Author Topic: Overthinking Vipassana  (Read 9886 times)

Mindfullness

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Overthinking Vipassana
« on: December 16, 2010, 12:43:43 AM »
Hello!

I have noticed that I have started seriously (what feels like) overanalyzing my thoughts since I started Goenka vipassana meditation/anapanna. What happens is I'll be doing anything, whether it be sitting on the bus, watching tv, eating food, and I'll be caught up in a random thought. Then, I will notice that I am doing this but I will feel frustrated by this. I get frustrated because it feels SO irritating constantly noticing my thoughts in my own head. I feel like this goes on for the whole day. I get irritated because I feel like I can never stop my brain, I feel like I am ALWAYS thinking. Is this a normal experience? Is there anything I can do to deal with this effectively?

maybeiam

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  • Nature is a beautiful peace to be
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2010, 03:11:18 AM »
Hi nliyan25, hi there
same happened with me after Goenka Retreats
I also have some negative complains, but we need to have patient and let it be, it sucks , but thats what those retreats sometimes can make to some of us, I think that's because we are more alert in the now, and that seems that we think more or less but is just that we pay more attention to it, and the best thing to do is to keep having a meditated life to purify ourselves as much as we can.

Being more honest about myself, seeing/understanding it more clearly what is nature/life, having more reasonable/decent conversations and not being so selective with people, those are positive examples of what I've been gaining since than.

I'm with you on this nliyan25
Bless you

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2010, 05:10:15 AM »
Thanks Maybelam! By the way, I have heard doing samatha rather than anapanna would help ease the feeling of being " in the head" all the time. Do you know where I could get got directions online(maybe via youtube) that teach Samatha meditation?

Thanks


Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2010, 05:30:12 AM »
And just to clear things up, by Anapanna, I was referring to the version taught by Goenka, and by Shamatha, I was referring to what Mathew describes many times on this page:

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,1249.0/prev_next,prev.html#new

Matthew

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2010, 10:04:08 AM »
nliyan,

Anapana is a form of Shamatha - just the object of the meditation is different. It sounds to me like you need the first steps of whole body breathing Shamatha to calm your mind. You can't stop thought with force except through self hypnosis which is a dead end.

Just up from the post you link to there is one with pretty clear instructions on Shamatha practice:

.....

Wherever your focus, though particularly at the nostrils, my answer will be the same and the same as advice I have often repeated. I think you may be trying too hard to concentrate without having first established a calm base of Shamatha meditation practice. Meditation begins as relaxing into your bodymind and reconnecting body and mind through total awareness of breath.

Awareness occurs throughout the body and mind through the distributed nervous system, though is of course centred in the brain - as the final organ of cognition of all perceptions.

There is a particular issue with Anapana at the nose. By focussing one's attention on the nose one is primarily using the 5th Cranial nerve, the Trigeminal nerve, as the  conduit of sensation to the brain. This means that most of the meditative activity is taking place entirely in your head because the Trigeminal nerve directly enters the brain stem and does not pass through the spinal cord.

The Buddha did not teach to focus breathing on the nose. For westerners who are often "head heavy" in their general way of living - and to some extent disembodied because of our cultural preference and conditioning towards rationality - this can be a particular and significant problem.

The Buddha taught:

Quote from: www.accesstoinsight.org
"There is the case where an aspirant -- having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building -- sits down cross-legged, holding the body erect and setting her (4) awareness before her. Always aware, one breathes in; aware one breathes out aware.

"Breathing in long, one discerns that one is breathing in long; or breathing out long, one discerns that one is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, one discerns that one is breathing in short; or breathing out short, one discerns that one is breathing out short. One trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. One trains herself to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body.
"

So according to the Buddha the focus of meditation is the entire breathing experience and body, not the nostrils. And the prime first goals are awareness or sensitivity to the entire body and relaxation or calming.

