Author Topic: The basic method of meditation  (Read 7459 times)

purity

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The basic method of meditation
« on: February 14, 2016, 02:57:27 AM »
I read on a different website an article by Ajahn Brahmavamso article "the basic method of meditation" and I am a bit confused about it. I am self taught and have meditated for about 5 years but recently I have felt like my mind is constantly racing from one thought to another and I get a bit frustrated and bored with meditating because I don't feel like I experience any stillness but instead its just this constant monkey mind. After reading the article I thought perhaps I did not do the first two stages enough and so now after 5 years my mind is not still and perhaps I need to go back and start again.

I am unclear about how to actually practice the first two stages. I have no idea how to meditate without using my breath as an anchor. Ajahn Brahmavamso says that concentration on breath starts in the third stage. How specifically do I (1)sustain attention on the present moment, and practice (2)silent awareness of the present moment, without using the breath? He has not really given any specific instruction in the article. Do I not focus on the breath at all? Maybe I am misunderstanding this?

Pacific Flow

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2016, 04:02:28 AM »
I find that article not very helpful as an instruction for meditation. To be honest, i would just dismiss it. Forget about it.
The breath is, at least from my own personal experience, a great starting point to take up meditation.
Have you thought about doing a retreat of some kind? The path can come become a lot clearer during such a period of intense meditation.

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2016, 08:19:09 AM »
See this is what I find so disappointing about Buddhism.   Conflicting and confusing opinions that do not help me to become any clearer about my practice.  Im really not sure why you would advise me  to just "dismiss it" when this is advise from a very well known and reputable teacher.   I also have another book by another well known teacher that says the same thing.    As I said I have been using the breath for 5 years but I feel my practice is going nowhere.    I just sit and watch my breath and my mind racing from one thought to the next.  I am really not becoming any more equanimous or still.      I have done a retreat and it helped temporarily.  I felt really positive and inspired to keep going for a about a week but now I am in a place where it just feels completely pointless.

Pacific Flow

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 02:14:08 PM »
Maybe my verdict on the article was a bit too harsh. But i really didn't find it helpful. It doesn't get to the point, as you mentioned yourself. Especially about the establishing of awareness prior to working with the breath. So what's the point then? I also don't like how the author glorifies the breath as "beautiful". Why would the breath be beautiful? It just is, neither beautiful nor ugly. Labeling it as beautiful robs the breath of it's capacity to be an object of awareness in order to establish NEUTRAL, unbiased awareness. So again, i find it misleading.
But that's just my personal opinion. Btw i don't know the author and didn't research anything about him. I just read the article.

Middleway

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 03:34:13 PM »
See this is what I find so disappointing about Buddhism.   Conflicting and confusing opinions that do not help me to become any clearer about my practice.  Im really not sure why you would advise me  to just "dismiss it" when this is advise from a very well known and reputable teacher.   I also have another book by another well known teacher that says the same thing.    As I said I have been using the breath for 5 years but I feel my practice is going nowhere.    I just sit and watch my breath and my mind racing from one thought to the next.  I am really not becoming any more equanimous or still.      I have done a retreat and it helped temporarily.  I felt really positive and inspired to keep going for a about a week but now I am in a place where it just feels completely pointless.

"A father and son went out camping at a famous national park away from the city lights and pollution. Father showed the son a distant star and tried to explain the significance of it in the mythology. Son could not locate the star. Father directed the son, this time carefully. Do you see those three stars that form a triangle there?. Son said yes. Look beyond between the two stars on the left , you see a weak flickering star exactly bisecting the imaginary line between them? Son said, I see nothing there...Dad, are you pulling my leg?"

That is when the dad realized his son might have problem with eye sight and took him to the optometrist. Sure enough, the son has short sightedness. The moral of the story is we all have sense organs (including mind) that are ever so slightly different that of others. Doubting Ajahn Brahm, you will miss the opportunity to sharpen your senses (mind) and miss the point.

I had the opportunity to attend Ajahn Brahm one day meditation workshop and participated in his guided meditation. He explained what he meant by the first two steps. Our modern world creates so much stimuli and provide so much information to our sense organs that make our mind spinning out of control. When we sit down on the cushion, he suggested that we should not go straight to observing breath. Spend a few moments focusing on the mind to check what is on the mind. The difficult conversation you had with your colleague yesterday that is bothering you etc. Take a deep breath and let go. Say to yourself that those issues can wait (i.e letting go of the issues for the moment). By letting go of your modern day anxieties for that moment, you are able to focus on the present moment. He then asks us to observe the posture, feel your legs on the floor, bum on the cushion etc.  to make sure you are in comfortable and upright posture. Then go back to mind again and let go of all thoughts and set them aside by telling yourself that they can wait. This is when you will notice your breath going in and out. Pay attention to it and then go onto observe the sensations produced by the breathing.

