Question for concentration experts

thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
I decided that I'm going to focus on concentration for the next three months and I have a couple of questions

First of all, I plan on meditating 30 minutes in the morning and noting throughout the day.

In meditation, I note the crap out of the body, settle attention into the midsestion region (keep noting), then settle attention down into the breath. This takes a little bit of time. From there I note with just "in" and "out". Often times I end up spending a lot of time simply trying to let go of controlling the breath.

Throughout the day I simply note 5 tactile sensations, 5 sounds, and 5 visual objects. I spend about two seconds (feeling, hearing, seeing) on each object. If a thought appears I simply note it as "thinking about work" or "thinking about hot babes" or "thought about whatever". Wash rinse repeat.

Is this sufficient to build concetration? Any tips appreciated.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
What you're describing is vipassana (insight) meditation, not samatha (concentration) meditation. Concentration meditation is where you keep your attention on a single object - noting each sensation is insight meditation.

While the act of sitting down and repeatedly noting can also provide incidental benefits to your concentration, I'd suggest specifically making time for concentration meditation as well. Try 15 minutes of concentration followed by 15 minutes of insight.
Ernest Michael Olmos, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 217 Join Date: 5/30/14 Recent Posts
What you are describing is noting (insight). Concentration is, well, concentrating on something and discarding everything else.

Tips for concentration:

- When your attention goes elsewhere and you break your concentration, just try to think that you "continue" the concentration where you left it, not that you start from zero.
- When dealing with distractions, note them. In noting them, do some "little insight".
- Look for pleasant sensations or try to feel what you are doing as not stressful.
- Once settled, try to notice and relax the effort to support the concentration. See how much you can relax and still keep the concentration strong.

About the object and the level of concentration, in my book: Visual > Mantra > Body sensations.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Ernest Michael Olmos:

When your attention goes elsewhere and you break your concentration, just try to think that you "continue" the concentration where you left it, not that you start from zero.


This is a great tip. I find it helpful to think of it as positive reinforcement of returning the mind to concentration. There's a tendency to do the opposite, that is, to feel upset or frustrated when you notice you've left concentration.

But it's that noticing that you're trying to reinforce, so whenever you notice you've left, just return and be like "yes! I noticed!"


About the object and the level of concentration, in my book: Visual > Mantra > Body sensations.


Interesting - I'm pretty much the opposite. I can't make visual pictures in my head at all and find it very difficult to concentrate on anything visual (unless you mean open-eye visual?)

Mantras also have their difficulties - it's very easy to lose concentration while repeating a mantra and just sort of zone out.

What I find the most helpful is to start with the breath, and then sort of follow it as though I'm riding a wave (metaphorically - I've never surfed though I think Ivory is actually a surfer), just kind of getting in the groove of it. Think "slow sex" kind of.

Then (as Tarin Greco once suggested) take the part of your mind that's not noticing the breath, and turn it to noticing how you're noticing the breath. Concentrate on your concentration. This sets up a kind of loop that allows you to fall into first jhana.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Thanks guys.

When you guys meditate do you not notice that it's difficult to start concentrating right away? It typically takes me time to settle into focused attention. That's why I set my meditation up the way that I do (balancing relaxation, noting, and finally settling into the breath). I find it sort of like a dance (or surfing or slow sex as JC suggested). Concentrating first for 15 minutes seems like a forced way of doing this (where's the foreplay!). However, I'm willing to try as suggested.

The other thing I should mention is that the goal is Stream Entry. I'm definitely in EQ right now but sometimes I still fall back into a milder version of Dark Night. I spent the last 2 days cycling through the Dark Night stages which is a pretty quick cycle for me. Now I'm determined to get this handled. So the other question is am I on the right track?
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
ivory:
Thanks guys.

When you guys meditate do you not notice that it's difficult to start concentrating right away?

It typically takes me time to settle into focused attention.

That's why I set my meditation up the way that I do (balancing relaxation, noting, and finally settling into the breath).


Yes, definitely. I will do a few minutes of noting to help me get concentrated sometimes. Then I'll switch over to concentration.

But what you said was:

In meditation, I note the crap out of the body, settle attention into the midsestion region (keep noting), then settle attention down into the breath.

This takes a little bit of time.

From there I note with just "in" and "out".


So it didn't seem like you were using noting as a way of settling into concentration, because it didn't seem like you stopped noting at any time.

If you want to use noting as a way of settling into concentration, once you do a few minutes of noting and feel more focused, then stop noting and just do concentration.


The other thing I should mention is that the goal is Stream Entry. I'm definitely in EQ right now but sometimes I still fall back into a milder version of Dark Night. I spent the last 2 days cycling through the Dark Night stages which is a pretty quick cycle for me. Now I'm determined to get this handled. So the other question is am I on the right track?


