Author Topic: Guidance please  (Read 537 times)

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Guidance please
« on: May 09, 2018, 12:10:46 PM »
Hi all, would it be possible for some advice on meditation please? I have been meditating daily for over two years now and have learned from books. My practice is more or less set to two 30 minute sessions, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I practice Shamatha meditation and focus my attention on the breath while trying to relax as much as possible. I have reached a stage where I am more or less on my breath most of the meditation session but still get caught up in thoughts now and again and follow them but not as much as I did. I do seem to get random words just popping up from nowhere that dont mean anything, no idea where they come from. Anyway, my problem seems to come after about 20 minutes into the meditation, the first 5 minutes or so I am settling into it then after this I am really into the feeling of the breath with just random thoughts that I do not follow (most of the time) and I keep like this for another 15 minutes, then its like a switch comes on and I lose my ability to focus on the breath I seem to be in a bit of a daze and any attempt to gain back concentration is met with fuzziness. I have tried two things, one to try and relax more which seems to make the fuzziness worse and two, try to focus on breath more which seems to bring tension with the fuzziness. The next 10 minutes of meditation can be a little frustrating and I end up wanting to wrap it up. Am I experiencing 'sinking' or a deeper meditative state? I am not really sure. Anyone any ideas on moving forward?



     

stillpointdancer

  • stillpointdancer
  • Member
  • Retired teacher, deepening understanding of Dharma
    • Insight meditation
    • Exploring the results of 30 years of meditating
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2018, 04:30:32 PM »
Shamatha meditation is good, but the problem with learning from books is that you have no-one around to guide you to the next phase in your practice. Are you following a program of shamatha meditation or have you settled on one particular stage? Samatha can be the only meditation practice you ever need, or it can be one of a number of practices.

It may be that you need to go on to something like mindfulness of breathing which incorporates mindfulness of thoughts arising, or even vipassana meditation. It might be worth reading around some possibilities like this if there is no local meditation group to try.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

BeHereNow

  • Moderator
  • "Do not doubt your basic goodness." J. Kornfield
    • Shambhala
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2018, 09:38:21 PM »
Hi Steve,

First of all, congratulations on developing such a dedicated practice all on your own!  That is a wonderful start, and so difficult for so many people.

I agree with SPD that eventually it is super helpful to have someone to guide your practice, as there are often times when we get into tough situations and someone who knows you and your tendencies can really help work it out.  I know the Shambhala centres offer free meditation instructors, I have one and it has helped a lot.

In terms of your practice, I would say that being open to whatever is arising, moment by moment, could help.  In my view, it is not the aim of meditation practice to reach a deeper state, but to observe the fluctuations of the mind without judgment.  When fuzziness arises, you could become aware of the thoughts about it (talk), the sensations in the body (feel), and any images (images).  Breaking it up into its component parts can help bring some ease to the whole situation.  Trust that this, too, shall pass, and you don't really need to figure it out.

Another HUGE piece to practice is self-compassion.  Developing wisdom without compassion can lead to a whole host of problems.  When you are sitting, an attitude of being kind towards yourself, spending the time making friends with yourself, rather than trying to make yourself better in some way can really help.  Remember that you already have within you everything that you are seeking.

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Dharmic Tui

  • Member
  • Something
    • Some Theravada, some secular
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2018, 04:41:31 AM »
It sounds like you're slipping into autopilot once you get comfortable.

Just notice yourself doing this, without judging yourself, and attempt to settle back into the breath. The more you pick up on yourself switching off, the more you cultivate a conscious yet unstressed awareness.

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2018, 09:22:27 PM »
Thank you all for your tips and advice.

I live in the pendle area in Lancashire UK and if anyone knows any teachers near me please could you let me know?
I have been practicing daily 3 years this coming September and I must say it has been really tough, not what I expected at all. Meditation has made me take a close look a me (again not what I expected) and have not liked some of the things that has come up. It's only in the past few months that something has changed and I feel a lot more content.

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2018, 02:45:15 PM »
Shamatha meditation is good, but the problem with learning from books is that you have no-one around to guide you to the next phase in your practice. Are you following a program of shamatha meditation or have you settled on one particular stage?