Doubt is one of the hindrances to progress on the path. Ajahn Brahm focuses more on the meditation and Jhanas while Thich Nhat Hahn focusses more on wisdom of the sutras. I combine both in my practice. I read Thich Nhat Hahn commentaries on the suttas and practice Ajahn Brahm's meditation technique. I listen to dhamma talks as well. Combining these three helped me immensely in my path.

kind regards,

Middleway
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Frightful

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 06:05:49 PM »
This will be a bit of a blind weigh-in on Purity's concerns as I see it from my perspective and why I took up meditation.  Meditation was suggested to me by my psychotherapist at the time, who astutely saw that my "alexithymia" (poor ability to identify feelings) was related to a poor awareness of myself and my internal world.  In keeping with that observation, he recommended meditation as one leg of cultivating better self-awareness.

But I had already been on a road examining my early-life experiences that fostered that lack of awareness.  That early life included development within a neglectful and chaotic home, one in which "thinking" your way out of your problems became paramount.  Thus, without glorifying thinking, one nevertheless automatically cultivates "busy mind" in such an atmosphere as a self-soothing and self-occupying antidote.  And all of this acts to cover up a great deal of emotional pain.

I was informed from day one that meditation was not supposed to relieve my suffering, but rather assist in cultivating awareness.  Attending to the breathing for me is a practice that allows me within the meditation to...as Eckhard Tolle indicates.....exist between the thoughts.  Because the content of that mind-chatter is largely a beard that is covering up the real, and often obsolete, sources of fears, anxieties, and even fantasies of power. And just to be clear I have plenty of meditative episodes still when mind-chatter seems to have the upper hand....this is when "acceptance" has to kick in along with the realization that there are good days and bad days with one's practice, just like good and bad days exercising at the gym.  (As an aside, this also addresses your other thread on anger, an emotion that often is justified, but just as often is a product of misplaced internal story-telling.)  Like any exercise regime, I consider meditation to be a "use or lose" endeavor; I can tell if I've gotten lazy and gone many days without meditating.  Where the better awareness ultimately helps is in recognizing anxious situations as being a mixture of the present and the past, and I can better recognize the "past" contribution to such anxiety and sit better with those feelings without being hijacked by them.

I'm sure this Kabat-Zinn video link has been posted here before:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Fa50oj45s
It is my favorite 'go-to' video that I send to others on the fence about trying meditation first because it is short and second because it is so practical in its execution.  Again, all of this just from my perspective, someone who is still far away from the experiences many here attest to reaching withing their deep meditation practices.

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2016, 10:59:51 PM »
I have read through everyone's comments and I appreciate each of them. Frightful's resonated with me the most. I watched the video then I sat for an hour and what I noticed is that my mind is not becoming more still the longer I sit and watch. I am not gradually moving beneath the surface and noticing still awareness. Instead just more and more thoughts occur. Also my body heats up so I feel very hot and uncomfortable. I don't find the experience enjoyable or interesting. It's more just really annoying. I am craving for my mind to be still and the more I crave the more frantic and busy it gets. My meditation practice never used to be like this. I pretty much would reach a place of stillness every time but now I seem to be stuck in this loop of wanting and craving. Not sure how to move forward besides just being aware it.

Goofaholix

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2016, 11:25:36 PM »
It's important to be aware that Ajahn Brahm's instructions are aimed at primarily developing jhana rather than vipassana.  The Buddha taught that one can develop samatha first then vipassana, vipassana first then samatha, or both in tandem.  As this is a vipassana forum most people will be familiar with the latter two rather than the former.

Reading through the instructions it isn't clear what to do in the first two stages.  Most teachers will teach you to keep bringing your attention back to an object (the breath for example) during these phases, this means you learn the things that Ajahn Brahm describes you should learn by failing to be able to stay with the breath that over and over again.   The trouble is then people get attached to the object and think the meditation is about the breath, I guess Ajahn Brahm is trying to avoid that.

