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meditation help
Answer
8/19/17 9:19 PM
Normally I focus on the tactile sensations on my upper lip when doing meditation. I tend to feel tactile sensations of the breath there. But when I try to stay one pointed on one specific sensation on one spot, it tends to disappear, and another sensation appears somewhere else, making it harder for me to concentrate on that spot. Or when I try to focus on that sensation, other sensations around the desired area of focus tend to pop up and distract me from focusing on my object, thus ruining my focus.

Should I just force my focus there?

This is really confusing for me. Please help.

Thanks

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/19/17 10:01 PM as a reply to Masoom.
Hi Masoom,

It is usually never a good idea to force your mind to do something in meditation. You want to enjoy meditation, otherwise you might find yourself making up excuses not to do it.

The way to deal with the breath disappearing is, first, establish a strong intention to focus on your breath. For example, you might say out loud before you start meditating: "I want to focus my attention on the breath at the nose." When the sensation of the breath begins to fade and other sensations pop up, you can reestablish the intention, then look for the breath sensation more closely. If the other sensations persist, you can note them with a short mental note, then return to looking for the breath. It will probably have reappeared.

If you haven't already, I'd suggest getting Culadasa's book Mind Illumiated. I'm working through it and he gives an excellent, step by step direction on how to meditate.

Good luck!

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/19/17 11:37 PM as a reply to svmonk.
So basically I keep my attention on the nose no matter what, and I use the sensations on my nose to keep my attention there, correct? If I feel sensations at other places, I either ignore them or note them and then bring my attention back to my nose. If I can't feel sensations on the tip my nose, I still keep my attention there and try to notice sensations there, right?

The same thing goes for keeping my attention at one point when I focus on my upper lip, right?
Have you been to jhana yet?

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/21/17 5:06 AM as a reply to Masoom.
howdy,
the advice above is very good BUT

when beginning meditation there was a phase where my concentration was simply shit.

I needed to build my concentration muscle and forcing my mind to "find" that sensation that i "knew" was there, was a tool i used with much success.

the beauty of the breath as object is that it is always present.  it can exhibit many levels of subtelty so in some phases, or stages, we cannot percieve it as easily.  this should tell you something.  you "know" that it is there but do not obviously percieve it.  searching for it IS an excercise.

it is helping you see the differences in perceptive stages. 

some suggestions if it carries on too long without perceptive success is to breathe more heavily so that it becomes apparent.   once you have reacquired the sensation , try following it down into subtlety once again.

you will be building that concentration muscle.

have fun

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/21/17 11:06 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
some suggestions if it carries on too long without perceptive success is to breathe more heavily so that it becomes apparent.   once you have reacquired the sensation , try following it down into subtlety once again.

you will be building that concentration muscle.


Thanks for this, previously my breath noting was improving as I practised, but recently it seemed to disappear on me. The sensations of motion in the abdomen were difficult to locate, like trying to find a cloud surrounded by other clouds. By using heavier breathing I was able to feel the edges of that motion again, and could then let breathing return to normal after finding it. Recently i'd switched to using my very loud tinnitus as an object since it's much easier to recognize the sensations, but i'd prefer to stick with one object most of the time. I've read repeatedly that switching objects a lot tends to be counterproductive.

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/22/17 11:39 AM as a reply to Masoom.
I used to experience lots of frustrations around the same issue, as I use the breath sensations at the nostrils as primary object. For strict vipassana, I've learned that it's actually a good thing to be able to perceive what you perceive: sensations poping in and out at one place then at antoher, then at another. That's the nature of reality! So just being aware of these changing sensations is good vipassana practice, I've learned. Even if sometimes you clearly observe sensations of breath elsewhere in the body it is good practice for vipassana.

For strict jhana/samatha practice, the instructions I've learned if you use breath at nostril is that you focus on one spot but without emphasizing perception of sensations. Instead, keeping the mind in one spot and being aware of in-breathing and out-breathing in a very general way. That's the Pa-Auk/Visuddhimagga method. Other jhana teachers, like Ajhan Brahm, instructs on focusing on the breath in a very general way, without focusing on location of breath. You can get more details in his book: Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond.

Best wishes with your practice.

