Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the breath

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
J0rrit
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Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the breath

Post by J0rrit » Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:21 am

Hello there,

I have a question about this what Ajahn Brahm says. He says to ask yourself 'how do I know that I'm breathing'? And to focus on just that! Focus on the experience of how you know that you are breathing. When I read this I just followed this. For me, it happened to be a concept. I followed a concept of the breath, made of sensations from the nasal area combined with those of the chest and a little of the abdomen, but this is a CONCEPT. Now I'm further in my practice and I notice what a differens it mades when I don't focus like that anymore, but just on the real individual sensations. The real sensations give my mind far more calm than the concept. Also, for Jhana it is in my eyes better to focus on the smaller area of just the nostrils, than on a combination of many sensations.

My explanation is that this mind-made concept costs energy to the mind to produce, instead of focussing on sensations that are allready there, so reall letting go can be accomplished. What are your opinions about this? To my amazement Ajahn Brahm gives instructions like this, because in my mind this just doesn't really work as good as to focus on the individual sensations themselves, instead of a combined CONCEPT.

What are your opinions about this?

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VinceField
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by VinceField » Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:01 pm

He says to ask yourself 'how do I know that I'm breathing'? And to focus on just that! Focus on the experience of how you know that you are breathing. When I read this I just followed this. For me, it happened to be a concept. I followed a concept of the breath, made of sensations from the nasal area combined with those of the chest and a little of the abdomen, but this is a CONCEPT. Now I'm further in my practice and I notice what a differens it mades when I don't focus like that anymore, but just on the real individual sensations. The real sensations give my mind far more calm than the concept.
In my opinion, you were initially not following the instructions as were given, which was to focus on the experience of the breath sensations, but you added the mental fabrication of trying to conceptualize the process as well. When you finally let go of this mental fabrication, then you began to follow his advice as it was given. I don't believe Brahm's instructions here are unique or different from any other breath meditation instruction.

Congrats on figuring out that you could let go of the unnecessary conceptualization that you added to the original instructions. :clap:

:anjali:

identification
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by identification » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:22 am

VinceField wrote:
He says to ask yourself 'how do I know that I'm breathing'? And to focus on just that! Focus on the experience of how you know that you are breathing. When I read this I just followed this. For me, it happened to be a concept. I followed a concept of the breath, made of sensations from the nasal area combined with those of the chest and a little of the abdomen, but this is a CONCEPT. Now I'm further in my practice and I notice what a differens it mades when I don't focus like that anymore, but just on the real individual sensations. The real sensations give my mind far more calm than the concept.
In my opinion, you were initially not following the instructions as were given, which was to focus on the experience of the breath sensations, but you added the mental fabrication of trying to conceptualize the process as well. When you finally let go of this mental fabrication, then you began to follow his advice as it was given. I don't believe Brahm's instructions here are unique or different from any other breath meditation instruction.

Congrats on figuring out that you could let go of the unnecessary conceptualization that you added to the original instructions. :clap:

:anjali:
I remember ajahn Brahms instructions in his book. He said best not to focus on the stomach or nostrils because then it becomes nostril or stomach meditation and not breath meditation. In his book he also said, how do know you're breathing? Focus right there! I'm pretty certain when he said that he wasnt referring to any type of sensation but instead a focus on the place where the knowing of the breath is taking place. I also vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of not focusing on any sensations because you're trying to leave the body behind.

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VinceField
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by VinceField » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:12 am

identification wrote: I remember ajahn Brahms instructions in his book. He said best not to focus on the stomach or nostrils because then it becomes nostril or stomach meditation and not breath meditation. In his book he also said, how do know you're breathing? Focus right there! I'm pretty certain when he said that he wasnt referring to any type of sensation but instead a focus on the place where the knowing of the breath is taking place. I also vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of not focusing on any sensations because you're trying to leave the body behind.
This is directly from Brahm's meditation instructions:
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.
There is no instruction on creating mental fabrications or conceptualizing the process. He simply seems to be saying that one should not focus on finding the location of the breath, but rather take in the experience of breathing as a whole.

Perhaps I can see how "experience that which tells you what the breath is doing" could be confused when taken out of context, but he simply seems to be speaking of the combined bodily sensations of the breathing process. As he says, focus on the experience itself, which is a bodily fabrication, not a mental fabrication.

identification
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by identification » Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:35 pm

VinceField wrote:
identification wrote: I remember ajahn Brahms instructions in his book. He said best not to focus on the stomach or nostrils because then it becomes nostril or stomach meditation and not breath meditation. In his book he also said, how do know you're breathing? Focus right there! I'm pretty certain when he said that he wasnt referring to any type of sensation but instead a focus on the place where the knowing of the breath is taking place. I also vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of not focusing on any sensations because you're trying to leave the body behind.
This is directly from Brahm's meditation instructions:
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.
There is no instruction on creating mental fabrications or conceptualizing the process. He simply seems to be saying that one should not focus on finding the location of the breath, but rather take in the experience of breathing as a whole.

