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I have previously asked questions on this forum, and now I have gained some familiarity with meditation. I am primarily doing breath meditation. When I practice, my thoughts are barely distractions at all. I can easily stay focused, but I cannot narrow my attention to the sensations at the tip of the nose. What occurs in meditation feels like a clear, yet imprecise awareness.

I know from reading on the subject that the sharpness I am looking for comes with gladdening the mind, or applying effort. Yet, neither seem fruitful in my practice. I remain very weakly focused on an imprecise object, more or less the face and nose area.

Similarly, it often happens that while meditating my thoughts dissipate completely, or to a near absence. I keep hearing different types of advice, some people experienced in meditation advising me to not use the breath, some people advising sticking to it.

Given that I am very avoidant towards experience, I am doubtful towards centring my awareness on a single object. I would like to be more alert and aware, as well as awake, in general. Yet, I cannot visualize anything at all, am mostly emotionally barren, and feel unmotivated in general. I remember applying meditations on emptiness quite intensely in earlier years, and now I feel without much suffering, but also without much enthusiasm.

Any thoughts?

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I can easily stay focused, but I cannot narrow my attention to the sensations at the tip of the nose.

If you are craving when you manage to get the attention, or being averse when you cannot, you are not doing the meditation right.

Early on, the results are not due to the fact that you were (or weren't) able to keep your attention: they are due to whether you had sustained effort, to keep your attention, by bringing your mind back to the middle of the upper lip of the nose area. This is what Vitarka and Vicara are.

Yet, neither seem fruitful in my practice. I remain very weakly focused on an imprecise object, more or less the face and nose area.

You seem to be craving to be able to do this.

Initially say you mind stick to the chosen object, nevertheless you should continuously try to bring it back. At the start of the breath, see if the breath is on the chosen spot: if not, bring it back, if it is on the breath still redirect it back to the chosen spot as when you would bring it back when the attention had gone away.

When your mind goes away to another object, or just thinking and pondering, there are three sensations which come by: i.e. sensations are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Try to see the thing's sensation before bringing your mind back. For example if you get a leg pain, see the pain and some aspect of its impermanence. Then bring back your mind.

  • Two phrases that weren't clear to me. One was "Initially say you mind stick". The other was "if it is redirect it" which seems to contrast the previous "if not" but I'm not sure that the contrast makes sense: perhaps it should say, if not, bring it back, <strike>if it is</strike> and redirect it back". – ChrisW Mar 15 '17 at 15:14
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    When you you check you mind it is either on the object or not. Regardless of whether it is with the object or not just redirect you mind to the object (Vicara). This is same mental action as if then the mind is away even when it is on the object. Simple formulae: initially apply the mind to the object (Vitakka) - re apply apply the mind to the object (Vicara). – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Mar 15 '17 at 15:22
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For a change, why not you practice a different kind of meditation? The maithri bhavana (loving kindness meditation) is the most important. It is not easy for everyone to properly do Anapanasati because many other obstacles different to what you have experienced come up - if not now, then in the time to come. So why not make a change in practicing Asubha Bhavana (Meditation on Loathsomeness) and Dhathu/indriya Bhavana (Analysis of Four Elements).

Please keep in mind that you should not mix one meditation with another. You should get out of one type of meditation to get into another. Always before starting to meditate, spend a minute in being aware of your surrounding. Then always without fail start doing these two steps. First – before start of a meditation, say to self (Vitakka) that you are about to leave ‘normal’ self, and entering into a meditative state. Next – after each type of meditation - say to self (Vitakka) that you are about to leave ‘the meditative state’ to that of the day to day. As you start going into Jhana/Dyana states this practice will safeguard you.

Anytime when there is wandering thought, the concentration is not there. The appearing of a nimitta is a sign of concentration. When you develop an anapanasati nimitta, and practice it further, then you need a good knowledge of teachings (suttas) for you to overcome obstacles that you face. That is why in an earlier post – last week – I said that there is many a untruth in English Text on Dhamma - On Meditation specially. Nowhere in the Doctrine (Sutta) it is mentioned that one becomes a stream entrant (Sotapanna) thru meditation. It is by listening to dhamma that a disciple of the Buddha gets rid of the first three samyojana. Only then will one come to the proper frame of mind to do Meditation the right way. If not, you fall into all the trappings that come in the way. These trappings are both of this world and that of the other. There are forces of the netherworld that are going to cross your path that only one who is firmly established in the Noble Eightfold Path can overcome. That is why I said that meditation comes only when one is ready to go beyond the stage of Sotapanna to help get rid of / cut through the other 7 samyojana. Also that is the very reason that I said that otherwise going 'nuts' is a possibility and not enlightenment.

As mentioned earlier, the appearing of a nimitta is a sign of concentration. the ‘nimitta’ is your main object of focus. If hatred forms in a mind as a result of a cause, then that is Patigha nimitta (an objective to hate) which is your focus. When this focus is powerful, there is no room for a second different object of focus to get in the way. One of the other many obstacles that you have not yet faced is that of distractions in the form of colours – bright or subdued- of white, red, yellow, orange, blue, etc. and get trapped in them. One quality that’s always appropriate in establishing mindfulness is being watchful or alert, while maintaining a detached presence with what is experienced. Without a proper knowledge of dhamma this in not possible. The Pali word for alertness is sampajañña. It doesn’t mean being choicelessly aware of the present, or comprehending the present. Sampajañña means being aware of what you’re doing in the movements of the body, the movements in the mind. This is why mindfulness and alertness should always be paired.

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First don't assume too quickly that you thoughts aren't a distraction, the mind is very tricky and the more you will practice the more you will be aware of your lack of awareness, which is a good thing because you will start being conscious of being distracted by deep thoughts processing underneath your immediate attention and driving you off the focus of your breath.

If you have no sensation around the nostrils don't be upset it is normal, just keep your attention there, remain equanimous and most of all don't crave or avoid any sensation you encounter in this area. The sensation can be anything don't look for a specific one and accept it as it comes. If you have unpleasant sensation on the nostrils, then focus on it without avoiding it, if you have pleasant sensation focus on it without being attached to it or craving for having it back when it goes away.

Being conscious of the impermanence and remaining equanimous, meaning that you don't start craving our avoiding the phenomena you experience is absolutely fundamental in your practice. Once you develop this tendency your focus will increase naturally. This is called the Right Concentration : Samma Samadhi.

Keep applying yourself like that and your attention will become sharper and sharper.

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It seems different forms of subtle craving are present in your question, which is the hindrance of restlessness & remorse.

The ultimate purpose of Buddhist meditation is to abandon craving.

Abandoning craving can create more equipoise & also clarity.

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    Could you explain what the hindrances of restlessness & remorse are? – Eggman Mar 15 '17 at 12:58
  • Your mind is jumping around, judging this & judging that. That is restlessness, which is the opposite of equipoise & restfulness. You have described having some calmness but are dissatisfied because there is some dullness & a lack of buoyancy/brightness. Thus your mind is caught up in judging & a lack of contentedness. This is restlessness. If the mind stops judging & wishing, the restlessness will end and the slight mental imbalances may iron themselves out if you let go of craving for things to be different. Regards – Dhammadhatu Mar 15 '17 at 20:47

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