Author Topic: Meditating Outdoors.  (Read 8515 times)

garyblackhouse

Meditating Outdoors.
« on: January 25, 2013, 04:47:21 PM »
Hi there. I searched for threads of this kind but found little under "outside" and "outdoors", so I figured I'd create the thread, and sorry if there are others like it I did not find.

During my first 10 day course (December '12/January '13)  S.N. Goenka was adamant we should meditate inside, away from strong sun and outside air etc. I presume this is most likely because most of the students were new, and inside is the place to start sharpening the mind, working with anapana and eventually Vipassana. I also found the energy and atmosphere within the boundaries can be beneficial. But I also know its possible to meditate outside, and this interests me.

So I suppose, considering this, my main question is: Is there a particular time limit you should wait to try and sit outdoors after your first course? I'm 1 month in to the practice and in general I'd say its going well in my bedroom corner. At times difficult, granted, but as Goenka says we must persevere. But I also love the outdoors, nature, mountains, bodies of water etc. and at some point in the future (closer to summer) I'd like to sit outdoors. Perhaps if a suitable and peaceful place could be found it may be beneficial? But I wanted to make sure first about some things to consider before taking the leap?

Look forward to your responses.

Gary

redalert

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2013, 02:18:45 AM »
Go ahead and sit outside, when you are on retreat follow the rules, guidlines, and schedule, when the course is over you are free to do as you please. Its just more difficult to feel the subtle touch of breath or sensations outside as we are working with a smaller area than say someone working with the rise and fall of the abdomen.
The elements can be distracting when we are beginning. The goal is to develope your practice in all postures 24/7 with eyes open or closed.

James the Giant

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2013, 02:26:51 AM »
Is there a particular time limit you should wait to try and sit outdoors after your first course?
No.  Find a nice outdoor spot and do it now! 
But!  But, you will find it is really different.  There are many more distractions, and so it is very difficult to stay within the frame of the body, as Goenka teaches us to.
I think that's the main reason he says to do it inside at first... there are so many noises and things outdoors, we become like ancient cave-men, sensitive and wary of strange noises and rustling bushes in case they are a sabre-tooth tiger come to eat us.
Inside is like the cave-man's cave, secure, and you can let your guard down and focus entirely on the meditation object/body scan/whatever.
I think you'd have to be a fairly solid, established meditator to do well outdoors.

But do try it.  Try, and come back and tell us what you noticed.

Personally I don't do sitting meditation outside very much.  I find my focus is much better indoors in a quiet room.  But real life isn't like that...

The Goenka method has difficulties where noise and the outdoors is concerned, too.  His method stays with physical sensations of the body, and so sounds are kinda extraneous.  The Mahasi method, which embraces all the five (six?) sense doors, is more open, and I find better for outdoors.  But that's a whole other discussion.

 Try, and come back and tell us what you noticed.
Best wishes

Irfan

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2013, 11:05:48 AM »
I agree with the two other posts, just give it a try. I remember just recently, sitting outside in quite a windy environment, trying to meditate. For sure, I couldn't feel my breath on my upper lip! but I just adjusted and became aware of the sensation of the wind all over my body. It was quite interesting. I still prefer to sit inside, but it's worth a try, just for something different.

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2013, 05:12:26 PM »
Cool. Thanks people. Still in the cusp of winter here so it may be a couple of months before I can give it a try. But I'll be keeping my eye out for some dry and calm weather. It may be beneficial in that I don't want my meditation to become too mechanical either. Mixing it up just a little could be good.

Something on topic and of comical value: During the pre-silence announcements on my course, they told us we shouldn't sun bathe. (Which is almost impossible this time of year regardless) But right as we had our 2 hour Vipassana teaching sit the sun was beaming through a slit in the window blinds onto my face. Coincidental? Absolutely, but it was a nice moment.  :)
« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 05:15:20 PM by garyblackhouse »

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2013, 05:24:12 PM »
well here is my story,

i tried meditating outside. doing anapanna outside is very easy and i got hold of it soon. ( you might as well)

but the problem came with vipassana. the sensations created by nature outside were too overwhelming and i could only meditate with them and remain equanimus to them. but i never stoped because these sensations are as important as the sangaras. as i developed my awareness gradually it became easier and easier to be aware of both.

but i should warn you this, working only outdoors will slow your progress. getting touch with settle body sensations is very important.
gl
 ;D

redalert

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2013, 08:14:46 PM »
I was meditating outside and had a mosquito buzzing around my head, it landed on my face and just feeling it crawl all over my face was quite a cool experience, all the time trying to remain equanimous. It finally just left it did not even bite me.

Another time in the summer at the temple I was meditating and same thing happened this time I was not so lucky, still a great practice to observe emotions, sensations and breathing with an external presence.

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2013, 10:51:31 PM »
Nice one dissarthgoode. Yes, maybe at first start with Anapanna and work the way into it. And double yes, definitely something for a rare occasion.

I was meditating outside and had a mosquito buzzing around my head, it landed on my face and just feeling it crawl all over my face was quite a cool experience, all the time trying to remain equanimous. It finally just left it did not even bite me.

Haha, well done. Doubtful I'd be remaining still if something lands on me.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2013, 10:14:19 PM »
I usually do a sitting in the morning inside, then one in the evening outside. I don’t really find much of a difference to my overall experience apart from the outside providing more stimulus for sense awareness (sounds of birds, touch of wind, smells of flowers, etc). If anything the added mild distractions are good noticeable examples of the impermanence of things.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 10:16:39 PM by Dharmic Tui »

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2013, 10:56:44 PM »
I usually do a sitting in the morning inside, then one in the evening outside. I don’t really find much of a difference to my overall experience apart from the outside providing more stimulus for sense awareness (sounds of birds, touch of wind, smells of flowers, etc). If anything the added mild distractions are good noticeable examples of the impermanence of things.

Interesting point. Sometimes when I'm meditating upstairs in my "spot" I can hear my room-mates shuffling around on the levels below, or indeed the birds outside, or a car passing by etc. I'm a little distracted by the sounds but it's interesting trying to remain relaxed and equanimous while uncontrollable happenings on the outside create thoughts and sensations within. Would people (all of you) consider this to be a valid part of meditation or is it a case of the quieter the better?


Dharmic Tui

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Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 02:05:18 AM »
I’m not very good at reciting, but I do remember something along the lines of “A layperson waits for conditions to be perfect, an Arhat rests in the knowledge that they never will be”.

Irfan

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 03:29:20 AM »
Interesting point. Sometimes when I'm meditating upstairs in my "spot" I can hear my room-mates shuffling around on the levels below, or indeed the birds outside, or a car passing by etc. I'm a little distracted by the sounds but it's interesting trying to remain relaxed and equanimous while uncontrollable happenings on the outside create thoughts and sensations within. Would people (all of you) consider this to be a valid part of meditation or is it a case of the quieter the better?

Gary, this week I'm working with one of Jon Kabat-Zinn's audio files, called "Soundscape", which involves sitting and hearing whatever sounds reach your ears and just observing them, without reacting or labelling. It's great! It really changed my perspective as sounds being a "distraction that prevents me from meditating properly" to a "distraction that I deal with through meditation." To be honest, I don't think the Goenka style of meditation is particularly good with this kind of thing, it's never addressed. In general, though, I still try to do one seated meditation each day in an environment that is as quiet as possible, not windy, and not subject to sudden changes in the light. Then, in addition, I try to walk mindfully down my street whenever I leave or come home. Also, since I work writing and editing and immersed in a computer, I just catch myself while working and note my physical and emotional sensations.

You did say you started with the Goenka style of meditation, didn't you? Even though Goenka does talk about integrating meditation into your daily life, he doesn't really give much guidance on how to do that. Even though i still respect his methodology, I really do think you can learn by reading and studying some of the other "mindfulness school" writers -- Jon KZ being my favorite at the moment. And, experiment and trust your own judgement and feeling. If you keep on with the Goenka school, well, follow his instructions while you are doing his residential course, but don't be a slave to the methodology in your daily life.

