Author Topic: Mental straining of meditation  (Read 332 times)

machete

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Mental straining of meditation
« on: August 25, 2019, 01:39:02 PM »
Hi,

I've been practicing mindfulness for about two years now. Since a couple of months, I feel like I've really improved. I can sometimes stay 100% focused on my breath for a significant amount of time, without any distraction at all. It's a weirdly satisfying feeling to be really, really concentrated on something that is not very interesting in itself.

However, I sometimes have meditation sessions where I cannot concentrate at all. My mind is all over the place. I'm aware of my thoughts and I'm able to return to the present moment, but it's a lot more effort than those times when I'm in the flow. It goes a bit like this:

   - Well, I've been better at this...

     [returning to the present moment]

   - It's a lot less satifying than yesterday...

     [returning to the present moment]

   - Was I really that good yesterday, or is it just that I wasn't aware that I was thinking?

     [returning to the present moment]

   - I should ask the community about this...

And it goes on, and on, and on. It still feels a bit disappointing, it's like I'm back at the very beginning of my meditation practice. There is an intellectual strain to keep returning to the present moment every 5 seconds, without any of those "in the flow" moments. Especially because I know I can reach this state. Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on myself...?

What I'm wondering is this: when I'm in that state, should I keep it up and see the experience as a super hard exercise which will significantly improve my meditation skills? Or should I just stop right there because I'll just be disappointed and strain myself for no reason?

Do you have any thoughts about this?

Alex

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2019, 07:38:36 PM »
Hey Machete

Good you’re noticing the fruits of your practice!

Interesting question about concentration… Even though we don’t really need that much concentration/samadhi to gain insight into anicca, dukkha & anatta, I feel it is undervalued in the West. It is worth developing.

Some questions to reflect: what are your intentions to develop concentration? Is there wanting, comparing or selfing involved of which you are not mindful? Are you working skillfully with the hindrances/defilements when they arise so they don't obstruct the development of concentration? Or are you straining in order to make something happen? Is there actually a do-er inside of you who can control this experience of concentration, a do-er who can be either successful or failing?

My experience: like all phenomena, concentration is impermanent, dependent on conditions. And you can only do the practice, you can't make this work. So, don't strain, instead: let go, let go, let go...

Does this speak to your question?
If not, please specify what you mean by
What I'm wondering is this: when I'm in that state, should I keep it up and see the experience as a super hard exercise which will significantly improve my meditation skills? Or should I just stop right there because I'll just be disappointed and strain myself for no reason?

Kindly
Alex

Hanss92

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2019, 12:36:24 AM »
im posting this here because i cant figure out how to start a new thread. It is over three years since i was in a relationship whit my ex. I still do not have come over my breakup. Every day i think about my ex gf or her parents. It is not mutch, just short thoughts that comes and goes maby 5-10 times every day. It is enough in the way that is distracts me in, espacely when im doing school work. I dont know if this is enough to ask what type of meditaion i should do, but i have used a type caled acceptance and self esteme. now i want to try and meditate again but cant figure out whitch meditation technic is best? i dont know how my english is, but i try to write as good as i can. And

dharma bum

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2019, 04:23:50 AM »
Quote
- Well, I've been better at this...

     [returning to the present moment]

   - It's a lot less satifying than yesterday...

     [returning to the present moment]

   - Was I really that good yesterday, or is it just that I wasn't aware that I was thinking?

     [returning to the present moment]

   - I should ask the community about this...

This happened to me a lot in the early years, especially after a retreat, in which the mind hankers for some previous pleasant state. What worked for me was to start a meditation session by reminding myself that there is no goal in the session except to just breathe. It helps to have no expectations. Over the course of the years, it is normal to feel occasionally that you have made progress, and to feel sometimes that you have made no progress at all. But you do make progress.

I still use the memory of the emptiness of the mind in the retreat as inspiration but now I don't try to reach that state.
Mostly ignorant

Goofaholix

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2019, 09:02:38 PM »
You most definitely shouldn't stop when things are difficult as this is your learning opportunity.  Here is where you get to learn equanimity, you get to learn how the mind works, you get to learn to be aware of changing phenomena, you get to learn to let go of tension and reactivity, you get to learn strategies to improve your meditation.