If you find the instructions difficult then it might be worth changing to another teachers approach.  If you want to persevere then I suggest that you just be aware of whatever is happening in the mind and body now, thoughts, sounds, body sensations etc.  When the mind gets lost in thoughts about the past or future just notice that and bring it back to what is happening now.  That's the first stage, the second stage you should notice when the mind is calm and relatively still, and notice the gaps between thought.

When you get good at that then start stage 3, settle down further using the breath as the object.

Either way I think it's unlikely that someone will be successful as a self taught meditator for 5 years, you'll probably just go round in circles with the same problems.  Retreat practice and learning from teachers is what helps you break through through your comfort zone and the problems that arise in meditation.


purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2016, 04:51:59 AM »

Either way I think it's unlikely that someone will be successful as a self taught meditator for 5 years, you'll probably just go round in circles with the same problems.  Retreat practice and learning from teachers is what helps you break through through your comfort zone and the problems that arise in meditation.

Im unsure how I am supposed to find a teacher.   I have attended some sanghas but most of the time I found the talks extremely cerebral and so it became boring very fast because they were speaking to a certain audience who already know the language.  I found it to be a rather alienating experience.    They also went on and on and on about Dana which was really annoying.   I dont need to be reminded to be generous 5 times in 1 hour.      The retreat I went to was very good but the teacher was visiting from another country.  From what I understand enlightenment is not something that only comes to white middle class educated people who can give dana and understand the overly intellectual talks and books.

Vivek

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2016, 05:42:14 AM »
Quote
I watched the video then I sat for an hour and what I noticed is that my mind is not becoming more still the longer I sit and watch. I am not gradually moving beneath the surface and noticing still awareness. Instead just more and more thoughts occur. Also my body heats up so I feel very hot and uncomfortable. I don't find the experience enjoyable or interesting.
These statements reflect what you are expecting out of meditation. Being attached to expectations only keeps us frustrated because we are not getting what we want while meditation intends to takes us in an entirely different direction, the direction of the Now. You can notice that as you are sitting you are already judging your experience against a mentally constructed scale, which is completely arbitrary. Hence you are not in the moment being aware of what is arising moment-to-moment. This is not to say that you are wrong or anything. This is meant to only point out to you what is possibly happening while you are sitting, so that you can be aware of it while it is happening. The mere awareness of all this happening is profoundly transformative enough, provided you give it time. 
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2016, 07:09:55 AM »
Quote
I watched the video then I sat for an hour and what I noticed is that my mind is not becoming more still the longer I sit and watch. I am not gradually moving beneath the surface and noticing still awareness. Instead just more and more thoughts occur. Also my body heats up so I feel very hot and uncomfortable. I don't find the experience enjoyable or interesting.
These statements reflect what you are expecting out of meditation. Being attached to expectations only keeps us frustrated because we are not getting what we want while meditation intends to takes us in an entirely different direction, the direction of the Now. You can notice that as you are sitting you are already judging your experience against a mentally constructed scale, which is completely arbitrary. Hence you are not in the moment being aware of what is arising moment-to-moment. This is not to say that you are wrong or anything. This is meant to only point out to you what is possibly happening while you are sitting, so that you can be aware of it while it is happening. The mere awareness of all this happening is profoundly transformative enough, provided you give it time.

So Im not sure what you are saying I should do?

Vivek

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2016, 07:16:47 AM »
Let me reiterate what I previously said:

Quote
This is meant to only point out to you what is possibly happening while you are sitting, so that you can be aware of it while it is happening. The mere awareness of all this happening is profoundly transformative enough, provided you give it time.

I'd recommend that you be mindful as best as you can of your expectations related to meditation, let those go and just be in the moment with your object of meditation. 
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Matthew

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2016, 10:16:02 PM »
... what I noticed is that my mind is not becoming more still the longer I sit and watch. I am not gradually moving beneath the surface and noticing still awareness. Instead just more and more thoughts occur.
....
I am craving for my mind to be still and the more I crave the more frantic and busy it gets. My meditation practice never used to be like this. I pretty much would reach a place of stillness every time but now I seem to be stuck in this loop of wanting and craving. Not sure how to move forward besides just being aware it.

Hello purity,

It seems to me that you really have got tied in knots over all of this. It sounds very frustrating and I'm not surprised you don't know how to move forward. Yet you can do so.