James the Giant

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 09:48:22 AM »
If you keep on with the Goenka school, well, follow his instructions while you are doing his residential course, but don't be a slave to the methodology in your daily life.

But shhhh, ( :quiet: ) don't tell them you've been investigating other techniques if you go for another Goenka course.  They don't like that.

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2013, 10:02:15 PM »
You did say you started with the Goenka style of meditation, didn't you? Even though Goenka does talk about integrating meditation into your daily life, he doesn't really give much guidance on how to do that. Even though i still respect his methodology, I really do think you can learn by reading and studying some of the other "mindfulness school" writers -- Jon KZ being my favorite at the moment. And, experiment and trust your own judgement and feeling. If you keep on with the Goenka school, well, follow his instructions while you are doing his residential course, but don't be a slave to the methodology in your daily life.

Yes. This was the only one I really knew about, and I knew was available in Ireland, so this is what I went for. I knew next to nothing about any form of meditation before I took the course, just that some musicians and celebrities have benefited from such a thing. I have found better balance in my daily life and thankfully I have the time to meditate twice a day as recommended by Goenka. In addition to this, I have no real commitments or stresses right now (apart from the petty ones). I'm taking some time to "be" rather than "do" at the moment. I'm going to go for another 10 day course in March, I want to be strong in my first year, 2012 was so very up and down for me, I need the balance and the "art of living."

In regard to reading more about mindfulness, or even, for that matter, reading more and more on the forum. I worry that what I read may complex the issue that might be better off kept simple, sometimes I feel I'd be better to take what I've learned and see how I progress.  In anything, I feel this way because trusting my judgement is a problem for me, I have a lot of self-doubt, which is one of the main reasons for starting meditation. When I'm meditating in the Goenka method, I fear I may be doing it wrong, even though I'm probably not. I get myself down about mind wandering, even though it's common as a newcomer. Your advice is welcomed though, and this is something that interests me. I hope and believe that with meditation a lot of these self-judgements and doubts will slowly start to disappear and I can gain more confidence overall.

Are there specific courses for mindfulness? Or is it something you just read about and try to adapt to your sits and daily life?

But shhhh, ( :quiet: ) don't tell them you've been investigating other techniques if you go for another Goenka course.  They don't like that.

You have my word. And I trust that I can keep my mouth closed, even though we can't speak much anyway!  :)

Thanks for the responses everyone.


garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2013, 10:12:39 PM »
I’m not very good at reciting, but I do remember something along the lines of “A layperson waits for conditions to be perfect, an Arhat rests in the knowledge that they never will be”.

I like this. If I'm interpreting it correctly, (and do correct me if I'm wrong) it kind of touches on my second paragraph above. I must rest in the knowledge of each moment when I'm meditating, it's difficult at times, but with practice it can improve and I may not judge myself so harshly.

redalert

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2013, 11:27:56 PM »

Gary, this week I'm working with one of Jon Kabat-Zinn's audio files, called "Soundscape", which involves sitting and hearing whatever sounds reach your ears and just observing them, without reacting or labelling. It's great! It really changed my perspective as sounds being a "distraction that prevents me from meditating properly" to a "distraction that I deal with through meditation." To be honest, I don't think the Goenka style of meditation is particularly good with this kind of thing, it's never addressed.
 Even though Goenka does talk about integrating meditation into your daily life, he doesn't really give much guidance on how to do that.

The 10 day courses are introductory courses, the discourses are light and humorous. If one sticks with the technique they will qualify for old student courses, in these courses the practice is continuous, no breaks are given. One is to meditate from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall into deep sleep. Much more instruction is given on how to do this while traversing the grounds, while eating, while answering the call of nature, etc....

Even when one returns for a second course as an old student additional instructions are given and the expectations are increased.

