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My field of perception is very wide. It often becomes so wide that it loops back onto itself in some odd kaleidoscopic fashion.

This has rendered my previous methods of concentration unhelpful. Previously concentration was very deliberate and contrived and my surroundings would phase off into obscurity in favour of a pin-point focus on my chosen object. It opened up some interesting doors.

The application of attention on a particular event such as breathing is very different. It is different because it is inclusive of all other phenomena, like the universe is doing the concentration from which no personal claims can be made. I find this to be a distraction but there is a part of me that wants to embrace this inclusiveness. This leaves me with some dissonance between the previous method - in particular my attachment to the results incurred from that method. Moreover, when I try to apply myself in the previous way, I suffer - I guess I've just answered my own question in some ways.

Is this change in concentration to be expected?

Can you share any resources from either Theravada, Mahayana or Zen that would help me further my understanding of this matter?

Best wishes

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  • Have you considered your Mahabhuta alignment in correlation to the affinity of the techniques you practice? Some practices are more suitable for some while less suitable for others. While our Dharma are equal, we are unique and so therefore is our Dharma.
    – Beau. D
    Jan 18 at 5:41
  • @Beau - if I understand you correctly, that Mahabhuta refers to the elements, then the elements are a fundamental part of my satipatthana practice. Kind regards ;-)
    – Max
    Jan 18 at 8:29
  • yes, the elements ;D you know how some people say they're water people and some tend to always hold expressions like a wildfire? Some meditations were designed for the water-like individuals, and so on, because of this affinity - martial arts as well. Anyone can practice any technique, that would be Compassion's influence on cultivation, but constitution and countenance can be a major influence on how an individual performs each meditation.
    – Beau. D
    Jan 19 at 0:16
  • I guess some people are drawn to a particular element in the way you describe. I tend not to form that kind of association with any of the elements, choosing instead to see that no personal claims can be made from their external/internal transitory nature. Kind regards.
    – Max
    Jan 19 at 10:22
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It might be difficult for readers to understand exactly what you're experiencing in your meditation. You learn techniques of meditation to get you started on a path, but eventually that path must be understood by you, personally. You become like a scientist experimenting with what works and what doesn't work. For that you have to know what "working" even means... as you develop your path, this is an essential aspect to understand. What am I trying to achieve here when I sit down to meditate?

The path the Buddha described made Tranquility and Insight the markers of progress. If what you are experimenting with, within your own mind and body framework, moment to moment, is (over time) leading you to more and more calmness of mind, calmness of body, then you might be able to consider whatever methods you were employing successful.

Similarly, if whatever you are experimenting with, within your own mind and body framework, moment to moment, is (over time) leading you to deeper and deeper understanding of the nature of reality (three marks of existence), causing you to see more finely these qualities, subtler and subtler in your experience, then you might be able to consider whatever methods you were employing successful.

Both these two developments, Tranquility and Insight, should lead to letting go, fading away, cessation of your experience, in a gradual way.

AN 4:170

Mindfulness of the breath is a common practice that can develop both of these to their fruition.

SN 54:13

As you practice in this way, the Four Establishments of Mindfulness should simultaneously be developed.

MN 10

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  • I hesitate to outline the particulars of what I experience because it is not restricted to meditation sessions. The openness and its 'other qualities' are with me throughout the day and every day. For that reason it was important that I kept the question concise. Thank you for responding. I enjoyed the sutta readings.
    – Max
    Dec 31 '20 at 21:47
  • Very good! It is good to strive to make your whole waking hours your meditation, your practice.
    – Ryan Baker
    Dec 31 '20 at 23:08
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What you are experiencing isn't concentration. Concentration is marked by ekagata or one pointedness. If the universe, dinosaurs, and the Maltese falcon are all dancing on the head of your breath, what you are experiencing isn't the breath, it's the breath and all that other stuff together. Concentration will ultimately lead you to a place of openess, but that field of openess has no content save for increasingy subtle feelings of joy and excitement. If there anything in addition to that, you're missing your target.

Stay on the breath. Don't move a muscle. Sit for at least an hour but preferably an hour and a half. If you're consistent in your practuce, eventually your breath will wash all that other stuff away.

