Question about distractions as objects of meditation

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Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby kozureokami » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:59 pm

I repeatedly come up against a problem with distractions during meditation. My understanding is that I am to observe the distraction in regard to its quality and strength, how it arises and how it decays and disappears. At that point I am to return to my breath. I can understand this if the distraction is, say, a bird twittering or a car horn which literally do decay and disappear. But what if the distraction is ongoing (e.g., sound of rain or people walking around in the room above my head), or is an image or thought. If I am attending to this sort of ongoing distraction--observing it mindfully--why would it decay and disappear at all unless: 1) another distraction takes its place; or 2) I intentionally return to the breath. While I am attending to distractions such as ongoing sounds or mental images/thoughts, they seem to remain there. So what I generally do is simply notice the distraction and intentionally return to the breath. But I feel I am missing something essential here. Yet I cannot see how the distraction decays and disappears unless another takes its place or I willfully return to the breath. If I let another distraction take its place, and then attend to that, I am then just perpetually changing horses in mid-stream and never get back to my breath.

I have no teacher--and don't know who to go to for help with this (and a number of similar issues, such as lower back pain that simply increases in intensity throughout the meditation period and does not fade away).
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Re: Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:30 pm

Hi kozureokami,

Could you say which particular set of meditation instructions you are following, please ?

When one uses the breath as the meditation object, its usual to notice if the attention has wandered away from the breath, then gently let go of whatever it is and return to the breathing again. So I think you are doing the right thing when you say you are noticing the distraction and intentionally returning to the breath again.

Its ok to sit in a straight-backed chair if you have physical difficulties and get increasingly intense back pain.

This 5 minute video about sitting posture from Ajahn Jayasaro's Buddhist Meditation series on YouTube might be helpful for you.





With kind wishes,

Aloka
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Re: Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby kirk5a » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:04 pm

Good job, you've made an important observation. Namely, you can choose what to pay attention to. That principle is fundamental to meditation. So then it's a question of what to pay attention to, and for what purpose. Which basically boils down to developing two interrelated qualities: insight (vipassana) and concentration (samadhi). For the full range of details from a true master, I recommend reading what Ajahn Lee taught.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby kozureokami » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:31 pm

Aloka wrote:Hi kozureokami,

Could you say which particular set of meditation instructions you are following, please ?


Thank you for your response, Aloka. I am primarily using the instructions of Bhante Henepola and those of Ayya Khema, which are generally similar with some minor exceptions. My problem is with the idea of attending to a distraction with mindful observation, assessing the nature, strength, and length of time until decay/disappearance of the distraction, whatever it may be. My problem is that I do not understand how it is possible for a mental event of any sort, be it perception of a sensory stimulus or memory/mental imagery/thought, to decay and disappear if one is paying attention to it--unless some other distraction comes along to take it's place. According to my understanding of the teachings of Bhante Henepola and Ayya Khema, one can notice the decay and disappearance of a distraction that one is attending to. I don't understand how this is even possible, let alone how to accomplish it. All I can do is return to the breath, at which point the distraction DOES decay/disappear because I am now attending to something else--namely, my breath. But Bhante Henepola and Ayya Khema seem to be saying that I am to observe the decay of the destraction and THEN return to the breath. This is my quandary and my confusion. I hope I am making myself clear.

Thank you,
Paul
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Re: Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby daverupa » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:12 pm

kozureokami wrote:According to my understanding of the teachings of Bhante Henepola and Ayya Khema, one can notice the decay and disappearance of a distraction that one is attending to. I don't understand how this is even possible, let alone how to accomplish it. (A) All I can do is return to the breath, at which point the distraction DOES decay/disappear because I am now attending to something else--namely, my breath. But Bhante Henepola and Ayya Khema seem to be saying that (B) I am to observe the decay of the destraction and THEN return to the breath.


If I understand your quandary:

A. attending to breath --> distraction --> attend to breath --> distraction dissipates as a result
v
B. attending to breath --> distraction --> distraction dissipates --> attend to breath as a result

They do seem opposed to each other... but then wouldn't either case make it impossible to engage in the third tetrad of anapanasati?

He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the mind’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the mind.’


Therefore, why not schematize things as follows:

While attending to breath:
A. distraction arises --> directed meditation --> distraction ceases
B. distraction arises --> undirected meditation --> distraction ceases

:thinking:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Question about distractions as objects of meditation

Postby kozureokami » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:24 pm

daverupa wrote:If I understand your quandary:

A. attending to breath --> distraction --> attend to breath --> distraction dissipates as a result
v
B. attending to breath --> distraction --> distraction dissipates --> attend to breath as a result

They do seem opposed to each other... but then wouldn't either case make it impossible to engage in the third tetrad of anapanasati?

He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the mind’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the mind.’


Therefore, why not schematize things as follows:

While attending to breath:
A. distraction arises --> directed meditation --> distraction ceases
B. distraction arises --> undirected meditation --> distraction ceases

:thinking:


Thank you Daverupa...this was useful.
k.
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