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sustained thought
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7/30/11 4:02 PM
I'm a beginer at anapanasati. I've been practicing it for years but always on and off. But now I think I'm starting to have a more stable practice.

I used to practice anapanasati using the sensation of the breath in my nose. The thing is that my practice consisted of looking for the sensation and concentrate on it. But what I'm calling concentration is just to extend this "looking for" function in time. I'm assuming that that is applied thought. A few days ago I experienced a new type of function which I think is sustained thought. It's like tying down the attention (or to get a firm grip) to the sensation I experience. Is this sustained thought?

Furthermore, I think I need the two functions at the same time, because the sensation is changing, so I need to look for the sensation and grab it at the same time. Is this correct?

Thank you in advance.

RE: sustained thought
Answer
7/31/11 12:29 AM as a reply to Modus Ponens.
Hi Modus,

Attempting to explain the subtleties of how to go about entering absorption type concentration is not easy, as people can tend to have different perceptions (or descriptions) of the same phenomenon. Only when a description seems to strike a note of recognition in the listener's experience of the phenomena can transmission of information begin to make sense enough for it to be of real use. Both speaker and listener must be on the same page for real communication to take place. With this in mind, I will attempt to address your questions in a manner that (hopefully) you will be able to understand.

Modus Ponens:
I'm a beginer at anapanasati. I've been practicing it for years but always on and off. But now I think I'm starting to have a more stable practice.

I used to practice anapanasati using the sensation of the breath in my nose. The thing is that my practice consisted of looking for the sensation and concentrate on it. But what I'm calling concentration is just to extend this "looking for" function in time. I'm assuming that that is applied thought.

Yes, that could be a fairly accurate assumption. When attempting to bring on the experience of absorption (that is, to fabricate the experience), you need to be able to apply the mind's attention to the triggering mechanism (in this case, the pleasantness of the breath and whatever sensation from that which arises, which could be a tingling sensation or a pressure sensation or any number of pleasant or neutral sensations which may arise). This would be equivalent to vitakka or what has been translated as "applied thought" or "applied attention."

Modus Ponens:
A few days ago I experienced a new type of function which I think is sustained thought. It's like tying down the attention (or to get a firm grip) to the sensation I experience. Is this sustained thought?

If I'm reading you correctly, this too could be an accurate description of vicara or "sustained thought or attention." Usually, when this experience of vicara begins to occur on its own without your needing to make much of an effort at all, you will have slipped into the second level of samatha absorption automatically. In other words, you will have created a feedback loop which the mind will lock onto in order to continue the pleasant experience of the breath.

Modus Ponens:

Furthermore, I think I need the two functions at the same time, because the sensation is changing, so I need to look for the sensation and grab it at the same time. Is this correct?

Yes, that is correct. Actually, I would describe this process a bit differently in that there is no need to "look for the sensation" in the sense of actively attempting to find one. Rather, one should allow the sensation to arise naturally on its own accord, and then be aware enough to recognize that arising so that you can sustain attention on it. Once these two steps occur, it's only a matter of time before the feedback loop is created and the process begins to carry on by itself. This is how you fabricate (bring about) a samatha jhana and enter the first and second levels of absorption.

Good luck with your practice. It sounds as though you are on the right track.

In peace,
Ian

RE: sustained thought
Answer
7/31/11 6:23 AM as a reply to Ian And.
As usual, thank you Ian.

Be well emoticon