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Counting Breath: a Help or Hindrance to Access Concentration?

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I meditate an hour everyday, and so far after well over a year of practice (though not constant) I haven't reached anything that shouts (or whispers) access concentration. Now I am going through the internet compiling a list of everyone's different method of getting there, from metta and breath-counting, to fire kasina and other visualizations. I will give all of these a good trial run to see if there are any changes. 

Curious about breath counting though—as I've heard it mentioned both positively and negatively in the discussion of practice.

Just read this article: http://methodsofawakening.blogspot.com/2012/08/access-concentration-basics.html

Added it to my list of methods to test-run. But would like to hear anyone's thoughts, especially if counting helped you reach access concentration, or if stopping it helped you reach access concentration.

So far I've found I get into deepest concentration when not counting, but I am also most susceptible to mind-wander. Counting keeps me from a big 5-10 minute rabbit holes of thoughts, but away from these rare 1-2 seconds of "just breath" that I've seldom encountered.

(In case it is brought up: I wouldn't say I'm culpable of "goal-setting" or "desire for access concentration" as a hindrance, as it's not during my practice, but outside of practice maybe a couple times a week, that I wonder if there is a different, more helpful method of meditation to try. I enjoy just sitting and breathing. But if there is a better approach besides simply doing it more, I'd definitely be grateful for hearing about it.)

So. Thoughts on counting?

All best

RE: Counting Breath: a Help or Hindrance to Access Concentration?
Answer
10/16/18 4:13 PM as a reply to Jack.
Hi Jack, my two cents

What worked best for me is at the start of the meditation session do a few deep and natural breaths and feel how your body reacts to the breath, how you feel more relaxed and the inner expirence/perception change, you will feel more "concentrated". It's important to percive when the mind is concentrated or not, and you will feel it for a particular sensations.

Whit the deep breaths is like you breath with intention deep but natural, and you exhale deep but natural not forcing without tension and then hold breath as just you can and be with the sensations of that no-breathing, again dont try to force retantion when body just want to breath again do it. Do this for a while and then just start breathing normally. With the deep breathings at every exhale you can imagine you are letting go all the mental tensions and try to relax the physical tensions.

When you are breathing normally you can use some mantra, is the easy and fast way to get the mind concentrated. Usually I use a mantra and I observe the breath at the same time, doing that Im "busy" and its more easy to not get lost in thoughts. For the mantra you can use a meaningless word or something that have some meaning for you. Usually I use a word related to metta...like "thank you" and really try to feel the gratitude of everything in your life, that will help you to get jhanas more easy. Doing this you will feel a lot of good sensations that help to trigger suhka and piti. Also with the mantra just focus on label the next word again and again, moment to moment, if you wander a lot try to increse de velocity of the repetition of the mantra and then space out more, play with it, but always keep eye on breath. When you start feeling more concentrated you can drop the mantra and keep going only with the breath, you can come back to the mantra if mind go wild. Remember all these things, "mantra, deep breaths, counting, noting, focus on breathing" are just tools you can use it. But for being good with a tool you need to practice and play with it!

Its important feel the breath, trying to feel it the goodness, the beauty of the breath, that the breath is beatiful and feels so good to breath it, that feeling that you are really in peace right now doing this practice and having a good time, just being sit and present.

The thing is try to fuse with your body and the sensations, be there moment to moment, dont be a observer just counting, thats boring! Its important to make the process of meditation interesting for the mind.

Also take it easy, dont look for fast results but at the same time try to commit yourself in to the practice, do your 100% without getting mad if you can do it or you wander a lot, just keep going, very kind, very gently, with a buddha smile in your face ;). If you do concenctration practice I would recomand only do 20 minuts with comitment, motivation and determination. You can do 2-3 sessions of 20 minuts every day. If the 20 minuts pass and you are enjoying your meditation just keep going!

If you can really relax and feel the beauty of the breath and the body sensations you really will enjoy the meditation process and the mind and the body slowly will get quiet and just enjoying being present, take time but its really worth it! You will achive tranquility and peace of mind thats the best for deeper investigation and also for refreshing and calming the mind!

Good luck, the best for progress is a good motivation and determination to do a good practice wihout frustatring yourself for the results!