Message Boards Message Boards

Concentration

Not Tao's Samatha Method

Toggle
Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/4/15 1:40 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Alexander Entelechy 2/4/15 4:31 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method chris mc 2/5/15 11:57 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/5/15 5:09 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Conner Patrick Joyce 2/5/15 12:38 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Jack Hatfield 2/5/15 3:04 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Eric M W 2/8/15 9:49 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/11/15 2:09 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/6/15 1:57 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/6/15 1:59 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/8/15 7:57 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/10/15 7:16 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Atharva Karandikar 2/11/15 2:56 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/11/15 7:33 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method sloane 2/11/15 3:42 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/11/15 7:43 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method sloane 2/15/15 1:08 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/13/15 3:37 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method sloane 2/15/15 1:04 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/16/15 2:28 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method sloane 2/16/15 6:06 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/17/15 2:27 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/17/15 2:44 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Steph S 2/17/15 3:19 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/18/15 10:56 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/18/15 2:30 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/18/15 2:52 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 2/18/15 3:27 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/19/15 5:24 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method John Power 3/3/15 9:58 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Not Tao 3/3/15 8:03 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method David 3/20/15 3:15 AM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Pål 2/16/15 2:30 PM
RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method Chuck Kasmire 2/12/15 7:46 PM
Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/4/15 1:40 PM
Hello eveyone,

I'd like to share this method I've been using because of how relaxed and easy it is.  I had a lot of misconceptions about concentration practice before that made it into a bit of a chore to do regularly and actually ended up stopping me from practicing for a period of time.  I'm hoping this little tutorial/explanation will inspire more people to practice concentration regularly.

Anyway, the essentials are very anapanasati.  I take a seat and watch the breath.  However, there are lots of details no one mentions that actually make this a whole lot easier.

Firstly, I don't try to sit still.  This can be a big barrier to entry, and I've never seen anyone point out that this isn't important.  Who wants to spend 30 minutes trying to fight against an itch or leg pain.  Move as much as you want!  Scratch your nose.  Bounce your leg.  Shift positions every 10 seconds.  The only thing you have to do is keep watching your breath.  So as you scratch that itch, just make sure you're still watching your breath.  It's amazing how much easier it is to concentrate when you don't have this kind of manufactured distraction.  As concentration builds, you will naturally become still - the body calms down and you don't even notice.  Afterward you'll get up and suddenly realize you hadn't moved for 40 minutes!

I also don't try to sit on the floor or any special position.  Sit in the most comfortable way you can - your favorite chair, maybe.  As an added help, do something that requires you to stand for 30 minutes before meditating.  This will help the body relax when you sit.

You also don't need to close your eyes.  You can if you like, but if it makes you tired, try just leaving them open.  I do both, personally.  I've found practicing with my eyes open helps to transition the jhana factors into everyday life.

Now, the practice of samatha, rather than thinking of it as a concentration exercise, think of it as training to become patient.  A person with perfect patience has no need to think about anything or do anything.  They would just be willing to wait forever for nothing to happen.  As you watch the breath and distractions come up, see them as your own impatience - your own desire to solve some the problem or finish this current task and move on to the next one.  Go back to the breath with the idea that, "It can wait."  This is really the key to jhana, I think.  Tranquility is not something you attain so much as what's left when you stop trying to do anything in particular.  Tranquility is just being content to exist for a little while.  The breath is not even so important as patience, so if you notice yourself impatiently trying to concentrate on the breath, then drop that impatience as well and just go back to breathing peacefully.  Don't try to force anything - this is just more impatience.

Think of the breath as an anchor to the present moment.  I count both out-breaths and in-breaths (like, one, one, two, two, three, three, and so on...) because it's easier to maintain a stream of awareness that way.  If I notice I'm thinking about something, or I've developed a tension somewhere, I go back to the last number I remember clearly.  This is a good time to see impatience clearly.  The mind will rebel when you go backwards.  It will say, "No, no, I've already done that!  I'm just losing progress!  When I get to 100 I can be done."  This is actually the main reason I count.  When you see this tension clearly and drop it, you'll start to see what tranquility is all about.

Now, this is key.  The jhana factors arise when you are fully relaxed - not when you are fully concentrated.  The goal is not to maintain a perfect lazer-like awareness of the breath, but rather to remove all impatience and the tension related to it.  Awareness has a way of "blooming" for me when I become fully relaxed mentally.  It's effortless and somewhat magical. emoticon  The breath becomes very easy to watch, as well as a kind of "nowness" - or a sense of time standing still.