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/23/17 5:58 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
For strict jhana/samatha practice, the instructions I've learned if you use breath at nostril is that you focus on one spot but without emphasizing perception of sensations. Instead, keeping the mind in one spot and being aware of in-breathing and out-breathing in a very general way. 


So basically I can just keep my attention on the tip of my nose. If I notice sensations there, then I use them to help keep my attention on my nose. But if I don't, I keep my attention at the nose nonetheless, right? If, over time, it becomes harder for me to notice sensations, then I can just pinch my nose to create a sensation and use that to help me focus.

Normally I focus on the tip of my nose and I ignore my breath (using my breath to create a sensation on my nose is a distracation for me because they never last). I look for other sensations, such as coolness around the tip of my nose.

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/23/17 6:05 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
howdy,
the advice above is very good BUT

when beginning meditation there was a phase where my concentration was simply shit.

I needed to build my concentration muscle and forcing my mind to "find" that sensation that i "knew" was there, was a tool i used with much success.

the beauty of the breath as object is that it is always present.  it can exhibit many levels of subtelty so in some phases, or stages, we cannot percieve it as easily.  this should tell you something.  you "know" that it is there but do not obviously percieve it.  searching for it IS an excercise.

it is helping you see the differences in perceptive stages. 

some suggestions if it carries on too long without perceptive success is to breathe more heavily so that it becomes apparent.   once you have reacquired the sensation , try following it down into subtlety once again.

you will be building that concentration muscle.

have fun
How did you find that location? I'm very specific about the location of my breath, so even if it is a milimeter off, then I will ignore the sensation and try to focus on the exact spot. This creates doubt, however, and it causes me to wonder if it is in fact a milimeter off or if I'm wrong about it and it is the exact location which I wish to focus on.

Lately I've been focusing on the tip of my nose and I ignore my breath (using my breath to create a sensation on my nose is a distracation for me because they never last). I look for other sensations, such as coolness around the tip of my nose. I sometimes pinch the tip of my nose to help me focus there. Am I doing it right? And do I have to use the breath to help me focus on the tip of my nose, and I use other things, such as touch?

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/23/17 6:53 PM as a reply to Ben V..
For jhana/samatha practice, can I just keep my focus on the tip of my nose no matter what?

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/25/17 1:54 PM as a reply to Masoom.
Right. It will of course not stay there, but your objective is to develop your attention power sufficiently that distractions don't distract, and maintain an objective, light attitude toward the distractions (that is, don't get down on yourself about the fact that you get distracted, even by the disappearance of your breath).

If you haven't already, I'd suggest getting a copy of Culadasa's book Mind Illumiated. He has super detailed instructions about the 10 phases of development of concentration and insight. These don't align exactly with the Mahsi stages of insight as updated by DI in MCTP, but there is some overlap (I think towards the end, I haven't finished Culadsa yet).

            jak

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/27/17 10:42 PM as a reply to svmonk.
will imagining where the tip of the nose is or pinching it there instead of focusing on the sensations there lead me to jhana? Is that a proper way to do samatha practice?

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/28/17 12:22 AM as a reply to Masoom.
Masoom:
tom moylan:
howdy,
the advice above is very good BUT

when beginning meditation there was a phase where my concentration was simply shit.

I needed to build my concentration muscle and forcing my mind to "find" that sensation that i "knew" was there, was a tool i used with much success.

the beauty of the breath as object is that it is always present.  it can exhibit many levels of subtelty so in some phases, or stages, we cannot percieve it as easily.  this should tell you something.  you "know" that it is there but do not obviously percieve it.  searching for it IS an excercise.

it is helping you see the differences in perceptive stages. 

some suggestions if it carries on too long without perceptive success is to breathe more heavily so that it becomes apparent.   once you have reacquired the sensation , try following it down into subtlety once again.

you will be building that concentration muscle.

have fun
How did you find that location? I'm very specific about the location of my breath, so even if it is a milimeter off, then I will ignore the sensation and try to focus on the exact spot. This creates doubt, however, and it causes me to wonder if it is in fact a milimeter off or if I'm wrong about it and it is the exact location which I wish to focus on.

