What has helped your concentration the most?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Digity
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What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by Digity » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:32 am

I'm not pleased with the current level of concentration I've developed. I feel as though it can be better and that I'm not taking care of the necessary conditions to improve it. It has felt pretty stagnant for a long while now. I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.

paul
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by paul » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:46 am

When you keep bringing your concentration back to the meditation subject, it has to be interesting to do so, meaning your meditation subject must suit your temperament. There are 40 subjects covering different fields of experience including the body, perception of external objects and social attitudes.
Last edited by paul on Sat Dec 10, 2016 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

SarathW
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by SarathW » Sat Dec 10, 2016 6:35 am

Faith!
The first step of the faith is to seriously looking at observing five precepts.
Does not matter you break five precepts but try hard to no to do so.
At least in the initial stage, level of your concentration is equal to your level of virtues. (Sila)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Mkoll
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by Mkoll » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:29 pm

SN 47.8 comes to mind: the simile of the cook. Finding a wholesome object that the mind delights in at the time gives rise to joy and then some concentration.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

dhammarelax
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by dhammarelax » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:58 pm

Digity wrote:I'm not pleased with the current level of concentration I've developed. I feel as though it can be better and that I'm not taking care of the necessary conditions to improve it. It has felt pretty stagnant for a long while now. I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.
Without a doubt and by far my meditation has improved immensly ever since I balance the energy I use in satying with my meditation object:

“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Excessive persistence arose in me, and because of the excessive persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail tightly with both hands; it would die then & there. In the same way, excessive persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… & excessive persistence will not arise in me again.’
“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Sluggish persistence arose in me, and because of the sluggish persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail loosely; it would fly out of his hand. In the same way, sluggish persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… excessive persistence, & sluggish persistence will not arise in me again.’” — MN 128

Aṅguttara Nikāya 6.55 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.55)
…“Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?”
“Yes, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“Yes, lord.”
“In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme.”
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

Digity
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by Digity » Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:48 am

dhammarelax wrote:
Digity wrote:I'm not pleased with the current level of concentration I've developed. I feel as though it can be better and that I'm not taking care of the necessary conditions to improve it. It has felt pretty stagnant for a long while now. I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.
Without a doubt and by far my meditation has improved immensly ever since I balance the energy I use in satying with my meditation object:

“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Excessive persistence arose in me, and because of the excessive persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail tightly with both hands; it would die then & there. In the same way, excessive persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… & excessive persistence will not arise in me again.’
“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Sluggish persistence arose in me, and because of the sluggish persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail loosely; it would fly out of his hand. In the same way, sluggish persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… excessive persistence, & sluggish persistence will not arise in me again.’” — MN 128

Aṅguttara Nikāya 6.55 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.55)
…“Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?”
“Yes, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“Yes, lord.”
“In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme.”
Yes, this is definitely my problem and something I'm working on. There's always this excessive persistence when it comes to concentrating on the breath and there's sort of a clenching in the body, because I'm trying too hard to stay with the breath. Because of this it's hard for me to relax. I really brought attention to this in my last sit and it went much better. I think I need to bring more attention to just balancing the energy I bring to being with the breath. Thanks you for posting this. It was really helpful to bring to my attention and I think got to the root of my problem.

dhammarelax
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by dhammarelax » Sun Dec 11, 2016 6:08 pm

Digity wrote:
dhammarelax wrote:
Digity wrote:I'm not pleased with the current level of concentration I've developed. I feel as though it can be better and that I'm not taking care of the necessary conditions to improve it. It has felt pretty stagnant for a long while now. I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.
Without a doubt and by far my meditation has improved immensly ever since I balance the energy I use in satying with my meditation object:

“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Excessive persistence arose in me, and because of the excessive persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail tightly with both hands; it would die then & there. In the same way, excessive persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… & excessive persistence will not arise in me again.’
“As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute… it occurred to me,
‘Sluggish persistence arose in me, and because of the sluggish persistence my concentration fell away.… Just as if a man might hold a quail loosely; it would fly out of his hand. In the same way, sluggish persistence arose in me.… I will act in such a way that uncertainty… excessive persistence, & sluggish persistence will not arise in me again.’” — MN 128

Aṅguttara Nikāya 6.55 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.55)
…“Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?”
“Yes, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“No, lord.”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?”
“Yes, lord.”
“In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme.”
Yes, this is definitely my problem and something I'm working on. There's always this excessive persistence when it comes to concentrating on the breath and there's sort of a clenching in the body, because I'm trying too hard to stay with the breath. Because of this it's hard for me to relax. I really brought attention to this in my last sit and it went much better. I think I need to bring more attention to just balancing the energy I bring to being with the breath. Thanks you for posting this. It was really helpful to bring to my attention and I think got to the root of my problem.
I dont exaggerate when I say that this changed my meditation, I use to put excesive energy and whenever I lost the concentration the mind would explode with restedlesness in scary fashion. The way i do it is I actually think "reduce the energy of the observation" but litlle bit by little bit becsue if I adjust it too much then i have sloth arise.
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

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Laurens
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by Laurens » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:51 am

Oddly for me it comes when I get less hung up on concentrating. If I sit with an attitude of "I have GOT TO concentrate now" my mind tends to go "no thanks" and I end up with little to no consistent concentration. If I sit with an attitude of "sometimes I will lose my meditation object, sometimes I won't. It's fine. Meditation doesn't always go well." I tend to be less hard on myself for losing concentration. Eventually distractions occur but take a backseat before sometimes vanishing entirely.

