Author Topic: What to focus attention on  (Read 5734 times)

moon unit

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What to focus attention on
« on: March 08, 2012, 07:29:03 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum and to meditation. I've been meditating now for about a month. I try to do it every day but am managing about 6 days in the mornings. I haven't really been able to do much more than 15 minutes.

One thing that I'm confused on is where to focus my attention. I read the mindfulness in plain English book and he says that we should continually bring our attention back to the rims of the nostrils, so that's what I was doing and I felt it was going well enough. No significant impact yet but it's early days. However after reading some things on this forum it has been said that we shouldn't concentrate on rims of nostrils, that that is not the Buddha's way, which makes me confused as in the mindfulness book he said it was. Also I go to a meditation class once a week and the teacher there said we should focus on a point between the eyes (with our eyes closed) or in the centre of our heart, and when I told her that I was concentrating on the rims of the nostrils she said that her way was around for thousands of years, etc

So now I'm confused and it's interfering with my practice as I'm not sure what to focus my attention on and it's making me distracted.

Any advice from any of you seasoned meditators out there?

Thanks  :)

Andrew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2012, 07:42:05 AM »
Hi Moon Unit,

Are you related to Frank Zappa by any chance?

anyway, welcome.

In your travels around the forum did you come across the Meditation 101 article? Good read and covers this question.


Try them all and see which is the most fruitful. In time you will try them all anyway, infact I don't think it is healthy to put too much confidence in one technique over all others, except to say , pay close attention to the fruit of the technique you use and give each enough time to actually have a fair hearing. Nothing is funnier than meditators arguing over technique. Simple message, there is no magic technique, just the one that makes sense to you now and increases calm for you. Which brings us to; Above all Relax. This is the core skill that will produce the biggest changes.

It is one of the ironies of life that the best technique is always the one we use...


Andrew

 
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Gadfly

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2012, 11:58:01 AM »
Hello Moon Unit and welcome.

I personally follow the SN Goenka method of 'trying' to focus my attention on the area beneath my nostrils and just above my lip.

Regards, Gadfly.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 12:09:24 PM by Gadfly »

Masauwu

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2012, 12:24:05 PM »
Hi Moon Unit,

As Andrew said check out this guide and also the original buddhist text from which all techniques were inspired (you will notice there are different alternative translations, probably the reason for most subtle differences in techniques out there).
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

moon unit

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2012, 06:49:18 AM »
Thanks for your replies everyone  :)

Yes I've read the Meditation 101 which was helpful but it says we should pay "attention to bodily sensations"
Does this mean that we should pay attention to every sensation our body is having? And if so how does that develop one pointedness of mind?

Thanks again

Andrew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2012, 07:18:12 AM »
Hi Moon Unit, (geez I like that name!)

The article says more than just pay attention to sensations. It also talks about relaxing them, calming them, being gentle (I hope it says that).

At the moment, perhaps you are confused, then my suggestion would be to watch the sensations attached to that confusion. What is it in real terms? What is happening in your body? Describe it if you can. Use simple words or complex ones, whatever seems to fit. By getting interested straight away you will be less tense, you may realise that there has never been a time when you considered what something felt like without the massive story of abstract terms that normally follows, or even better still, what that massive story of abstraction feels like!

Most of our lives we are stuck in language and in our heads playing with abstract terms and stories. We never stop to see the sensations and feelings without immediately being completely caught up in whatever drama our story is creating.

so in addition to; 'what should I focus on?' Ask 'what does it feel like to be asking this question? What first cause sensation is behind am I asking it? What feeling is there that makes it important?'

That may seem complex, which is why simple instructions of 'watching sensations' sometimes seems pointless. It is precisely because we see them as pointless that we miss the entire cause and effect chain which is running our reality.

So calmly being right there with the actual sensations in the body has a lot of depth to it once you do it with everything. It's not just itches and such, everything has a body component.

Reconnection with the body without the story, is another way of putting it. but again, relaxed and calm is king if there is to be any fruit (dare I say 'vipassana'?  ;))

Andrew
getting it done

Vidar

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2012, 03:34:32 PM »
moon unit,

Don't overcomplicate. The differing advise you get is differing because people have learned different methods. It doesn't so much matter where or what you focus on. Notice *why* you're asked to focus on the rim of the nostrils in Mindfulness in Plain English: It is because it allows you to sense the breath, yet it is not a coarse sensation - you have to apply some level of focus to be able to keep noticing the breath there. It is also a fixed, small location and prevents you from moving your attention around by "following" the breath.