The first thing I notice in your comments is that you are very mind-centric in your approach: analytical, full of expectation, trying to use the mind to solve the problems of the mind. In and of itself this is a workable approach - it is the "dry insight" approach, however, I suspect there is a more productive approach for you.

The "place of stillness" that you used to reach may not have actually resulted from calming the mind. It may have resulted from a form of self-hypnosis where thought is suppressed rather than allowed to be - without interference or identification. This would be consistent with the 'rebound effect' you seem to be suffering now of "more and more thoughts" occurring and being trapped in "wanting and craving" that are mental confections: habits of the thinking mind.

The approach I am going to suggest is one that many in positions such as yourself have found transformative in practice. Some people will say I'm a "one trick pony" - it may be true, however, that is irrelevant as the trick works. It has worked for many who have come to the forum for advice over the years because it works from an entirely different approach to insight methodologies.

This approach is to ground yourself in bodily sensation, to get to know the body and the bodily sensations of breathing, and to induce calm through repeated practice of the meditation instructions on Shamatha that can be found on the homepage and are fully explained here.

It may be quite a deviation from your former practices yet if you read the instructions carefully, maybe print them out from the pdf linked on the page, and try it for a month without resorting to your usual practice you will know in that time if it will make a difference.

It is to practice Shamatha or "Shine" - Calm Abiding - as the Tibetan tradition calls it. It is based on the Maha-Sattipathana Sutta of the Buddha and is an incredibly powerful tool for transformation.

The key points are to focus on the bodily sensations created by breathing in and out, to calm the body with each in breath and to calm the body with each out breath, and to not get caught in thinking without suppressing thinking AT ALL.

You will experience a lot of thinking, this is part of the process. Don't be put off by it, don't judge yourself for it, and don't get caught up in it if you can help it. Notice when thinking is happening and then after a deep breath return the attention to the bodily sensations created by breathing and calming the body with each in breath and each out breath.

The reason this practice is so powerful is that anxiety/stress/etc are first felt in the body and they are first relieved in the body. Through the Vagal nervous system, and as you progressively calm body whilst allowing thought to arise without identification or follow-through thinking, the body will send signals to the brain that everything is OK. Your mind will follow your body into true calm, not the calm of suppression of thinking and self-hypnotic states.

You do not have to believe a word I say - if you try the practice for a month without any other practices it will be long enough for you to know if this will work for you or not - as long as you do not intellectualise the practice but just do it as per the instructions, you will know if it is a wiser place to start your practice afresh or not.

Kind regards,

Matthew
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LiminalBridges

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2016, 08:19:58 PM »
I put my request in for joining this forum to ask about how people navigate those first two stages Ajahn Brahm outlines too but it seems in waiting for the registration to be accepted I was beaten to it   :angel:

I had been doing a twenty minute routine counting the breaths on the outbreath, counting them on the inbreath, experiencing the breath as a whole and then focussing on an aspect of it, like at the tip of my nose, for a while but it was begining to get a little stale. Sometimes it worked but most of the time it felt like I was just counting, not really bringing my awareness to anything and then daydreaming in the latter stages. I switched to trying Brahm's thing of just locating myself in the present moment and had really good results for maybe a couple of days but then it's just devolved into mindless wanderings. I think I need that anchor, but a less concrete one than with counting.

I'm going to try your recomendations for Purity I think Matthew and see where it goes from there, unless anyone has any other suggestions?

I also recognise that experience you have of becoming overly warm and uncomfortable on occasion Purity. It usually starts with noticing a tiny itch and then there seem to suddenly be five or six of them all pulsating and demanding attention and the body gets warm and the mind races and it's difficult to focus on anything and I try to see it as a good thing because it's helping ground me in the here and now and promoting acceptance of all feelings as just feelings without applying good or bad labels but it's not working and wow, just need to scream. Really not nice. It does seem to pass for me after a few minutes or so generally but those few minutes feel like they stretch out like putty.

TheJourney

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2016, 10:10:21 PM »
Purity,

I used to have a lot of train of thoughts. I have nearly eliminated them. It takes more than daily meditation practice to remove them. It is a non-linear progression, like the stock market. In addition to two meditation sessions daily, I also apply mindfulness practice.

Meditation:
1. At the end of every breath, you can mentally say "impermanence" or count until you get to the 8th breath you count backwards. You can create all kinds of versions. The purpose is to keep your mind from wandering. Once your mind is locked onto the breath, you can stop the mental noting of the word or mental counting.