Perhaps I can see how "experience that which tells you what the breath is doing" could be confused when taken out of context, but he simply seems to be speaking of the combined bodily sensations os. f the breathing process. As he says, focus on the experience itself, which is a bodily fabrication, not a mental fabrication.
I was always confused about this. You cleared it up, thanks.:)

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VinceField
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by VinceField » Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:54 pm

My pleasure buddy :)

ftw
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by ftw » Thu Oct 02, 2014 2:00 am

Wow, I just tried an hour of this focusing on experience of breath. That question made it. How do you know you're breathing in/out? That! I need to practice some more but i believe this makes me more mindfull of breath itself than just focusing on sensation of in/out breath in the nostrils. Because then i'm focusing on that sensation. Marvelous. Thank you. Also reminds me of Anapanasati instructions :)

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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:17 am

VinceField wrote: Perhaps I can see how "experience that which tells you what the breath is doing" could be confused when taken out of context, but he simply seems to be speaking of the combined bodily sensations of the breathing process. As he says, focus on the experience itself, which is a bodily fabrication, not a mental fabrication.
Yes, a simple paying attention to what breathing is actually like, how it feels. Probably closer to following the breath than guarding the breath. I've observed that with anapanasati people can get very bogged down in the technicalities of method, and thereby miss the point.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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James the Giant
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by James the Giant » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:56 am

VinceField wrote: This is directly from Brahm's meditation instructions:
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.
There is no instruction on creating mental fabrications or conceptualizing the process. He simply seems to be saying that one should not focus on finding the location of the breath, but rather take in the experience of breathing as a whole.

Perhaps I can see how "experience that which tells you what the breath is doing" could be confused when taken out of context, but he simply seems to be speaking of the combined bodily sensations of the breathing process. As he says, focus on the experience itself, which is a bodily fabrication, not a mental fabrication.
And from the next page of Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, he makes it more clear that he's talking about sensations:
You know the in-breath at the very first moment,when the first sensation of inbreathing arises. Then you observe as those sensations develop gradually through the whole course of one in-breath,not missing even a moment of the in-breath
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

J0rrit
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by J0rrit » Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:56 pm

VinceField wrote:
identification wrote: I remember ajahn Brahms instructions in his book. He said best not to focus on the stomach or nostrils because then it becomes nostril or stomach meditation and not breath meditation. In his book he also said, how do know you're breathing? Focus right there! I'm pretty certain when he said that he wasnt referring to any type of sensation but instead a focus on the place where the knowing of the breath is taking place. I also vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of not focusing on any sensations because you're trying to leave the body behind.
This is directly from Brahm's meditation instructions:
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.
There is no instruction on creating mental fabrications or conceptualizing the process. He simply seems to be saying that one should not focus on finding the location of the breath, but rather take in the experience of breathing as a whole.

Perhaps I can see how "experience that which tells you what the breath is doing" could be confused when taken out of context, but he simply seems to be speaking of the combined bodily sensations of the breathing process. As he says, focus on the experience itself, which is a bodily fabrication, not a mental fabrication.
I focussed on the knowing-part of where I know the breath for about one year....Not knowing that it was a concept of the breath, a mental fabrication of the bodily sensations...I'm glad that I'm now aware of that.

So I focussed on a mental fabrication of the breath, getting one step away from the actual experience/sensations of the breath. How stupid....

ftw
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by ftw » Thu Oct 09, 2014 12:48 pm

J0rrit wrote: I focussed on the knowing-part of where I know the breath for about one year....Not knowing that it was a concept of the breath, a mental fabrication of the bodily sensations...I'm glad that I'm now aware of that.

So I focussed on a mental fabrication of the breath, getting one step away from the actual experience/sensations of the breath. How stupid....
I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Hopefully not much damage was done :)
This is exactly why I opened my thread on Anapanasati beginners instructions. To avoid doing "stupid" things, since I don't have a teacher available around here.

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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the br

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:40 pm

J0rrit wrote: So I focussed on a mental fabrication of the breath, getting one step away from the actual experience/sensations of the breath. How stupid....
No need to feel stupid. Asking questions like this is very sensible.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

identification
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the breath

Post by identification » Mon Jan 12, 2015 1:41 am

After studying further I don't think the answers in this thread were correct. I was always frustrated trying to develop concentration with the physical sensations of the breath. It is too unstable, especially the stomach. I was just recently introduced to pa auk sayadaw who teaches to focus on the concept of the breath because it is more stable. It brought me back to this thread. I'm pretty certain Ajahn Brahm is teaching something similar. Since a concept is easier to concentrate on and Ajahn Brahm is a jhana teacher why would he be teaching to concentrate on anything else besides a concept. Ajahn Brahm is a part of the school of thought that believes wisdom can't be gained until you've entered the jhanas so why would he teach you to focus on a part of ultimate reality before entering into jhanas. There would be no point.

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mikenz66
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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the breath

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 1:53 am

Yes, as I said, my understanding is that deep concentration requires a stable object, and concepts are more stable than physical details. Hence Pa Auk, Brahm, commentaries, etc eventually use a nimitta in the mind for absorption.

However, physical sensations, such as the abdominal movement, can be a useful "anchor" for investigating rise and fall of phenomena. Different approaches seem to suit different people.

Mike

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Re: Following Ajahn Brahm: Focus on the experience of the breath

Post by SarathW » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:09 am

Breath is a bodily fabrication which ceases in fourth Jhana.
You use bodily fabrications to eliminate verbal fabrications. (Vitakka , Vikara)
When verbal fabrications ceases, the Nimitta (concept) arises and you take that as the object.
So it is not easy to go direct to concepts unless you are an experienced meditator.
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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