Message Boards Message Boards

Energy Practices

Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation

Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
concentration qigong breath pranayama
Answer
11/11/17 3:06 PM
I’ve been a serious meditatior in the past (Goenka-style vipassana), but since taking a job where I am reading and writing all day, I seem not to be able to sustain concentration for any amount of time. My head is swimming with self-talk chatter, no matter how long I sit. It has become worse over several years, and meditating now seems like a chore and/or waste of time. Also I am now having difficulty sleeping (or getting back to sleep when awakened) because of the same issue. 

Please don’t say I need a new job... I’m doing what I love. What I would like is serious, experienced advice on one or two breathing exercises to obliterate the running commentary in my head, in order to (1) facilitate concentration, and (2) to facilitate sleep. Somewhere I heard the expression “you can’t use the mind to control the mind,” or something like that, and it rings true that I need to find some way to override the thought process using the body.

I have a feeling this sort of thing is run of the mill in Zen, vajrayana, or Daoist teachings, but my only serious experience is with the Goenka folks, who seem to have no insight into these sorts of practice. So, if you would, kindly provide both a recommendation, but also a source of detailed instruction so I can teach myself (not interested in gurus). 

Thanks for your ideas! 

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/11/17 6:13 PM as a reply to p s.
I have been reading a lot about Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation and listened to several talks given by Bhante Vimalaramsi. ( youtube and podcast.  BV interview 1 The Journey/Mindfulness/Jana is a good one.)  He is advocating
that people practice metta all day long and thinks it is much easier to do than breath related practices.  You take the radiant feeling of lovingkindness in the center of the chest as the meditation object.

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/11/17 7:30 PM as a reply to p s.
I can recommend a couple things.

You can use Shinzen Youngs mindfulness formulation as one approach.  If thoughts are spiraling while working (or any other time) try a focus technique called Feel Out.  Bring awareness to the breath.  On the out breath you can label Feel and perhaps bring attention to the feeling of your hands on your keyboard, or your feet on the floor.  Essentially just grounding attention in the body and away from the whirling mind.  So when you feel spun out try this for 60 seconds or so to take the pressure off.  Play with it a bit and see where it leads you.

I would also recommend the work of Loch Kelly.  His book Shift into Freedom has numerous practices you may find helpful.  Try this for a start

Breath and softly unhook your awareness from thought by letting it ride the breath down into the chest.  Once your awareness is felt there allow it to soften and remain in the chest.  Begin to explore the open and spacious feeling of awareness rising and falling in the chest.

These practices may get you some space and a bit of relief, which is important.  Ultimately you will have to explore the nature of your agitated mind to really get a deeper understanding of what is occuring.

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/11/17 7:46 PM as a reply to p s.
I would suggest to try someting simple but not easy: Try to try constantantly focus on the feeling caused by the breath in the nostrils. In-breath is slightely cold out-breat is slightely warm. You can make your nostrils wet to feel it more intensively. If the distractions bubble up like a "mental gallop" try to just count the breaths: From one to ten. And then repeat it indefinitely.

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/11/17 7:49 PM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
I do this exercise with an intention to "rut tracks" in my mind by this sensation in the nose. emoticon

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/11/17 8:20 PM as a reply to p s.
Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I do appreciate your input and your time. However, these are still what I’d call mental approaches. I’m not really asking where to place my attention to improve concentration. I’m looking for some kind of pranayama or qigong type exercise that uses the breath and/or body to clear out the chatter. (That’s why I posted here in “energy,” instead of in the “concentration” thread.) Thanks!

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/12/17 11:22 AM as a reply to p s.
Yes, I’m familiar with Reggie Ray’s stuff. Perhaps I’m not being clear about what I’m looking for, because everyone is suggesting new meditation techniques or systems. That’s not what I want. I am looking for recommendations for one or two specific pranayama or qigong style breathing exercises that I can use prior to doing my Goenka-style vipassana meditation practice or when waking up in the middle of the night, in order to “obliterate” mental chatter. (Note that I’m using obliterate consciously... I mean to wipe out the chatter in the way that intense physical exercise can do, but without having to get up and run intervals at 4am!). Thanks!

