Author Topic: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread  (Read 8428 times)

Mikeler

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Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« on: March 14, 2013, 09:06:23 PM »


I have decided to make a thread where I can adress any issues that I encounter on my journey into mindfulness mediation which are not included in the FAQ section of the forum started by Matthew. I think this is a more practical way of doing it instead of making thread after thread after thread on different topics and just taking up space on the forums.

1). OK, my first concern is in regards to another paradox which I've noticed in the meditative practice. The concept of contemplation in meditation. I've heard of people having massive epiphanies and "sudden realizations" while contemplating during meditation. As a beginner, I do know that minfulness meditation is about noticing thoughts and then letting them go without grasping or trying to reason with them.

If this is the case, then how can contemplation exist in meditative practice? Isn't it just another form of thought/chain of thoughts which serve to distract you from being present to the moment?

2). Is there any space for positive thinking in meditation/daily life and how should positive thoughts be handled?

I've become so paranoid about not attaching myself to thinking patterns, that in fact I have noticed that I have an aversion even to POSITIVE thoughts. It's gotten pretty crazy to the point where I actually get scared when I start to think anything. It's like thinking has become an enemy to peacefulness and happiness.

3). My third and final question for this thread is related to my previous knowledge and experience about CBT. As I have mentioned in my first thread, my reason for doing meditation is to manage/"cure" my social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder which have plagued my life in the 20 years that I've been alive.

I've always thought that if I don't adress negative thoughts and negativity in general, it will run rampant in my life and get worse and worse and worse.

Therefore, just letting thoughts be actually encourages a deeply negative lifestyle and will result in a worsening of my social anxiety and GAD.

Didn't the Buddha himself say "What we think, we become"?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 09:22:40 PM »
1). OK, my first concern is in regards to another paradox which I've noticed in the meditative practice. The concept of contemplation in meditation. I've heard of people having massive epiphanies and "sudden realizations" while contemplating during meditation. As a beginner, I do know that minfulness meditation is about noticing thoughts and then letting them go without grasping or trying to reason with them.

If this is the case, then how can contemplation exist in meditative practice? Isn't it just another form of thought/chain of thoughts which serve to distract you from being present to the moment?
It does indeed seem like a paradox. My two cents:

a)   Some of the realisation people speak of will be derived from the onset of being able to view thoughts as just these things in your head rather than something you live and breathe
b)   When you get to a state of equanimity you are able to contemplate questions without the prejudices and taints of a typical ruminating mind. It is quite a thing to approach a question with a minimum of emotion or bias.

2). Is there any space for positive thinking in meditation/daily life and how should positive thoughts be handled?

I've become so paranoid about not attaching myself to thinking patterns, that in fact I have noticed that I have an aversion even to POSITIVE thoughts. It's gotten pretty crazy to the point where I actually get scared when I start to think anything. It's like thinking has become an enemy to peacefulness and happiness.
I think by letting go and not clinging to negativity your mind will sort of tilt towards the positive, or at the very least strike a middle ground devoid of the negativity. This alone is often more than enough.
3). My third and final question for this thread is related to my previous knowledge and experience about CBT. As I have mentioned in my first thread, my reason for doing meditation is to manage/"cure" my social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder which have plagued my life in the 20 years that I've been alive.

I've always thought that if I don't adress negative thoughts and negativity in general, it will run rampant in my life and get worse and worse and worse.

Therefore, just letting thoughts be actually encourages a deeply negative lifestyle and will result in a worsening of my social anxiety and GAD.

Didn't the Buddha himself say "What we think, we become"?
Sounds like you’re in a similar boat to me with the anxiety. My experience has shown the biggest problem with anxiety is the actual addressing of those negative thoughts – what you end up doing is attempt to use logic and reason to solve problems which are often very much emotional. In the past (and still from time to time) I’ve had negative thoughts, they’ve sort of hit me emotionally like a baseball bat, and then I’ve just sat on them for hours, days, or often weeks or months getting myself all in a state about why I have these thoughts, why they won’t go away, I’m bad for having them, etc etc.

Through practice I don’t have anywhere near the frequency of clinging to these episodes/thoughts, while sitting they arise and I either bat them away, or use them as a pivot point for awareness, realising they pop in my head, but are not really me. The benefit becomes twofold: the thoughts don’t take hold and make me down, and because my mind is getting away from getting wrapped up in them, I’m actually having less and less of them anyway.

As always, persistence is the key. If you’re interested in some good listening material send me a message and I can point you in the right direction.

Quardamon

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2013, 09:47:07 PM »
Is there any space for positive thinking in meditation/daily life   . . .   ?