If you give dhamma service there are more instructions on how to work and remain mindful in daily activities.

I understand how one could come to these conclusions, but the courses are challenging enough. Could you imagine putting the expectation of constant meditation on a bunch of new students. I would think a large percentage of people would go running for the exits.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2013, 12:53:19 AM »
I like this. If I'm interpreting it correctly, (and do correct me if I'm wrong) it kind of touches on my second paragraph above. I must rest in the knowledge of each moment when I'm meditating, it's difficult at times, but with practice it can improve and I may not judge myself so harshly.
I think you have understood. This isn’t about perfect conditions, be they mental or physical, or having the perfect environment, with the most amount of comfort and the least amount of distractions. It is about observing things just as they are, without judging or measuring. Hopefully, the further you get into it, the less and less things will appear difficult, or distracting, or good or bad.

It is what it is.

Masauwu

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Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2013, 01:47:25 AM »
Are there specific courses for mindfulness? Or is it something you just read about and try to adapt to your sits and daily life?
As i currently understand it, mindfulness (sati) can be described in brief as conscious awareness of the present moment and it should be a key ingredient in any meditation practice (and eventually of everyday life also); it's one of the 7 factors of enlightenment and also one of the elements on the noble eightfold path. One of these guides should help:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html#ch6
http://dharmatreasure.com/teaching-retreats/ (The Magic of Mindfulness)
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1286373

The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Irfan

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2013, 02:10:08 AM »
In regard to reading more about mindfulness, or even, for that matter, reading more and more on the forum. I worry that what I read may complex the issue that might be better off kept simple, sometimes I feel I'd be better to take what I've learned and see how I progress.  In anything, I feel this way because trusting my judgement is a problem for me, I have a lot of self-doubt, which is one of the main reasons for starting meditation. When I'm meditating in the Goenka method, I fear I may be doing it wrong, even though I'm probably not. I get myself down about mind wandering, even though it's common as a newcomer. Your advice is welcomed though, and this is something that interests me. I hope and believe that with meditation a lot of these self-judgements and doubts will slowly start to disappear and I can gain more confidence overall.

Well, it is true that you don't need to read a lot of books about meditation. While I got a lot out of the first JKZ book I read, I don't really feel the need to get hold of any of his other books, I can't imagine what he'd add in any of the others. As my sister says, mindfulness isn't complicated, it's just difficult.

I had a great breakthrough with meditation about a month ago, when I realized that mind wandering was perfectly normal, to be expected. When you notice it, be happy that you noticed. I think JKZ said, meditation is not about sitting still with your mind concentrated on your breath, it is about sitting still with the intention of concentrating on your breath. Your mind WILL wander.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2013, 09:16:05 AM »
Even "concentration" is possibly forced in intent. I think at most, you should be observing the breath.

Irfan

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2013, 09:50:25 AM »
The 10 day courses are introductory courses, the discourses are light and humorous. If one sticks with the technique they will qualify for old student courses, in these courses the practice is continuous, no breaks are given. One is to meditate from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall into deep sleep. Much more instruction is given on how to do this while traversing the grounds, while eating, while answering the call of nature, etc....

Even when one returns for a second course as an old student additional instructions are given and the expectations are increased.

If you give dhamma service there are more instructions on how to work and remain mindful in daily activities.

I understand how one could come to these conclusions, but the courses are challenging enough. Could you imagine putting the expectation of constant meditation on a bunch of new students. I would think a large percentage of people would go running for the exits.

Ah, that's interesting. I've decided I'm going to do one more 10 day course, then the Satipatthana course, and then do one course as a server before I finally make up my mind about whether to stick with "Goenka style". When you talk about "advanced" courses, are you mainly referring to the Satipatthana course?

redalert

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2013, 11:55:42 AM »

Ah, that's interesting. I've decided I'm going to do one more 10 day course, then the Satipatthana course, and then do one course as a server before I finally make up my mind about whether to stick with "Goenka style". When you talk about "advanced" courses, are you mainly referring to the Satipatthana course?

