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incorporating concentration into my daily life

Vaz, modified 4 Years ago.

incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Hi,

New here and have been practising insight meditation for a couple of weeks, but as of lately became more interested in concentration meditation. Eventually I would like to alternate between the two methods or even combine them if possible, but for now I want to focus on concentration. Primarily in order to rid myself of the constant anxiety that I am feeling in social situations. I tried labeling, but it didn’t really work for me. For example when I was feeling anxiety I would mentally say “fear from thought”, but I seem to do better when I concentrate on the feeling. However I would like to know how one can incorporate concentration meditation into their daily life. Is it just like in formal meditation? By concentrating on an object. As an example when talking to a friend, I would intensely concentrate on listening to his/her voice. 
Sakari, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 38 Join Date: 12/28/13 Recent Posts
Hi and welcome!

Concentration, like many other things, is a lot easier when you find joy in it. Maybe, when listening to your friend, you find his or her voice to be pleasant? Or the fact that he/she is connecting with you, a shared moment? Maybe you can take pleasure in the sunshine, the shade, the freshness of the air, the rhythm of your walking, the sensations of your breathing, or some of the other things that happen to come your way?

I know that sometimes, like with social anxiety, the fear and tension can be so overwhelming that its hard to even think about finding any joy, let alone be able to feel it in the body. Even then, maybe you can feel some compassion towards your own anxiety, even if it's only after the situation has passed? In itself this already brings major relief, and on top of that, you can then take joy in having been able to be compassionate. Whatever you find pleasant, you will be driven to repeat, consciously or not. So why not take joy in wholesome things?

If you choose to do noting, maybe another way of categorizing would work better for you? See, for example, Shinzen Young's Five Ways to Know Yourself:
http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/FiveWays.pdf
Vaz, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Hey, thanks for answering.

I always thought that you shouldn't feel compassionate towards your emotions, becomes that would mean you would get attached to them. Just observe them and let them pass, but I will try this. Got a couple more questions, if you don't mind.

Should I concentrate on one thing at the time and try to maintain that concentration for as long as possible? 

Is it more beneficial to practise insight in my daily life and concentration in formal sittings if my main goal is to feel equanimity? 

How do I deal with thoughts? I always try to mentally label them as "thinking" and go back to my breath (concentration object). Should I try to stop them?

Thanks for the link, I will give it a try.
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Noah, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Vaz:

Is it more beneficial to practise insight in my daily life and concentration in formal sittings if my main goal is to feel equanimity?


This seems to be the core goal.  It's a good one.  What feels right inside of you?  Can you ask your internal committee?  From the outside, arguments could be made for a variety of technique combinations.  

It's okay if you can't answer the question within yourself, but I suspect that you can.  A good back-up plan would be trial and error, sticking with one strategy for a week at a time.  Within a month you would find your method.   




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Noah, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Vaz:

I tried labeling, but it didn’t really work for me.


No worries, don't label then.

but I seem to do better when I concentrate on the feeling.


Good!  Do that, again and again.

However I would like to know how one can incorporate concentration meditation into their daily life. Is it just like in formal meditation?


I think you answered your own question above: "concentrate on the feeling."  Meditation in daily life is never like formal meditation.  It's always more watered down, and requires more adaptation to make it work.  The upside is that you have an unlimited supply of time to do it!  You will not be able to cultivate continuity and stability of attention in daily life.  Instead, think of it like lots of 'mini-hits' or 'mini-missile-strikes.'  You will get better and better at remembering to return to your chosen technique.  This will create a palpable sense of momentum, which is very satisfying.
Vaz, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Thanks for answering my questions. I know what to do now. 

I was doing okay until last week, when out of the blue extreme anxiety hit me. Now I am experiencing crippling social anxiety for no apparant reason. It's not even anxiety anymore, but more of a phobia. If anyone has any other tips on how to deal with this, especially during the times when I experience the anxiety, I would really appreciate it. Any way I could change my unconscious thoughts that trigger the anxiety?

Also I read that mingyur rinpoche cured his panic attacks by using panic as his object. I would like to try this as well, does this mean I should concentrate on my anxiety? If anyone has experience with this, please elaborate. 
Sakari, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 38 Join Date: 12/28/13 Recent Posts
Anxiety, you say? I used to delay going to the grocery store just because I was afraid of having to say "hi" to the cashier. These days I don't worry about minor things like that, thanks to many basics in my life that I've worked on for years, not because of any one particular cure.

If I know ahead of time that I'm going to be in a socially stressful situation, like a job interview, I'll work out beforehand. I enjoy freeform dancing and strength training, so that's what I do. Nothing else is as reliable in making me relaxed and confident for hours afterwards. A nap is good, too.

