Author Topic: Meditation, observing thoughts  (Read 4730 times)

a1ay

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Meditation, observing thoughts
« on: July 17, 2013, 06:57:59 AM »
So I've been trying to meditate now for some while, but I have some questions and problems I can't figure out. I am interested in being able to observe my thoughts, to detach myself from them, and I have been trying to do so for a while, mostly without any luck.

Every time I try to observe my thoughts, I end up frustrated, and give up. I always give up because I simply can't find my thoughts, as weird as it may seem. I am trying to be aware of them, but I simply fail time after time. When I want to be aware of my thoughts, I expect a feeling of knowing that this is a thought, and I am aware of it, but I rarely get that feeling. I always end up asking myself, am I doing it right, because I am very unsure of what are my thoughts and what are not.

I wonder then if I am doing something wrong, if there is a special "move" with my awareness I have to do, so I can observe my thoughts, if there is one simple thing I am doing wrong. Most of the time when I try, I don't know where to look for my thoughts, or what they are. It's like Im searching for them all the time, but I am never able to be aware of any of them , always lost in them. Most articles regarding this on the internet says what you need to do, "to be aware of your thoughts, disidentify with them, just observe them, do not judge them", but they don't say how in details, or what could go wrong. When I try to follow the directions, "just observe, stand back and observe your thoughts flow by", I just end up trying to observe my thoughts, but there are no thoughts to observe, because I can't find them/ be aware of them.

Also, what does "intentional thoughts" have to do with all this, I mean, things you can say to yourself when you want to. I sometimes wonder, if saying some things to yourself is the same as being aware of your thoughts? I highly doubt it but after trying for so long time to be aware of them, I don't know what to believe anymore.


What am I doing wrong from what I wrote? How can I be aware of my thoughts, and know I am aware? Why am I not able to be aware of them, even though I try?

It's really hard to explain everything, Im asking for some help from any of you willing to give me some advice or answer my questions. Any help GREATLY appreciated. :)

Matthew

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Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 07:44:46 AM »
a1ay,

it sounds possible that your thoughts are evading you due to a lack of development of concentration and calming of the mind prior to being mindful of thoughts. This is why most practitioners develop these qualities first, using the object of the breath as the focus of meditation to begin.

There is a guide to one method linked from the homepage, 'Shamatha/Calm abiding' - you could experiment with that practice. It takes time to develop concentration to the point of examining thoughts, and how long depends on a number of factors; where you begin, the time and effort you put in and how you are living your life, to name three important ones.

I see you describe your practice as 'Thoughtless Meditation' - do be careful you arenot trying to force thoughtlessness as any attempt to do so can lead to mildly pleasant states but these are ultimately fairly useless as they trend to be characterised by a mild self induced hypnosis and lack of real progress towards understanding.

Welcome to the forum, kindly,

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

Cascade

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Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 09:50:50 AM »
I had a very hard time with this starting out as well.  I believe what Matthew said is correct.  Focusing on a particular item or object, like breath, can be a great boon to your practice and is the exact way I began to finally make progress when I was in the same rut.

The main thing is try not to get frustrated.  IMO This is the largest hill to climb in the beginning and can be a very difficult one depending on lifestyle, meditation practice and meditation space as well as a host of other things. 

When concentrating on something it is the only thing in your mind.  What I found helpful was to focus on the actual sensation of breath.  The deepening of the diaphragm, the filling of the lungs, the rush of air through my nose.  Eventually it became so natural that I came to a .. mental clearing (its the best way I can describe it) and with it, progress. 

Also, when you say 'examining thoughts', are you referring to Insight Practice? 

Cheers!
Cas     

a1ay

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Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 12:11:26 PM »
Thanks for your opinions, although I still have questions
You are saying, that your breath works like an anchor to focus on to help you from getting lost in your thoughts, but will this in any way help me with getting more aware of my own thoughts? If you place your awareness on your breath, you wouldn't have it on your thoughts, thus not going to be able to observe them/ be aware of them? This is just me speculating, I would be glad if you or someone could explain it further. I know that when I am not aware of them, I still have thoughts, they are there but I am unaware.>


Cascade

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Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 01:32:44 PM »
Your logic is sound and I can definitely see where your coming from however it's kind of like the cart is in front of the horse.  In order for one to become aware of one's thoughts one needs to become aware of their concentration.  So, by focusing on breath, or some other anchor, in the beginning and gaining concentration one can then move on to awareness of ones thoughts if one desires. 

To put it in a Socratic method sort of way:  How can you become aware of your thoughts if you have no concentration?

Cheers!

Cas

Matthew

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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 04:07:21 PM »
...
To put it in a Socratic method sort of way:  How can you become aware of your thoughts if you have no concentration?

Cheers!

Cas

Nicely put Cas.

a1,

There are two key fruits or phala (Pali/Sanskrit) that you will need to develop before coming close to being able to work directly with your thoughts as mentioned above: concentration and calm/relaxation/stability of mind.

In focusing on the breath you are not trying to work directly with thought, you don't deny thought, but for now concentrating on the sensations created in your body by the process of breathing, recognising thought as thought but not attaching to it and returning focus again and again to breath you will develop these other fruits of meditation which will become part of your toolkit for examining thought later.

If you skip this you won't be meditating but merely thinking about thinking.

Please read the calm abiding instructions linked from the homepage as I'm sure more of your questions will be answered there.

Warmly,

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

a1ay

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Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2013, 07:52:08 PM »
Hi guys,

First of all thanks for your answers. I still have a question. my mind always thinks of himself -). If a thought arises, its starting thinking " oh yes, theres a thought now " and then the original thought dissapears. what can i do ?

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 08:50:55 AM »
Same as usual, note that you are thinking then return to meditating mindful of bodily sensations as you breathe .... it takes a while to get it but only by repeatedly falling will you succeed.

Warmly,

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

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2013, 02:57:06 PM »
a1,

A slightly expanded answer, quoting from another thread, yet I feel it appropriate to your situation:

...
To me this indicates a minor problem with the view you have of what it means to focus on the breath. The focus is actually on the bodily sensations as you breath in, and calming/relaxing bodily sensations as you breath in, and the bodily sensations as you breath out, calming/relaxing the bodily sensations as you breathe out.

Perhaps you are paying attention to the breath in a somewhat conceptualised or intellectualised way and not on the body sensations created by the breathing process? ....

This would also account for some of the problems you are having with so much thinking distracting you from focusing on the breath - if your mindfulness of breathing is mindfulness of some perfect concept of breathing then on a certain level you are engaging more with thinking than body sensation.
 

I hope this helps.

Warmly,

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

 

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