Hi Stillpointdancer, I have read the book by B Alan Wallace called the Attention Revolution and this is what I have been following. I would say that I am at level 2 according to the book which is being on the breath most of the time during meditation. It actually says that to progress beyond this level you would need to do meditation as a vocation like retreats etc. I do understand what he means as in a daily normal life the mind is scattered all over the place and a 30 minute session a couple of times a day would not lead to any deep levels. I am ok with this though but maybe one day I can commit to longer sessions.

Throughout my life I have learned various skills over say a 6 month period and managed to get to a decent level as the brain has learned these new skills by repetition and memory, could be anything from joinery to computing etc etc. I have been learning to meditate for more that a couple of years and still feel like I have not learned much on the cushion. With meditation does the brain just learn to focus more and become more aware over time? It would be great if there were some signposts to say Ah this is the way or some marker to say you have reached a certain point and the next time you sit you know how to get to that point quicker.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 10:32:47 PM by Matthew »

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2018, 10:37:58 PM »
Thank you all for your tips and advice.

I live in the pendle area in Lancashire UK and if anyone knows any teachers near me please could you let me know?

Avoid the NKT .. they're everywhere like a virus. These Kagyu peeps in Colne are probably worth a visit. They have an open session Tuesdays 8-9pm which is free/donation: http://www.dechen.org/buddhist-centres/colne/

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

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2018, 11:52:41 AM »
Thank you very much for the info, I will give it a try, its not actually far from me as well, great stuff!

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2018, 03:18:10 PM »
Thank you very much for the info, I will give it a try, its not actually far from me as well, great stuff!

Indeed, looked for somewhere local to you. With the Tibetans I recommend sticking to Shamatha/Vipassana and Metta Bhavana/Brahmavihara, at least til you know who you are dealing with. I don't know these people yet they look sound enough: the golden rule is go in with your mind and eyes wide open and don't fall into putting a guru on a pedestal - whomever you may meet they may be more "elightened" than you though they certainly have not reached the natural goal of Buddhism and are not "enlightened" in an absolute sense. This means there are limits to what they can teach, and ego is still involved. Having said all that, it would be good for you if they are a nice bunch and you can regularly meditate and talk with real people face to face about meditation - so good luck.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2018, 03:49:54 PM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2018, 06:11:23 PM »
Much appreciated advice,  thank you.
I have a well established practice now and it is here to stay. Hopefully I can get the help I need to progress a bit quicker.

Nicky

  • Member
    • Pali
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2018, 11:21:42 AM »
Am I experiencing 'sinking' or a deeper meditative state? I am not really sure. Anyone any ideas on moving forward?

I write about this all the time on Buddhism forums. The problem is probably occurring because you are practising "yogic" (Hindu) meditation, which means you are making a deliberate effort & intention to focus the mind on the breathing. Such "yogic" practise can bring the short-term benefit of some calmness (samatha) but eventually the breath becomes difficult to follow because the breath has calmed but the mind remains coarse, i.e., the mind has the coarse thought to focus on the breathing, which, itself is a hindrance. Eventually what occurs is something called "sinking mind", which is essentially the hindrance of sloth & torpor.

The meditation the Buddha taught is based in the abandonment of craving. Therefore, any deliberate effort & intention to observe the breathing is not what the Buddha taught because such an intention is "craving". The Pali term "Ananapansati" does not mean "mindfulness of breathing". It means "mindfulness with breathing". Buddhist "mindfulness" means "remembering to keep the mind" free from craving. The following passage from the scriptures sums this up:

Quote
And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn48/sn48.010.than.html

Therefore, once a beginner develops some calmness using clumsy "yogic" technique and this yogic technique ceases to bring progress; the beginner must give up the yogic (Hindu) method and starting practising the Buddhist method, which is to simply govern the mind to ensure the mind is free from craving, judging, thinking ,etc.

Once the mind can establish itself in a sensitive open yet quiet state of non-craving; the breathing becomes the grossest sense object of the mind and the mind will naturally & automatically know the breathing.

An analogy is if you must walk up a steep hill, the mind will automatically know the breathing because the breathing becomes strong. Similarly, when the mind can simply abide very quietly, gently, awake & still in meditation, the mind it will automatically know the breathing because the breathing is the strongest sense object when the mind is free from thinking.

