Author Topic: Am I on the right path?  (Read 6443 times)

ButtonLife

  • Guest
Am I on the right path?
« on: July 09, 2012, 03:44:42 AM »
I'm struggling with deciding which way to take my meditation. To give you a clearer idea of my intentions, my goal for meditation is to: calm my mind, gain control of my emotions, and to be able to be able to think clearly.

I have racing thoughts that I can not seem to control. It has gotten to the point that most of my thoughts don't really make sense and are just broken phrases and the thoughts are there without my intention. As an example, random lyrics from a song might play through my head, then immediately afterwards a combination of words that make no sense and has nothing to do with anything going on at the moment. With this kind of thinking has also come lack of concentration, an inability to learn easily, and a difficulty in communicating ideas.

My emotions have become sort of out of place. I may be angry in a situation where there is no reason for it even though I know I shouldn't be angry. When it comes to emotion my main issue is anger.

All of these problems seem to be symptoms of schizophrenia. I have been recommended to seek an answer to my problems by seeing a psychiatrist, but I don't even want to think of this as an option. I don't think a couple of pills will solve anything, just mask the problem itself.

I began meditation around a year ago and have not practiced consistently. I have tried 3 different methods so far and need opinions on which meditation might be best suited for me, and if I am making a mistake by pursuing  any of these.

Different methods:

1. Shamatha meditation. I haven't seen much progress from this and it almost seems to make my condition worse. I know that this is supposed to be the calming meditation and is a good foundation for further practice, but I haven't had much luck with it.

2. I don't know the name for it, but this practice is me focusing on all of my bodily sensations. In a sense being mindful. This seems to be a more focused and persistent effort of keeping my attention on what I feel. It seems to feel more right than shamatha, since I actually do feel more relaxed and have a clearer mind afterwords.

3. This is what I came up with after I didn't have much luck with shamatha. I began to instead of purely focusing on my breath, focus on the entire moment at hand. I still stay aware of the moment, my body, and everything around me, but I am much more relaxed and take everything in without trying to focus on one object. When thoughts arise as soon as I notice I'm thinking I let the thoughts pass. I have made the most progress with this and it seems to help. After daily practice of this for a month or 2, I reached a point in one of my sessions where it almost felt like a reached a different plateau in my mind. It became effortless to have a quiet mind, but it was also easy to think when needed. It kind of felt like I reached a new level in meditation? Afterwards the feeling stayed for a couple days but faded away after not practicing for a few days.

The only reason I am not sure about the 3rd choice is because I don't want to start off practicing on the wrong foot. I definitely a beginner when it comes to meditating and wouldn't know right from wrong. I'm also open to suggestions of other practices.

Sorry this post is so long, it is sort of an introductory, explanation, and question.  :-X


Renze

  • Member
    • Ungrounded
    • No hope
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 08:54:33 AM »
Hi ButtonLife,

I think you have wholesome goals for meditation, although gaining control of your emotions might cause some striving/grasping. On the meditative path you don't control your emotions, you simply allow them to be so you can let go of them. I'm sure you have that intention, just be careful with setting a goal like that.

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that has a single major characteristic: sensitivity to psychosis. You will only get diagnosed with this if you had one or more psychotic episodes and you don't fit in another diagnosis. Racing thoughts and exaggerated emotions like out-of-place anger are symptoms of other mental illnesses though, so it is a good idea to see a therapist. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a psychiatrist that might put you on medication, I think there are many therapists out there that don't give an (official) diagnosis or medication. I can also recommend assertiveness training to work on your anger.

In my opinion, if you found a meditation technique that gives immediate, good results, I'd say stick with it! What you describe sounds like Vipassana meditation without the mental noting. You could try the Mahasi noting technique if you need a framework around your practice instead of DIY. It's not far off from what you're doing right now. Here's a link to some instructions: http://www.tathagata.org/DhammaTalks/Instructions/Mahasi_Instruction.html

Masauwu

  • Member
    • chipping away
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2012, 11:41:16 AM »
Hi ButtonLife, welcome to vipassanaforum.

I think you are on the right path in training, i`ll try to comment on the aspects that i recognized in my own practice. Doubt and confusion can be strong at this stage and it helps to follow a frame of reference to help guide through the process; i`ve found this guide to be very useful.

Regarding mental illness, if random racing thoughts and misplaced emotion would be symptoms then the whole world would be on medication. Everyone has these, but with training you`ve become more aware of them, more aware of the inner workings of the mind. You should not abandon the meditation instruction once you get up from the cushion, applying it in daily life is just as important. And unless you are hearing voices or experiencing other serious symptoms, schizophrenia is not an issue here.

In what you describe as 3 methods of meditation i see 3 stages of gradual training. First you practiced concentration and realized it`s insufficient by itself. Then you realized the importance of introspective awareness, of being mindful of what goes on. And then you combined concentration and mindfulness, added another key ingredient (consistent daily practice) and the effect is positive and encouraging.

