Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where did my breath go?

I've noticed a change in my meditation lately. After quite a period of formless mahamudra meditation, I've recently been practicing Shamatha with the breath as the focus.

But, funny thing, I can't really find the breath to focus on.

It's pretty much there when I start ... a sense of it popping up here and there, as my awareness begins to stabilise. I see it here, I see it there! .... and gradually the breath and awareness settle around each other, as it were.

Yet as my mind settles, the breath gradually goes out of view. As my mind settles, then I know more clearly, and the breath ceases to be a 'thing' which I can focus on. Instead of this 'thing' called the breath, which one might assume to be pretty continuous, and solid, a process with continuity, as it were ... there's .... well, what is there?

There are sensations, physical sensations, as the breath touches parts of the body - the lungs, the nose, etc, and leaves a sensation there. I pick these up. At other times there's a sense of energy, not clearly physical, which I am somehow 'associating' with the breath, though of that I can't be sure. It's just that they arise where the breath 'ought' to be, if you see what I mean?

At other times, what is there? There's a constellation of something, not sure what you'd call it .... maybe a vague cloud of vibrations, pulses, shimmerings, which again I'd collate all that together, and assume it to be breath.

Actually, there's no 'thing' there which is the 'breath'. There's shimmerings and appearances, and I have to somehow string that together, bunch it up and package it, and call that 'breath'. But that is not what I am aware of. I'm aware of a bunch of ever changing and ever varied stuff, which doesn't happen in a particular place, such as the nostrils, or the abdomen. It happens 'somewhere' ... well, nowhere really, it just happens, as a location? Nope. No location.

It's not at a particular place. It's not a particular 'thing', with continuity. It's actually a dance of appearances, which I have to almost cobble together and call it my breath.

So what's the issue with shamatha then?

Well, it's actually hard to settle the mind on this after a certain point, as there isn't really an 'object' to settle around at all. There's no one 'thing' which to keep the awareness resting on .... so this isn't a central point which to grasp onto, or focus down on, or keep hold off like I did in years gone by.

There's just this shimmering, and I can't really find it!

So what to do then? I'm kinda used to formless meditation at present, where there is no object of meditation, where I just rest in awareness, where there is resting, and bringing out of the knowing aspect, of clarity. But what that resting, knowing mind rests/knows is whatever appears, and whatever 'actually is' at that moment, which varies continuously.

Now, I'm trying to find an 'object' to rest the mind on, and I'm kinda struggling to find it.

So ... interesting to see how this plays out. How will this develop .... at present I've no idea, which is cool :-)


marpa said...

It´s just another postmeditation experience (after mahamudra meditation). You shold sustain mindfulness of mind´s nature during the shamata practice, and all the breathing sensations will become Coemergent apearances. That will help you to enter into mixing (meditation and postmeditation).


Chodpa said...

Hi Marpa,

many thanks for your comment.

I was actually describing 'meditation' experiences, rather than 'post-meditation' experiences as you mention in the first sentence of your comment. I wonder how this affects the suggestion you give?

best wishes to you in the Dharma,


Anonymous said...

Chodpa, thanks for this observation. I find it good to talk and hear about practice experiences.

tropicalrob said...

Hi Chodpa,

I personally would suggest you keep to the formless meditation, as ultimately that's far superior! The only practical use for focussing on the breath is if a lot of distracting discursive thoughts are popping up. But once you're re-focussed, why bother with it?!


By the way, really like your blog. Great stuff!

Chodpa said...

Hi Robert,

many thanks for your comments.

I personally would suggest you keep to the formless meditation, as ultimately that's far superior!

The only practical use for focussing on the breath is if a lot of distracting discursive thoughts are popping up. But once you're re-focussed, why bother with it?!

Sometimes there are reasons for doing things which aren't about 'ultimate' but are instead about 'useful' for a particular time and place. Returning to resting with the breath has been a very revealing exercise for myself at this time.

I guess I'm of a mind to judge things primarily on their usefulness in particular circumstances, rather than in one 'overall' judgement.

I think one of the most interesting things for me had been the switch to Shamatha practice per se, rather than whether there was an object or form to practice or not. As knowing seems to have developed since the last time I practiced shamatha, it's been interesting to see how that's affected shamatha, and how this knowing can't really be 'turned off' so shamatha is quite a different experience from previously.

Again, it's been interesting watching how
For myself, it matters little what the object of meditation is, or if there is indeed any object at all. But each has it's own dynamic, and often carries different flavours which reveal knowing in different ways.

once again, many thanks for your comments, and best wishes to you in the Dharma ....

PasserBy said...

What expressed is truly wonderful!
It is so much to my liking that I have to say something.

Always only an asumption collating together and called 'something'.
Be it breath, anger, fear or anything manifesting;
Always only sensations or heart beats or coldness or an arising thought of something.
Exactly like what Buddha taught in anatta,
Merely aggregates and 18 dhatus playing;
With no agent anywhere found hiding.

When experience matures in the practice of great ease,
The experience is maha! Great, miraculous and bliss.
In mumdane acitivies of seeing, eating and tasting,
When expressed poetically is asif the entire universe meditating.

Whatever said and expressed are really all different flavours,
Of this everything of everything dependently originating,
As this moment of vivid shimmering.

May Buddha blessed you full enlightenment,
good luck and forgive my busy-bodying!