Author Topic: Focusing on breath  (Read 6901 times)

Maqqie

Focusing on breath
« on: February 10, 2009, 04:27:37 AM »
Hello everyone,

 Although I have not officially been to any Vipassana camp (I am hoping to attend one soon), I was turned on to the technique of Vipassana meditation by a counsellor. He made an audio recording running me through the process of the meditation.

 When practising it, I focus my attention on my breath. The way I do that is by imagining each nostril entrance is covered by piece of loose cloth. When I breath in, the cloth becomes concaved inwards. When breathing out, I imagine the cloth becomes convexed outwards. Through out the entirety of the meditation session I follow this entire motion continuously. However, I have read instructions and articles which tell us to be aware of the breath by focusing on the sensations, that the action of breathing in and out cause, as well as focusing on the motion of the abdomen.

 Am I wrongly practising the meditation process? I am already used to using imagery to assist my focusing of attention but I would rather correct any mistake now than have it persist.

 Thank you very much

 Maqqie
 

frepi

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2009, 03:24:46 PM »
Some traditions instruct to focus on the movement and sensations in the abdomen/diaphragm, others on the sensation around the nostrils. This has been a subject of debates here but both methods are valuable in their respective ways. I use the sensations around the nose because it comes naturally for me. I guess the best would be to alternate the focus ones at each sit, I believe that these methods each have different long term benefits. If you go to a Goenka center, you will be taught the nose area method for the first 3 days (called there anapanna), then the body scan which  Goenka calls vipassana. Again, this varies from one vipassana tradition to the other and as I said, this has been the subject of a few heated debates here.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 10:53:34 PM by frepi »

Flipasso

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2009, 07:47:09 PM »
Yes, that is true, the method by which one focusses on the breath has been a issue of debated here...

Usually in Vipassana, visualization is not used. From my experience there usually tends to be some kind or another of visualization of whatever is going on, but most Vipassana teachers usually disregard and even recomend not using visualization.
Of course there are many teachers of Vipassana, and many schools, so you could be practicing the right method according to your school. Try to understand with your counsellor which school he learned from.~
You may get to the conclusion that he is self-thought (my suspition) and still want to stick with his method, which by the way can be the best there is..
You may also want to learn from more traditional schools.
The main lineages I know of are:
-S.N. Goenka (U Ba Khin?)
-Mahasi Tradition (Mahasi Sayadaw)
-Henepola Gunaratana
Others will give lengthier lists of lineages. There is actually a topic about that here.
My advice is: investigate about that and follow what appeals more to you...
Remember what the Buddha said on mettajoey's signature: Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own common sense.

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 11:55:01 PM »
Hello everyone,

 Although I have not officially been to any Vipassana camp (I am hoping to attend one soon), I was turned on to the technique of Vipassana meditation by a counsellor. He made an audio recording running me through the process of the meditation.

 When practising it, I focus my attention on my breath. The way I do that is by imagining each nostril entrance is covered by piece of loose cloth. When I breath in, the cloth becomes concaved inwards. When breathing out, I imagine the cloth becomes convexed outwards. Through out the entirety of the meditation session I follow this entire motion continuously. However, I have read instructions and articles which tell us to be aware of the breath by focusing on the sensations, that the action of breathing in and out cause, as well as focusing on the motion of the abdomen.

 Am I wrongly practising the meditation process? I am already used to using imagery to assist my focusing of attention but I would rather correct any mistake now than have it persist.

 Thank you very much

 Maqqie
 

Hi Maqqi,

As far as I understand it, you are only supposed to focus on your nostrils and not your abdomen. Although you can focus on anything, for example a certain sound you're hearing or the feeling of your legs on your cushion. Also, I'm sorry to say, I think that imagining the cloth will hinder you. One of the goals of meditation is to liberate your senses from your mind. You are supposed to see exactly what is there without adding or taking away anything, which is pretty difficult.

Alright, good luck with your practice.  :)

Robert

frepi

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2009, 12:20:05 AM »


...As far as I understand it, you are only supposed to focus on your nostrils and not your abdomen. ...

Yikes, the wasp nest has been kicked...RUN AWAY!!! ;)

Flipasso

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2009, 02:10:44 AM »


...As far as I understand it, you are only supposed to focus on your nostrils and not your abdomen. ...

Yikes, the wasp nest has been kicked...RUN AWAY!!! ;)

 ;D ROTf**ckingFLOL ;D
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 02:14:20 AM by FlipAsso »

Matthew

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Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2009, 06:30:56 AM »
LOOOOL @ Frepi

Maqqi

For Shamatha which is the type of calming meditation you are doing, you can focus on the breath at the nostrils, where it hits the back of your throat or on the rise or fall of your belly. All work equally well. You can use mantra or visualisation but I do not think these things are useful and can be habit forming. For someone who'se mind will not stop wandering using an external object such as a candle can help at the start.

One thing I would say is that instead of imagining a piece of cloth (which is called a "mental fabrication" in Buddhist talk) it would be more effective to focus on the sensations you are actually feeling. Meditation connects body and mind and calms mind but this will work more strongly if you are paying direct attention to your experience and not to an imagined part of it.

So stick to noticing at the nose or try the rise and fall of the belly - just being aware, relaxed and not forcing your breath - and keep up the sitting practice. Don't try and make it too fancy with visualisations and such. Meditation is inherently boring - it's your best friend as a meditator.

Matthew
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 06:34:02 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Maqqie

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 04:21:46 PM »
wow, thanks for the advise guys, they're really appreciated.