In my view, it is usual to have something slightly positive as a basis when one starts a meditation session. Be it the love for understanding, or trust in a teacher, or dedication, or serenity supported by flowers and incense, or starting with putting your hands on your heart and feeling the warmth there - whatever comes naturally to the mind or to the heart.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2013, 01:48:09 AM »
4). I've just realized how bad I am at handling really strong emotions like anger and envy.

I've also found that I tend to supress a lot of this anger inside me which makes it come out later in the form of explosive bursts of rage.

Out of all the negative emotions that pop up during my practice, anger remains the hardest of them all to sit through and just be with. The urge to fight back, insult, put down and be hostile is so strong.

Quardamon

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on avoiding blows
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2013, 10:57:14 AM »
From your posts, its seems to me, that when you feel anger arising you focus on the anger and you brace for impact.

To be able to do that, you must have a power that is admirable.
That is good, and you might do yoga or fitness or mountain biking to be able to continue to have this strength, and also to get a liking for the strength that you have. (I did rowing.)

I invite you to be very careful on the cushion in seeing where you are. Stay very close to yourself. You mention that you get scared when you start thinking. So there is being-scared. I bet that you even somehow sense that thoughts are coming. So there is sensing, even before the thinking starts. So this sensing is where you are. That is close to yourself. You might find yourself avoiding. Avoiding the fear, avoiding the thinking. (And I bet that that is a healthy thing to do, but that is not the point here.) So avoiding is closer to yourself than the fear or the thinking. I hope that I make understood what I mean with "stay close to yourself". You start with a positive attitude as I mentioned earlier in this thread, a positive attitude that feels natural. And then you pay attention to what urges you to go away from that. But do not dive into that thing. Keep a small distance.

And please do this thing of careful and subtle noticing only two or three minutes. You do not need to give away your ferocity or endurance. See it like this: a karate fighter needs strength, ferocity, endurance, and also needs to carefully see the movements and even muscle tensions of the opponent to see where the next blow will come. He will not freeze and brace for impact - he will avoid the blow (and still brace for impact).

It seems that consciousness has this capacity of avoiding the blows, or going with the movement as long as you stay close to yourself. Like: "Oh, while I read this I wonder whether I can trust the one who writes this." And you might lean back and relax and find: "Yes, I put mistrust in the fore." If that is so, you have found a lot already in just three minutes. In my view, there is no need to go on sitting to fill the twenty minutes. Later you might find, that you have good reason to put mistrust between you and others, and that it would be unwise to simply drop that. You do not need to sit on a cushion to get that later insight.

Stay strong!

P.S.: It seems that I have little understanding of what Cognitive Based Therapy is. First I thought is was short for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, but it is not. Do you still see a therapist?

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2013, 12:06:34 AM »
Yeah I finished my last therapy session about a week ago.

It was CBT based therapy which is basically based on the premise that false/unrealistic beliefs about the world/people/circumstances cause us to experience extreme anxiety.

The main technique in CBT are belief challenging which is basically finding evidence to disprove a belief which causes mental pain. You're supposed to plan out little social experiments to test out the validity of false beliefs and in the same time get reference points to support the new beliefs you want to have.

For example, if I had the belief that the world is a hostile and bad place, I would focus on the evidence in daily life which disproves this belief and in the same time prove a belief which is more balanced/realistic.

The main issue I have with CBT is that it focuses a lot on going against/fighting thoughts and emotional states. You can probably see how this doesn't really fit in with mindfulness/meditation practice.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 01:48:09 AM »
My belief in mindfulness as a path to recovery is dwindling.

I've had a rough couple days where I've allowed my emotions to blow me around like a leaf in the wind and I have not been able to detach from them and see them as the illusions that they are.

I've been completely fused with their content and I've been suffering as a result. I just CAN'T for the life of me get rid of my ego. I get easily offended very often and I oftentimes take people's comments/random remarks to heart. My self-esteem has been non-existant. I just don't see myself as an equal to most other human beings.

It's like no matter how mindful I am, when I'm in that depressed/frustrated/sad state of mind nothing can shake it off.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 03:52:36 AM »
What you are experiencing is very common, especially if you have some progress, like a pendulum you will probably stress test that progress and find yourself swinging back the other way. The desire to shake it off only adds to the problem, you can’t will emotions away and it’s also hard to click your fingers and distance yourself from your ruminations.

Maybe give yourself a break for a couple of sittings, or maybe set yourself a goal of just doing a body scan for a sitting. Thoughts will come and that’s ok, just bring yourself back to the body when you notice yourself getting lost in thought.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2013, 06:39:44 PM »
I've been becoming more and more concerned about the problem of feeling like I'm supressing my emotional states and almost trying to evade reality.

When I do my daily meditation practice and try to redirect my focus everytime my mind wanders, I can't help but feel like I'm supressing or in some way trying to escape from my thoughts.