When this happens, excitement is not an obstacle!  There is no need to try to focus in or stop yourself from thinking, "oh, there it goes!"  Instead, just remain relaxed and enjoy the piti and sukha as it arises.  If you find yourself losing the jhana factors, just remember that the key is letting go of striving and just resting.  Use the breath as a support for this.

This is also how you can bring this skill out of formal meditation and into everyday life.  During the day, you can watch yourself for impatience.  For me it almost feels like I'm trying to push myself forward or escape the current situation.  J ust the other day I was doing flash cards and I noticed this hapoening.  It's a full body tension, like bracing against the world.  When I let go of it, I actually dropped into the first jhana for a time.  After a bit of sitting, you don't even need to watch for this intentionally during the day, but if you do it manually it can increase the effectiveness of your sitting practice.

Eventually it becomes very easy just to enter jhana - even if it seems like there are many distractions.  The truth is, there are never any distractions, just the incessant desire to be anywhere but here.  When this goes away, tranquility is what remains.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/4/15 4:31 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Thanks for this. I came here to ask you to describe your concentration practice and see that you've already done so. I may experiment with it myself.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/5/15 11:57 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
rather than thinking of it as a concentration exercise, think of it as training to become patient.

That's an interesting way of putting it, I like it.  I agree with your other points about being comfortable and relaxed.

If you had to guess - how long did it take you, how many consecutive days of practice until you first dipped into jhana?


_________

edit:      And, how long, on average, were you sitting per session?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/5/15 12:38 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Hey Not Tao,  
     Thanks a lot for this!  A lot of good info in here.  

I do have a question regarding your insight:  The first Jhana arises out of tranquility and not concentration.  

I too have seen bits and pieces of this in my meditation but am hesitant to follow it.  As far as I know the difference between the Buddha and his teachers Kalama and Ramaputta was that the Budda maintained mindfulness and didn't get caught in the Jhanas without concentration.  

I know this could spark a whole Jhana Skirmish but I would like to know what people think!  I have entered the 1st Jhana before without being strongly concentrated and I've also developed Access concentration first and then hit the first Jhana.  Anybody have any preference or advice?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/5/15 3:04 PM as a reply to Conner Patrick Joyce.
The Pali for this type of meditation is samadhi and translates as tranquility. The Sanscript is shamatha and translate as calm abiding, a phrase which I think captures it exactly. I don't know where the word concentration came in.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/5/15 5:09 PM as a reply to chris mc.
@Chris: It might be worthwhile to examine the feeling that motivated your question.  It's the exact thing you're looking to let go of!  It took me a number of months before I had any kind of jhana experience, but keep in mind that I wasn't even aware jhana existed.  I was only sitting 10-20 minutes each day because I found it very difficult to sit still. emoticon

In a way, it's actually very easy to accomplish tranquility.  The problem isn't that there isn't enough concentration, or that something specific has to happen or enough practice has to build up to a certain state to affort a breakthrough (I've thought all these things myself before).  It has everything to do with the way practice happens, and jhana begins to appear when practice shifts away from striving and into letting go of things.  It can often feel like a mental betrayal, or a kind of recklessness, to stop thinking about something that is worrying you.  Or it can feel like giving up a piece of your dignity if you let go of anger.  For a long time I framed this letting go as "acceptance," but I think "patience" is better now.  If, as you let go, you feel that mental protest, instead of trying to convince yourself to let go completely, you can just let go for now and there is no struggle to change your opinions, just the way you are holding something at this very moment.

What I've found is, once I let go of something this way, I simply don't feel inclined to pick it up again later when I'm done practicing. I think this begins to steer the mind towards an understanding that stress isn't really necessary, and it stops adding it onto experience. Or, if there is stress, the practice has shown that nothing bad happens when you drop it, so there's no longer that mental protest and fear, just a simple release of tension when it's noticed.

