Staying focused on the breath

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Marc Roosenbrand, modified 10 Years ago.

Staying focused on the breath

Posts: 2 Join Date: 7/12/11 Recent Posts
Hi there,

This is my first post on this forum, after two weeks of reading various threads here. First of all, I’d like to thank Daniel for writing MCTB, and everyone at this forum for sharing their experiences and giving advice to others. It’s really encouraging to see how others are progressing and I hope I can join you on this journey.

After having tried to meditate regularly last fall, but eventually giving up, in March/April this year I started meditating again, trying to note all sensations. This was quite a challenge, because I didn’t have any basic (or access) concentration, which, as I’ve read in MCTB, should be quite important for insight meditation.

Two weeks ago I came across Daniel’s book, and I’m now half way through. For me it’s good to look at the practice from a more goal-oriented perspective, especially because some of my weaknesses are a lack of perseverance and doing things half-heartedly. My goal is to practice insight meditation and eventually get to stream entry.

Right now I’m meditating 2x30 minutes every day (morning and evening), trying to focus on my breath, in order to establish access concentration and enter the first jhana. I concentrate on the rising and falling of the abdomen, and count the breath to 10. This goes all right for like 15 minutes, for this period I can manage to not get too distracted, but after this I get a bit drowsy, my attention starts to get weaker, and counting gets a bit automatic (the connection with the actual felling of rising and falling of the abdomen is less) or I forget counting before reaching 10.

Does anyone have any advice for me on how to deepen concentration during the second half of this 30 minutes? I feel a bit stuck, but maybe I should just go on and accept that it’s not going exactly like I hoped. Also, when I count the breath, it’s like I’m not focusing directly on the breath, so is it perhaps better to just focus on the breath without counting?

Thanks for reading this! It’s no urgent matter, but it feels good to share something here, instead of just passively reading.

Marc
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N A, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Staying focused on the breath

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Hello Marc, I'm pretty new to this myself (having read MCTB last week), but I believe I got to first jhana yesterday (pretty excited!) and I can say what worked for me.

Definitely focus on the actual breath, not on counting. You're concentrating on actual physical sensations that accompany the breath. Try to stay with them without any breaks. It's okay to be distracted by noises or thoughts as long as you also stay with the breath at the same time. It's like driving a car - you can experience things not related to driving, as long as you're focused enough not to crash. Not staying with the breath is a kind of crash emoticon

You should gradually notice that the physical sensations accompanying the breath are actually quite complex and there's enough going on there to sustain your concentration. Try to keep track of all the details of the sensations - it requires more concentration and in-the-moment presence than just counting breaths. You don't need to label them or think about them (just like when driving, you don't have to think "car, car"), just be aware of them. Provided you make an effort to keep track of all the sensations, you will have less and less room for being distracted, and more interest in following the breath.

Eventually you should have a pretty detailed, quite stable (provided you keep concentrating) "mental model" of your breath as it changes instant to instant.
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Marc Roos, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Staying focused on the breath

Posts: 2 Join Date: 7/12/11 Recent Posts
Hey, thanks for the reply! Good to hear you reached the first jhana, I hope you'll make more progress from here.
Your advice really makes sense to me, I also had the feeling that counting distracted me somewhat from the actual sensation of breathing. I'll try to just keep focusing on the breath, without counting, let's see where this will lead...
Take care,
Marc

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