Author Topic: awareness  (Read 5097 times)

J0rrit

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awareness
« on: November 25, 2014, 11:11:07 AM »
Hello there,

I’m experimentating with different kinds of awareness: focused vs defocused awareness. Focused awareness is the ‘standard’ awareness that the mind has, it always had a tendency to go back to this kind of awareness. But if you want to be, for example, aware of your whole body at once (as the anapanasati sutta says), than you have to use defocused awareness to accomplish this. But how do you ‘do’ defocus your focused awareness? This is rather difficult, as I have come to understand out of trying this myself. It’s not just relaxing or ‘doing less’ in your meditation, because if you do less, and just watch, the mind hops from sensation to sensation in the focused way. But it’s also not something you do, it’s a form of doing less, but less of Focusing. So, in order to get your mind in the ‘defocused awareness’-way, you have to do less of focusing. But this is such of an automatic process that it’s a difficult skill to learn, as I said before, your mind had the tendency to go back to focused awareness when it gets the chance.

So why is this defocused way of awareness important? First of all, defocusing your awareness makes sure you can watch a lot of different sensations at once, which is, part of the anapanasati sutta as some understand it. Second of all, watching a lot of different sensations at once gives the mind a lot of ‘bandwith’ to work with, so there’s less and less room for thinking to be going on. The combination of doing less (doing less focusing) and a lot of bandwith coming into awareness quiets the mind a lot. So to become aware of your whole body at once, there’s has to be the perfect middle way of doing something (focusing your awareness on the body), but not doing too much so your awareness is focused and scanning the body.
 
In the meditation technique that I use at the moment, the first step is to become aware of all sensory data at once. But how do you accomplish this? Do you accomplish this by doing less of the focusing? Or do you accomplish this by focusing on everything that is coming in. Again, the answer would be that it’s the middle way between these things. Doing the less focusing as possible you can end up being aware of nothing/sleepy state? Focusing to much you end up focusing on only one sense, for example sounds. So it has to be a combination of the two. Or is just the intent to be aware of everything that comes in, or just be aware of the whole body enough? In my opinion, that doesn’t work. With just the intent to be aware of your whole body the mind will try to ‘capture’ the whole body in awareness with focused awareness, you end up scanning the body. There also has to be an aspect of keeping the mind from hopping from sensation to sensation, so it stays with multiple sensations at once.

Could someone say something usefull about this? Am I overthinking the whole process again?

I would like Matthew to say something about this, because I know he is experienced with the whole body breathing technique.

Matthew

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Re: awareness
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2014, 04:20:49 PM »
It's a letting go thing. You just let go of the focus and the idea of focus totally, let it drift apart and widen.
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J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2014, 04:45:31 PM »
It's a letting go thing. You just let go of the focus and the idea of focus totally, let it drift apart and widen.

you let go of the idea of focussing? How do you do this?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: awareness
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2014, 05:23:50 PM »
By stopping letting yourself to focus, or trying to define focus while you're doing it.

All you need is less.

J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2014, 07:16:49 PM »
By stopping letting yourself to focus, or trying to define focus while you're doing it.

All you need is less.

trying to define focus, what do you mean? Just stop focusing? So focusing is something I did my whole life without even knowing it, and I just have to let that go?

Middleway

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Re: awareness
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2014, 11:59:40 PM »
By stopping letting yourself to focus, or trying to define focus while you're doing it.

All you need is less.

trying to define focus, what do you mean? Just stop focusing? So focusing is something I did my whole life without even knowing it, and I just have to let that go?

First, I focus on the body sensations resulting from the posture. I settle down (letting go of the body sensations) and then I slowly shift my focus to thoughts. I then let go of the thoughts. What remains in my focus then is my breathing in and out. I keep my focus on the breath until I settle down (my focus) into dark blue space in front of my face. While I do this, I continue to observe the breath but now it becomes secondary. Primary being the dark blue space of nothingness in front of my face. Slowly, this nothingness becomes my only focus. The breathing goes into the background and slowly it disappears. What remains is this feeling of "I am". By the time I begin to notice this feeling of "I am" my cell phone alarm goes off. I usually set it for an hour. This I consider as one of my best sittings. In between there are quite a few not so good ones, but those bad sittings build up to a good sitting.

This shifting of focus is something like consciously listening the clock ticking in the room. You did not hear it before you focused your attention on it. You will soon lose it again in a few minutes when you shift your attention to something else. Similarly, you shift your focus from sensations to thoughts to feelings and then to nothingness.

Hope you find this useful.