A less obvious aspect is that if you choose to meditate with your eyes open, focusing on that point means you half close your eyes, which counteract dryness and also means your eyes will be defocused from stuff happening in your surroundings... It's a nice little "trick" that helps you into a position that makes concentration easier...

Other ways are not wrong. The point of following your breath is to calm your mind. If you achieve that better by focusing on a point between your eyes, then do that. If you prefer focusing on the raising and lowering of your chest, do that. If something else entirely works for you, do that. Just take care to pay attention to whether or not you're actually achieving the goal of calming your mind (but keep in mind that the mind is a curious thing, and sometimes you might find that sitting down and trying to calm it will make it burst with activity at first - it might seem like things are getting worse rather than better; persist).

Vipassana is not predominantly a concentration practice, so you shouldn't worry so much about staying totally focused on this point or trying to force everything else out of the mind - just make sure you can stay focused enough to not let yourself drift off into day dreams all the time. If you find you are, just gently nudge your attention back there again. You need to develop concentration, but the goal of the concentration is to be able to pay attention and be mindful about something - whether it be your bodily sensations, your feelings, your breath, your surroundings and so on.

Since you've read Mindfulness in Plain English, I'd suggest also listening to Gil Fronsdal's "Introduction to Mindfulness" podcasts at Audio Dharma. They're free downloads, and very similar in style to the book and very straight forward. They include some guided meditations, and expand nicely on the subject of the book and also address some of the bit about breathing and alternatives. It includes some exercises to help illustrate Andrew's point on being mindful of bodily sensations and other subjects as well.

Keep in mind that Mindfulness in Plain English is a beginners guide - it's means to be simple enough to get you started on your own without a teacher. But in doing so, it omits a lot of explanations, and make choices for you where you can make your own when you are ready. You'll do fine if you just follow the instructions there, but don't stick to just that book.

Also, listen to your teacher. Your teacher does not have a monopoly on the truth, but it would also be foolish to not try what your teacher suggest and learn what following those instructions does for you. If it works, then great. If it doesn't you now know it doesn't, and you can adapt and still pick up other lessons from that teacher, or leave and find a teacher that works better for you.

Matthew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2012, 12:19:46 AM »
moon unit,

Don't overcomplicate. The differing advise you get is differing because people have learned different methods. It doesn't so much matter where or what you focus on. Notice *why* you're asked to focus on the rim of the nostrils in Mindfulness in Plain English: It is because it allows you to sense the breath, yet it is not a coarse sensation - you have to apply some level of focus to be able to keep noticing the breath there. It is also a fixed, small location and prevents you from moving your attention around by "following" the breath.
...

This advice is based on mistranslation of the word Paramukham (Pali): the mistranslation is "around the face". The real translation is "fully facing yourself".

In fully facing yourself you pay attention to bodily sensations that arise throughout the body as you breathe in (and relaxing the body) and as you breathe out (and relaxing the body).

Focussing on a small area can be quite hypnotic, breaks you from your body (if focus on the face) and is a shortcut to concentration that bypasses much information and relaxation which will allow you to dig deeper.

Focussing on bodily sensations as you breathe and relax also leads to calm concentration but rejoins bodymind and allows full flow of information.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Falkov

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2012, 03:57:11 PM »
Also,  Concentration (Samadhi) practice-  focusing on single object  VS  Vipassana (Sati, awareness, insight) being  aware (knowing) of  all the five senses:  breathing, senses (feeling), seeing, hearing, and thought. 

Alexanderjohn

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2012, 09:58:14 PM »
Quote
Does this mean that we should pay attention to every sensation our body is having? And if so how does that develop one pointedness of mind?

Pay attention to the ones NOW. Any. Don't TRY to find any particular ones. Your mind will wander off then your natural mindfulness will bring you back to NOW. For me, when I return to the body in this way my sensations are very stark. If I am wondering it's often because there are uncomfortable sensations which I then gently stay with until I wander/wonder again of course and repeat the process.

