Author Topic: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm  (Read 5086 times)

Morning Dew

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Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« on: January 27, 2011, 11:11:13 AM »
I've been practicing calm-abiding for some time now and it works wonders indeed, but I feel concentration not to be very sharp and can get lost very often from the "so wide" object of meditation the awareness of "the whole body breathing".

It sometimes feels like I get lost in that awareness of the whole body, the whole body sensations kind of spread like clouds and I float in all that whole body breathing sensation sky. When this happens I open my eyes fully to get the picture re-set but then I kind of invoke restlessness to the process.
So now I stay with the sensation but get in and out thoughts very fast, but still do enter them. I fail to see them coming as I kind of could at some stage.
I keep reminding myself to let it all pass and stop identifying my self with all that is taking place since this "mind world" I am going through is made of past thus unreal.

I think I might be going back to clinging to my practice again! I feel slightly annoyed if I cant find time to sit because the dog needs a long walk or needs food or I must leave to work soon, or my wife would like to do something together ... This stage led me into the "dark night" panic last time.

I better keep this in mind.

I wonder what is that keeps concentration sharp (instead of asking how to concentrate)?
Is it the intellectual wanting to concentrate on a certain spot (mental force) or is it the totally awake/aware understanding of all the illusions taking place in the mind we so eagerly call Self.
If it is the second then keeping an awake (inner) eye on the gates of "heaven" is of absolute importance not to let the "unholy" enter them but just letting those "unholy" pass by the gate.
Or maybe there is no gate and I am simply mixed in all those unholy thoughts and sensations? Could be but in this case I am involved and therefor dragged all over the place (loosing concentration).
I think keeping an awake eye on the gate (not a particular spot just not letting those illusions enter the awake consciousness without noticing them).
Kind of like a mindful doorman with lots of compassion (if you have ever encountered that type before  ::)  )

What say you my dear Sangha friends  :)

Che

ivana

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2011, 07:00:03 PM »
Hi Che

"I feel slightly annoyed if I cant find time"
I feel annoyed about it if I do not do meditation regularly and but it is about preferences.


"I wonder what is that keeps concentration sharp (instead of asking how to concentrate)?"
I think not exactly point where is concentration not sharp or sharp. I know what concentration makes sharper practising.

"Kind of like a mindful doorman with lots of compassion"
I like your expression "mindful doorman with lots of compassion"

Take care
Ivana


Jeeprs

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2011, 12:34:08 AM »
It is all part of the practice, 'what comes up'. As you go through life, different things come up at different times. Learn by watching them through choiceless awareness. See yourself in the third person. 'This is how it is for this person'.

In terms of increasing concentration and mind-training techniques, I was once taught Tratak meditation. Gaze at a candle flame for 3-4 minutes, then close the eyes and concentrate on the after image. It is said to benefit concentration. I haven't used that technique for a while. These kinds of techniques are discussed in the Vissudhi Magga, the 'Path of Purification', and I am sure they are effective.

kidnovice

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2011, 02:53:43 AM »
You've asked a wonderful question, Che. It connects well to the themes that have been popping-up lately in my own practice.

In my experience, there are many different strategies that we develop to train our minds. This happens naturally for anyone who is practicing intelligently and paying attention. (i.e., you will creatively look for ways to make your meditation "work," even if that means doing things that a teacher had not taught you).

Like an artist who develops different techniques for holding a brush, we develop different ways to quiet the mind and direct our awareness. Personally, I have found that every time I figure out a new way that works, I cling to it, and say THIS is THE way to meditate. For example, I remember when I discovered how I could calm the mind by stilling my eyes, and cultivating a spacious visual field. Amazingly that works sometimes. (remember when you figured out the same thing? I recall you frequently posting about it! :D). After I make such a "discovery," I will stick to it for awhile, and be really excited about it. And it works!

But then, inevitably, it stops working! And then the question is, how long do you aimlessly space out because you've lost samadhi, and the usual "trick" isn't working? Maybe you get frustrated? Maybe you just drift lazily? Maybe you just wait around for the old "trick" to start working again. (but who knows how long that can take?)

Ultimately, I have come to see that this tendency to believe that there is ONE way to attain samadhi is based on a delusion of permanence. It is from ignorance that we think one way will always work. It is from ignorance that we believe that the mind is a fixed static thing that can be trained with one approach.

The reality for myself is that different approaches work at different times, some more than others, but they are all good. Sometimes I may focus on watching my awareness, anticipating the arising of thoughts (perhaps this is what you call the gatekeeper?).

