Author Topic: Problem with concentration on the breath  (Read 689 times)

haghighat

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Problem with concentration on the breath
« on: February 14, 2019, 05:09:44 PM »
Hi everyone,

I just joined the forum and am happy to be here. [I am not fully familiar with the forum, so I really apologize if I am posting on the wrong place]

I started meditating around 1 year ago regularly 2 hours a day. This January, I also attended a Goenka style retreat and planning to continue my meditation on Vipassana.

I typically do 20 min Anapana followed by 40 minute Vipasana twice a day.

One of the main problems I have recently is concentration on the breath. Once I start focusing on the breath on the nose I feel a huge sensation on the fore-head.
I know that this is due to Sankaharas releasing from my head, which have been intensified after practising Vipassana, and I keep completely equanimous with these sensations.
With this equanimity, I feel the sensation as sensation without any pain. So, I have absolutely no problem with the pressure on the forehead.

But the problem is that whenever I try GENTLY to bring the focus back to the nose, I feel a huge build-up of the sensations on the head. It sounds as if (this is how I feel it) some energy is released from my nose and is accumulated on the forehead, and increases the pressure.
Although I keep the full equanimity, I am not 100% sure if this is something healty/natural and I would like to check this with you as more experienced meditators first.

My own evaluation is that, when I focus on the nose, it is as if some anicca is dissolved around my nose and the realesed energy moves up.

Overall, it is very difficult for me to keep the focus on the nose. So, during the anapanna I always struggle with bringing the focus back to the nose all the time.
Also, due to this I am not able to feel the breath sensations on the nose very clearly, and cannot go deeper.

Just as a side comment, during the retreat I had also this problem and the only advice I received from the teacher was "bring the focus down to the nose", which did not also work very well for me at the time, although I could go a little bit deeper after several sessions.

I have already checked the web: some people say, we should not focus on the nose since it is a small place and close to the forehead, some people say it is better to switch to the breath sensations on the belly, ....
but if I want to continue the Goenka style, I feel I need to solve this problem and keep the focus on the breath sensation on the nose.

The fact that nose is a very small area, should be a good reason to sense the sensations of the breath. Also, several times that I was able to keep my focus on the breath I went really deep into teh meditation and could feel the breath sensation with huge clarity, which gives me another reason why the nose area is a good location to focus.

However, as I explained the problem is that currently due to feeling the grose sensation on the forehead I cannot go deep into the breath.

I will be greatful for your help and comments, especially if you had similar experiences.


Best Wishes,
haghighat




Kamma

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2019, 10:36:05 PM »
Hello haghighat and welcome to the forum!

I wouldn't call myself an experienced meditator, so take my advice with a grain of salt, since it's only from my limited personal experience.

My question to you would be why are you trying to do Anapana first, especially since right now it's troublesome? Could you not go directly into body scanning? I remember Goenka's instructions to be: 'do Anapana only if and when necessary.' 
When you do the body scanning and reach the nose area, just observe what is, not what you'd like it to be. You mention it's difficult to 'go deeper' in that area, I think that's fine, just observe what you feel. If you feel nothing, that's also fine. Don't try too hard to feel subtle sensations. If you feel pressure or can't distinguish from the feeling in the forehead, observe that.

But the problem is that whenever I try GENTLY to bring the focus back to the nose, I feel a huge build-up of the sensations on the head. It sounds as if (this is how I feel it) some energy is released from my nose and is accumulated on the forehead, and increases the pressure.
Although I keep the full equanimity, I am not 100% sure if this is something healty/natural and I would like to check this with you as more experienced meditators first.

From what you're saying I think you're over-worrying on something natural happening during meditation. Sometimes weird feelings come to the surface or distorted perceptions of the body. Don't worry about them, simply observe. Ask yourself: how could it be unhealthy to just sit and be mindfull of body sensations?

Remember what you are experiencing right now will also pass. Might stay with you for a while, but it's bound to pass. Just observe what you feel without judging.

One last thought: relax! It makes a huge difference if you approach the sitting tensed vs relaxed!

Best wishes for your practice!

I do not need to become anything. I already am everything.

haghighat

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2019, 08:45:12 AM »
Thanks a lot Kamma for the helpful comment.

In fact, I do a couple of minutes of relaxing my body, feeling and relaxing the muscles, etc. and then start the meditation. Maybe you are right: I may have developed some unconcisou sensitivity to this problem durng time and it might be one reason why it keeps happening.

