Author Topic: How many years of practise does it take...  (Read 4454 times)

Benjamin

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How many years of practise does it take...
« on: November 13, 2012, 07:28:35 PM »
...before you notice the very first, (and may it be ever so subtle) progress? 2 Years? 10 Years? A lifetime?


Hello, maybe I should introduce myself first. I came here hoping to find advise.

I've started training in meditation one and a half years ago, in early 2011. Vipassana. I allready read a lot of books, like those from Bhante Gunaratana, Joseph Goldstein or Jon-Kabat Zinn about mindfulness. So I was thrilled to test it. I mean, it had so many promises: More concentration in everyday life, more relaxation, more awareness, some kind of "immunity" against all bad thoughts/emotions. Sounds like the perfect cure for all the 21st-century-problems, doesn't it?

I often practised 2 times a day, morning and afternoon, first sitting 30 minutes, then up to 45. I also tried it for a whole day a couple of times. I allways first forced my mind to the meditation object of the breath, then tried to be mindful about everything. So I really did what the books are telling! And I was excited about getting a better state of mind.

What's the result as of now? Nothing!

I slowly start to wonder when people are talking about a "calmer mind", "insight" or "bliss", and that after a shorter amount of time they've put into practise than I did. My problem is: There never is a calming of the mind. Even after hours of meditating, there would be just the same tempest in my head as before. The only thing that was different was that I felt exhausted from forcing my mind to the objekt of meditation again and again. Old thoughts and emotions just got replaced by new ones, no less intense than before. And it always went on like this, endlessly!

Well, sometimes I can concentrate better along the end of the meditation, for example I don't miss the breaths anymore while counting. But I can't see any value in it because that cardhouse just collapses immediatly after meditation ends and reality sets in again.

So I'm asking you: Could it be that it's just perfectly normal to experience -after more than a year - absolutely no progress or improvement in meditation practise as I described it ? Should one meditate at least for 3 years before something finally changes (about meditation or everyday life)?

Or is something wrong with me?
Thanks.

Delma54

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2012, 11:51:17 PM »
Hi Benja, I think you are a bit loss. reading books give a good knowledge but does not replace the knowing of practicing. You need to find a teacher. In Sep 2011 I enrolled in an online Meditation course of 90 days. Unbelievable mind opening for biginners.
 
Vipassana Fellowship's meditation courses


Metta

Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 01:58:58 PM »
it also depends on your past baggage. others might have less when they started compared to u.
also smart work is more important than hard work. what books say is good to know, but read and forget, let all of it get to u in meditation through practice.
also refer only satipattana sutta and maha satipattana sutta. it might seem in the beginning  there is very limited info. but thats all the info one needs.
if possible clearly try to define the basic fields of mind that are stated in them like awareness, equanimity, negativity etc. through meditation.

some views  :)

Matthew

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2012, 02:15:37 PM »
Benjamin,

If you are doing it right there are changes in the chemistry of the brain that can be identified with 3 weeks of 1 x 20 minutes practice a day.

Reading a huge number of books often does not help but builds expectation and habits of perception about meditation.

..
also refer only satipattana sutta and maha satipattana sutta. it might seem in the beginning  there is very limited info. but thats all the info one needs.
...

I am pretty much in agreement with siddharthgode here. Why read some guy's view on these texts (who may or may not have put them into practice)?

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

Benjamin

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2012, 03:27:41 PM »
@Delma

Why does everyone I ask about that want me to find a teacher?! Meditation teachers are not quite as numerous as yoga teacher, so I'd be better of with that online course. Any more information about that?

Talking generally about Vipassana, I also don't understand how mindfulness ist supposed to give you energy when mine was just taken from it! When I read about meditators who meditate the whole time without even sleeping during the night, I can't believe it. I mean, whenever I try to be mindful and force myself to stay at the object of meditation, no matter whether in meditation or in everyday life - it's just exhausting! It feels like doing a math exam or counting the different labels of cars crossing by at a road for hours.

Is it that what Vipassana has to feel like?


Sylvia1982

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2012, 05:37:08 PM »
I had the same doubts after few years of practise

The results vary from one person to the next. For e.g. it took me good few years just to be able to feel sensations on upper part of the lip (anapana) and at one of the retreat I was so exhausted doing anapana. I t felt like pouring sand out of a bucket and putting it back in the bucket again but a grain of sand at a time. But it is worth the effort.