If everything were always exactly as you'd like it to be you'd never make any progress, it would be like giving up going to the gym as soon as they increased your weights and reps etc.

machete

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2019, 12:35:36 AM »
Thanks for your answers guys, that's really appreciated. :)

Some questions to reflect: what are your intentions to develop concentration? Is there wanting, comparing or selfing involved of which you are not mindful? Are you working skillfully with the hindrances/defilements when they arise so they don't obstruct the development of concentration? Or are you straining in order to make something happen? Is there actually a do-er inside of you who can control this experience of concentration, a do-er who can be either successful or failing?

I don't have all the answers to these questions, but I'm definitely trying to make something happen, and I realize that's very probably the source of my frustration. It seems really obvious now.

This happened to me a lot in the early years, especially after a retreat, in which the mind hankers for some previous pleasant state. What worked for me was to start a meditation session by reminding myself that there is no goal in the session except to just breathe. It helps to have no expectations.

That's nice to know that I'm not alone having these thoughts, and that's a great idea, I'll definitely try that.

Laurent

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2019, 11:52:30 AM »
Hello machete,

You may try to consider that your goal in meditation is just to release questions and agitation. Regard them as a source of stress that prevents you from dwelling peacefully. Consider the goal may be the exact opposite of seeking something like answering questions.

If those thoughts are really harassing you, you may try to observe directly those thoughts arising. Don' give any attention to their content but focus on the process of arising and passing away. This means when there are thoughts, observe their features (durability, the way they stand and last, etc..); it will be your true object of meditation rather than the content. And when there are no thoughts, keep some time aware that there are no thoughts and be vigilant to see when they appear. You can try this some time and come back to your main technique.
Do not insist if it causes issues to you or if you really don't understand what you are supposed to do, but trying this may help you.

Thanisaro85

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2019, 02:24:29 PM »
A lot of meditators quit as they are either misled by some other meditators or had misunderstood meditation: they thoughts that once they meditated for few months or few years, they would experience a lifetime of equanimity and total calmness for the rest of their life, maybe a couple of them with very good karma(good body conditions, good stable emotion by birth, less obstacles in life) can experience that. Most of us is going to still lives indifferently everyday, but letting thing go easily.

Depend on individual, even after years of meditations, will still face peaceful meditation today and a restless one tomorrow, everyday is just differences( impermanence).Today one achieved deep absorption, tomorrow endless thoughts.

The differences between seasonal meditators and amateurs are, the first detected and understand the differences is inevitable and they settled down faster by letting it go, they are sharp to detect even slightest emotional, senses and thoughts arising and falling away. The latter
Struggling, doubting and pondering why yesterday is peaceful and today can't settled down at all.

Vedenas( emotions, senses and thoughts) hang naturally with us till the day we die, and it  is to be understood that we need to be mindfulness of them until our breath finally end.

A Mind Unshaken, when touches by worldy matter, sorrowless, secure and dustless, this is the ultimate great blessing~ Mangala Sutta

Marino

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Re: Mental straining of meditation
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2019, 06:00:19 PM »
Spiritual advancement is a continuous change of being. It is a path of transformation. You will feel the bliss of concentration in the beginning but if you continue to cling to your previous self, you will miss it. You also have to drop your old self.

Meditation requires you to advance further from your present position. It has a way of progression. It is a spiritual journey. You can not be in control of your spiritual advancement.

Straining means you are fighting against something natural. Meditation naturally brings changes in your being and if you try to resist the change of consciousness, you will be strained. Meditation requires you to move in the right direction. Don't cling to your previous state of mind. Rather, you must be continually surrendering to the natural way of progression of meditation.

If you have problems with concentration, do some Metta (actually, Metta should be done every day until it becomes your second nature). Metta brings good karma required to do any kind of meditation. INHO, without Metta you can't gain any insight. Metta is what leads to existence.

Quote
"One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One's mind gains concentration quickly. One's complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and — if penetrating no higher — is headed for the Brahma worlds." -- Metta (Mettanisamsa) Sutta: Good Will

Source: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an11/an11.016.than.htmll

Meditation is non-linear.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 06:40:20 PM by Marino »