I think you are doing great and you should keep doing what you`ve been doing, practice daily and try to apply the method in everyday life as well. If you haven`t already, it`s time to familiarize yourself with the whole path; meditation is just one component, and understanding the whole picture will help your progress. I`ll link some suggested reading, even a couple of pages a day will prove useful.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html (outlining and explaining the path)
http://dharmatreasure.com/writings/ (meditation instruction)
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html (comprehensive meditation guide)
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Quardamon

  • Member
    • Teachers were: P.K.K. Mettavihari, Frits Koster, Nel Kliphuis. (In the line of Mahasi Sayadaw)
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 12:18:05 PM »
A practical thing: The link did not work with me. I give it again:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001925/
Let us see if it works now.   . . .   With me it does.

ButtonLife

  • Guest
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2012, 04:17:54 AM »
Hi ButtonLife,

I think you have wholesome goals for meditation, although gaining control of your emotions might cause some striving/grasping. On the meditative path you don't control your emotions, you simply allow them to be so you can let go of them. I'm sure you have that intention, just be careful with setting a goal like that.

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that has a single major characteristic: sensitivity to psychosis. You will only get diagnosed with this if you had one or more psychotic episodes and you don't fit in another diagnosis. Racing thoughts and exaggerated emotions like out-of-place anger are symptoms of other mental illnesses though, so it is a good idea to see a therapist. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a psychiatrist that might put you on medication, I think there are many therapists out there that don't give an (official) diagnosis or medication. I can also recommend assertiveness training to work on your anger.

When it comes to my emotions I know I need to let them run their course, but my anger has gotten to the point where it effects the ones I care about and because of this I want to gain some control over it Even though I know I shouldn't strive and have the desire, I will regardless because of the reason I want to quell my anger. I am also looking into some sort of anger management course/activity to help with this.

I also gave schizophrenia as an example just to help others gain a clearer understanding of the states of mind I'm experiencing. Even if I were to try to stick the name of a disorder to what is going on with me like you said, these symptoms are seen in multiple mental disorders.

Being prescribed a certain kind of medication isn't the only reason I am questionable about seeing a psychiatrist. I don't really agree with many of the ways they view the human psyche. If I don't agree with the many of the fundamentals of western psychology (like some of Freud's theories), I don't feel I will gain much from putting my brain into their hands.  :-X

Renze

  • Member
    • Ungrounded
    • No hope
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2012, 08:46:54 AM »
In my opinion, you should keep an open mind on western psychology. In my experience you can get a lot out of it, especially combined with the meditative/contemplative path. Even without medication, they can teach you how to deal with your symptoms, structure your life, etc. My current therapist is very open minded about meditation and encourages me to continue the practice. And she's from a regular medical centre. The combination of meditation and psychotherapy can be very powerful to overcome these kind of issues.

DarkNightOfNoSoul

  • Member
  • Lots of sharp rocks on this here path
    • Sayagyi U Ba Khin/Goenka, Mahasi Sayadaw
    • Slow learner
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 09:44:32 PM »
Being prescribed a certain kind of medication isn't the only reason I am questionable about seeing a psychiatrist. I don't really agree with many of the ways they view the human psyche. If I don't agree with the many of the fundamentals of western psychology (like some of Freud's theories), I don't feel I will gain much from putting my brain into their hands.  :-X

Hi ButtonLife, I'm a student of psychology and neuroscience, and I think your hesitancy in seeking psychotherapy is well justified. The science of psychology is little over a hundred years old - still a very young science when you consider the immense complexity of the human brain/mind. I think Freud's ideas are outdated (and basically pretty crazy!), and they are generally discredited and disregarded by mainstream science-based psychology today. Unfortunately, many therapists (e.g., psychodynamic psychotherapists), especially in the US, still show an almost religious adherence to Freud's theories and practices - which in my opinion is very dangerous, considering that currently more is unknown about the mind than is known.

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/21/books/breaking-away-from-the-cult.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
http://www.csulb.edu/~kmacd/paper-CrewsFreud.html

Having said that, there are other therapies which have been shown to be effective, and are well supported by scientific evidence; for example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In addition, there are newer therapies being developed that are based directly on mindfulness meditation - mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). These are likely to be more compatible with your meditation practice, though they don't yet enjoy the scientific support that CBT does.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_cognitive_therapy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_stress_reduction

ButtonLife

  • Guest
Re: Am I on the right path?
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2012, 02:00:40 PM »
I think you are doing great and you should keep doing what you`ve been doing, practice daily and try to apply the method in everyday life as well. If you haven`t already, it`s time to familiarize yourself with the whole path; meditation is just one component, and understanding the whole picture will help your progress. I`ll link some suggested reading, even a couple of pages a day will prove useful.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html (outlining and explaining the path)
http://dharmatreasure.com/writings/ (meditation instruction)
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html (comprehensive meditation guide)

I agree, it seems like I have much more to look into. I have lightly touched on this by reading The Art Of Happiness by the Dali Lama. He tried to stay out of the spiritual aspects of Buddhism since the book was intended for westerners and not just for Buddhists, but he still used the same principles of the eightfold path as a guideline.

Thank you for the resources, this seems like an excellent way for me to introduce myself to the whole picture.

 

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