Lately I've been focusing on the tip of my nose and I ignore my breath (using my breath to create a sensation on my nose is a distracation for me because they never last). I look for other sensations, such as coolness around the tip of my nose. I sometimes pinch the tip of my nose to help me focus there. Am I doing it right? And do I have to use the breath to help me focus on the tip of my nose, and I use other things, such as touch?
The location does not matter, in fact, the object itself does not matter. The Buddha recommended 40 subjects - there are obviously many more possible objects to attain samatha through meditation. The objective is to attain a state of mind suitable for Vipassana/Jhana/etc. You do realize you are obsessing with the details surrounding the object of attention instead of the objective of the meditation - an ideal state of calm/still/focus/mindfulness?

You mentioned that it creates doubt - that should ring a warning bell to you that it is wrong. Remember correct focus is not like being a sniper behind a rifle, seeing nothing but the target for hours on end. You should be in comfort, relaxedly focused on it, yet your sense bases are open to all objects knocking on them, where you have a choice to shift focus but choose to or not to.

For me, it is fine that your attention shifts around the concept of the breath, as long as it stays with the breath. e.g. if the sensation of the breath is too subtle, you can shift it to the rising/falling of the abdomen; you feel rapture/bliss building around your head and you move your attention to the entire body (willing or sensing the breath towards the whole body, which is usually when climax/jhana occurs shortly after).

I would say your aim now is to stay with the breath comfortably and keep on the gentle lookout for rapture. For me, whilst building the rapture, I do not even stay with the breath at times to accelerate the progress. That should tell you that it is the state that you are in and it matters not what your focus is on, even in samatha meditation. In fact, why draw a line between samatha and vipassana? Sit down, practice and if it feels like correctly focusing on jumping subjects - let it be. If it feels like staying glued, let it be. Just remain in that state and observe whatever comes up. emoticon

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/28/17 2:30 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
How about I keep my attention on the tip of my nose no matter what? Will that lead to jhana?

Also, will imagining where the tip of the nose is or pinching it there instead of focusing on the sensations there lead me to jhana?

RE: meditation help
Answer
8/28/17 8:40 AM as a reply to Masoom.
Masoom:
How about I keep my attention on the tip of my nose no matter what? Will that lead to jhana?

Also, will imagining where the tip of the nose is or pinching it there instead of focusing on the sensations there lead me to jhana?

You need an actual sensation, imagination might work but will not get you far. The area does not have to be tiny, the sensation of air contacting the area inside your nostrils will suffice for you to feel the in/out breaths; even something as gross as stomach rising/falling works. Your goal now is to stay with that sensation, be aware and know what is "right concentration" that should be when you can sense Piti (rapture). I think you are being too hard on yourself. You may want to read something I wrote:

  1. Training A: Formal Practice - A Posture of Stillness
3.1.1 Posture: Get into any comfortable posture, as long as it does not make you sleepy or cause any pain. If pain occurs, move mindfully and gently to adjust. You may be sitting on a chair or even lying in bed, it really does not matter as long as it does not make you sleepy or uncomfortable. If you have issues of falling asleep whilst sitting, start with walking meditation and use the same exact same method of observing your breath. Watch your facial muscles, if they tense up, relax them and let gravity bear the weight.
3.1.2 Preparation: You should summon a feeling of peace and well-being. As a beginner, do not attempt to meditate when you are not capable of summoning a state of pleasant well-being. Meditation is not a suffering process at all! However the first few sittings will be you challenging the monkey in your mind. Do not attempt prolonged sittings if it causes agitation. In fact, do not even try to meditate for longer than an hour unless you are capable of summoning PITI. A sustained full minute of zero thoughts is more beneficial than an hour of having thoughts swimming around. If you are feeling too agitated, get up and do something else, and meditate again when you are calmer.
3.1.3 Goal Setting: Solemnly resolve and make a long term goal. For example: “I will do my best to achieve the FIRST JHANA (or NIRVANA) and will not give up until I do so.” If you can, forget that you made this resolution. You will not be able to hahaha, however it is very important never to allow this goal to surface during meditation. TANHA will obstruct your progress.
3.1.4 Preparation: Before beginning each practice, give a strict command to the brain, “No thoughts allowed!” Make a quick short-term practice resolution, for example: “I will learn more about how my breath can control PITI in this session.” Important: Summon pleasant feelings (not thoughts!), you may try a slight smile to enhance this effect. For example, imagine sitting in the midst of a garden of roses or a place with great and pure air, abandon the thoughts and keep that feeling. Remember to Live in the Now, do not to think of the past or the future. However, if thoughts occur, simply tell it NO sternly, pay it no attention and return your mind gently and peacefully back to the breathing as the concentration object. Do not be harsh with yourself if you keep failing to do so. Remember that meditation must start off and end in a pleasant and positive manner.
  1. Begin: Close your eyes. Make yourself comfortable and bring yourself to the current moment and bring your attention to the breath. Take a few complete breaths, filling in the abdomen, pushing up the diaphragm and fill the chest, exhale slowly and repeat as many times as necessary to still and compose yourself. Imagine each subsequent breaths as nourishing, fresh, enriching and of a pleasant smell. Do not bother about the characteristics of the breath, whether it is long or short, deep or subtle. The breath will change during your sitting, just be aware when it changes, and do not try to control it unless it is uncomfortable, you should then adjust accordingly. For beginners, use a small area of focus: Observe the breath sensation around the tip of the nose, feeling the air physically contact the nostril area. You may begin to mentally note “In” and “Out” to bring the mind to the breath in the beginning, but after your mind has stilled or you do not need it to concentrate anymore, the habit should be formed such that no such noting is required. Try to visualize the breath as continuous, sweet, smooth waves and you will find a certain kind of enjoyable rhythm to it. It is akin to being immersed in pleasant music and mentally dancing to it. Harbor no guilt, anxiety or fear, just like being absorbed in such good music, the good sensations and feelings should draw you into it, thus it is called absorption meditation.
  2. Objectives:
  1. Use the knowledge of what you learn from the details in your own meditation to make the experience as pleasant as you can, and it is supposed to be! Find out what inhalation and exhalation do that creates pleasant effects (PITI)- tingling sensation one feels when cold, scared, excited or happy.  Once you experienced PITI, find out what causes it, is it a state of mind that you were in, or is it certain breath actions or both?
  2. After being able to keep thoughts out of your mind reasonably, pay attention to sensations around the head, that will seem to be influenced by your concentrating on the breath, observe and learn the patterns that you can capture.
  3. For practice purposes, you may hold your breath after inhalation and exhalation to observe what effects occur and how these effects amplifies the PITI or SUKHA – (a physical pleasure that starts off from emotional happiness), but the first task is to be able to feel PITI building, it starts from:
1. a tingling feeling to
2. waves of vibrations to
3. Overwhelming pleasure
that when combined with , almost fills your entire body. Tune to the illusory smoothness, stay with it and learn how to cultivate both.
  1. Continuation: After a period of many sittings, when you have managed to maintain the stillness of the mind, pleasant sensations that stem from either (SUKHA), that seem to follow PITI will occur. [Hint- Sukha can be cultivated from the beginning] This is the mind and body telling you that this state is comfortable and natural, this pleasant feeling will seemingly out of nowhere appear in normal living (for example when you are reading) even when you are not in formal meditation and it occurs because you ARE in SAMA SATI/SAMADHI. Cultivate it, observe and remember what it is or better still switch from what you were doing to meditation! Observe the pleasant sensations around head area when they occur. You will realize that you can control or increase the pleasant sensations with the breath, with you summoning pleasant frames of mind, with your focus level, with calmness, etc. Increase the pleasant sensations with what you have learned to the sensations that will increase their intensity or area, for example, upon completing an inhalation or exhalation. You may bring a slight smile to your face or even let out an “ahhhh” inside your being to increase its effect or area. If this intensity is strong around the head area, surrender to it and gently will it to the whole body repeatedly and let it suffuse your whole being.
  2. Completion: At this point, there is no need to purposefully watch the breath anymore as PITI and SUKHA act like magnets pulling your mind into SAMA SATI/SAMADHI. You may notice it on and off, or you may continue to pay complete attention to it. Try all the variations to learn. Concentrate on increasing this pleasure until you reach the FIRST JHANA. You may or may not notice the breath or are using it to control the pleasure, dive into the pleasure but do not get excited and do not TANHA it to happen. The key to getting there is to conceive the breath as a flowing, continuous entity and surrendering completely to the upcoming transition. Climax: A white light may cascade over you, a few blinks or rapid twitching of your eyelids, a few jerks in your breathing, your eyes may float to the top. [NOTE: It is possible to over-build the climax and forgetting to surrender when the time is right.] Maintain your composure, surrender to and enjoy the trance-like JHANA. There is never a need to worry about the breath or any part of your body in any scenario as it is impossible to suffocate whilst meditating. If your eyes open, let them be, closing them is merely to shut down one of the senses to make things easier. Remember to always maintain an observer-like state, even if you are not meditating!
 
