Author Topic: Clarification on Samatha Technique  (Read 3473 times)

Peace Love and Light

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Clarification on Samatha Technique
« on: May 29, 2010, 03:34:40 AM »
Hello, I'm new to these forums. You all seem very friendly.

I have a question relating to The Irreverent Buddhist's claim that focusing on the entire body while meditation is more effect than just focusing on the nose. Personally, I get distracted very easily while meditating, but I have had some success stilling my mind while focusing on the breath at the nose. If I were to try to focus on the entire body, how would I go about this in a systematic way so that I don't lose attention? Should I "scan" my body in a specific order for sensations, or should I switch my attention to whichever body part has the strongest sensation at a particular moment? It doesn't seem feasible to actually focus on the entire body at once.

If this question was already answered, could someone point me to the thread?

Thank you kindly.

convivium

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Re: Clarification on Samatha Technique
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2010, 07:52:31 AM »

Morning Dew

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Re: Clarification on Samatha Technique
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2010, 08:46:05 AM »
Quote
If I were to try to focus on the entire body, how would I go about this in a systematic way so that I don't lose attention? Should I "scan" my body in a specific order for sensations, or should I switch my attention to whichever body part has the strongest sensation at a particular moment? It doesn't seem feasible to actually focus on the entire body at once.


Hallo Peace Love and Light  :) and welcome to vipassanaforum!

I know what you mean, I was there just a couple of month ago. It is not about FOCUSING at all, it is about being SENSITIVE to the whole body breathing and relaxing the body with each inbreath and out breath  :)
Focusing demads WANTING which comes ffrom the THOUGHT from the CONDITIONED MIND from a MIND which TEND to SEEK, to DO, to create suffering  :)
Sensitive to the whole body breathing happens when you gently bring awareness to the fact in that very moment which is the while body breathing, whole body being, this fact alone makes us understnad that all those arising thoughts and emotions are of the unreal, but yet there.
We let go of them by not pushing them away but by gently brigning our awareness to the whole body breathing. There is no GOAL in meditation. Meditation is not fabrication.


Remain relaxed  :)

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: Clarification on Samatha Technique
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2010, 10:16:54 AM »
Dear Peace Love and Light,

Welcome to the forums.

The idea of focussing on the nose or area around the mouth comes from a mistranslation from the Pali:

Also there is a nicely written text that explains the misconceptions that lead to people breathing and concentrating on their noses or toeses or bellies and why this is due to a mistranslation from the Pali:

Quote
Face-to-face with experience

To get a sense of the nature of mindfulness we can look at the the language the Buddha uses to describe how we create it in the first place. In several suttas the practitioner is described as beginning formal meditation practice in this way:

[The meditator] sits down, crosses her legs, straightens her back and establishes her mindfulness directly [parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā].

Mindfulness is something that needs to be “set up, established.” This word comes from the verb upaṭṭhahati, from upa (denoting nearness or close touch) + √sthā (“stand,” “station”). Upaṭṭhahati means “to stand near,” “to be present,” and therefore “to serve.”

Rupert Gethin comments:

The regular Nikāya expression satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā means, then, “causing mindfulness to stand near,” “causing mindfulness to be present” or even “causing mindfulness to come into service.” … What is meant … is that sati is understood as a quality of mind that “stands near” or “serves” the mind; it watches over the mind. One might say that it is a form of “presence of mind.”

The use of the root √sthā implies a firm grounding or stationing of the mind. Awareness is firmly fixed — on something, something definite. This is emphasised in our passage when the meditator is described as “establishing her mindfulness directly,” using the adverb parimukham, from pari (“around,” “completely”) + mukha (“mouth,” “face,” “entrance”). In Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (The establishments of mindfulness M10) and Ānāpānasati Sutta (Mindfulness through breathing M118) this expression comes just before instructions on using breathing as the object of mindfulness, and parimukham is often taken literally as establishing mindfulness “around (pari) the mouth (mukha)” — in other words, placing mindfulness at the point where air enters and leaves the body. But parimukham is an idiom, not to be read literally, and does not refer to where mindfulness is established (“around the face,” so following breathing at the nostrils or mouth), but qualifies the action of establishing.
 
Here, parimukham should be read as something like “completely (pari) facing (mukha)” the object of experience, indicating the establishment of a “face-to-face” encounter with the object of experience. It conveys a firmness and directness in the engagement with experience, whatever it may be. This fits with the Abhidhamma understanding, where mindfulness appears as the state of confronting or being face-to-face with an object.


Let’s say I’m working on breathing as my meditation object, but my mind is preoccupied by some thought-stream and I’m feeling discontented with the state of my meditation. Clearly there’s awareness here. If asked later, I could describe this situation. But mindfulness is weak, because the mind is wobbling between at least four fields of experience, and not directly confronting any of them. The mind is not fixed, established. Not face-to-face with the situation, but floating around it. Mindfulness is concerned with establishing a firm contact with what’s really happening. For example, I might realise that what’s governing this situation is my attitude of discontent and resistance. This is why I’m half-hearted about the breathing, easily distracted and generally restless. So I turn towards my discontent, face it fully, and place awareness right on it. Or I might renew my determination to place awareness on the breathing, directly engaging with it. Or I might make the thought-stream my meditation object. I could even make the whole package, the complete experience of sitting there and mentally wobbling, my meditation object. But in any case I need to fix awareness, firmly, on something. Only then can mindfulness emerge.

