Author Topic: What goes through your mind when you meditate?  (Read 2341 times)

Coolbreeze

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What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« on: March 28, 2014, 11:53:00 PM »
Hello,

I am relatively new to meditation. When I meditate I tend to focus on mindfulness of breathing exercises. My sessions range from 1 hour to 3 hours.

I hope this is not intrusive but I wanted to ask what goes through your mind when you meditate??

Just to give you a bit of background, I suffer from anxiety and have OCD. When I meditate the first things that go through my mind are my OCD thoughts. Once these subside, I then think about work and issues there, after this I tend to think about peers from when I was younger. Today I hit a patch where I felt like I was going to fall asleep and then hit a real deep patch of meditation.

I am wondering what this says about my psyche. How do your experiences compare?

Matthew

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2014, 12:16:40 AM »
Hi Cool breeze,

Welcome to the forum.

It's quite usual for lots of thoughts to surface when you start meditating. For each of us they will be different and come from our experience of life.

When you are focusing on your breath and notice you have started thinking instead the trick is to gently return your attention to the breath, without any sense of guilt, in order to develop relaxed and concentrated attention or mindfulness. Do this rather than letting each thought condition another thought and your mind will naturally start to calm, your ability to remain focused will improve and your OCD symptoms will probably improve too.

Just be careful not to force silence on your mind as this can be an obstacle: let thoughts arise yet don't follow or concentrate on them: note there is a thought then return attention to the object of meditation (the breath). It's like learning to ride a bike: you have to fall off a fair few times before you find your balance.

When I started meditating there were all sorts of thoughts arising constantly: "am I doing it right", "this person/situation is annoying", "I wonder if that girl will ever notice me" ... Ego mind has a life all of it's own and in meditation we are taming that tiger rather than letting it rule our thinking (and our life).

Kindly,

Matthew
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Just A Simple Guy

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2014, 02:01:09 AM »
I've only been exercising my practice in earnest for about 5 months. In the beginning thoughts would arise and often times spawn a whole thought train before I became aware enough to gently shift back to my focus.

What I now notice is thoughts still arise, though not nearly as frequently, and my awareness is such that I'm generally able to let them pass without triggering more thoughts, gently shifting back to my focus.

As far as what this says about my psyche, I don't know and I don't particularly care. It's actually refreshing to not know and not care to know.

deepnigam

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2014, 09:56:22 AM »
Matthew ji
   you also have given answer of my unspoken question. i use to ask many questions to you particularly as i get satisfied by your answers ( i do not mean others, not to suggest me. i feel pleasure if other will also reply). my another anxiety to ask you that when i meditate or practice whole day than i need to take conscious breathing ie to notice the breathing i have to take breathing other wise i feel that i do not have breathing.
1. so pl. tell that to feel breathing if i do conscious breathing, is this right approach (again to remind you that i am very new)?
in yoga books i read that there are three types of beathing-
a - chest breathing - which comes and goes to chest only ( probably it is shallow breathing)
b- abdomen breathing -  which comes and goes to abdomen (belly)  only( probably it is deep breathing)
c- yogic breathing- breath goes to abdomen ( belly rise and fall) then chest expands and with the result in last leg of breath solders goes to move.

refer point no. 1 in which i try to do "c" . but in lie position i try "b" 

Coolbreeze

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2014, 02:50:41 PM »
Thanks for your responses. I try to go back to just focusing on my breathing and sometimes am successful. It takes considerable effort though.

My problem is that my mind is set negatively and most thoughts that enter my head like this quickly lead to defensive and negative thoughts. I am going through a development phase at the moment the focus of which is self acceptance. With this in mind I like to sit with these thoughts, trace their origin and see how I can reset them.

I suppose I am doing some proper meditation along with some self focus exercises. Is this something ye are familiar with?

Matthew

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2014, 03:16:23 PM »
Hello again Coolbreeze,

There is certainly a place in meditation for what you are doing in seeing where thought arises and goes to. It is more easily achieved if you can first stabilise the mind through developing relaxed concentration.

