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Looking for advice
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6/2/16 7:16 AM
Hey, Dho, I've been frequenting these forums for years, this is my first time posting. I've been meditating on and off for roughly eight years, but I've only really dedicated to my practice in the last two weeks. So much wasted time...but alas, I'll make up for it. I meditate once a day for an hour, and a few smaller sessions whenever I can manage. 

I follow my breath at the nostrils, counting from 1-10, starting over if I forget where I'm at, or space out. I feel really settled after 10-15 minutes. I can stay with the breath pretty easily, and distractions are to a minimum. I lose track of where I'm at with my counting more than I lose contact with the breath, if that makes sense. 

I know I haven't been meditating for long, so I want some perspective here. I feel like vittaka and vicara are present, and I realize I'm strengthening them. I'm not experiencing piti at all. Things are solid and peaceful, but it feels very serious. There's no positive physical feelings. I assume these will come if I keep returning to the breath?

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 7:48 AM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
Gently investigate the serious feelings. Why are they there? Are you resisting something? Are you trying to protect something? Are you worried about something? How do they present themselves (what sensations make up the serious feeling, what moods, what thoughts)? Can you have the serious feelings and sense the openness and space around those feelings, too?

Look at your level of effort. What happens when you use less effort and soften the tissues of the body? What happens if you take deeper breaths and sit up straighter?

Experiment with these things and see what happens.

And keep the daily practice going, because usually what is needed is a little bit more time and patience and the practice will take on a life of it's own.

Congratulations on your dedication and good luck!

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 8:56 AM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
Christopher:

There's no positive physical feelings. I assume these will come if I keep returning to the breath?


Yes, just keep going.  If applied attention is becoming ingrained, and sustained attention is starting to arise, then various raptures will begin to occur as this drill penetrates into the mind.

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1191517

IanAnd's thread is the best resource for samatha on the DhO.

http://www.lionsroar.com/entering-the-jhanas/

Leigh Brasington gives roughly the same advice in this excerpt from his recent book.

You have to learn to balance focus and release, but the problem is that release is associated with getting lost in thoughts for most people.  You need to learn how to relax, and not get lost in thoughts.  People commonly need to spend some time tolerating some tension in order to learn how to focus.  If you focus too intensely for too many weeks in a row, you might want to quit.  Find your own way of balancing focus and relaxation.  This blend leads to Right Concentration.

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 10:33 AM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
howdy,
great tips above from great meditators. i'm not sure how familiar you are with the hindrances.
  1. lust
  2. anger
  3. agitation
  4. torpor & sloth
  5. doubt
when you first sit down, do your dedications if you are into that, then go slowly through that list and try to see if any of those factors are present and to what degree.   if any are present, there are specific antidotes
to each one and those should be applied.

once the hindrances abate, piti arises on its own.  it is not always pleasant but generally presents as some kind of bodily "anomaly".  in my case it is one of the classics in the piti list: hair raising up on the upper sides of my head.  i have other forms of piti too and they have changed over time but noticing that little anomaly guided me toward deeper absorption.  do a little googling if you are not familiar with this stuff.

some encourage psting on a fake smile as it a kind of general antidote to the hindrances to meditation.  the less fake the better.  find the most cherished though in your cabinet.  someone or something that makes you genuinely smile.  once you've aquired the happy feeling try to soup up that feeling of HAPPY no longer the iniital object but HAPPY feeling itself is now the object.  allow yourself to pump up the pleasure.

you can do these things to set the stage before your breath counting or during.  i used to switch back and forth between pratices, breath counting one day, feeling the breath at the nostrils the next, listening to inner sounds the next etc.  this helped me from getting stale.

i'd really like to hear how you progress. so much luck and fun. it is fun.

cheers

tom

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 1:11 PM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
Thanks to you three for responding to my post _/\_

I have an hour lunch break at work, and try to meditate in my car for 45 minutes. I did so today. Keeping in mind what the three of you said, I counting my breaths, and actively tried to relax, and generally just lighten up. It worked pretty well. I felt quite focused. Vittaka was present as usual, though vicara was stronger than I'm accustomed to. I could definitely see vicara giving way to piti. I felt like a fortress with steep walls looking down at the breath while being close to it. It was strange.

