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Suddenly more difficult

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Suddenly more difficult
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3/24/19 4:10 AM
I have been practicing meditation daily since September 2017, exploring various style. I decided to commit to shamatha, but also exploring other stuff at the same time.

My daily practice now is 45 min of 10 point practice(Reggie Ray, somatic meditation) upon waking up, then usually 2 or 3 shorter 7-10 minutes of shamatha at work.

When I get home I usually do 60 minutes of shamatha.
I've found out that I enjoy the longer session more than the shorter ones cause I go through "phases" where my previous conceptual attempt at focusing relaxes down. Sometimes different phenomena occur, like an expanded energetic awareness spreading our through the room, going into trance-like states, feeling like I've been present but asleep and spontaneous movements.

My usual meditation is struggle. But I've gotten the insight(?) that struggle is actually what is preventing me from meditating. I had a few big aha's a month ago where I drank a few beers while meditating. I experienced my conceptual mind going from "focus on the tip of the nose. Shit. Back again. Focus" to calming down and realizing that the agressive attitude of trying/doing is the struggle. My head got less airy and my body got more filled up, while I got into a relaxed but present state.

My point of focus is the entrance of the nose and my focus is on the sensations of the breath. I easily get distracted by other more prominent sensations of pain. I also notice that I breath in a certain way to make the felt sensations more available or stronger.
At certain points during the meditation its just nothing, and when I try to focus I get thrown into more gross feelings.

Any tips? Right now it feels like I am at a transitory phase, maybe from more gross to subtle experiences?

RE: Suddenly more difficult
Answer
3/24/19 7:24 AM as a reply to Bob No No.
Have you read MTCB (or MTCB2)? You seem to be in the territory of second nana (seeing cause and effect). It can be a frustrating nana.  When you see that the "struggle is preventing you meditating", and that you "notice breathing in a certain way to make the felt sensations more available and stronger", that's noticing causal relationships in your mind and body. 

What really helped me in this stage was the realization that the mind-control (e.g. over the breath) and the "sense of struggling" are just more objects/experiences to observe/note, with no more or less value than the breath sensations.

Going from gross to subtle experiences will happen mostly on its own as you continue practicing, IMO. 

Some of your other experiences (expanded energatic awareness, trance states, spontaneous movements) may actually be other nanas but I'm not sure. I'll let some of the more experienced one's comment on that one. But whatever it is, the name of the game is knowing each experience without grasping/identification.

All the best with your practice.

RE: Suddenly more difficult
Answer
3/24/19 10:28 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
Have you read MTCB (or MTCB2)? You seem to be in the territory of second nana (seeing cause and effect). It can be a frustrating nana.  When you see that the "struggle is preventing you meditating", and that you "notice breathing in a certain way to make the felt sensations more available and stronger", that's noticing causal relationships in your mind and body. 

What really helped me in this stage was the realization that the mind-control (e.g. over the breath) and the "sense of struggling" are just more objects/experiences to observe/note, with no more or less value than the breath sensations.

Going from gross to subtle experiences will happen mostly on its own as you continue practicing, IMO. 

Some of your other experiences (expanded energatic awareness, trance states, spontaneous movements) may actually be other nanas but I'm not sure. I'll let some of the more experienced one's comment on that one. But whatever it is, the name of the game is knowing each experience without grasping/identification.

All the best with your practice.

That's gold and you seem to be spot on. It maks  total sense; the cause-and-effect is somehow imprinted onto me as a more fundamental process, but reading that these are obstacles on the path puts it into perspective and allows me to, at least mentally, see that my hindrance was just clinging. Stuck in cause and effect.
Heh. Thank you.

On a side note; I have been much more aware of the body-mind connection in daily life the last month or so.. Noticing how its all in flux, you could say, and also becoming more energetically aware.

RE: Suddenly more difficult
Answer
3/25/19 7:31 PM as a reply to Bob No No.
A common theme in my practice is balancing effort and relaxation - ie noticing when I am trying to hold too tight to my breath and causing agitation, or not using enough effort and becoming lost in sloth/torpor.  I'd say that I myself, and likely most people, trend towards too much effort.  

I've been reading Shaila Catherine's "Focused and Fearless" and think it's a great read on developing concentration.  Here's a few highlighted quotes from my Kindle I thought might be fun to share:

"There is no single correct setting for our effort that will apply to all situations. Tuning the instrument of effort occurs continuously, with each inhale and exhale, in each moment of connecting and sustaining the attention."

"Skillful application of effort is fundamental to the art of meditation: you must apply yourself completely, yet without the caustic energies of force. You need both the utmost fortitude and the gentlest touch—applying just the right amount of energy to be fully present to the facts of things."

"What is the quality of effort that meets its object without excessive aggression?"

I think MCTB is a great recommendation too, but since you sound more shamatha focused at the moment, I would highly recommend the teachings of Thanissaro Bhikku.  I've been reading a ton of his writings lately and have benefited immensely from them.  He has a ton of free books, talks, and writings available on dhammatalks.org.  If you're not familiar, he is a monk from the Thai Forest tradition where they do emphasize concentration as a basis for insight practices.

I'm no concentration expert myself, but I hope this helps!