Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Ben Sulsky, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 11:07 AM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 11:07 AM

Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 136 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi all,

Around Fall 2020 I kinda tuned out of insight cycles and got the idea that deepening concentration was a good idea.  Put some time into jhanas with breath, fire kasina, and most recently Lama Yeshe style inner fire practice.  Regardless of the method, it's super hit or miss for me whether I can get into a deeply concentrated state where attention merges with the object.  The deep concentration states seem to get shattered quickly by some thought zooming in from left field.  I'm thinking hearing takes from people might shake something loose or inject some needed creativity into practice. 

Hardcore retreat currently not an option due to family life and covid-19.  

Cheers and thanks,

Ben
George S, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 11:42 AM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 11:40 AM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 2456 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Maybe look at why you think you need to get into a deeply concentrated state. How do you know that attention is not already in the object? (Just some ideas to play with)
Ben Sulsky, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 2:51 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 2:51 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 136 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
It's fun and makes all kinds of interesting states accessible.  Seems useful for deepening insight practice.
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Malte, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 3:18 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 3:18 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 38 Join Date: 4/24/15 Recent Posts
Culadasas The Mind Illuminated gave me great tools to work with concentration. With regards to thought, the idea would be to develop your "meta-awareness" - while simultaneoulsy attending to the meditation object, ALSO train yourself to discover distractions earlier and earlier. The analogy of the cat watching the entrance to the mouses home is similar to the attitude you can take towards developing more and more skill of noticing (and discarding) distractions earlier and earlier.

​​​​​​​Does that help?
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Malte, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 3:20 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 3:20 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 38 Join Date: 4/24/15 Recent Posts
A big thing with Culadasas approach is balancing focused attention, with a wider awareness (simultaneously). At first it might seem like the awareness distracts from being able to go deeper into focus, but what I've found is that it helps with later on being able to go deeper into focusing, when keeping the 2 factors balanced.
George S, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 9:48 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 9:22 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 2456 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I used to think of awareness as an independently existing "thing" which I  controlled. Something like - awareness centered up in the head with "me" somehow behind it trying to focus it onto the object down/out there. So when I *tried* to get into deeper concentration states I would get frustrated with distractions, which gives them more power. Once I saw how awareness arises spontaneously alongside each object, and there is no "me" controlling that process, then distractions are not perceived as a problem and concentration naturally deepens to whatever level is appropriate given the conditions. In a nutshell, giving up the illusion of control! I don't know if that's helpful or not.
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Jim Smith, modified 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 10:15 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/20/21 10:04 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 1130 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Ben Sulsky


The deep concentration states seem to get shattered quickly by some thought zooming in from left field.  I'm thinking hearing takes from people might shake something loose or inject some needed creativity into practice. 



In my opinion the biggest obstacles to concentration are
  • stress
  • mental fatigue
  • suppressed thoughts and emotions rising into consciousness
  • effects of food and drugs

I usually prepare my mind for meditation with relaxation exercises. I find that I have learned a lot by trying to do relaxation exercises when I can't concentrate. As relaxation exercises calm the mind, you notice the stages the mind goes through from turbulent to quiet. You notice the effort it requires (letting go) and you become familiar with the feeling of letting go to the point you know how let go as something you do with your mind. You lean relaxation as a neuro-muscular skill you can use in daily life to maintain a calm mind.

By mental fatigue I mean when you have been using your brain so much you are "too tired to sleep" and can't stop thinking about something. If you have a job that involves a lot of analytical thinking you probably know this experience. Inhibitor neurons fatigue first. That's why you can get muscle cramps when you are doing a repeated motion (like holding a rope so tight you eventually can't let go) or if you repeat a motion so often you can't stop doing it (factory workers might experience this after a shift). The same phenomenon occurs in the brain. If you are in this state, you can try relaxation exerciese or just wait until your brain recovers maybe after a period of sleep.

Sometimes if there is a suppressed thought or emotion bubbling up from the unconscious it can also cause distractions. In that case the best thing to do is to try to figure out what is bugging you. This is how you purify the mula kleshas (get rid of emotional baggage).

Some foods can influence your ability to concentrate too: high sugar, caffeine, alcohol. Some drugs have the effect too tobacco, etc. 
Ben Sulsky, modified 10 Months ago at 8/26/21 12:30 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/26/21 12:30 PM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 136 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi All, 

Thanks for the tips!

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Iulian Doroftei, modified 9 Months ago at 9/5/21 8:05 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 9/5/21 8:05 AM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 14 Join Date: 11/27/13 Recent Posts
This is offtopic, but I can't help not greeting Ben Sulsky, one of the greatest poker players that have ever lived. Hey Ben, I learned a lot from you. I am so glad to find you here!
Alex, modified 6 Months ago at 12/9/21 12:21 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 12/9/21 12:21 AM

RE: Feeling a bit stuck on deepening concentration- tips appreciated!

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/28/20 Recent Posts
I found Culadasas split between attention and awareness logical and maybe helpful.

However, I did not find this split in any other book so far. I even asked several teachers and they seem to not know what I'm talking about.

Thoughts?

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