Concentration getting worse...

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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
Over the past couple of weeks i have noticed my concentration practices haven't been progressing. If anything, my concentration ability is worse. Im primarily doing mindfulness of breath meditaiton, with sometimes mantras and kasina, but i'd say 90% breath meditation. I cant seem to focus on it well. I cant get that calm, peaceful feeling my mind is always going and jhana factors are pretty much absent. A few weeks ago i was making real progress away from this, now it is the opposite. Its really frustrating. Im doing my best to just keep practicing and not worry about how well i thought the sit went but its not like i dont notice my skills arent improving. If anyone can help i would appreciate.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Brian:
Over the past couple of weeks i have noticed my concentration practices haven't been progressing. If anything, my concentration ability is worse. Im primarily doing mindfulness of breath meditaiton, with sometimes mantras and kasina, but i'd say 90% breath meditation. I cant seem to focus on it well. I cant get that calm, peaceful feeling my mind is always going and jhana factors are pretty much absent. A few weeks ago i was making real progress away from this, now it is the opposite. Its really frustrating. Im doing my best to just keep practicing and not worry about how well i thought the sit went but its not like i dont notice my skills arent improving. If anyone can help i would appreciate.

I'd say "don't worry about it", but I know that's not very useful when you're feeling this way and seeing no progress. It's shit, no doubt, but it's temporary and will pass without you really noticing; one day you'll sit and lock into jhana within a minute, move through them without effort and wonder what all the fuss was about. It's maybe worth just easing up on your practice for a bit, there's no value in burning yourself out and sometimes a rest can lead to some unexpected realizations.

You can sometimes set yourself up with problems by trying too hard when you could just sit in peace and quiet, watching the breath, for an hour; if jhana arises then that's great but it doesn't need to be the only reason to sit. Go with whatever feels natural at that moment, "ride the wave" and other such metaphors, don't let it become a chore when it can be something fun and enjoyable. Most importantly, go easy on yourself.
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fivebells ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 563 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Can you describe exactly how you're doing the mindfulness of breath meditation? Sometimes the devil is in the details.
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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
Thanks tommy, really helpful. And fivebells, sure.

Basically i just sit down, and start breathing from my diaphram. I focus on feel the breath in the nostrils, not the abdomen. I find a rhythm and start counting, 1 - 10, going back down to one when my mind wanders or anything like that. Sometimes my breathing is deep in the belly sometimes its light. My eyes are usually half-closed, and i sit like this from anywhere between 40mins- 1 hour, counting breaths, but sometimes stopping when i feel like it. The same with where i feel the breath. If i start to feel attention move naturally into the chest cavity or abdomen i will let it go there. I try to get inside the breath, really relax the rest of my mind and just let it rest while i focus on the breath. Sometimes i think about stillness, and that helps for a count or 2 (a count being 1 - 10) but usually the mind wanders again soon after. Sometimes i can really get with how the breath feels pleasurable, but it depends. usually the pleasure is in the chest cavity or like sinus passages. But lately like i said its hard to lock on with that feeling, my mind is very distracted and concentration seems shallow.

P.S. - As of late i've added a bit of yoga practice to my routine - usually i do asanas and pranayama once or twice a day for 10 minutes each before i sit down to meditate. Before my first sitting and then often in the evening. Could this have an effect on my concentration? Maybe I'm stirring up some energy in my body thats throwing my focus out of whack? Just a thought.
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fivebells ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 563 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Try this: practice as you describe, but when you notice that you've been lost in a thought, try celebrating the renewed awareness of the present moment which that noticing implies. If you notice celebrating is difficult because you feel frustration, anger, despair, etc. about attention having wandered, celebrate awareness of that feeling. These awarenesses are the point of the practice, each is an achievement in itself, and each strengthens capacity for attention to what's actually going on. From that perspective, each time the mind wanders is simply an opportunity to practice. Don't treat the wandering as a failure, and don't conclude from increased wandering that you aren't progressing. There are many positive reasons which could explain increased wandering, such as increased attention kicking up dormant conditioning or allowing awareness of subtler movements in the mind.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Fivebells:
Try this: practice as you describe, but when you notice that you've been lost in a thought, try celebrating the renewed awareness of the present moment which that noticing implies. If you notice celebrating is difficult because you feel frustration, anger, despair, etc. about attention having wandered, celebrate awareness of that feeling. These awarenesses are the point of the practice, each is an achievement in itself, and each strengthens capacity for attention to what's actually going on. From that perspective, each time the mind wanders is simply an opportunity to practice. Don't treat the wandering as a failure, and don't conclude from increased wandering that you aren't progressing. There are many positive reasons which could explain increased wandering, such as increased attention kicking up dormant conditioning or allowing awareness of subtler movements in the mind.

I second that! Nicely said, that's some solid advice!
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Jeff Grove, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Brian K.:
Over the past couple of weeks i have noticed my concentration practices haven't been progressing. If anything, my concentration ability is worse. Im primarily doing mindfulness of breath meditaiton, with sometimes mantras and kasina, but i'd say 90% breath meditation. I cant seem to focus on it well. I cant get that calm, peaceful feeling my mind is always going and jhana factors are pretty much absent. A few weeks ago i was making real progress away from this, now it is the opposite. Its really frustrating. Im doing my best to just keep practicing and not worry about how well i thought the sit went but its not like i dont notice my skills arent improving. If anyone can help i would appreciate.


