Author Topic: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts  (Read 8954 times)

anubic

Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« on: November 22, 2009, 06:46:41 PM »
So I've been trying to meditate now for some while, but I have some questions and problems I can't figure out. I am interested in being able to observe my thoughts, to detach myself from them, and I have been trying to do so for a while, mostly without any luck.

Every time I try to observe my thoughts, I end up frustrated, and give up. I always give up because I simply can't find my thoughts, as weird as it may seem. I am trying to be aware of them, but I simply fail time after time. When I want to be aware of my thoughts, I expect a feeling of knowing that this is a thought, and I am aware of it, but I rarely get that feeling. I always end up asking myself, am I doing it right, because I am very unsure of what are my thoughts and what are not.

I wonder then if I am doing something wrong, if there is a special "move" with my awareness I have to do, so I can observe my thoughts, if there is one simple thing I am doing wrong. Most of the time when I try, I don't know where to look for my thoughts, or what they are. It's like Im searching for them all the time, but I am never able to be aware of any of them , always lost in them. Most articles regarding this on the internet says what you need to do, "to be aware of your thoughts, disidentify with them, just observe them, do not judge them", but they don't say how in details, or what could go wrong. When I try to follow the directions, "just observe, stand back and observe your thoughts flow by", I just end up trying to observe my thoughts, but there are no thoughts to observe, because I can't find them/ be aware of them. I just feel like im lost in them while trying mostly, that Im thinking something right now, but not being able to be aware of it.

Also, what does "intentional thoughts" have to do with all this, I mean, things you can say to yourself when you want to. I sometimes wonder, if saying some things to yourself is the same as being aware of your thoughts? I highly doubt it but after trying for so long time to be aware of them, I don't know what to believe anymore.


What am I doing wrong from what I wrote? How can I be aware of my thoughts, and know I am aware? Why am I not able to be aware of them, even though I try?

It's really hard to explain everything, Im asking for some help from any of you willing to give me some advice or answer my questions.

Help GREATLY appreciated.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2009, 11:05:22 PM »
Hello anubic,

Welcome to the forums.

In short I think you need to do more of the stabilising/calming/focussing meditation called Shamatha before progressing with insight meditation or Vipassana. The two are one really - it is impossible to practice Vipassana without calm and impossible to find calm without developing insight.

For now it is a matter of practice priorities. Clearly your mind is running wild. It is no wonder you are having trouble sitting! Never mind though, no situation is unresolvable. Calming and focussing your mind is meditation 101, if you like. Without a calm and focussed mind one can not undertake the work of looking in. Not at all.

Stop worrying. Stop criticising your practice. Stop analysing your practice. Be aware moment to moment of where your mind is running to without criticising. Just befriend your own mind. It's part of you so you may as well become friends.

This moment to moment ability of being aware of your state of mind is the fruit of following the first stages on the path to calm abiding. From calm abiding one can undertake insight work methodically, efficiently and with good results.

First there is meditation "practice". This needs to be quite simple.

Sit twice a day at the same time and to begin start with short sessions of 20 or 10 minutes. After you shower in the morning and a mid time before the evening meal and bed or an hour or so before either the evening meal or bed are good times. Lengthen the sessions each week by 5 minutes.

Stretch your body every time before you sit. stretch out your limbs, reach upwards and stretch your back. Breath in some deep but relaxed breaths, letting the air naturally and gently flow out from your lungs.

Find a comfortable seated position. This can be on a chair such as a dining chair (hips should not be lower than knees, ankles directly under knees, feet pointing forward, back upright but relaxed - not supported by the chair) or on a cushion or the floor. If you are unused to sitting on the floor you may want some blankets or a cushion under you to soften the impact on your knees. You also want a firm cushion that lifts the hips up and tilts the pelvis slightly forward with the knees both on the ground providing a strong triangle of support for the pelvis and lower back).

Breath in another three deep breaths and gently let them go. Drop the eyes a little (this should be muscles relaxed as in sleep but eyes open as in awake). Breathe in. Notice the breath, it's physical qualities and sensations. You do not have to concentrate on one place to do this. Doing so can hinder your practice in fact. The Buddha did not teach breathe in and focus on the belly or the nose. He said be aware of your breath. Be aware if it is a long or short breath, do this without words, pay attention to sensation.

Your mind will wander. Thoughts will intrude - about lunch, how you are doing it wrong - or maybe how annoying I am for asking you to do something so damn boring. Just let them be. Do not attach your mind to thoughts but let them be - aware of them as you maintain your principal focus/awareness on the physical sensations of the breath entering and leaving the body. Neither criticise yourself for having thoughts - nor for any of their contents. If something really funy pops into your head and you burst out laughing then enjoy the laugh for a moment, but then, again with no guilt or shame, return your focus to the breath.

