I understand the breath actually slows to the point it appears that respiration stops and one breathes through the skin. When the mind is relaxed and single pointed, one can begin to really examine the mind. I've been taught that's where one can begin a Madhyamaka analysis of the mind, and then, having seen emptiness, increasingly settle into the purity of the mind, all the way to bodhi.

So I'm told.
You said, "Do you believe what you're sayin'?"
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anjali
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by anjali »

Following up on Queequeg's comment on the Anapanasati Sutta. Here is a useful short talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on The First 8 Exercises of Mindful Breathing in that Sutta.
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oryoki
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by oryoki »

It is recommended in Zen (as I was initially taught) to learn to count your breath first. You count the exhalations only, from one to ten, and again starting from one. If you loose the count, you simply start from one again. This simple concentration method helps to subdue the monkey mind, if practiced honestly and diligently.
You do not concentrate on sensation of breath. To maintain concentration on the sensation of breath is quite difficult, because it is an “external” phenomenon belonging to the 5 senses, while the thinking monkey mind (6th sense) is left to roam in the background unchecked. It is like driving a car where your attention is seemingly on the road, while your monkey mind is swearing at some inconsiderate drivers or ruminating about what happened yesterday at work, etc. In other words, your attention and your thoughts habitually divide.

In the section on Mahamudra in the book Tibetan Yoga And Secret Doctrines edited by W.Y. Evans-Wentz it says:

[THE FINAL STATE OF QUIESCENCE]
(72) This [condition] hath been designated as the final state of quiescence, and likened [in its calmness] to an ocean without a wave.
(73) Although while thus quiescent there is cognition of the [mental] motion [of thoughts arising and vanishing], nevertheless, the mind having attained its own condition of rest or calmness and being indifferent to the motion, the state, is called 'The state wherein falleth the partition separating motion from rest'.
(74) Thereby one realizeth one-pointedness of mind.


This is the state of Samatha the Mahamudra practice initially aims for before it engages in Vipassana.

In other words: In the initial Samatha (mind calmness/quiescence) the mind is aware automatically of thoughts arising and vanishing, because with every thought, there arises effortlessly and instantly gentle attention co-emergent with every thought arisen. Thus every thought effortlessly brings its own demise, because as soon as it is noticed by the automatically functioning attention, that thought then self-liberates into the mental quiescence. There is no need, therefore, to engage in some effort to get rid of thoughts or to prevent them from arising in order to maintain the state of Samatha (mind calmness/quiescence).

In other words: if a thought arises (THIS) then the attention effortlessly arises (THAT). This is basic mental conditioning (If THIS arises THAT arises) which has to be trained, otherwise the thoughts will sneak up on you always in the background. So you have to work initially with thoughts; you have to declare them your friendly enemy. This is done initially in Zen by “counting the breath” practice.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

When the mind is agitated,
Look at the agitated mind and use awareness of that as the focus.
Original calm mind observing agitated mind.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Queequeg »

oryoki wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 8:37 pm It is recommended in Zen (as I was initially taught) to learn to count your breath first. You count the exhalations only, from one to ten, and again starting from one. If you loose the count, you simply start from one again. This simple concentration method helps to subdue the monkey mind, if practiced honestly and diligently.
You do not concentrate on sensation of breath. To maintain concentration on the sensation of breath is quite difficult, because it is an “external” phenomenon belonging to the 5 senses, while the thinking monkey mind (6th sense) is left to roam in the background unchecked. It is like driving a car where your attention is seemingly on the road, while your monkey mind is swearing at some inconsiderate drivers or ruminating about what happened yesterday at work, etc. In other words, your attention and your thoughts habitually divide.
I've been told, but have not personally confirmed, that Buddha did not teach counting. That's not to object to the teaching - just an interesting observation, I thought.

I've been taught that indeed counting is a good preliminary practice precisely because its at a rather coarse level of the mind - very close to our ordinary engagement with the world. The breath is in effect just a convenient object that occurs rhythmically and can be counted. The fact that counting can easily evolve into breath following practice I think is a positive.
You said, "Do you believe what you're sayin'?"
Yeah, right now, but not that often.

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Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Archie2009 »

Schuberty wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:58 am As I said before, a 24 hours “clean clear” mind seems like a myth to me. Because I don’t trust myself in my ability, hence I don’t believe i can transform my self? Is it my own lack of self belief that’s making me come up short in my sitting practice? I suffer from many neurosis, one being that i’m hard on myself and i’ve self destructive habits.

