Author Topic: One year of meditation; progress  (Read 5573 times)

mastery414

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One year of meditation; progress
« on: July 02, 2015, 04:13:18 PM »


This post is an exploration into the previous year of my meditation practice. During this time, every day, without fail, I have managed to do one hour of meditation. This was for the most part, but not exclusively, in a Buddhist context. My practice consisted of half an hour of Vipassana followed by half an hour of Metta. I am extremely excited to get my teeth into this first post as my diligence during this time affords me the opportunity to share my psychological insights, progress and even pitfalls as I traversed the treacherous path towards greater mental stability and well-being. I will format this post in paragraphs, each in turn representing a particular psychological insight or pitfall I've encountered in the past year.


BROAD STROKES; General thoughts
The best way I could crystallise my insights from the past 12 months would be to draw upon an old quote from the self-help industry that has been rehashed ad nausium:

“First there is unconscious incompetence. Then there is conscious incompetence. Then there is conscious competence. Then there is unconscious competence.”

This period of mental practice has in essence, been a sobering process of uncovering the numerous and destructive mental processes that take up an enormous amount of real estate in my psyche.

LOST IN THOUGHT VERSUS WATCHING THOUGHT
The first interesting experience for me was a few months in, when I began noticing the qualitative difference between being lost in thought and actually being available to what was going on, whatever was happening(a.k.a. meditation). As I was meditating I registered how increasingly pronounced this difference was becoming. The renowned mindfulness teacher, Joseph Goldstein, describes this experience as:

“The difference between being completely lost and enthralled in a movie and then suddenly realising that you're actually just in a movie theatre looking at a play of light on a wall.’

I wonder if many other meditators were as flabbergasted at this discovery as I was. I truly found this as hilarious as it was baffling. It’s one thing to accept the Buddha's diagnosis of the human condition which is that we are no doubt on some level neurotic, self-centred egos that get in our own way but it's quite another to witness yourself being in a literal daydream for 90% of your waking life. You watch yourself reliably fail to pull yourself out of that daydream again and again. Even that’s probably too charitable because it’s more like 96%.

SEEING THE MECHANICS OF SUFFERING
My next harrowing realisation was when I began to develop the ability to witness my mental patterns at full tilt, as opposed to being completely unconscious and clueless to their presence. Needless to say they were suboptimal. In my most recent sessions there where periods where peering into my mind became like having a magic trick revealed.
I began to actually see in detail the mental tricks my mind had up its sleeve. Not only did I start to see the thoughts themselves but I soon began to see how masterfully my mind would use them so as to keep its hold over me. Here’s an example:
I begin focusing on the breath as well as being peripherally aware of the different thoughts as they appear and dissipate. My mind starts off with a few jabs, like a boxer taunting his opponent at the beginning of a fight. It begins rather innocently throwing up images and memories that have relatively low voltage in terms of my reaction to them. If you have any experience at all in meditation you can usually just watch these come and go. Then I feel my mind start Phase 2:
It starts throwing up different concepts and conundrums about my life with increasing relevance to me;
“ Is meditation a cure-all or is it a piece of an elaborate and sophisticated puzzle which must be solved for a human to experience wellbeing? Do I have a general lack of boundaries in my life and is this the primary reason for my lack of progress? Do I have to fundamentally become a kind person like the Dalai Lama or could I become a 'type A husstler' like Steve Jobs?”

 It takes a bit more skill to not take the bait on this one but it's still possible and I manage to stay centered and not get lost in these provocations. Then just like being stuck at a particular boss on Super Mario, it hits me an elaborate film about an event or person in my life that I am helplessly captivated by and I'm done. It’s like getting a rear naked choke in mixed martial arts. Unless you are specifically trained in how to combat at rear naked choke. you're done!

 Here is a commentary on a mental rear naked choke
*brain plays a film of your friend who has made it as a mid-level celebrity.
* Brain then flashes all of the images that you seen on his Facebook and twitter of him having an awesome life.
* brain puts you in a virtual reality where you had this fate.
* this makes you helplessly fall into regret and mental anguish about the fact that your life didn’t turn it that way.
Then you hear yourself talking “ that’s okay we’ll come back, we will be on twitter bossing it up and being successful. Wait till everyone sees. So it’s settled, starting tomorrow I’m going to get my shit together!”

