What technique of concentration works for you?

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old dried leaf, modified 8 Years ago.

What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 40 Join Date: 8/7/13 Recent Posts
Hello,

I am posting this thread due to this reoccuring thought, "How do the others at Dharma Overground develop their concentration?" I have a very strong curiosity to learn the details of your technique(s). Our differences in techniques could blend and benefit each other and have a great effect for many. I have great respect for those who cultivate meditation and I would love to hear from you.

This is my technique. Before concentrating, I cultivate Sati or Recall. I do this because if I concentrate without first having done Recall, concentration will be very weak. No matter how long I continue concentrating, it will remain weak without first cultivating Recall. I am not sure exactly why.

[indent]> I direct awareness to the knowing of thoughts.
> Awareness becomes fixed and lucid, sustaining on the empty thought field.
> A thought emerges from the thoughts field and awareness labels it. After labeling, the thought form transforms or dissolves. The thought field becomes empty again.
The point of this is to really stay completely fixed, nonlapsing, in the present moment with the awareness of "waiting for a thought." Doing this reminds me of the hungry frog, sitting ever-alert. What seems to happen from this technique is thoughts become more lucid. An initially moving image will become flashing frames of images. [/indent]

I then begin cultivation breath after I think I've done enough recalling:

[indent]> awareness is directed to the tactile sensations of breath. breath is vivid and continuous . . .
> intentions emerge in awareness:
* desiring to stay continuously aware of the breath,
* to be gentle to the breath,
* to be relaxed with the breath . . .
> awareness sees the breath sensations to be endlessly transforming into new sensations and unfolding out to new areas of awareness. so then awareness suffuses, opening to the whole field of body to allow the breath to unfold without bounds in awareness. when awareness is fully opened, it will be perceived as being clear and unmoving . . .
> awareness is more stabilized with breath. then sensations of piti begin to wash through body and into awareness. awareness concentrates on the vividness of the tactile sensations of breath but is also lucid of the whole field of body which piti is now increasingly filling up in . . .[/indent]

This technique consistently works for me, however it does not go far enough to reach the first jhana. I am hoping this leads to access concentration, but I have not experienced any absorption or pleasurable sensations from the breath, yet.

Thank you for your interest in this thread. I would appreciate any thoughts that you may have regarding this technique, particularly any improvements I can make, or projections for what direction I should take after piti "fills up." I will be happy to return comments to all who are interested in sharing their techniques.

Thank you for reading
~
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 1641 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
To develop jhanas I start counting the breath "Just" = in breath, "One" = out breath and count up to 10 and then count backwards back to one (to avoid boredom). If my mind wanders and I lose my count or I count beyond ten I immediately start the count again and start over. The trick being I don't make analysis or comments on any failure. I continue this with no particular goal or desire for jhana. With enough conditioning over days I can hit the first jhana. When I do that I get a brightening of the retina and I now notice that and the tingly sensations and warm of the body I stop counting use the the new phenomena as the object. When I focus on the bright retina I eventually move up jhanas automatically up through to the 4th if I meditate long enough. The brain just naturally inclines there after getting bored. When I started developing a 3rd eye muscle group in the forehead I sometimes used the pressure there as an object.
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old dried leaf, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 40 Join Date: 8/7/13 Recent Posts
Richard Zen:
To develop jhanas I start counting the breath "Just" = in breath, "One" = out breath and count up to 10 and then count backwards back to one (to avoid boredom).


When you do this, are you focusing awareness on the perception of counting, or the sensation of breath? I think that this counting technique is similar to my recall technique in that it fixes awareness onto a single point and sustains lucidness there, if i understand it correctly.
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 1641 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
I'm focusing on the awareness of the breath but not all the detail. The counting is just to keep the intellectual brain busy. Paying attention to every detail of the breath is mindfulness. Concentration is about creating a false solidity and mindfulness is about breaking that illusion.

MCTB:

When doing concentration practices, one purposefully tries to fix or freeze the mind in a specific state, called an “absorption,” “jhana” or “dyana.” While reality cannot be frozen in this way, the illusion of solidity and stability certainly can be cultivated, and this is concentration practice.
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old dried leaf, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 40 Join Date: 8/7/13 Recent Posts
That is very helpful, thank you Richard.
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Dan Cooney, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
old dried leaf:
Richard Zen:
To develop jhanas I start counting the breath "Just" = in breath, "One" = out breath and count up to 10 and then count backwards back to one (to avoid boredom).