Regards,

Middleway
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Dharmic Tui

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Re: awareness
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2014, 02:38:28 AM »
trying to define focus, what do you mean? Just stop focusing? So focusing is something I did my whole life without even knowing it, and I just have to let that go?
In a nutshell, yes.

By defining focus, I'm meaning a desire to chase a concept of focus, and whether you're fitting that concept. There's a lot of words and measuring in your approach, you don't need it.

Goofaholix

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Re: awareness
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2014, 03:33:08 AM »
The mind is naturally capable of being aware, that's it's job, the trouble is we don't give importance and energy to the process of awareness and we take it for granted.

To let go of the idea of "focus" I think is to let the objects come to the mind, don't let the mind go out looking for objects don't put your energy into that and don't direct the mind to go out.  Instead monitor the quality of awareness and put your energy into monitoring what the mind is doing, notice it's naturally aware of what comes up, let the objects come to the mind.

It's also good to maintain an awareness of the whole body sitting and breathing and hearing just to keep you grounded.

Think of focus as being a spotlight and awareness being a floodlight.  Actually I think we'd be better off without the word focus as to me it implies straining and squinting is the answer whenever it's lacking.

J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2014, 08:09:25 AM »
The mind is naturally capable of being aware, that's it's job, the trouble is we don't give importance and energy to the process of awareness and we take it for granted.

To let go of the idea of "focus" I think is to let the objects come to the mind, don't let the mind go out looking for objects don't put your energy into that and don't direct the mind to go out.  Instead monitor the quality of awareness and put your energy into monitoring what the mind is doing, notice it's naturally aware of what comes up, let the objects come to the mind.

It's also good to maintain an awareness of the whole body sitting and breathing and hearing just to keep you grounded.

Think of focus as being a spotlight and awareness being a floodlight.  Actually I think we'd be better off without the word focus as to me it implies straining and squinting is the answer whenever it's lacking.

What is a floodlight? With focus I mean that you 'focus' your attention to only one small part, say one of your hands. With defocused I mean you defocus your attention to more sensations at once, say the whole body at once.

I know I think too much about this stuff and try to analize it far too much, and this gives me frustration.

Goofaholix

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Re: awareness
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2014, 08:14:15 AM »
A floodlight lights up a large area saturating the entire area with light, that's awareness, a spotlight targets a small spot, that's focus.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: awareness
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2014, 08:34:37 AM »
Good description.

J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2014, 01:27:07 PM »
In my experience, it's the perfect balance between directing your attention and not directing your attention, being aware of what comes up. To be aware of the whole body for instance, there has to be some directing of attention to the body and make sure the attention doesn't go out to the other senses, but not so much that it becomes a body scan with focussed awareness of small parts of the body at once. So the balance between directing and not directing attention/awareness. Am I right ?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2014, 02:03:26 PM by J0rrit »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: awareness
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2014, 04:57:13 PM »
I think you're in the ballpark. If your attention is a spotlight, it will tend to want to fly all over the place like a guard tower searching for an escaped prisoner. If it's a floodlight it'll pick up various things but won't get fixated on any of them.


J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2014, 06:04:59 PM »
I think you're in the ballpark. If your attention is a spotlight, it will tend to want to fly all over the place like a guard tower searching for an escaped prisoner. If it's a floodlight it'll pick up various things but won't get fixated on any of them.

Thank you. I think you're in the ballpark means that you agree with what I've said above about the balance between doing and non doing?

Goofaholix

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Re: awareness
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2014, 06:43:22 PM »
there has to be some directing of attention to the body and make sure the attention doesn't go out to the other senses,

You shouldn't be preventing the mind from being aware of other senses, this is in addition to being aware of the body and the breathing because there is always sensation in the body and there is always breathing.

What you should be doing though is monitoring the quality of awareness, it's stability and clarity or lack thereof, and seeking to make it more stable and consistent.

It's like taking a video you monitor the camera to make sure the picture quality is good, if not you adjust the camera, you don't adjust the subject you are filming.

J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2014, 08:51:12 PM »
there has to be some directing of attention to the body and make sure the attention doesn't go out to the other senses,

You shouldn't be preventing the mind from being aware of other senses, this is in addition to being aware of the body and the breathing because there is always sensation in the body and there is always breathing.

What you should be doing though is monitoring the quality of awareness, it's stability and clarity or lack thereof, and seeking to make it more stable and consistent.

It's like taking a video you monitor the camera to make sure the picture quality is good, if not you adjust the camera, you don't adjust the subject you are filming.

Ok...But in Anapanasati, you direct your attention to specific objects, like the whole body or the breath (whole body breathing awareness)? If your attention goes out to a sound, you bring it back gently to the sensations of your body...?

