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Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)

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I have a couple of questions.

The first, is noting enough to stabilize attention? In other words, if my practice only includes noting and no samatha, will attention eventually be stable enough to gain the insights necessary for stream entry?

The second question is, what do I do if I practice samatha and can't locate any breath sensations? I don't feel the breath anywhere unless I take deep breaths (control the breath) but this gives me a head ache. I would really like practice samatha on the cushion to stabilize attention so I can inquire further into the 3Cs. But like I said, I notice no breath sensations. I have very shallow breath so breath sensations are so subtle I can't even find them. This has been true for all the years that I've practiced. As a result, I tend to use hand sensations as an anchor. The problem is, I don't get the be benefits of the cool, calming effect that results from breath meditation. Right now, meditation really seems like a chore because I can't tap into the tranquil states the breath meditaiton provides. Any advice here?

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/20/18 12:16 PM as a reply to ivory.
First, I can personally vouch for the fact that noting is enough to stabilize attention, but these things vary by person and their interpretation of what "noting" and "stabilize" mean.

Second, I used the sensation of the breath entering and leaving my nostrils or the base of my nose where it meets my upper lip. Can you feel that? That said, I would also on occasion use the sensation of one hand touching the other. I don't think which particular object you use is all that critical as much as that any object can be used in your meditation practice.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/20/18 3:45 PM as a reply to ivory.
ivory:
...
The second question is, what do I do if I practice samatha and can't locate any breath sensations? I don't feel the breath anywhere unless I take deep breaths (control the breath) but this gives me a head ache. I would really like practice samatha on the cushion to stabilize attention so I can inquire further into the 3Cs. But like I said, I notice no breath sensations. I have very shallow breath so breath sensations are so subtle I can't even find them. This has been true for all the years that I've practiced. As a result, I tend to use hand sensations as an anchor. The problem is, I don't get the be benefits of the cool, calming effect that results from breath meditation. Right now, meditation really seems like a chore because I can't tap into the tranquil states the breath meditaiton provides....
I read and have tried putting my hand on my abdomen as an easy way to locate sensations that are connected to breath.  It somehow seems annoying or cheap or cheating to use the hand, but it's totally sanctioned. emoticon

But I'd say, IMHO, don't give up on more low maintenance breath sensations. I sat with a friend for his first time, he could not sense breath anywhere except the back of his throat. I'd say, 'look' anywhere between your pelvis and the top of your head for the breath sensations, take your time in the scan, and keep an open mind about just what constitutes sensations of breath. It might be an odd feeling, like a sore throat where the soreness goes up and down as you breath, or it might seem to be that you are only *hearing* the air as it passes near your ear on the way down your neck, that sound would qualify as a sensation of breath. Maybe you have tinnitus and the quality of the sounds change as your breath moves in and out. Maybe you have a kind of energized feeling in your stomach, or a pain in your back that changes as you breath in and out, those would be legit sensations of breath.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/20/18 2:06 PM as a reply to ivory.
Hi Ivory, for me Noting is a good way to stabilize attention, is like a checker if "I'm active" in my meditation or just sitting wandering. If Im able to keep noting with continuity acess concentration appears naturally.

For the breath thing... if you can find any breath sensation maybe you just can note breath in, breath out, if you can't see this clear in your nose then observe your belly, if you can't see it too try to pay a lot of attention where the breath go, maybe you are breathing with your chest and you are not aware. As other fellowers said you can use any object, but It would be worth to investigate the breath.

Anyways what you want to see in the end is the 3 characterstics of the sensations so doesnt matter if is the breath, the sensation of the hands or the sensations of your ass sitting on the floor emoticon

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/24/18 8:24 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
First, I can personally vouch for the fact that noting is enough to stabilize attention, but these things vary by person and their interpretation of what "noting" and "stabilize" mean.


More specifically, I was curious if noting was enough to gain access concentration.

Chris Marti:
I used the sensation of the breath entering and leaving my nostrils or the base of my nose where it meets my upper lip. Can you feel that?


