Breath as object: focus area?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
duckfiasco
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Breath as object: focus area?

Post by duckfiasco » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:29 am

Silly question.
I've read the recommendation to focus on the sensation of the breath coming in and out of the nostrils.
My nose seems to be just the right shape for there to be almost no sensation at all.
It takes an enormous amount of concentration to find it, and it disappears quickly. And not as a sign of concentration, I can assure you!

Is it this subtle for everyone, and therefore why it's suggested?
Should I try another more obvious area to associate with the breath?

I've heard observing the rising/falling of the abdomen as an alternative, but there's far less information on this method, at least that I've found.

Thanks!

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mikenz66
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:16 am

Hi DuckFiasco,

Using abdominal motion as a meditation object is quite common. It was a feature of Mahasi Sayadaw's approach. Bhikkhu Pesala, a member here, has a web site dedicated to Mahasi Sayadaw's teachings: http://www.aimwell.org/

His introductory instructions are here: http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Pra ... tical.html

:anjali:
Mike

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Ben
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by Ben » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:42 am

duckfiasco wrote:Silly question.
I've read the recommendation to focus on the sensation of the breath coming in and out of the nostrils.
My nose seems to be just the right shape for there to be almost no sensation at all.
It takes an enormous amount of concentration to find it, and it disappears quickly. And not as a sign of concentration, I can assure you!

Is it this subtle for everyone, and therefore why it's suggested?
Because it is subtle, and continues to be increasingly subtle as concentration develops is precisely why it is an effective meditation object for developing concentration.
duckfiasco wrote:
Should I try another more obvious area to associate with the breath?
Perhaps start with sensation at the entrance to the nostrils or anywhere in the area in the vicinity external to the nostrils to the upper lip. Then, gradually over some months of regular practice, narrow the field of awareness by increments to a small area where you can feel the touch of the inhalation and exhalation. As your concentration develops, your breath will become increasingly more subtle making it more of a challenge to discern the touch sensation.
You also need to realize that as you begin this practice it is quite normal for your mind to wander. So, in the beginning phase of this practice, training your mind to remain focused on the meditation object takes some time.
duckfiasco wrote: I've heard observing the rising/falling of the abdomen as an alternative, but there's far less information on this method, at least that I've found.
Thanks!
There's actually quite a lot. Try the links Mike has supplied. Also, keep in mind that it a different type of meditation. The anapana that I am advocating develops samadhi (concentration), where as the type of anapana that Mike is advocating is a type of vipassana (insight). They both have the breath as object but have different effects.
kind regards,

Ben
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Kamran
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by Kamran » Sat Jun 22, 2013 8:48 am

Air touching the back of the throat is another option. You can actually focus too much at the nose, constricting the area, and give yourself a headache. Part of the fun is playing around with the breath. You have to make it interesting. For instance, you can combine body scanning with breath meditation, and tune into breath/awareness sensations throughout the body, especially in the hands and feet. If interested, this "whole-body breathing" approach is described in detail in Thanissaro Bikhu's talks at dhammatalks.org
"Silence gives answers"

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duckfiasco
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by duckfiasco » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:31 am

Thank you all :)

I should have been more specific.
I'm looking to develop concentration, since walking meditation has proven to be fruitful as an insight practice.
Are there other popular ways of practicing concentration aside from nostril-focusing? :P
I came across the "buddho" thread earlier for example and it seemed interesting.
Ben wrote:Because it is subtle, and continues to be increasingly subtle as concentration develops is precisely why it is an effective meditation object for developing concentration.
...
Ben
I've been trying to use the breath in this way for two or three years, hence my concern that I may not be doing something correctly.
That's in the light of reading things like "after a few months..."
I don't mean to sabotage my own practice with some sense of time limits, but there is a point when you wonder if you're not doing something quite right.

I never sit down with the intention to reach some state, only to return to the breath when the mind wanders.
I was curious if the almost total lack of sensation of the breath for me was making this process harder.

Should the breath be easy to find or hard to find to start the session?
The resources I've used are vague on this point.

@ Kamran: I'll have to look into this more, thank you very much. :toast:

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reflection
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by reflection » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:36 am

I always establish some mindfulness before going onto the breath. By focusing on the body in general, specific feelings in the body that stand out, by focusing on sounds - being in the present moment. After some minutes of that, the breath is super easy to find. And it doesn't need to have a specific location per se. The breath can also be noticed without a location in the body.

