Anapanasati for beginner

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
Post Reply
ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Wed Oct 08, 2014 12:11 pm

Dear All,

I'm attempting to start a regular practice based on Anapanasati. From what I've read I should really establish some concentration first. This intuitively makes a lot of sense to me. I've been meditating for almost a month now. I have two young kids (2 & 4) so no formal practice during the day for me. I go to sleep with the kids @ 8/9PM and try to wake up @ 2/3AM. So far I've managed to refine my posture a bit. I started with burmese posture but I've switched to half lotus. This position is quite stable and I'm happy I have flexible legs, ankles and knees :) . Immediately I could notice improvement on stability and depth of a session. On "good" days and if I get that posture right from the beginning I could probably do a 90 minute startup session without much problems physiologically wise. This is always a first session. Following sits are always shorter. I did a couple of walking meditations in between sits. Felt good. Made me realise how important is to be mindful. I'm using an ios app to keep track of sessions and journal. It's a nice motivation tool. Are my sits too long for a beginner practice? I've read I shouldn't do more than 20 minutes or so. I am trying to keep the right mindset. Not expecting anything. Take it all as experiment. I'm also aware this things take time! I'm learning to be patient.

I'm confused on what instructions to follow. There are so many(Ajahns(Chah, Lee, Sumedho, Succito,..),Buddhadasa, Henepola Gunaratana MIPE, Leigh Brasington, Thanissaro,... ). And all make sense to me. Should I notice just the sensation of in/out breath at some point? Nose/belly/... Should I just know (be mindful) when I'm breathing in/out(Ajahn Brahm method) and not concentrate on nose tip/belly/...? How should I decide where's best to observe breath? Should I observe at point that produces most noticeable sensation? What if that point moves? For example this morning I had a very fine breath and most sensation was produced in my lower jaw! Weird :) Is this what it's meant by "observing bodily sensations"? Maybe I'm overanalyzing. So, what are basic instructions when you start with Anapanasati? What are theinstructions if one aims to build a muscle of concentration first? We are talking about creating samadhi here right? Or is that something different?

I've noticed a couple of times I had maybe elevated concentration. Short dips. Say about 10% stronger then usual. I could stay with the breath for a minute or so. Thoughts still came in but they were more on periphery now. Also breathing got faster/louder. But of course there are also dips to the other side when I get lost in thought.
I can definitely detect changes in breathing pattern. Length/strength/... For example when thoughts come, breathing automatically becomes "stronger" and shorter. Thoughts go, breathing gets finer and a bit longer.

Lots of times I have a pressurised feeling in nose cavity. Like balloon expanding/contracting. Feeling is quite pleasurable. It also manifest after coffee or when I focus. For example now when I'm writing this. This morning I also had pointed pressure point in "third eye" area. Should I pay any attention to all this or just ignore it?

Why I'm doing all this?
Frankly I got drawn to meditation because I've read it can improve your concentration. Who wouldn't want that? Then (in 2009) I got interested some more. I've listened to inspiring talks from Shinzen Young, even started to meditate a bit. But failed. Life/wife/kids happened. Little scientist in me kept reading though. Had lots of doubts and scepticism (imagine a person trained in physics/math/electronics reading about magick) but I've decided it's time to give this meditation thing a serious shot. It's a big step intellectually for me. There were times I felt like I'm betraying science principles. But we need to be open minded right?

Here are my sessions so far. I'm aiming for 60 to 100 hours/month and do a check-up/analysis after one year.