I relaxed more and more, and started to get a little spacey. I imagine that's slot and torpor. I typically experience that spaceyness and attribute it to needing stronger sati. I usually meditate on my couch. I have a zafu, but you could say I'm lazy, and that I prefer the comfort of my couch. My back is generally tight, and sitting without a support is uncomfortable. Do you guys think that might be impacting my sits negatively? As in, could that increase sloth and torpor? I'll use the zafu if it'll help me. 

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 3:57 PM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
Christopher Kerr:

I can stay with the breath pretty easily, and distractions are to a minimum. I lose track of where I'm at with my counting more than I lose contact with the breath, if that makes sense. 

I know I haven't been meditating for long, so I want some perspective here. I feel like vittaka and vicara are present, and I realize I'm strengthening them. I'm not experiencing piti at all. Things are solid and peaceful, but it feels very serious. There's no positive physical feelings. I assume these will come if I keep returning to the breath?

The counting method is like training wheels on a child's bicycle. It is something to be permanently given up once the mind can maintain mindfulness. 

The feelings of piti & sukkha will come when the mind stops desiring them since these feelings are born from tranquility (rather than from desire). The feelings are like a 'reward' for giving up desire. The Buddhist teachings state the path  is one of giving up desire.

That things are solid & peaceful sounds ideal. This needs to be cultivated. Simply keep returning to the breath. 

In fact, when things are solid & peaceful, it is ideal to not even apply the mind to towards the breath but let the mind have complete equipoise or letting go. If the mind can maintain itself in quiet still letting go, it will merge or unite with the breathing in a more fluid & lucid manner. 

In the old scriptures, it is explained the meditator reaches jhana by making 'letting go' the meditation object. 

The above said, sittings need to be for 60 to 90 minutes to develop sufficient tranquility for hard core rapture to emerge. The so-called 'rapture' refered to by people such as Leigh Brasington is not the real deal. It is just a play thing. 

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As for vitakka & vicara, these words do not necessarily mean applying the mind to the breathing as you would apply a hammer to a nail. These words mean when consciousness or awareness flows into & feels the breathing. For example, when consciousness flows down into the body, like dropping into a well, this is vitakka. Then consciousness maintaining its contact, tracking & feeling of the breathing is vicara.

In short, vitakka & vicara are movements of consciousness/awareness (rather than movements of active thought/intention) being drawn towards & staying aware of the meditation object. In the 2nd jhana, all 'movement' of consciousness will cease, since there will be perfect stillness & unity.   


RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 3:30 PM as a reply to Christopher Kerr.
Christopher Kerr:
 I have a zafu, but you could say I'm lazy, and that I prefer the comfort of my couch. My back is generally tight, and sitting without a support is uncomfortable. Do you guys think that might be impacting my sits negatively? As in, could that increase sloth and torpor? I'll use the zafu if it'll help me. 

Your back/spine/vertebrae should be naturally upright. Therefore, you should not slouch on a couch or sit crosslegged on a zafu it it makes your spine hunched & tight. 

Instead, simply sit upright on a stool or flat chair with the back unsupported. You can even practise standing meditation. 



RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/2/16 5:31 PM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky:
The so-called 'rapture' refered to by people such as Leigh Brasington is not the real deal. It is just a play thing. 

Um... ??

Boy, that Leigh Brasington sure is a slouch... Gee whiz.

RE: Looking for advice
Answer
6/3/16 12:37 AM as a reply to Noah.
Is this a claim to psychic powers that know the mind of Mr Brasington? 

People are welcome to practise the instructions here: http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm until they learn for themselves the long term 'results' they will bring. 

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