Regarding your comment on "Anapanna": the reason why I practice it first is to sharpen my focus and the switch to Vipassana to feel the sensations with high resolution. Without that I sense the sensation very roughly and have no clear perception of them.
It seems to me that without Anapanna my focus will not sharpen during time?

Apkallu

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2019, 11:35:29 AM »
In my own experience (I face the same issue), you have developed energy and the 3rd eye is becoming active (ie the cleaning/activation process has begun).

As energy follows intention, if you "focus", you put too much intent in your concentration.
Concentration here is to be distant (not really the way of other concentration methods where focus is dominating), just to observe without being into the sensation.
Like another you (doctor or external self) would observe what is happening in the body.

The same way you observe your breath by letting it go with no control (which can be only achieved through being an "observer" to me). At first, then, it is difficult (for me) and you can't but control it, then observe the tiny nose zone which about some time allows you to "disconnect" from controlling your breath to just observing it.
This is the only way I can now disconnect from my huge sensations in the forehead (like bubbles exploding quite harshly) and really achieve my anapana and then vipassana).
Or at some point where you discovered your consciousness for a period (with no thoughts), you would be this consciousness in the background just observing the physical and mental processes. It is like being in 2 différent places at the same time.

But I have only started vipassana one month ago and I might be completely wrong.

P.S.: Maybe I am wrong again, but this energy is not Sankhara but prana. Sankhara should be sensations arising from nowhere like unexplainable emotions.
By the way, do you hear some cracklings (wall, ceiling, wood, windows, screens ?) when these bubbles explode ?

stillpointdancer

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2019, 11:36:39 AM »
Thanks a lot Kamma for the helpful comment.

In fact, I do a couple of minutes of relaxing my body, feeling and relaxing the muscles, etc. and then start the meditation. Maybe you are right: I may have developed some unconcisou sensitivity to this problem durng time and it might be one reason why it keeps happening.

Regarding your comment on "Anapanna": the reason why I practice it first is to sharpen my focus and the switch to Vipassana to feel the sensations with high resolution. Without that I sense the sensation very roughly and have no clear perception of them.
It seems to me that without Anapanna my focus will not sharpen during time?

Personally I don't focus on where the breath is, but on the counting aspect. Ten minutes of counting after the breath and then ten minutes counting before the breath, after a check to see if my body is relaxed, usually 'sets up' the rest of a 40 minute meditation. Over the years I've come to understand that any subsequent vipassana meditation was really an extension of mindfulness, but bringing it to my thoughts and ideas about the world and how I see it rather than mindfulness about the location of the breath.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

haghighat

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2019, 06:02:02 PM »
Thanks a lot Apkallu for the helpful response. You are right: my third eye has already started openning and I know that having huge energy on the forehead is partly because of this.

Your description is very interesting because I also feel the same sense of "detachment" or "witnessing" when I am able to finally get rid of the huge energy and enter deeper into the breath sensation.

I feel like I have a distance from my body and I am observing the body, breath, and all the sensations from a distance and I am fully detached from them. This also feel very relaxing and calm.

The only problem is that I struggle for a long time to enter this state and in some meditation sessions I am not able to do this, and have to finally switch to Vipassana for the rest of the session.


But I will defintely try as you said to focus very lightly and from a distance and see if my ptoblem is going to be solved.



Also I have a question: is doing Anapanna is necessary to sharpen the focus? My guess is that doing only Vipassana is ok but my focus is point remains very wide and does not get narrower and sharper.

Thanks again for the very helpful comment.



In my own experience (I face the same issue), you have developed energy and the 3rd eye is becoming active (ie the cleaning/activation process has begun).

As energy follows intention, if you "focus", you put too much intent in your concentration.
Concentration here is to be distant (not really the way of other concentration methods where focus is dominating), just to observe without being into the sensation.
Like another you (doctor or external self) would observe what is happening in the body.

The same way you observe your breath by letting it go with no control (which can be only achieved through being an "observer" to me). At first, then, it is difficult (for me) and you can't but control it, then observe the tiny nose zone which about some time allows you to "disconnect" from controlling your breath to just observing it.
This is the only way I can now disconnect from my huge sensations in the forehead (like bubbles exploding quite harshly) and really achieve my anapana and then vipassana).
Or at some point where you discovered your consciousness for a period (with no thoughts), you would be this consciousness in the background just observing the physical and mental processes. It is like being in 2 différent places at the same time.

But I have only started vipassana one month ago and I might be completely wrong.