When you do this, are you focusing awareness on the perception of counting, or the sensation of breath? I think that this counting technique is similar to my recall technique in that it fixes awareness onto a single point and sustains lucidness there, if i understand it correctly.
I'm a fan of awareness techniques.

"dont think. feeeeeeeeel" -bruce lee

So feeeeeeel the breath, but not the air itself, but all of the structures that make the air move - in a purposeful way, engage the proprioceptive feeling by rote analysis of the components that make air move, streamline them, make them more efficient, drop any and all unneeded input-movement. Just focusing on the air or the tip of the nose is looking at the finger...doing the gongfu and streamlining all of it is looking at the moon....ingraining the technique profoundly into the muscle memory of the body is basking in the moon's glow and enjoying all that it is.

i.e. if you are using the air passageways and sinuses to facilitate the movement of breath...those are "extras" and not fundamental breath mechanisms, and they have lots of neural inputs to them which in turn resonate neural activity up into higher brain centers and have the byproduct of thought. Check out Brian Austin's Zen and the Brain sometime. Quite a tome, but chock full of interesting information.

That's why I disagree with the notion of simply engaging the intellectual mind just to keep it occupied - you're still turning that prayer wheel and giving it angular momentum in doing that.

Drop that which is not needed.

By reeling in the diaphragm from its inferior posterior attachment where it merges into the anterior longitudinal ligament, facilitating that movement with the psoas muscle to descend the motion deep down to the dantien, then time that correctly with perineum movement (which plays out differently depending on whether you are doing natural or reverse breathing) and a bit of support from the front of the abdomen, especially the lower portion below the navel...

By doing that you are fully engaging the most fundamental structures of breath. As the breath is slowed, like doing a taiji form slower and slower, the small fine subtleties come out, and one realizes that the air passageways do not need to be utilized to facilitate the movement of air.

Combine that with the spirit focused at the seat of awareness, at the niwan upper dantien, the focused awareness more thoroughly ingrains this streamlined notion of breath and actually begins to rewrite the default breath protocol that is ingrained into the medulla. Practiced continuously, it manifests a calm, clear mind; smooth, deep, fine as silk breath...that extends into all aspects of life, whether one is eating breakfast, going about the day's work, even sleep.

Well ingraining this protocol onto the subconscious processes via rote focused awareness and giving it some special attention during meditation leads to a freeing of all the energy potentials normally manifested by the cranial nerve sensory inputs as well as eliminating the energy stealing air vortices that form in the nooks and crannies of the air passageways when the breath is coarse.

All of that extra potential directly fuels the awareness and helps contribute towards longer and longer breaths - the foreground is deconstructed over and over again, revealing the background behind it, and that background now becomes the new foreground to be deconstructed further.

All aimed at stripping away all that is unnecessary, leaving direct awareness shining on its own.
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old dried leaf, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 40 Join Date: 8/7/13 Recent Posts
Thanks Dan, I enjoyed reading your post.  I have a some thoughts to share,

Dan Cooney:
So feeeeeeel the breath, but not the air itself, but all of the structures that make the air move

This is very important to me, and a great reminder reading this in your words.  When I "follow" breath in awareness, awareness seems less vivid than just fixing awareness onto the whole field of breath so that awareness does not have to move around.  

Dan Cooney:
drop any and all unneeded input-movement

I understand this as releasing fabrication, another important reminder.

Dan Cooney:
That's why I disagree with the notion of simply engaging the intellectual mind just to keep it occupied - you're still turning that prayer wheel and giving it angular momentum in doing that.

Engaging the intellectual mind to keep it occupied I thought was a good idea as a strategy to stabilize awareness in sustaining concentration on an object.  It would be great to drop the thinking mind and begin sustained concentration on the onset of meditation, but I cannot do this.  When you begin meditation, is your mind already calm and clear?  If it weren't, what would you suggest to make it calm?