But when under enough pressure, we revert to our habits. That's why it's better to develop new habits well ahead of time, so we won't be overwhelmed. How are your basics? Do you get enough sleep? Do you frequently move your body in some way that you enjoy? Do you eat in a way that makes you feel both calm and sharp? Have at least some meaningful human contact? Daily spend time appreciating some of the things that you have, such as (I assume) food, shelter, fresh air, and internet access? Improving in even just one of these areas of life will do wonders.

On the more formal meditation side of things, I prefer techniques that emphasize pleasure, compassion or other forms of letting go. Yes, compassion is also a form of letting go; you let go of your hatred or fear. That makes it a lot easier to be equanimous. Since you stated equanimity to be your main goal, for a thorough definition of equanimity, see the aforementioned FiveWays.pdf.
Vaz, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Basic stuff such as saying hi to the cashier makes me anxious as well. That's why I am doing everything in my power to bring my anxiety down to a normal level. Don't even know how I am supposed to succeed at anything in life if I feel like this all the time. However I always faced my fears and am still doing it, just need the right tools to use during these moments, because obviously desensitization doesn't work.

My basics are fine. I eat healthy, go to the gym, sleep well, socialize occasionally (to much can be exhausting, because anxiety drains me of my energy) and I do appreciate the things I have.

Regarding practising being compassionate to your anxiety. This I have tried and it helped somewhat, but that's about it.
Sakari, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 38 Join Date: 12/28/13 Recent Posts
Glad to hear you feel your basics are in order, and that you are willing to face your fears emoticon

I, too, am not a fan of desensitization: I've found gentler approaches to work a lot better for me. Including recognition of the following: However intolerable some feelings may be, I've yet to meet any feeling that lasts, though at the time that they are happening, many certainly seem like eternal damnation. It's also good to remember that the feeling of having to succeed in life is just another form of holding on, just another thought and/or bodily sensation, just another object for insight. During your better moments you might even be able to feel some gratitude for being able to feel anything at all, and thus having an opportunity to deal with those feelings; Many if not most people go through life sedated, suffering tremendously but not having much idea of where to look, or even that they should look somewhere. Have you read the Progression of Insight chapter from Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha? I've found it uncommonly inspiring and comforting:
http://static.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/5055915f84aedaeee9181119/1347785055665/

Re the more formal mind training: For those that are able to sit still and face their restlessness, great, there's a lot to to gain there. For those than aren't able, the intimidation of having to do so may just lead into avoiding the training altogether, either overtly by not sitting at all, or subtly by sitting down to meditate but then constantly being lost in thought or, more insiduously, being lost in pleasant dullness and mistaking it for progress. So I don't think that sitting still is the best way for everyone in every situation.

Preferring more physical approaches, sometimes I like to do the following type of multi-dimensional letting go, inspired by tonglen-practice from Tibetan buddhism. If the instructions feel overwhelming at first, try just the breathing aspect of it; if the breathing isn't enough to keep your full attention, add the movement and visualizations:

From a standing position, take a moment to feel your body and your breathing. Feel what is bothering you the most at the moment. Could be something specific, like anger towards a certain person, or hard to define, like some kind of unease that is difficult to locate; no matter, as long as you are aware of it's existence. Image this unpleasant feeling as thick black smoke in front of you, or whatever else you take to represent suffering. Then inhale and image that this smoke travels into your body. Inhale a bit too much, so that your lungs are slightly too full. While inhaling, emphasize it with movement, for example by bringing your arms to your chest and making fists. Hold the breath and the fists for a short moment, feeling the tension and suffering. Then, imagine that the smoke in you turns white, clear, or whatever you imagine as being the color of purity. Feel compassion towards the suffering. Exhale, not by forcing the air out, but more like sighing. A surrendering to the fact that whatever is, is. While exhaling, bow forward, and let the hands and arms go loose and hanging. Imagine the pure air leaving your body and spreading into your surroundings. Hang there for a while, bowed forward and arms hanging loose. Now repeat the whole process.

Whatever is bothering you the most at that moment is the feeling to be imagined and purified. The feeling may stay the same, or even intensify, or just become clearer, easier to define. In my experience the feeling usually weakens, in which case another feeling may be revealed from underneath it. For example, anger can mask sadness; the sadness would then become your new object. Or sometimes you might find the most prominent feeling to be your resistance to this very technique: "This is stupid, I need to do some real meditation / do the dishes / whatever"; no matter, because that feeling, too, would become just another thing to let go of. I find that just a few minutes of this type of letting go makes me considerably more at peace. Having practiced this at home, it's easier to recreate the effects in a public place, even if I avoid the bowing part and tone down the breathing.

Other, more intense ways to release emotions by starting from the body:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5201846
Vaz, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: incorporating concentration into my daily life

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Interesting visualizing technique. Will give it a shot, thanks!

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