To many questions , please help this confused being 🙏
Please be kind to yourself, always. Relax. Let go of all expectations. Try not to fabricate any experiences either. Meditation is not a competition, so don't enter into one with yourself either. Whatever happens happens, there's no coming up short in a sitting session. And your experiences will change from session to session. Remember to be kind to yourself.
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Queequeg
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Queequeg »

:good:
You said, "Do you believe what you're sayin'?"
Yeah, right now, but not that often.

-Modest Mouse

Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by oryoki »

Queequeg wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 10:52 pm
oryoki wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 8:37 pm It is recommended in Zen (as I was initially taught) to learn to count your breath first. You count the exhalations only, from one to ten, and again starting from one. If you loose the count, you simply start from one again. This simple concentration method helps to subdue the monkey mind, if practiced honestly and diligently.
You do not concentrate on sensation of breath. To maintain concentration on the sensation of breath is quite difficult, because it is an “external” phenomenon belonging to the 5 senses, while the thinking monkey mind (6th sense) is left to roam in the background unchecked. It is like driving a car where your attention is seemingly on the road, while your monkey mind is swearing at some inconsiderate drivers or ruminating about what happened yesterday at work, etc. In other words, your attention and your thoughts habitually divide.
I've been told, but have not personally confirmed, that Buddha did not teach counting. That's not to object to the teaching - just an interesting observation, I thought.

I've been taught that indeed counting is a good preliminary practice precisely because its at a rather coarse level of the mind - very close to our ordinary engagement with the world. The breath is in effect just a convenient object that occurs rhythmically and can be counted. The fact that counting can easily evolve into breath following practice I think is a positive.
IMO Buddha taught mindfulness. Following just breath is ignoring the monkey mind in the background. Mindfulness/concentration practice should include also the mindfulness of the 6th sense.

Moreover, the thinking process is linked to breathing. When we do really pay attention then the breathing stops. (This is clearly noticeable when scuba diving, as I experienced when learning to scuba dive.) It is therefore important to free the ability to pay attention from its dependence on breath. That is why Zen tends to teach also a special “belly breathing” technique. Indeed, the Mahamudra text also mentions this as follows:

(44) In virtue of these practices, that thing called mind, - so difficult to control, because of its inability normally to function apart from the breathing-process which causeth it to shift constantly from one thought to another, - is disciplined, and becometh freed from this dependence on the breath.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Kim O'Hara »

oryoki wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 9:03 am ... [1] When we do really pay attention then the breathing stops.[2] (This is clearly noticeable when scuba diving, as I experienced when learning to scuba dive.) [3] It is therefore important to free the ability to pay attention from its dependence on breath. [4] That is why Zen tends to teach also a special “belly breathing” technique. ... ([numbers] added)
All sorts of things are being mixed together here, and I think it's helpful to keep them separate.
[1] not for long, or you die.
[2] breathing for diving has to be light, in spite of the exertion, and may briefly stop intermittently. It has nothing to do with meditation.
[3] Yes. However, for most of us, there is no such dependence.
[4] "Belly breathing" is not unique to Zen but is taught right across yoga and in such unrelated areas as playing wind instruments.

Getting back to core business: used intelligently, the breath can be a very useful tool.

:meditate:
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Queequeg »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 9:27 am [1] not for long, or you die.
I've heard stories of people who basically seem to enter a hibernation mode where the breathing becomes extremely subtle and slow, and even the heart rate slows dramatically. Its not out of the question this is possible because many animals that hibernate do it - bears slow to two or three breaths a minute and 2-3 bpm.
[4] "Belly breathing" is not unique to Zen but is taught right across yoga and in such unrelated areas as playing wind instruments.
I've found that teaching of breathing techniques are pretty uniform across traditions. Probably because our mind/body systems are similar and these methods work.

