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Must it be breathing?

Tony1853Tony1853 Nyc New
edited May 29 in Meditation

Good morning all!

I find that i have a really tough time working with my breath.

It is often just too subtle for me to feel it at the opening of the nostril. While I do better with the sound of the breath (i have to sort of wrinkle up my nose to make it audible) i cant be doing that during sitting practice with a group!

That said:

  1. MUST i work with the breath? I have a much easier time focusing on sounds (using an app...e.g. running water) or bodily sensation, e.g., the way my hands feel on my lap)

  2. In working with the breath i find it easier to focus on the feeling of my chest expanding and contracting...sometimes the belly. Any reason I should not do this?

  3. Every time i put my attention on breath i begin controlling it. Without fail. Any tips for just observing it?

Thank you all!

May all beings be well and happy!

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 29

    @Tony1853 said: MUST i work with the breath?

    No.

    I have a much easier time focusing on sounds (using an app...e.g. running water) or bodily sensation, e.g., the way my hands feel on my lap)

    Then focus on that.

    1. In working with the breath i find it easier to focus on the feeling of my chest expanding and contracting...sometimes the belly. Any reason I should not do this?

    Nope.

    1. Every time i put my attention on breath i begin controlling it. Without fail. Any tips for just observing it?

    Relax the focus. Don't put your attention on it, just be aware you're doing it.

    Thank you all!

    No problem.

    May all beings be well and happy!

    Well, I can't speak for anyone else of course, but I'm on track... ! ;)

    lobster
  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    I know a fellow who slightly moistens the outside rim of each nostril...

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    There is nothing you "must" do. If there is something that works for you, then do that instead. It takes time to get past wanting to control the breath. But at the start, that isn't bad because that single-pointed focus is what trains your brain how to develop that concentration. There are a million ways to do that though. One of my favorites that my teacher taught was visualizing a feather at the tip of your nose,and when you exhale, it floats away, and inhale it comes back. Some people meditate by looking at a single point on the floor or wall or a candle flame. Developing concentration is the point, not the manner in which you find works best to do it. If you focus on doing belly-breathing, it is easier to feel the breath at the nostril because it is a deeper breath. Shallow chest breathing is harder to detect. But there is no reason you can't focus on whatever works for you.

    lobster
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    I'm a fan of counting exhalations -- one to ten and begin again. When something like a Big Mac interferes, just go back to one. The counting offers focus, even if it too can be a pain in the patoot.

    My feeling these days is that anyone who can count from one to ten without interruption can give up Buddhism and take up another hobby. :)

    lobsterSpinyNorman
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Lots of things can be used as a point of focus, the breath is generally a cheap and convenient choice.

    Focusing non judgmentally on sounds is taught. I like feeling the weight of the body and other physical sensations.

    lobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    You can focus on whatever works for you. However, one reason breathwork is recommended is that it's a specific physiological technique that has been proven to relax people and calm their busy mind, thereby facilitating focus (on whatever one chooses). If you don't need that in order to remain focussed, then carry on.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    I'm a fan of counting exhalations -- one to ten and begin again. When something like a Big Mac interferes, just go back to one. The counting offers focus, even if it too can be a pain in the patoot.

    I did that, then started counting inhalations and found my concentration had big holes in it. I also went for a period suddenly without counting, and my meditation started doing some magical things.

    My feeling these days is that anyone who can count from one to ten without interruption can give up Buddhism and take up another hobby. :)

    I don't know, I liked to count to 60 or 100 just to give it an added challenge.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 29

    for 3. I might observe myself controlling the breath. just observe whatever ends up happening. and observe your feelings about all that. and what is this observer anyhow?

    for meditation in general I wonder where you got your method and if you can talk to that person who wrote the method down or spoke it? Or ask someone else who also practices that method that you saw written or oral.

    I think sharon salzburg gives a talk about mindfulness of breathing in meditation where she says that the breath is like your best friend at a party. You drift around and people come up to you momentarily but you are also there with your best friend to be with them and come back to them.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Hi @Jeffrey <3 Welcome @Tony1853

    Relax the focus. Don't put your attention on it, just be aware you're doing it.

    :) This is very subtle and may take time to adjust and experiment with. Excellent advice from everyone ❤️💗🌈🙏🏿

    The reason the breath is chosen, it is always around, unless you are a zombie ;)
    I am assuming you are not a zombie and can do a training course with discernment ...

    For example this is an excellent course but the aro group are a bunch of [what is the polite term] weirdos. I should know it takes one to know one ...
    http://aromeditation.org

    If you are more zen orientated ... try the feedback available for
    http://www.treeleaf.org
    or do this course
    http://zenwest.ca/site/online-courses/

    If you have a Theravadin bent we can probably provide a monk to offer online tuition. Here is one of our finest.
    https://insighttimer.com/bhikkhujayasara

    In case you are a heretic, I have a site with info:
    http://cundi.weebly.com/meditation.html

    Breath on ... B)

    DhammaDragonShoshin
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    Breathing during meditation can be so easy but we insist on making it complicated.
    The more subtle your in-breath is, the easier becomes the whole process.
    Force the in-breath and you screw the whole process.
    Simple let breath in and take it straight to your belly, without raising your shoulders, nor your chest, and hardly making any noise.
    Your whole body will relax and release all tension by the third count.
    The less fuss we make, the easier it will become🐉

    lobsterkarastiHozan
  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    It need not be the nostrils. Some have greater success using the upper lip. It can also be the rising and falling of the abdomen. Fix your attention do not follow the breath in and out. Don't get confused by heterodox speculations which often lead to confusion and failure. It takes a long time so don't get impatient. Keep a little notebook. It helps to note progress.

    lobster
  • Tony1853Tony1853 Nyc New

    Thanks greatly to all who replied! I guess i began feeling like i had to focus on the breath because that's all I've read / hear about. I use the insight timer app and usw the runnning water ambient sound frequently. I also have one of those gently-whirring "sound machines" (sounds like a fan) and sometimes focus on that. I do have trouble sticking with one thing in a sitting...i might start off focused on the sound of running water then switch to a sensation in my elbow, then to the pain in my lower back, and perhaps back to the sound of water.

