Questions about connecting the breath

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:42 am

After on and off meditating over the years, I've finally settled down into a regular practice of night and morning 20 minute sessions.

Right now, I'm trying to gain some progress in developing concentration by following the breath.
It took me SO LONG to not control the breathing and just observe it, but I think I've finally got the hang of it.

However, after reading "Mindfulness in Plain English" I read this:

"2. Connecting After inhaling do not wait to notice the brief pause before exhaling but connect the inhaling and exhaling, so you can notice both inhaling and exhaling as one continuous breath."

This has really thrown me off because before I was supposed to notice the pauses between breathing and observe them, and now I'm told to ignore them. When I try to connect the
breath I begin controlling it again and get hung up on it and basically it's driving me crazy.

I haven't even begun the insight part of the meditation, because later on in the same book it says I need to have some sort of vision of a meditation sign near my nostrils before beginning
insight meditation.

Maybe I'm reading the wrong book or I'm understanding something wrong.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:41 am

Just breathe. Mess around with it if you feel like it. Experiment a bit if you want and if you find it unprofitable then return to trying to observe the breath without controlling it. Although, I bought a CD from a yoga instructor of 30 years who specializes in stuff dealing with the breath and he said that although it is possible to be aware of/meditate on the breath without consciously or subconsciously manipulating it he said that it is very hard and rare to find people who actually can do it even though many think they are when they aren't. Just saying this not because I'm trying to say that you can't just watch the breath but saying this because if most people can't do it then it isn't that big of a deal so messing around with the breath is totally fine. Just do whatever helps you to develop calm, tranquility, composure, stillness and clarity. The form isn't the important part it's the result that counts.

:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:36 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Just breathe. Mess around with it if you feel like it. Experiment a bit if you want and if you find it unprofitable then return to trying to observe the breath without controlling it. Although, I bought a CD from a yoga instructor of 30 years who specializes in stuff dealing with the breath and he said that although it is possible to be aware of/meditate on the breath without consciously or subconsciously manipulating it he said that it is very hard and rare to find people who actually can do it even though many think they are when they aren't. Just saying this not because I'm trying to say that you can't just watch the breath but saying this because if most people can't do it then it isn't that big of a deal so messing around with the breath is totally fine. Just do whatever helps you to develop calm, tranquility, composure, stillness and clarity. The form isn't the important part it's the result that counts.

:namaste:


Yeah, I'm sure I am still controlling it to some degree, but at least not to the extent I was before, and now it feels I'm breathing naturally at least instead of hyperventilating or what not.
Thanks for the advice, that's what I was starting to do anyway, but I wanted some confirmation from others since to see if I'm on the right path or not.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby daverupa » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:49 am

I wouldn't worry about continuous breath or minding the gap. Instead, once you've got a sense of whether the inhale and/or exhale is occurring in an extended and/or truncated manner, understand that the breath isn't a thing but is just the body flexing, and tune in to that - breathing is a side effect that the surrounding air undergoes when the body flexes in this way (satipatthana has a 'body' category, but no 'breath' category, though this might explain why "body of the breath" made its way to us...).

Anyway, it now becomes possible to calm down everything to do with the body - not a psychic bio-power, but a release from getting tangled up in these processes, which leads to seclusion.

FWIW

:heart:
    "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: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby Goob » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:07 pm

Well put Dave, and for what it's worth with my modest experience, I agree, it's probably beneficial to not think of the breath per se too much but too be responsive to how it's effecting the energy in the body and how it 'feels' where you keep your focus, if that makes sense at all. I would emphasize really being/inhabiting your chosen area and not merely directing the air there. I had a problem for some time where as soon as the exhalation reached its end I would lose my focus and drift off. It took me a long time to realize I shouldn't be so focused on how the breath itself made the spot feel (or visualize rather than experienceing) but how the spot really felt throughout. There's slight shift in framing the experience there that I feel is important, imho of course.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:56 pm

Thanks for the replies! I really appreciate it. I also wanted know how proficient I have to be at attention to breath before I should begin insight meditation, i.e. scanning the
body from head to toe. I've been observing the breath for about a month now and while I have moments, usually in the morning, when my mind can concentrate without
too many thoughts arising, it's far from perfect concentration as mentioned in the books I've read.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:52 pm

flupwatson wrote:Thanks for the replies! I really appreciate it. I also wanted know how proficient I have to be at attention to breath before I should begin insight meditation, i.e. scanning the
body from head to toe. I've been observing the breath for about a month now and while I have moments, usually in the morning, when my mind can concentrate without
too many thoughts arising, it's far from perfect concentration as mentioned in the books I've read.