This also involves developing equanimity: non-judgemental awareness through allowing thoughts to be, but not labeling them as good/bad or negative/positive - just noticing your awareness has shifted from the breath to thoughts and gently returning it to breath repeatedly. Your mind will wander lots of the time when you begin so accept this as it is.

Once you have an ability developed to sit and concentrate on the breath with an awake and stable mind you can turn these skills towards the arising and falling off thoughts without identifying with them or following them with more thoughts.

Keep it up, it's called meditation practice for a reason :)

Be well,

Matthew
« Last Edit: March 29, 2014, 03:18:54 PM by Matthew »
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Matthew

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2014, 03:26:58 PM »
Hi deepnigam,

It depends what you mean by conscious breathing. The yogic breathing you describe involves a level of artificial control over the breath, it develops your respiratory system very fully. In mindfulness of breathing we practice awareness of breathing without interference or control: abdomenal breathing is the natural way to breathe (though stress often means people don't breathe this way but higher, into the chest, and it takes a little practice).

Main point is to come to a place where you anchor awareness in breathing process without artificially changing the breath or controlling it.

Hope that helps,

Matthew
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J0rrit

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2014, 05:13:31 PM »
Hello again Coolbreeze,

There is certainly a place in meditation for what you are doing in seeing where thought arises and goes to. It is more easily achieved if you can first stabilise the mind through developing relaxed concentration.

This also involves developing equanimity: non-judgemental awareness through allowing thoughts to be, but not labeling them as good/bad or negative/positive - just noticing your awareness has shifted from the breath to thoughts and gently returning it to breath repeatedly. Your mind will wander lots of the time when you begin so accept this as it is.

Once you have an ability developed to sit and concentrate on the breath with an awake and stable mind you can turn these skills towards the arising and falling off thoughts without identifying with them or following them with more thoughts.

Keep it up, it's called meditation practice for a reason :)

Be well,

Matthew

Matthew, do you mean eventually you don't return to the breath immediately but watch the whole process of rising and falling of thoughts? If you return to the breath immediately, you also notice that the thought has disaapeared/fallen in the corners of your mind. Or do you mean eventually you get detached from your thoughts and you just experience them as 'mind objects floating by' ?

Matthew

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2014, 05:32:57 PM »
Hi J0rrit,

It can be a bit of both:

If you are still developing concentration/Samadhi stages of Anapana, as your mind quiets and slows you will naturally develop more distance between awareness and thoughts, less identification: then it is natural to notice more of the fine detail of how thoughts arise and fall.

If you have developed strong concentration (such that outside stimuli do not interrupt mindfulness), then you are starting real Vipassana practice: time to turn the arising and falling of thoughts into the object of meditation, put them "under the microscope".

Does that make sense?

Kindly,

Matthew
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J0rrit

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2014, 08:54:22 PM »
Thank you for your clear answer Matthew !

That makes sense and I understand it well. Do you refer to that you need at least samdhi of the 1st Jhana to begin with the real vipassana practice? My goal is to stay with anapana till I have the samashi of the 1st Jhana under control, before I start with further Vipassana practice. It's also true that of only practicing Anapana and the Jhanas, you eventually end up the same as people who only practice Vipassana (dry inight workers), right ?

Or do you eventually have to make the switch to Vipassana practice, intead of continuing the Jhanas and Anapana ?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2014, 10:09:04 PM »
I wouldn't worry about stages of Jhanas and all that carry-on. Just sit and practice, it you stop trying to get somewhere you'll arrive.

Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2014, 03:41:24 AM »
Hi jorrit,

I see that you are filled with doubts regarding practice. It's very natural at the starting year or two of practice. It's better to find answers yourself as it forces to experiment. I will just point out few points to speed up

1. Shila(morality,precepts), Samadhi, panya(wisdom,vipassana). All  three are support each other. If mindfulness is a building then these three are sand, brick and cement. Each are required in curtain quantities to build a strong building.
Without insight into basic working of once mind it's not possible to enter deep Samadhi as it requires one to do some tweaks in once mind's habit pattern.

