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The gap between the breaths

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The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 10:26 AM
Nowadays I practice Anapanasati like this usually: http://youtu.be/s_ymrmtBiGA
TLemoticonR of the instructions: 1. Make the breath interesting, by noticing it's length or counting it etc. I do both for about 50-100 breaths (I don't count that far though). 2. Let go of length notes/counting and fill your entire awareness with sensations the breath and it's pauses (=experiencing the whole body of breath) 3. Notice the breath getting still, piti, sukha etcetc...

my problem is at step 2. I'm not entirely sure where to rest attention between the out- and the in-breath. When breathing in or out I let attention rest on some breath sensation(-s), usually around or inside the nose and/or chest, whatever feels right basically, as long as I'm aware of the experience of breathing. The gap when I've just breathed out is pretty long for me though, and there is like nothing obvious to focus on there. What feels intuitively right is investigating the desire to breathe pass away and arise again in the form of dryness/slight tension but it's so easy for doubt and thoughts about other things to break into those gaps. What do you think I should focus on between breaths? The suttas don't say anything about those gaps and that might point to just letting attention rest on whatever it wants in between which was how I used to interpret it after reading Pema Chödrön who recommends focusing on the out-breath ONLY and just ignore it and chill out when the breath does something else than going out. 

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 2:13 PM as a reply to Pål.
  • When watching the breath for samatha purposes, these are the things I have done:  
- enjoy the silence / spaciousness of the rest between out and in breaths
- focus on the nimitta (though the red dot is not on the tip of the nose, but higher)
- focus on the ear-tones
- if layed down, watch the energy follow the out-breath down the torso and legs, the energy will keep buzzing long

  • When watching the breath for vipassana purposes:
- watch/analyze/deconstruct the remaining tension in the abdomen / torso
- notice if the mental intention of in-breath comes before the body inbreathing
- the other side of the coin: avoid inbreathing until the body does it on its own

  • A third possibility is instead of focusing in the in & out breath, focus only the two gaps between breaths, when fully empty and full. Here you can mix both samatha & vipassana exercises writen above.
Best!

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 2:52 PM as a reply to PP.
Thanks!

A few things I thought about reading your advice:

•Enjoying the silence? Wouldn't that feed sensual longing? 

•I don't think I can perceive a nimitta at this stage. Or is there a nimitta that I haven't noticed yet because I haven't been looking for it?

•hard to hear those eartones except when I'm in a very silent environment. 

•Used to do scanning stuff like that a lot. Maybe I should continue. Only I can't really feel the buzz of energy.

•I actually perceive some tension in the nose too. Maybe that would be a good focus, along with the torso and abdomen. Tension, air, tension, air etc...

•I already don't breathe intentionally but let the body breathe when it wants to. That's probably why the pauses are so long.


I'll try out the tension thing now, thanks! Ny goal is Jhana though. But some insight can't hurt I guess.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 3:54 PM as a reply to Pål.
You are not suppose to continue counting. The counting is just to get you going. When loosing track then you start counting again. But not counting over and over again. ANd the gap thing is more "advanced" practice as I understand it. What do to after you are stable in the concentration on the in and out breath itself. There are quite a few breath practices one can do. Not sure which of them are inline with the suttas ;).

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 4:41 PM as a reply to Andreas.
Exactly counting should be let go pretty early. I use a counting method taught by Ajahn Brahm where you count 1-9 then restart and count 1-8, then 1-7, then 1-6 etc until you count only 1 then it's time to let go. If you count to far or get lost you restart counting 1-9  and continue as usuall.
the suttas have a lot to say about breath meditation but nothing is directly mentioned about the gaps. I can recommend listening to the video I linked. And/or read the free pdf "With each and every breath" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu if you want an interpretation that is completely different at advanced levels but at the basics the same.

One of my favorite suttas on the subject is the Dipa Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.008.than.html

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 4:46 PM as a reply to Pål.
Hey Pal,

If your goal is jhana, i've used this breathing technique to some good.

Natural seeking the "Beautiful breath" takes me 30 to 45 minutes of my average 60 minute sit.

Using what i call square breathing brings me to the same samatha state in just 15 minutes.

It really helps if you have a cheap wall clock that you can hear the ticking of, well it worked for me.

Very simply i breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 6 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds, hold for 6 seconds. Repeat.  And it's as simple as that.  I found counting the breath in units of ten and for 5 sets of ten assists in attaining your goal.  This method immediately reduces your breathing rate to a bit over two breaths per minute.

Worth a trial for a week or so.  Let me know how it goes, if you decide a wee detour is in order, yes?

Kind regards,  Stuie.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 5:26 PM as a reply to Stuie Charles Law.
Thanks, I'll try to find a loud clock then!
usually if I'm sittibg at home (but more iften I sit on trains and buses), i start the session with this:

http://youtu.be/24UjPsRFCcg

 the Dalai Lama is so cute I just have to trust him haha

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 10:15 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Enjoying the silence? Wouldn't that feed sensual longing? 

