Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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windaub
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Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by windaub » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:32 pm

First I'd like to say hello to everyone here, as it is my first post on this forum

My reason for subscribe is that I would like to get some guidance about my anapana practice.
I will be going in july at the Pa Auk forest monastery for 2 month, and so I have started practicing anapanasati from the instruction I found in the Pa Auk Sayadaw's book Know and seeing, the book "Practiting the janas" by Tina Rasmussen, And videos and books from Shaila Catherine.

I've been practicing this way with this technique for maybe 3 weeks. Before that I was doing kind of the same thing(mixed with vipassana Goenka), but my "anapana spot" was on the upper nose, so it was out of the zone between the nostril and the upper lips, so I decided to change my spot now so I won't have to start on a "bad basis" when arriving at the monastery. It was kind of hard at the beggining cause my previous spot was very sensitive and felt very strong and felt deeper, and kind of "masking" the sensation of breath on the nostrils. At some point I was forced to concentrate a lot to know if the spot I was feeling was the nostril or the upper nose, since both seemed to melt one into another.

But it is beggining to get better, and I am beggining to get the same kind of sensation I had in the upper nose in the "right zone". My question is about those sensations.
I've been reading many time about not focusing on the sensations of the breath, but the "conceptual breathe", as it is what produces concentration. This topic helped me understand a little:
cjmacie wrote:
Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:49 pm
zan wrote:I'm reading "Manual of Insight" by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw and on page 130, in speaking about jhana compared to pure insight meditation he writes:

"The only difference is that observation of the conceptual form of the breath produces tranquility, while attention to its touch and movement produces insight."

What does he mean by this?

I assume by "conceptual form of the breath" he is referencing the Visuddhimagga/commentary approach to anapanasati where one leaves the breath itself and takes it's nimitta, in the form of a mental light, instead as the object to be absorbed with and enter jhana. So in tranquility meditation one enters jhana with the concept of the breath in the form of a nimitta and in vipassana one stays with the touch and movement of the breath directly and practices insight. Does this sound like I understand correctly?
Translation as "conceptual" is problematic here, as what happens is that in the experience of concentrating, of trying to hold fixed on the subtle touch of the breath (at the upper-lip / opening of the nostril area, or a kasina, etc.) the perception of the object transforms -- all by itself by virtue of the fixation and how the mind functions -- into a mental counterpart. One doesn't "leave" the breath for a different object, but the experience of the breath transforms, gradually, into a purely mental object, a still mental presence, as the breath was being focused on such that it became ever more even and still.

As it -- the "counterpart" mental representation (transformation of breath sensation) -- becomes stronger, more centered and "secluding" from all else, it provides a locus into which the mind can fixedly absorb -- into its own fabrication, the nimitta evolved, from the fixedly attended sensory object; it can't so steadily "fix" tranquility in external sensations themselves as they're unstable, changing. In kasina usage, creating a uniform, extended field as object, it's formed to be as close to motionless as possible. The mind gives it (as well as the even, subtle breath) the fixedness.

Mental object but having root in relatively substantive sensory experience -- not "concept" in the sense of pure mental abstraction, s/t of observed external phenomena but often, especially in the Western highly abstract mind, an abstraction of other abstractions. Not concept like that. I doubt that Mahasi used a Burmese term intended with that kind of meaning as used in the West.

The even, subtle breath (or even, extended kasina; or uniform and unbounded metta, etc.) is highly refined -- hence "fine-material" for rupa. Mahasi is describing, on the one hand, the jhana form of samadhi. And different, on the other hand, the sensations of rising and falling of the abdomen with (abdominal) breathing as much coarser, more complicated and dynamic -- not suitable for fixed concentration, but perfect for moment-to-moment following ("noting"), developing into khanika samadhi form of concentration to support insight / vipassana. Sense-door sensations are unstable, changing, and vipassana studies them, holding each momentary phenomena briefly "fixed" to see through clearly by the momentary / khanika concentration.

I'm fairly confident that's what's meant, contrasting "samadhi-as-vehicle" practice with "vipassana-as-vehicle" practice.
This video of Shaila Catherine seems to be talking about the same thing :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBXx4M4 ... e&t=29m42s (see from the time of the link, 29m42, to around 33:00)

Everyone seems to says that you begin with the sensations because that's all there is in the beggining, and it evolves into something else.
Now I am experiencing a sensation which begins to stabilize between the right nostril and the upper lip(after moving countless times through all the prescribed area). It is a sensation that seems "thinner", like underlying the physical sensation. It is well localized but yet it doesn't seem to come from any physical phenomena. I can feel the physical breathe superimposed above this sensation, but this isn't the physical sensation, it is something more stable, which seems to be persistent, that I can feel during the in breath, during the out breath, and even when there is no breathe, in the pause between the in and out breathe.

