top of page

The "3-point concentration object" in Daniel P Brown´s teaching

In Daniel P Brown´s "Pointing Out the Great Way" retreats (now possibly no longer offered, judging by the website as of March 2023), the chosen meditation object was the breath.

However, it initially sounded strange to me when the designation for it in the actual meditations was not "breath" but "concentration object".

Even more abstract, it was called the "3-point concentration object" or the "7-point concentration object", or simply the "3-point object".

Here is Dan Brown using this terminology in a short "demo meditation" during an interview on stage (it is worth listening to the entire interview)


The 3/7-point concentration object defined

The "3-point concentration object" designated the meditation object "breath" where the attention is sequentially directed to 3 points of the breath cycle:

  1. the turning point between out-breath and in-breath

  2. the whole in- or out-breath

  3. the turning point between in-breath and out-breath

The more complex "7-point object" (used for refinement later in the retreat) introduced another element: whole body sensation.

  1. the start of the in-breath

  2. the middle of the in-breath

  3. the end of the in-breath

  4. the start of the out-breath

  5. the middle of the out-breath

  6. the end of the out-breath

  7. the sensation of the whole-body feeling

In the "7-point object", step #7 had the purpose to avoid that the attention, in the interval between out-breath and in-breath, began to drift.

The breath as concept

I have seen no explanation for this strange terminology, so here are my thoughts:

Daniel Brown uses this highly abstract term in oder to reduce the amount of conceptualisation.

"The breath", as Culadasa (2017) explains, is in reality a highly complex conceptualisation.

The very idea of “the breath” is really a complex concept built from many other concepts: that we’re a separate being; we have a body; we have a nose that’s part of our body; our body is surrounded by air; air moves through the nose in two directions; and so on. It’s not until we start observing the subtle details, the sensations that repeat themselves with every in- and out-breath, that we actually begin experiencing sense-percepts directly.

Culadasa illustrates it with an example.

When we start meditating, our experience of the breath is mostly conceptual, although we don’t know it at the time. In fact, during the early stages, we’re hardly aware of the actual breath sensations, just enough to trigger the arising of concepts related to the breath. These concepts (“inhaling,” “pause,” “exhaling”) are our real objects of attention. The conceptualizing begins as we breathe in, when air first strikes the skin at the nostrils. The somatosensory mind projects a small number of mind moments into consciousness that have these breath-related sense-percepts as their objects. The discriminating mind immediately assimilates those sense-percepts and interprets them using concepts it already has, like “nose,” “touch,” “air,” “beginning,” and “in-breath.” When this purely conceptual view of what’s happening is projected into consciousness, we subjectively perceive the “beginning of the in-breath,” hardly noticing the actual sensations. The same thing happens again when a few more moments of attention provide another “sample” of sense-percepts produced by air flowing over the skin of the nostrils. The discriminating mind generates another conceptual construct, such as the “first part of the middle of the in-breath.” In other words, as we engaged with the breath, we were following concepts more than actual sensations.

From "initial appearance" of breath to "acquired appearance" of the concentration object

Culadasa uses the Pali term "initial appearance of the concentration object" for this initial, largely conceptual perception.

With practice, the meditator acquires a more sensory based perception, just registering the elementary sensory impressions of the flow of air, pressure etc. This is called "acquired appearance of the concentration object".

In fact, when meditating on the breath for a longer period, I occasionally lose the knowledge whether I am currently breathing in or breathing out (an example also brought by Culadasa).

Thus, when using the term "concentration object" or "3-point concentration object", Daniel P Brown´s instructions facilitate a non-conceptual perception.

This approach is similar to Sam Harris´s avoidance of too "concretistic" terms and metaphors. For example, Sam Harris prefers the term "condition" to the term "space" when he designates the internal "space" of awareness. Or, he avoids the typical nature-based Tibetan teaching metaphors. At one point, when deviating from this practice, he uses the "ocean and wave" metaphor, he immediately guides the student to not hang on to that concept.

It's not often that I ask you to invoke a concept in this way, but it can be helpful. And then let go of it.


Brown, D. P. (2019). Sacred Sundays with Daniel P Brown. Sacred Sundays.

A very wide and deep overview of the tradition and background of Daniel P Brown´s teachings

Gebel, T. (2023a, January 8). Ocean and Wave - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2023.01.08. Till Gebel.

Gebel, T. (2022c). Daniel P Brown makes various enemies. Till Gebel.

Yates (Culadasa), J., & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.

A thought on...

bottom of page