Author Topic: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?  (Read 624 times)

Offline LemonTea

  • Member
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« on: December 09, 2016, 09:58:29 am »
I've been having a tough time with my concentration and I was reading this article: How A Few Simple Things Helped Me Meditate Without Losing Concentration. I tried a few of the things mentioned on there and they seemed to helped, but as I was reading around more on other websites / blogs as well.

What some people were saying is that meditation is the opposite of concentration and if you're concentrating then you're not meditating. That meditation is expanding the mind while concentration is narrowing it and that the two are mutually exclusive.

Lots of confusing stuff for someone who's relatively new to it. What do you guys think?

Offline zafrogzen

  • Member
  • Posts: 278
  • I've been practicing and studying meditation since
    • View Profile
    • zafrogzen
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2016, 06:01:59 pm »
Good question. I like technical, rather than philosophical questions.

Quote
Lots of confusing stuff for someone who's relatively new to it.


That's what comes of reading about it. Once the basic posture is learned, and a method of practice is settled on, just meditating should eventually resolve any questions, although it can take some time and effort.

A good "method of practice," that is simple and effective, and almost universal to all schools, is to focus on breathing in and out. Emphasizing the outbreath is especially calming. Counting the breath, one to ten, is a good way to begin, which clears and relaxes the mind, while helping with concentration. In Soto Zen that is followed by "just sitting" or Shikantaza, which can be practiced without a teacher.

Quote
What some people were saying is that meditation is the opposite of concentration and if you're concentrating then you're not meditating. That meditation is expanding the mind while concentration is narrowing it and that the two are mutually exclusive.

You could say that counting or watching the breath is concentration and "just sitting" is expanding, but IMHO that is a false distinction. The Buddha is reported to have said that with a one-pointed mind one can achieve anything. For me one-pointed is the same as "focused," but it is also the same is "expanded." Meditative concentration or "samatha" (samadhi) is the letting go of all ideas and distinctions like focusing or expanding. Such discriminating and conceptual thinking is the real enemy of meditation.

Being both one-pointed and expanded means just being clear and present -- not tripping out in linear patterns of thought and story lines or trying to solve such questions with discursive reasoning.

Just be clear and present. So simple, so difficult.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline zafrogzen

  • Member
  • Posts: 278
  • I've been practicing and studying meditation since
    • View Profile
    • zafrogzen
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2016, 07:15:48 pm »
I checked out the link to the "Society of Zen." Never heard of it. Someone gave me a hard time here for dispensing advice without being an authorized zen teacher, but at least I can list a long line of teachers I trained with. While I had opportunities to get ordained and eventually become a teacher, I was more interested in getting my own mind straight before trying to help anyone else. That has turned out to be more difficult than I expected.

I would be very skeptical of anything you read on the web about meditation, even what I have to say here -- http://www.frogzen.com/meditation-basics/

When I lived in San Francisco in the sixties, a fellow sought me out who said he'd written a meditation guide and wanted my opinion, since he'd heard I was into meditation. After I read it, I asked him how long he'd been meditating. "Two months," he said, like that was a long time. That's typical. So many can't wait to start giving out advice. At least I'd been meditating quite strenuously for over fifty years before I started writing about it online, and even so, I'd suggest anything I say not be taken too seriously, but tested by your own practice.

The advice on that site you linked to is harmless enough although I don't agree with this
Quote
I either meditate laying down or sitting in a chair. It doesn’t matter how you sit during meditation, all that matters is that you are meditating.


When I hear that I always say that I meditate both ways myself, and there is no comparison.

My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline LemonTea

  • Member
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2016, 12:39:56 pm »
Thanks zafrogzen for the great reply.

I tried the counting to 10 with my breathing and I really like it. It really helps me settle into my meditation and my mind starts to do it's own thing from there.

What kind of posture would you recommend? I've tried sitting on the floor but my neck and back just aches and now I've been sitting in a chair without my feet touching the floor.

You mentioned that it was something that I can practice without a teacher, should I try and find a teacher or can I continue to progress later on without one?


Offline zafrogzen

  • Member
  • Posts: 278
  • I've been practicing and studying meditation since
    • View Profile
    • zafrogzen
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2016, 02:32:25 am »
Hi Lemon Tea,

Yes, breath counting is a good way to begin. Even after all these years of practice I still need it to calm my discursive mind down.

If there's a Zen Center, or other legitimate Buddhist Meditation group, near you, it's always easier with the support of a teacher and sangha. Here's an online group --  http://www.treeleaf.org/ -- led by a zen teacher, who's at least got some credentials.