Dan Cooney:
the spirit focused at the seat of awareness, at the niwan upper dantien

Does this mean that awareness is diffused through the whole body and also concentrated at the niwan upper dantien?  This particularly interests me because I realize concentrating a point of awareness within the field of diffused awareness could unfold sukha.  But where?

Dan Cooney:
Practiced continuously, it manifests a calm, clear mind; smooth, deep, fine as silk breath...that extends into all aspects of life, whether one is eating breakfast, going about the day's work, even sleep.

This is what I am really excited and focused on in my path through meditation, developing the calm and clear mind.  Have you developed a mind as you described above?

I appreciate your post a lot.
~
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Dan Cooney, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
old dried leaf:
Thanks Dan, I enjoyed reading your post.  I have a some thoughts to share,
_/\_

Dan Cooney:
So feeeeeeel the breath, but not the air itself, but all of the structures that make the air move

This is very important to me, and a great reminder reading this in your words.  When I "follow" breath in awareness, awareness seems less vivid than just fixing awareness onto the whole field of breath so that awareness does not have to move around.  
Try not to think in terms of the awareness moving. Liken the concept of 'thusness'...with practice you eventually learn to have your awareness everywhere, and nowhere, simultaneously. When working on breath mechanics, the interactions of the diaphragm, psoas, and perineum are paramount. Doing the work and streamlining them, and attaining the result of perfected harmonies in their interactions, well ingrained into the subconscious programming of the body...well, have you ever done something so repetitively that you seem to go on auto pilot? Same thing here. As the protocols are more and more ingrained into the subconscious processes, the less mental capital one needs to 'spend' to keep that wheel turning. Deeper stages of anapana have been naught but a subtle rising and falling in the abdominal area in terms of sensations for me, but I only reached that stage by copious amounts of the rote methods.



Dan Cooney:
drop any and all unneeded input-movement

I understand this as releasing fabrication, another important reminder.

Dan Cooney:
That's why I disagree with the notion of simply engaging the intellectual mind just to keep it occupied - you're still turning that prayer wheel and giving it angular momentum in doing that.

Engaging the intellectual mind to keep it occupied I thought was a good idea as a strategy to stabilize awareness in sustaining concentration on an object.  It would be great to drop the thinking mind and begin sustained concentration on the onset of meditation, but I cannot do this.  When you begin meditation, is your mind already calm and clear?  If it weren't, what would you suggest to make it calm?
Of course there any many paths one may take up the mountain - the path I am advocating is one of directly addressing the body's signals...identifying the inputs, paring back to only that which is necessary, at that point other signals become more prominent, then those may be worked on until well attenuated. I just keep mentioning the breath because it is imho *the* best starting point to begin directly addressing bodily signals. One may start with the mind and say mantras or chants or focus on an object and may attain similar results, but personally I do not feel the inertia of those methods compares to the inertia produced by this direct assessment of the breath and senses - immersing one's awareness into the feelings of those senses and actively working at them and mitigating the body's feedback mechanisms to purposefully bring them to states of relative energetic maxima coincident with consumption minima.

The main thing is to harness the primordial energy potential and channel it into feeling - random thought only happens when there is sufficient energy potential available resonating into the higher brain centers - part of this method is harnessing that potential before it winds up going up there - so by putting the full force of awareness into feeling, you deny the energy potential from manifesting as thought-stream-energy. This of course takes time and practice to learn and express well.

When I begin meditation, is my mind calm and clear...honestly it depends on the present level and depth of my practice, how long it takes. The better in practice I am, the calmer and clearer my mind is from the outset. The better in practice I am, the more quickly I attain a significant calmness. The more quickly the breath disappears and the energetic phenomena begin to manifest. The more quickly "real meditation" happens.