And if I'm really distracted I just let it be and try to watch the storm. I think an overly strict on yourself attitude to concentration is a big hindrance to it.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan

dhammarelax
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by dhammarelax » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:57 am

Laurens wrote:Oddly for me it comes when I get less hung up on concentrating. If I sit with an attitude of "I have GOT TO concentrate now" my mind tends to go "no thanks" and I end up with little to no consistent concentration. If I sit with an attitude of "sometimes I will lose my meditation object, sometimes I won't. It's fine. Meditation doesn't always go well." I tend to be less hard on myself for losing concentration. Eventually distractions occur but take a backseat before sometimes vanishing entirely.

And if I'm really distracted I just let it be and try to watch the storm. I think an overly strict on yourself attitude to concentration is a big hindrance to it.
You are in a good way, sounds like:

SN 46.3 Virtue

“..He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated. Whenever, students, a student closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated, on that occasion the enlightenment factor of equanimity is aroused by the student; on that occasion the student develops the enlightenment factor of equanimity; on that occasion the enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development in the student.”

SN 56.29 To Be Fully Understood

“Students, there are these Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.
“Of these Four Noble Truths, students, there is a noble truth that is to be fully understood; there is a noble truth that is to be abandoned; there is a noble truth that is to be realized; there is a noble truth that is to be developed.
“And what, students, is the noble truth that is to be fully understood? The noble truth of suffering is to be fully understood; the noble truth of the origin of suffering is to be abandoned; the noble truth of the cessation of suffering is to be realized; the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering is to be developed.
“Therefore, students, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’ " This is the origin of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’

SN 22.23 Full Understanding

"… And what, students, is full understanding? The destruction of lust, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of delusion. This is called full understanding.”
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

binocular
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by binocular » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:53 pm

Digity wrote:I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.
Cutting down on the junkfood. Eating healthy food can go a long way in making the mind saner and more useful.

Doing body-eye coordination exercises. For example, throwing a ball up high into the air and then catching it. This has helped me a lot with improving concentration.

Making a point of dressing decently. For me, what I wear has great impact on how useful my mind will be. Lazy, comfortable clothes make for a lazy mind.

Becoming more organized. Making a daily schedule and plan of work and keeping to it, and other elements of good personal organization. Does away with dozens of issues that would otherwise buzz through my mind.

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Laurens
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by Laurens » Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:33 am

Another thing that helps with mindfulness in general is to treat everything like its the first time you've ever done it. Look at the breath (and everything else) like it is a new and interesting experience. We've all been breathing our whole lives, its easy to view all breaths as the same. Viewing each one as something new and unique helps to keep your attention there.

The same goes for the act of brushing your teeth or drinking or anything. Do it as though you've never gone through those motions before and you will automatically be more mindful.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan

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alchemist_
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by alchemist_ » Sat Dec 24, 2016 5:06 pm

binocular wrote:
Digity wrote:I'd like to get some feedback on what lifestyle changes you can make to help improve concentration when you sit formally.
Cutting down on the junkfood. Eating healthy food can go a long way in making the mind saner and more useful.

Doing body-eye coordination exercises. For example, throwing a ball up high into the air and then catching it. This has helped me a lot with improving concentration.

Making a point of dressing decently. For me, what I wear has great impact on how useful my mind will be. Lazy, comfortable clothes make for a lazy mind.

Becoming more organized. Making a daily schedule and plan of work and keeping to it, and other elements of good personal organization. Does away with dozens of issues that would otherwise buzz through my mind.
I agree with that. In addition I've experienced that a general positive attitude can help to concentrate better during meditation sessions. Wake up early the morning, limit tv and futile entertainment (extremely violent or indecent), stop speaking badly about people, carry out own work seriously whatever it is, etc are good examples of what I mean.
:candle: alchemist :candle:

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ganegaar
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Re: What has helped your concentration the most?

Post by ganegaar » Mon Dec 26, 2016 12:25 am

"Sati-sampajanno" in daily life, as described in Satipattana Sutta, is advised to me by almost all of my meditation teachers!, and it does really help.
Sīlepatiṭṭhāya naro sapañño, cittaṃ paññañca bhāvayaṃ;
Ātāpī nipako bhikkhu, so imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭanti.

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