Mindfulness (do it all day long):
1. When you catch yourself in a train of thought, mentally note "wandering, wandering".
2. Spot light your awareness on the train of thoughts. Let it continue. It will stop automatically because it knows that it is being watched.
3. In the beginning, that pattern will be strong. You have to be equally determined to observe, mentally note it no matter how many times you have to do it.
4. Breathe as if you are meditating but of course with your eyes wide open. Use the mental count or mental word if necessary to keep the mind focused.
5. Move your fingers or hands often to keep your awareness to the present moment.
6. Put your tongue lightly against the back of your upper teeth. This gives you another sensing to keep you in the present moment.
7. Do not judge your progress or yourself. Just keep doing it when you remember to mentally note it. Over time, you will remember more often.
8. Some days you will feel progress and some days you will feel that it is going backward. Do not judge or evaluate. Keep doing what you are doing.

It is a variety of techniques that you do to stay in the present moment.

In terms of meditation, sometimes I go through turmoil then reach peace near the end. Even after one full year of meditation, I can still run into a patch of sessions where my meditation is interrupted with thoughts.

Awareness with thoughts is okay. In Insight Meditation, the point is to be able to be aware what the mind is doing. In train of thoughts, one typically loses the awareness, like swimming in the river instead of sitting at the bank watching the river flow. Awareness with thoughts is like sitting on the river bank watching the river flow.

TheJourney

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2016, 06:00:23 PM »
Purity,

Buddha's teaching is not contradictory, but the mind is contradictory. Ego is the crafty beast that is messing with you. You cannot see the beast but it is there.

Rule 1: The more you try to suppress the mind from certain activity, the more vigorous the mind will rebel. Over a decade ago, I tried Eckhart Tolle's approach of just keeping my mind in the present and suppressing thoughts. The mind came back in a loud roar by the third day that I gave up on the effort.

Attitude is very important in meditation. It should not be a desire to meditate but an attitude that meditation is a choice-less activity. You do it without the desire for its benefit. If you do it to seek the benefit, then the benefit will be elusive. When you seek the benefit, your mind is seeking peace. You cannot attain peace right away. Meditation has to work with your current state of mind. It takes time.

The best NFL coach cannot just take any quarterback and turn him into superbowl champ tomorrow. It depends on the skill and talent the player already has. If your mind state is restless, then you need to have the patience to allow meditation to change your mind state.

We meditate not to attain peace and calm. It is a by-product that can occur, but it is not a tool to deliver that. Meditation takes the current state of mind and works with it little by little. Of course, if one has a lot of new stress then that stress is added to the current state. It takes meditation even longer.

Meditation is only a partial help. It is more important to practice daily mindfulness which helps meditation, and meditation can help with mindfulness. Even if you meditate for an hour, that is only one hour. You can be adding a lot of crap from a day's event which contributes to more craps for meditation to work on. Hence, it is helpful to practice daily mindfulness as the other half of the tool.

When you strive too hard, you create tension. It should be the middle way. You need to apply some effort to stay in the present moment during meditation. You can count or say a word at the end of a breath to get you started with the present moment. Once you are in the groove, you can stop the counting.

Don't be surprised that even with that effort your mind goes off into a deep end. This is okay. Don't judge yourself on this. Meditation is working with your current state of mind. No one said a good meditation session is one with complete calmness.

Often, I go through a storm of thoughts before I reach the calm during meditation. I don't think about the desired effect of calmness. I just think about breathing. I don't care nor expect any results. The less you care about the results, the more surprised you will be of your progress.

You tried to stay in the present, and the mind still goes off. It is okay. When you realize it, just repeat again. Try to stay in the present again. This is the middle way. You are making an effort, but if the mind still goes off with the effort then it is okay. You cannot use all your power to stop the mind from going off. You can only apply effort to sustain the current moment and repeatedly to bring it back.

A meditation session full of thoughts is neither bad nor good. A meditation session that is all calm is neither bad nor good. Remember, ego is a very crafty beast. Do not judge your progress. Just meditate with the right effort.

Do not meditate to get something out of it. Just meditate. An acquaintance always tries to get first class upgrade but never succeed. Of the same airline, knowing that it is hard to get upgrade, I never even try to get an upgrade. In just the 3rd flight on this airline, I heard my name being called and turned out that I got an upgrade. The metaphor is that you have to stop craving or desiring for an outcome. It will come, but the more you crave the elusive it will be. Hence, you have to be very patient.

