What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
One of my major difficulties in regards to practicing focus meditation is doubts about whether I'm understanding the goal correctly, and worry about negative side effects of the goal.

Independent of whether one actually needs one-pointed/unwavering/single-minded focus or access concentration (or however you wanna call it) for the jhanas or for vipassana, I'd like to understand what it is, perhaps it'll also help me understand other descriptions/instructions in regards to meditation better.

Based on how I understand it, there are 2 main stages in regards to concentration:
  • being focused enough to not forget that one is supposed to focus - i.e. no mind-wandering and sudden remembering, but noticing mind-wandering (almost) as soon as it happens
  • mind-wandering not happening at all, attention being permanently on the object of focus, with no distractions showing up at all
Now my "problem" is that stage 1 is very easy for me (so that I have almost no experience with how to learn it) and stage 2 seems almost impossible, and would also involve telling one's subconscious that it is supposed to not communicate with one at all for how long the meditation is supposed to last, and my subconscious reacts very negatively to that idea.

And that's in part also because of wondering whether really all kinds of conscious mental activity, except for the focusing on the object of meditation and perhaps the noticing when one doesn't focus exclusively on it, are supposed to stop during concentration. If yes, how to convince one's own mind that that's a good idea? If no, what is one-pointed focus then instead?
thumbnail
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 58 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
I wanted to drop in to disperse any attraction to stage 2 (NO MIND WANDERING, i.e. NO THOUGHT ARISING AT ALL) that you might have. This is completely not needed for Insights/vipassana.

Thoughts come up even in high concentration states (formless jhana), although with lower volume/intensity and frequency. Repressing thought/NO THOUGHT is not the way forward and can seriously mess things up psychologically, I learned that the hard way emoticon Excessive mind wandering (completely getting absorbed in your bullshit for long periods of time) is also not the way forward, but stage 1 you describe above is sufficient to avoid that.

Stay on whatever object(s) you find comfortable, notice sensations, let thought come and go. At some point you have to also start incorporating thoughts as sensations to also notice as part of this field of experience, as part of this here/now, if you haven't done so already. Thougts come up, and then they disappear, they are not ME or MINE (some sort of center that somehow percieves the other sensations, an agent that generates or reacts to the other sensations).
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for your reply!

Hm, but what is it then that is being trained in focus concentration? What kinda things then meant in, for example, TMI by subtle distractions that one is supposed to stop getting? (using terms from that book because I'm most familiar with the terminology there).

And yes, I guess not necessary for vipassana and jhanas, but I'm still curious.

If you use a focus object that you enjoy watching, how is it then meditation? You don't need to put any effort in it if your mind wants to watch it anyway, and if thoughts are allowed to pass through your attention while you just watch them as a passive observer, I don't really see the difference from daydreaming.
thumbnail
Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 767 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
I was saying, that the only way to keep awareness/focus on object is to make the object arise with specific qualities which cause awareness always arise on this object.  When you practice keeping awareness on object what you are supposed to learn is which qualities work and how to apply those quality to objects. Moving focus back on object by itself doesn't accomplish this directly but over time due to random chance mind will find something that works better, then better still, etc. and it will learn how to keep itself on object of your choosing. It does happen more efficiently when you know what you are supposed to do rather than brute-forcing it without knowing what you are supposed to do.

Other than keeping awareness on object there is the topic of how detailed your focus is. The general rule is the smaller things you can focus on the better. This can be easily practiced by focusing on smaller and smaller objects and since we can focus on visualizations the easiest way is to visualize small object, like a very tiny dot, then visualize inside this dot even smaller dot. This can always be done, you can always make focus even smaller. During this practice it might seem that visually the size could not get smaller and when you visualize smaller dot you zoom out and not much changes but if you do it for long enough you will see the difference in your one-pointed focus.