So, don't look to the future for jhana, go do it today! There's really nothing stopping it from happening except the tension of waiting. If you really want to jump start your practice, spend a few days denying any compulsive urge that comes up. For example, if you feel a desire to check Facebook, just don't do it. See what your mind does and ask why that has to happen. If you want to watch TV, just don't do it. Sit by the TV and watch as your mind keeps lunging again and again. It can actually be very painful to do this - but bear in mind that this experience of urgency and desire can go away completely. Tranquility is simply the complete absence of these kinds of urges. If you watch yourself, you might be suprised how constantly these things surface. Even the slightest physical discomfort is a sudden urge to MOVE! When you sit down and count your breath, you're bringing a lot of these things to the surface. So I'm trying to frame the practice as diffusing these urges more than anything else. The way to diffuse them is to remove your attention from them. Just go back to the breath. Ignore them. Eventually there is just no feeling of urgency left, and you are just watching the breath. Thoughts don't bother to come up. Discomfort doesn't arise. It's just a steady peaceful awareness that goes outward. This is, maybe, why you could call it concentration - but it's better to call it patience - or maybe the ability to ignore stress until it just goes away. emoticon

I think if I had seen someone frame it this way, it wouldn't have taken me long to get there. I think I answered Conner's question here too. Tranquility is the same thing as concentration - it's just the absence of all impulse and distraction. What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to DO something to concentrate, you have to stop doing something. Stop listening to impulses and urges until they stop arising.

Do watch the breath though - it's your anchor to let you know when you're being taken away. emoticon

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/6/15 1:57 AM as a reply to Conner Patrick Joyce.
Conner Patrick Joyce:


I too have seen bits and pieces of this in my meditation but am hesitant to follow it.  As far as I know the difference between the Buddha and his teachers Kalama and Ramaputta was that the Budda maintained mindfulness and didn't get caught in the Jhanas without concentration.  


Getting caught in jhanas? The jhanas is one of the things that the Buddha recommended the most. If I'm not misunderstanding what you mean, what you're saying is incorrect.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/6/15 1:59 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
This is kind of how I practice too nowadays, actually. Sometimes I move so much that each sit is a workout haha 

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/8/15 7:57 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I was out walking and I decided to try a little breath counting to see how well it would work.  After a bit, I noticed I kept hitting a point where the effort to meditate was stressful, but dropping the effort was also stressful because the mind would wander off and get stuck on stressful things.  The solution was actually fairly simple, though.  The mistake I was making was that I was assuming the goal of the practice was to find and maintain a present moment awareness - and the fact that my mind was wandering was a distraction.  But, hey, isn't that just more impatience with what's happening?  Isn't that precisely what I said not to do in this thread? emoticon  The reason the effort to maintain awareness of the breath was stressful was because I wasn't very aware of the breath, and the reason stopping meditation was stressful is because the ordinary way of thinking is full of little clogs where impatience settles in.  What I was really hoping to get rid of was the feeling that something wasn't quite right so I could enjoy my walk.

So (and this is probably why I was so interested in Actualism the last time my concentration practice revved up), the solution was to watch how I was feeling, and let go of the tension there.  I've certainly tried to do this a lot in the past and failed miserably, but I think with the practice I talked about in the OP, there is a direct link to doing this in an intensive way during meditation.  Maybe the main problem with actualist practice (at least, in my case) is simply a lack of proper concentration or practice to be able to implement the instructions well.

I think if you get right down to it, the most distilled "active ingredient" in tranquility meditation is delayed gratification and impulse control.  So, to practice well is to delay gratification of desire as much as possible.

Reading back over this, I should mention I was doing these things on just a subtle level of stress, haha.  I'm not a bubbling bag of emotional instability (at least, not lately emoticon) but there is always some level of dissatisfaction until everything is perfect.  When everything is perfect, I just enjoy it - there doesn't seem to be anything to do at that point.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/8/15 9:49 PM as a reply to Jack Hatfield.
Jack Hatfield:
The Pali for this type of meditation is samadhi and translates as tranquility. The Sanscript is shamatha and translate as calm abiding, a phrase which I think captures it exactly. I don't know where the word concentration came in.

The problem is that the Buddhist notion of concentration is different than what we in the west think of as concentration. As Ron Crouch points out, most people think "concentration" means thinking really hard. But in the Buddhist sense, concentration is gathering and unifying the mind. A Christian would call it recollecting the faculties.

I do think this misunderstanding of the translation can be a problem for a lot of people. The commentaries say that the proximate cause of concentration is happiness. If meditators sat down and took a few moments to generate joy, jhana is not far away.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/10/15 7:16 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
After practicing just now, I'd like to stress the importance of intuition in this process.  While watching the breath, any tensions that arise, for any reason, can be dropped.  The breath counting is nothign more than a loose anchor.  This means that, when the "quickening" happens and awareness seems to bloom and swell, any effort to do anything at all except allow yourself to be swept away will break the process.  At this moment, you have to break with any idea of process or method and let go completely.  The word "rapture" is perfect to describe this.

I've been seeing this blooming happen a number of times over the past week, and at that moment watching the breath and maintaining a steady count seems more like a hinderance than anything else.  I think it's a mistake to keep aiming for any concept of "concentration" at that point.