I used to be like you. I want to attain that calm. I had a purpose for meditating. Now, I simply meditate. I just do it. I just know that it is good for me.

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2016, 07:39:25 AM »

This approach is to ground yourself in bodily sensation, to get to know the body and the bodily sensations of breathing, and to induce calm through repeated practice of the meditation instructions on Shamatha that can be found on the homepage and are fully explained here.

It may be quite a deviation from your former practices yet if you read the instructions carefully, maybe print them out from the pdf linked on the page, and try it for a month without resorting to your usual practice you will know in that time if it will make a difference.

It is to practice Shamatha or "Shine" - Calm Abiding - as the Tibetan tradition calls it. It is based on the Maha-Sattipathana Sutta of the Buddha and is an incredibly powerful tool for transformation.


This is already what I am doing.  I sit I follow breathe in my abdomen.  I note rising falling. My mind wanders.  I notice and I bring it back to the breath.  Sometimes I label the thought such as  - planning, remembering, worrying, fantasising etc.    Usually I dont notice much else except for thought.   I might occasionally notice a sensation such as warmth, itching, twitching etc.  Sometimes I will note craving or aversion.

I also try to do a metta practice using phrases.  I find my mind wanders a lot during metta.  I also dont think I feel much metta. Just more a sense that I want to feel it.     I try to do body scans also sometimes but I find that without using a guided meditation I would be sitting there for hours because my mind wanders too much.   
   

Matthew

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2016, 07:48:36 PM »
Hello purity,

The practice I linked to is quite different from the practice you have described doing. It is a very solid foundation. For now, if metta practice doesn't do it for you then I would suggest leaving it until you have tried the suggestion I made and started calming the body and mind.

You say you follow the breath at the abdomen and note rising and falling. You also sometimes bodyscan. None of these are in that practice. Noting is a beginners crutch for practice, something to be dropped as soon as you can maintain awareness without it. The calm-abiding practice is not focussed on any one body area such as the abdomen nor does it involve systematically scanning the body.

It is based on awareness of the whole body all at once, noticing all of the physical sensations created by breathing: these will be in your abdomen, chest, diaphragm, throat, arms, legs - throughout your body. It also involves calming/relaxing any body tension that you find throughout the whole body. I wonder if you read the instructions again with these thoughts in mind you might try it and see?

Kindly,

Matthew
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Alex

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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2016, 11:15:06 PM »
What's interesting in meditation is what happens while you're busy trying to follow instructions.

 ;)

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2016, 04:40:30 AM »
Hello purity,

The practice I linked to is quite different from the practice you have described doing. It is a very solid foundation. For now, if metta practice doesn't do it for you then I would suggest leaving it until you have tried the suggestion I made and started calming the body and mind.

You say you follow the breath at the abdomen and note rising and falling. You also sometimes bodyscan. None of these are in that practice. Noting is a beginners crutch for practice, something to be dropped as soon as you can maintain awareness without it. The calm-abiding practice is not focussed on any one body area such as the abdomen nor does it involve systematically scanning the body.

It is based on awareness of the whole body all at once, noticing all of the physical sensations created by breathing: these will be in your abdomen, chest, diaphragm, throat, arms, legs - throughout your body. It also involves calming/relaxing any body tension that you find throughout the whole body. I wonder if you read the instructions again with these thoughts in mind you might try it and see?

Kindly,

Matthew

After so many years my awareness automatically goes to my abdomen now.      I find that without this anchor then my mind will just be all over the place.

Attachless

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2016, 09:39:40 AM »

Reading through the instructions it isn't clear what to do in the first two stages.  Most teachers will teach you to keep bringing your attention back to an object (the breath for example) during these phases, this means you learn the things that Ajahn Brahm describes you should learn by failing to be able to stay with the breath that over and over again.   The trouble is then people get attached to the object and think the meditation is about the breath, I guess Ajahn Brahm is trying to avoid that.