Or I may focus on my intentions. I find that reflecting on my practice and what really matters can make most thoughts seem petty and unimportant so they naturally lose their attraction.

Sometimes, I bring my awareness fluidly throughout the body, finding that this concentrates me when the  breath does not.

Other times, I find that really watching the breath is the best way to concentrate. Sometimes, I find it really helpful to focus on the gap between the in-breath and out-breath (as this is where the mind typically wanders).

Or I find that I benefit by focusing on the breath in different places. (the abdomen, the chest, or the entire body brings me a spacious awareness. A small point below my nostrils brings a sharp awareness)

Sometimes, I find remembering a previous experience of samadhi will help trigger that state. In fact, I think that for many of us, we just need to enter this state enough times, and then eventually, we enter it with greater ease, and without much need for tricks.

I could go on, but I obviously subscribe to the "free-style" approach.  ;D But each one of us has to figure out the methods that work for us, and actually use them, and re-use them, and let them go, and then return to them.

With metta,
KN
« Last Edit: January 28, 2011, 03:07:04 AM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Morning Dew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2011, 08:39:39 AM »
My concentration loosing starts always when I start intellectualising or reading about meditation. Obsessing with it. Putting it up high on the pedestal as something very important, Giving it value. That is when calm and awake awareness gets replaced by restless ignorance.

Actually after I started reading the Hamilton project my concentration went away (but this could have been also just another meditation book or an intellectualised thread on this forum). I am to drop all again and wait it out and then simply sit without giving it much importance. The only importance is the off the cushion life not the on the cushion one.
We don't fill the car with petrol for the sake of filling it but to be able to continue the ride. Off the cushion life is the measurement tape showing whether the practice is fruitful or just a joke.
My off the cushion life is restless at the moment showing me that my head is stuck deep inside my ars. Time to pull it out again and simply sit, nothing more to that.

Che

Matthew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2011, 09:53:49 AM »
As I said in another thread intellectualising about the path - especially places you have not been yet - is not particularly productive. Some knowledge or intimation of experiences can be gleaned and aid in finding direction, but you are very new to meditation and calm abiding practice in the middle of a busy life and with lots of deconditioning to do is your very best friend right now. Sometimes intellectualising about the path can be downright unhelpful - off-putting and an ego distraction.
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Vivek

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2011, 09:57:09 AM »
I second what Matthew said, Che.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

thelastrich

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2011, 03:04:05 PM »
My concentration loosing starts always when I start intellectualising or reading about meditation. Obsessing with it. Putting it up high on the pedestal as something very important, Giving it value. That is when calm and awake awareness gets replaced by restless ignorance.

When that comes to my mind I simply observe how my mind is thinking, the same as always when one though comes to me, and then this thinking about meditation goes away replaced by a "it's just like it is now", so I can concentrate again in my actual meditation, and not in "what would that be if..."

Hope this helps.

kidnovice

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2011, 08:33:45 PM »
My concentration loosing starts always when I start intellectualising or reading about meditation. Obsessing with it. Putting it up high on the pedestal as something very important, Giving it value. That is when calm and awake awareness gets replaced by restless ignorance.

Hearing you say this reminds me of how different people can be! I have always been quite the opposite. I'm not giving you advice, but rather reflecting: since I first started meditation, whenever I intellectualize about the path (off the cushion), this usually inspires me (on the cushion). I think about what's possible, and then this motivates me.  And the more value I give my practice, the more concentrated I tend to become because everything else starts to seem petty and insignificant.

Of course, whereas it seems like your "dark nights" are about anger, mine have always been about "sadness/ennui/regret." Although these issues are related, they are different, and require different responses. This difference may explain why "valuing" meditation works for me because it channels my ennui in a productive way.

I admire your self-awareness, Che. Just as I have been learning to skillfully work with ennui, it sounds like you are doing the same with your anger.

Off the cushion life is the measurement tape showing whether the practice is fruitful or just a joke.
My off the cushion life is restless at the moment showing me that my head is stuck deep inside my ars. Time to pull it out again and simply sit, nothing more to that.

Agreed. May we all cultivate the qualities that will make us happier off-the cushion. If that's "simply sitting," then do it.

Best wishes,
KN
« Last Edit: January 28, 2011, 08:38:27 PM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Morning Dew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2011, 08:20:50 AM »
I hear you all.

I cant answer to each one of you so will only continue reflecting ...

It happens so very often these days that the ego self slides into the practice and takes over it. The self is so cunning. I fail to see it taking place and giving the sitting practice an idea a meaning. I feel being in my head now.
The problem is that the I self conciously sitting and the I self slideing into the practice trying to give it sense is the same I self.