Do not get caught in chains of thoughts. Treat all thoughts equally. You are not here to judge them. You are engaged in a process which will naturally stem the flow of unwanted thoughts through developing inner peace. you must not use force to suppress your thoughts or you will never find peace.

You will get bored and want to stop. This is just a thought so treat it like the others. return your awareness always to the physical sensation of breathing.

If you follow these instructions you will be undertaking the most effective sitting practice you can imagine within two months and you will return with an entirely different set of questions, prepared to delve deeper into self enquiry.

For now your mind needs taming. This method will do that if you follow the instructions. The second part of the exercise is the off the cushion practice. Do not read about meditation in the mean time. Do not undertake other practices. Do not think about meditation other than quietly reflecting on your personal felt sensations of undertaking the practice (without any commentary in words ... just bring it back to mind). Do not think or worry about God or anything else that is undefinable. Do not think about nor worry about what the practice is doing to you. After two weeks or so DO practice being aware of your state of mind when off the cushion - that is to say take a little of the calm and concentration you have developed and use it to quietly monitor your own state of mind. Be aware if you are getting angry and walk away and breath. Be aware if  you are getting hyperactive and ask yourself quietly and calmly what brought it on. Be aware if you are feeling down and ask yourself why? Be aware of your effect on others and try and be compassionate to them and kind. But do all of this without shame or guilt if you are any of these things or "fail" in any way. You are befriending yourself - getting to know yourself - not hanging yourself out to dry.

You are simply becoming friends with yourself such that this eternal inner conflict may end in time. How will that happen? First you gain calm and concentration. Then you use it to know yourself more and more intimately, resolve inner conflicts and remove habitual behaviour. This manifests as being at peace in the world with those around you and less disharmony in all aspects of life. How far you ride the train is entirely your call. The ticket price consists only of self honesty.

Any questions?

In the Dhamma,

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

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: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2009, 11:17:39 PM »
ps All of this is thinking and not meditation :) You can't find your thoughts because you are so busy thinking about them that you are not recognising those thoughts ARE your thoughts.

Every time I try to observe my thoughts, I end up frustrated, and give up. I always give up because I simply can't find my thoughts, as weird as it may seem. I am trying to be aware of them, but I simply fail time after time. When I want to be aware of my thoughts, I expect a feeling of knowing that this is a thought, and I am aware of it, but I rarely get that feeling. I always end up asking myself, am I doing it right, because I am very unsure of what are my thoughts and what are not.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mcgee55

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2009, 02:54:41 AM »
anubic,

I totally identify with what your saying.  Sometimes when I meditate I think I'm concentrating and then I realize that I've just been thinking about concentrating the whole time!  Its a strange phenomenon indeed.  Some thoughts are easy to spot.  For instance, you thinking that you can't spot your thoughts!  Thats a good thought that you can start to be mindful of. 

I often find myself giving myself pep talks while I meditate.  I'll be focused, have a thought, and then tell myself to go back to the breath, and then tell myself not to feel bad about it, and then tell myself that I'm doing my best, and then and then....  It can go on and on.  Not exactly wordless attention.  Sometimes, I can't stop the pep talking.  Its like a person inside of my head constantly talking.  Its schizophrenic if you ask me.  Sometimes its scary, to realize that you can't shut your mind up.  If this happens to you, a good first step is to stop engaging in conversation with that voice, just let it talk at you.   

Also, you sound confused in your practice.  Thats actually a good thing for a beginner if you ask me.  It means that you have the curiosity that will make you learn to practice right.  If you didn't have any questions, then I would be concerned.  You also sound worried.  While its not good to worry, because it never gets us anywhere, its another good sign for a beginner if you ask me.  It means you care about your own mind.  While I don't have volumes of experience to guide you with, and can tell you that if you do what Matthew says, and just try to stop analyzing the practice of meditation, things will eventually, if slowly, improve.   As Bhante G says - if meditation teaches you anything, it will teach you patience. 

anubic

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2009, 02:53:37 PM »
I thank you for your answers and opinions, I am open for more suggestions and advices regarding this, as it doesn't exist exact answers to my questions.

I also wonder, when you are observing your thoughts, are you hearing the thought out loud inside yourself when you become aware of it? or is it more like a knowing-type of feeling to it, like you just know that you had that thought just now, and you just know what the thought was about?
On the internet as I've mentioned, the articles normally tell you to try to detach yourself from your thoughts, and watch them flow by, it almost sounds like there is a special thing you do with your awareness, and then suddenly you can just sit back and observe any thought without any effort, can anyone confirm it's not like this? To me it's more like, when I manage to finally be aware of what I am thinking, it lasts for a second, that feeling of knowing what your thought is, then I don't know what I'm thinking anymore and have to try again.



pamojjam

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2009, 03:56:43 PM »
... like you just know that you had that thought just now, and you just know what the thought was about?