It really depends on what tradition you're interested in. A lot of teachers don't even use the head to toe method. Whose method are you most interested in following?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:07 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
flupwatson wrote:Thanks for the replies! I really appreciate it. I also wanted know how proficient I have to be at attention to breath before I should begin insight meditation, i.e. scanning the
body from head to toe. I've been observing the breath for about a month now and while I have moments, usually in the morning, when my mind can concentrate without
too many thoughts arising, it's far from perfect concentration as mentioned in the books I've read.

It really depends on what tradition you're interested in. A lot of teachers don't even use the head to toe method. Whose method are you most interested in following?


The only technique I'm familiar with is the one I learned a few years back at a 10 day Vipassana retreat , the one founded by S N Goenka. It consisted of two stages,
following the breath and then the body scan thing from head to toe.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:25 pm

flupwatson wrote:The only technique I'm familiar with is the one I learned a few years back at a 10 day Vipassana retreat , the one founded by S N Goenka. It consisted of two stages,
following the breath and then the body scan thing from head to toe.

Then I would maybe caution against taking cues from Bhante G; he's a great teacher but I think his approach might be a little different. He uses constant awareness of the breath along with momentary focus on other sensations as they arise. The levels of calm required by his method may not match up with Goenka's.


There is a user here, Ben, who has a lot of experience with Goenka's method. You might want to PM him! And if you're interested in other methods of vipassana meditation, feel free to PM me. If the Goenka method works for you though, I'd encourage you to stick with it!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:11 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
flupwatson wrote:The only technique I'm familiar with is the one I learned a few years back at a 10 day Vipassana retreat , the one founded by S N Goenka. It consisted of two stages,
following the breath and then the body scan thing from head to toe.

Then I would maybe caution against taking cues from Bhante G; he's a great teacher but I think his approach might be a little different. He uses constant awareness of the breath along with momentary focus on other sensations as they arise. The levels of calm required by his method may not match up with Goenka's.


There is a user here, Ben, who has a lot of experience with Goenka's method. You might want to PM him! And if you're interested in other methods of vipassana meditation, feel free to PM me. If the Goenka method works for you though, I'd encourage you to stick with it!


Thanks for the insight. I honestly wasn't aware there were any other techniques within the Vipassana tradition. I can't say the Goenka method works or not, because right now I'm more interested in building up my ability to
concentrate and am therefore just trying to keep it simple and focus on the breath. I'd be interested in reading up on other techniques though so if you could send me some links or other info I'd be grateful.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:31 am

Here's some stuff on meditation from Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 130123.pdf

http://www.dhammatalks.org/mp3_collecti ... #guided--- I would give the 2nd guided meditation a try here, I think it's a good one for building up a whole body awareness with anapanasati.

Here's some stuff from Ajahn Brahmavamso:

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books11/Ajah ... ers1-5.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/user/dhammalokameditation

Here's some stuff from Ajahn Buddhadasa:

http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm


They all teach differently but tons of people follow these guys' meditation methods so hopefully it's not too much information and I wish you the best of luck with your meditation practice.

:anjali:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby flupwatson » Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:34 am

Thanks for the links! After posting here, I realize I need to read up more, experiment, and find the technique that works best for me.
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Re: Questions about connecting the breath

Postby Samma » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:17 am

Some background info is in order.

Ven. Henepola Gunaratana is making use of the Visuddhimagga description stages of mediation:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visuddhimagga
1. counting (gaṇanā)
2. connection (anubandhanā)
3. touch + fixing (ṭhapanā)

Technically visual sign refers to parikamma nimitta, uggaha nimitta, paṭibhāga nimitta.

Ledi Sayadaw says of connection phase, "When the stage is reached when every out and in-breath is clearly perceived without the aid of counting, when no out and in-breath escapes the attention, the counting must be discontinued and the connection method adopted. Here, the connection method means putting forth effort to keep the attention continuously on the “point of touch,” and to perceive every out and in breath without counting them. It means repeating the effort made in the counting stage in order to make perception clearer and attention stronger and firmer, but without the aid of counting."
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html

But that's just one person's take. You'll notice as you read more that there are many different views on how to meditate, the results the come, the philosophy, and so on. My general advice would be to not care so much that you feel you are controlling breath. You are just beginning, so just keep up a practice, and continue learning. In fact there is not even agreement on the point that you should not manipulate it! see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11494
Be well
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