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Samatha and vipassana

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

So i’ve been altering my meditation technique a little, shifting from the traditional vipassana breathing while watching the belly to the samatha technique of watching the breath on the nostrils, and it has brought some interesting results where I felt almost as if I was encompassed by a bubble of air. Very intriguing.

I’ve been doing a little reading on these two techniques and have found it interesting that the Buddha in the Pāli cannon doesn’t talk much about doing vipassana or samatha, instead he talks about “doing jhana”. Where he does talk about vipassana and samatha he talks about them as separate mental qualities, developed in tandem. The one focuses on Calm and the other on Insight.

Anyway, I can recommend if you’re feeling a bit stale from doing a lot of vipassana to try the samatha technique, i’ve read that they reinforce eachother as you try to attain deeper levels of meditation.

Alex

Comments

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    The experiences of meditation are not the goal. Oh, in Hindu yoga it is the goal. But not in Buddhism. In fact, Buddhist monks will tell you that if you focus too much on the meditation experiences, you will just be distracting yourself.

    The purpose of meditation is to discipline the mind so that you can learn to remain mindful when you are not sitting on the meditation cushion. This kind of ongoing mindfulness is where we start to understand and to change.

    lobsterShoshin
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited March 29

    @Kerome said:
    Where he does talk about vipassana and samatha he talks about them as separate mental qualities, developed in tandem. The one focuses on Calm and the other on Insight.

    I’m with the Buddha on this one. Where did you learn about them as separate techniques? I’ve heard those two focuses (abdomen and nostrils) as recommended when starting from different mental states: the abdomen for helping to relieve restlessness, and the nostrils for sleepiness. Is that similar to what you mean? I’ve mainly heard Vipassana described as mindful breathing accompanied by mental noting when thoughts or feelings arise.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    I’m with the Buddha on this one. Where did you learn about them as separate techniques?

    Lol yes, I think we are all with the Buddha. I came across ‘samatha’ as a meditation on Calm from a Theravada source I think, a summary somewhere. And ‘vipassana’ from S.N. Goenka and Mahasi Sayadaw. It’s not so important.

    The main thing I was trying to communicate was that if your primary focus has been insight for a while, shifting to meditate on calm may bear unexpected fruit. The exact technique and the underlying motivation both have an effect.

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • Aha, yes. Thanks for clarifying, @Kerome. I’m with you now (as well as the Buddha...).

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    the abdomen for helping to relieve restlessness, and the nostrils for sleepiness.

    These very subtle nuances can have a huge impact. For example the above.
    I find walking meditation or chanting helps with drowsiness.
    https://buddhistspiritualityblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/mindfulness-of-breathing/

    Kundo
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I rarely have trouble with drowsiness in meditation, although I do notice that often at some point during the meditation the eyes change from ‘relaxed looking’ to ‘staring’.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Staring means you may have entered a trance state. Which can indicate a subtle form of drowsiness.

    ... and back to attentive awareness
    https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/08/attention-awareness-how-to-meditate-successfully/

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Staring means you may have entered a trance state. Which can indicate a subtle form of drowsiness.

    ... and back to attentive awareness
    https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/08/attention-awareness-how-to-meditate-successfully/

    Very interesting article @lobster, thank you! I read it but will revisit it sometime soon for a second read.

    I noticed today that the tendency for my awareness to ‘solidify’ as it were extends to parts of my touch as well. I notice for example that areas of my skin that were cold are no longer cold after a period of meditation. In general it seems that a whole segment of my awareness of my body kind of ceases to function after a while in meditation, it’s a little bit like staring.

    Sometimes I also lose the attention on the core area of my sight, and it shifts to somewhere inside. During my meditation there tend to be several things that I’m focussed on: the breath in my nostrils, the core area of my sight, my peripheral vision and a kind of general awareness of my body. As I meditate more, it seems these things all start to unify a bit. It’s strange, today I came away with a slight headache on the right side of my head.

    But i’ve not yet learnt to identify the exact how’s of the trance state, on the one hand I notice after a while my ‘fluid’ attention diminishing and becoming more rigid, and on the other I notice that the areas of my attention are intact and it becomes easier to maintain focus on the nostrils.

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