Some one once told me that meditation teachers, monks were very reluctant on writing books about meditation as there was nothing to write about other than in breath, out breath and observing it. So,  finding a teacher may not be necessary but it will certainly help more. During one of the retreat I was very excited to have found this technique and I kept telling my self that this is what I will continuosly do when I come out of the retreat. But still hasn't worked in the sense that I am still unable to focus on breath for more than 10 seconds.

And, in terms of noticing change. It will probably happen once you stop expecting it. Or, it may well have happened and you may looking at the wrong places.

Try to be aware when doubts like you mention arises and persevere. Improve Five precepts
Hope that makes sense.

Matthew

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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: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2012, 08:12:12 PM »
Benjamin,

...
Why does everyone I ask about that want me to find a teacher?! Meditation teachers are not quite as numerous as yoga teacher, so I'd be better of with that online course. Any more information about that?

No suggestion from here you find a teacher. You are your own best teacher. The two meditation texts above, if read, understood and practiced diligently will show quick results. If they are too otherworldly for you then read the introduction to Shamatha linked from the homepage and try starting with that.

Talking generally about Vipassana, I also don't understand how mindfulness ist supposed to give you energy when mine was just taken from it!


Mindfulness is not a practice - it is a fruit or result of practice. But only good practice will lead to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not even the first fruit of practice - usually it is built on a stable, calm, relaxed and concentrated awareness. If this route is followed you will have more energy.

When I read about meditators who meditate the whole time without even sleeping during the night, I can't believe it.

Don't believe it. Either see for yourself that it is true or false or forget about it. Otherwise you are merely perpetuating and propagating beliefs which are entirely useless most of the time.

I mean, whenever I try to be mindful and force myself to stay at the object of meditation, no matter whether in meditation or in everyday life - it's just exhausting! It feels like doing a math exam or counting the different labels of cars crossing by at a road for hours.

That is quite simply because you have not first developed the other qualities of "stable, calm, relaxed and concentrated awareness" mentioned above. You are chasing the dragon, not relaxing into an open awareness of now.

Is it that what Vipassana has to feel like?

No but if you enjoy it that way keep on trucking. If not then change the way you are practicing.

Kind regards,

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

Falkov

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2012, 10:26:45 PM »
You know, simply because one is mindful- doesn't mean one will always feel blissful, calm, peaceful.    Knowing what is at the moment- calm, angry, restless, sleepy, not feeling anything- is mindful.   The next question is: what are you gonna do about them?   Are you going to let your sorrow or anger dictate how you do things or live your life?    Same goes w/ calm and peace, will you expect every moment of you life to be at peace? 

Instead of expecting that something should happen, perhaps you should try just sitting there- "w/ out expectation".   Just sit and let go- or let it be.   The more you are trying to chase the butterfly, the further it flies away.   

If you are already expecting too much of yourself after two years of experience, what will happen if you have twenty years of experience?   
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 10:33:21 PM by Falkov »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2012, 01:46:15 AM »
This isn’t something you can put time frames and measures on, that to me goes against the whole point of insight meditation. It’s something that takes as long as it needs to take. As others have suggested if you’ve been doing it for this long and aren’t noticing anything, get a teacher.

Delma54

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2012, 02:59:25 AM »
@Delma

Why does everyone I ask about that want me to find a teacher?! Meditation teachers are not quite as numerous as yoga teacher, so I'd be better of with that online course.
Hi Benjamin – Calm a little down. The middle way is the Buddhas’s way. Beside our fellow members are already giving you wonderful advice. Attached you can get info that you need for Online courses. In the meantime, be gentle to yourself, give it the time. Metta
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 03:02:02 AM by Delma54 »

Quardamon

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2012, 08:15:05 PM »
Wow, Bejamin,

Thank you for sharing.
You must be quite a die-hard to have done one-and-a-half year of practice without any result.

Fascinating.

You sigh or exclaim: "Why does everyone I ask about that want me to find a teacher?!"
Well then, it seems that everyone you ask does not have an answer himself. Plus they tell you that the average lay person will not have an answer for you.
Or am I exaggerating the point?

I am sorry to say so, but finding "the perfect cure for all the 21st-century-problems" is a religious endeavour. Not a practical one. A lot of us here love this religious undertaking. We love to do something good for the world around us. And we hate to hear that it simply does not work. We hate to admit that it does not work.
A lot of us - including me - still go on.
But it is not a practical thing. I am very convinced, that my dentist does more for the benefit of mankind than I do.

For me, meditation has to do with dedication and with prayer: it helps me keep a heart-felt perspective on life.

Quardamon

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2012, 11:10:11 PM »
Hey Benjamin,

Sounds familiar. I wanted to share some of my experiences in case they help. I'm not very experienced or knowledgeable in this stuff, so if it's no use just ignore it.