I have recently met a guy who`s been meditating for quite some time now (he`s 60), so I was eager to talk with some long time meditator. He would tell me things Buddha had said in the right context and I would just silently agree with a nod "yes, it is so.". When I actually came to talk about my meditation - awareness of the present moment, using the breath, and the body, my daily practicing and vipassana, he`d eventually make a "?" with his eyes followed by "Mh ye, sounds not to be for me". If he sat for 40 minutes and nothing "special happened", he`d leave disappointedly the "not so spectacular sitting" and leave it for some time (days-weeks). But he knows what meditation is and is meditating for years, quoting the Buddha etc. The moral of the story is that, it`s very hard to say what is meditation and what isn`t, the same way it is hard to transmit it to others, and to find it out for yourself (because, aren`t we just running after what we -think- meditation is or should be - or how do we decide that we are meditating, how to we re-cognize, if we have no experience in the past to re-cognize it as such?). Jiddu K. Murti said that the very inquiry into what is meditation is the beginning of meditation, and that the very leaving aside everything you think to know about meditation is the very start of meditation as well. In that sense, you start new every moment, it`s an "every moment inquiry", and "every moment leaving aside what we think to know about meditation or what meditation actually is", because it is not something static, it`s fragile and fresh every time anew. In that sense, I admire most meditation teachers, because they are dealing with something very subtle, easy to miss.

That is why - to get back to context - I`d advise anyone to be one`s own inquirer, to not get fixated on "this way or that way" of meditation, this description, method, technique, understanding, but to find out for oneself what works best. And it`s even hard sometimes to evaluate that. Finally, one has to go beyond the words, descriptions and their meaning. And as a teacher, you try to compress something beyond, hoping that it would serve as a stepping stone into the actual experience and (hence) understanding.

For me, for example, I`d have started, by Alan`s description, by stage three, working with breath for long periods of time (1-2 years or more), and did vipassana already without fully sustained Stage 1 and 2 (what he talks about). I`ve started practicing maybe 4 years ago, not regularly, sometimes fully, sometimes none (been smoking pot at the very start heavily); now I find myself, when sitting, "doing" automatically what he describes in the first two stages - so they kind of developed, for me, out of stage 3 (and maybe 4 or what else is to come according to him). Sometimes also during the sitting I will stop with body-scan vipassana, and also not go to breath, but "dwell in the present moment", without being able to tell you -how- I do that, or how that would look like. Even now, while writing, in daily life, I think I`m less "always following the breath", but simply relaxing into the moment, which is, to me, a result of steady practice. And this relaxed calminess then is the foundation for working with the breath and the bodily sensations.

So having said that (sorry for so long, but here comes the point), I have no idea how I`d get to that point of what he describes as Stage 1 and 2 without having worked and used the breath (and also Vipassana) as a springing board. To me, it seems like a result of doing the later stages. Now being able to maintain present moment awareness and "relax into it" - I even use breath and/or vipassana as a tool to get back to that if it´s too hard. So, leaving aside all concepts of meditation, I`d have gone the other way around, and seen Alan`s stage 1 and 2 as Stage 3 and 4 and put 3 and 4 on the front, or as interconnected with Stage 3 (breath) and 4 (bodily sensations/vipassana?), as in both being productive for one and another, and not first-and-then or neither-nor.

Don`t get hung up on such things, there is no such thing as "this is it", "this is right" etc. That`s why some teachings may be contradictory to each other, and yet make sense on their own and maybe even lead to the same results, you see. Hence, be your own inquirer, and see what works for you, and don`t take anything for "bare coin", that only confuses (obviously).

When I started with breath and went to vipassana, I also had a hard time to "let go" of the breath as an object and go over to sensations (as I read your steady practice with abdomal area has maybe produced the same). I think this may be a result of -only- having (staying in Alans "Stage context") Stage 3 and 4 and skipping Stage 1 and 2. I could hardly tell you how I jumped away from that, hence why I admire teachers. I`d simply tell the students "hell, find out yourselves!". My teacher back then told me to "relax, just relax", which is probably indirectly refered to Alans Stage 1 and 2 and didn`t make sense to me at the time, but I simply tried to "relaaax", whatever that meant, and it worked; also, in my experience, relaxation and present moment awareness ala Alans first stages are interconnected, you can`t have one without the other, and one follows the other/produces the other. So, if you have trouble starting with "present moment awareness" or "dwelling in the present", try to relax, I call it "relax into existence" (said some other guy), and it`s basically what you do. By doing that you relax and let everything just be. You don`t resist a thing. But yeah, I think it`s (I guess I know too) quite hard to go from descriptions to actual experience/doing. Hence the personal inquiry over all. Your own experience is the measure stick for you (whether it comes to technique, teaching, understanding, method etc.) and what`s gonna work for you. Some things may not work at all, and some things only at a later time in your life and understanding.


