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Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth

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Finally discovering some things with sitting meditation, which post-discovery I realize were in MCTB.

Namely, that it's important to keep the attention on the object smooth and continuous, rather than prioritizing the object itself.
Where my attention tends to lose continuity is the point the exhale turns to the inhale (focusing in the nostrils)... does anyone have advice for this.

Then, my main question:
How to keep attention smooth for walking? Do you switch concentration to whichever foot is contacting the ground? 
This is what I've been doing, switching concentration to the other foot the moment the heel contacts the ground, but I haven't quite gotten to the concentration I have with sitting/breathing.

No clue about walking meditation, but as for breathing I pay attention to the nostrils and don't follow the breath. The breath changes, starts, proceeds, stops, and starts again. That can make it hard to follow with sustained attention. I do feel the breath cross the nostrils, but I don't follow it. As attention stabilizes and concentration deepens one useful way to think of the nimitta is as something stable and perceptible on which to rest attention. 

I use mahasi noting, and if I focus on the breath and there are moments when there is no breath to feel, then I focus on the sensations of sitting until the breath sensations arise again.

Concerning walking: yes.

RE: Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth
Answer
1/16/19 6:38 PM as a reply to John W Heron.
Thanks for your reply John,
What's the difference between the sensation of breath passing the nostrils and just the nostrils?
If you don't follow the sensation of warmth/coolness on the nostrils (that's what I call the breath), then what are you concentrating on?
I.E. where are the nostrils if there's no cool/warm sensation to point them out? For me this would be like concentrating on my pancreas.

RE: Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth
Answer
1/16/19 6:41 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thanks Linda.
So you switch the object of attention from breath to sitting, and from left foot to right foot.
For me the switching seems to contradict the very definition of constant attention, but I also feel there's something to what your saying. Is it fairly easy for you to reach access concentration with this switching attention?

Jack:
Thanks Linda.
So you switch the object of attention from breath to sitting, and from left foot to right foot.
For me the switching seems to contradict the very definition of constant attention, but I also feel there's something to what your saying. Is it fairly easy for you to reach access concentration with this switching attention?


Just so you know, I’m probably one of the least experienced meditators at this forum, so if others say that I’m wrong about something, then they are probably right. Having said that, I’ll do my best to answer.

I don’t believe that constant attention exists. It seems more like attention arises anew over and over. In some exercises the focus is very narrow, and then everything outside that area is merely a distraction, because the point of the exercise is to train the mind to bring attention only to what is within that narrow focus. If you do that, you will still find that attention shifts between very specific points within that area, or arises and passes on a number of specific points, one at a time. Then the mind constructs this as a continuous experience.

In other exercises, the point is to be mindful of whatever arises and passes. If there is no breath sensations to be mindful about, other sensations are still there. It seems to me that the alternatives are either being mindful of what is actually there or losing mindfulness. The venerable Mahasi Sayyadaw (I’m not sure about expressing these credentials correctly, still learning) recommends in his book Practical Insight Meditation that if there is a break between inbreath and outbreath, one should note sitting and really take in all the sensations of sitting. This morning I was listening to a podcast (”Deconstructing yourself” by Michael Taft) where Culadasa said that as he saw it, Mahasi noting cultivates the ability to increase a broader awareness (I think Culadasa makes a distinction between direct attention and awareness that is more peripheral but can be cultivated to be more clear and mindful; I’m not sure that I’m using the terminology correctly, though) even though that is not explicitly explained.

If I had understood it correctly, Daniel says that there are stages where a more narrow focus is very useful, and that’s in the beginning. Later on, it is more useful to have a broader focus. Thus, focusing very narrowly on your breath sensations in a small area of your body is a great idea for some purposes, and in those exercises I don’t know if switching your attention to sitting is helpful. Maybe it isn’t. I’m not qualified to say. But my perception is that it helps me to stay mindful at the stage where I am now, wherever that is. And according to the method of Mahasi noting, it’s not wrong. And you can always redirect your attention to breath sensations as soon as they arise. Shinzen Young talks a lot about how this redirecting back to the focus object is an important part of the work, because it strengthens those pathways in the brain. In redirecting your attention back to for instance the breath, you are training your brain to stay focused.

I would say that is is fairly easy to reach access concentration with this switching of attention, yes. It keeps my brain from dropping into a dull state. It is a different kind of concentration than what is cultivated in concentration practice, though.

I think that if I were to focus on just one foot, there would still be a shift of attention, because the sensations are not permanent. They wouldn’t be even if I kept my foot still.

When it comes to walking, I sometimes add layers to the noting, depending on what kind of focus seems to be most accessable for me at that time. I may note the breath sensations in the abdomen as ”rising” and ”falling” and then add ”walking” each time a foot hits the ground while still keeping the breath sensations in awareness. If I’m able to, I may then add another layer of notings while still remaining aware of both the breath sensations and the walking. That’s not for detailed investigation, though. Frankly, I don’t know whether or not this is a good way of doing it. I do know that when I have done it, I have been more mindful about the traffic than otherwise. I have an attention deficit, and people who get to know me well very soon develop a reflex to grab hold of me in case I’m about to walk out on the street in front of a car. I sincerely hope that my meditative practice will take away the need for that, and it does seem possible.

RE: Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth
Answer
1/18/19 11:33 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Oh I see. My question is geared towards how to make awareness of walking smooth for concentration/samatha meditation.
I'm sure it would be great for noting/insight like you do. I'm focusing on upping my concentration first, but I'll give that a go sometime.
If anyone uses walking as an object of concentration, is there anyway to help make it seem smooth/continuous?

RE: Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth
Answer
1/18/19 11:34 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Oops, I didn't see your first longer post before replying. Interersting thoughts, thanks.

Yes, I'm in that beginning stage you mentioned where narrow focus is useful.
I've tried vipassana before, but I'd like to make my goal the 1st jhana before really going into noting.

Ah. Right. Then my advice may have been wrong for you, because that is Vipassana. Have you read Culadasa’s The mind illuminated? I haven’t read it yet, but lately I have listened to some youtube videos with Culadasa, and it seems to me like his teaching would be helpful to you as he puts emphasis on attaining the right concentration.

I’m starting to think that my need to shift focus is likely due to poor concentration skills, and maybe I need to work more on my access concentration.

RE: Walking and breathing: Best tips for making it continuous/smooth
Answer
1/19/19 9:51 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thanks, I'll definitely check that book out.