P.S.: Maybe I am wrong again, but this energy is not Sankhara but prana. Sankhara should be sensations arising from nowhere like unexplainable emotions.
By the way, do you hear some cracklings (wall, ceiling, wood, windows, screens ?) when these bubbles explode ?

haghighat

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2019, 06:06:58 PM »
Thanks a lot "stillpointdancer" for the comment.

But my question is that with only Vipassana the concentration does not get sharpen. For example, currently without doing Anapanna I feel that my "field of concentration" is too wide but it gets sharpened after doing Anapanna.

In general, is it ok to practice Vipassana with a very wide filed of focus?


Thanks a lot Kamma for the helpful comment.

In fact, I do a couple of minutes of relaxing my body, feeling and relaxing the muscles, etc. and then start the meditation. Maybe you are right: I may have developed some unconcisou sensitivity to this problem durng time and it might be one reason why it keeps happening.

Regarding your comment on "Anapanna": the reason why I practice it first is to sharpen my focus and the switch to Vipassana to feel the sensations with high resolution. Without that I sense the sensation very roughly and have no clear perception of them.
It seems to me that without Anapanna my focus will not sharpen during time?

Personally I don't focus on where the breath is, but on the counting aspect. Ten minutes of counting after the breath and then ten minutes counting before the breath, after a check to see if my body is relaxed, usually 'sets up' the rest of a 40 minute meditation. Over the years I've come to understand that any subsequent vipassana meditation was really an extension of mindfulness, but bringing it to my thoughts and ideas about the world and how I see it rather than mindfulness about the location of the breath.

Goofaholix

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2019, 01:26:20 AM »
In general, is it ok to practice Vipassana with a very wide filed of focus?

Yes, in fact that's what we're working towards, the sharp focus is just an interim step to steady the mind.

Nicky

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2019, 04:53:15 AM »
One of the main problems I have recently is concentration on the breath. Once I start focusing on the breath on the nose I feel a huge sensation on the fore-head. I know that this is due to Sankaharas releasing from my head, which have been intensified after practising Vipassana, and I keep completely equanimous with these sensations.

Hi friend

Its not sankharas. Its happening because you are concentrating too forced or too hard. Your wrong effort is creating a headache.

Quote
Overall, it is very difficult for me to keep the focus on the nose. So, during the anapanna I always struggle with bringing the focus back to the nose all the time. Also, due to this I am not able to feel the breath sensations on the nose very clearly, and cannot go deeper.

Yes. This is because your mind is too forced. When you force concentration, this forcing is a thought. Also, it calms the breath so what is left is a forced gross mind and a refined subtle breath. A gross mind cannot feel a subtle breath because the forcing of the mind itself becomes the meditation object; because the forced mind is a stronger sense object than the subtle breath; similar to how a loud noise will become the object of the mind. 

Quote
Just as a side comment, during the retreat I had also this problem and the only advice I received from the teacher was "bring the focus down to the nose", which did not also work very well for me at the time, although I could go a little bit deeper after several sessions.

The Buddha did not teach to focus on anything (except to focus on a mind without craving). The Buddha taught to simply abandon craving (which will manifest a quiet mind). There is no need to try to be aware of the breath. Its like if you run. The mind is aware of the breath when running, even though the mind does not intend to be aware of the breath. Meditation is the same. When the mind is gentle, still & quiet, without any craving ambition, the mind will automatically feel the breathing.

Quote
I will be greatful for your help and comments, especially if you had similar experiences.

I had the same experience during my 1st six weeks of meditation. Even though my mind did not have hindrances, the more I tried different techniques, the more the breathing kept calming & disappearing. But, then, after thinking deeply about the teachings, I gave up trying to watch the breathing. When I stopped trying to watch the breathing, the breathing came to me, very clearly, and continuously. If you wish to master Anapanasati, the mind must be able to remain very quiet, without attachment, without craving. Its counter-intuitive.

 :)

Apkallu

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2019, 10:37:34 AM »
Also I have a question: is doing Anapanna is necessary to sharpen the focus? My guess is that doing only Vipassana is ok but my focus is point remains very wide and does not get narrower and sharper.

Vipassana is the final tool to attain liberation and should be your first choice but as you guessed, the better Anapanna is, the better Vipassana is.
The aim of Vipassana is to experience the impermanence of sensations, their relations and what they are composed of (kalapas in the end I've been told  8)) so that to develop wisdom based on experience of reality. This is my limited and very short definition at the present time ;=)
Anapanna is the microscope' lens through which one can improve our experience of Vipassana and then of this veil hindering reality. Of course Vipassana also improves by doing it (to some point) but it will be much quicker to hammer a nail with a hammer than with bare hands. This is why I do 20 minutes Anapanna then Vipassana and comes back to Anapanna for a short time when needed during Vipassana. If 10 more minutes of Anapanna improve the rest of my Vipassana practice, then it's worth it 1000 times.
A good indicator could be the quality and sharpness of the sensations you face during Vipassana.