Hope that helps somehow. Also, since I conclude the same as Matthew (relaxation missing), you may try some methods that do exactly that (since I never tried it I can`t recommend his calm abiding, but whatever relaxes you seems appropriate.) Simply relaaaaaaaaaaax with a long "a" :-) It`s when all your muscles and body parts let loose, let go and hang down and you start to feel a silence inbetween all the inner and outer noise. But don`t search for it, just relax. And persistence, also important. And don`t try too hard, that very trying could create tension.

Ok I`m done, already wrote too much I feel.

Metta :-)
to be or not to be - one hardly notices the subtlety

Matthew

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2016, 01:04:48 PM »
..
After so many years my awareness automatically goes to my abdomen now.      I find that without this anchor then my mind will just be all over the place.

So it's habitual? And - it's not doing it for you .... most likely because it's habitual, which is completely opposite to the purpose of the practice.

Sounds like time to break some habits you've built and replace them with mindful awareness - and, as Attachless says .. relaxation. There is a middle way between concentration and relaxation you must find for yourself. It's like riding a bike and you only learn by falling off a good few times.

I strongly encourage you to experiment with the calm-abiding technique for one month with the emphasis on relaxing and calming the body. Not a question of it being "the right way" or "the only way" but a question of it being an expedient means to you finding your middle way.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 01:16:24 PM by Matthew »
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Alex

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2016, 02:04:24 PM »
There is a middle way between concentration and relaxation you must find for yourself. It's like riding a bike and you only learn by falling off a good few times.

I was thinking along the same line: there is a middle way between following instructions and surrendering control. As you seem to be stuck in one pole, I think you will benefit from going a little into the other pole: allow, relax, surrender control.

After so many years my awareness automatically goes to my abdomen now. I find that without this anchor then my mind will just be all over the place.

'Mind all over the place' is not a problem. Forcing attention on the anchor or habitually applying strategies to avoid 'mind all over the place' is.

Either way I think it's unlikely that someone will be successful as a self taught meditator for 5 years, you'll probably just go round in circles with the same problems.

I agree. It's not impossible to discover these mental habits by yourself (by becoming aware of what actually happens during meditation while you're following instructions) but it's difficult to see your blind spots, this is self-evident. You will benefit from discussing what actually happens during your meditation with a teacher or someone who is more familiar with these habitual mental patterns.

purity

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2016, 09:07:55 PM »
 What you both - Mathew and Alex - are telling me is in conflict with what others tell me.     Everything I have read and learnt from Sanghas and retreat tells me to use breath as an anchor and note whatever arises before returning to breath.     I dont agree that its impossible without a teacher.   Did Buddha have a teacher?  Many people have found the way without a teacher.     

I have tried to find a teacher and I have not been able to find one.  I have asked for suggestions and none have been given. So I continue my practice alone.

I have tried the calm abiding meditation and it does not work for me.  The instructions say "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."

 The only sensation I feel is my abdomen rising and falling and so my mind just goes there which is what I already do.    Im beginning to think maybe I have an attention deficit disorder an this is why meditation is not progressing as much for me as it does for others.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 09:10:20 PM by purity »

Matthew

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Re: The basic method of meditation
« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2016, 09:21:06 PM »
What you both - Mathew and Alex - are telling me is in conflict with what others tell me.     Everything I have read and learnt from Sanghas and retreat tells me to use breath as an anchor and note whatever arises before returning to breath.     I dont agree that its impossible without a teacher.   Did Buddha have a teacher?  Many people have found the way without a teacher.     
.....

My advise was to use the breath as an anchor. I do think you need to overcome the habit of concentrating only on the abdomen if you are to progress. It is also not true that I said you need a teacher:

...
I strongly encourage you to experiment with the calm-abiding technique for one month with the emphasis on relaxing and calming the body. Not a question of it being "the right way" or "the only way" but a question of it being an expedient means to you finding your middle way.

It's only two weeks that I first suggested you try calm-abiding. I suggest you try it for one month and drop all other practices for a good reason: it will take time to break the habits you have around meditation and get into a new way of practicing. I also emphasised that YOU have to find YOUR middle way. I made no mention of needing a teacher, though it can be helpful. As my profile says "Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project" - you have to DO IT YOURSELF at the end of the day - with or without a teacher.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~