The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questions)

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RicoDeRags Ric North, modified 10 Years ago.

The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questions)

Posts: 64 Join Date: 1/12/11 Recent Posts
Hola,

I have been meditating on and off for approximately three years now. Sometimes for an hour a day, sometimes for 30 minutes a day, sometimes for 10 minutes a day, and sometimes just phases of "being present" while walking etc. I've attempted many different types of meditation, focusing on the visual field, focusing on postive, cultivating loving-kindness, focusing on shakras, focusing on the breath, self-enquiry ("Who am I?" and "To whom are these thoughts?"), focusing on feel (emotional sensations) focusing on the body shape, observing thoughts and noting (image... talk.. image... feel... image...), etc...

I have never done any formal meditation training. Never set foot in a meditation centre, and never gone on a retreat. Right now that is unlikely to happen as well because I'm in Spain and I'm still learning intermediate Spanish so in excess of the usual difficulties of finding a good spiritual teacher I currently have a significant language barrier. Never the less I'm still planning on attending the local centre soon.

Until recently my meditation did not have much direction. By recently, I mean one week.

After reading the famous book by Dan Ingram I have decided to limit my meditation practices to only thought which develop concentration - I think this is the kind of conclusion that most people reach after reading his book for the first time. As much as I love Shinzen Young, he never made clear, as Daniel did, that you pretty much need "access concentration" at least before you can make good insight progress.

I think as well as just being a basic introduction about who I am, in this post I'd like to know where to learn about effective concentration techniques.

I understand the basics... decide on an object... focus on the object as completely and consistantly as possible... if you lose focus notice and refocus on the object... repeat forever.

However I'ved noticed several subtleties in this practice in terms of "efforting"...

1. Effort to "focus heavily" on the object.

2. Effort to "drop distractions" or "drop thoughts" (and feelings etc) as they arise... leaving only the choice object in focus.

3. Effort to "drop" into a more non-descript concentration state... (not really sure what I mean by this... I just sort of know what it means... it's like effort to increase the state of concentration, but not necessarily direct it...)

and I'm unsure as to what my practice needs to improve most effectively.

The extent of my concentration is that my visual field beings to bounce, shake, and flicker (like an out of tune TV), and also there are distortions which pop-up all over the place. I still find the practice frequently annoying, however I now rarely find myself "completely distracted" from my object of choice. A thought may "run in the background" or "run along-side" my concentration, but in an hour sit I'll only get fully distracted (lost in thought) maybe three or four times.

Any guidance appreciated. Particularly to websites or online e-books! emoticon

Thanks,

Rich
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questio

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Just a quick reply here...

Welcome to the DhO. Here's a couple of links which should give you enough information to get you started without a teacher:

Practical Insight Meditation - Mahasi Sayadaw

Mastering The Core Teachings Of The Buddha - Dan Ingram

Enjoy.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questio

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Rich N:
Hola,
The extent of my concentration is that my visual field beings to bounce, shake, and flicker (like an out of tune TV), and also there are distortions which pop-up all over the place. I still find the practice frequently annoying, however I now rarely find myself "completely distracted" from my object of choice. A thought may "run in the background" or "run along-side" my concentration, but in an hour sit I'll only get fully distracted (lost in thought) maybe three or four times.
\

This is good in many ways:

Visual field flickering on its own: this is impermanence and no-self.
Distortions: this is impermanence and no-self (they just pop up on their own over there)
Annoyance: this is suffering.
Undistracted and able to stay with objects: this is good.

You are having insight for yourself. You are getting somewhere, meaning right here. Keep at it!

Daniel
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

this is whyI shouldn't be allowed to post on the DhO when I'm on ritalin..

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Hi Rich, how have you been doing? According to your post counter, you haven't updated us on your practice.

As Dan's post indicated, you aren't doing pure concentration practice. You're doing concentrated insight practice. That's the practice that the Buddha recommended for enlightenment, so keep at it. Just make sure you know how to recognize the dark night, and what to do about it. (FYI: You're doing insight practice is because your effort is strong, and you're trying out different forms of effort and noticing what they do to the mind. For pure concentration practice, you would want to direct your attention only to pleasing calm sensations. "Who cares what those sensations are doing? I'm just glad they feel good!" is the attitude of pure concentration practice. You can see why it doesn't get you enlightened.)