This is important because when one is meditating in this way, as opposed to nostril-focussed Anapana, one is using/activating many other nerves and neurological systems - particularly the Vagus, or 10th Cranial nerve, "The Wanderer" - so called because it wanders down the neck, into the chest and abdomen and controls and senses the larynx, other parts of the speech and hearing apparatus and senses the visceral muscles of the chest, trunk and abdomen including the diaphragm and the organs including your heart (though control of the diaphragm is principally by the Phrenic nerve and the heart by the Cardiac nerve, you also want these fully activated).

The Vagus nerve amongst other things is responsible for:

Quote from: Yale School Of Medicine
Provides visceral sensory information from the larynx, esophagus, trachea, and abdominal and thoracic viscera, as well as the stretch receptors of the aortic arch and chemoreceptors of the aortic bodies .

 
Thus by focussing on the entire breathing process in the body one is activating many more nerves - particularly the Vagus, a very important nerve to have properly activated, and is actively reconnecting body (through the Vagus and other nerves) and mind (through awareness).

Anapana (focussing on the nostrils or area between lips and nostrils) or any other kind of breath meditation can be too forced, too aimed at achieving concentration and still mind. Anapana at the nostrils can heighten this imbalance due to the fact that most westerners live in their heads to a large degree.

Still mind can be quickly achieved by Anapana or any other over-forced breath meditation - but it becomes a form of self hypnosis and I believe this is what you are experiencing and describing.


.....


1) If you are focussing on the nostrils, then stop doing so for the reasons I have outlined, namely: (i) It is not what the Buddha taught and (ii) it is physiologically more likely to lead to self-hypnosis.

2) Develop awareness of your whole body breathing. Relax more during your meditation and feel the breath entering your lungs, feel the abdomen stretching out to accommodate this.  "train (yourself) to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. Train (yourself) to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body." Let thoughts, feelings and emotions arise, be aware of them but do not engage of them. If you do then when you realise return to awareness of whole body breathing, noting the deviation from practice without self criticism.

My strong sense is that you are self-hypnotising and that proper calming, breathing Shamatha meditation, as described above, will overcome this obstacle.

Don't believe or disbelieve me. Try it for yourself for some time and see what difference in your experience occurs. It may take some time to get over the way you have been doing it until now if Anapana on the nose has been your practice.

Also do not be afraid to have the eyes open a little, looking gently at the floor 1 - 2 metres in front of you. The eyes should be relaxed - as in when sleeping - but not forcefully closed, when meditating.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2010, 02:07:57 PM »
Thanks Matt. Although I have read the Samatha topic page, I am still confused as to proceed with it. When I breathe in and out, should I just be observing what happens to my chest, abdomen, throat, etc.? Should I also observe the gap that occurs when you stop breathing right before you continue to breath? What happens when I have a thought, should I just ignore it and move along with Samatha?

Thanks and sorry if the above does not make complete sense!

Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2010, 03:07:02 PM »
 TIBji i have some doubts here.

i tried both anapanna and entire breathing process (EBP)

in EBP  my focus of attention keeps changing like in vipassana like from nose to lungs and all the point in between.(if i sit and meditate with this technique)

but in anapanna 1 object is fixed , sensation in particular area n breath only. this increases my concentration , n i can stay out of thoughts.

i practice EBP when i want to be calm and anapanna to meditate while sitting. i.e., i do EBP when walking or any other daily activity to stay out of unnecessary thoughts. here my focus of attention is breath n nothing else. ( this is not possible when i sit and meditate)

so anything wrong here?

Matthew

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2010, 04:25:23 PM »
In full body breathing one does not start trying to develop concentration. This is a common error. One starts developing relaxation and awakeness. This awakeness is very open in the beginning and very "light touch" - as the practice develops you go deeper - and can be aware of more and more processes simultaneously.

This way you do not fly from nose to lungs etc etc etc ... no chasing the dragon. Instead you gently deepen the all body awareness as it naturally refines through continued practice and is facilitated by deep relaxation. It's subtle and if you have practiced before with Anapana as taught by Goenka or others you can all too easily try too hard. Relaxed awareness is the mark of this practice and it's strengthening quality.