The next few moments or minutes you are a wash in the same daydream you’ve had 1 million times. It's very analogous to the experience of getting knocked before an operation. You know you’re going to plunge into unconsciousness in any moment and not only is there nothing you can do about but you won’t even remember the plunging.

COMPASSION AND ECSTASY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJsOK9Tc60M
My favourite scene of any show is in Game of Thrones where Queen Cersei has to do a walk of shame whilst naked through the most poor part of her kingdom at the behest of religious fanatics on the basis of her cheating on her husband. All of the poverty-stricken masses lineup ready to capitalize on the rare opportunities to scream at this queen “ SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!”. I believe this is a perfect representation of one of the most unflattering characteristics of our mind. Being judgmental and hateful. How this relates to me and my practice is that by tendency, I spent a huge amount of my time being hateful and judgmental myself. During this year while I was doing some serious meditation I had a huge amount of conflict and tension with a roommate of mine at the time. We were different people, both insecure about ourselves so naturally carnage ensued. During my practice I had one of the most profound moments I’ve ever had. I was meditating on lovingkindness directed at my parents for about 20 minutes. I had quite a bit of momentum going with this practice which was slightly unusual so I decided to move the practice on to my roommate. I then suddenly found myself having a my perspective on my roommate do a 180° shift. Granted, I would still stand by my original analysis of his behaviour and why my grievances were somewhat justified, but in that moment I realised emotionally that there was no reason to hate him for it. The only way I can try and illustrate this would be to imagine getting bitten by a crocodile, it still would be shit to have gotten bitten. and it would be still accurate to say that the crocodile bit you but it is unlikely that you’re going to dedicate any time at all shaming or hating this crocodile and constantly ruminating over how annoyed you are at him. If nothing else this experience advertised to me, the fact that we have the ability to go from debilitating hatred of someone to having a similar attitude you would have to bad performance at an elementary school performance. You feel bad for the kid and you are aware that’s not how it’s supposed to be played but to hate him for it does not make sense to you.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I can tell you I would’ve preferred to have become noticeably more happy and comfortable in my own skin as advertised by most teachers of meditation but it is clear that I've been given what I need as opposed to what I want. Coming from a background of having learned the classical guitar for a decade and being hugely involved in the self-development world, I am well acquainted with the concept of letting the path unfold and having faith in the process. Becoming acutely aware of the severity of the problem, witnessing point blank the various mental patterns that rule my mental life, and then getting a glimpse into a compassionate perspective instead of having your opinions ceaselessly punctuated by judgment and hate are probably exactly what I needed. Maybe it has been crucial to first realize the existence of the problem before I begin overcoming it. The insights garnered from the last year of practice will no doubt be indispensable to me in ways I don’t even know yet, so I remain tremendously excited to continue on the path ahead.

I hope this was informative, dare I say even inspirational for some people and I would love to hear from you guys

Mastery414
« Last Edit: July 02, 2015, 04:55:30 PM by mastery414 »

khlroj

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2015, 05:01:46 PM »
Thanks for sharing that was a great read.

It is baffling how our minds run this constant movie in are heads. We are all quite literally day dreamers.

mastery414

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2015, 07:14:33 PM »
Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. I did spend some time on it. Did you have a similar experience yourself while starting out?

khlroj

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2015, 06:29:28 AM »
Hi

Yes some of the things you say ring very true but I must confess I have only been taking my meditation serious for the last six weeks. Ive been an on off meditator since about 13. I have always realised I am not my thoughts and in doing so this is the reason I thought I dont need to meditate all the time. But as you might expect I would always slip back into auto pilot over time.

So recently I finally decided I must really meditate every day to ground myself.  After making the conscious decision to do so I truly realised through just a couple of weeks of meditation how intense we really are day dreamers.  Once I realised the true intensity of this I cant stop meditating as I am searching for a way to think with out thoughts.  Literally I think to my self who am I without any language / symbols  that society has taught me. Obviously realising I ask my self this question in english language   :D

I know I am the awareness but I only have glimpses I cant truly feel it yet.


Dharmic Tui

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2015, 03:14:03 PM »
Thanks for sharing. Losing the self can be an enriching process with increasing intensity. I've lost my structured practise somewhat, weekends now can involve mini retreats for extended periods as I'm able to turn myself off better. I can see the appeal of monastic life.