With regards to effort, it is difficult to make good recommendations because the two of us may use the same phrase to describe two different things. That said, I suggest that you try this one out if you're looking to give your practice a nudge towards deeper concentration: "effort to relax the mind and body so that when you place attention on an object, the attention naturally stays there because the mind is chilled out rather than jumpy." Without the focus on relaxation, it would be almost impossible to do pure concentration practice. And if you want to do insight practice, it's helpful there too (unless you're in danger of falling asleep). Tranquil concentration can be conceived of as the "lubrication" that smooths out the dark night. (BTW, you're probably in the dark night by this point.)

When effort is conceived as a fight against distraction, as a struggle to force the mind to stay still and quiet, or as the repeated reprimanding and punishing of the mind for bouncing off the walls like a hyperactive child, then it's draining. While you can certainly go through the insight stages with this exhausting exertion, it will make the dark night into an absolute nightmare. It's better to find a more relaxing form of effort so that you can meditate more frequently, for longer periods of time.

In conclusion: Remember that in addition to Right Effort, you also need Right Samadhi. Samadhi is often translated as "concentration," but in English that word usually means "thinking really hard about something." Samadhi means "calming and gladdening the mind and body until the mind is content to stay with something for a long time."
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Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questio

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Rich N:

After reading the famous book by Dan Ingram I have decided to limit my meditation practices to only thought which develop concentration - I think this is the kind of conclusion that most people reach after reading his book for the first time.


I did conclude something similar after reading MCTB for the first time. After reading through it the second time, however, in preparation for the retreat where I would attain stream entry, I concluded that the only thing that was holding me back was that I hadn't quite decided to get it.


Rich N:

The extent of my concentration is that my visual field beings to bounce, shake, and flicker (like an out of tune TV), and also there are distortions which pop-up all over the place. I still find the practice frequently annoying, however I now rarely find myself "completely distracted" from my object of choice. A thought may "run in the background" or "run along-side" my concentration, but in an hour sit I'll only get fully distracted (lost in thought) maybe three or four times.


From your description, it seems to me you have (waaay) more than enough concentration to get stream entry, certainly more than I did at the time! Good news hun? There's really nothing in the way! :-)

Have you firmly decided that stream entry (and etc) is something you want? (Otherwise, why do you meditate?) Is there any reason you are not working towards attaining that goal as soon as possible? Maybe something based on a particular belief or feeling? [1]

Take care emoticon
Bruno

[1] Typically "it is too hard," "it's possible, but *I* can't actually do it," "it takes XYZ to do it" (a retreat, a ceremony, too much work, many years, a lot of wisdom, obeying the precepts, ...), "it is scary," etc.
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Rich N, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: The micro-dynamics of concentration meditation (basic questio

Posts: 64 Join Date: 1/12/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for all the replies.

In general, I think you have all over-estimated my progress and concentration. Perhaps my description wasn't particularly accurate.

The main thing I notice with the vision is flickering particles, all over the entire field. Infact I can see them right now without even doing any practice. I often used to watch them and try to notice all the moments that they flicker and change - actually I was hoping the whole thing would start to break up and flow about but that never really happence.

Sometimes there are bigger unexplainable shifts - and strangely these occur when I actually feel a little less focused.

Then there is the jerking... which I think is due to physical movement of the eyes/body.

I don't think I have been in the dark night.

About a year ago I began to have consistant painful experiences in my chest and around my heart area when meditating. It actually felt like real chest pain and I eventually went to a Doctor who said it's "probably inflamation due to stress" and not to worry about it.

I also found that I became very aware of stresses, stains, emotions etc in my body... for a while I thought I was going a little crazy because just walking past people on the street became an instense experience of emotions and alarms and alerts firing off in the body.

I still get that and it tends to increase if I observe it, but now I'm sure it's just an awareness of some kind of emotional process I don't really understand. I also get lots of similiar sensations in my face and head. If I observe them they can do one of three things - get worse (most common), get better, or dissapear (rare).

If I hadn't read a bit more about what the Dark Night was I'd be tempted to say it's something like that, but I don't think so. People describe feeling like they are being ripped up, and actually seeing, for example, large animals. I never had anything like that, and the pain was never that completely unbearable like that.

I have not experienced the first Jhana - but this is my current aim using the instructions on this board. I have noticed pleasent sensations during concentration practices - and even sometimes I've noticed sharp increases in pleasure throughout my body. But normally when I observe them they just sort of simmer (like hot coats) for a while, and then fade away.

So I have changed my practice from noting and observing the visual field, to focusing on the breath with knowledge of "how to enter the first Jhana".

Thanks for the input, I'll definately post here if anything notable happens.

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