Code: Select all

Started At,             Duration (minutes)                                                                                                              
10/08/2014 04:21:55,     38                                                      
10/08/2014 03:20:00,     50                                                      
10/08/2014 01:55:19,     60                                                      
10/07/2014 05:53:48,     30                                                      
10/07/2014 04:44:04,     60                                                      
10/07/2014 03:35:18,     60                                                      
10/06/2014 05:29:25,     21                                                      
10/06/2014 04:27:20,     60                                                      
10/06/2014 03:51:19,     31                                                      
10/06/2014 02:10:54,     90                                                      
10/05/2014 05:45:11,     33                                                      
10/05/2014 05:05:12,     38                                                      
10/05/2014 03:55:48,     60                                                      
10/04/2014 09:53:54,     50                                                      
10/04/2014 09:02:56,     44                                                      
10/04/2014 04:47:43,     60                                                      
10/03/2014 16:50:10,     22                                                      
10/03/2014 06:10:31,     28                                                      
10/03/2014 05:07:55,     30                                                      
10/03/2014 04:35:25,     31                                                      
10/03/2014 03:33:01,     57                                                      
10/02/2014 05:34:53,     26                                                      
10/02/2014 04:02:28,     44                                                      
10/02/2014 02:33:49,     60                                                      
10/01/2014 07:40:47,     60                                                      
10/01/2014 05:52:16,     30                                                      
10/01/2014 04:20:38,     66                                                      
09/30/2014 15:45:00,     30                                                                             
09/30/2014 04:45:00,     60                                                      
09/30/2014 04:00:00,     45                                                      
09/30/2014 03:00:00,     60                                                      
09/29/2014 20:30:00,     60                                                      
09/29/2014 17:30:00,     30                                                      
09/29/2014 16:30:00,     60                                                      
09/29/2014 04:30:00,     60                                                      
09/28/2014 14:30:00,     60                                                      
09/28/2014 10:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 16:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 15:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 08:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 04:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 03:30:00,     60                                                      
09/27/2014 00:30:00,     60                                                      
09/26/2014 20:30:00,     60                                                      
09/26/2014 19:30:00,     60                                                      
09/25/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/24/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/23/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/22/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/21/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/20/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/19/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/18/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/17/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/16/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/15/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/14/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/13/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/12/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/11/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      
09/10/2014 04:00:00,     60                                                      

:juggling:

regards,
ftw

User avatar
appicchato
Posts: 1603
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by appicchato » Wed Oct 08, 2014 12:51 pm

Maybe I'm overanalyzing.
:coffee:

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by daverupa » Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:58 pm

Why not analyze & engage with satipatthana, rather than trying for anapanasati right away? Seated & walking satipatthana are superb ways of meditating at first, and lay the proper foundation for the more subtle seated efforts.
  • "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]

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:17 pm

daverupa wrote:Why not analyze & engage with satipatthana, rather than trying for anapanasati right away? Seated & walking satipatthana are superb ways of meditating at first, and lay the proper foundation for the more subtle seated efforts.
Dear daverupa, thank for suggestion.
I'm all for optimization if thats the way one should go. I have the book from Ven. Analayo. I haven't been able to study it thoroughly yet. I was under impression I should really build some concentration skills first and meanwhile study about the direct way / satipatthana. I've also read that good samadhi is helpfull in dukkha nañas. So it made sense to me to develop that first. I've read horible stories about dukkha nañas. Not something I'd like to go trough in my situation. With access to Jhanas i could probably make progress faster and I could find some comfort in them. Am i making any sense?
Last edited by ftw on Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16477
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:20 pm

Welcome ftw,

My advice would be that if you don't have access to a real-life teacher, pick one teacher whose books/talks/writings make sense to you and stick to their instructions for a few months Different teachers teach what they have found works for them and their students, and, in doing so, focus on slightly different aspects. This can make them seem contradictory if you try to mix their advice.

If you want to follow a Jhana approach you might consider Ajahn Brahm. See some links to his books and talks here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p296291

:anjali:
Mike

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:23 pm

appicchato wrote:
Maybe I'm overanalyzing.
:coffee:
I can't help it appicchato. :smile:

jnak
Posts: 63
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2014 8:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by jnak » Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:26 pm

It sounds to me like you're off to a great start. Regarding posture, my understanding is that any posture you can sit in stably for the length of your session is fine. I use a meditation bench because I do not have your flexibility.

When I started meditating, I started by observing the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose. As I began to develop more awareness of the body, I noticed other sensations including the sensations at "the third eye" that you mention. I became curious about this and found Ajaan Lee's, Keeping the Breath in Mind. From this book I came to understand that the breath ought to be regarded as more than the air passing in and out of our lungs.

I think that you got good advice from mikenz66, regarding finding a teacher whose books, talks and writings make sense to you. If you are strongly analytical, you may appreciate Thanissaro Bhikkhu's writings. His meditation book, With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation is available for free download here along with instructions for receiving a printed copy.

I think that Leigh Brasington's site is useful if you are trying to sort out the competing views regarding jhana.

Edit: One more thought, when meditating I try to ensure that I am fulfilling the Buddha's instructions in MN 118 and in MN 119. The Buddha tells us what we need to do and what the results of our efforts should be.

