Focus? Awareness? Both?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:14 am

I'm confused :thinking:

I'm told to focus on the breath, I'm told to be aware of things happening around me. But how can I be focused on the breath and aware of things going on around me at the same time? :shrug:

I'm told no matter what arises, take it back to the breath. Then how can I acknowledge what is happening around me? If I'm aware of thimgs going on around me, how can I be focused on the breath? :tantrum:

That was dumb question #327 :)
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Re: Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:33 am

Greetings Collective,

What kind of meditation are you trying to do here?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:39 am

Hi Colllective

Who told you to be aware of things happening around you while focusing on the breath? :juggling:

Metta
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby Guy » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:11 am

Hi Collective,

There are lots of different methods of meditation with lots of different objects you can use. Whatever method you use, it can be very helpful at the start of the sitting period to give yourself clear instructions that aren't lengthy and don't contradict each other. Repeat these instructions two or three times so the mind really understands what it is supposed to be doing. You can include in your instructions both what you are supposed to focus on and what you are not supposed to focus on.

eg. "I will be aware of the present moment. I will be aware of the present moment. I will be aware of the present moment. I will not give attention to thoughts of the past or the future. I will not give attention to thoughts of the past or the future. I will not give attention to thoughts of the past or the future. "

Then when the intention is clear simply let the mind get to work. Ajahn Brahm, who teaches this, uses the similie of a taxi driver. He says that if you give too many instructions and become a backseat driver then the taxi driver will throw you out of his cab. If you just sit in the cab and don't give any instructions then he won't know where to take you. Similarly, if you keep pushing and pulling the mind this way and that way the mind will get confused or "throw you out" of your meditation which can be very dangerous since it can cause a person to develop aversion towards meditation which should be one of the most beneficial things a person can do. If you don't give any instructions then the mind won't know what it's supposed to be doing. Give just the right amount of instructions and let the meditation progress by itself.

If after a few minutes you find the mind has wandered again simply repeat the instructions once or twice but try to be gentle and not too forceful.

Having established yourself in the present moment then you can give new instructions to focus on the breath, which is not a new object but is a more concentrated part of the present moment.

If you find this helpful I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond" by Ajahn Brahm which is one of the most comprehensive meditation manuals available and has cleared up a lot of my doubts and confusion as a beginner.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:35 am

Thank you all for the replies, and the recommendation of the books

I'm practicing Vipassana (and yeah , probably spelt it wrong) :)
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Re: Focus? Awareness? Both?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:34 pm

Hi Collective,
Collective wrote:Thank you all for the replies, and the recommendation of the books

I'm practicing Vipassana (and yeah , probably spelt it wrong) :)

But could you tell us whether you have a teacher, or, if not, which book/web site/etc you are following?

There are a variety of approaches that teachers start their students off with, which can sound contradictory because they are trying to keep it simple. In your original post you seem to be talking about instructions from different teachers (or, at least, for different meditation sessions).

Metta
Mike
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