 I have started meditating without any mental fabrication/imagery and I am finding it harder (as already advised) to bring my focus back to my breathing rythem (I guess because imagery is much easier to focus on than sensation). That's not to say I am not able to bring my focus back to my breath, rather I don't feel like I am as acutely focusing on my breathing as when I visualize. The other thing is that the breathing sensations around the nostrils are very subtle and thus make it more difficult to establish a strong focus on. I have tried a little bit of the belly rising and falling method but prefer to stick with what I know till I understand more about Vipassana through the 10 day course/reading. I also read that it is sometimes helpful to mentall say the words "rising" & "falling" (at least initially) to establish focus. In my case I say "in"/"out".

 Having said all that, I am determined to invest in properly learning this meditation technique right from the start instead of having problems later on, so thank you very much for the guidance everyone. 

 Also, whilst I am at it, is there an optimal time during the day to meditate? I tend to do it when I have time which varies greatly from day to day.

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: Focusing on breath
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 06:02:00 PM »
You will find it hard in the first days as you are habituated to the mental fabrication but that will wear off. Labelling the breath can be used also but again is habit forming and hypnotic and can lead to a reduction in awareness if over emphasised. All crutches to meditation need to be dropped eventually.

From what you have said you are doing well. Remember the first stages of meditation are about establishing calm and insight. Insight means seeing how YOU work. It's personal.

As to time I would suggest you will attain greater effects from meditation if you can make it part of your routine. After the morning shower is good (even if just 15 minutes) and before dinner in the evening or a little later when dinner has worn off but before you are tired and ready for bed.

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

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 06:49:45 PM »
wow, thanks for the advise guys, they're really appreciated.

 I have started meditating without any mental fabrication/imagery and I am finding it harder (as already advised) to bring my focus back to my breathing rythem (I guess because imagery is much easier to focus on than sensation). That's not to say I am not able to bring my focus back to my breath, rather I don't feel like I am as acutely focusing on my breathing as when I visualize. The other thing is that the breathing sensations around the nostrils are very subtle and thus make it more difficult to establish a strong focus on. I have tried a little bit of the belly rising and falling method but prefer to stick with what I know till I understand more about Vipassana through the 10 day course/reading. I also read that it is sometimes helpful to mentall say the words "rising" & "falling" (at least initially) to establish focus. In my case I say "in"/"out".

 Having said all that, I am determined to invest in properly learning this meditation technique right from the start instead of having problems later on, so thank you very much for the guidance everyone. 

 Also, whilst I am at it, is there an optimal time during the day to meditate? I tend to do it when I have time which varies greatly from day to day.

Maqqi,

Anytime is a good time to meditate, and you gain a small benefit each time. It is suggested to meditate after you wake up and before you go to sleep. Meditation can help prepare your mind to meet the day in the morning, and help you purify your mind after the ups and downs of the day at its end.

Good luck,
Rob

mettajoey

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Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2009, 06:59:16 PM »
The other thing is that the breathing sensations around the nostrils are very subtle and thus make it more difficult to establish a strong focus on. 

Hi Maggie,
In the Goenka 10-day Vipassana retreat one notices the breath on the area around the upper lip and nostrils.  It is somewhat challenging at first but the exercise is to increase focus and sensitivity which is the first step in Vipassana practice.  Keep trying and you will get it.  This will help you if you go on their retreats.

Most importantly is that you are sitting.  Even as you may be struggling with technique, remembering to quiet your mind, forget about making dinner, let go of a recent conversation and come back to the task of noticing your breath is the essence of meditation.

Warmly,
-Joe
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Flipasso

Re: Focusing on breath
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2009, 04:07:41 AM »
Most importantly is that you are sitting.  Even as you may be struggling with technique, remembering to quiet your mind, forget about making dinner, let go of a recent conversation and come back to the task of noticing your breath is the essence of meditation.

Warmly,
-Joe
Good post..

You will find it hard in the first days as you are habituated to the mental fabrication but that will wear off. Labelling the breath can be used also but again is habit forming and hypnotic and can lead to a reduction in awareness if over emphasised. All crutches to meditation need to be dropped eventually.
Agree 100%. From personal experience, when I use some kind of labeling, visualization, mental fabrication I tend to not notice that I'm destracted. Hence, both mindfulness and concentration are worsened by fabrication.


For Shamatha which is the type of calming meditation you are doing, you can focus on the breath at the nostrils, where it hits the back of your throat or on the rise or fall of your belly. All work equally well.
QUESTION:
I tend to not mind teachers insistance on place where one focusses on the breath, and by practice I have found the place where it's more practical for me..
So after sometime I started placing my attention on the back of my throat.
Is this only useful for Shamatha??

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: Focusing on breath
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2009, 09:50:17 AM »
flipasso,

The defining line between Shamatha and Vipassana is not so much a line as a great big grey cross-over area. Both techniques are part of a whole path that includes much more than meditation. In the initial stages meditation is more Shamatha and slowly transitions to Vipassana. But right from the start Shamtha practice includes Vipassana and at the very end Vipassana practice is still Shamatha.

Calm facilitates insight. > Shamatha leads to Samadhi which allows Vipassana.

Insight facilitates calm. > Vipassana improves and deepens Samadhi.

The object of Shamatha changes from being just the breath to being much more of a total bodymind awareness as one practices and this becomes Vipassana. So ...  you won't need to change technique and start focussing at the nostrils to sit Vipassana.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 09:53:00 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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