Best regards,
Jeff
"...I'm not much of an expert when it comes to the texts. I've simply learned a few parts, and put them into practice." Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:57 am

mikenz66 wrote:Welcome ftw,

My advice would be that if you don't have access to a real-life teacher, pick one teacher whose books/talks/writings make sense to you and stick to their instructions for a few months Different teachers teach what they have found works for them and their students, and, in doing so, focus on slightly different aspects. This can make them seem contradictory if you try to mix their advice.

If you want to follow a Jhana approach you might consider Ajahn Brahm. See some links to his books and talks here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p296291

:anjali:
Mike

Thank you Mike!

It would really be a privilege if I could find a teacher. I'm afraid there isn't anyone near by. If it's possible to find such a person over internet and work in that context it would be really great. In the mean time here's what's stored in my library. Some I've read, some still waiting. This mini library is my inspiration as well as a source of confusion. Takes time to process all of the info and get that intuitive feeling for what's right for me, if you know what I mean.

Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana, Shaila Catherine
Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, Shaila Catherine
Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook, Ajahn Brahm, Jack Kornfield
The Experience of Samadhi: An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation, Richard Shankman
Practicing the Jhanas: Traditional Concentration Meditation as Presented by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, Stephen Snyder, et al
Mindfulness in Plain English: 20th Anniversary Edition, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory guide to Deeper States of Meditation, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, Analayo
The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind:, B. Alan Wallace Ph.D.
The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment, Philip Kapleau Roshi
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn, Zen Master Seung Sahn
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones Classic Edition: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki
To Meet the Real Dragon, Gudo Nishijima, Jeffrey Bailey
I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta, Nisargadatta Maharaj
Enlightenment: Behind The Scenes ,Marc Leavitt

Whole lot of free ebooks on Kindle from dhammatalks and forestsangha.
Then there are suttas!

And finally we have forums and members opinions. When you sum It up, it all takes a lot of time to digest.

I've decided though it's way past time to start practicing though. I believe I've finally realised I can't grasp all this just intellectually. One needs to practice and then reflect on that experience comparing it to what has been read. I'm sure practice will give me all the answers in the long run. Maybe I'm just being impatient by asking for best method to start the practice. I guess I'm to afraid to make stupid mistakes.

regards,
ftw

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:04 am

jnak wrote:It sounds to me like you're off to a great start. Regarding posture, my understanding is that any posture you can sit in stably for the length of your session is fine. I use a meditation bench because I do not have your flexibility.

When I started meditating, I started by observing the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose. As I began to develop more awareness of the body, I noticed other sensations including the sensations at "the third eye" that you mention. I became curious about this and found Ajaan Lee's, Keeping the Breath in Mind. From this book I came to understand that the breath ought to be regarded as more than the air passing in and out of our lungs.
Thank you Jeff for inspiration.
I'm still refining my posture, getting the feel for it. Trying to score that "perfect" position at start of the sitting. Don't get me wrong. Ankles, behind and spine muscles, shoulders still hurt but it's below unbearable threshold. Speaking of posture I will need to find a better zafu. This one is already tearing up under me. I also like Ajahn Lee's "Keeping the breath in mind".

regards,
ftw

jnak
Posts: 63
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2014 8:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by jnak » Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:58 pm

I've decided though it's way past time to start practicing though. I believe I've finally realised I can't grasp all this just intellectually. One needs to practice and then reflect on that experience comparing it to what has been read. I'm sure practice will give me all the answers in the long run. Maybe I'm just being impatient by asking for best method to start the practice. I guess I'm to afraid to make stupid mistakes.
I think this is absolutely true. One can verify the dhamma in one's own meditation and life.

While you're researching, don't overlook John Bullit's Access to Insight. He's stopped adding new material, but it's an amazing trove of sutta translations, books, and articles. It's my go-to website when I have a question.