Actually, no I can't. I think the mind is too busy for me to detect it now. However, I have begun to notice how much tension there is in the body. Right now I'm using tension in the face and the tongue as a meditation object. I'd like to use the breath but it's so constricted. I'm hoping that if I focus on relaxation the breath will start flowing more smoothly.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/25/18 7:28 AM as a reply to ivory.
I'll try once more -- can you tell when you're breathing if your eyes are closed? Can you tell if you're breathing in as opposed breathing out? How can you tell your breath is constricted?

emoticon

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/25/18 8:44 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I'll try once more -- can you tell when you're breathing if your eyes are closed? Can you tell if you're breathing in as opposed breathing out? How can you tell your breath is constricted?

emoticon


No I can't tell when I'm breathing, period. I make no sound when I breathe. I make no movement when I breathe. I'm a unique case who simply cannot locate the breath. It's almost like I don't breathe at all. But I obviously do breathe or I would not be typing these words.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/25/18 8:54 AM as a reply to ivory.
Okay.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/26/18 3:44 AM as a reply to ivory.
Hi Ivory,

1) Yep, in Theravada they call this "Kanika Samadhi" meaning "momentary concentration", so it is definitely a legit way of practicing to develop concentration. In certain forms of Theravada (such as Mahasi Sayadaw and U Pandita Sayadaw) they use noting as the main form of concentration meditation.

2) In "Practical Insight Meditation" by Mahasi Sayadaw he recommends that if you are unable to feel the breath, to place your hand on your abdoment to track the rising and falling, as a previous poster said. I think another way to practice increasing your sensitivity to the breath is to perhaps at the beginning of a session, for about 5-10 minutes, to do some deliberate long and slow breaths, tracking the duration of the breaths and noticing how they feel (with your hand if necessary). If you really try this and pay attention to the fact of knowing if the breath is going in or going out, I'm sure it will increase your ability to pay attention to the breath when it is natural. I mean this as a type of training that will wire your attention to be able to more easily pay attention to the breath when you are not deliberately controlling it, so if you do it gently for short periods then hopefully it won't give you headaches.
If this is not possible, maybe one could try listening to the sound of the breath, or the rise/fall of the shoulders, or sensations at the nostrils.

Some other general ideas for improving your awareness of the breath are: to increase the amount of time you spend in fresh air/nature, taking in deep breaths of it, and when at your home to adjust the conditions there if possible to make sure the rooms (especially living/sleeping/meditation rooms) have access to clean air, and doing regular gentle exercise movements to loosen up the body [eg tai chi/ chi kung / felden kreis / etc] (loosening the body not to be confused with stretching the body, which may also be useful, but can tire the body out).

I mention this because in some cases, one of the reasons that someone develops this tightness and tension around breathing has to do with spending a lot of time in living areas where the air is dirty (could go all the way back to childhood). So they subconsciously tighten up aronud it to not have to "taste" and experience breathing in this dirty air. And so its like one has to re-learn to trust in the value of breathing in clean air and being nurtured by it and relaxing into it. Of course there can be many other contributing factors (eg. tense guts due to poor eating or anxiety or other things - so its worth really looking into all these other aspects of ones life that might be contributing.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
7/26/18 9:07 AM as a reply to Andrew S.
Hey Andrew, thanks for the detailed response.

I have chosen noting as my primary method but I am still hoping to get to a point where breath becomes an option as well. Yesterday I was actually thinking about going to a doctor to find out if there's some physiological issue going on. It's very frustrating. I hear about all these benefits of breath meditataion and I'm not able to tap into them. I still wonder if this is more of a relaxation problem, meaning, maybe I need to keep focusing more on relaxation so the breath will do it's thing.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
8/5/18 3:53 PM as a reply to Andrew S.
Andrew S:

I mention this because in some cases, one of the reasons that someone develops this tightness and tension around breathing has to do with spending a lot of time in living areas where the air is dirty (could go all the way back to childhood). So they subconsciously tighten up aronud it to not have to "taste" and experience breathing in this dirty air. And so its like one has to re-learn to trust in the value of breathing in clean air and being nurtured by it and relaxing into it.
I thought about this some more and am beginning to wonder if the breath is constricted because I used to be a smoker. I only quit smoking about six months ago.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
8/5/18 4:32 PM as a reply to ivory.
Ivory, what happens when you hold your breath? Can you do that? How long can you go without taking another breath? What are the sensations that occur when you can't breathe? Where do they occur?

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
8/5/18 7:14 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Ivory, what happens when you hold your breath? Can you do that? How long can you go without taking another breath? What are the sensations that occur when you can't breathe? Where do they occur?

Hi Chris, when I take a big inhale and hold my breath it's about 30 seconds before I feel I need to take another breath. As for sensations, the only thing I notice is that my heart beats faster. I feel the heart beat in the chest but it seems to radiate into the abdomen. Other than that, I didn't detect any movement in the chest or abdomen area.

RE: Stabilizing attention (noting vs samatha)
Answer
8/5/18 7:29 PM as a reply to ivory.
... before I feel I need to take another breath.

What does this sensation feel like? How do you know you need to take another breath?