I'm not the only one who thinks that way apprently.

http://mindfulconstruct.com/2010/01/15/the-dark-side-of-mindfulness/#comment-252746

http://mindfulconstruct.com/2011/02/04/17-ways-mindfulness-meditation-can-cause-you-emotional-harm/

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2013, 08:48:59 PM »
Perhaps a good question you might want to ask yourself is "what is reality?". Is it all the thoughts and ruminations in your head? Or is it the physical universe which it almost totally independent of your mind? Or is it perhaps a mix between the two.

What you may need to realise is that mindfullness is not an automatic path to happiness and emotional stability. It requires challenging a lot of what you've come to believe over the decades of your life. It can be very tough.

Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2013, 04:45:43 AM »
its necessary to not only come back to reality when lost in thoughts but also to investigate how it happened. what are the causes that leads awareness to wander from object to object when one clearly wants it to stay in one place. how does a thought arise. how does one gets caught in them.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2013, 11:30:41 PM »
I've found that incorporating certain aspects of CBT like positive self-talk when becoming aware of a negative though loop really helps to balance me out emotionally in some cases.

Although this goes directly against normal meditative practice (observation with no interference), I'm willing to try and blend meditation practice with some of the common therapies for mental disorders.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2013, 10:24:16 PM »
I'm experiencing two issues with meditation currently.

The first one is that I have trouble letting go of my breath, letting it flow naturally and just observing it without judgement.

It seems like every time I focus on the expansion and contraction of my abdomen, I tend to force the breath or at least try to exert some kind of control over it as if I'm subconsciously resisting relaxation for fear of doing something wrong.

The second issue is with applying all of this meditation (I'm up to doing 30 minutes a day from 20 minutes) in my daily life.

I constantly forget to be mindful and present to the moment in my daily routine and very often get stuck into the same negative thought patterns that made me depressed years ago.


Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2013, 07:28:02 AM »

The first one is that I have trouble letting go of my breath, letting it flow naturally and just observing it without judgement.

It seems like every time I focus on the expansion and contraction of my abdomen, I tend to force the breath or at least try to exert some kind of control over it as if I'm subconsciously resisting relaxation for fear of doing something wrong.
This one might be pooh pooh'd by others, but maybe just try noticing that you are breathing, rather than getting caught up focusing on any particular area. There's all sorts of school of thought that say focus on the nostrils, or focus on the abdomen, etc, but to me that ends up creating a blur between breath awareness and body awareness.
The second issue is with applying all of this meditation (I'm up to doing 30 minutes a day from 20 minutes) in my daily life.

I constantly forget to be mindful and present to the moment in my daily routine and very often get stuck into the same negative thought patterns that made me depressed years ago.
This is a question and concept I have struggled with in the past many times, how to transfer the experience on the cushion to everyday life. What I have found is you need to be able to stop. Stop thinking, stop measuring, stop comparing, stop judging, etc etc.

While sitting, you should be able to see more and more the arbitrary, subjective nature of your thoughts and beliefs - there is reality, and then there is your spin on reality. As your practice sees this more and more, you should be able to have that spill over into your day to day life. Have a look at your habits, your attitudes, and perspectives as you go about your life, see them for what they are, and stop them. Where you might get irritated for instance, notice that arising, and realise that is an automated response, just like any other reflex. You may not feel brilliant, but being aware of what your mind is doing is winning part of the battle. Over time as you take this approach with all your perspectives that incline you to depression, you should remove their hold and power over you.

I have found with depression or ill feelings, there's an amount of chicken and egg with them, ill feelings will lead to ill thoughts, and vice versa. If you can gradually (and note gradually, it is not going to happen instantly and may take weeks or months) relax both your body and your mind in tandem, you should get yourself closer to peace.

I have also learned that a large amount of this is beyond words, and hard to enunciate. Perhaps also useful is to stop talking to yourself either in sitting or in your day to day, removing the language in my thoughts has led to greater simplicity and less rumination.

You should hopefully be seeing some sort of gradual progression, it is going to have peaks and troughs though, just keep at it.

Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2013, 04:17:53 PM »
The reason why I'm concerned about the breath is because I saw an old post by Matthew stating that focusing on the abdomen/breath awareness is very important for meditation practice compared to other methods such as focusing on the nostrils for the reason that it activate the Vagus nerve and the relaxation response.