If you're going for SE and you're in EQ, you're very close.

What happens now is that you need to sort of combine noting with concentration. You also want to be noting more abstract processes such as "searching," "wondering," and so on. You're trying to sneak up on something. What you're trying to sneak up on is the process of sneaking up on something.

Make sure you note the 3Cs... go through each of them. Look at them really closely in everything you note.

I'd try to spend a couple of hours in 4th jhana every day. Get familiar with the jhanas and practice going up and down 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.

If you haven't read MCTB cover to cover, do it. If you have, read it again.

And go on a retreat if you can!
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
J C:
What happens now is that you need to sort of combine noting with concentration. You also want to be noting more abstract processes such as "searching," "wondering," and so on. You're trying to sneak up on something. What you're trying to sneak up on is the process of sneaking up on something.

Make sure you note the 3Cs... go through each of them. Look at them really closely in everything you note.

Is it necessary to note them? I don't really note shit like that but I can't help but notice it. What I'm saying is I don't have to try to do it.

J C:
I'd try to spend a couple of hours in 4th jhana every day. Get familiar with the jhanas and practice going up and down 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.

I don't know what Jhanas are. Also, damn. Two hours?!

J C:
If you haven't read MCTB cover to cover, do it. If you have, read it again.

I've only read the dark night section. Now I make a practice of looking at it. Keep in mind, I have no background with Buddhism so a lot of the text is very difficult for me to understand.

J C:
And go on a retreat if you can!

I'll see what I can do.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
After a quick look at the Jhanas it seems I can become famililar with them by meditating, relaxing, eating healthy food, going on hikes with my friends, going to the gym, and a little bit of surfing. That's pretty much what I do these days.

I will definitely look into a retreat. Seems like a good way to build really strong momentum.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
ivory:

J C:
What happens now is that you need to sort of combine noting with concentration.
You also want to be noting more abstract processes such as "searching," "wondering," and so on.
You're trying to sneak up on something. What you're trying to sneak up on is the process of sneaking up on something.
Make sure you note the 3Cs... go through each of them. Look at them really closely in everything you note.


Is it necessary to note them? I don't really note shit like that but I can't help but notice it.
What I'm saying is I don't have to try to do it.


By "them" do you mean abstract processes, or do you mean the 3Cs?
Either way, the answer is, yes, you have to consciously note them. That's what gets you to stream entry.
So for the 3Cs, you'd think to yourself "I'm noting impermanence. I'm noting restlessness. I'm noting no-self."

J C:
Get familiar with the jhanas and practice going up and down 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.
ivory:

After a quick look at the Jhanas it seems I can become familiar with them by meditating, relaxing, eating healthy food, going on hikes with my friends, going to the gym, and a little bit of surfing.



I don't see how you could become familiar with them by doing anything other than concentration meditation - the other things you listed aren't related to the jhanas.
Jhanas are just the states you go into when doing concentration meditation.


Also, damn. Two hours?! I will definitely look into a retreat. Seems like a good way to build really strong momentum.


For a long time I didn't think I could do a retreat for a lot of reasons - as it turned out, there's a retreat center that didn't charge me a few hours away, so I took time off work and went.

(The Goenka centers have their advantages but you have to do it your own way instead of what they tell you, which some people aren't comfortable with.)

But you really do need that momentum. It really takes a big block of time to get up there.


J C:
If you haven't read MCTB cover to cover, do it. If you have, read it again.

I've only read the dark night section. Now I make a practice of looking at it.
Keep in mind, I have no background with Buddhism so a lot of the text is very difficult for me to understand.


What parts are difficult to understand? If there's anything you don't understand ask here and we can help you - but it really doesn't require any kind of background with Buddhism.
Really, read it. It's the best book ever written and it has so much essential information about enlightenment.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
J C:

By "them" do you mean abstract processes, or do you mean the 3Cs?
Either way, the answer is, yes, you have to consciously note them. That's what gets you to stream entry.
So for the 3Cs, you'd think to yourself "I'm noting impermanence. I'm noting restlessness. I'm noting no-self."


Ok got it. I think I really have to fine tune concentration so I can investigate with greater precision. I mean this stuff is obvious on a coarser level but I think I really need to sharpen the mind so I can see clearly. I really haven't been developing concentration for the last couple years.

J C:
I don't see how you could become familiar with them by doing anything other than concentration meditation - the other things you listed aren't related to the jhanas.
Jhanas are just the states you go into when doing concentration meditation.


Oh I see.