I am loosing the sense of why I am to sit. The whole world around me is a sleep. No one lives their lives in the now, all are lost in their heads in their habbits in their fear.

The self is telling me that if I cant sit a whole hour it iss better not to sit at all. So I miss sitting on the days I work.

My life makes no sense at the moment. I feel strongly to simplify my life. To go away from the city, no TV, no DVD, no Internet, no Forums, no reading new ideas ... I actualy felt alive when I was living in the mountains between 93-95 in the bosnian war. War on the side, but the many moments I have spend in just walking through the forrest and just sitting on a tree or under a tree ... birds singing, the early sun rise ... cold water from the near by spring, walking on withered leaves ... fresh air .... no industrial sounds (except when the fight was on but this happens only 10 % of the time) AND No plans of any kind, no Ideas. I lived in the very moment without thinking of yesterday or tomorrow.

There is too much input
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 08:23:04 AM by Che Guebuddha »

ivana

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2011, 09:29:16 AM »
Hi Che
Did you see a film about people who were in a war and after it was for them addiction?
Have a nice sitting and remember you are not alone. By the way the hole world is not sleeping because on one side of Earth is always middle of day.
Take care
Ivana

Alexanderjohn

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2011, 11:04:51 AM »
I can relate to a lot of what you are saying. All sorts of dead end spirals occur with what I call the chewing gum effect. Ego arises - there is a reaction to ego arising - there is an identification with the reaction causing more ego. Like trying to scrape gum off your shoe with your other foot but it just becomes more stuck. Being aware of this, seeing it, I feel is the most important thing. It will pass, don't panic, do your best to observe it with some sense of calm equanimity. You ran away from this last time which I suspect is why you experienced a dark night, the running away is what caused the most trouble. There is a split second after these feelings of hoplessness/anger arise and there is either an instant negative reaction causing more reactions or there is the ability to stay with some calm and observe it and repeatedly doing so these feelings start to lose their grip, they really do.

Quote
My off the cushion life is restless at the moment showing me that my head is stuck deep inside my ars. Time to pull it out again and simply sit, nothing more to that.

But here you are still trying to live out some preconceived notion of "simply sitting", trying to "do" rather than be. The being is natural and cant be "done", you know this and have experienced it but cannot recall it because it is not a "thing" that can be recalled.
It is when I realise things like this that the spirals can occur, there is either the reaction of "ah then what am I supposed to do at all!" - purely ego related and stress is added to stress - or there is calm observation where about half of this feeling's power is diminished. Right now the best thing for us to work on is making our momentary awareness so acute we can anticipate it and stop causing it. I don't think your object of concentration has too much importance here. Spend too much time nose contemplating you might miss something subtle, make it too broad there might be too much floating about to realise, its all about balance, KN is right about experimenting.

Metta,
Alex.
PS - your new avatar really had had me laughing.

Matthew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2011, 11:06:37 AM »
You are starting to see how meditation alone is not enough. Balance in all things. If you sit ten hours a day but watch 14 hours of horror movies you won't get far.

Noticing the level of input and wishing to simplify is quite unexceptional. Simplifying then becomes a meditation and a joy, each layer of crap one discards adding to your connection to now, this moment, the only one there is.
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ivana

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2011, 11:38:24 AM »
Hi Che and TIB
I have to agree that meditation changes people from my own experience. I want to simplify my life as well.
Only I hope Che will not go to look for a job as a soldier to simplify his life.
Have a nice Sunday
Ivana

thelastrich

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2011, 06:00:50 PM »
The self is telling me that if I cant sit a whole hour it iss better not to sit at all. So I miss sitting on the days I work.

I got to the point that is better to sit two times of 30 minutes than one time of 60 minutes.
Just like It is better to sit every day 15 minutes, than one day a week 1 hour and 45 minutes.
And more now that I know meditation changes the brain physically (gray matter), like a muscle. As in the gym is better to do one exercise in some serials of repetitions. (First 10 times, then again later 15 more times, then to finish 20 times again, instead of 45 altogether.)

Morning Dew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2011, 08:25:37 PM »
Thanks friends  :) it always helps reading your replies.

It is all about comforting the afraid ego-self to be OK with the fact that it is walking towards the gallows. "Its OK my dear, it will be painless I promise carry on and keep sitting"  ;D

Friendly

Matthew

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Re: Clinging to practice + concentration and calm
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2011, 11:00:04 AM »
Underneath it all the ego knows it is a lie and it welcomes the gallows - it's just afraid of truth, that which lays beyond.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~