Frankly, while the deliveries are different, to an extent, in terms of the practical, basic instructions, I think they're all teaching basically the same thing - "these are effective breathing methods". What is observed down inside a deep meditative state, whether there is a self to be found or only emptiness, or any number of various shades of description, those are frames of interpretation, post facto, IMO. We have our partialities, but at least for the stage of practice I'm at, I've lost patience for the triumphalist rhetoric that gets inserted. "We know best; those others are mistaken/shallow/incomplete/blah blah blah." Maybe I'll come around to agreeing with some of them someday, but for now, its just annoying to have t filter that stuff out. These days, I just want to see people's notes and I try to ignore the biases as much as possible. I want to know what works, and I want to see what people more experienced than me have to say in term of advice on inducing deep states and what they take away from what can be found when we go diving in.
You said, "Do you believe what you're sayin'?"
Yeah, right now, but not that often.

-Modest Mouse

Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 1:38 pm
Kim O'Hara wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 9:27 am [1] not for long, or you die.
I've heard stories of people who basically seem to enter a hibernation mode where the breathing becomes extremely subtle and slow, and even the heart rate slows dramatically. Its not out of the question this is possible because many animals that hibernate do it - bears slow to two or three breaths a minute and 2-3 bpm.
I was keeping it simple, of course, and perhaps over-simplifying. I've heard such stories, too, although I'm not sure that likening the process to hibernation is physiologically accurate (the time-scales are too different). I've experienced such states myself, briefly, during periods of complete physical and mental relaxation: basic metabolism and some brain activity continue but nothing else, and oxygen demand drops accordingly. Not to zero for any length of time, though, or you do die.
[4] "Belly breathing" is not unique to Zen but is taught right across yoga and in such unrelated areas as playing wind instruments.
I've found that teaching of breathing techniques are pretty uniform across traditions. Probably because our mind/body systems are similar and these methods work.

Frankly, while the deliveries are different, to an extent, in terms of the practical, basic instructions, I think they're all teaching basically the same thing - "these are effective breathing methods". What is observed down inside a deep meditative state, whether there is a self to be found or only emptiness, or any number of various shades of description, those are frames of interpretation, post facto, IMO. We have our partialities, but at least for the stage of practice I'm at, I've lost patience for the triumphalist rhetoric that gets inserted. "We know best; those others are mistaken/shallow/incomplete/blah blah blah." Maybe I'll come around to agreeing with some of them someday, but for now, its just annoying to have t filter that stuff out. These days, I just want to see people's notes and I try to ignore the biases as much as possible. I want to know what works, and I want to see what people more experienced than me have to say in term of advice on inducing deep states and what they take away from what can be found when we go diving in.
Agreed.

:namaste:
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Schuberty wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:58 am I can’t for the life of me meditate using my breath as an object. The breath starts putting on an act, it becomes too shallow, i don’t notice it, or i start puffing like a bull, and all the naturalness goes out of my sitting practice. I find the practice narrow. I’ve sat for about a year now, a few minutes everyday, and i’ve naturally avoided focusing on my breath.
Over time this will improve. A few minutes a day isn’t very long. If you keep adding minutes then soon meditation for an hour at a time will be easy, and very beneficial.
“Watching” the breath doesn’t necessarily mean intense focus, like a cat watching a mouse hole, ready to pounce.
It should be more like when you boil something in water, keeping an eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over the top. It doesn’t mean that you have to stand in front of the stove and stare at the water.

When in meditation, just be aware. Your ears are aware, your eyes are aware, you are aware of your body and posture, and in the back of your mind, you are paying attention on your breathing just as you would a pot of boiling water.

It shouldn’t be a big deal.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Archie2009 »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 1:39 pm
Schuberty wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:58 am I can’t for the life of me meditate using my breath as an object. The breath starts putting on an act, it becomes too shallow, i don’t notice it, or i start puffing like a bull, and all the naturalness goes out of my sitting practice. I find the practice narrow. I’ve sat for about a year now, a few minutes everyday, and i’ve naturally avoided focusing on my breath.
Over time this will improve. A few minutes a day isn’t very long. If you keep adding minutes then soon meditation for an hour at a time will be easy, and very beneficial.
“Watching” the breath doesn’t necessarily mean intense focus, like a cat watching a mouse hole, ready to pounce.
It should be more like when you boil something in water, keeping an eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over the top. It doesn’t mean that you have to stand in front of the stove and stare at the water.

When in meditation, just be aware. Your ears are aware, your eyes are aware, you are aware of your body and posture, and in the back of your mind, you are paying attention on your breathing just as you would a pot of boiling water.

