Author Topic: My three current main challenges  (Read 3089 times)

Mort

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My three current main challenges
« on: November 21, 2015, 12:26:33 PM »
Hi I currently have three main challenges,

1) After about ten minutes of meditation, I'm constantly nodding off.

2) I keep losing posture.

3) I find it hard to not force my breathing.

I first learned of meditation about ten years ago, but other than six months of daily practice about eight years ago, I've never consistently meditated. About a month ago I decided that I would make a habit of daily meditation again and of all the things that I have to do, meditation would be my priority. I practice for a minimum of twenty minutes daily and when I have extra time at the weekends, I extend this to 40 minutes.

I meditate in seiza on a meditation mat with a stiff cushion and I practice the mindfulness of breathing meditation.

Currently I am working two jobs; a day job as a computer programmer and an evening job publishing books on the internet.

I've been on a paleo diet for the past four years and two weeks ago switched to a strict ketogenic diet.

My normal schedule is:

0500
Wake up
Make and drink bouillon to replenish salts
Wash pots, clean kitchen
Check emails

0600
Go to the gym

0700
Shower
Drink black coffee with coconut oil and butter
Eat flaxseed oil and quark mixture
Take vitamins (E, D3 & A), Choline, Fish Oils and Modafinil

0740
Meditate

0810
Get ready for work

0820
Walk to Work

0900
Work
Take more Modafinil if tired

1700
Walk back home

1730
Cook and eat dinner
Watch Youtube subscriptions, read articles

1930
Work on publishing business
Take more vitamins (C, B15, B17) and Zinc

2230
Stop working
Prepare for bed
Read

2300
Sleep

Hence, I get about six hours of sleep per night, which I admit is not enough. I take modafinil to stop me falling asleep during the day and I have nine hours of sleep on Friday and Saturday night. However, the modafinil only works when you have your eyes open. If you close your eyes, you can still fall asleep as normal.

Anyway, it's no surprise that I'm nodding off when I meditate, because I'm relaxed, I'm tired and my eyes are closed.

When I nod off, my body starts to slump and it wakes me up. My reaction is to reassert my posture and focus on the breath again, but often within another two or three breaths, I am slumping and then jerking back to consciousness again.

I know a lot of you guys out there are going to just say "get more sleep", but that isn't an option at the moment, unless I want to have zero time to work on my business or stop weight lifting, which I will not do. I want to know if there's a method or strategy that I can use to stop falling asleep or mitigate it? Or maybe after a while, just calmly going back to the breath after jerking back awake will eventually stop me nodding off in the same way that you eventually become more focussed on the meditation if you keep bringing your awareness back to the breath once your mind wanders?

Regarding posture, as I meditate, I find my back arches forward and my head rolls back on my neck after a while and I have to break my focus to straighten my back and tuck my chin again. This will happen continuously during the meditation. Will it be the case that if I just continually readjust my body when it slumps, eventually it will learn to stay in a strong posture and I won't have to keep managing it anymore?

Regarding forcing the breath, I find that the majority of the time, I am forcing my in and out breaths whether I want to or not. Clearly the desired situation is for breathing to happen autonomously as it does when you're not watching it, however it seems that when I start watching it, I start controlling it. Do you eventually stop doing this? What can strategy can I use to let the breath do its own thing?

Thanks in advance.

Mort

Quardamon

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2015, 12:53:02 PM »
Of course you find it hard not to force your breathing. You force a lot of things. In fact, your point 1 and 2 are also about control.
The kind of meditation that this forum is about, has a lot to do with not-controlling.
It might be more appropriate for you to find a meditation method that takes control for granted, or as a basis. (The kind of thing I associate with yoga, but in my country it seems to be unusual to see yoga that way.)
Calm abiding might bring major changes to your life that you do not want.

Goofaholix

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2015, 07:22:14 PM »
If you live a busy lifestyle and/or don't get enough sleep then it's inevitable that when you sit for meditation you are sending a signal to your body and mind that it's time to relax.  There's no real way around it other than changing your lifestyle, you can use the symptoms of tiredness as your meditation object and learn from it. 

Other recommendations are to sit near the edge of a steep fall, throw a bucket of water over your head (good in a hot climate), do walking meditation instead and do it backwards.

As far as forcing and/or controlling your breath everybody notices this to some degree when meditating but looking at the way you've itemised your daily routine and diet I think that this is probably your approach to life so it's inevitable you will bring this into your meditation.

If you want to try to break these two habits the best thing would be to do an intensive residential meditation retreat where you can't control your diet and schedule and there is nothing else to do but meditate.

Matthew

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    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2015, 08:26:33 PM »
Meditate with your eyes open - that's the simple solution to 1) and 2) of your problems. However, why you set yourself up to have so little time is an interesting question to face ..