Full text here:  http://www.dharmasalon.net/Writings/Mindfulness/files/02_Establishing.pdf

In short the Buddha never taught meditation focussed at the nose or mouth area. The point is quite fundamental to HOW the Buddha's method works. By focussing on the nose you are blocking out a great deal of sensory information from the body.

This is a big mistake. From the above it is clear that one must fully-face the whole body as the first step on the path to being a meditator. Only by "fully-facing" any object of meditation will one become fully conversant with it's intricacies. One of the keys to undoing the conditioning and poor habits that keep us from happiness is to see them clearly - and by blocking out phenomena by focussing on a limited field this can not happen.

At the very beginning it may seem easier to focus on the nose or some other part of the body but in all likelihood the result/fruit/phala of this will be a fabricated type of "calm abiding" or Shamatha or Samadhi that is really a form of hypnosis - and not one that has developed naturally out of calm and bliss by using the method as the Buddha taught it.

There is nowhere in the Pali Canon where the Buddha teaches nose meditation.

His method in the early stages is quite clearly explained in those texts:

Find somewhere secluded and quiet where you won't be disturbed.

Bring your mindfulness to the fore (this means establish yourself in concentration - not to the "fore" of the body i.e not the tip of the nose, front of the chest or belly etc)

Pay attention to the bodily sensations as you breathe in and relax bodily fabrications/tensions as you breathe in.

Pay attention to the bodily sensations as you breathe out and relax bodily fabrications/tensions as you breathe out.

Let the mind be. Don't engage with thoughts nor push them away. Don't judge or criticise them if they occur! Nor yourself if you engage in them! - just return to the bodily sensations as you breathe.

This is the beginning. Baby steps on the path, if you will. It teaches you, or at least gives you a taste of, the first skills you need to take it a step further: calm, concentration and insight. These need to be developed very fully to progress and journey well on the path.

This method activates deep seated psycho-physiological responses that are genetically implanted in your body-mind system. It overcomes, eventually, the usually heightened stress responses by sending a message directly to the reptilian brain that "EVERYTHING IS OK". The reptilian brain, being a bit on the stupid side basically starts believing this message if told it regularly through this meditation practice. It reduces the flow of stimulant chemicals to the brain and your mind starts to unwind. Little gaps appear in your thinking. Moments happen where you are your body, breathing - and not someone watching this process.

The whole process is based on extensive practice of the basics and not trying to take shortcuts to "mindfulness" or other fruits of the practice.

It takes a while and repeated practice, which can be quite frustrating, to get this method. It seems too simplistic on the one hand and too hard in some ways on the other. But it is neither. It is a simple and subtle yet powerful.

We want to be told in every detail "how to meditate", but the point about meditation is that it is a DIY thing - you have to do it yourself. You have to find the path to balance these subtle techniques in experiencing them again and again. And you have to find that for yourself.

There are three interlinked primary fruits that will emerge from practicing this way, with an all over body awareness:

Calming of bodymind (development of Shamatha).
Increased ability to concentrate (development of Samadhi).
Increased sensitivity to the processes of body and mind (development of insight).

All are stepping stones to deeper practice. And though it "may not seem feasible" to be sensitive to the entire body at once - I thoroughly recommend you immerse yourself in practice this way and prove to yourself whether your belief about this is true or not.

For that at the end of the day was the Buddha's advice about any advice: Try it and see if it agrees with your reason and experience. There are people on this forum who will tell you this shift has transformed their practice. It has it's difficulties and subtleties but overcoming these early in your practice rather than burying them to be dealt with later is beneficial.

As to your specific question regarding scanning, my answer would be no. All-over awareness of the body-breathing - as process in action - with the addition of calming areas of tension held in the body when they come to awareness is the basis of how this meditation works. Introduction of extraneous elements amounts to a fabrication.

Fundamentally it is all about seeing yourself, and all arising phenomena, clearly. This is the bedrock upon which changes can be made - awareness. The more you try the easier it gets.

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: May 29, 2010, 10:19:18 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Peace Love and Light

  • Guest
Re: Clarification on Samatha Technique
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2010, 08:23:55 PM »
Thank you for your detailed response. I'll try to practice how you have explained and will see what happens...

One other question:

I've read that brain imaging studies of meditation have shown that during periods of deep concentration, meditators actually have greatly decreased activity in the sensory cortex. Do you think that some how focusing on the entire body (which I would assume increases activity in the sensory cortex) somehow primes the sensory cortex to gradually relax?

Maybe this is too theoretical, I was just curious...

thanks again.

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: Clarification on Samatha Technique
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2010, 08:21:42 AM »
I've read that brain imaging studies of meditation have shown that during periods of deep concentration, meditators actually have greatly decreased activity in the sensory cortex. Do you think that some how focusing on the entire body (which I would assume increases activity in the sensory cortex) somehow primes the sensory cortex to gradually relax?

That's exactly what happens:

This method activates deep seated psycho-physiological responses that are genetically implanted in your body-mind system. It overcomes, eventually, the usually heightened stress responses by sending a message directly to the reptilian brain that "EVERYTHING IS OK". The reptilian brain, being a bit on the stupid side basically starts believing this message if told it regularly through this meditation practice. It reduces the flow of stimulant chemicals to the brain and your mind starts to unwind. Little gaps appear in your thinking. Moments happen where you are your body, breathing - and not someone watching this process.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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