I list all the various meditation postures here --  http://www.frogzen.com/meditation-basics/ -- in descending order of difficulty, including sitting in a chair, where I recommend that the feet be firmly on the floor (a firm pad under the feet would do). Keeping the spine straight is most important. Earlier I said that lying on the floor is not recommended but I've seen people do seven day sesshins (intensive retreats) lying down, but they were unable to sit up due to back injuries. It is much harder to concentrate lying down.

It can take some time and experimentation to "conquer your seat." I was young and healthy when I started so I could sit in the half lotus. Then going to the San Francisco Zen Center and sitting with Suzuki Roshi gave me a good basis for my solo practice. But to tell the truth, some discomfort and pain comes with the territory.

If you're lucky enough to find a good teacher, then by all means take advantage of it. It is possible to progress without one, but even the Buddha had teachers before he became one himself. You don't necessarily need to be glued to a teacher 24/7, but they can be very helpful along the way, especially at the beginning and then later on for more intensive retreats and training. In zen it is probably essential to have teacher for koan practice, but Shikantaza can be practiced without one fairly well. Samatha and Vipassana, which are pretty universal to all Buddhist meditation schools, can also be practiced without a teacher, once the basics are understood (you can google all those terms on Wikipedia).

I'm not a teacher myself, either by inclination or training, but anyone who is a little further along the path can be of some help.

Enjoy yourself.



My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline zafrogzen

  • Member
  • Posts: 278
  • I've been practicing and studying meditation since
    • View Profile
    • zafrogzen
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2016, 10:48:18 am »
Maybe you're sitting cross-legged on an easy chair, which is why you feet aren't on the floor? That might be OK, although it wouldn't pass muster with a zen teacher -- zen is very strict about a "stable" posture. What is easier in the short term can turn out to be actually harder long term.

Other traditions don't emphasize posture so much. I've gotten very comfortable with the classic meditation pose, although it took some time and effort. I'm grateful I did.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline BlackLooter

  • Serious Cue!
  • Member
  • Posts: 25
  • Deliver me unto Jesus..and then make me a Buddha!
    • View Profile
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2017, 06:00:10 am »
Well concentration is a view point about being aware of something inately..to its depth within it..or otherwise atoms..and all its relations..

concentration is obviously a form of meditation on an object...
All the Girls and Spacemen will have a monkey on my back before I Attack, I do Shaolin, and Wing From Gui..the meaning of life is backwards and so are you!

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4475
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: Is concentration and meditation mutually exclusive?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2017, 12:37:25 pm »
I've been having a tough time with my concentration and I was reading this article: How A Few Simple Things Helped Me Meditate Without Losing Concentration. I tried a few of the things mentioned on there and they seemed to helped, but as I was reading around more on other websites / blogs as well.

What some people were saying is that meditation is the opposite of concentration and if you're concentrating then you're not meditating. That meditation is expanding the mind while concentration is narrowing it and that the two are mutually exclusive.

Lots of confusing stuff for someone who's relatively new to it. What do you guys think?


It depends on the type of meditation you are  pursuing.  For example: 

Free Range:  Sometimes I just wish to meditate letting my mind have free range.  Yes!  Like a "free range chicken" wanders the yard pecking at this, pecking at that.  Sometimes scratching in the dirt, finding and eating worms.  Clucking and wandering.   When I do this I am simply observing what my mind is up to.  I am learning how how my mind works.  No focus or concentration involved here, just observation.

Focussed Meditation:  Let's say that I am interested in a particular event, circumstance, or relationship.  This type of meditation is like watching a movie or review a set of detailed drawings or engineering sketches.  My purpose during this type of meditation is to examine something, to understand it better.  Much like observing the mind, but in this case turning my mind onto very specific issues.  This requires concentration.

Buddha taught two types of meditation as well:

Quote
Almost any book on early Buddhist meditation will tell you that the Buddha taught two types of meditation: samatha and vipassana. Samatha, which means tranquillity, is said to be a method fostering strong states of mental absorption, called jhana. Vipassana — literally "clear-seeing," but more often translated as insight meditation — is said to be a method using a modicum of tranquillity to foster moment-to-moment mindfulness of the inconstancy of events as they are directly experienced in the present. This mindfulness creates a sense of dispassion toward all events, thus leading the mind to release from suffering. These two methods are quite separate, we're told, and of the two, vipassana is the distinctive Buddhist contribution to meditative science. Other systems of practice pre-dating the Buddha also taught samatha, but the Buddha was the first to discover and teach vipassana. Although some Buddhist meditators may practice samatha meditation before turning to vipassana, samatha practice is not really necessary for the pursuit of Awakening. As a meditative tool, the vipassana method is sufficient for attaining the goal. Or so we're told.


You may study more of what Buddha had to say about this here: 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

 


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal