Meditation Discussion Forum

Vipassana Meditation Forum => Meditation, Practice And The Path => Topic started by: Hazmatac on September 23, 2008, 10:24:05 AM

Title: Calming the mind
Post by: Hazmatac on September 23, 2008, 10:24:05 AM
Hi, I'm wondering how to go about calming or relaxing the mind. I seem to be getting along fine without any formal calming excercise and haven't had a problem with it. I also heard that deep concentration causes the body to relax. I tried a 5 minute meditation while focusing on being calm but I get better results when I don't even try to calm. Thoughts?

Title: Re: Calming the mind
Post by: Matthew on September 23, 2008, 10:58:59 AM

Calm is a fruit of meditation. If you try and make it the goal you won't attain it. Go back to the basic instructions on Shamatha/Vipassana meditation in this thread (,34.0.html).

A basic understanding of meditation is that it first slows down our habituated reactions and then gives us the insight to undo those patterns and instead to respond to life in a natural un-conditioned manner.

The difference between a reponse and a reaction:

  • A reaction is habitual, conditioned and automatic: unthought and immediate.
  • A response is chosen from recognised and considered options: contemplated which takes time.

Meditation in the Buddhist tradition largely falls into two kinds which are inseparable in practice: One practices both, beginning with calming the mind through sitting and focussing on an "object" of meditation (this type of meditation is called "Shamatha" or "Samatha"). At the same time - and increasingly as your mind calms - you use that calm mind to gain insight or increase your awareness of how your body and mind functions (this type of meditation is called "Vipassana or "Vipashyana").

In Shamatha the object of meditation can be the breath - this is the most common and very effective as it joins body and mind at the same time as calming the mind. You can also use another internal or external object such as a candle or a visualisation of a Buddha or a mantra (repetition of words).

You can "watch" - that is pay attention to - the rise and fall of your belly as the breath comes in and out of your body, or the area between your upper lip and nose where you will feel the air hitting your skin, or the back of your throat where you will feel the same.

This watching or paying attention to needs to be focussed enough to maintain and increase your concentration whilst not being so forced as to deny whatever else is happening in your body and mind. In particular one still notices the thoughts that inevitably arise in the mind and feelings and emotions (which you will notice generally arise in the body) but one tries not to "get caught up in them" or "lost in them".

In practice this means that when the thought arises "Oh I have to go shopping later" you try to notice the thought then let it go, instead getting caught up in the usual tide of thoughts that follow "Oh I hate shopping. I must go though. We have no cheese. I want cheese on toast for dinner. I like cheese on toast".

Instead, you notice the thought, let it go, then gently return your attention to the object of meditation. Don't give yourself a hard time - at the beginning especially it is very hard not to get caught up in thoughts. The western mind is filled with guilt and self-criticism. Without being lazy, one must learn to accept with equanimity that this will happen, maintain enough discipline or "Shila" to keep going, and try not get caught up in chains of self -critical thought.

This process calms the mind, eventually staunches the flow of thoughts and you can reach a place of peace in your mind called calm-abiding or "Samadhi", or "One-pointedness".

It is important not to try too hard or you will actually end up hypnotising yourself into a kind of stupor or sloth or sleepiness instead of becoming more aware. Being a meditator is a personal journey and experience - no one can do it for you and neither can you "think yourself" into being a meditator.

Calm will follow naturally from correct technique in meditation. I would suggest you focus your attention on the rise and fall of your belly. Let calm emerge from meditation naturally. If you seek it you are running after your tail.

In the Dhamma,

Title: Re: Calming the mind
Post by: Hazmatac on September 26, 2008, 04:30:44 AM
How did you know I have a tail?

Rob   :)
Title: Re: Calming the mind
Post by: REALIZINGdotME on October 20, 2008, 12:39:18 AM
I think there are two related issues when it comes to calming the mind; internal control and external influences causing undue strain on internal control.

The most common problem with calming in regard to meditation and your daily life is internal control due to your minds reactions to what's coming up. The internal control is exactly what TIB was referring to. Cultivate right responses by continued practice.

The external part is one that is a more pragmatic issue. If your mind is focused on certain things during your meditation or during your daily self, it is because a part of your subconscious believes that the subject is important and you haven't been paying enough attention to it for that part to let it go. If your distractions are due to thoughts about things that need to be accomplished, find a trusted (by your mind's view) way of tracking and completing those things in some kind of thorough manner. If the ideas are due to relationship issues, those are typically due to an internal struggle in addition to unresolved interpersonal issues. Focusing some thought time to those issues and some face time with your partner can help.

If your mind is all over the place, it's probably just because you're expecting too much too quickly. Everyone has a difficult time controlling their thoughts. It is something that comes when it is ready, not when you are. As TIB said, go back to the basics and just enjoy the ride. Watch your breath and let your body and your mind get used to the fact that you are now paying attention to it.

Also as TIB said, your goal should not be calming. It is one of the many elements of your journey but it is not your journey. It is a side-effect and will come naturally, although it is a wonderful side-effect.

It takes me more than 15 minutes to really let my body start calming down from moving around, let alone start actually allowing my mind to calm. I can have a quicker response by doing things such as a few deep breaths and focusing on my breathing for 5 minutes but the results afterward dissipate just as quickly.
Title: Re: Calming the mind
Post by: Flipasso on October 20, 2008, 11:29:49 PM
IMO - I think some concentration/calming is necessary in order to be able to observe whats going on, otherwise the thought gibberish is just too fast and shallow...
Title: Re: Calming the mind
Post by: Matthew on October 21, 2008, 08:43:15 AM
IMO - I think some concentration/calming is necessary in order to be able to observe whats going on, otherwise the thought gibberish is just too fast and shallow...


The calm comes from the practice being undertaken in the correct manner, aiming for calm will not get you there. Taking some deep breaths and stretching before you sit can help. Then just get on the cushion and watch your breath. Every time you find you have gotten distracted by the gibberish and are identifying with it, try, without the slightest hint of self-criticism, to just label it as "thinking" in your mind and return the focus to the breath. Eventually the gibberish will calm.

In the Dhamma,