It shouldn’t be a big deal.
A (recorded) guided meditation might be useful in overcoming some obstacles with breath meditation.
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by seeker242 »

Schuberty wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:58 am I find the practice narrow. I’ve sat for about a year now, a few minutes everyday, and i’ve naturally avoided focusing on my breath.
It’s supposed to be narrow as it’s one single object. Buddhist meditation isn’t just for relaxing, it’s for training the mind to be able to direct the mind‘s attention appropriately. Focusing on the breath allows one to gain the skill necessary to be able to direct the minds attention and then when you have that skill you direct your attention to appropriate matters. If you don’t have that skill then you cannot really do vipassana or insight meditation most effectively. You can’t just skip over training the ability to direct the mind‘s attention.

As for calming, calming the mind with the breath takes practice and to be honest a couple minutes a day is not nearly enough time, not really even close. Heck, even for experienced people it could sometimes take 15-20 minutes to calm.
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

There are definitely methods to stabilize attention without an object. They usually come after object focused meditation of course. Focus on breath is not a requirement, just a common practice.

Schuberty I don’t know if you’ve ever followed B. Allan Wallace’s teachings but he has some of the best advice on shamatha meditation I have encountered. He is one of two teachers I’ve encountered who teach practices of “following the breath” in a way where it finally worked for me. I use breath focus and counting sometimes when I get distracted or dull in the objectless meditation, then gradually drop them, rinse, repeat.

I think he may have some free shamatha teachings on Wisdom Experience.

Personally I do not experience consistent clarity for something like 24 hours normally, only on retreat and the like. I think it really depends on a person’s advancement in their practice whether they can sustain that or not in day to day life. I can’t and my mind is quite wild, which is why I practice shamatha…it has worldly benefits too, and personally I need it.

It’s no really mystery though, if you can maintain it during formal practice, you learn to maintain it with more mental events, physical events and sensations, etc.

Btw the practice you’re doing is not Dzogchen, it is used in Dzogchen pedagogy sometimes but it is a form of shamatha. It is more “advanced” in that people usually learn the object based forms first, but it can be found all over Tibetan Buddhism, not just Dzogchen.

It’s been my experience that people who are sort of higher energy or more neurotic (I’m one so no dig) don’t do that well meditation focused on concentration or one pointedness, so we have to come from another direction.

Ymmv, just my experience of course.
Don’t you see what’s wrong with the world today? Oh Everybody wants somebody to be their own piece of clay.

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Re: Breath meditation vs space meditation

Post by anagarika »

Many good suggestions have already been made, I´ll just add two points:

1) Ironically, the most difficult part is the "letting go" (vossaga in Pali) aspect of the breath meditation. Many practitioners, including myself in the past, seem to make the mistake of chasing a specific technique that will grant them some super-dooper samadhi by itself. Ajahn Brahmali once quoted a Thai forest monk who described his anapanasati "technique" as follows: "Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I relax." I guess this is really bang-on, this is what "vossaga" should really mean. The very mindset of trying to get tranquility seems to block the experience. It´s hard to put it into words, but the idea is to let go of everything in the world except for the breath. This doesn´t mean that your mind goes immediately blank - there might be thoughts or sense impressions coming in, but they´re not yours, you don´t go out to grasp them. I find that serenity happens when you let go of even of the idea of "creating" serenity. It seems to me that the most peaceful mind is the mind which doesn´t actually care if it is peaceful in the first place.

2) As some posters already suggested, anapanasati is not cumpolsary. Yes, it is probably the most widely taught method, it seems very universal, the Buddha himself praised it, it is very conducive to jhanas, but there are many ways. I have recently watched an online retreat by Ajahn Sona on the kasinas. Since I have myself been sometimes struggling with the breath meditation, I decided to give the kasinas a try (I went for the blue colour). I was amazed how well my mind responded from the very first session! Since I´m a visual person, I would sometimes let myself be distracted through visual imagery during anapasati. The colour kasina helped me to harness my visual predispositions and turn them from a hindrance to the meditation object itself. And guess what, this took a lot of pressure off my anapanasati practice - after some time, when I sat down to meditate, I noticed my mind spontaneously wanted to do anapanasati! And it was much more natural, much more vossaga-oriented. In fact, you should have more meditation objects from the very beginning - something like metta, recollections (the Buddha, devas, ...) or the analytical meditations (asubha). Doing anapanasati only and expecting "clear mind 24/7" can be certainly frustrating.
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