Technique question - intrusiveness of the breath

Petrik Schill, modified 1 Year ago at 12/6/20 10:21 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/6/20 4:25 AM

Technique question - intrusiveness of the breath

Posts: 10 Join Date: 11/29/19 Recent Posts
I recently switched from body-scanning to Mahasi style noting and am encountering a phenomenon - and it seems like a problem - that I don't remember seeing discussed anywhere in what I've read. So I would be interested to know if anyone else has experienced this, whether this is normal or not, whether anyone has suggestions for how to deal with it, whether anyone has thoughts on whether it's an indication that noting may be less suitable for me personally as a technique, etc.

The phenomenon is this: after a while of using the breath as the home object of meditation, attention to the breath becomes "sticky" in a certain way. When I then try to examine another object, such as, for example, and itch or a pain, in detail, the breath intrudes upon my attention. I can only really look at the other object in detail during the pause between an out-breath and the next in-breath. The breath kind of ends up chopping the observation of the other object into pieces. Sustained attention on and really in-depth examination of the other object seems impossible.
Tommy M, modified 1 Year ago at 12/6/20 6:15 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/6/20 6:15 AM

RE: Technique question - intrusiveness of the breath

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/1/20 Recent Posts
attention to the breath becomes "sticky" in a certain way
This may actually be a good thing, and it's likely that it has developed as a by-product of your body scanning approach. The continual return to the breath as the 'anchor' has possibly set up this sort of habitual movement of mind, which to me suggests some really good concentration skills.

It may well be that the more hyper-focused momentary concentration involved in Mahasi-style noting just isn't suited to you, which is totally fine. As you know, there are countless techniques available to a yogi and sometimes it's a matter of finding what fits via trial and error.

The fact that you're able to observe other sensations at the bottom of the exhale may be related to the relaxing of focus, prior to returning attention to the inhale. A lot of very interesting stuff can happen at that 'turning point', so don't get disheartened.

Maybe try getting up close and personal with the subtle movements of the breath, since attention seems comfortable with breath as the object. Stay with it, but gently release the 'grip' on the whole breath and turn attention to the qualities you can observe. The breath isn't one fluid motion when you really get into it; it's made up of myriad tiny fluctuations, kinda like lots of tiny inhale/exhale-like micro-movements that we don't normally notice. If you really zero in on the bottom of the exhale, you'll become aware of a very subtle sort of 'rotation' of energy that seems to kinda 'turn around' prior to the inhale.

The 'perfect' practice is a balance of samatha and vipassana: One-pointed attention balanced with a more spacious awareness wherein other sensations will continue to arise, no matter whether you're looking at/for them.

Hope this helps!