For me usually few minutes of this practice is enough when done from time to time to have really strong effects. One of the characteristic effects of this practice is that when you do it you will hear a kind of cracking in your head. This is related to how focus works and reveals something about it. Generally this is great practice when you want to have good success in vipassana as well, being able to focus on small details is important for insight. Also this is the practice to improve eyesight so it should improve, considerably. Fun side effect of it is that when you deal with really tiny objects you will experience the same crackling in your head but you will be able to focus on the object and even details in it. For example when I deal with SMD resistors, which are really tiny I usually experience those crackling effect but I am also able to focus on even labels on those resistors instead of it all blurring out and focus wandering elsewhere as was the case in the past.

At first it might seem like focus is very coarse, visualized dot is not as small as we might want it to be. When the limit is reached the details of edges of the dot might appear very blurry and it will feel rather strange. In this case just carry on visualizing even smaller dot inside until either crackling happens or you feel like for today this is enough because you feel your whole brain. This practice is very quick, it is not marathon but quick sprint, so should not be big effort to add it to your practice regimen. It is also easy to keep focus on this practice because such activity is not passive but active. I can guarantee you will be happy from the results emoticon
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for your input!

Ni Nurta
I was saying, that the only way to keep awareness/focus on object is to make the object arise with specific qualities which cause awareness always arise on this object.


Could you give an example please for what is meant by a quality? For the breath awareness, would that be for example the feelings of relaxation? Or the sensation of the muscles in the torso stretching and contracting? Or the tingling of the skin from having one's attention there? Or the temperature of the air?

This can be easily practiced by focusing on smaller and smaller objects and since we can focus on visualizations the easiest way is to visualize small object, like a very tiny dot, then visualize inside this dot even smaller dot.


Visualizing a dot is not easy. I'm finding it very hard to keep that mental image steady for even a moment, and visualizing a tiny dot within the small dot gives me a headache within seconds.
thumbnail
Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 767 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Natheris .
Could you give an example please for what is meant by a quality? For the breath awareness, would that be for example the feelings of relaxation? Or the sensation of the muscles in the torso stretching and contracting? Or the tingling of the skin from having one's attention there? Or the temperature of the air?

The qualities which work can be generally described as jhanic qualities so qualities experienced during jhanas. Any jhanic quality work but when you want to make awareness glue to object use few jhanic qualities at once. And yes, I suggest using jhanas to enter jhanas and it makes perfect theoretical and practical sense. It is like using fire to make fire.

Of course if the goal is to develop this ability from scratch this of advice might sound bonkers. Fortunately these things do not need not be perfect to be of use when you already are practicing by keeping focus on object. Cultivating any qualities which are more in the direction of these which work will make keeping your focus on object easier. If you know jhanas because you experienced them already then you can cultivate something resembling these qualities and if not you can imagine some kind of pleasure. Many types of pleasure can be visualized and applied to objects and some work really well while others not so much. Some experimentation is needed.


Where it comes to object of concentration it doesn't really matter other than allows you scale difficulty level of practice and develop skills in regards to the type of objects you practice with. Breath concentration I would however leave it at anything that arise naturally and just cultivate it instead of experiments with visualizing anything, at least until you know what you do. Any object will do but you might find that concentrating on part of your body is easier to work with. My all time favorite and recommended body part for practice is hands. You can visualize all sorts of stuff there, hands are very well connected to the mind as a whole but they also do not feel as close and personal so it is very easy to work with them. If you induce some less than stellar quality nothing terribly bad will come out of it. Otherwise you can do the same with anything, even something you see in your visual perception but it is a bit more advanced practice.

Visualizing a dot is not easy. I'm finding it very hard to keep that mental image steady for even a moment, and visualizing a tiny dot within the small dot gives me a headache within seconds.

Yes, it can be so powerful it can easily get completely overwhelming.
Small steps, do not overexert yourself with this one.
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
I'm not sure whether I have experience with jhanas. Perhaps with the first one, i.e. strong extremely pleasurable sensations, primarily in the upper part of the spine. But it pretty much always happened outside of meditation. And there was no connection between it and my state of concentration before, during or after.