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 16, 2010, 06:40:29 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2010, 07:36:32 PM »
So Matt, would you say Samatha leads to one being less " in the head" as opposed to Goenka's anapanna, and less " in the head" in general? IF so, could you explain why that is? I ask because I have always been too much of a thinker, and I am ALWAYS in my head.

Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2010, 02:30:52 AM »
why is being in the head bad?
it teaches sooo much about ur character and ur psychological self, creation of thoughts etc... i find it as a way of progress :)

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2010, 02:37:39 AM »
Hey Siddarthgode:

I feel like I overthink everything. Lots of times, I just want to turn my brain off and shut it down. Maybe because I am so aware of my thoughts? I feel like I daydream a lot and have lots of random thoughts of bad things happening. It's just irritating, I guess.

maybeiam

  • Member
  • Nature is a beautiful peace to be
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2010, 02:44:44 AM »
some positive exercises should help you ,
for example:
are you using the dharma period after your siting sessions ?
spreading positive might help balancing with the negative
Bless you

Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2010, 07:34:26 AM »
whenever u think u r thinking too much or some bad thought came into ur head or if u want to relax then just remember ur breath. as soon as u bring breath into ur awareness ur thinking stops.

atleast thats what i do.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2010, 07:37:52 AM by siddharthgode »

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2010, 10:03:40 AM »
Being in the head is unwholesome because the western/modern tendency is to identify with mind and to ignore body. The Buddha always put body as the first of the personality factors for a reason: unless you have fully engaged your body in the practice you can hide mental suffering in the body unseen and unchanged, blocking your practice.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2010, 10:31:48 AM »
Quote
Being in the head is unwholesome because the western/modern tendency is to identify with mind and to ignore body. The Buddha always put body as the first of the personality factors for a reason: unless you have fully engaged your body in the practice you can hide mental suffering in the body unseen and unchanged, blocking your practice.

very high funda :)
hope someday il realize that.

Mindfullness

  • Member
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2010, 05:11:45 PM »
Thanks again everyone!

Matt, its interesting you bring up the body versus the mind. Just a random bit here, I strongly believe that everyone here should read Osho's " The Book of Secrets". The book discusses Tantra and how in the west, people have become far too head-oriented, which is bad. It's really an amazing book, and it has made me realize that I have ALWAYS been way too head-oriented, and that meditation is a way for me to get to know my body.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2010, 06:07:11 PM »
It will take time for you to fully embody yourself again. This practice quiets the mind during that process as a natural byproduct.

Matthew <<< not "Matt" please
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

dobe

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2010, 02:58:37 AM »
In the beginning, you identify with your body and mind, you don't even know that this is an illusion.  An ego vanity. 
Content, form, and thoughts cloud your consciousness, it is inevitable that you identify with them, and claim ownership over your thoughts.  It is helpful to have heard that everything going through your mind is not of your creation at all, to claim ownership of your thoughts is really a vanity.  Actually, thoughts are arising out of a field by themselves, and frankly your mind could care less if you want it to stop.  Thats what the mind does! it thinks continuously!  But like a pond, when left alone, it stills and becomes less frantic and restless.

nliyan25 you now have more awareness of what was already going on in your head.  And because you no longer want all these crazy thoughts, it seems painful/annoying.
I agree with TIB that you should simply work on relaxation and full body breathing.  At first it is hard, you become restless, bored, agitated, itches, you find yourself not realizing you just had a 2 minute fantasy about the future, etc.  Dont try and stop your thoughts, you cannot.  But they fade on their own when you dont energize them.  You energize them by following a thought(which actually arises first as an energy, thinkingness, this is hard to notice in the beginning).  Everytime thoughts come up, give them no particular attention.  Like looking straight out a window in a car: dont follow each car that passes by the window.  Instead expand your awareness to your peripheral vision, giving no particular area of sight any more weight than another.  As the cars go by, your field of perception doesn't focus on each moving thing.  The cars are like your thoughts, you notice them, but you do not stick your head out the window and watch it go all the way down the high way.