Quardamon makes an important point about the way you force things in your life, Goofaholix too. Your problem 3) is quite probably related to this.

Interested to know why you are using the diets?

Also just a note but be careful taking fish oil and vitamin A as you risk overdosing on A which can be serious (this is more of a problem if the fish oil is derived from fish liver).
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Alex

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2015, 11:59:26 PM »
What can strategy can I use to let the breath do its own thing

Hi Mort

Thanks for making my laugh ;) and thanks for sharing your story. It's clear that establishing a solid meditation practice is very important to you. Good for you! What made you make it a priority now?

There are good suggestions above for dealing with the sleepiness within the limitations of your schedule. I'd like to add standing as a posture.

For the other two challenges, I would suggest you expand mindfulness to include human experiences such as "dealing with posture issues", "becoming annoyed that posture is distracting from breath", "adjusting posture", "controlling the breath", "mental reactions to controlling the breath", "trying harder not to control the breath" or similar experiences ;)

Kind regards,
Alex

Mort

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2015, 12:51:29 PM »
Hi All,

Thanks for the replies.

From this week onwards, I am adding an extra sleep cycle (1.5 hours) to my daily sleep to see if that makes a difference. I'll just have to find a way to do more work in a shorter amount of time.

It seems that the answers brought more questions.

For Alex:

In my late twenties (10-15 years ago) I had a breakdown because I was obsessing about the subject of my own death. I managed to deal with the issue by focussing on my breathing when I began to feel hysteria. That made me decide to make meditation a priority, however I never managed to do so because I was always making excuse about not having time etc. I recently learned strategies that enabled me to make a habit of anything that I want to and since I always wanted to make daily meditation practice a priority, I am now able to do so.

Not sure what you mean or how to implement the section of your reply about expanding my mindfulness practice.

For Matthew:

I'm using the Ketogenic diet as one of a number of methods, along with the FSO / Quark and Vitamin B15 / B17 to manage the testicular cancer that I've been living with for four and a half years.

For Goofaholix:

I've been on a residential at a monastery for a week about five years ago, where I did practice walking meditation and spent much of the day working for the monks or meditating. It was good because it made me decide that I wouldn't want to be a monk, but that I did want to meditate more. At the moment, the only time I'll have to practice walking meditation is at the weekend. I'm walking to the cinema later this afternoon. I'll do some then.

Not sure what you mean about forcing and controlling. The reason I've structured my life is to ensure that I have routines and positive habits that I do every day. I'm spending my evenings working on a business that will bring me a passive income stream. Once it's set up, I will get a constant income from it without having to do any more work. This will enable to me to quit my day job and free up nine hours in my day that I can use to do other things, including sleep more and meditate more.

For Quardamon:

Interested in an expansion upon what you mean about me forcing and controlling things. I assume by 'calm abiding' you mean acceptance of stuff that happens to you? What do you mean about this bringing major changes to my life that I may not want?

Regards,

Mort

Alex

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2015, 04:11:19 PM »
Hi Mort

You seem to be a strong man. Mentioning cancer gives me even more the idea that I would not be able to manage what you're managing. In any case, I hope it all works out for you, health-wise as well as with regard to your passive income dream…

Scientific efforts to define mindfulness seem to arrive at three intertwined building blocks: intention, attention, and attitude, which seem to be appropriate steppingstones to convey my message.

A first thing to look at is ‘intention’. It’s what sets the stage. Would it be appropriate then to say that you view meditation primarily as a tool to manage anxiety and stress?

Not sure what you mean or how to implement the section of your reply about expanding my mindfulness practice.

Your choice of word ‘implement’ seems very telling. There is nothing wrong with controlling, managing, implementing, devising strategies, etc., but, whereas these strategies can be useful in daily life, you have already noticed that these don’t work in meditation. The breath will not let itself be forced into doing it’s own thing, which would off course be a contradiction in terms. ;)

What’s your intention, both in the long term as well as the intention you have when you sit down on the cushion? Achieving perfect focus on breath? Having perfect posture? Or trying to be open to your experience as it presents itself?

The second building is attention. An invitation to pay attention to your present moment experience. If you find you are controlling the breath, simply let that experience of controlling the breath be your experience. Again, it’s not about achieving perfect attention or perfect focus on the breath. When you're sad or stressed, simply let the experience of sadness or stress be your experience. Be mindful of/pay attention to what is actually there.