P.S.: Do not have expectations and just ensure you are doing it right (or the best you can with what you have). Confidence/Devotion in the method should be enough. You can listen to the discourses of SN Goenka (I've bought the 10 days retreats discourses and Satipatthana podcasts on Amazon and I am so thankful they exist). I listen to them on a daily basis (only 3/4 times by now) and every time I understand better thanks also to the experiences I've come through.
We really are so lucky to live in this day and age where this method came back. Happy to walk the Path with you all.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 10:45:07 AM by Apkallu »

haghighat

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2019, 05:38:51 PM »
Thank you very much Nicky. I tried what you mentioned and I feel now an improvement; I can feel the breath but I have still problems.

I also noticed that what you mentioned is correct: when I bring my attention to any point on my body, including the nose area, my focus suddenly becomes very sharp and intense to the point that it realy penetrates the sensations. For example, when I bring the attention on my chest, I feel deeply inside the chest and barely the skin sensations ...

I tried to clam down and make the focus as shallow as possible. Now I can feel the sensation of the breath on the nose but my mind still focuses more and more and penetrates the sensations on the nose area and I lose the breath.

I think I need to practice more ... My guess is that my mind has been conditioned to focus too intensely. Any suggestion on how not to go so deeply inside the sensation?

One of the main problems I have recently is concentration on the breath. Once I start focusing on the breath on the nose I feel a huge sensation on the fore-head. I know that this is due to Sankaharas releasing from my head, which have been intensified after practising Vipassana, and I keep completely equanimous with these sensations.

Hi friend

Its not sankharas. Its happening because you are concentrating too forced or too hard. Your wrong effort is creating a headache.

Quote
Overall, it is very difficult for me to keep the focus on the nose. So, during the anapanna I always struggle with bringing the focus back to the nose all the time. Also, due to this I am not able to feel the breath sensations on the nose very clearly, and cannot go deeper.

Yes. This is because your mind is too forced. When you force concentration, this forcing is a thought. Also, it calms the breath so what is left is a forced gross mind and a refined subtle breath. A gross mind cannot feel a subtle breath because the forcing of the mind itself becomes the meditation object; because the forced mind is a stronger sense object than the subtle breath; similar to how a loud noise will become the object of the mind.



Mod note: edited for formatting and brevity 28 Feb 2019 by Matthew - please let me know if this does not clarify your post haghighat.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2019, 05:53:27 PM by Matthew »

Matthew

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2019, 05:59:21 PM »
...
I think I need to practice more ... My guess is that my mind has been conditioned to focus too intensely. Any suggestion on how not to go so deeply inside the sensation?
...

H haghighat,

There is a right mindfulness balance to be found between concentration and calm, or focus and tranquillity: Samadhi and Shamatha.

This is one of those things that is a bit like riding a bike: you have to fall off a good few times before you find your balance. Maybe you have found a better balance already since you posted the above a week ago? Only by trying and failing - and being mindful of the process - can the meditator find their balance.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

haghighat

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2019, 09:27:54 AM »
Dear Matthew,

sorry for the late reply.

Yes, I learned that I had some problem with my focus and corrected that. But I guess, it takes some time to retrain and correct the mind to not perform wring focus. But I see that I have already some progress ...


...
I think I need to practice more ... My guess is that my mind has been conditioned to focus too intensely. Any suggestion on how not to go so deeply inside the sensation?
...

H haghighat,

There is a right mindfulness balance to be found between concentration and calm, or focus and tranquillity: Samadhi and Shamatha.

This is one of those things that is a bit like riding a bike: you have to fall off a good few times before you find your balance. Maybe you have found a better balance already since you posted the above a week ago? Only by trying and failing - and being mindful of the process - can the meditator find their balance.

mobius

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Re: Problem with concentration on the breath
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2019, 01:09:48 PM »
I often have a similar experience and what i found that works really well:
I often get this feeling in my head or nose, i rub my forhead and temples for a few moments, i also stretch befor mediting, which i think is important.  Usually after doimg this the weird sensation stops i can meditate peacfully.
If i had to guess ill say its nerves acting weid beacause their not used to being in the state of rest that meditation brings. Maybe like the way itches or tickling works; which btw scientists dont fully understand
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