 Since you are practicing Samantha here are some tips.
2. A thought trail is not a thought. It's a series of thoughts created due to attachment towards the mental objects arising in the mind's consciousness.

3. Don't worry about any specific meditation instructions as of now. No matter which meditation technique u follow you will face these same beginners problems. Stick to any one concentration technique, be it breath at nostrils or abdomen or full body breathing.
3. Try and solve the attention jumping problem that you currently face. Remember you are a scientist who is experimenting. Remember you the teacher who is teaching yourself.
Here is how I would work
I am having problem concentrating on the object of meditation.
Thoughts of my past and future are disturbing concentration.
First I have to learn what is concentration. Concentration is the activity where I hold a relaxed focus on anything and am able observe it and note any  changes in the object of observation or any changes in act of observing.
Ok now if I have to concentrate on something then I cannot lose focus of it. But my focus loses its attention without my will and by the time I realize this the object I had my attention has changed.
What are the mental formations that are unwanted and harming my attention. It's the thought trail.
Ok now I have to bring this thought trail under my control to solve my problem.
For this I have to learn how my thoughts grab my attention.
Now I sit in my mind observing my breath like a hawk. Trying to find the moment where my attention shifts from breath to thought.
After thousands of attempts I learn how a thought arises and grabs my attention. And watch each thought arise and fall without grabbing it and let it become a thought trail of past or future.
I also learn that even though I can stop my thought  trail I cannot stop the origin of thought. So now I train my mind to remain aware of the object I m concentrating in mist of arising and falling of thought.
Now thought is not really a problem anymore to my practice.
Ok what next? What is stopping me from my goal.
  ;D

Ps: typing from cellphone. Sorry for mistakes. If something is ununderstandable let me know.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 05:16:42 AM by siddharthgode »

Quardamon

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2014, 01:35:00 PM »
Thank you Siddharthgode. At least to me, that was very clarifying.  :)

J0rrit

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2014, 06:58:01 PM »
Ver understandable, thanks! Onlt this I don't fully understand:

After thousands of attempts I learn how a thought arises and grabs my attention. And watch each thought arise and fall without grabbing it and let it become a thought trail of past or future.

You ay you watch each thought rise and fall, do you mean your focus shifts to thougts when they come up and watch them till they fully fall? I would think this way your attention would be to much on the thoughts and eventually will shift to thoughts intead of breath? Or you keep your focus on your breath, but unwanted it is taking by thoughts and you see them rise and fall, but keep your attention on the breath? If this is true, what if thoughts don't rise and fall quick enough, so when your attention is back at the breath, a thought will keep popping up or stay a little time on the background ?

So my basic question is: always keep your attention on your breath? The rest will follow from it ?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 07:01:13 PM by J0rrit »

Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2014, 08:38:55 PM »
First you work on being aware of focus shift happening bettween breath n a thought.
A complete cycle of thought arising and passing away happens in a fraction of a second.
Never intentionally focus on a thought.
Come out of thought as soon as possible.

Yes, always keep your attention on breath. Yes, if the person is intelligent enough then rest will follow.

Matthew

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2014, 09:21:04 PM »
J0rrit,

Both DT and Sid have given some good advice. I can see you really like to understand things you are engaging with and this is why you have questions. The truths we are trying to uncover through meditation are, as the Buddha taught, hard to grasp and hard to comprehend. One of the main reasons for this is that all the  intellectualising, verbal logic and resulting questions actually stand in the way of grasping these truths.

Our minds are highly conditioned: by education, societal demands and expectations. In particular they are highly conditioned to inhabit the logic/reasoning circuitry of the left brain which is where experience is woven into a comprehensible story of past, present, future and I, me and mine. This is where the internal dialogue or monologue that keeps us asking questions arises. In meditation we are reconditioning ourselves to dis-identify from this activity and move more into right brain activity which is where our connection with the present moment, the immediate reality and nowness of perception, connection with reality at its barest occurs.

I wouldn't worry about stages of Jhanas and all that carry-on. Just sit and practice, it you stop trying to get somewhere you'll arrive.

