When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!)

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Luke Avedon, modified 9 Years ago.

When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!)

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

I am quite desperate for any guidance anyone can provide so thank you in advance.

When I sit in the morning for either 1 or two hours (with a break in between). I get to a fantastic concentration state. While I think I’m in the early states of shamata concentration state (I usually still have course excitation---only can keep my mind on the breadth for about a minute after sitting for a couple of hours--but every once in a while it’s more). I feel fantastic, when I start working for the day I am in a beautiful flow state, super productive, no suffering. I could be getting a root canal while being audited by the IRS and not be stressed out.

But it only lasts an hour!

In fact, I’m sorry to say, if I don’t meditate in the morning I can’t get any work done at all.
My problem is it wears off big time after an hour. The most I can keep it going is about 75 minutes by doing the practice while I’m working and maybe take a one minute pause to follow my breath in there. Then all the hindrances are back, even stronger than before I meditated.

Luckily I’m self employed so if I can take a 30 minute meditation break, but if I don’t meditate for 30 minutes at this point I am a completely lazy useless unproductive member of society. Taking a 30 minute meditation here buys me another hour. When I was working for others I would just keep working but suddenly I was super cranky and less productive.

What would it take to be in this concentrated state all the time? I realize this is a common goal of practice and people have been thinking about it for quite a while.

I’m curious if anyone has some guidance such as, when I was able to count from 1 - 50 mindfull breaths without spacing out, (course excitation) then I was able to stay concentrated for x hours. Or after I could generate a no thought state for 2 minutes then I was concentrated half the day, or once I started meditating x hours a day I was concentrated for 9 hours a day, OR after I reached X Jhana I was concentrated for 10 hours a day regardless of daily sit time ect...

The other problem I have is in the morning the concentration is completely gone, it doesn’t matter how much I sit the night before. The hindrances are really strong when I wake up. Lifting weights clears the hindrances out enough so I can sit on the cushion and I have other tricks as well I won’t bore you with here.

Anyway, if I could be concentrated all day that would really be the cat’s meow. What would it take or am I just screwed?
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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

Posts: 1633 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
From the Buddhist point of view concentration states fall under the 3 characteristics. Maybe you should start vipassana practice. Concentration represses reactivity while vipassana helps you understand reactivity via the 3 characteristics of your experience so that reactivity is not a problem. Read Daniel's MCTB. There's tons of practice info included. I also would recommend Shaila Catherine's exhaustive books on both concentration and insight.
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Luke Avedon, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

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

Thank you! I love both Daniel's book and "Focused and Fearless" by Shaila Catherine...I'll re-read them.
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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

Posts: 1633 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Luke Avedon:
Richard,

Thank you! I love both Daniel's book and "Focus and Fearless" by Shaila Catherine...I'll re-read them.


Focused and fearless is mainly on concentration practice. She has another encyclopedic book that came out recently on insight practice:

Wisdom wide and deep

The end goal is to not really need jhanas and still be okay throughout the day and be essentially normal. Striving in your mind for jhanas is the same as striving in your mind for external goods. The irony is that you probably will work better at work because there's less energy in imagining the goal than simply acting in the moment. Action doesn't require special concentration. Allowing yucky feelings to arise and pass away is like a cold bath at first but you get used to it and you end up being just fine because when it passes away there's relief that's natural that doesn't require any doing to enjoy it. emoticon

When you're good at noting (see MCTB/95% the experience and 5% word label) you can just let go of meditation practices and just look at reality:

Letting go of struggle
I would also like to add that letting go of struggle doesn't have to mean you become a door mat. You want to argue and debate in a logical way while still maintaining presence and that takes practice.

Adyashanti has many other good videos:

Adyashanti videos

Shaila Catherine has a good summary of the insight maps that are good to compare to Daniel's, and the Visuddhimagga.

Path of purification
Ch XXI

Daniel's nana table
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Ian And, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Luke,
Luke Avedon:

I am quite desperate for any guidance anyone can provide so thank you in advance.

When I sit in the morning for either 1 or two hours (with a break in between). I get to a fantastic concentration state. While I think I’m in the early states of shamata concentration state (I usually still have course excitation---only can keep my mind on the breadth for about a minute after sitting for a couple of hours--but every once in a while it’s more). I feel fantastic, when I start working for the day I am in a beautiful flow state, super productive, no suffering. I could be getting a root canal while being audited by the IRS and not be stressed out.

But it only lasts an hour!

In fact, I’m sorry to say, if I don’t meditate in the morning I can’t get any work done at all.
My problem is it wears off big time after an hour. . . .

What would it take to be in this concentrated state all the time? I realize this is a common goal of practice and people have been thinking about it for quite a while.

I’m curious if anyone has some guidance such as, when I was able to count from 1 - 50 mindfull breaths without spacing out, (course excitation) then I was able to stay concentrated for x hours. Or after I could generate a no thought state for 2 minutes then I was concentrated half the day, or once I started meditating x hours a day I was concentrated for 9 hours a day, OR after I reached X Jhana I was concentrated for 10 hours a day regardless of daily sit time ect...

It sounds as though you are making some progress, but that you are having trouble sorting out what this actually means in terms of a practice and how to proceed. Does that sound fair?

The practice is a gradual practice, generally speaking, for most if not all people. Be patient with yourself and don't lose confidence. You've come a long way, but there are still more things to accomplish. Changing the patterns of the mind and gaining control of the ability to remain in a concentrated state is not something that is gained overnight, so to speak. It can take time (as well as realization of how this can be maintained, meaning insight into the process).

I know what you are speaking (complaining) about, as I once had the very same complaints. I used to wonder if there were some "magical" solution that Gotama knew and practiced that he was not disclosing to us. I eventually came to understand that such thinking was not only unproductive, but counterproductive to assisting me to accomplish my goal.

I began to watch, with intensity (mindfulness, or sati), the moments when concentration would break down in order to see these moments with greater clarity. These moments were usually preceded by a relaxation of my mindfulness, which in turn resulted in a relaxation of concentration and the "state of flow" that you wrote about. It's important to note that this "state of flow" is not something magical or nebulous out in the ether that you are pursuing, but rather an inner determination that you are diligent in cultivating. Once you arrive at that insight, things should begin to change in terms of your ability to maintain concentration (and hence, mindfulness itself) for longer and longer periods after meditation.

In relation to the speculation in your last paragraph, what I found worked for me was the practice of absorption meditation, which helped to re-condition the mind for longer and longer periods AFTER meditation, helping me to maintain concentration and mindfulness. Or at least that was my perception at the time. I began to meditate three times a day for one hour each sitting (roughly morning, noon, and evening); each time entering and residing in an absorption state. Gradually, over time, I was able to maintain mindfulness and concentration for longer and longer periods of time afterward. This didn't happen by magic, but rather was premised on what I stated before: an inner determination and diligence in cultivating mindfulness. It was something I became aware of (which is another way of stating "mindful of") at all times.

I also used this time to focus on insight issues, which increased my understanding of and appreciation for the Dhamma.

Luke Avedon:

The other problem I have is in the morning the concentration is completely gone, it doesn’t matter how much I sit the night before. The hindrances are really strong when I wake up. Lifting weights clears the hindrances out enough so I can sit on the cushion and I have other tricks as well I won’t bore you with here.

Anyway, if I could be concentrated all day that would really be the cat’s meow. What would it take or am I just screwed?

Generally speaking, you are only "screwed" if you THINK you are screwed. So, why not focus your efforts on achieving the accomplishment rather than on its nonachievement.

One way that has worked for me is to make a strong resolution before I go to sleep each night. "You will sleep soundly, and wake up refreshed, alert, focused, and mindful." I say this three times (minimum) before nodding off each night. One of the keys to having this work is in the intention present when making the resolution. Make sure that intention is strong and THERE when you are making the resolution. Don't know if this will work for you, but I have had much success with this.

In peace,
Ian
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Luke Avedon, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

Posts: 14 Join Date: 6/26/11 Recent Posts
Thank you both for such helpful observations. It is greatly appreciated.

Richard, thank you for those links. The talks by that fellow look great. I actually have a copy of the Visuddhimagga here in print but I’ve found it pretty intimidating despite it’s small size.

You’re given me a lot to think about--however, I’m quite skeptical that I’m ready for insite practice. In all the maps I’ve looked at isn’t one supposed to have at least mastered the first jhana or two before beginning? (I am likely confused.) Or gotten Shamata to the point where one has a very stable nimitta, strong access concentration -- i.e. at least being able to hold an object for an hour without course excitation. ect.

Ian,

You really hit the nail on the head with your diagnosis. Thanks for the encouragement. I think I’m in general expecting a bit too much for where I am at this point. Part of the frustration is I don’t get the “compounding” benefits of practicing on retreat.

I’ve implemented all your suggestions and they seem to be working very well. Although, I can not get into absorption states yet, just getting close to access concentration for a few hours every day is having unbelievable benefits.

I also gave up all alcohol and am trying to eat just one meal a day. Both have helped much more than I thought they would. Sleep and eating really have a tendency to reset me back to square one.

After further reading, apparently just one day the access concentration is just there 24/7.

Thanks again.

Best, Luke
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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

Posts: 1633 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Luke Avedon:
I’m quite skeptical that I’m ready for insite practice. In all the maps I’ve looked at isn’t one supposed to have at least mastered the first jhana or two before beginning? (I am likely confused.) Or gotten Shamata to the point where one has a very stable nimitta, strong access concentration -- i.e. at least being able to hold an object for an hour without course excitation. ect.

Best, Luke


Keep in mind that it's more about consistency than thinking about the goal and getting frustrated. Relax the facial muscles and the body first. It's meant to be enjoyable to relax the mind from preoccupations. The enjoyment is the feedback loop that gets you going. If you gently bring your mind back to the object without a goal over and over again then the comparison between preoccupations (painful) and the breath (pleasant) should lead the way. It should be relaxing to not have to think about anything except the breath. That's how I viewed it. I used to hyperventilate and do things wrong with pressure. I ran in to this site and it straightened me out.

Leigh Brasington - Jhanas

In doing so you will watch the sensations, and then your mind will wander off. Then you'll bring it back, and it will wander off, then you'll bring it back and it will wander off. Eventually though -- maybe not in the next sitting, maybe not even in the next day -- but eventually, you'll find that the mind sort of locks into the breath. You've been going first to one side and then the other, and finally you're there, and you know that you're there. You're really with the breath and the mind is not wandering off. Any thoughts that you have are wispy and in the background. The thoughts might be something like "Wow, I'm really with the breath now," as opposed to, "When I get to Hawaii, the first thing I'm going to do is…"


By not worrying about results it took me a few months and that locking in happened. It feels literally like the mind locks in on it's own out of habit.
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Luke Avedon, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: When will concentration broaden? (It keeps wearing off....help!!!&

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

Sorry for not replying to your extremely helpful post. Darn, weak concentration again. I realized I was craving not just Jhana but Access Concentration in an unwholesome way. Reading your post and going over Leigh Brasington instructions really helped--so thank you!

I have noticed that Leigh's instructions are a bit different from Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Synder, authors of "Practicing the Jhanas" and www.jhanasadvice.com. Leigh doesn't state that the nimitta is absolutely necessary. As well Leigh instructs one to shift attention to the pleasant sensations arising and away from the anapana spot.

"If the breath gets very, very subtle, or if it disappears entirely, instead of taking a deep breath, shift your attention away from the breath to a pleasant sensation. This is the key thing. You watch the breath until you arrive at access concentration, and then you let go of the breath and shift your attention to a pleasant sensation"

When I was sitting with tension it was pretty difficult to let the breath get very soft.

Thanks again!

Best, Luke

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