The third is attitude. There’s an abundance of words to describe this dimension of mindfulness. I found that different ones resonated at different moments in my practice: kind, open, non-judgmental, receptive, investigating, curious, welcoming, etc. Revisiting the example of ‘controlling the breath’, see how you relate to that experience. Can you welcome that experience just as it is, or do you notice mental reactions? Which ones? How do you respond to these reactions? With more reactions? The reaction-loop stops when you... stop reacting ;) Just like the breath will do it's own thing... when you let it do it's own thing. So, let be. See if you can welcome your experience like it is. Be patient.

Does this make sense?

Kind regards
Alex

Mort

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2015, 08:26:04 PM »
Alex,

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I had to read it many times.

With regards to meditation, my long term goal is to be able to die with equanimity.

When I sit down to meditate, my intention is to follow the breath as well as I can.

I don't have any particular fixation on achieving 'perfect' posture. The reason I'm trying to keep good posture is because I've read that doing so is beneficial to my practice. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Okay, so I think you're telling me just to observe everything that happens and not try to adjust anything, whether that be posture or otherwise.

So, I will focus on the breath and not try to stop controlling it. Just focus on the breath whether I'm controlling it or not and observe any mental reactions to that.

Thanks,

Mort

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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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: My three current main challenges
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2015, 09:37:11 PM »
Mort,

You are clearly a strong minded person and I am glad you have found meditation as an assist at this point in your life. Just to re-iterate: meditating with your eyes open will solve the first two issues you originally raised.

Kind regards,

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

Alex

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2015, 03:39:14 PM »
Hi Mort

Meditation is an experiential thing. Hence, these words are not a recipe that are to lead to certain or specific results. It’s more an attempt to spark a different perspective and an invitation to experiment with whatever resonated with you.

Finding the right (amount of) words remains a struggle. You did however seem to find in them some inspiration or direction.

I wonder how opening this thread has stimulated your practice and/or influenced these challenges that you mentioned.

Kind regards
Alex

flying solo

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2015, 04:15:00 AM »
Hi Mort,

I can identify strongly with your problem of falling asleep during meditation. That whole thing where the head keeps falling forward would spoil the whole experience. I used to get so frustrated I even stopped meditating for quite a while. Since getting back into it, I've changed my schedule around and begin meditating as soon as I wake up. I just seem so much more alert, having just been rested overnight. I get straight out of bed and go into another room where I have everything already set up with a cushion and rug. I used to only meditate for twenty minutes, but now I can meditate for as long as it feels right...sometimes between 40 and 60 minutes, all without nodding off once!  Maybe you could clean your kitchen and dishes the night before to give you time to meditate time first thing in the morning. Probably worth a shot.

Quardamon

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2015, 07:55:16 PM »
For Quardamon:
Interested in an expansion upon what you mean about me forcing and controlling things. I assume by 'calm abiding' you mean acceptance of stuff that happens to you? What do you mean about this bringing major changes to my life that I may not want?

Yes, with 'calm abiding' I mean acceptance of stuff that happens to you - more specifically: just sitting, not even waiting for things that want to be accepted.

My view is, that clam abiding strengthens trust. (And tests your trust now and then.)
My view is also, that it weakens inner defences that one has. (I might be wrong here - what I do is not exactly calm abiding. I find that the meditation that I do weakens defences. When I was younger I participated in therapy groups, and I still read a lot about psychotherapy until two years ago. So I feel safe, even without defences. I trained other coping skills.)

For someone who wants a lot of control - well, he might have good reason want this control. He might have reason to have defences. I do not know.

On a practical note: Nowadays there is this mindfulness movement. Mindfulness is even used by the US army as one of the means to control PTSD, I read. For that, sessions of 15 minutes are long enough. (Needless to say, that there is a psychologist at hand to guide these soldiers.)
Maybe it would be unwise to do the same thing for sessions of 45 minutes or 60 minutes. I suppose so, but I do not know. What is called "mindfulness" is based on the "vipassana meditation" of the school of Mahassi Sayadaw. This "vipassana mediation" lacks the basis of calm abiding, and can bring one into quite unpleasant experiences. That is the basis from which I say: "be careful what you are catering for".

Let me just add one thing:
In the view that I have since one or two years, there is an interaction between one's world view and one's meditation. In my view, to have proper conduct is a means to grow trust that what happens to you on the cushion is OK. To be kind to people (or animals) whenever it is not dangerous to be kind, is also such a means to grow a basis. I suppose, that calm abiding works from such a basis and also strengthens it.


Goofaholix

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2015, 05:44:09 AM »
clam abiding strengthens trust.

... and reduces shellfishness.

Mort

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2015, 09:42:58 PM »
Thank you.

Liongate

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Re: My three current main challenges
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2015, 06:39:19 PM »
You might consider doing your meditation right after you get up, before you eat. I usually have a half cup of black coffee first as part of my ritual. Eating tends to make one drowsy.

 

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