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/12/17 1:26 PM as a reply to p s.
It will perhaps sound intrusive but did you think about the possibility that you suffer from some form of insomnia? There are neurologists specialising in sleep disorders. The patient is examined in a sleep laboratory and using the polysomnogram the specialist suggests a treatment. It may be in a form of pharmacological help: Short acting benzodiazepines like midazolam or hypnotics like zolpidem, zaleplon or zopiclon, for long term treatment there are sedative antidepressants like agomelatine, trazodon or mirtazapine and for really strong insomnia there are sedative neuroleptics like small dose of quetiapine, levomepromazine or melperone.

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/12/17 2:15 PM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
Thanks for the suggestion, but the insomnia only happens when I’ve been immersed in writing all day, so I don’t think that’s the problem. 

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/28/17 4:39 AM as a reply to p s.
p s:
Yes, I’m familiar with Reggie Ray’s stuff. Perhaps I’m not being clear about what I’m looking for, because everyone is suggesting new meditation techniques or systems. That’s not what I want. I am looking for recommendations for one or two specific pranayama or qigong style breathing exercises that I can use prior to doing my Goenka-style vipassana meditation practice or when waking up in the middle of the night, in order to “obliterate” mental chatter. (Note that I’m using obliterate consciously... I mean to wipe out the chatter in the way that intense physical exercise can do, but without having to get up and run intervals at 4am!). Thanks!
Hi p.s.
I can suggest you 2 things: 
  1. Breathing exercise before meditation or in the middle of the night : This technique called 3-3-6-3. Why? Because:
    • 3 seconds breath in deeply.
    • 3 seconds hold your breath.
    • 6 seconds breath out evenly.
    • 3 seconds hold your breath.
    • You can repeat it as many times as needed until you feel relaxed and deepened.
  2. Breathing exercise during meditation: This technique called "Countdown". Why? Because:
    • We're starting to count after each breath.You breathe in, breath out, 1, breathe in, breath out, 2. Count to 10.
    • Then in the second round you count your breath until 9. Then you count it up to 8 in the third. Keep on until you reach 1.
    • Now you begin to breathe deeply, not so deep, just long deep breaths.
      You're breathing deeply, knowing that you breathe. Keep on doing it a few times. Then, switch back to normal breathing, not so deep, more normal, shallow breaths…
    • Do it for a while. You are following your breaths in the mean time. After a while you’ll feel your breathing is already quite calm.
    • Your mind will be relaxed, voices and sounds will be gone or at least diminish.
    • Most likely the mind will already be fairly focused, then you continue meditating while following normal breath.
    • Just do not mess with anything. Meditate...
    • If you happen to lose your concentration, repeat each step until you're calm and deepend.
Cheers,

UM

RE: Breathing exercise for concentration, relaxation
Answer
11/12/17 11:27 AM as a reply to p s.
p s:
Somewhere I heard the expression “you can’t use the mind to control the mind,” or something like that, and it rings true that I need to find some way to override the thought process using the body.
I ask myself why you think this? Various points spring to mind:
- Somewhere I heard or read that you can't control the mind anyway.
- Use the body to control the mind - would this imply that the body is basis for the software problem by fiddling with the hardware?
- Most of all, it appears that you have caused your mind to operate like this using your only mind (not counting perhaps your eyes and hands for reading and writing), so it would stand to reason that using mind in the appropriate way would solve your problem. 

It sounds like you might be looking for something like the microcosmic orbit, I don't know think that's specifically for stopping thoughts though, I learned it at Wudang (Daoist) and they were more into getting their qi flowing. Their stance on thoughts seemed to just be "don't think too much" and I didn't hear of any practices specifically for stopping thoughts. When practising kung fu or taiji forms, the teacher said "just repeat, repeat, repeat". Maybe learn some kung fu?

I find that just very quietly trying to catch thoughts when they arise, paying constant attention to see if I can notice one coming seems to stop thoughts. Laurel Carrington (I think that's what her name was), a DhO poster, said Ken Folk recommended a kind of "cat watching a mousehole to see when the mouse comes out" attitude. But that would be another "mental" approach.

Hope that helps somehow?