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Thougths while trying to concentrate

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Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/23/17 12:37 AM
Hey guys =)

I've done some meditation retreats (Goenka's 10 day course), but I was never able to really get concentrated just on the breathing.

I mean, I try to put effort on concentrating on the breathing, but while I'm observing it, I notice some thoughts come up. So I'm never just paying attention to the breathing, it feels like my mind is paying attention to both things (thoughts and the breathing).

I've never attained a state where I felt completely concentrated only on the breathing.

I was wondering if access concentration could be attained that way (paying attention on the breath, even with thoughts on the background). Or should thougths be complete out of scene?

Thank you =)

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/25/17 2:49 AM as a reply to Manoel.
Hello Manoel, welcome! emoticon

Some thoughts:

A ) Do not try to repress thoughts. Just try not to get 'lost' in them.

B ) Constant, unwavering attention on your focus without any distraction and complete stillness is a high attainment. 'Access' concentration, and by this I mean the minimum level of concentration needed to access soft jhana, still has a substantial level of distraction going on: Your attention is mostly on the object of concentration, but it wobbles a bit around it, jumps in and out to chase external sounds or thoughts, and so on.

Culadasa John Yates (author of The Mind Illuminated) uses a classification for distractions which I will paraphrase a bit.

0) Unification of mind. Only the object of concentration stays in the center of attention. All sounds, body sensations and thoughts are not projected into attention and awareness anymore (although they are available if desired). There is the object of concentration, a suffused light, and stable still silence everywhere.

1) Effortless continuous attention on the object of concentration.External sounds and sensations and thoughts are still in peripheral awareness, but they never get into the "center" of your attention. They might sound faint, fuzzy, and in the distance.

2) Effortful continuous attention on the object of concentration. A bit like the effortless version, but you need effort to keep it up. 

3) Subtle Distraction: Your attention is over 50% of the time on the object of meditation, but it still jumps around a bit. The object of concentration is, however, mostly prominent. Distractions include: External sounds, body sensations.

4) Gross Distraction. Like Subtle Distraction but your attention is mostly on something other than your object of meditation. The object of meditation remains, however, most of the time still in peripheral awareness.

5) Forgetfulness. Occasionally your object of meditation vanishes entirely from your focus of attention and also from your peripheral awareness. So there is a dog barking, you start paying attention to the bark, wish the dog would stop, and so on...

6) Mind Wandering. Like Forgetfulness, but you start thinking of your bills and follow that train of thought for minutes at a time until you realise that you should actually be meditating.

In his book, Culadasa provides specific exercises to deal with each of these different types of distractions / levels of concentration. In this scale, Access Concentration is already attained around Subtle Distraction. You seem to have set yourself Unification of Mind as a minimum level for AC, which is overly ambitious.

_____

EDIT: Changed numbers, added one category.

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/23/17 2:56 AM as a reply to neko.
(Implicit question: What is your level of concentration / distraction on the scale above?)

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/23/17 3:09 AM as a reply to neko.
Thank you, Neko emoticon

Your answer was really clarifying to me emoticon

I tried not to create aversion to what was happening to me, but since I've been to my 4th retreat, I started to create aversion again 

I'd say most of the time I'm on level 3, subtle distraction and sometimes level 2. The description of "faint, fuzzy, and in the distance" is exactly what I feel when thought are there at the same time with respiration haha

I asked in the retreat, but I didn't get a satisfying answer. Yours were really helpfulemoticon

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/24/17 3:15 AM as a reply to Manoel.
Glad it helped emoticon

Subtle distraction is pretty good. I do recommend picking up The Mind Illuminated in this case, because breaking through to the higher degrees of concetration can be a bit tricky.

Support in Goenka retreats is a bit of a problem, unfortunately. If I understand correctly, the teachers are handed a manual with a list of FAQs and instructed not to stray from the FAQs. One more reason to read TMI if you are working on your concentration.

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/24/17 5:54 AM as a reply to neko.
Probably the thing that most people find helpful in TMI is the basic idea of peripheral awareness vs attention. Basically, if you can generally keep your main attention on the sensations of breathing and thoughts are occuring mostly in the periphery, then that's pretty good meditation. If a thought appears in attention (i.e. is the main thing in awareness) then search for a sensation of breathing and put that in attention and let the thoughts go back to the periphery.

So you don't really need to get rid of thoughts, just de-emphasize them by selective attention.

And no big deal if thoughts do appear directly in attention, that's great! That's part of the practice. Because remember this practice is to train yourself in directing your attention. Distractions are what we use for training. Sort of like weights in a gym for developing strength or a wobbly tightrope for balance -- it's supposed to be a challenging.

The main thing is to avoid repressing or stamping down thoughts -- that never works. 

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/24/17 6:20 PM as a reply to neko.
Unfortunately this book is not available in my country (Brazil) =(

Do you have any other book recomendation that would help on that? I'd really appreciate it =)

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/24/17 9:45 PM as a reply to Manoel.
Manoel:
Unfortunately this book is not available in my country (Brazil) =(

Do you have any other book recomendation that would help on that? I'd really appreciate it =)
 This is a shorter version of TMI in pdf form, written approx 5 years earlier: http://dharmatreasure.org/wp-content/uploads/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

Also a lot of ppl like Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington: https://www.amazon.com/Right-Concentration-Practical-Guide-Jhanas/dp/1611802695

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/24/17 9:47 PM as a reply to neko.
Thanks Neko- great summary of TMI.

RE: Thougths while trying to concentrate
Answer
7/25/17 2:49 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Thanks Neko- great summary of TMI.


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