I meditated for about a year and a half (on and off) based on what I'd read in books, before I went on my first 10-day meditation retreat in 2006. For me personally, it wasn't until the retreat that the whole thing sunk in properly and I actually learned how to meditate properly.

Following that retreat, I didn't realise for a year or so, but my life very slowly started to change - some of the changes conscious, but most unconscious I think.

BUT they weren't the changes I expected - bliss, insight, mystical experiences. No no no. It was more a subtle change in my values, and most of it seemed negative to me. I talked about my angst in this quite long-winded thread:

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,1861.msg19610.html#msg19610

I've since been to three more retreats, and it wasn't until the last one that I made a full commitment to myself to meditate daily, even if it was only for 10 minutes. I've been managing to sit daily for a year and a bit now. Like you, I have a lot of trouble remaining focused (and I think most people do, frankly). It's only really in the few months (and I can count the occasions on one hand) that I've experienced anything like a sense of calmness while sitting, and then only very briefly. Once, after a group meditation, the calmness extended for about twenty minutes afterwards - while walking home, I felt like I was experiencing sights, sounds etc as if doing so for the first time and felt very relaxed. Then it was gone. So I tend to feel a bit jealous and resentful when I read about the mystical experiences some people seem to have constantly, lol.

One of my main problems is my expectations - in the literature out there, there's far too much emphasis on what you'll get out of the practice, how you'll achieve bliss, inner peace, etc. In six years, I've barely seen any of this. So now I try and ignore all that - I've concluded sitting is something that you just do, every day for the rest of your life, without expecting anything. Paradoxically, for me it's not been until I've completely "let go" of expectations (basically succumbing to a state of despair during my meditation and thinking "this is a load of crap, I'm hopeless, the technique doesn't work, blah blah blah") that suddenly I've actually experienced the state that I've been desperately craving for. (Then of course I cling to it, and it disappears!)

Another thing for me - relaxing. It's easy to get all tense and worried that you're not "doing it properly", concentrating so hard and making yourself sit for so long it becomes like a marathon and you end up exhausted and pissed off. I notice my tenseness sometimes and have to remind myself it's OK for the mind to drift off - that's just what it does, that's why I'm engaging in this strange exercise. I try not to beat myself up for not keeping focused, I just try and watch the process of being distracted, laugh at myself and feel compassion for myself. We all have this crazy mind that wanders off and thinks about anything else but what we're doing right now.

Yeah, so I'd suggest maybe:
- try a formal retreat if you haven't already
- understand that the changes from meditation may be subtle and may even seem negative to you at first
- let go of any expectations and just do it
- don't get excited about anything that comes up that resembles what you've been told about the wonders of meditation
- be gentle with yourself and let things go at their own pace.

One other note. I've always been a bit of an over-achiever, so I've had to learn that sitting is nothing like the "achievement" mentality we've been brought up in the west (educational achievements, career achievements, financial achievments, and all that crap). Unlike these other things, the more you force it and the more you try and achieve some preconceived goal, the less calm your mind will be and the more it will drift away from you. Relax, have patience, don't give up, you're on the right path.

Hope that helps a bit.

Matthew

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    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2012, 01:07:10 PM »
...
Yeah, so I'd suggest maybe:
- try a formal retreat if you haven't already
- understand that the changes from meditation may be subtle and may even seem negative to you at first
- let go of any expectations and just do it
- don't get excited about anything that comes up that resembles what you've been told about the wonders of meditation
- be gentle with yourself and let things go at their own pace.

One other note. I've always been a bit of an over-achiever, so I've had to learn that sitting is nothing like the "achievement" mentality we've been brought up in the west (educational achievements, career achievements, financial achievments, and all that crap). Unlike these other things, the more you force it and the more you try and achieve some preconceived goal, the less calm your mind will be and the more it will drift away from you. Relax, have patience, don't give up, you're on the right path.

Hope that helps a bit.

This post is full of wisdom and compassion. DarkNight .... bravo.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Benjamin

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2012, 10:31:02 AM »
One other note. I've always been a bit of an over-achiever, so I've had to learn that sitting is nothing like the "achievement" mentality we've been brought up in the west (educational achievements, career achievements, financial achievments, and all that crap). Unlike these other things, the more you force it and the more you try and achieve some preconceived goal, the less calm your mind will be and the more it will drift away from you. Relax, have patience, don't give up, you're on the right path.