Forget the idea of 'one pointedness of mind' and just see what it's like when it happens.


Matthew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2012, 11:28:52 PM »
Also,  Concentration (Samadhi) practice-  focusing on single object  VS  Vipassana (Sati, awareness, insight) being  aware (knowing) of  all the five senses:  breathing, senses (feeling), seeing, hearing, and thought. 

There is not concentration practice and insight practice as distinct practices. There is mindfulness practice: concentration and insight are both fruits/results of healthy mindfulness practice.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Falkov

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 04:03:36 AM »
Quote
Vipassana meditation is something of a mental balancing act. You are going to be cultivating two separate qualities of the mind - mindfulness and concentration. Ideally these two work together as a team. They pull in tandem, so to speak. Therefore it is important to cultivate them side-by-side and in a balanced manner. If one of the factors is strengthened at the expense of the other, the balance of the mind is lost and meditation impossible.

Concentration and mindfulness are distinctly different functions. They each have their role to play in meditation, and the relationship between them is definite and delicate. Concentration is often called one-pointedness of mind. It consists of forcing the mind to remain on one static point. Please note the word FORCE. Concentration is pretty much a forced type of activity. It can be developed by force, by sheer unremitting willpower. And once developed, it retains some of that forced flavor. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a delicate function leading to refined sensibilities. These two are partners in the job of meditation. Mindfulness is the sensitive one. He notices things. Concentration provides the power. He keeps the attention pinned down to one item. Ideally, mindfulness is in this relationship. Mindfulness picks the objects of attention, and notices when the attention has gone astray. Concentration does the actual work of holding the attention steady on that chosen object. If either of these partners is weak, your meditation goes astray.

Concentration could be defined as that faculty of the mind which focuses single mindedly on one object without interruption. It must be emphasized that true concentration is a wholesome one-pointedness of mind. That is, the state is free from greed, hatred and delusion. Unwholesome one-pointedness is also possible, but it will not lead to liberation. You can be very single-minded in a state of lust. But that gets you nowhere. Uninterrupted focus on something that you hate does not help you at all. In fact, such unwholesome concentration is fairly short-lived even when it is achieved - especially when it is used to harm others. True concentration itself is free from such contaminants. It is a state in which the mind is gathered together and thus gains power and intensity. We might use the analogy of a lens. Parallel waves of sunlight falling on a piece of paper will do no more than warm the surface. But the same amount of light, when focused through a lens, falls on a single point and the paper bursts into flames. Concentration is the lens. It produces the burning intensity necessary to see into the deeper reaches of the mind. Mindfulness selects the object that the lens will focus on and looks through the lens to see what is there.

Concentration should be regarded as a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for ill. A sharp knife can be used to create a beautiful carving or to harm someone. It is all up to the one who uses the knife. Concentration is similar. Properly used, it can assist you towards liberation. But it can also be used in the service of the ego. It can operate in the framework of achievement and competition. You can use concentration to dominate others. You can use it to be selfish. The real problem is that concentration alone will not give you a perspective on yourself. It won't throw light on the basic problems of selfishness and the nature of suffering. It can be used to dig down into deep psychological states. But even then, the forces of egotism won't be understood. Only mindfulness can do that. If mindfulness is not there to look into the lens and see what has been uncovered, then it is all for nothing. Only mindfulness understands. Only mindfulness brings wisdom. Concentration has other limitations, too.

Really deep concentration can only take place under certain specific conditions. Buddhists go to a lot of trouble to build meditation halls and monasteries. Their main purpose is to create a physical environment free of distractions in which to learn this skill. No noise, no interruptions. Just as important, however, is the creation of a distraction-free emotional environment. The development of concentration will be blocked by the presence of certain mental states which we call the five hindrances. They are greed for sensual pleasure, hatred, mental lethargy, restlessness, and mental vacillation. We have examined these mental states more fully in Chapter 12.