Best regards,
Jeff
"...I'm not much of an expert when it comes to the texts. I've simply learned a few parts, and put them into practice." Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

User avatar
VinceField
Posts: 199
Joined: Wed May 07, 2014 2:03 am

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by VinceField » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:48 pm

daverupa wrote:Why not analyze & engage with satipatthana, rather than trying for anapanasati right away? Seated & walking satipatthana are superb ways of meditating at first, and lay the proper foundation for the more subtle seated efforts.
An insightful take on a related idea from Bhikkhu Buddhadasa's book Anapanasati Unveiling the Secrets of Life:
Another common problem is that some people cling to and are stuck on the word satipatthana (foundations of mindfulness) far too much. Some go so far as to think that Anapanasati has nothing to do with the four foundations of mindfulness. Some even reject Anapanasati out of hand. In some places they really hang onto the word "satipatthana." They cling to the satipatthana of the Digha-nikaya (Long Discourses) which is not anything more than a long list of names, a lengthy catalogue of sets of dhammas. Although there are whole bunches of dhammas, no way of practice is given or explained there. This is what is generally taken to be satipatthana. Then it is adjusted and rearranged into these and those practices, which become new systems that are called satipatthana practices or meditation.*

Then, the followers of such techniques deny, or even despise, the Anapanasati approach, asserting that it is not satipatthana. In truth, Anapanasati is the heart of satipatthana, the heart of all four foundations of mindfulness. The 16 Steps is a straight-forward and clear practice, not just a list of names or dhammas like in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Digha-nikaya#22**). Therefore, let us not fall into the misunderstanding that Anapanasati is not satipatthana, otherwise we might lose interest in it thinking that it is wrong. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is common. Let us reiterate that Anapanasati is the heart of all four satipatthana in a form that can be readily practiced.

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Anapanasati for beginner

Post by ftw » Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:48 am

Still meditating. I'm happy I've managed so far. Usually I get bored with stuff pretty quick.
I've noticed I remember my dreams when I calm down in meditation sessions. Happens almost every day. I rarely remembered dreams before. Otherwise it's nothing spectacular. I'm trying at least consciously to not try to gain anything or judge my meditations sessions. Just an experiment right? :)

Statistics
Number of sessions: 120
Average session time: 44.0 minutes
Longest session time: 90 minutes
Total session time: 87 hours 56 minutes

I'm planning a small weekend home retreat, starting tomorrow hopefully if work permits. Kids were sent to grandparents, wife has some seminar! :twothumbsup:
I'm constructing a schedule. Tips welcomed!

2:00 Wake up:
2:10 20 minutes walking
2:30 1 hour sitting
3:30 30 minutes walking
4:00 1 hour sitting
5:00 30 minutes walking
5:30 1 hour sitting
6:30 30 minutes walking
7:00 1 hour sitting
8:00 1 hour breakfast/cleaning/...
9:00 30 minutes walking
9:30 1 hour sitting
10:30 30 minutes walking
11:00 1 hour sitting
12:00 cooking/lunch/cleaning
13:00 30 minutes walking
13:30 1 hour sitting
14:30 30 minutes walking
15:00 1 hour sitting
16:00 30 minutes walking
16:30 1 hour sitting
17:30 1 hour tea time/rest/reading
18:30 30 minutes walking
19:00 1 hour sitting
20:00 shower/cleaning/...
20:30 recline

:D

ftw
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Smile and relax

Post by ftw » Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:18 am

Yesterday I remebered my first meditation attempt of some year or more ago. I read an article written by Susan Blackmore found on Leigh Brasington page about Jhanas. She went on his retreat and was to say the least delighted. I really liked her book "Ten zen questions". One of the first books that brought me to this path of self discovery. I never could get her ups and downs with spirituality but that's another story. Anyway...

I remembered what happened with my first attempt. I had maybe 10 sessions at most. Somewhere around 4th session I had a nice experience of whole body bubbling like champagne. I also remembered that I followed instructions from Leigh B. One of the most important was to relax on outhbreath and smile. Focus on smile.

So I tried. Very soon In the yesterday session I got tingling sensation on top of my head. I tried to spread it but didn't work. I focused on smile with breath in the background all the time. What's interesting was that my mind didn't wonder so much. I had another object to focus on and this so preoccupied my mind that it was content doing just that. Focusing on smile or breath. Soon my face started vibrating around lips area. Grape like size bubbles rippling beneath the skin. The more I smiled the more intense was bubbling. There's also a suttle feeling that I'm on the verge of something. Maybe I'm just imagining though. Wishful thinking :) Happened this morning also with two sessions. Side effect of this is

1. A lot less monkey mind
2. Time passes really quick which is nice in hour sessions.

Fun stuff. Anyone else have similar experience?

PS: Retreat starts this afternoon. I had to go to work today.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 37 guests