That proposal indeed collides with my innermost worldviews and convictions. I always thought that there would be no other way of achieving and getting better at something than working hard or trying hard. And now, suddenly there's something that can only achieved by having no pursuit for achiving it?

I should be rolling on the floor laughing about that. Because it sounds like so out of this world.


redalert

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2012, 12:14:35 PM »
One other note. I've always been a bit of an over-achiever, so I've had to learn that sitting is nothing like the "achievement" mentality we've been brought up in the west (educational achievements, career achievements, financial achievments, and all that crap). Unlike these other things, the more you force it and the more you try and achieve some preconceived goal, the less calm your mind will be and the more it will drift away from you. Relax, have patience, don't give up, you're on the right path.

That proposal indeed collides with my innermost worldviews and convictions. I always thought that there would be no other way of achieving and getting better at something than working hard or trying hard. And now, suddenly there's something that can only achieved by having no pursuit for achiving it?

I should be rolling on the floor laughing about that. Because it sounds like so out of this world.
Hi benjamin,

I think dark night is referring to right concentration.  Have you ever been in bed and so tired that all you want to do is sleep? The harder you try to fall asleep the more frusterated you become, you begin to think about trying to sleep, you begin craving sleep, and the further away from sleep you get. When you surrender to this you begin to relax and you simply fall asleep, no effort on your part, the body knows how to sleep.

Meditation is similar to this in that the mind knows what to do, and all that needs to happen is for us to let it be, but when we try to forcefully do it, we push in the opposite direction. :)

Falkov

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2012, 03:50:44 PM »
Quote
I should be rolling on the floor laughing about that. Because it sounds like so out of this world.

No, you should remain calm and as mindful as ever- regardless of what is happening inside and outside.   It is what it is- you can laugh, you can cry.  But life goes on, if not here then elsewhere.

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2012, 07:53:02 PM »
...I always thought that there would be no other way of achieving and getting better at something than working hard or trying hard. And now, suddenly there's something that can only achieved by having no pursuit for achiving it?

I should be rolling on the floor laughing about that. Because it sounds like so out of this world.

Hey Benjamin, yeah I guess it can sound a bit "out of this world", but it's really not - otherwise frankly I wouldn't be bothering. Below are a couple of ideas from a more scientific viewpoint that might help (but note that although I'm a neuroscience student, these ideas are speculative at the moment, and others may disagree).

Think about it like this. Meditation involves lowering your general physiological arousal level (controlled by the autonomic nervous system and measurable by things like heart rate, skin conductance) below its normal agitated level (but not so low that you fall asleep), and maintaining it there for as long as possible. At this level, we feel a sense of calmness and peace. Eventually this calmness and peace extends into our everyday life and we no longer fly into a high state of arousal when faced with the usual stressors.

The trouble is, in our world, we're subjected to massively high levels of stimulation almost from birth. Over long periods of time, this may raise our "threshold" for reward in a process similar to addiction. So we need ever higher levels of stimulation to keep our arousal levels high enough to "feel good". Hence TV, Facebook, emails, texts, consumer gadgets, designer clothes, buying "stuff", parties, junk food, drugs, alcohol, wild sex, extreme sports, and all that crap that people do to try and get a buzz, and to cater to that nagging, growing craving for more.

Long-term meditators reverse this process, lowering the reward threshold so they no longer need high levels of stimulation to feel contented and happy. They achieve a state where just the simplest everyday situations are highly rewarding.

The point is this: Think about what you're doing when you're working really hard towards a goal, really striving, focused on making "progress", getting excited whenever you have an experience that resembles the things you've learned about meditation. Of course, in this state you're at a high level of arousal. Hence the paradox - to feel peace and calmness you need to be at a low level of arousal, but by chasing enlightenment as some sort of achievement, you're cranking up your arousal and heading in the opposite direction.

Meditation involves doing the opposite of what we've done all our lives (chasing goals). If we treat "inner peace" etc as just another achievement on the list, then we're just playing the same old game that got us into an agitated state to begin with.

So it seems to me a bit of a balance is needed in meditation - yes, we have to work, but we need to remain calm and relaxed while we do so, and let go of expectations.

That's what I think anyway, I'm sure some of the more experienced people here will correct me if I'm wrong.

Matthew

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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: How many years of practise does it take...
« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2012, 07:34:03 AM »
.....

So it seems to me a bit of a balance is needed in meditation - yes, we have to work, but we need to remain calm and relaxed while we do so, and let go of expectations.

That's what I think anyway, I'm sure some of the more experienced people here will correct me if I'm wrong.

You are not wrong. It is an explanation based in experience, and a good one.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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