Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Goenka

Raghu S, modified 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 4:07 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 4:07 PM

Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Goenka

Post: 1 Join Date: 11/28/23 Recent Posts
I have been following Goenka tradition of vipassana for a few months now(one 10 day retreat and 5 months of daily practice). We are instructed to keep our attention below the nostrils and observe the flow of breath (i.e., just know that you are inhaling or exhaling). My problem with the instructions is that I can feel the sensations under my nostrils, but I don’t understand what that sensation means i.e., if it is inhalation or exhalation. For the longest time, in an attempt to figure/know what the sensation corresponded to, I think I was controlling my breath, which proved to be counterproductive as I was having trouble breathing normally. Even extending to normal day-to-day affairs. I tried using harder breaths, longer breaths, but I never could go beyond understanding that there is sensation under my nostrils.

I understand that it is for building shamata, and the knowing of if the sensation corresponds to inhalation or exhalation doesn’t matter that much. But I am assuming there is a reason the instruction is a certain way. Am I doing something wrong. Any help is appreciated.

I read that the Mahasi tradition emphasises keeping the attention on the rising and falling of the belly, but I don’t think I am ready to mix traditions yet. Does anyone know what might be happening here or have any suggestions on what can be done to help better my practice.
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Ben V, modified 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 7:43 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 7:43 PM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 417 Join Date: 3/3/15 Recent Posts
For what's worth, I would ask you: Why do you want to understand what the sensations mean? What would be the purpose of that?
  Does it align with the goal of the Buddhist path? With yours?
 
 I have often been trapped (still get trapped) into fixating on whether I do a technique properly. Do I feel or see the breath well enough (for example)?

The Buddhist path is to disentangle from grasping, aversion and unknowingness.

Wanting something to happen (like understanding what sensations mean) in one's meditation could be grasping or craving. It causes tension, as you seem to have experienced when realizing you were controling the breath and then not breathing normally. Observing all that in real time would be very fruitful. You would be able to release grasping in that moment (a mini cessation of craving).

Dissatisfaction with how one's meditation is going (how come I cannot know what a sensation means) is aversion. 

Not realizing you are being played by the push and pull of grasping and aversion as it is happening in the moment is one way unknowingness may manifest.

The irony is that when you release grasping and aversion in real time, the mind and body relaxes which gives rise to more clarity. With such clarity you will actually see and understand phenomena with more ease, including understanding sensations.

Best wishes with your practice.


 
 
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Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 7:48 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 7:48 PM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 5164 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
To echo Ben V but in my own words - the point of that way of meditating is not to find meaning but to observe and investigate the source of the sensations. Where do they come from? Are they continuous or do they appear in bits and pieces? Are they always the same or do they differ? How long do they last? Are they comprised of one overall sensation or of multiple parts? Do they come with other kinds of perceptions? Are they pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral?
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 10:21 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/1/23 10:05 PM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 1682 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Raghu S
I have been following Goenka tradition of vipassana for a few months now(one 10 day retreat and 5 months of daily practice). We are instructed to keep our attention below the nostrils and observe the flow of breath (i.e., just know that you are inhaling or exhaling). My problem with the instructions is that I can feel the sensations under my nostrils, but I don’t understand what that sensation means i.e., if it is inhalation or exhalation. For the longest time, in an attempt to figure/know what the sensation corresponded to, I think I was controlling my breath, which proved to be counterproductive as I was having trouble breathing normally. Even extending to normal day-to-day affairs. I tried using harder breaths, longer breaths, but I never could go beyond understanding that there is sensation under my nostrils.

I understand that it is for building shamata, and the knowing of if the sensation corresponds to inhalation or exhalation doesn’t matter that much. But I am assuming there is a reason the instruction is a certain way. Am I doing something wrong. Any help is appreciated.

I read that the Mahasi tradition emphasises keeping the attention on the rising and falling of the belly, but I don’t think I am ready to mix traditions yet. Does anyone know what might be happening here or have any suggestions on what can be done to help better my practice.


I don't know about the Goenka style of teaching so I can't say what your instructors intend.

But I think it is okay to combine samatha and vipassana. You don't have to do one or the other separately. Often people will do samatha as preparation for vipassana. There is nothing wrong with that. The anapanasatti sutra might seem to be organized that way but if you look closely it is actually giving instruction in samatha and vipassana simultaneously. Samatha makes vipassana more effective, but it is fine to do both at the same time too. As the samatha calms the mind and body the vipassana will improve. As you become more familliar with vipassana you may find you are doing it all the time.