I have to be honest, though, it's hard to say exactly where the focus is when this blooming happens.  I'm somewhat aware of thoughts happening, but they steadily drop away as the pleasure increases in intensity.  I'm also aware of a kind of visual/physical space.  It's almost like the focus is simply on the feeling of existance, or the "I am alive" quality that's there if you just check in on yourself.  Even now I can still feel that quality tingling away pleasantly.  If I remember correctly, I started using this to dip into jhana almost instantly a while back when I was doing this regularly.

EDIT: Metta for all! *group hug*

Hehe, jhana makes me into such a softie. emoticon

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/11/15 2:09 AM as a reply to Eric M W.
I think maybe we shouldn't even translate samadhi with concentration. Look at the hindu definition of samadhi. That's not concentration. And it is never said in the suttas that anyone enters samma samadhi/jhana (same thing!) because they're so extremely focused on something. Instead, it is caused by letting go, happines and wisdom. 

I think it's first in the commentaries where it makes sense that samadhi could be translated as concentration, with all their new (imho confused) ideas such as khanika samadhi and upacara samadhi. 

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/11/15 2:56 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
This post has really helped me in my practice, I was aggresively trying to pursue the breath but my mind was becoming even more turbulent. I have a question though, when I relax completely I am prone to sleepiness and dullness. How do you bring a balance?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/11/15 3:42 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
[quote=
Not Tao]
This is also how you can bring this skill out of formal meditation and into everyday life.  During the day, you can watch yourself for impatience.  For me it almost feels like I'm trying to push myself forward or escape the current situation.  J ust the other day I was doing flash cards and I noticed this hapoening.  It's a full body tension, like bracing against the world.  When I let go of it, I actually dropped into the first jhana for a time.  After a bit of sitting, you don't even need to watch for this intentionally during the day, but if you do it manually it can increase the effectiveness of your sitting practice.


Good stuff. Your post reminded me of what I was doing when I used to be able to hit the first two jhanas reliably (nowadays I just stumble into them accidentally), and I just had a very concentrated sit, with very little effort, for the first time in ages after reading this thread. I think when I switched to doing noting, I lost/forgot the ability to relax that tension. That bracing feeling you're talking about for me tends to be a feeling that starts in my solar plexus and flows out to my entire body. When I had better luck with concentration in the past, I was also doing more body based vipassana practices, and had gotten quite good at an intentional physical relaxing of that bracing feeling.  It always required a bit of a feeling of recklessness for me to able to do it - a feeling like cliff diving in the dark or something similar. Almost felt as though I was scared of what sensations would come in if I stopped bracing...?  That bracing feeling is also associated with a feeling of urgency - like something has to be done/thought/performed immediately.  Anyway, it's so interesting how one forgets these things when one doesn't play with them for awhile, and I'm happy to have been reminded with these clear instructions.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/11/15 7:33 PM as a reply to Atharva Karandikar.
Atharva Karandikar:
This post has really helped me in my practice, I was aggresively trying to pursue the breath but my mind was becoming even more turbulent. I have a question though, when I relax completely I am prone to sleepiness and dullness. How do you bring a balance?


If you're feeling sleepy, that probably can't be helped aside from getting more sleep (like if your head is bobbing around haha). Meditating in the morning can help with this - especially in a room with bright morning light. If you feel dull, that's often been a sign of boredom for me. Boredom has its own special quality, IME. It pretends to be dull or sloshy, but it's really a kind of restlessness that's given up. Kind of like, "If I can't make the next few minutes go by faster, I'll just blank them out instead." It's caused by that same desire to escape.

What happens if you just sit down for 10 minutes without any intentions. Like, put a clock in front of you and be aware of the time as you're sitting there waiting. Can you feel that desire to make it go by faster? Is it similar to the dull feeling? You can drop that feeling and just sit there contently - it's possible! You can even put it to your mind like this, "I'm going to be sitting here for the next 10 minutes doing nothing. You're free to throw a tantrum like you normally do, but why wait to be happy? what exactly is going to happen after those ten minutes that will make you feel better?" I like to ask myself that. "Why wait?" Why is anything required to be happy and at peace? It turns out that waiting, itself, is a very nice experience when there is nothing important at the end of the wait.

What you're looking for is in a different "place" from aggressive or dull. It's not really a balance so much as the absence of both. It's just a clear, simple relaxation. It's the absence of any urgency, the absence of desire.

