Stage 2 – blocked breath energy

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Alex K 4 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #3072

    Alex K
    Member

    Hi,

    I am new to the TMI method but practiced Anapanasati for many years. My normal practice was a whole breath body based meditation (Ajahn Thanissaro/Ajahn Lee).

    I am having difficulty discerning the sensations of breath at the nose area in Stage 2. Increasing attention to try to make them more prominent has the undesirable effect of decreasing awareness and is also quite uncomfortable due to sensations of tension in body. Backing off on effort is better for steady peripheral awareness but the breath sensations seem to disappear completely at times.

    Update:

    I tried staying with Stage 1 to see if the tenseness I feel is present just when I focus in on sensations at the nose. Staying with breath sensations more broadly throughout the body revealed that there is a lot of tension throughout the ‘breath body’. They are mainly felt in the abdomen, chest, shoulders and throat areas. The breath feels tight and constricted. Allowing the attention to rest mainly around the abdomen breath sensations is slightly better and I did have some feelings of ease and a brightening of awareness.

    Should I stay with Stage 1 for now until these breath tensions are ‘unblocked’ and not proceed to other Stages until this is better understood and alleviated? Has anyone had experience of this?

    Thank you for any help/guidance.

    • This topic was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alex K.
    #3081

    Andrew S
    Member

    Hi Alex,

    First I’d say that it sounds like you’ve done some really useful exploration of what’s happening in your practice. I think that willingness to experiment and take a deep dive into what’s arising for you is key to “making the practice your own” and progressing.

    There are some good reasons to try using the breath at the nose as your object (Culadasa mentions the large number of nerve endings in that area and the correspondingly greater sensitivity to details, for example), but it’s not critical. If breath at the abdomen is working for you, maybe that’s a way to go for a while? He mentions that as an alternative object at one point. I’ve used it to good effect as well.

    I went through a period of time when the breath at the nose gave rise to a lot of physical tension for me. I was pushing hard, trying to force the stability of attention that I’d felt in previous sits, and this gave rise to pain around the eyes, face, and head. Probably shoulders as well, as I’d find myself leaning in with my head and neck. “Backing off on effort” became a really valuable lesson for me too. I learned a lot about my motivation as I explored my patterns of striving – as someone who spent a lot of time in my head, the breath at the nose brought up a lot of content.

    I think two options might be to work with the breath at the abdomen for a while; or to play with allowing lots of ease and relaxation into your practice with the breath at the nose, not worrying too much if you can’t pick up too many sensations. As you get accustomed to the new object and as attention increases you’ll find much more detail there. Until then you can “wait patiently by the gate,” tracking whatever intermittent sensations do come.

    As for moving on Culadasa has said, “As soon as you’ve succeeded in counting 10 breaths and can follow several breaths before your mind wanders, start doing the Stage 2 practices.”

    Finally it might be useful to play with a movement practice of some sort, or some sort of conscious relaxation, to allow the energy in your upper body to move and disperse a bit. Even taking a walk to ground yourself in your lower body, etc. Good luck with your practice and your exploration!

    Warmly

    Andrew
    TMI Teacher-in-training

    #3082

    Alex K
    Member

    Hi Andrew and thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and respond. I am very grateful! 🙂

    I think your advice is good and have since noticed a slight shift/movement in the tension which is interesting.

    Also I have tied reformulating my motivation to be more inclined to exploring rather than trying to attain greater concentration. This is helping I think to ease off on the effort. Interestingly even though Im still finding it difficult to discern breath sensations at the nose I was aware other some unusual sensations which are new to me. This leads me think I had expectations of having certain sensations which was limiting what I am able to perceive. All good food for further exploration I think!

    Many thanks! 🙂

    #3088

    Andrew S
    Member

    Hi Alex,

    I’m so glad the ideas seemed useful, and I look forward to hearing how your explorations go.

    > Also I have tied reformulating my motivation to be more inclined to exploring rather than trying to attain greater concentration.

    Nice. I remember a teacher (Ajahn Brahm?) referring to the “love affair with the breath.” It’s an image I like because it shifts my intention from striving to achieve a goal via the breath, toward an open and engaged exploration, as you describe.

    > Interestingly even though Im still finding it difficult to discern breath sensations at the nose I was aware other some unusual sensations which are new to me. This leads me think I had expectations of having certain sensations which was limiting what I am able to perceive.

    That makes sense to me as well.

    I was recently on a retreat that involved a lot of meditation out-of-doors. At one point I was meditating in a strong breeze, and initially felt confusion because I couldn’t discern my own breath sensations. When I let go of that expectation and simply observed the swirling sensation of the wind at my nostrils, I relaxed and my sit deepened again!

    Andrew
    TMI Teacher-in-training
    Offering meditation coaching and debugging

    #3089

    Alex K
    Member

    Thanks Andrew 🙂

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