So my question is: is this sensation the one I should be focused on when I meditate, rather than the physical passage of air? Is it the beggining of what cjmacie is calling the "mental counterpart representation of breathe"?

And I have a second question if someone here knows specifically the Pa Auk Sayadaw method: this sensation is felt as a "zone", meaning an area. And the the Tina Rasmussen's book, it is called the anapana "spot", it makes me feel like it should be like a precise point rather than a area. Any insight on this?

Thank you very much for reading me, have a very good day!

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Akashad
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Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by Akashad » Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:42 am

Hello,

I practice samatha according to the Pa Auk Sayadaw tradition.I hope i can help you.
So my question is: is this sensation the one I should be focused on when I meditate, rather than the physical passage of air? Is it the beggining of what cjmacie is calling the "mental counterpart representation of breathe"?
There is another "sensation" that's not quite physical. You can sense that it's more stable. Running in the background. In my experience,this background stable sensation will merge with actual physical breath when it is ripe or time or ready. It will usually happen like a "snap".It :snaps" together. When that happens you won't be able to break away from the breath.You'll be glued to it.This is when the MENTAL COUNTERPART which is a real visual image not made up, usually a light, will float in or appear wherever your breath AND this other sensation is. So this "other sensation" is NOT the mental counterpart.I'm not sure what it is.Perhaps it is vicara or ekagata. Or it's the breath slowly transitioning into a mental object.I don't know what it is all i know is it merges with the physical breath in a fixed snap".

Always remember what you are watching.

You are watching the BREATH AT THE anapanaspot.
YOu are watching the ACTUAL PHYSICAL BREATH at the anapanaspot.

Not imaginary breath. ACTUAL physical breath.

Also remember you are NOT watching the skin,or the pressure on the skin,the sensation,the cool,the warmth.You are NOT watching these things.You may use it first to anchor the mind.Some of the Sayadaw's students who have developed Samadhi, have put menthol on their upper lip.Although this is too gross it's useful like counting to anchor the breath.

So how do you perceive the breath without sensations of cool,warmth,pressure on the skin.You simply just DON"T pay attention to temperature etc.If you feel it you feel it.But don't think pressure,pressure,pressure,cool,cool,cool,warmth,warmth,warmth don't elaborate and zone in on the various physical aspects of the breath.Simply KNOW the breath at the anapanaspot. This perception will become clearer as you practice.Just keep staying with the breath at one spot.It will unfold on its own.
And I have a second question if someone here knows specifically the Pa Auk Sayadaw method: this sensation is felt as a "zone", meaning an area. And the the Tina Rasmussen's book, it is called the anapana "spot", it makes me feel like it should be like a precise point rather than a area. Any insight on this?
The anapanaspot is NOT JUST a PRECISE POINT.IT CAN BE A REGION. It's different for different people.It could be a dot on your nose.It could be a narrow spot.Or it could be a larger area.Like a triangle or a circle.So your anapanaspot could be the area from right nose to your lower lip.It could be on top of your nose.Absolutely.Full absorption on top of your nose.Absolutely.It's not just a small tiny precise point/ dot under your lip.It could be larger.The key is to watch the breath crossing A SPOT or AREA or REGION over and over and over again till the mind stills itself.Its no about where it is.generally keep it close to the nose because one is watching the breath which is perceived near the nose and you don't want attention divided if you watch the breath say on your feet or forehead.Also don't watch the breath anywhere inside your nose or outside.Don't follow the breath around.For some reason it's doesn't work.I'm not sure why.It is possible for you to start from scratch and start under your nose and upper lip like the Sayadaw teaches.I did that,it use to be on top of my nose this "other sensation" and with a little bit of practice changing the anapanaspot region this "other sensation" is now constantly a dot under my lip.Just like the Sayadaw taught.

I hope this helps.Have a good practice at the monastery.

atipattoh
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Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by atipattoh » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:14 pm

For the next 2 months, try just continue with the foundation. Don't rush into anything, don't anticipate. I use to encourage reading "Practicing the Jhanas", but i think you should put that aside for awhile. Too much words. Don't rush to place your awareness at the spot, just do the basic for now. The teacher that is going to teach you later, let him do the thinking and planning for you. Only then he can access your progress and guide you accordingly. It is easier to guide than undo.

