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How to be aware of the breath without changing it?

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How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
concentration breath
Answer
11/5/12 4:23 PM
Hi All, I'm new to meditation. I've read MCTB and I came to the conclusion that for beginners, it's probably better to start first with concentration. I'm using the technique of counting out-breaths proposed in Jhana and Ñana. However, I find difficult to watch my breath without changing it. I find myself breathing too deep or for too long.
Do you have any tips? Thank you in advance!

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/5/12 7:35 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
just be content with changing it as little as possible, if you start worrying about whether you are changing it, then you are changing it even more than you would naturally be. instead of trying to not change it at all, just don't judge any type of breathing as good or bad and be fine with altered or unaltered breath, long or deep or whatever. if you do this and just don't worry about the breath's rhythm it will settle into a natural pattern.

another approach is to breathe in a way that feels comfortable, changing the breathing pattern freely whenever it seems that you could be breathing more comfortably.

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/6/12 11:45 AM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Change in awareness will bring changes to the breath. The sutras predict it, and the principle of dependent origination implies it. In itself, it's not a problem. What do you mean by too deep/long? Too much for what purpose?

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/6/12 1:39 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
I came to the conclusion that for beginners, it's probably better to start first with concentration


I think it's clear that dry insight progresses you faster than concentration for laymen. Jhana can be very flimsy and fickle and living in the world is not conducive for cultivating that (whereas a monk has seclusion).

On top of that very good concentration will come as you progress in insight.

This same feeling seems to be held by a lot of the top lineages including Goenka's, Mahasi's, and Ajahn Chah (I think..).

On top of that I think the majority of attained people on this forum did primarily dry insight (but this may be very wrong)

In conclusion, concentration is sexier but insight is the way to go.

I also don't want to get into a big debate about, it just my (and many others) two cents

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/6/12 9:40 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Jose Antonio:
However, I find difficult to watch my breath without changing it. I find myself breathing too deep or for too long. Do you have any tips?


You will be able to watch your breath without changing it with time. I don't have any tips, just keep practicing.

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/6/12 11:55 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
One of the best things that I ever tried is to focus on the physical body itself instead of the fluctuating breath..
..the breath is very changeable and not that
easy to lay focus on in the begining..concentration happens when you focus on one thing without any interruption..
the physical body is just the physical body and it does not change so fast...focus on it *in the present moment directly" which means you do not think/feel about the body that you focussed on at (t - 2 seconds) nor at ( t - 1 second) nor at (t-0.5 second) nor at (t-0.1 second) but at precisely t = t = present moment directly..and this has to be done without interruption...whatever
else arises , just ignore it...

if you can do this without interruption even for a few seconds , you will see its benefits here and now emoticon

ps : when i say the body , I mean directly a wide focus on the physical body..invariably some things will arise here and there and
your focus will go there..simply IGNORE it totally and get back to direct experience of the body at t = t

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/7/12 2:20 AM as a reply to Bailey ..
Blue .:

This same feeling seems to be held by a lot of the top lineages including Goenka's, Mahasi's, and Ajahn Chah (I think..).


Hi Blue,

It may be that Goenka, Mahasi, Chah seem like "Dry Insight" compared to folks like Pa Auk, but concentration is pretty strong in "dry insight" lineages as well. Goenka asks students to dedicate a third of all retreats to anapana, and Mahasi instructs to use the breath as a primary object throughout the practice.

So it may be that they can be seen as "dry insight" compared to Jhana-heavy teachings, but without concentration one cannot progress, therefore building concentration seems pretty important on the path of Morality, Concentration (*), and Insight.

So to me, the sentiment expressed in the quote:
I came to the conclusion that for beginners, it's probably better to start first with concentration

Seems pretty correct, as attempting to start insight without some level of calm and concentration seems quite impossible.

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/8/12 5:45 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Yadid dee:
It may be that Goenka, Mahasi, Chah seem like "Dry Insight" compared to folks like Pa Auk, but concentration is pretty strong in "dry insight" lineages as well. Goenka asks students to dedicate a third of all retreats to anapana, and Mahasi instructs to use the breath as a primary object throughout the practice.

As a matter of fact, in one of the Satipatthana evening discourses, Goenka says that the 3rd and 4th jhanas are "wholesome", and the 'assistant teacher' confirmed that he makes use of jhana while doing vipassana (but didn't keep track of which jhana was which).