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  • From what tradition do you base this on? So this openess is a distraction leading me away from concentration? Can you offer any resources that varify this?
    – Max
    Dec 31 '20 at 15:11
  • Openess appears out of one pointedness. The more you engage with the object of concentration, the more you and all mental content (eg "the universe is doing the concentration", etc.) falls away. If you are being pulled from stability, you are being pulled from being pulled from samadhi. At this stage in the game, I'd strongly encourage you to steer clear of any concerns over the result of your practice. Focus on learning good technique. Keep your practice so close that no air can escape.
    – user20010
    Dec 31 '20 at 15:56
  • Most importantly, meditation isn't about having profound experiences on the cushion. It is a tool for helping you to develop insight. Worrying about the universe or what have you is going to undermine your ability to really see the mundane subtleties that are the real meat and potatoes of practice.
    – user20010
    Dec 31 '20 at 15:58
  • Right now, it seems to me that you're all over the place. Meditation is simple. The technique is simple. In fact, it's that simplicity that makes it so hard. People keep trying to introduce things that just end up driving them into confusion. Pick a spot, rest (don't press) your mind there. Keep your body upright and relaxed. Don't move. That's all there is to it. What arises in the mind is ancillary. The method is the result.
    – user20010
    Dec 31 '20 at 16:11
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This exact topic is the central topic of the book I can't recommend enough:

"The relaxed mind. A seven-step method for deepening meditation practice." - by Dza Kilung Rinpoche

I started pulling out quotes for you but had to stop when I realized I'd have to quote half of the book.

When we focus or concentrate, we want to be careful not to do so in a narrow, forced way. In school we were sometimes urged by our teachers to focus and concentrate when studying and taking tests. Usually that meant that we were to furrow our brow, squint our eyes, and close off all distractions from the task at hand. This is very judgmental. In a critical and somewhat aggressive way, we are accepting and rejecting our thoughts. But here we want to do the opposite - we are looking for an opened focus.

Open means open to the whole environment - physical form, energy, everything. Be confident in openness. Then, when you feel yourself starting to relax, it's time to focus. Focus doesn't mean tensed up; it means attention that is loose and calm.

When thoughts appear, you don't really need to disconnect from them or escape from that situation. Rather, you allow the mind to be wide open, and using this wide-angle lens, you experience a more clear and spacious view of reality of the mind and its nature. [...] Another aspect of openness, touched on earlier, is to be without any judgement when our meditation environment includes things such as the sound of birds, a telephone ringing, a baby crying, and so forth. We may experience phenomena coming from our six senses. Be wide open to all of them and just let them be - no judging of "good" or "bad". Their empty nature will be naturally revealed.

-- and then starting from page 82 I would have to copy most of the rest of the book, because most of it is exactly about cultivating this openness.

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  • 2
    Good quotes! I'd up vote if I had an account!
    – user20010
    Dec 31 '20 at 20:01
  • 1
    This seems like an interesting read, and it relates to satipatthana - "'Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in,' thinking thus, he trains himself. 'Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out,'. I will try to locate the book. Thank you.
    – Max
    Dec 31 '20 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Andrei Volkov - Thanks, I got hold of an audiobook version. The dynamism of this book is very appealing to me.
    – Max
    Jan 3 at 21:59
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"Like the universe is doing the concentration from which no personal claims can be made"

That would be a distraction if you were going for highly concentrated Samatha states. If you are practicing insight vipassana type meditation then Anatta (or transcending the personal) is what is supposed to be happening as momentary concentration is used to widen perception.

The way I practice is to anchor my attention to my breath and then move my attention to distractions from the breath when they arise and when they fall go back to the breath.

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  • I used the word 'like' in its conjunctive meaning and not as its preposition. It was a way of giving language to describe something that is ordinarily difficult to describe. I'm actually beginning to question these highly concentrated states. I'm not sure they lead to anything that I would call 'significant' unless you can call the same old insights 'significant'. Furthermore, I think it is healthy to venture elsewhere.
    – Max
    Dec 31 '20 at 21:59
  • I get so bored with insight meditation where the concentration is on multiple experiential phenomena(momentary concentration) that I never get into a highly concentrated state anymore.I want the meditation to be significant and substantial too but I know intellectually at least, that that is clinging. Maybe I just got to kinda embrace what I don't like, kinda embrace the boredom to counter the aversion. This is very challenging and if I get anywhere , I can't even brag about it because then I'm cultivating more ego. LOL.
    – Lowbrow
    Jan 7 at 16:55
  • I see ego as scaffolding that may motivate me in the early stages but at some point I must transcend it. Idk.
    – Lowbrow
    Jan 7 at 16:56
  • Yes, it often 'feels' like there is something there that needs to be removed. In my current understanding, it is right in there; right in that thing we think needs to be removed or transcended. The story of 'removal' is another aversion tactic.
    – Max
    Jan 7 at 17:35

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