For now until you are at the monastery, just meditate and learn to relex. If you loose the breath, it is ok, be relax, it will come back. You would want to learn to glide, not continuously flapping the wings all the time; like an eagle gliding in the vast space. Another expression is your consciousness, like a lotus flower floating on water.

Only and only If you are already sort of forgetting your body, then you may try to place your awareness on the breath at the spot, like you are sitting in the room and yet able to know the moon in the sky without much forcing of knowing it; that is the way you want to know the breath, without forcing to know it and yet "you" are there. You have never touch the moon, yet you know it. This is the meaning of knowing, let the mind softly touches the moon.

Don't rush, don't try to change anything, let it unfold naturally. If your body feeling comes back, it is ok, you are softer now, that bodily feeling will go away naturally. If the breath sensation comes back, remember that the breath is only your tool, the spot is your object. Continue to know the breath at the spot, like you know the moon.

windaub
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Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by windaub » Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:20 pm

Akashad wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:42 am
I hope this helps.Have a good practice at the monastery.
Thank you very much, it actually helps SO MUCH, removing doubt about those little details. I'll just watch the physical breath where it crosses the AREA ( :smile: ) and let this other sensation do what it does (by the way I kind of like the idea that it could be vicara). I know it is simple, but sometimes it's also easy to doubt when you spend hours watching your breath without being guided. Thank you again for taking the time to answer me so precisely.

Thank you also atipattoh, it also helps as there are periods when I can be a little hard on myself. I think I'm slowly getting it. Those days I'm meditating less than the previous weeks, but I tend to be way more relaxed and things go smoother, sitting periods are shorter yet very smooth.

Thanks again to both of you.


windaub
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 5:23 pm

Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by windaub » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:22 pm

rightviewftw wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 2:28 am
Are you going to this place OP?
https://www.paaukforestmonastery.org/
Yes, that's where I'm going.
Thank you for the book, I have it already, it is indeed very good. Small, concise and straight to the point.

windaub
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 5:23 pm

Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by windaub » Wed May 02, 2018 9:05 am

Hello again,

I stepped on a document from http://paauktawyausa.org/
http://paauktawyausa.org/wp-content/upl ... 8-2013.pdf

Saying:
Step Four
Focus on the breath. When you are able to be aware of the breath continuously for 15 to
20 minutes, you may be said to have become quite familiar with the breath. You may
then begin to focus more, and concentrate more on the breath. At the previous stage,
when you were aware of the breath, you knew also the touching point. But at this stage,
you try to ignore the touching point, and focus on the breath alone. By doing so, your
mind will become more concentrated. If, however, you do it too soon (before you are
familiar with the breath), you will find that tension gathers in your face.
Now I'm a little lost, try to ignore the touching point, and focus on the breath alone? What does this mean?

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cjmacie
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Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by cjmacie » Mon May 21, 2018 11:09 am

Akashad wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:42 am
...
Always remember what you are watching.

You are watching the BREATH AT THE anapanaspot.
YOu are watching the ACTUAL PHYSICAL BREATH at the anapanaspot.

Not imaginary breath. ACTUAL physical breath.
...
Basically this is all OK. Just in the terminology I learned (from a monk originally ordained by Mahasi Sayadaw, more recently working 20 years or so with the Pa Auk Sayadaw), one would say it's watching the sensation of breath touching the spot / area. "Physical" is a s/w loaded term derived from the modern scientific objectification, strictly meaning observed without direct involvement. Ok probably to think of it as physical, especially in the sense that it's not at all imagined, but it is the mental awareness of the phenomenon of the sensation of breath touching. It's also said that there's a special quality to "touch" (i.e. among the 6 sense doors), in that it involves earth, air, and fire aspects of perceptual elements (Mahadhatu -- but not water), hence aspects of substance, movement, and temperature. That is not to say it's vipassana style focus on those elemental sub-aspects of phenomena. I think this specialness of "touch" may have to do with it being basically "proprioceptive", i.e. a phenomenon of the bodily reaction to some form of contact. Different from vision, hearing, smell, taste in that they begin with direct perception of external stimuli.

The experience being the mental representation of sensation (i.e. a phenomenon) allows for increasing concentration to gradually intensify and transform the experience into a purely mental object (nimitta of one form or other), which is, in the end, what the mind absorbs into -- in the words of that monastic teacher: "the mind falls into it; it swallows the mind". In effect, the mind finally absorbs into itself!

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pilgrim
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Re: Anapana & Pa Auk Monastery Technique

Post by pilgrim » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:15 am

Bhante Subhuti of the Pa Auk tradition gives pretty detailed instructions on the breath meditation in his blog.
https://subhuti.withmetta.net/2018/06/1 ... editation/

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