I've sat the sati and teacher self course, I have not done any longer courses ie: 20 day or 30 day etc... I am still a beginner in this tradition. I noticed the humour fell away in the sati discourses, and the expectations increased on the students, there is no one policing the students so you are free to work at the level which is comfortable for you, the teachers do not do as much checking and the lessons are shorter but you are starting from a deeper level and they proceed from there, so much more uninterupted time for continuous meditiation. The emphasis is placed on the student to dicipline themselves, this is helpful when the course is over as you learn to work more independently.

As I have stated before I totally reccomend serving a course, its not the same a sitting but equally beneficial.

I wish you much success with your future courses and ultimatly in whichever tradition you find beneficial.

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2013, 12:59:41 PM »
I understand how one could come to these conclusions, but the courses are challenging enough. Could you imagine putting the expectation of constant meditation on a bunch of new students. I would think a large percentage of people would go running for the exits.

It's true. Very tough work, some people left early, and I'm sure everyone asks themselves the question about leaving through out the 10 days. Even when Goenka told us (the new students at the time) on day sevens discourse we were to meditate constantly during days 8 and 9, it became an even bigger challenge and honestly, my heart sunk a little at that moment, but as time went on it was okay. I look forward to the challenges in future courses with a hint of anxiousness. Constant meditation and no fruit in the evenings sounds tough but beneficial.

As i currently understand it, mindfulness (sati) can be described in brief as conscious awareness of the present moment and it should be a key ingredient in any meditation practice (and eventually of everyday life also); it's one of the 7 factors of enlightenment and also one of the elements on the noble eightfold path. One of these guides should help:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html#ch6
http://dharmatreasure.com/teaching-retreats/ (The Magic of Mindfulness)
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1286373

Awesome. I will take a read through and work on it daily. It sounds interesting, even with just Goenka's tradition I find myself more aware of each passing moment, I'm more comfortable with negative thoughts and this is helping me be more positive overall. Breathing calmly has become much easier and I'm reacting less to things on the outside I can't control. I imagine these are things which may fit into mindfulness, I'll report back on what I think and how it's going. Thanks for the links!

I think you have understood. This isn’t about perfect conditions, be they mental or physical, or having the perfect environment, with the most amount of comfort and the least amount of distractions. It is about observing things just as they are, without judging or measuring. Hopefully, the further you get into it, the less and less things will appear difficult, or distracting, or good or bad.

It is what it is.


Well said. With this in mind I will continue to work.

Thanks again for the comments everyone. It's good to hear from experienced mediators bringing some light on the subject. I know it's a D.I.Y job and it's important to understand that, but there will always be questions that when answered can help the process along.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 01:04:51 PM by garyblackhouse »

garyblackhouse

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2013, 09:43:21 PM »
http://dharmatreasure.com/teaching-retreats/ (The Magic of Mindfulness)
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1286373

After reading Link 1 and 3. And listening to some of Link 2. It seems logical to add this to daily life as well as just 2 hours of Vipassana. Though yes, for beginners and someone doing a 10 day course it also seems logical to start light then add these aspects as you go along. Hopefully there will some classes around my area on the subject, and I'll definitely be (trying) to adapt it as I go along.

@Irfan, is there any particular Jon Kabat Zinn book that you might recommend?


Irfan

Re: Meditating Outdoors.
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2013, 12:29:54 AM »
@Irfan, is there any particular Jon Kabat Zinn book that you might recommend?

The book I've been reading is "The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness"

http://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Way-through-Depression-Unhappiness/dp/1593851286

Jon Kabat Zinn is actually listed as a co-author, rather than the sole author. Even though it sounds like it's aimed at people suffering clinical depression, it's actually relevant to anyone. Even though I haven't read it yet, I also have "Full Catastrophe Living", which is written by Jon Kabat Zinn alone. This one seems to get the best reviews of his books. Both are available on kindle, if you have one.


 

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