  1. Training B: Informal Practice – Mindfulness (SAMA SATI)
    1. Mindfulness Building: You should try to do this observation of the breath or whatever actions you are engaged in, in all scenarios: bathing, walking, on a vehicle, brushing your teeth, eating, sweeping the floor or anything at all that does not require your complete attention. Simply try to do all these activities, whilst observing without the mind having any thoughts. This will show the mind and body that this is such a pleasurable state that it will start to signal to you that it wants more of it. It will take numerous sessions to get the mind and body to yearn for it, so get into the habit of observing your actions whenever you can, especially when you are waiting. As this will have the added benefit of cultivating loving-kindness and patience. Remember that the more time you spend on being mindful, the sooner you will achieve your goal. Also remember that being mindful is not being concerned with the content, for example, you should know that you are thinking but you do not need to know what you are thinking about. The same goes for hearing and all the rest of the senses. It is far more skillful to know when they arise and when they cease than to be lost in the content.
    2. For the sleepy, restless or impatient: Start with walking meditation, in fact the Buddha recommends everyone to do so. Be microscopically aware of every intention (want to raise heel), every order (mental order to raise heel), every execution (raising heel), every sensation in muscles, skin contacting floor or clothes, etc. Do it extremely slowly, perhaps 5-10 steps in a minute. Feel your balance shift, feel cold or heat, feel textures that are soft or hard, feel and pinpoint where exactly they arise and note when each and every sensation arise and cease. Focus with such intensity that it is impossible to have thoughts around. After your mind is focused, in about 15-30 minutes, transition to standing or sitting and watch your breath, carrying forward your state of mind and follow Training A.
    3. Advancing into VIPASSANA territory: Understand what is ANNICA, DUKKHA, ANNATA. When you awake until you sleep, recognize as many occurrences as you can that fit into any of these 3 baskets and throw them into 1, 2 or all of these baskets. Do this especially for negative emotions and useless thoughts that surface. Throw them into the baskets and move on with your life. You will find that doing this simple start to VIPASSANA gives you a lot more time, peace and happiness.
Further Information:
  1. Feeling these pleasurable signals appearing to you is very important as crossing the first jhana depends on only 2 factors, PITI and SUKHA. The other 3 factors are already built into the instructions so you do not need to know about them for now. Let me know where and how you feel these 2 factors. Most people have them in the head area, but some people have them in the hands or other places, simply be aware of pleasant sensations whilst observing your breath.
  2. Remember that this is supposed to be a practice in concentration and mindfulness thus I suggest not to watch your breath before sleeping where you allow your thoughts to drift, so that you will not confuse the two techniques as the same. You may watch your breath to sleep after you have mastered entering the first jhana. The differences between them are subtle, as you surrender to both, however, in meditation, there are no thoughts and you are fully aware! Do not be afraid of falling asleep whilst meditating, if you do, allow it to happen, so that you know what the differences are.
  3. Enjoy! Please ask me if you have any questions. In fact, tell me in detail, what is happening in all your meditation sessions so I can guide you or prescribe the remedies in the right direction. However, during meditation, do not try unnaturally to remember the details as it may disrupt your efforts. Remember that this is supposed to be very enjoyable!
SAMA – Right, desired, optimal or correct.
SATI – Mindfulness, awareness.
SAMADHI – Concentration
PITI – Rapture, physical manifestation of pleasure.
SUKHA – Physical manifestation of emotional pleasure.
JHANA – A state of mind that is accessed, possessing sets of qualities. 1st – 4th Fine material Jhana; 1st – 4th Formless Jhana; 1st – 4th Vipassana Jhana
TANHA: Craving or Wanting or even Clinging.
ANNICA: Impermanence
DUKKHA: Suffering
ANATTA: No self or Not self