It feeds equanimity. In Shinzen Young's framework, noticing the gaps between things is his prefer method towards stream entry (search "Gone").

Pål:
I don't think I can perceive a nimitta at this stage. Or is there a nimitta that I haven't noticed yet because I haven't been looking for it?
You may easily see the nimitta doing the candle practice, Daniel describes it in MCTB1.

Pål:
I already don't breathe intentionally but let the body breathe when it wants to. That's probably why the pauses are so long.
Good! That's no easy task. If in those long pauses you start to worry, get scared, etc, that would surely traduce into some tension in your head. Vimalaramsi has a nice protocol for that ("SMILE"), is a mixed samatha-vipassana practice, but would probably interfere with your samatha session.

Pål:
I actually perceive some tension in the nose too. Maybe that would be a good focus, along with the torso and abdomen. Tension, air, tension, air etc... I'll try out the tension thing now, thanks! Ny goal is Jhana though. But some insight can't hurt I guess.
That's why I quoted that Vimalaramsi's protocol. But probably what Stuie Charles Law mentioned of 6 seconds for each phase of the breath would work better.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/10/15 11:14 PM as a reply to Pål.
You could try the "buddho" mantra instead of counting. Using vowels means you can say "buuuuuuu" for the whole in-breath, and "dhooooo" for the whole out breath. When I do this it naturally evolves into a single long formless tone after I lose track of breathing, and then this tone kind of "goes silent" into a spacious awareness.

You could also just go with the classic "ohm" and make a long, nasal, echoing, morphing tone in your head. It's actually the easiest thing I've found to focus on. Maybe that's why it's considered a holy sound in hinduism.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/11/15 12:42 AM as a reply to Pål.
What I try to do is keep the mind somewhat concentrated on the anapana spot.
Utilizing a feeling of waiting. waiting for the next in or out breath. This does a few things for me.
It rests the mind a bit further as the idea of waiting tells me I have nothing to do.

As a child a plaque at the local take away chinese said. what's wrong with waiting, one rests whilst doing his/her duty. So i have an association with resting whilst waiting.

The downside could be that the waiting mindstate could take over so i'm waiting for something to happen and then miss it because i am waiting
So far though waiting for the next breath movement helps to keep me concentrated somewhat.

I think i picked up this instruction from Pa Auk Sayadaw's book.

With Love
Eelco

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/11/15 2:27 AM as a reply to Eelco ten Have.
ThAnks guys, now I have a lot to work with emoticon 
i think it's the waiting that I find hard and where doubt easily breaks in, I need some stronger sensation to focus on. I've gradually dropped trying hard to have a single narrow "anapana spot" because it felt so straining and gave me a slight headache and also many thai forest teachers say it's not necessary. So I take up a more narrow focus later in the sit when it feels natural.

@ Pablo, why do you think smiling would hurt samatha? Lots of teachers recommend it, Vimalaramsi, Brasington and Ajahn Brahm for example

@Not Tao 
But then I won't know when to stop Buddhoing. I do something like that in the befinning of my sut too: I make an affirmation like "may this mindfullness practice make me and all searching beings grow in harmony), one word per breath. 

Actually, aside from the instructions above, at the start of a sit I do 1. Take some time to get into a nice posture while focusing on the breath 2. Do the Dalai Lama thing because it's fun 3. Affirmation breathing 4. Counting+length noting etc. 

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/11/15 3:28 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
The gap when I've just breathed out is pretty long for me though, and there is like nothing obvious to focus on there. 

My take is that this is kind of the point. Fabrication requires time, as all processes do, but is not seamless. Directing your attention toward the pause/space between breathes isn't so much about the gap itself (which is arbitrary) or what's in it (with any luck you'll discover nothing at all) but is instead about directing attention and interest in ways that can short-circuit dualistic perception.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/12/15 6:46 AM as a reply to John M..
How do I do that? Just let attention turn to whatever is in the gap?

Also @ Gordo: The thing is, there is a lot of things of things to perceive when the breath temporarily dies away for a few seconds up what feels like almost a minute: bodyparts, sounds, tastes etc. But nothing that is clearly related to the breath. And that kind of nothingness doesn't seem to move or let itself be perceived in any other way :|

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/12/15 7:33 AM as a reply to Pål.
You don't really do the pause -- the pause does you. I approach it as a kind of silent, rapid-fire self-inquiry, where the point isn't the content within the pause, but the pause itself. It pecks at the seeming solidity of objects and especially the continuity of being the one that observes them. With any luck the whole thing buckles, and unclaimed conscious contact will bubble up.Try keeping the gap itself brief, very brief, or other objects will seem to swim out of it, somewhat defeating the purpose. Treating the gap as an object is missing the point -- it is an affront to objects.

Again, just some thoughts. I've assumed your goal here is insight and not absorption, which might not be the case. If you have reliable instruction to the contrary, favour that instead.

RE: The gap between the breaths
Answer
4/16/15 7:44 AM as a reply to Pål.
Thanks for your advice guys! I actually feel like my concentration is improving now, through watching what the pause feels like.