Author Topic: Place of the mind in shamatha  (Read 4146 times)

Brainbug

Place of the mind in shamatha
« on: November 13, 2015, 09:14:47 AM »
Hello All,

I searched the forum but I can't seem to find the answer to my question.
So I've been doing Shamatha meditation.

At first I started out with the 'sound of the breath'. It was a good technique.
However after a little while, the sound of the breath was gone (went very subtle).
Most information that I found was from that point forward one has to concentrate on a happy feeling (smile, hands, tingling sensations,...)

I found it hard to do that switch, as I would lose the concentration of the breath and had to re-focus. Maybe it's because I am only just starting out?
Also, It felt more like hypnosis, as you just follow the sound of the breath at a certain pace, or am I wrong?

Anyway while searching I found another technique I like 'following the breath'.
That too gave me a real feeling of 'ease', 'relaxation', 'concentration'.

The problem here is that most people tell you to follow the breath, but what exactly does that mean?
I have a couple of methods:

- I follow the breath: breathing in true the nose, I feel the air passing, going to my stomach, and slowly releasing back up true the nose.
At this point I follow the full flow with my mind (up and down).

- I follow the breath: breathing in true the nose, I am aware that air is passing in my body, breathing out, I feel the air but I'm just aware.
At this point I don't really follow the breath with my mind. My mind is set on a fictional point before me (somewhere around the face but a bit in front of it).
I feel the belly getting filled with air and releasing it true the nose, however I do not follow this with my mind, I'm just aware.

- I follow the breath: breathing in true the nose, I am aware of my full body, breathing out I'm fully aware (legs, shoulders, sensation oxygen breathing in and out)
At this point I don't follow the breath, I don't have my mind set on one point before me, I don't really focus on anything, just void.

- there are other methods like counting, specific points/images of concentration,... but they don't seem to calm my mind as just following my breath or sound of the breath.

So I've come to a point where I want to decide and stick with one of the above methods for a while. Any insights or suggestions?
Maybe I'm over-analyzing it all a bit too much?

ps, I have read the instructions on the front page of this website about "...Do not intellectualise where you pay attention to or try to "follow the path of the breath in the body" or any other such thing - these are fabrications...", that's what made me wonder  :D

Warm greetings,

B.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 10:21:11 AM by Brainbug »

Q

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Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2015, 10:23:38 AM »
Hi B.

You said:
Quote
"I follow the breath: breathing in true the nose, I am aware that air is passing in my body, breathing out, I feel the air but I'm just aware."
"At this point I don't follow the breath, I don't have my mind set on one point before me, I don't really focus on anything, just void."

Well done and well said! It only means you are the real deal (have been really practicing). Only some questions, you know that you started with samatha (meditation) but end up with mindfulness, right?
Another question, what the difference between:
1. when you are reading and don't aware of anything all around you (you might even are sitting on a food plate without knowing it.)
2. You are aware of everything all around (and inside) you but cannot really focus on reading. 

Warm greetings, too.

Q

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2015, 03:27:03 PM »
B, try the instructions on the homepage for ten days 20 minutes twice a day. Don't think it, do it. .. you may have a different question then. Print the instructions and read them from time to time to remember them. M
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Brainbug

Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2015, 09:03:56 PM »
Hi,

Thanks for your answers.

The instructions on the frontpage are almost the same as Q composed in the quote.

So i'll give it a test run.

The not intellectualizing, just doing is going to be hard as I already have questions like :

- how long one should focus on a sensation, as long as the sensation remains or...

- Can I also focus on internal sensations

...

I can't help it. It's my analytical mind that kicks in, maybe with some more meditation it will take a small 'break' from time to time...  ;)

B.

Middleway

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    • Vipassana as taught by Mr. Goenka - Switched to Shamatha
Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2015, 10:54:55 PM »
The not intellectualizing, just doing is going to be hard as I already have questions like :

- how long one should focus on a sensation, as long as the sensation remains or...

- Can I also focus on internal sensations

...

I can't help it. It's my analytical mind that kicks in, maybe with some more meditation it will take a small 'break' from time to time...  ;)

B.

I would refer you back to what Q has said earlier.

Another question, what the difference between:
1. when you are reading and don't aware of anything all around you (you might even are sitting on a food plate without knowing it.)
2. You are aware of everything all around (and inside) you but cannot really focus on reading.

When you are in #2 mode, you are in a "being" mode and not "doing" mode. This is very tricky because we are conditioned and used to our ego arising and grasping (i.e doing) all the time. I try and take advantage of this grasping of ego. I refer you to your initial post.

At this point I don't follow the breath, I don't have my mind set on one point before me, I don't really focus on anything, just void.

I grasp onto this void (in which for me there is a feeling of "I") in front of my face and stay there as long as I can. I keep returning to it when I become aware I have lost it. When I am here, there are no thoughts or breath related sensations. It is just the feeling of "I". Unfortunately, this does not happen in every sitting. Then I recall this beautiful dharma talk by Robert K. Hall "It is what it is".

https://roberthalldharmatalks.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/it-is-what-it-is/

Kind regards,

Middleway
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Vivek

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Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2015, 10:05:43 AM »
Quote
I can't help it. It's my analytical mind that kicks in, maybe with some more meditation it will take a small 'break' from time to time..
Hi Brainbug, it is just a habit, just like the myriad habits we all have. With continued meditative practice, it will eventually dissipate.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Brainbug

Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2015, 11:18:12 AM »
^Vivek, This gives me some hope ;)

@Middleway,
Thanks for your explanation. As these concepts and phrasings are hard to grasp (intended meaning) from time to time.
At this time my ego is still getting the best of me, but Rome wasn't build on one day, as they say.