In summary, the intention to focus on breathing is a form of **thinking**. This intentional thinking must eventually be given up because this thinking is "craving". For the mind to know the breathing does not require any intention or effort to know the breathing; just as hearing a sound does not require any intention or effort to hear a sound. Similar to hearing a subtle sound, to know the breathing the mind simply needs to be quiet & still.

I recommend this PDF: https://www.dhammaloka.org.au/files/pdf/Ajahn_Brahm-Mindfulness_Bliss_and_Beyond-Chapters1-4.pdf

Best wishes  :)



« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 11:35:41 AM by Nicky »

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2018, 12:25:09 PM »
Hi Nicky, sorry for the delay in replying I keep checking the forum every few days. Thank you very much for the info, I have read it and taken it all in and will give the book a good read.

I have been lost (and still am) over the last couple of years trying to learn meditation. The instructions I have been following is to watch the breathing, and when I get distracted by thoughts return to the breath. I have tried watching the stomach rise and fall and tried feeling the breath go in and out at the nostrils, I now prefer the latter. Over time I have been trying to get a balance between relaxing and noticing the feeling of breath at the nostrils. If I look too closely at the breath at nostrils I notice that my mouth has taken on the shape of doing an 'Elvis impression' and/or my big toe has been stuck out tense.....I then back off, relax, and dont look to closely at feeling at nostrils. I am now in a position that I can look closely at the feeling of breath and have some degree of relaxation with it, but like you say this is concentration (I think) what I am going to do now is go back to the beginning, read that book slowly and find out where I am going wrong.

By the way, what you wrote has made a lot of sense to me, thank you! and I will investigate your points in detail.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2018, 12:27:53 PM by Steve_c53 »

VipassanaXYZ

  • Member
  • Write something about yourself here
    • Goenka
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2018, 08:34:55 AM »
Steve

I seem to be in a bit of a daze and any attempt to gain back concentration is met with fuzziness. I have tried two things, one to try and relax more which seems to make the fuzziness worse and two, try to focus on breath more which seems to bring tension with the fuzziness. The next 10 minutes of meditation can be a little frustrating and I end up wanting to wrap it up. Am I experiencing 'sinking' or a deeper meditative state? I am not really sure. Anyone any ideas on moving forward?
     

Yes! I have an idea, a very traditional one used by monks, when you reach this point where you are struggling, take a few conscious breaths, to clearly feel the breath. You will out and back on track :)

Also look up "philtrum" (it is a triangular area in the middle area of the upper lip)observe the passing breath on this area, it is an important nerve centre, focus here usually stays strong and will keep you safely on track.

Also, bluriness is like a stock of petrol, it will get burnt out as you persist and when it all releases, you will get even better focus.

The most important part here I will repeat again, when the bluriness hits, or is about to hit, take a few conscious breaths, just slightly harder breath, to clearly feel the breath, the sooner you catch the onset of bluriness, easier it would be to walk out.

 
« Last Edit: May 27, 2018, 08:56:56 AM by VipassanaXYZ »

Steve_c53

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Shamatha
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2018, 09:32:42 PM »
Thank you vipassanaxyz I will give that a go. I struggle to find that triangle part above the lip, I feel the breath more inside the nostril although the area can be a bit random. The out breath is a little harder to catch and sometimes I don't feel it at all for many breaths. Do you think it's worth me doing a few sessions to try and feel the trangle area above my lip?
Thanks again for your advice.

VipassanaXYZ

  • Member
  • Write something about yourself here
    • Goenka
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2018, 11:12:21 AM »
Yes, practice for the triangular area. It will take a couple of sessions to start  very clear perception.
It is good idea to stay there and notice the breath, the touch of the breath. Breath is a bit warmer when it comes out. Usually, you would see it touches the same spot everytime.

Let the breath be long or short, see a long breath as a long breath, do nothing to change the breath. Short breath as short breath, do nothing. Try to see the complete length of the breath.

Positive skilful mind states during the day are the foundation of clear calm perception. Face adversity with morality, it is all good.


Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Guidance please
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2018, 05:43:29 PM »
Check to see you are not slowly falling into slouching when you meditate. Strong upright back and mindful breathing is essential. Fuzziness offten is a sign of shallow breathing due to developing a tendency to slouch which compresses the chest and diaphragm.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~