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/8/12 7:27 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Jose Antonio:
Hi All, I'm new to meditation. I've read MCTB and I came to the conclusion that for beginners, it's probably better to start first with concentration. I'm using the technique of counting out-breaths proposed in Jhana and Ñana. However, I find difficult to watch my breath without changing it. I find myself breathing too deep or for too long.
Do you have any tips? Thank you in advance!


Yes. Apply less mental effort. Your attention should only be strong enough to just touch the breath, and no more. If you apply too much effort, you will create problems. See thread: "vipassana without side effects".

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/10/12 7:46 AM as a reply to Shashank Dixit.
Jose Antonio: Hi All, I'm new to meditation. I've read MCTB and I came to the conclusion that for beginners, it's probably better to start first with concentration. I'm using the technique of counting out-breaths proposed in Jhana and Ñana. However, I find difficult to watch my breath without changing it. I find myself breathing too deep or for too long. Do you have any tips? Thank you in advance!

Shashank: "One of the best things that I ever tried is to focus on the physical body itself instead of the fluctuating breath....the breath is very changeable and not that easy to lay focus on in the begining... when i say the body , I mean directly a wide focus on the physical body..invariably some things will arise here and there and your focus will go there..simply IGNORE it totally and get back to direct experience of the body at t = t


+1

I'm learning that through a painful trial and error. Plus, keep in mind that concentration can be practiced in a narrow or wide focus. And if you focus on the relaxation of the physical body, you'll pave the way both for the jhanas and vipassana practice. I have found that only when relaxed, a flow of vibrations can be noticed and that can be observed without too much disrupting it. Nevertheless, physical things will show up, and that are what I use as elements to practice noting. If you don't relax enough, you'll eventually could start fabricating that sensations instead of just watch them go by, much the same that happens while observing the length of breaths.

Best,

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/11/12 3:45 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Thank you for all your answers so far. It seems that there is not a single solution to the access concentration issue I had. I've identified these threads:
  • I'm applying too much effort in watching my breath. I agree that this may well be true; the problem is that I don't know how to apply less effort.
  • Focus on the body sensations instead of the breath. This works fine for me; however, this way I don't have the feedback mechanism built in the counting the breaths techniques. In other words, how do I quickly recognize that my mind has started wandering. I have another question on this topic ... how do you know that you are experiencing the sensations a time t=t?
  • There is also the discussion dry insight vs. concentation first and insight later. I've been reading some other posts, and it looks like that it's a bit philosophical. I don't have any formed opinion other than having read Daniel's book. He mentioned that he regreted not having strengthen concentration before practising insight.

Thank you all
Jose

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/11/12 8:39 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Jose Antonio:


I'm applying too much effort in watching my breath. I agree that this may well be true; the problem is that I don't know how to apply less effort.



I apply a lot less effort than I used to. I make a point of relaxing my body, especially the facial muscles and between the eyes. I'm not madly obsessive about noting ten thousand sensations per minute. That creates excessive energy and tension in the head because it's so forced and unnatural. I just notice those sensations that I do, and I do it with a gentle attitude, like I'm a kid lying on his back in summer, watching the clouds float by. Dig?

RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
Answer
11/13/12 6:55 AM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
Jose Antonio:
  • Focus on the body sensations instead of the breath. This works fine for me; however, this way I don't have the feedback mechanism built in the counting the breaths techniques. In other words, how do I quickly recognize that my mind has started wandering.
  • There is also the discussion dry insight vs. concentation first and insight later. I've been reading some other posts, and it looks like that it's a bit philosophical. I don't have any formed opinion other than having read Daniel's book. He mentioned that he regreted not having strengthen concentration before practising insight.


  • how do I quickly recognize that my mind has started wandering:

    Before mental talk, even a single word, you'll sense a growing tension somewhere in your head and / or rest of the body.

    dry insight vs. concentation

    There's a third option: there are many mixed methods which use both vipassana and samatha. I have tried ice-to-water-to-gas dissolving taoist method and Bhante Vimalaramsi buddhist method with good results.

    RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
    Answer
    11/15/12 10:49 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
    Yadid dee:
    Goenka asks students to dedicate a third of all retreats to anapana


    But the instructions are to watch actual sensations in the anapana area, which pushes Goenka anapana practice into more of an insight technique than pure samatha practice, which would focus on the breath as a concept.

    RE: How to be aware of the breath without changing it?
    Answer
    11/15/12 4:10 PM as a reply to Jose Antonio.
    Thank you all for your help.

    In summary, I get this message:
    - the point is on the awareness, not in the object of concentration. Apply a wider focus if too much effort is involved.
    - use physical sensation as support for meditation. Relaxing the body is a predondition for more developed concentration.

    Kind regards
    Jose