I've been previously practicing meditation with the breathing, but for various reasons, among which my inability to latch on to the breath and my facility to focus upon outer objects, I want to engage in outer object-focused meditation. I'd like to know if anyone can explain the process by which to engage in these meditations, and explain the elements linked with focusing and analyzing the object. Thanks
I cannot answer your original question, however, I second the comments above: stick to the breaths.
I would recommend using Buddhadasa Bhikkhu interpretation of the scriptures for the 1st step of your meditation: learn the long breath by controlling the flow of air coming in and out of your lungs, this will relax your body and help you move to the next steps.
Much more details here:
Breath watching has tremendous advantages over outer objects. First of all breath is joining point of mind-body and consciousness. No breath no life. More unruly breath is, more disturbed you are. Watching breath slows it down and bring about a balance much faster compared to other techniques. Secondly it is what Buddha taught. Ofcourse one can start with outer objects as is practiced in yoga or other spiritual sects. You can start with sound as is practiced in Nachiren Buddhist sect but I must warn you that it is not what Buddha prescribed. Buddha's techniques and teachings are far superior to any sect teachings or techniques. I recommend changing your lifestyle and even try Vipassna to increase ability to stay focussed.
Latching onto the breath is not exactly easy, even if the mind has non-distraction, i.e., is free from hindrances. This is because watching the breath with an ordinary mind causes the breath to calm so, very soon after, the breath is often too calm for the ordinary mind to discern or "latch onto".
Establishing the mind on an external object, such as the posture & parts of the body (arms, legs, hands, head, etc), can assist here because it can keep the mind both clear and, in particular, open.
In fact, in the Anapanasati Sutta, the instruction literally begins with the words: "the meditator sits with spine erect establishing/maintaining mindfulness in front of one's face".
In my experience, I have found that maintaining a clear & open mind ('externally') has resulted in infinitely better breath meditation (better than deliberately attempting to 'inwardly' watch the breath). The more I deliberately attempt to not watch the breath, the more clear the breath is in the mind. I play a game of 'reverse psychology' or 'play hard to get' with the breath.
Please remember, the ultimate training in Buddhism is abandoning craving therefore the less craving the better.
Initially you will need vitakka and vicāra to sustain your attention. 1st bring your mind to the object, periodically assess if it is with the object and re establish your attention regardless you mind has wandered away or not.
Once you have established mindfulness of the object you can further analyse it. 1st a gross level and then at subtler levels. Initially you will feel just the contact and sensations. At a gross level you will see it starts and ends. Closer examination you will see it is made of smaller tingling sensations. This answer give the totality of the ways to analyse the object.