There are also those dull sad feelings, though. If you're recently experienced a lot of anxiety, guilt, or anger, the sad feelings can feel like a relief by comparison, and it's tempting to get bogged down by them. That's a good time to shake yourself off and say, "What the hell am I doing this for anyway? I don't just want to feel a little bit better, I want to feel 100% perfect!"

Also, this may sound corny, but if you can look at your breath like a friend you want to spend time with, rather than something to chase after and pin down, it helps a lot. If you're breathing in a shallow way, try taking some deep circular breaths, rounding off the transitions between the in and out.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/11/15 7:43 PM as a reply to sloane.
@ Sloane: That's all exactly how I would put it!

That feeling of recklessness you mention - I was running into that a lot towards the middle-end of last year. I think it was because I had been trying to do formless meditation without any support after a period of no concentration meditation. When I added breath counting back in it was very easy to go by that wall without completely noticing, and once you get by it a few times, it's easy to go off memory to allow yourself to drop the fear. I think it's the general fear of being out of control. Like holding things in the mind somehow keeps them steady and if we forget about them then everything is going to go wrong. I think this is all worry is - trying not to forget about something. Intentionally forgetting is a good solution, even though it feels slightly crazy as you do it.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/12/15 7:46 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Hi Not Tao,

Just wanted to say that these are the best, clearest instructions I have ever come across. You have a great skill.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/13/15 3:37 AM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:
[quote=
Not Tao]
This is also how you can bring this skill out of formal meditation and into everyday life.  During the day, you can watch yourself for impatience.  For me it almost feels like I'm trying to push myself forward or escape the current situation.  J ust the other day I was doing flash cards and I noticed this hapoening.  It's a full body tension, like bracing against the world.  When I let go of it, I actually dropped into the first jhana for a time.  After a bit of sitting, you don't even need to watch for this intentionally during the day, but if you do it manually it can increase the effectiveness of your sitting practice.


Good stuff. Your post reminded me of what I was doing when I used to be able to hit the first two jhanas reliably (nowadays I just stumble into them accidentally), and I just had a very concentrated sit, with very little effort, for the first time in ages after reading this thread. I think when I switched to doing noting, I lost/forgot the ability to relax that tension. That bracing feeling you're talking about for me tends to be a feeling that starts in my solar plexus and flows out to my entire body. When I had better luck with concentration in the past, I was also doing more body based vipassana practices, and had gotten quite good at an intentional physical relaxing of that bracing feeling.  It always required a bit of a feeling of recklessness for me to able to do it - a feeling like cliff diving in the dark or something similar. Almost felt as though I was scared of what sensations would come in if I stopped bracing...?  That bracing feeling is also associated with a feeling of urgency - like something has to be done/thought/performed immediately.  Anyway, it's so interesting how one forgets these things when one doesn't play with them for awhile, and I'm happy to have been reminded with these clear instructions.


This sounds just like the suttas. What kind of meditation are you doing?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/15/15 1:04 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
This sounds just like the suttas. What kind of meditation are you doing?
When I was having the experiences I described above, I was primarily doing a combination of Goenka style vipassana and Reggie Ray's practices (the main one is more or less a body scan limited to 10 points on the body). My most recent practice has been noting, but I think it may be less fruitful for me.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/15/15 1:08 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
@ Sloane: That's all exactly how I would put it!

That feeling of recklessness you mention - I was running into that a lot towards the middle-end of last year. I think it was because I had been trying to do formless meditation without any support after a period of no concentration meditation. When I added breath counting back in it was very easy to go by that wall without completely noticing, and once you get by it a few times, it's easy to go off memory to allow yourself to drop the fear.
Interesting. I'm going to give breath counting a more serious attempt (I've never done much of it) and see how this pans out for me. 

I think it's the general fear of being out of control. Like holding things in the mind somehow keeps them steady and if we forget about them then everything is going to go wrong. I think this is all worry is - trying not to forget about something. Intentionally forgetting is a good solution, even though it feels slightly crazy as you do it.
Yeah, this really resonates, the control piece and the keeping things steady bit especially. It also feels like a fear or shrinking back from the intensity of body sensations for me - even from the good or neutral ones. Like an intolerance for the volume of them.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/16/15 2:28 PM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:
Pål:
This sounds just like the suttas. What kind of meditation are you doing?
When I was having the experiences I described above, I was primarily doing a combination of Goenka style vipassana and Reggie Ray's practices (the main one is more or less a body scan limited to 10 points on the body). My most recent practice has been noting, but I think it may be less fruitful for me.