Dan Cooney:
the spirit focused at the seat of awareness, at the niwan upper dantien

Does this mean that awareness is diffused through the whole body and also concentrated at the niwan upper dantien?  This particularly interests me because I realize concentrating a point of awareness within the field of diffused awareness could unfold sukha.  But where?
This is a particularly potent portion. Having learned to do this well, it has made the subtle phenomena arise more quickly with each ongoing immersion into deep practice states - i.e. what used to take me 50 second breaths will happen at 30, 35 seconds with this method well implemented, for example. Yang Jwing Ming described it as "condensing the shen at the upper dantien" - another buddy of mine says "find the source of the I-thought" - and from Luk's translation of Taoist Yoga, "fixing the spirit at the seat of awareness." This is where the quasi simultaneous awareness happens, in a way. Having done a decent measure of breath mechanics analysis and streamlining, keep that up, dont lose that, it is important - but here is where the "look down the tip of your nose" comes from - it is a subtle cue that is partially brought about by that slight eye cross from looking down the nose, in other words bringing the blind spots a little closer to each other - it is an attenuation method for the cranial nerves...that's why I call them the 12 thieves instead of the 5 thieves, just to relate it more physically, hehe. Google the cranial nerves sometime and see how they relate. Anyway...this method should ALWAYS be done GENTLY...otherwise it is just a recipe for a headache. It is somewhat counter-intuitive to both focus and relax at the same time - I can only point here, it is up to the practitioner to put this method to use - but it is one-pointed concentration/focus. When well focused pretty much everything else disappears - what is taking place is that the focus of awareness attains the ability to basically arrest the energy potential that the cranial nerves otherwise use to extend out into the world - it is bringing this potential back, capturing it unmanifested and raw, before the energy is utilized, transformed, becomes manifest as something. That's what a LOT of these procedures I am describing are doing - capturing these energy potentials and using them as fuel for the awareness BEFORE they become manifest as something. No different than if one is celibate then it all starts with mind celibacy, since there are efferent nerves attached to the testes and lustful thought commands them to produce. It is catching the matter at the root and harnessing the energy potentials before there is a chance to manifest. Where, is right at the pineal gland...profile midline above the ear, intersect lines from that, baihui, third eye...where those lines intersect is where to bring the focus of awareness and keep it fixed. Luk's translation of Taoist Yoga actually says that one will encounter serious issues with microcosmic orbit if this technique is not learned.



Dan Cooney:
Practiced continuously, it manifests a calm, clear mind; smooth, deep, fine as silk breath...that extends into all aspects of life, whether one is eating breakfast, going about the day's work, even sleep.

This is what I am really excited and focused on in my path through meditation, developing the calm and clear mind.  Have you developed a mind as you described above?
I have, a few times. I've been studying and practicing for roughly 10 years and have reached some relatively significant levels of immersion in this, conducting analyses the whole way on what works. I have experienced the same metabolic charges, levels of mind clarity and quiescence, other enhanced energetics every time I reach certain markers, and as I've gained understanding on the components, the markers have come more quickly with shorter breaths pretty much each time - the longest breaths I have attained were roughly 1:15, not that the fact is any sort of badge in and of itself, and I would only do measurement once in a great while anyway. That said, it is relatively easy to fall back to worldliness...if you have attachments and a lot going on in your life then that will definitely interfere, and I can totally see why sages retire to the mountains to cultivate. It is tempting to me, honestly.



I appreciate your post a lot.
Humble regards, I am always glad to help anyone out. If you have more questions please feel free to ask.

~

Perhaps also check out my conversation with bruno here, I related many similar things but of course the context started out a little differently than here, there's probably a thing or two there that is not here.


_/\_
Mario Nistri, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
This technique obviously worked very well for the guy who posted it...
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Dream Walker, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: What technique of concentration works for you?

Posts: 1356 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
I like to synchronize several aspects during walking meditation to get concentrated before moving to sitting insite.
I step right foot with outbreath and left foot with inbreath. I also count to 10 with the outbreath to start until I can get to ten several time without loosing it and getting into story. Then I just count to one with each outbreath (mantra).
After a bit of this I'm kinda off balance as the concentration takes over but my breathing has usually slowed down and therefore my steps too. I will then switch focus to pleasure of breathing at my stomach and cultivate this pleasure by expanding the pleasure with every in breath. This gets me to second jhana. I usually then sit down and let go of the pleasure building and let the vibrations pull me into third. I do not have a trigger to get to fourth, it just happens. Although lately investigating impermanence of the vibes helps me get to 4th jhana/11th nana EQ. maybe that is a trigger of sorts.
Good luck
~D

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