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2010, 03:25:17 AM »
Dobe:

After doing fully body breathing, should I eventually move on to the body scanning part of meditation, moving from head to toe, observing sensations and move on(i.e. Vipassana)? I ask because I used to do the Goenka style Anapanna to prepare for Vipassana, and then proceed to Vipassana.

dobe

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2010, 04:06:07 AM »
I am not really familiar with these certain specific practices.  When I started meditating I focused on the air brushing the tip of my nose.  Then I sort of transitioned to a more general, full body, not excluding anything from awareness sort of meditation, there it seems best to use the full body breath as a meditation post.  I am more interested in the essence of meditating, not the particulars.  The particulars can be useful in the very beginning: which thing to focus on, certain postures, certain mantras, etc.  But as one begins to get a feel of what meditation is, formal meditation dissolves into a continuous, 24/7, all day thing.  Some call it contemplation.  You live your life in a state of awareness.  You are not so involved in whatever you are doing, but are continuously aware that you are aware.  This constant awareness becomes your focus.  For it is not the particulars that matter, but constant awareness of the particulars that matters.  Eventually you need no particulars.

My suggestion: short intervals of formal meditating on full body breathing.  Don't meditate for like 1hr straight in the beginning, it becomes frustrating and strenuous and what you want to do in the beginning is develop a love for the practice.  Several times throughout the day take like 15-20 minutes, sitting comfortably, and simply be aware of your breath.  Thoughts will arise and you will forget your breath, simply bring your awareness back to your breath.  Don't over think this, its really quite simple.  Eventually your practice will develop and you will love the relaxed state that ensues.  The breath is a good post, eventually you can just remain in awareness and focus on the breath will not be necessary, but it is a useful tool in the beginning.  Short intervals throughout the entire day of formal meditation...

Just as important to these short formal sessions is when you get up, and walk around, you try and maintain whatever non distracted awareness you have cultivated.  When you find you're mind going insane once again, you know its a good time to sit for another 10-20minutes.  As you progress it doesn't really take effort anymore, non distracted awareness is your preferred state of consciousness.  Thinking becomes a real drag LoL..

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2010, 04:13:37 AM »
Thanks Dobe for the clarification. And yes, thinking too much is a real pain!

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2010, 01:26:27 AM »
Mathew,

Just a question: do you not agree with Goenka's method of scanning the body for sensations? Why/why not?

Mindfullness

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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2010, 02:41:05 AM »
Sorry, my mistake, Matthew, why is it that it seems you don't believe in Goenka's method of scanning the body up and down?

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
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Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2010, 07:49:35 AM »
It's not the way the Buddha taught to meditate, I consider it prone to habit forming and it is a fabrication. Meditation is about seeing what is. Lay a method like this on it and you alter what is.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

maybeiam

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  • Nature is a beautiful peace to be
Re: Overthinking Vipassana
« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2010, 01:51:59 AM »
It's not the way the Buddha taught to meditate, I consider it prone to habit forming and it is a fabrication. Meditation is about seeing what is. Lay a method like this on it and you alter what is.

I'm with you on this one , more because of a logical reason than because of a "Buddha teaching".
But  Goenka in his preaches makes it clear that all his teachings are exactly like Buddha tradition purely he says.
But i guess there r like more 9999 cults/methods/ claiming that their teaching is the right one.
I've been reading what TIB says in the posts about the Goenka method , and i have to confess i find him clear when he says that that the object of anapana is a kind of a self hipnosis.
I've been beating myself to know what is my next step into the meditation path, because i guess the Goenka Vip brought me unwanted ways to continue it.
Anyway everyone is different , many methods could be important, the thing that revolts me most is the mistake on to get the wrong ones when we are aware of ourselves, and i made that with Goenka and i have to confess it.
Bless you

 

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