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mikenz66
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:48 am

Hi DuckFiasco,

Reflection makes some very good points. You might find Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond" AKA Happiness Through Meditation useful in this context. You can download the first few chapters free here (this used to be freely available on the Buddhist Society of Western Australia's website http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/books.html but isn't there any more): http://www.holybooks.com/mindfulness-bl ... -handbook/

I don't usually practice Ajahn Brahms approach in detail, but his instructions on establishing mindfulness and dealing with hindrances are excellent.

:anjali:
Mike

duckfiasco
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by duckfiasco » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:58 pm

Thank you, thank you :toast: I'll give Ajahn Brahm's book a look :)

I tried reflection's advice and had a new sort of experience of the breath, at least.
My normal approach is to start every session with five minutes of metta.
Maybe the very active mental approach I take to metta is complicating concentration practice.
Focusing instead on a general mindfulness DID make the breath less strenuous to find, and thoughts easier to see without involvement.
I may be taking too much of a magnifying glass approach to the breath.
Of course I can tell when I'm breathing, even an exact area on my nose for concentration eludes me.
I'll try five or ten minutes of this generalized mindfulness at the start of sessions and see how it goes.

I will say one thing for these few years of what feels like exclusively monkey mind practice: I've learned a lot, a lot about patience :tongue:

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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by Andre » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:09 pm

I have a similar problem.
I started to do anapana. I'm observing (without a specific point) the breath in and out in my nostrils, but my attention is following up the air through throat too. The problem is: observe the cold air passing through my throat is really painful.

Should I ignore the pain, focus my attention in the throat and forget the nostril, look for another method of meditation??

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daverupa
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by daverupa » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:57 pm

Andre wrote:Should I ignore the pain, focus my attention in the throat and forget the nostril, look for another method of meditation??
Why not move along to the third step of anapanasati: experience all the bodies - not just the breath, and not just at this or that anatomical spot - and see if that alleviates the pain of that focus?
  • "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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PsychedelicSunSet
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:09 pm

When having trouble finding a spot to focus on the breath, try taking a huge exaggerated inhale and exhale. Do that a few times, and see where the sensation of breath is the strongest, and use that as your focus area.



:anjali:
Metta

Andre
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by Andre » Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:52 am

Thanks by the answers. :smile:
daverupa wrote: Why not move along to the third step of anapanasati: experience all the bodies - not just the breath, and not just at this or that anatomical spot - and see if that alleviates the pain of that focus?
Should I do that without establish a good concentration?
I read that I need to have a good concentration on the breath in and out and then start the first step of the tetrad.
PsychedelicSunSet wrote:When having trouble finding a spot to focus on the breath, try taking a huge exaggerated inhale and exhale. Do that a few times, and see where the sensation of breath is the strongest, and use that as your focus area.



:anjali:
Metta
I did that. The strongest (and painful) sensation of breath is on my throat when I inhale. In the exhale the strongest sensation of the breath is on my nostrils.

With pain or not I'll stay strong on my purpose. Thanks again by the answers.
:namaste:

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daverupa
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by daverupa » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:15 am

Andre wrote:I read that I need to have a good concentration on the breath in and out and then start the first step of the tetrad.
Well, satipatthana generally should be a practice that precedes anapanasati, since anapanasati is a specialized way of doing satipatthana.

So, once you have the breath in front of you for the session, pick a satipatthana tetrad to explore. The goal is calming various aspects, so there may be some back and forth.

There's no reason to practice in a non-/pre-satipatthana state, that's not going to be very useful at all when approaching anapanasati, in my experience. It's when anapanasati is seen as a standalone focus on just the breath that I seem more likely to hear about headaches and other issues such as these. The breath should always be present for anapanasati, but not just the breath.
  • "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]

alan
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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by alan » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:53 am

It's a whole-body practice: an art, not a science. Finding the best place to breath is something you adjust as the experience changes.

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Re: Breath as object: focus area?

Post by Babadhari » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:54 pm

ive read that the upper lip and tip of the nostrils are chosen because they are the most difficult place to maintain focus on,leading to stronger concentration.
when maintaining awareness on the upper lip i never feel pain from cold air but i used to have that experience when following the breahth internally
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Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

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