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ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...

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ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...
Answer
12/29/11 3:29 PM
...where I follow the breath?

I have been struggling with the fact that following the breath at the nostrils has been made problematical by an allergy to my girlfriend's cat. My sinuses get so congested sometimes it gets impossible to breath in and out of my nostrils. For instance, I set aside two hours to mediate today and it was completely derailed by my being totally congested. I started using nasal decongestion spray about ten days ago but I can't keep using that crap and threw it out today. It is highly addictive, bad for the nostril membranes, etc. I am probably in a nasal spray rebound congestion right now, and my sinuses will probably recover somewhat in a few days, but it just sucks that I should throw away a whole day of mediation just because of allegry, a cold, etc. I bought some saline spray but as of right now it hasn't done anything.

Can I just start following the breath at my lips? You know, create an anapana spot right at the opening of my mouth? The object of my meditation has up to this point been the breath at the anapana spot at the nostrils. Is watching the breath at the nostrils somehow fundamentally better than other spots (e.g. the mouth, the stomach, etc.) since soooo many mediation teachers seem to recommend the nostrils. Or should I just find a solution to the congestion problem and keep watching it at the nostrils.

Any meditators out there also have allergies? What have you done/what do you do?

Or maybe instead of flip flopping the focus of my concentration to different objects of concentration, in the event I get super congested, maybe I should just switch to shinkantaza until such time that I have recovered my ability to breath through my nostrils, and then return to observing the breath at the nostrils...

RE: ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...
Answer
12/29/11 4:12 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
MN: 18. "Breathing in long, he understands: 'I breathe in long'; or breathing out long, he understands: 'I breathe out long..' Breathing in short, he understands: 'I breathe in short'; or breathing out short, he understands: 'I breathe out short.' He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body [of breath]'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body [of breath].'

BV: Now, let’s back up just a little bit. He understands when he’s breathing in and he understands when he’s breathing out. That doesn’t mean focusing on any one place. Ninety five percent of the people that practice mindfulness of breathing, put their attention at their nostril tip, and focus their attention there, but clearly, you have never heard me say the word “nose” in the directions, because it’s not here. It’s knowing when you breath in, and knowing when you breath out. Not focusing on any one place, but if you want to put your attention on one place, it doesn’t matter, just don’t focus your mind there. Now the, breathing in or breathing out experiencing the whole body [of breath] means: when you breath in, you know when you breath in. You see the start of it, you see the end of it. When you breath out, you know when you breath out. You see the start of the out-breath, and the end of it, that’s all that means.

Taken from:
http://www.dhammasukha.org/Study/Talks/Transcripts/MN-118-U-TS.htm

The narrowing of attention causes further tension and suffering. Instead, keep the focus open, relax, and smile.
This type of meditation has been very successful for me. Try it, or not, as you wish.

Metta,
Brian.

RE: ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...
Answer
12/29/11 4:23 PM as a reply to Brian Eleven.
Brian Eleven:
MN: 18. "Breathing in long, he understands: 'I breathe in long'; or breathing out long, he understands: 'I breathe out long..' Breathing in short, he understands: 'I breathe in short'; or breathing out short, he understands: 'I breathe out short.' He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body [of breath]'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body [of breath].'

BV: Now, let’s back up just a little bit. He understands when he’s breathing in and he understands when he’s breathing out. That doesn’t mean focusing on any one place. Ninety five percent of the people that practice mindfulness of breathing, put their attention at their nostril tip, and focus their attention there, but clearly, you have never heard me say the word “nose” in the directions, because it’s not here. It’s knowing when you breath in, and knowing when you breath out. Not focusing on any one place, but if you want to put your attention on one place, it doesn’t matter, just don’t focus your mind there. Now the, breathing in or breathing out experiencing the whole body [of breath] means: when you breath in, you know when you breath in. You see the start of it, you see the end of it. When you breath out, you know when you breath out. You see the start of the out-breath, and the end of it, that’s all that means.

Taken from:
http://www.dhammasukha.org/Study/Talks/Transcripts/MN-118-U-TS.htm

The narrowing of attention causes further tension and suffering. Instead, keep the focus open, relax, and smile.
This type of meditation has been very successful for me. Try it, or not, as you wish.

Metta,
Brian.


Muchas gracias...

RE: ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...
Answer
12/29/11 7:04 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
the question about where to anchor the attention during anapanasati (awareness of breathing) is a common one, and the answers range from 'here' to 'there' to 'it doesn't matter'. for one take, from the mahasi tradition (which has informed much of what's discussed at the dho):

mahasi sayadaw taught his students (who, over the decades, numbered in the thousands) to anchor their minds to the rise and fall of the abdomen while doing noting practice, but also allowed those who preferred to focus on their breath at their nostrils to do so. the reason he gave for teaching the breath at the abdomen was that it was a coarse, easily perceptible area, whereas the breath at the nostrils sometimes became too refined for meditators to detect changes thereat.. and without being able to perceive those motions, meditators would not be able to investigate well. as he had (and his tradition's students have) a very good track record for teaching people to get to stream entry[1], and as jhana[2] is required to reach this point, then it can be said without any doubt that focusing on the breath at the belly can work very well to form a basis for jhana.

furthermore, there are many soto zen teachers, and chi gong teachers, who teach breathing from the hara/tan tien, which is a spot a few fingers below the navel and in from the surface, which can be felt most easily gently feeling for a pressure thereabouts while breathing in and out from the belly (rather than just the chest). keeping the mind here in meditation is a demonstrably effective way of going into jhana.

further still, being attentive to the breath from the abdomen, rather than the nostrils, is one way of realising that the breath affects the entire body (and not just the abdomen). the awareness of this 'whole-body breathing' can lead a meditator into tranquility very quickly, and is a very good way to proceed in vipassana.

tarin

[1] in burma, it is acknowledged that a 2-3 month mahasi retreat is generally sufficient for the purpose, and one monk in the tradition has told me that 6 months ought to be enough for everyone (else they should consider finding another technique); in thailand, the mahasi method has rapidly spread throughout the country since its introduction from burma in the mid-20th century, and is colloquially known as the 'rising-falling technique'; in the west, the mahasi method was adopted as the principle mode of instruction at IMS (insight meditation society) due to its outstanding performance - people were getting stream entry - in trials the society conducted early on[3].

[2] one of u pandita's abbots has told me that the etymology of the word 'jhana' has to do with the notion of 'burning' or 'burning up', and as such, jhana should be understand as not merely a suppression of the hindrances but as a way of burning through them to arrive to their roots, at which point the roots can then be uprooted (the point at which path is attained). this perspective supports the notion that progress through the jhanas is identical to the progress of insight, and is a necessary feature of insight practice.

[3] i have no reference for my claim about ims, and heard this from daniel ingram.

RE: ALLERGY PROBLEMS! Does it matter...
Answer
12/29/11 7:15 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
the reason he gave for teaching the breath at the abdomen was that it was a coarse, easily perceptible area, whereas the breath at the nostrils sometimes became too refined for meditators to detect changes thereat..
Hehe - this is the exact same reason why Goenka recommends breath at the nostrils. Of course Goenka's anapana is primarily a vipassana technique. I suppose if one is interested in laser-like focus on small sensations, anapana at the nostrils is good training, while for pure samatha the abdomen would be easier.

The more I hear about Mahasi methods, the more I want to actually try them in a retreat setting...