A monastery is a controlled environment where this sort of emotional noise is kept to a minimum. No members of the opposite sex are allowed to live together there. Therefore, there is less opportunity for lust. No possessions are allowed. Therefore, no ownership squabbles and less chance for greed and coveting. Another hurdle for concentration should also be mentioned. In really deep concentration, you get so absorbed in the object of concentration that you forget all about trifles. Like your body, for instance, and your identity and everything around you. Here again the monastery is a useful convenience. It is nice to know that there is somebody to take care of you by watching over all the mundane matters of food and physical security. Without such assurance, one hesitates to go as deeply into concentration as one might.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is free from all these drawbacks. Mindfulness is not dependent on any such particular circumstance, physical or otherwise. it is a pure noticing factor. Thus it is free to notice whatever comes up - lust, hatred, or noise. Mindfulness is not limited by any condition. It exists to some extent in every moment, in every circumstance that arises. Also, mindfulness has no fixed object of focus. It observes change. Thus it has an unlimited number of objects of attention. It just looks at whatever is passing through the mind and it does not categorize. Distractions and interruptions are noticed with the same amount of attention as the formal objects of meditation. In a state of pure mindfulness your attention just flows along with whatever changes are taking place in the mind. "Shift, shift, shift. Now this, now this, and now this."

You can't develop mindfulness by force. Active teeth gritting willpower won't do you any good at all. As a matter of fact, it will hinder progress. Mindfulness cannot be cultivated by struggle. It grows by realizing, by letting go, by just settling down in the moment and letting yourself get comfortable with whatever you are experiencing. This does not mean that mindfulness happens all by itself. Far from it. Energy is required. Effort is required. But this effort is different from force. Mindfulness is cultivated by a gentle effort, by effortless effort. The meditator cultivates mindfulness by constantly reminding himself in a gently way to maintain his awareness of whatever is happening right now. Persistence and a light touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently.

Mindfulness can't be used in any selfish way, either. it is nonegoistic alertness. There is no 'me' in a state of pure mindfulness. So there is no self to be selfish. On the contrary, it is mindfulness which gives you the real perspective on yourself. It allows you to take that crucial mental step backward from your own desires and aversions so that you can then look and say, "Ah ha, so that's how I really am."

In a state of mindfulness, you see yourself exactly as you are. You see your own selfish behavior. You see your own suffering. And you see how you create that suffering. You see how you hurt others. You pierce right through the layer of lies that you normally tell yourself and you see what is really there. Mindfulness leads to wisdom.

Mindfulness is not trying to achieve anything. It is just looking. Therefore, desire and aversion are not involved. Competition and struggle for achievement have no place in the process. Mindfulness does not aim at anything. It just sees whatever is already there.

Mindfulness is a broader and larger function than concentration. It is an all-encompassing function. Concentration is exclusive. It settles down on one item and ignores everything else. Mindfulness is inclusive. It stands back from the focus of attention and watches with a broad focus, quick to notice any change that occurs. If you have focused the mind on a stone, concentration will see only the stone. Mindfulness stands back from this process, aware of the stone, aware of the concentration focusing on the stone, aware of the intensity of that focus and instantly aware of the shift of attention when concentration is distracted. It is mindfulness which notices the distraction which has occurred, and it is mindfulness which redirects the attention to the stone. Mindfulness is more difficult to cultivate than concentration because it is a deeper-reaching function. Concentration is merely focusing of the mind, rather like a laser beam. It has the power to burn its way deep into the mind and illuminate what is there. But it does not understand what it sees. Mindfulness can examine the mechanics of selfishness and understand what it sees. Mindfulness can pierce the mystery of suffering and the mechanism of discomfort. Mindfulness can make you free.

There is, however, another Catch-22. Mindfulness does not react to what it sees. It just sees and understands. Mindfulness is the essence of patience. Therefore, whatever you see must be simply accepted, acknowledged and dispassionately observed. This is not easy, but it is utterly necessary. We are ignorant. We are selfish and greedy and boastful. We lust and we lie. These are facts. Mindfulness means seeing these facts and being patient with ourselves, accepting ourselves as we are. That goes against the grain. We don't want to accept. We want to deny it. Or change it, or justify it. But acceptance is the essence of mindfulness. If we want to grow in mindfulness we must accept what mindfulness finds. It may be boredom, irritation, or fear. It may be weakness, inadequacy, or faults. Whatever it is, that is the way we are. That is what is real.

Mindfulness simply accepts whatever is there. If you want to grow in mindfulness, patient acceptance is the only route. Mindfulness grows only one way: by continuous practice of mindfulness, by simply trying to be mindful, and that means being patient. The process cannot be forced and it cannot be rushed. It proceeds at its own pace.

Concentration and mindfulness go hand-in-hand in the job of meditation. Mindfulness directs the power of concentration. Mindfulness is the manager of the operation. Concentration furnishes the power by which mindfulness can penetrate into the deepest level of the mind. Their cooperation results in insight and understanding. These must be cultivated together in a balanced ratio. Just a bit more emphasis is given to mindfulness because mindfulness is the center of meditation. The deepest levels of concentration are not really needed to do the job of liberation. Still, a balance is essential. Too much awareness without calm to balance it will result in a wildly over sensitized state similar to abusing LSD. Too much concentration without a balancing ratio of awareness will result in the 'Stone Buddha' syndrome. The meditator gets so tranquilized that he sits there like a rock. Both of these are to be avoided.

The initial stages of mental cultivation are especially delicate. Too much emphasis on mindfulness at this point will actually retard the development of concentration. When getting started in meditation, one of the first things you will notice is how incredibly active the mind really is. The Theravada tradition calls this phenomenon 'monkey mind'. The Tibetan tradition likens it to a waterfall of thought. If you emphasize the awareness function at this point, there will be so much to be aware of that concentration will be impossible. Don't get discouraged. This happens to everybody. And there is a simple solution. Put most of your effort into one-pointedness at the beginning. Just keep calling the attention from wandering over and over again. Tough it out. Full instructions on how to do this are in Chapters 7 and 8. A couple of months down the track and you will have developed concentration power. Then you can start pumping you energy into mindfulness. Do not, however, go so far with concentration that you find yourself going into a stupor.

Mindfulness still is the more important of the two components. It should be built as soon as you comfortably can do so. Mindfulness provides the needed foundation for the subsequent development of deeper concentration. Most blunders in this area of balance will correct themselves in time. Right concentration develops naturally in the wake of strong mindfulness. The more you develop the noticing factor, the quicker you will notice the distraction and the quicker you will pull out of it and return to the formal object of attention. The natural result is increased concentration. And as concentration develops, it assists the development of mindfulness. The more concentration power you have, the less chance there is of launching off on a long chain of analysis about the distraction. You simply note the distraction and return your attention to where it is supposed to be.

Thus the two factors tend to balance and support each other's growth quite naturally. Just about the only rule you need to follow at this point is to put your effort on concentration at the beginning, until the monkey mind phenomenon has cooled down a bit. After that, emphasize mindfulness. If you find yourself getting frantic, emphasize concentration. If you find yourself going into a stupor, emphasize mindfulness. Overall, mindfulness is the one to emphasize.

Mindfulness guides your development in meditation because mindfulness has the ability to be aware of itself. It is mindfulness which will give you a perspective on your practice. Mindfulness will let you know how you are doing. But don't worry too much about that. This is not a race. You are not in competition with anybody, and there is no schedule.

One of the most difficult things to learn is that mindfulness is not dependent on any emotional or mental state. We have certain images of meditation. Meditation is something done in quiet caves by tranquil people who move slowly. Those are training conditions. They are set up to foster concentration and to learn the skill of mindfulness. Once you have learned that skill, however, you can dispense with the training restrictions, and you should. You don't need to move at a snail's pace to be mindful. You don't even need to be calm. You can be mindful while solving problems in intensive calculus. You can be mindful in the middle of a football scrimmage. You can even be mindful in the midst of a raging fury. Mental and physical activities are no bar to mindfulness. If you find your mind extremely active, then simply observe the nature and degree of that activity. It is just a part of the passing show within.

This is what I have read, and my training and experience fall w/ in this path, so....    yours might be different. 

Vivek

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2012, 09:19:23 AM »
In certain traditions, Vipassana refers both to fruit as well as the act. One interpretation of Vipassana is insight, which refers to the fruit of the practice. The other interpretation is "to see things as they really are or, in their true perspective" (passana in Pali means, to see), which refers to the practice itself, since, the Vipassi is observing the mind-body phenomena to understand everything as they really are and to apprehend their true nature of impermanence, suffering and not-self. Such double interpretations exist in common language also. For example, love, which refers to the fruit, the emotion of love, and also, the act of loving itself. So, it's really just semantics.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Falkov

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2012, 12:22:43 AM »
Thank you for pointing out!

moon unit

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 10:15:52 AM »
I'm still confused about this and feel like I'm doing it wrong. Even though my eyes are closed I feel that they're constantly "looking" at different places, sometimes between my eyes, sometimes at the floor in front of me, sometimes the rims of my nostrils. I just don't know what to do with them, even though they are closed . Does anyone else have this issue?

And I feel by concentrating on 'bodily sensations' my mind is not concentrating on one thing, it will be floating around from a sensation on my foot, to my stomach, to my nose, around and around, is this what you mean.

Sorry if these questions seem so trivial, it just always comes into my head when i sit on the cushion

Thanks  :)

Masauwu

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2012, 11:34:49 AM »
It`s understandable to be confused, every source you look into will have its own particularities and subtleties. I was confused too for a while, but eventually the practice will clarify things for you more than the intellectual research about it could. Find what works best for you (for example where are your predominant sensations of the breath located) and don`t try to include everyone`s theories in one practice.

Try finding a resting position for your eyes before closing them, it`s usually in a downward angle. Don`t worry if you notice them moving later on when they are closed, just try to have them in that resting position.

Don`t try to actively search around in your body for sensations, gently stay on the breath but also gradually cultivate peripheral awareness - a sense of what is going on in your immediate present reality; you might notice a tension somewhere in the body, a thought passing by, a memory and so on. We try to increase both concentration and mindfulness. Also on the subject of breath, try following its whole process continuously, watch every moment of it instead of just noticing "this was the in-breath", "this was the out-breath".

But all this is what worked for me, try it for yourself and keep only what works for you.

training the mind
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Matthew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2012, 06:58:34 PM »
.....
This is what I have read, and my training and experience fall w/ in this path, so....    yours might be different. 

Falkov,

If you read this article you may start to understand one of the prevalent misunderstandings of Buddhist teaching today.

Quote
One Tool Among Many
The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2012

What exactly is vipassana?

Almost any book on early Buddhist meditation will tell you that the Buddha taught two types of meditation: samatha and vipassana. Samatha, which means tranquillity, is said to be a method fostering strong states of mental absorption, called jhana. Vipassana — literally "clear-seeing," but more often translated as insight meditation — is said to be a method using a modicum of tranquillity to foster moment-to-moment mindfulness of the inconstancy of events as they are directly experienced in the present. This mindfulness creates a sense of dispassion toward all events, thus leading the mind to release from suffering. These two methods are quite separate, we're told, and of the two, vipassana is the distinctive Buddhist contribution to meditative science. Other systems of practice pre-dating the Buddha also taught samatha, but the Buddha was the first to discover and teach vipassana. Although some Buddhist meditators may practice samatha meditation before turning to vipassana, samatha practice is not really necessary for the pursuit of Awakening. As a meditative tool, the vipassana method is sufficient for attaining the goal. Or so we're told.

But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques.

Emphasis mine.


Extract from "One Tool Among Many: The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 8 March 2011

Kind regards,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2012, 07:36:56 PM »
moon unit,

You have made me realise there is a clarification needed in the introduction to Shamatha article you were pointed to:

"Pay attention to the bodily sensations created by the breathing process".

There will be expansion of the abdomen and many other subtle physical sensations. At first it might help to focus on one of the more gross sensations (such as the rise and fall of the abdomen - nothing round the nose though!) .. but soon allow the awareness to open up and take in as much of what is happening in your body as you breathe as you can. This will increase in time and with experience. It will bring to awareness subtle misalignments of the body and as you relax (the other key component) give the opportunity to gently correct these.

And yes .. your mind will wander from sensation to sensation at first but this tendency will diminish as you gain experience of the practice and become one with the breath.

Kind regards,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2012, 01:19:18 PM »
...
"Pay attention to the bodily sensations created by the breathing process".
...

This is actually a starting point, a stepping stone. "Sensitive to the whole body" is the aim.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

moon unit

  • Guest
Re: What to focus attention on
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2012, 04:34:41 PM »
Thanks so much Matthew, that really does help clear my confusion!  :)

 

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