J C:
What parts are difficult to understand? If there's anything you don't understand ask here and we can help you - but it really doesn't require any kind of background with Buddhism.
Really, read it. It's the best book ever written and it has so much essential information about enlightenment.


I've been reading through it here. I take it this is the full book? I noticed that links to the sections that have a "comma" in it are broken. I wonder if Daniel knows about this.

On another note. The book itself is easy to understand. Previously I had only read through the AP, DN, EQ, and SE sections. I thought the rest of the book was going to use terminology like "dukkha", "nana","shakit" or whatever. I have no idea what that crap is but the books is surprisingly written in plain english.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Full book is here: http://integrateddaniel.info/book/

dukkha = restlessness (also translated suffering, unsatisfactoriness - one of the 3Cs)

nana = stage of the progress of insight cycle (e.g., equanimity, dissolution, fear, arising & passing)

I don't know what 'shakit' means.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
J C:
I don't know what 'shakit' means.
I may have made that one up. Either way, I have no idea what it means either!
thumbnail
Daniel M. Ingram, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Jigme Sengye, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
ivory:
Thanks guys.

When you guys meditate do you not notice that it's difficult to start concentrating right away? It typically takes me time to settle into focused attention. That's why I set my meditation up the way that I do (balancing relaxation, noting, and finally settling into the breath). I find it sort of like a dance (or surfing or slow sex as JC suggested). Concentrating first for 15 minutes seems like a forced way of doing this (where's the foreplay!). However, I'm willing to try as suggested.

When doing concentration practice, if I don't get pulled into the object right away when sitting, I'll tend to do metta while saying a short set of metta prayers (out loud but sort of whispering). It takes about 5 minutes and takes the edge off.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
J C:


Then (as Tarin Greco once suggested) take the part of your mind that's not noticing the breath, and turn it to noticing how you're noticing the breath. Concentrate on your concentration. This sets up a kind of loop that allows you to fall into first jhana.


Correction: it was Nikolai Halay I was thinking of, at: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/11/going-for-stream-entry-on-goenka-10-day.html

Nikolai Halay:


The mind is giving fuel to the strong tendency to proliferate stories, mental reactions, judgments, fantasies, memories and just plain old mental masturbation.

So, what if you gave the mind no fuel to do that? What about giving that fuel to an “extra” job for the mind to do? When you observe the incoming and outgoing breath, you sense its touch at the entrance at the nostrils and above the upper lip. Along with this awareness, you could also become aware of the very act of perceiving the breath. That is, you are aware of the object, the breath as it goes in and out naturally, but you are also aware that that the mind is perceiving the breath. Try it! It actually works wonders in maintaining the mind in one spot and it is then able to truly pay 100% attention to the object.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
I want to know why my meditation isn't vivid. sensation is still very granular and mildly unpleasant. Meditation used to be very spacious and interesting. But I find the granularity now very boring. There's a very sort of blah feeling to the whole thing. 
thumbnail
CJMacie, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
ivory:
I decided that I'm going to focus on concentration for the next three months and I have a couple of questions

First of all, I plan on meditating 30 minutes in the morning and noting throughout the day.
...
Is this sufficient to build concetration? Any tips appreciated.
Sounds like straight Mahasi style meditation -- "vipassana meditation". Concentration builds in this system over time, and "vipassana khanika samadhi", aka "momentary" concentration focusing intently on moment-to-moment changing phenemna. There's no specific technique for concentration itself, it just gradually happens when one does the practice for a long time, seriously, intensively.

"Appana samadhi" ("fixed" absorption concentration) requires a different technique, and sitting times longer than 15 or 30 minutes. This kind of concentration is more specialized, and is building a tool, which when achieved, makes insight much easier.

In the end, by either route, concentration becomes very strong, at which time the two differnent sorts of concentration are more similar.

In either case, it's best to find (in person) teachers, and use retreats, the longer the better. Otherwise, self-delusion is very likely.
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Sounds like you're saying noting and one pointed concentration lead to the same place. 

As for for my last question, I think the foggy meditation is due to diet.
JP Lewicke, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 175 Join Date: 3/31/17 Recent Posts
If you haven't yet read it, I'd highly recommend reading The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa.  It's a step-by-step practice guide for how to build up your concentration in order to be increasingly capable of attaining insight.  One area where it excels is laying out common obstacles to developing concentration and in providing specific practices that combat those obstacles.  Your description of how the meditation feels granular/blah/foggy sounds like it could be what he calls subtle dullness, which happens when you force attention to the meditation object while losing peripheral awareness.  Beyond the book itself, there's a useful subreddit where people discuss various practice details and what's worked for them.  
thumbnail
ivory, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question for concentration experts

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Thanks JP, the book looks great. I just ordered it.

Breadcrumb