  • Tony1853Tony1853 Nyc New

    Here's another q (didnt know if it should be a new thread)

    Is there any value in repetitive chanting? I found a YouTube clip where the Vendana ("namo tassa...") is repeated 108 times. Ive used it a few times focusing on the spoken words...what do you guys think?

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Tony1853 said:
    Here's another q (didnt know if it should be a new thread)

    Is there any value in repetitive chanting? I found a YouTube clip where the Vendana ("namo tassa...") is repeated 108 times. Ive used it a few times focusing on the spoken words...what do you guys think?

    No-one can answer that for you I'm afraid. Just give you an opinion on what works for them.

    As a Westerner, I'm used to asking questions about things I don't know and someone giving me a definitive answer.

    I've discovered on this path that you need to learn to answer these questions yourself.

    Try things out and see what works for you.....

    Good luck!

    pommesetoranges
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    My tradition uses a lot of repetition. A LOT. I don't really buy into the idea that certain numbers are holy, but whatever works. I do find that repetition itself can induce a meditative effect. With a lot of teachers, it is often used to gauge dedication. If you are willing to do so much work, then it must be really important to you (that is the sense that I get though I have not been told that directly). A way to separate the riff-raff, so to speak. If you like it, there is certainly nothing wrong with it. If you hate it ,there is also nothing wrong with that. While dedication to practice can come with some rough patches, outright hatred of rituals isn't going to further you in your practice or on your path.

    BunksDhammaDragon
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    I do the good old mala round of 108 repetitions of Green Tara, Om mani, Manjushri and Guru Rinpoche's mantra.
    It really focuses my mind and grounds me.

    But the Dzogchen ritual of endless chanting and recitation in Tibetan was too much.
    Your heart has to be in it.
    🐉

    dhammachick
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    I find myself involuntarily swaying sometimes. Eyes closed in a comfortable seated position, I am suddenly aware that my hip hinge-point is activated in a back-and-forth movement. While I am all for the 'stillness' aspect, I have found on occasions that stopping it actually reduces my focus marginally....

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited May 30

    @Tony1853 said:>
    1. MUST i work with the breath? I have a much easier time focusing on sounds (using an app...e.g. running water) or bodily sensation, e.g., the way my hands feel on my lap)

    The breath is popular, but is it just one way of developing mindfulness of the body and calming the mind. I often use the sensation of pressure due to gravity/weight, which is also continuously available.

    More generally there are many meditation objects you can use, see here for example: https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=40_meditation_subjects
    I have tried using kasinas, basically coloured discs.

    1. In working with the breath i find it easier to focus on the feeling of my chest expanding and contracting...sometimes the belly. Any reason I should not do this?

    There are different methods, but I agree with Ajahn Brahm, who says to just notice the breath where it is most obvious, this is usually the movement of the chest/abdomen.

    1. Every time i put my attention on breath i begin controlling it. Without fail. Any tips for just observing it?

    The practice is mindfulness of breathing, which means paying attention to the breath, nothing more and nothing less. The ideal approach is alert yet relaxed.
    What you could try is deliberately controlling the breath for a short period, and then relaxing.

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @federica said:
    I find myself involuntarily swaying sometimes. Eyes closed in a comfortable seated position, I am suddenly aware that my hip hinge-point is activated in a back-and-forth movement.

    For some strange reason I got this picture in my head :winky: :lol:

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Tony1853 said:> Is there any value in repetitive chanting? I found a YouTube clip where the Vendana ("namo tassa...") is repeated 108 times. Ive used it a few times focusing on the spoken words...what do you guys think?

    Some people find it useful, try it and see. One option is to do a short period of chanting followed by a period of breath meditation. There is also the option of doing some walking meditation.

    It isn't one size fits all, and it is fine to explore the various methods and see how they work for you.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @genkaku said:> My feeling these days is that anyone who can count from one to ten without interruption can give up Buddhism and take up another hobby. :)

    Er, what were you saying?... :p

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Tony1853 said: I do have trouble sticking with one thing in a sitting...i might start off focused on the sound of running water then switch to a sensation in my elbow, then to the pain in my lower back, and perhaps back to the sound of water.

    It is good to stick with one thing, at least initially. Once the mind has calmed ( samatha ) you can broaden attention ( vipassana ).

    lobsterpommesetoranges
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    However on a more serious note...

    @Tony1853
    This might be of some "help"
    After a while the mind will no longer become charmed by its own thoughts...

    It all comes down to practice....

    Practice makes perfect...And perfect practice makes perfect practice
    A
    T
    I
    Effort
    N
    Concentration
    E

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Practice
    Attention
    Time
    Insight
    Effort
    Novaturience
    Concentration
    Eudaemonism

    (Filled your gaps for ya.... ;) :D )

  • Tony1853Tony1853 Nyc New

    I thank all of you who were so generous in your replies!!!

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    There is no "must," but one of the reasons I put in a plug for breath -- and possibly breath-counting -- is that breathing is real: Without it, not only is there no practice, there is also no life. Buddhism concerns itself with life and not so much with the gizmos that clutter that life.

    Just my take.

    lobster
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