Pleasurable sensations are easier to focus on, yes, but I don't have the impression that they would lead to steady focus on them, based on my experience. But perhaps my standards for what steady focus would be like are to high?

Hands as a focus object might be fun. I'd have to decide which plane to focus on, though - physical sensations, energetic sensations, or my mental/astral image of them (which is very different from how they physically look like).

I'm not even sure how to start practicing visualizing a dot when I can hardly make the image appear in my mind's eye at all. I have a much easier time visualizing movements than unchanging objects.
thumbnail
Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 767 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
 Not all pleasant sensations improve focus for sure.
1st jhana will be fine.
From formed jhanas the best for one-pointed focus are 2nd and 4th jhanas and are the ones I experience the most.

When people normally think of focus they refer to bunch of sensations with which they move attention and focus on things. The trick about these sensations is that they are there to move out of whatever you focus to elsewhere and are not helpful in keeping attention on object. Thusly keeping attention on object should not have these sensations. Also the method I describe is not supposed to make these sensation keep on object but object light up in consciousness the most. It might be confusing but thankfully actually 1st jhana is the best to learn how this work because it normally is as much experienced in object and these sensations which make up what seem like focus so if you apply 1st jhana to object these sensations should also get to 1st jhana and from there with little practice you will move to 2nd jhana and this one is actually easier to use with making objects have 2nd jhana qualities because 2nd jhana qualities sustain itself and make these focus sensations disappear.

Hint: to make practice more meanigful for normal life you can while in normal waking state practice moving your attention by making whatever thing you want your attention be at have jhanic qualities rather than moving your focus there. This hint is something many even quite advanced practicioners could use because there often is this split between meditation where people can hit higher jhanas on cushion but the first thing they do when they end meditation session is moving their normal focus around which is counterproductive and makes practice much less meanigful and less efficient. Certain things can be done much earlier than when mind decides to do them for you and then progress is much quicker.

Hand sensations I meant just hand because I see just a hand ;)
But please do practice with whatever aspect of hand you like. Exploring these things bring skill and insight emoticon

Visualization itself is hard topic or easy depending how you try to do it. I use touch visualization since my teens and visualize things by touching them first in my mind. Kinda like I was imagining I touch something in complete dark and then image of it automatically appear. It is the easiest way to visualize and also interactive visualizations you can touch are much more fun than those which are just images. I liked them so much that I changed my whole visual system to use touchable visualizations instead just having sight be an image.

You can try to visualize simple things by touching them and see if you like this approach. It made me prefer visualization over pretty much anything else. I kinda use the same touch visualization to do pretty much everything in my mind.


 
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
I'm not sure which sensations of moving focus you mean. Outside of meditation, I move focus by being drawn towards something rather than by moving away from something, in most circumstances.

It's primarily in meditation that I move away from something, because instructions usually say, if you notice you're distracted, let go of the distraction. And yes, doing that doesn't feel good at all. Even less so in meditation because there your only reason is doing it for the sake of meditating. Many instructions say that the object of focus should have no appeal at all.

If you just get drawn into your object of meditation without conscious effort, how is it then meditation? That happens all the time. I have a tendency to focus on things I'm doing to the degree of losing track of time and hardly noticing my body. But also in that state, there are some thoughts unrelated to the object of focus, one just returns to it right away automatically. So, it is not unwavering attention, nor does it involve letting go of distractions, so access concentration is more focused than that I suppose.

Regarding hand sensations - when focusing on a body part, I tend to first feel the energetic sensations, I need to switch modes to focus on physical sensations. When I visualize my hands, I first see their astral shape and need to switch modes to see their physical shape.

Touching an object or imagining to touch it reduces the visualization of it to a small area around where I'm touching it and shifts my focus to the "visualization" of the tactile sensations (or the actual tactile sensations when touching it).
thumbnail
Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: What is one-pointed focus? (and what's the point of it?)

Posts: 2130 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Edit; 

unnecessary reply on my part hence deleted. Carry on nothing to see here emoticon 

Breadcrumb