I may be wrong but my take on your situation is very similar to that above from DT. By trying to refine your understanding of where you will go the step after the next one intellectually you are stopping yourself from diving fully into the now of where you are. This learning you seek cones from experience, not words. It's not to say words are wrong or bad or that questioning is pointless, just that there is a time and a place for it and it is really important to let go of it and dive headfirst into the experience of repeated practice such that, as Sid says, you become the scientist exploring reality and the teacher teaching yourself.

I'll come to what I believe that means for your practice through exploring for a moment your direct question to me. You ask if you need to establish yourself in the Samadhi of the first Jhanna before proceeding to Vipassana. This shows a very common misunderstanding, that of Shamatha/Samadhi/Vipassana being practices. They are not, they are fruits of well grounded mindfulness practice. They are all part of the same cocktail. When I drink a fresh beetroot, apple and ginger juice for breakfast I can identify the individual tastes yet there is a harmony that is greater and different than cutting it into pieces.

Meditation is just like this. The fruits of meditation come to different people at different times and in different ways. Of course there is some/much commonality but even the Buddha taught different paths to different people. For some they were taught "dry insight" routes yet for most it was calming and concentration followed by development of insight (though whatever your practice you will grow all these fruits together, in harmony like the juice I brew in the morning).

All these questions running round in your head, these attempts to nail down the path intellectually, indicate to me that perhaps the wisest choice for you right now is to learn to concentrate your mindfulness on the breath and the body. Not working towards a goal or wondering if you're doing it right, because that just plays into the highly conditioned mind you have for seeking answers through reason.

It is experience of quiet, relaxed, insightful mind that seems to be what you need most right now. This experience will only be gained by dropping the expectations, dropping the attempt to intellectually comprehend the next steps on the ladder. You seem to need to experience the step you are on right now: through spending the time currently given to  intellectualising to actual experience, physical, practical, moving beyond words.

For now it would seem that the emphasis in your practice would most profitably be directed towards developing shamatha and samadhi: as you gain deeper experience of your own being in the present moment and calm the mind the next step will become clearer to you. So the answer to your last question, in my opinion, is a very strong yes: keep your focus on the breath and the rest will become clearer. But seriously, for now, don't engage the mind in speculation about what the rest means or will be: ground yourself in the now through experience of the breath and let yourself distance from the questioning intellectual side for a while: it doesn't hold the answers you seek and is, at this point, actually a distraction from them. There will be a time and place to re-engage with it but by then you will have grown some different neurons and synaptic connections in your brain, and connected to reality differently, so the questions will, in all likelihood, also be different.

It's all one taste: shamatha, samadhi, jhanna, Vipassana, they're not discrete entities but part of a journey you undertake and only by undertaking the journey will you begin to understand the landscape you are walking in and the landmarks you will encounter. At the moment your experience seems very intellectualised so you have a somewhat solidified understanding of these things and ask questions to see if you are sitting on the rock you think you are sitting on. Yet asking questions isn't the best way to find that answer: it's by feeling the rock under your arse.

Kindly,

Matthew
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J0rrit

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2014, 01:32:22 PM »
Really well said Matthew!

Thanks a lot for that post!

kcarneglia

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Re: What goes through your mind when you meditate?
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2017, 02:41:32 AM »
Hello There,
For me, I tend to have pretty ordinary thoughts when meditating IE what has happened that day, what I have to do or where I'm going the next day, etc. If I'm going through a difficult time or something like that, I will also sometimes have thoughts about what decision I should make or the consequences of not deciding anything at all. Random song lyrics will occasionally drift into my head as well. For me, what helps to cancel unwanted thoughts is to visualize a red "X" going through the thought or image. I also try listening to my breath and experiencing my chest rising and falling. I've noticed that if I can calm the breath, I typically can calm my mind and clear my thoughts out. I hope this helps. If you have any other questions or concerns, definitely feel free to get in touch with me at Mod Edit: email removed. No self promotion is allowed on this website.

-Kevin Carneglia
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« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 02:08:48 PM by Matthew »
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