Goofaholix

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Re: awareness
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2014, 10:21:23 PM »
Ok...But in Anapanasati, you direct your attention to specific objects, like the whole body or the breath (whole body breathing awareness)? If your attention goes out to a sound, you bring it back gently to the sensations of your body...?

There are different ways of approaching it.

If you take the breath as your object then anything that takes you away from that object can be viewed as a problem.  Viewing that as a problem becomes a problem because you are doing this practice to understand the mind not to understand the breath.

If you take awareness as the object then awareness can be aware of the breath, sound, body sensation, thoughts, and anything else that arises.  Awareness doesn't have to "go out" to these objects because these objects arise within the field of awareness.  You just have to make sure awareness continues to do it's job because it's easy with this kind of practice for it to lose energy or drift into dullness or space out.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: awareness
« Reply #17 on: November 27, 2014, 03:49:50 AM »
Thank you. I think you're in the ballpark means that you agree with what I've said above about the balance between doing and non doing?
Pretty much, it's close enough that more words probably aren't going to make things clearer.

This is like riding a bike, you can tell someone how to ride a bike, but it's ultimately a skill you develop.

Re: awareness
« Reply #18 on: November 27, 2014, 07:20:42 AM »
Relaxed awareness has no focus. It flows like a wind.. There is no self to guide it when it's pure. Or it's better to say there is no separation between awareness and self, so there is no more fight between them.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2014, 07:28:45 AM by siddharthgode »

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Re: awareness
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2014, 04:46:43 PM »
I think narrowing ones focus/attention and broadening ones focus/attention has been confused with focussed and defocussed.  The danger of the idea of defocussing is that it can take you into a state of mind known to many as wrong concentration.  Falling into a void like state.  This is kind of a danger to look out for.  Just broaden your awareness to include bigger portions of the body,  if possible the whole body.  One cannot be aware of whole body "at once".  but aware of different areas of the body noticing any changes occurring.  I like to think of a spider on a spider web.  The spider has a broad awareness of the web so that when something sends a signal he feels and responds accordingly. 

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J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2014, 07:04:45 PM »
I think narrowing ones focus/attention and broadening ones focus/attention has been confused with focussed and defocussed.  The danger of the idea of defocussing is that it can take you into a state of mind known to many as wrong concentration.  Falling into a void like state.  This is kind of a danger to look out for.  Just broaden your awareness to include bigger portions of the body,  if possible the whole body.  One cannot be aware of whole body "at once".  but aware of different areas of the body noticing any changes occurring.  I like to think of a spider on a spider web.  The spider has a broad awareness of the web so that when something sends a signal he feels and responds accordingly. 

kind regards

If you say 'broadening' ones attention than that is something that you DO. Isn't it better to say narrowing ones focus/attention and relaxing ones focus/attention...? Because in my experience is far more relaxing for the mind when you just RELAXE the narrowing of focus/attention, opposite of when you try to DO BROADENING of focus/attention. Or am I wrong? I'm always insecure of my own experiences and those of others, that's why I ask.

Could you tell more about the broadening of awareness and WRONG CONCENTRATION ?

Goofaholix

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Re: awareness
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2014, 03:59:38 AM »
I don't know what relaxing ones focus would mean, it sounds like an oxymoron, but you could be talking about the same thing.

Broadening focus also sounds like an oxymoron.

Relaxing your body, your energy, or relaxing your attitude are good things if that's what you mean.

Broadening attention is where you allow anything you experience with any of the six senses into awareness as part of the meditation, you don't choose one experience over the others and don't try to make something happen that isn't, what's important is that you maintain awareness throughout all that happens.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2014, 04:25:38 AM by Goofaholix »

J0rrit

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Re: awareness
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2014, 10:40:50 AM »
Matthew, you can be aware of the whole body at once, right? (or am I fabricating things ???)

In my experience you can, with a lot of practice, and in my opinion it's the result of doing less of aiming your awareness, because when aiming your awareness the mind goes into the 'focused awareness'-mode. Doing less of the aiming and just let the sensations of the body come to the mind, and relaxing the focus/spotlight of awareness...

Middleway

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Re: awareness
« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2014, 01:06:03 PM »
Maybe you should de-focus your attention on your experience and/or opinions and focus on what others are saying. Maybe then you can get yourself out of the rut?
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Re: awareness
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2014, 11:49:53 PM »
I understand this as resting in awareness and I can never quite put it into words. To me it seems the word focus (or de-focus) has no meaning in this context.

If I had to put words to it, I suppose awareness is diffused without being diluted.
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