If you are controlling your breathing and it begins to feel uncomfortable, it is probably due to hyperventilation, try pausing at the end of each exhalation or exhale slower and longer than you inhale.

If you can breathe without controlling it you are observing what I call "automaticity". When you get distracted that is also automaticity - you didn't mean to get distracted it just happened. You can find automaticity in walking - when you are walking you don't decide to move your legs and arms they just go by themselves. If you observe the stream of consciousness you will see that the stream of consciousness also has automaticity, it is just a sequence of cause and effect, one thought, emotion, impulse, sensory experience, triggers another thought, emotion, or impulse, which triggers another and another until something occurs that starts you off on a new tangent. There isn't any controlling presence, it happens automatically by cause and effect. Another way of saying it is that everything is coming from the aggregates. Even the sense of self, the feeling of being, any thoughts and feelings of noself are exactly the same. Even when you think you are using your mind to solve a problem, or to control your breathing intentionally, where do the impulses to think or to inhale and exhale come from? So even if you feel like you are controlling your breathing, you can observe automaticity by looking for the impulses to inhale and exhale. When you can see the automaticity of the stream of consciousness, you will see that automaticity is in everything you do and experience.

As you observe the breath you can also try to notice smaller divisions than inhaling and exhaling, what about the beginning of each, the ending of each, the middle of each, the in-between of exhaling and inhaling and of inhaling and exhaling. You will see automaticity in greater detail, see that it is more complicated that it first appeared.

When you observe automaticity you are observing anatta one of the three characteristics. And observing the automaticity of the stream of consciousness is the same as observing dependent origination. Ultimately this should help you to see that the "self", the observer, the experiencer, is not something that is separate from the aggregates, from the unconscious process that generate thoughts emotions, impulses, and sensory experience, and it should show you where suffering comes from and that interrupting the sequence of dependent origination ends suffering.

At the same time you can allow observation of the breath, to quiet the mind and if you are breathing in a relaxing way, it can help you relax physically to some extent too. I find that realxing and quieting the mind enhances vipassana you can focus better because of it.
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Dream Walker, modified 4 Months ago at 12/2/23 1:32 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/2/23 1:32 AM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 1687 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Raghu SWe are instructed to keep our attention below the nostrils and observe the flow of breath (i.e., just know that you are inhaling or exhaling). My problem with the instructions is that I can feel the sensations under my nostrils, but I don’t understand what that sensation means i.e., if it is inhalation or exhalation. For the longest time, in an attempt to figure/know what the sensation corresponded to, I think I was controlling my breath, which proved to be counterproductive as I was having trouble breathing normally. Even extending to normal day-to-day affairs. I tried using harder breaths, longer breaths, but I never could go beyond understanding that there is sensation under my nostrils. I understand that it is for building shamata, and the knowing of if the sensation corresponds to inhalation or exhalation doesn’t matter that much. But I am assuming there is a reason the instruction is a certain way. Am I doing something wrong. Any help is appreciated. 


BELOW your nostrils?
Well, test that crappy advice. Close one nostril with your finger. Blow out. Ya, feel that? Ok now sniff. Try again....sniff harder plugging one side. Sniff for the life of your lungs.
Do you feel anything on your upper lip or just WITHIN your nose hole?
Stop being lazy and retry over and over for as long as it takes to realize blowing your nose is different from snorting.
Good luck,
~D
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Kevin Andrew, modified 4 Months ago at 12/5/23 8:44 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/5/23 8:42 PM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 85 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
You say:
I understand that it is for building shamata, and the knowing of if the sensation corresponds to inhalation or exhalation doesn’t matter that much.
It doesn't matter at all really, it's just a sensation.

But I am assuming there is a reason the instruction is a certain way.
Yes. Nothing more...

Am I doing something wrong.
Yes. You're thinking too much. Just observe.

If you are controlling your breathing you are not concentrated. If you were concentrated you would be aware of inhalation or exhalation just as you are of the sensation(s) above the upper lip, below the nostrils. When concentrated you would not ask 'what is this?', at least not constantly. It is not easy, it takes practise.

Why not ask an AT for clarification? You should have been given information on how to contact an AT with questions. At the very least you can check on the website where you signed up for the 10 day course, there will be contact info there.
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Dream Walker, modified 4 Months ago at 12/6/23 12:33 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 12/6/23 12:33 AM

RE: Sensing vs Knowing inhalation and exhalation in Anapana according to Go

Posts: 1687 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Read this, especially the lower portion on LOCATION
https://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html

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