Middleway

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2015, 11:11:37 PM »
Very entertaining post. I suggest you send this article to Huffington Post to be published in their lifestyle section.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

PeasantProphet

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2015, 09:39:07 AM »
Hey everyone I am a on and off meditator for close to 2 years.

I have a few questions, when you say we are not our thoughts, how can you best explain this in more depth? Let's say for example a funny joke pops up in my mind and I tell it to everyone and they laugh or whatever. Are you saying that I am not my thoughts, by implying that the joke that popped up in my mind was not made up by me, but made up from someone else? And it just so happened that it popped up in my mind? Or was the joke in the mind of a friend present, and "telepathically" it popped up in my head and I said it?

Please explain in depth why we are not these thoughts that are in our minds most of they day. Where do they come from is they are not our thoughts and why are they there?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2015, 11:05:33 AM »
Do you will your thoughts into existence or is it just a stream of consciousness that you cling to or run from?

PeasantProphet

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2015, 07:09:40 PM »
Quote
Do you will your thoughts into existence or is it just a stream of consciousness that you cling to or run from?

I have a lot of unnecessary thoughts that I feel aren't me or my thought patterns.

I'm sure at some point during the day everyone wills at least one thought in their minds.

Are you saying we should will our thoughts more often instead of letting thoughts stream through our mind?

mastery414

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2015, 10:19:57 PM »
This is in response to peasant profit,

The conundrum that you have pointed out is something that has equal parts interested and confused me for some time. First off, while maybe not directly addressing the specific thing you asked me which I will get to, I still think it relevant to point out that my main point in the post was that although our mind has endowed us with the ability to form relationships and make progress scientifically, socioeconomically and inter-personally among other things, the kernel of the problem is not the tool in question but rather our inability to stop using it, misusing it even. It is not thoughts that are the problem but how we are unable to stop the conversation that's running in our minds incessantly. That is the grub here. To see the mind as the evil entity would be to remove the baby with the bathwater. But I imagine you are probably on my side on this. It seems to me that our thoughts are just another phenomena appearing in our consciousness along with emotions site sounds and our uniform experience moment to moment of the cosmos.

Now in regards to your question, the reason I talked about my mind in such abstracted terms as if it is a separate entity (as not being me per se) is because as you meditate, you realize the sheer automaticity of thought at least as it presents itself in an untrained mind. Even given how much value our better thoughts can bring to us, it's still an observable fact of our first-person experience that very unproductive and uninitiated thoughts come careening into our consciousness plunging us into a daydream and pulling us away from the full bandwith of our experience. To get into the debate of whether even your willful thoughts are "you" so to speak, is something I'm just not qualified to talk about but it is a fascinating conundrum. What are your thoughts? No pun intended ;)

This project by no means reduces the validity of being able to summon your thinking process at will to the task at hand whether it involves coming up with a funny joke, making practical plans for the future or stating your case an argument but it remains the case at least for me that these abilities are far outweighed by the unrelenting destructive thoughts that rule my life

Middleway

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2015, 01:18:14 AM »
I, me, or self we normally identify with is an algorithm that constantly executes and its outputs are thoughts and feelings. Its inputs are present external stimuli and memory. The self takes thoughts as input and executes again to generate thought train. We cannot willfully stop this program from executing and generating thoughts and feelings. Only insight (not intellectual understanding) will release the hold of the self on us. We have to constantly watch this algorithm in action for insights to arise.

For example, if one has lustful feeling and wants to get rid of it because it is considered immoral, it creates conflict. When you have an insight that lustful thought is not you, then the program does not execute to generate shame/guilt feeling. Next time, the lustful feeling will not arise in the same situation. That is how, one can slow down the program  executing constantly and eventually achieve stillness of mind. Forceful concentration which produces stillness of mind is false stillness. Only insight results in true stillness of mind.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2015, 06:57:01 AM »
Are you saying we should will our thoughts more often instead of letting thoughts stream through our mind?
nah I'm more implying the self we identify with is the product of reaction to a stream of stimuli.

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2015, 06:58:47 AM »
I liked  both your answers Middleway, esp. the first one  :D

Vivek

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Re: One year of meditation; progress
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2015, 07:28:36 PM »
OK, but be clear on the rules, please. The links shown in your signature are also removed.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

 

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