This is a natural stage in insight progression - perhaps the first signs of the Dukkha Ñanas, the mind is unstable, keep practicing, keep motivated , insight occurs, the strong concentration of the 4th nana will return
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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
I dont believe ive hit the A&P yet not that i can remember at least. I have been doing shamatha practiices almost exclusively.
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Jeff Grove, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
interesting but don't discount it,
when you have been practicing mindfulness of the breath, have you noticed the sensation of breath, that you are not the sensations, not the body and not the thoughts.
have you noticed the different qualities of breath, when your breath is hard and when it is soft, that this come before that
have you noticed the sensations changing, here now, then gone, this is not me, these are not mine, this is the begining, this is the middle, this is the end,

your concentration doesnt have to be especially strong to gain insight just being attentive to the changes or mindful of the conditions and qualities will do, concentration also improves from continuous investigation (penetration of the object) as well as holding the object. if your not investigating what are you waiting for?

if you haven't already take the time to read anapanasati sutta
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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
Yea i notice all that stuff in and outside of meditation. Just not sure at a level to which i would call it a nana.but who knows, maybe. And its my understanding that one should only start insight once concentration is developed. I tried doing insight meditation without it a few months back and felt i didnt have strong enough concentration to get where i needed with it. If i did somehow cross the A&P what would be the best thing to do now
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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
Upon further evaluation, i've decided to consider the A&P more seriously... I made a post about it, heres the link:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3215944
Jigme Sengye, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
What Jeff said. Look up the definition of the 5th ñana (dissolution). I'll ask again, do you feel the vibrations or any "energetic" sensations like vibratory flow, or pulsing at certain points in the body (mid-eyebrow point, top of the back of the head, front of the top of the head, center of the palms), or a buzzing sensation in the belly? Your report from the 25th of May mentions a pressure between the eyebrows, that's the sort of thing I mean. Sensations of vibration and energy tend to be an A&P thing (at least for me) and they match the descriptions of the breaking down of solidity into vibrations (or you could be experiencing other forms of the penetrating the solidity of the object of concentration, such as what you were describing with thoughts not fully arising and just going away the moment they show up).

Have you had any ecstatic experiences? Your report from the 25th of May mentions rapture.

Your reports from the 30th onwards in the "RE: Jhana-Seeking Practice Log" thread sound like dissolution followed by the dukkha ñanas, but I could be wrong.

If these assessements of your progress along the "progress of insight" map are right, despite your intended samatha focus, you're really doing a lot of vipassana practice, which is cool, since the 1st path will deliver on your goal of experiencing jhanas, though not necessarily with the nimitta you want to experience (I don't get visual nimittas). You've mentioned that you note, do you note out loud?
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Brian K., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
I was getting some rapturous, contentment feelings for a little while just before i stopped being able to focus well in my sittings. As for the sensations, yea i would sometimes get that kind of pressure in my head, sometimes a real nice feelings going on in my chest too. Sometimes it lasts, sometimes it doesnt. But i havent had any of that in a while, and i really dont remember feeling any vibrations except for the couple times when i've done noting practices, for shits and giggles. Even then its not predominant, i notice it only sometimes. And no i note only in my head. But i did out of curiosity do 2 noting sits today. Each one went very well. The first one i was able to sit for about 1hr10mins. i usually top out at around 50 mins. I'll give you my descrpition on what i remember feeling:

At first i was restless, bored, had some cravings, blah blah but after a few minutes of noting that started to go away. I would start noting very fast, then cool off a bit and then maybe fast again. I realized it didnt matter how fast i said the words in my head as long as i was paying attention to the sensations. I was getting some rapture, i felt very spacious and light, quite content. I wasnt really thinking about the time and getting up. There were some lights, there usually is some blurry white lights going on and moving around but it was more pronounced, and at one point i kept seeing a bright orange rectangle in the middle of my vision. I could get with the vibrations, all the sensations i felt were clearly just flickering in and out changing every second, i kind of saw movements of feeling/senstation/energy whatever you want to call it in my minds eye. For instance, if my back was hurting from the posture i almost "saw" the different moving sensations that were taking place. I got pretty focused for a while, where everything kind of slows down and everything gets really silent while at the same time the ringing in your ears/whitenoise background gets louder. Oh, and towards the end of my sitting i did feel a really, really, nice feeling on my forehead in between my eyebrows/towards the top of my eyes. It was exremely pleasurable. I saw glimpses of impermanence and nonself, and the pain in my legs and back from sitting didnt bother me. After i came out and since then i feel more peaceful and pretty lucid. Sorry if that was kind of long, i dont think i left much out. What do you think
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Luke Avedon, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Concentration getting worse...

Posts: 14 Join Date: 6/26/11 Recent Posts
Brian,

I'm not too far down the path-- can only get to a really calm Shamata, where my concentration doesn't wander for over 3 minutes or so, a couple of times a month. So take my advice with a grain of salt from a beginner....

But, I recently went through a big stall as well. What worked for me was:

1.) Generating "loving kindness" towards the breath, and "my mind". This sounded like such total nonsense to me but it actually worked...so hey. I even picture my mind as a kitten somtimes (I know pretty cheesy--I got this from one of Ajahn Brahm's books where he is describing how to do Metta but I'm using it for concentration and it's worked like gangbusters).

2.) Experimenting with different counting techniques to keep it fun. Actually trying to think of the counting practice like a video game, instead of just stuck in endless count from 1 to 10 and then reset whenever the mind wanders...yawn.

3.) Concentration locks on when there is delight in the breath -- besides trying to make the practice itself fun, I realized that getting to that place where there is deep delight in following the breath is when the concentration really locks on. I totally ignored this before and was just into macho bullshit -- this is definitely the way to go.


3.) Incorporating more strong determination sits.


Hope that helps at all.

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