Staying in this void is the hardest part (but feels great when this happens - maybe that also is generating craving...).
So when I can't seem to calm my mind down, I remember the instructions on the frontpage and concentrate on the sensations (I'm trying this technique now).

The talk you linked in your post is a great reminder to play from time to time!

Thanks,

B.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2015, 11:28:31 AM by Brainbug »

Nikolay Perov

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Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2015, 12:52:39 PM »
Hi, Brainbug!

Many meditation instructions say: "follow your breath". But this is too general. What does it mean?

There are more accurate instructions: observe the sensation, connected to breathing process, in some body parts.

What are these parts?

For example some authors from Tibetan tradition say, that there are 3 factors of meditation: relaxation, clarity and stavility

And they suggest different body parts to focus on based on your the most "weak" of these 3 factors in you.

If you have troubles with clarity (you feel sleepy, dull) - focus on the area of your nostrils. Because the sensations of air moving in that part are very subtle, you need more aware mind to focus on it. It prevents sleepiness.

If you have troubles with relaxation, focus on the whole area where you feel sensations connected to breathing: nostrils, chest, belly.

It you have troubles with mind stability (your mind wonders a lot) use your belly as an object. Observe feelings there. When you breathe in belly expands, when you breathe out it contracts. Be with that feelings. That sensations are more intense then sensations in nostrils, that is why it is more easy to focus on it. Negative side is that if you have predisposition for laxity during meditation, it can arise while you focus on this object.

And when you observe some body parts, stay there with your focus.

As for me, I prefer belly focusing, because my main problem is concentration, but I almost never feel dull.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
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Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2015, 07:30:45 PM »
...
The instructions on the frontpage are almost the same as Q composed in the quote.

Not quite:

Quote
i) Breathing and Relaxing.

Breathe in paying attention to bodily sensations as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe. Breathe out paying attention to bodily sensations and calming the body as you breathe.

Notes: Do not intellectualise where you pay attention to or try to "follow the path of the breath in the body" or any other such thing - these are fabrications. Pay attention to the actual sensations in your body, wherever they are. Do not interfere with the natural breathing pattern, just pay attention to the sensations in the body as you breathe.

The above also answers one of your questions below: "can I .. focus on internal sensations" - definitely yes: "Pay attention to the actual sensations in your body, wherever they are" - MOST of the sensations that arise from breathing are internal.


So i'll give it a test run.

The not intellectualizing, just doing is going to be hard as I already have questions like :

- how long one should focus on a sensation, as long as the sensation remains or...

- Can I also focus on internal sensations

...

I can't help it. It's my analytical mind that kicks in, maybe with some more meditation it will take a small 'break' from time to time...  ;)

B.

Yes it's the habit of the thinking mind you are challenging here. Just keep returning to the breath when the mind has taken over. You are taming a dragon ... how did the experiment go so far?
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Brainbug

Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2015, 08:08:17 AM »
Here are my findings so far.

Before, when I was paying attention to the actual sound of the breath, I felt I went "Deeper".
As in, I felt a lot of tingling sensations and I think what could only be described as a blissful fealing.

This technique (paying attention to sensations), feels more calming, soothing.
To me, it has more of an alert but relaxed kind of vibe to it.

The dragon you mention, seems in my head to be some kind of evil spartacus dragon.

I center my breath, paying attention to the actual sensations and when there are none, I just put my mind before me, without doing anything, just breathing (no following).
All the sudden a tought pops into my head, I go back to the place in my mind and again focus on the sensations that occur.

I do twice a day a meditation session, in the evening it is easy to calm my mind and relax (as I work with my head all day, it is just too  tired to think).
However in the morning, a bit after I wake up, my mind and body is ready for the day ahead. When sitting, It gets really agitated and a lot of itchy feelings occur.
I do my best to relax and sometimes it goes better than other times, however at this moment the morning meditation, it's 1-0 for my thoughts ;)

So another thing that happend this week, I had a very profound annoying occurence at work (a conversation with a customer that keeps popping in my head and giving me stress).
When I do my meditation sessions, this occurence pops in on a regular basis, I see it and try not to follow it, but it is very hard not to.
I bring my mind back to the sensations, but after a few seconds the tought is back again.
I don't want to "force quit" the tought, but from time to time the thought manifested for some time before I notice it and can return back.

Sadly (or luckly), I have a couple of those occurences in a week. So this gives me a lot of oppertunity to "learn" and face them...

At this time the calm abiding practice is a work in progress. But it feels great when I can calm my mind and actually just do the meditation.

B.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2015, 03:53:45 PM »
Glad to hear there is some movement in the right direction for you. It takes time for the habitual stuff to realise you have stopped that game.

You'll find things get easier the more you keep it up. Though you may have felt you went deeper with the original practice I would suggest this would have been based on a weaker foundation. You are now building a strong foundation, so without even seeking it, the "deeper" will return - and you will be in better shape to deal with whatever arises therein.

Kindly,

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

Brainbug

Re: Place of the mind in shamatha
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2015, 07:15:03 AM »
It seems I have spoken too soon. This friday & saterday were great days.

I don't know what it was, but it felt really great.
Even after the sessions, I felt my thoughts went down (slowed down) during the day.
Maybe unrelated, but I felt the colors around me (garden, house, street,...)  were more "vivid"...

On sunday I had bit of down day, as I did not want to pratice  (but did), it was a high contrast compared to the 2 days before.
But all in all, I see your point about developing first more stability/calmness in my practice.

Thanks all for the great support.

Warm greetings,

B.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2015, 11:54:09 AM by Brainbug »

 

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