There was also mention that focusing on the nostrils is bad because we Westerners already tend to be "head heavy" so that won't do much to ground us.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2013, 07:17:12 PM »
This is why I said my response may not be popular :) For me anyway, I don't think mediation needs to be that technical, and I simply don't like the extra effort required to have to remember to focus on the breath in a particular part of the body. The ultimate endgame is for your body to vanish, so concentrating on the nose, or abdomen, or anywhere else anchors you to the body. Anecdotally, for me, I got a lot more progress when I stopped worrying about posture or technique or any of that sort of stuff and just sat there observing - my earlier practice had me getting all wound up ricocheting my attention all over my body and trying to anticipate what I was going to focus on next.

I think whatever you try doing, don't enter the sitting with an expectation your new method is going to do anything different.

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2013, 02:50:55 PM »
The reason why I'm concerned about the breath is because I saw an old post by Matthew stating that focusing on the abdomen/breath awareness is very important for meditation practice compared to other methods such as focusing on the nostrils for the reason that it activate the Vagus nerve and the relaxation response.

There was also mention that focusing on the nostrils is bad because we Westerners already tend to be "head heavy" so that won't do much to ground us.

The basis of this is still true. I have altered my meditation (and recommendation) to "whole-body-awareness-as-you-breathe", as described in the main meditation scriptures of the Buddha. The description is in the Shamatha/Calm Abiding article linked from the frontpage here.

Quote
"Breathe in paying attention to bodily sensations as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe. Breathe out paying attention to bodily sensations and calming the body as you breathe".

Notes: Do not intellectualise where you pay attention to or try to "follow the path of the breath in the body" or any other such thing - these are fabrications. Pay attention to the actual sensations in your body, wherever they are. Do not interfere with the natural breathing pattern, just pay attention to the sensations in the body as you breathe.
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Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2013, 09:18:03 PM »
Anger.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THIS MIND POISON? In real life and on the Internet.

Sometimes people on the Internet like to gang up on you and tell you you're wrong and that you should feel bad.

I realize this is just ego wars but sometimes it's impossible to be present to the moment and mindful of this provocation. Sometimes I get sucked into lower conciousness and start name calling right back, arguing, swearing etc. But then I realize it's no use because on the Internet, everyone can be anyone and say anything.

In real life, sometimes people have a sarcastic sense of humor which involves personal cuts and attacks but to those people that is normal. This is also difficult to deal with. Do you tell them to their face or do you accept what they are saying?

How do you prevent yourself from taking things personally and just getting angry all the time? It's so hard..

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2013, 08:19:53 AM »
I have to say, when I'm actively posting on the internet, the anonymity brings out the worst in me. I find in general I feel a lot better the less I'm online. So maybe take a break from the internet for a while.

In real life I suggest taking that pause before you flare up, try and recognise the anger is just reactionary, it will pass, and you gain little to nothing from saying harsh words yourself.

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2013, 02:06:24 PM »
One of the ways to deal w/ anger- for me, is to visualize the situation which used to anger me (kinda like replay the situation).  Then see if there's any other way to not make it worse that it was.    It can be just letting go and really focus on what is being done currently: walking, talking, driving, focusing on breathing, etc. 

Eventually, I began to see by allowing me to lose focus/awareness- Sati and became angry- I was the one on losing end.  I am the one who is suffering mentally, emotionally, spiritually.    Current situation maybe unpleasant, people maybe nasty, but as I said before it doesn't have to be worse than it is.  I have a control to make the situation a bit more bearable- again be careful not to be "attached" to change situation to your liking; it will cause even more anger .

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2013, 07:48:46 PM »
Anger itself is not a huge problem. Behaviour induced by anger is the real problem. The difference is putting a gap between your feelings and actions, a pause, a breath, stepping back, seeing things as they are and letting the anger dissipate before taking action based on the reality of the circumstance.
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Mikeler

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2013, 08:37:32 PM »
Are there Zen masters in the world who see through the illusions of life so much that they have developed fearlessness?

Thich Nhat Hahn talks about achieving a state where you just see the impermanence of life and the madness of attachment to material things but I'm not sure if this is possible for us Westerners.

I feel like I'm too attached to everything. My identity, clothes, reputation, knowledge, etc.

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2013, 09:01:13 PM »
What's a westerner?

Matthew

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2013, 10:14:06 PM »
...
I feel like I'm too attached to everything. My identity, clothes, reputation, knowledge, etc.

You've been well programmed then. It's entirely possible for you to go beyond.
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Aristée

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Re: Mikeler mindfulness questions thread
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2013, 02:46:03 AM »
I have also learned that a large amount of this is beyond words, and hard to enunciate. Perhaps also useful is to stop talking to yourself either in sitting or in your day to day, removing the language in my thoughts has led to greater simplicity and less rumination.

How on earth have you achieved to stop the internal speech ? This is a thing that I notice a lot when meditating, even almost everytime I think: words. I have trouble being simply aware of things without speaking about it in my mind.

Your advices on it would be helpful.