|Not excited, not distracted, not asleep, not doing, wakeful-attention to a single object eventually leads to what we were always missing. (Sue90ca/flickr)|
|Meditation is dull and unclear until...|
|Stay awake (PeterFroehlich/flickr.com)|
|Absorption! (Jess Allison)|
Getting to this point can be a long slog or a spontaneous occurrence. (No one for whom it happens spontaneously was expecting it, so it is better to prepare for a long slog. Expectations kill concentration).
|Samsara is turbulent, swirling flood (FP)|
|One can suddenly see clearly in a still forest pool (nyanamolibhikkhu/plus.google.com)|
The Buddha gives an analogy to explain the first two Factors of Absorption, "applied-attention" (vitakka) and "sustained-attention" (vicāra).
These factors form the bridge between meditation and absorption. They are like the effort a bird makes to get into flight and the effort(lessness) to stay in flight. One is messy jumping and flapping, the other easy holding and gliding.
- Translating vitakka as "thought-conception" and vicāra as "discursive thinking," as was done by the earliest Western translators is incorrect and completely misleading. Scholarship by nonpractitioners has this liability. Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who is both a scholar and a meditation master with many accomplished Western students, was able to clarify this matter for us.
If one strains or pushes or is otherwise disturbed, the breath will instantly be disturbed (becoming grosser and easier to notice). This does not strengthen attention, and one must again wait for it to settle into the subtle breath, which is the object of meditation. Therefore, a balance must be kept or one will go from strain and overeager striving for something to happen to sleepiness and lapsed attention (distractability).