Now I get tempted to return to scanning practice... But I think I'll stick with nostril focus until I go to my first Goenka and probably after that too to see what happens. Have you ever gotten piti through focus on a single spot?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/16/15 2:30 PM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:
Pål:
This sounds just like the suttas. What kind of meditation are you doing?
When I was having the experiences I described above, I was primarily doing a combination of Goenka style vipassana and Reggie Ray's practices (the main one is more or less a body scan limited to 10 points on the body). My most recent practice has been noting, but I think it may be less fruitful for me.


Have you ever gotten piti like that through focus on a sinlge spot?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/16/15 6:06 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Now I get tempted to return to scanning practice... But I think I'll stick with nostril focus until I go to my first Goenka and probably after that too to see what happens. Have you ever gotten piti through focus on a single spot?


Yes, but oddly, never with focus my nostril or upper lip - only the tip of a finger or belly.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/17/15 2:27 PM as a reply to sloane.
It's a hard place to focus at, right? Maybe that, along with the fact that i get more weird physichal stuff woth scanning, is a sign that scanning works better for me. Or the harder spot the better, "go heavy or go home" like powerlifters say. I'm not sure what do you guys think?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/17/15 2:44 PM as a reply to Pål.
Hey Pal,

I bet scanning works better for you because it's something you can do actively, whereas watching the breath at the lip is a steady, unchanging activity, so it seems boring and your mind flutters off on some thoughts to stay busy.  I'm trying to point out in this thread that it is, specifically, that desire to "do somthing" that prevents the jhana factors from arising.  Even the desire to "do meditation" is a desire to do something.  So drop all of that and go back to some object.  Go back as a way to get away from the need to accomplish something.  Jhana is the joy that comes from having nothing you need to do.  It doesn't come any other way, so there is no way to force it, no method to take you there.  You just have to relax.  Think of it like a very particular mindset.  The mind MUST do somthing, so you give it an object, and when the mind does other things, you just tell it, "oh, don't worry about that right now, we're just going to watch the object."

I don't think your weird physical stuff has anything to do with jhana, you're just looking for something to hold onto, "Aha!  This is progress!  Something is happening!"  Get out of that mindset completely.  Just relax.  Make it okay for nothing at all to happen except relaxing.  This is the trick you're looking for.  Jhana isn't a magic carpet that carries you away into rapture and pleasure, it's the fact that you're relaxing and dropping the urge to do anything, be anywhere, accomplish anything, that turns into a simple rapture - you no longer have anything occupying your mind, so pure existance itself becomes fascinating and occupies all of your attention.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/17/15 3:19 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Nice practice log! emoticon

I really love your bit about treating the breath like a friend you want to spend time with.  A couple years ago I read similar advice in a book by Ajahn Brahm.  Something I do at the start of a samatha session that helps, is that I gently move the breath around like I am giving myself a whole body internal air massage to dissolve any tensions.  It gets things really relaxed and clarified.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/18/15 10:56 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Ok cool then I'll stick with spot focus some more. It has a conpletely different feeling to it then my old scanning, but it's cool too.

Still I wonder what those entertaining movements were(/are sometimes). Daniel said early Nanas and a yoga dude told me it was energy blockages being cleared out during meditation. If he was right then having less and less spontaneous movments would be a sign of progress. But you're right I shouldn't be looking for progress. 

You had your first piti while practicing 10-20 mins/day? Then my 15-50 mins isn't that bad I guess emoticon

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/18/15 2:30 PM as a reply to Pål.
My first taste of piti actually didn't happen while I was meditating.  It happened spontaneously while I was trying to accept and let go of an anxiety attack.  On here they call it an A&P event.  After that, jhana was very easy to attain.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/18/15 2:52 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Was tht a long time ago? Have you with frequent jhanaing kind of bern able to get stuck in the A&P maybe? That would be awesome. Maybe the anxiety helped you in a way.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/18/15 3:27 PM as a reply to Pål.
I can't really relate to the progress of insight.  I wouldn't say I'm stuck in the A&P, rather that whatever I'm doing doesn't relate to the maps (which is why I'm inclined to think of it as "just jhana"). The event happened last new year, so a little over a year ago.  My day to day life really isn't any different, except that I don't have long dramatic episodes of anxiety like I used to.  If I feel a lot of anxiety, meditation like I posted above will cure it.  When I meditate every day, life is just fairly stable.

I've had periods of "special effects," like your arm flapping, but it never seems to lead anywhere or have any real meaning.  The times when it seems like "progress is hapening" actually contribute to stress during meditation, so I just got tired if the whole idea of progress a while back.

Here's a list of special effects:
- Third eye pressure
- Eyes crossing (sometimes painfully)
- Images suddenly appearing (perfectly clear, like I opened my eyes)
- Strobing blackness behind the eyes
- My head moving to one side by itself
- Or my head drifting around like a crazy balloon
- Rippling/trickling/pulsing brain feeling
- Various chakras vibrating/spinning/compressing/heating/cooling/opening
- Or "wads" of pressure moving up and down chakras
- Tingling or temoerature related skin reactions
- Flashes of light or color changes behind the eyelids (not as impressive as it sounds haha)

My personal opinion, they happen because you want something to happen.  People make whole systems of energy work to make these things happen.  It certainly feels like it's doing something, or something is changing, but then you go back to real life and nothing has really changed.  You're still angry when you would normally be angry, and you're still afraid when you'd normally be afraid.  Jhana seems to work very differently.  After doing jhana meditation, life changes for a while.  You simply don't get angry when you would before, and this is a magical experience.  It's very freeing.  Also, there is a kind of clarity to how you see your emotional baggage.  It just doesn't seem to matter very much.  This seems cumulative, as well.  I like the word "dispassion" - it really seems to sum it up.  You don't really resolve problems, or work through them, or become disconnected from them, or even let go of them.  They just lose all interest or urgency.  I think this is what the practice of concentration meditation really is - just dropping all interest and urgency and allowing yourself simply to exist for a while.  When this happens, and it is seen to be very pleasant (or, the most pleasant) then it sticks around and turns into a habit.  When emotions come up, the first reaction is no longer self defence but rather dispassion, and then stillness.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
2/19/15 5:24 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
I think the different "symptoms" have different reasons in many cases. Like, I get third eye pressures from nostril focus but almost no head drifting or arm flapping, which I almost always got from scanning. According to Bhante Vimalaramsi the third eye pressures is contractions of the forehead because of aversion to distraction, and should be relaxed before going back to the meditation object, which makes sense to me. Maybe, if your theory is correct, I get less movements from sport focus since there is less room for "doing" and thus less "wanting" involved, which probably is more conducive to Jhana. 

"The times when it seems like "progress is hapening" actually contribute to stress during meditation, so I just got tired if the whole idea of progress a while back."

This was not my experience at all, I mostly found the physichal "signs of progress" to be relaxing and enjoyable. Though sometimes distracting after long periods of getting them. 

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
3/3/15 9:58 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Heey Not Tao,

Nice thread! I can really relate to your first post about relaxation and letting go.
I have always practised vipassana, but sometimes experimented with concentration practises.
Currently I am more experimenting with concentration because I don't want to be in DN because of my current life situation.
I did kasina practises like watching a candle flame and a bowl, but I never became absorpted(hard jhana) in the object. Sometimes I think my mindfulness or vipassana skills are too well developted that I just can't shut it down, meaning that I can while being aware of the candle flame I also am aware of sounds, body etc and seeing experience arise and pass. The only time I have been absorpted in the object was during retreat.
I found that counting the breath at the abdomen works well to relax and get concentrated. I count only the out-breath and label the in-breath with 'up'. So 'up', 'one', 'up', 'two'. Then till I get to ten and then start at one again. But I didn't get hard jhana (absorpted).

Because you are experienced with this technique I would like to ask you a few questions. Did you get hard jhana when counting breaths? Hard jhana meaning absorption and losing contact with the outside world(senses). Second question: How do I make sure that I don't cross the A&P while doing this practise?

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
3/3/15 8:03 PM as a reply to John Power.
Hey John,

It's a bit difficult to answer because I think I'm working on a different axis with this practice.  The states that this practice brings about aren't really concentration related.  I don't usually lose touch with my body or get any energetic effects or altered states of consciousness.  What happens instead is a mental and emotional stilling.  It's different from the kind of concentration I used to practice, but it's a lot more rewarding.

With intensive concentration practice you're dominating the mind.  It can be somewhat stressful at the beginning of practice (the practice itself adds a stressful component), and this use of force only really fades once the jhana arises, if it does at all.  I've had lots of different kinds of piti, and sometimes it isn't even pleasant.  Maybe these can't all be called "piti" - but there's a set of related experiences that seem to come from the same "feeling area".  The jhana factors can have a harsh quality to them - a kind of grasping attached to them.  With the method I outlined here, you're not trying to concentrate at all, but rather give yourself permission to forget everything.  This slows down the mind.  The concept of a goal or result is dropped along with everything else.  The jhana factors are very different IME. They arise from a deep relaxation.  There is definitely a relationship between the two, but the way they happen is differently.  This method gives me much stronger, more saturating piti, and a slow burning sukha that tends to stick around.  There is a wholesome quality to the whole thing.  It all happens with the eyes open and without trying to sit still, too, so it's much more integrated into real life.  There isn't a separation between jhanic feelings and normal existence.

So the jhana factors are "harder" than they used to be for me, but there isn't such a shift away from normalcy.  I used to dive right into formless experiences before, and now I don't really have any.  I think it's probably possible with this method, but I don't have any desire to rush ahead like I did before.  There's something that just makes you want to go slowly. Everything is very satisfying all the way through the process.

So I would say that if your goal is to become absorbed in an object and power up concentration, this won't work quite the same way. If you want to get jhana factors like piti and sukha, though, it really is as simple as letting your mind empty out of all the urging it feels. There is no requirement to concentrate or hold the mind on one thing, and there is no requirement to have awareness be focused in any way. These factors come from satisfaction and contentment, not concentration specifically. I think intense concentration works to create jhana for the same reason - you're no longer focused on problems - but it's less stable. More of an on/off switch. Problems come rushing back once you're done concentrating. With this method, they just don't seem to come back the same way. They've lost their edge.

It's like you're learning how to control the importance attached to things and how that importance presents itself to you. When you are stressed, there's a harsh quality to everything that comes into your mind. Everything cuts in sharply. Maybe you get little jumps in the chest or sudden tenseness when you think of each new thing you need to do or each new possible scenario. What I do is I just give myself permission to forget each thing that comes up. I count my breath, and when there's an interruption, I give it permission to leave. The counting isn't there to suppress anything, and it isn't there to concentrate on. I lose track of it all the time - it often goes on unconsciously. I only count because I tend to lose track of what I'm doing if I don't. The counting goes on in the background and I'm more likely to come out of reverie and drop any negativity if it's there. When I notice it, I take a look at what I'm thinking about and I can usually see the tension and urgency attached to it fairly clearly. That's when I drop everything in my mind. It's like shrugging off a weight rather than trying to bully the thought out. It can do whatever it wants, you know? You don't have to do anything in particular. You just want to be free from the urgency it's selling to you. So you just drop that. Forget about it. Give yourself permission.

Sometimes I might even be thinking about the meditation itself. "Why isn't anything happening yet?" It's just like anything else. Another thought telling me something has to happen. The whole practice is to be as lazy as possible. To realize you don't have to do anything in particular. You don't even have an obligation to relax. If you can't let go, no problem. Don't bother, then. If it happens that you can't let go - letting go itself has become another urgent thing to do.

Well I'm typing novels again. Anyway, I hope I answered your question somewhere in there. emoticon

Oh, as for mapping - I don't really bother with that. I haven't had any instability since I've been practicing this way. There are good and bad days, sure, but this has just helped a lot with overall well-being. It gives you a lot more control over what you keep in your head in general.

RE: Not Tao's Samatha Method
Answer
3/20/15 3:15 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Hi,

first of all thanks for your posts, nicely written and informative emoticon

I wanted to add something to the "arm flapping" stuff, which I guess is rather unknown in these territories and might give some alternative perspective.
I myself am doing autogenic meditation, which is developed out of autogenic training originally developed in the 1930s by a German psychiatrist called J.H. Schultz as a form of relaxation (basic level), yogic (advanced level) and healing method. A student of Schultz called Dr. Luthe co-authored a 7-volume thing about the medical and psychological applications of this training and he coined the term autogenic discharges for these phenomena - the theory behind it has been criticized by scientists as being too reductionistic / minimalistic, nevertheless there is an amount of (case) studies by different doctors over the years, which principally indicated, that the smaller ones (like the blips in muscles) are simply natural discharges, brought about by the sympathetic nervous system turning down, while bigger ones like feeling distortions etc. are manifestations of psychological issues. It might be relevant to add here, that AT was originally and is in medical circles still seen as to be practiced under supervision of a neurologist / psychiatrist to work through these things, eventhough there is also the possibility to go into a sort of spacious awareness mode combined with a form of free association, which was termed autogenic neutralisation to get rid of the symptoms, including recurring psychosomatic illnesses. In rare cases - which I personally found fascinating - some of the discharges even notified the practicioner of an actually developing physical condition which was then possible to be treated with doctors sometimes being stunned how the person even noticed it so early on.

Have a nice one!