To 'what the thought was about'.. is just the next thought arising and passing without having been aware while it happened again and again. I agree that there has to be at least moments of stillness of thoughts, for being able to comprehend on a non-verbal level.
How this is, is not possible to describe - can only state that this non-verbal awareness is completely different and beyond thought - impossible to describe with more thoughts based in grammar with its verbs, nouns and therefore bound to time. But it is very likely to experience yourself if you lay the groundwork with Anapana and return again and again from engagement in thinking about, to your actually experienced breath now.

.. to try to detach yourself from your thoughts, and watch them flow by, it almost sounds like there is a special thing you do with your awareness, and then suddenly you can just sit back and observe any thought without any effort, can anyone confirm it's not like this?

Nothing special, just return to your breath, if necessary for years of practice. No shortcuts there. For some it works fast, for some it takes long, we all have too different propensities.

To me it's more like, when I manage to finally be aware of what I am thinking, it lasts for a second, that feeling of knowing what your thought is, then I don't know what I'm thinking anymore and have to try again.

You may have many different experiences with this, like at one time for me trying to look into the space and catch where thoughts arise.. but hey, at that time only fragments of thoughts, even only half words were bubbling up only to disappear instantly again.. At an other time looking into this space (for a lack of a better word) was like looking into a bright light and complete voidness. And still at an other time it was so blissful, but not because of complete absence of thoughts, but by becoming totally convinced through its direct experience, 'an I thought arises and passes', beyond such minute Is - no me, mine or what I am evident at all.

But again, no way to shortcut or artificially create and concoct such insights, just come back to your awareness of breath again and again..

.. and again and again..

..

Kind regards..

mcgee55

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2009, 05:02:02 PM »
There is no special Buddhist trick to observing your thoughts, other than to simply increase your awareness.  You are new to this practice, and your awareness is therefore very limited.  That is why you are not catching your thoughts sooner.  When you think about a having thought a second or two after that is over, you were not mindful of your thoughts.  But, you can be mindful of your thinking about that thought, which is just another thought.  The more times, and there may be millions, that you catch yourself thinking, and return to your breath, the more your awareness increases.  You will begin to catch your thoughts sooner.  Eventually, undesired thoughts are suppossed to cease.  This is obviously a monumentous task.  That is why you must have supreme equanimity with whatever mind-state you are in, because it may take years for the still mind to occur.  If you are at war with your present state, you will only cause your mind to run in circles, and awareness will never happen.  Best wishes on your path. 

mik1e

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2009, 03:07:40 PM »
Hi anubic,

There are several "simple enough" methods to start sensing (seeing) the thoughts, but all of them are based on deep mind calming. Actually the calmed and empty mind is the basis for all practices of working with consciousness and subtle bodies/structures. On the other hand, the more your mind calmed and emptied, the more is "the spread" of your awareness.

That's why, when I want to teach a person to work with his/her consciousness, I don't start teaching them directly to work with their mind, but to sit still with straight spine and observe the processes in the body. I know from my own experience and from experience of my students that there is some level at which one begins observe his/her thoughts as if they were physical objects.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 03:17:30 PM by mik1e »

anubic

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2009, 06:37:15 PM »
Some good advice there.
You pointed out there is no buddhist trick, and it is all about increasing your awareness, I do agree on that. All those times, when I can't be aware of my thoughts, it's like I've got a bad spell on me that says I cannot be aware of my thoughts right now, no matter what. There is something I must be doing wrong, and this is what I am trying to figure. The thing about keeping my mind calm could be it, but I am thinking it is something I am doing wrong with my awareness or have misunderstood when it comes to how to do it.

I would greatly appreciate if anyone knew of more things I could be doing wrong, I am still under the impression that I am doing something very wrong, thus making this practice a hundred times harder or impossible. I am trying to be more aware of them, by looking for them w/awareness, but I don't know where to look for them, and neither do I know how to look for them to be honest. Every time I try it, I am putting massive effort into it, and it is a really hard practice for me, I've red that it shouldn't require almost any effort, thats one of the main reasons I think I am doing something really wrong.


When you guys are trying to be aware of them, do you LOOK for them with awareness? Or do you become aware of them in any other way? When you are normally unaware of them, you do not know where or what they are, so how do you then become aware of them. I have understood this has everything to do with awareness, and it is really simple if you look at what you really need to do, which is use your awareness to be aware of them, but I am doing something very wrong with it. Is there ways of using your awareness/ attention in the wrong way in this practice? Using it wrong so it maybe creates the opposite effect, instead of being more aware, your'e getting more lost in them?


If you want to be aware of your thoughts, you would want to look for them first, with awareness? Atleast, thats what I am trying to, would this be a wrong way to do it?
Also I've red a few places that the practice of being aware of your thoughts is about taking your attention out of your thoughts, and placing it in awareness, now how the heck would you do that practically? I guess it just means to try to be aware of your thoughts by using your awareness to look for them? This just describes what really happens?

And mikie, I would appreciate if you told any of those "simple" methods to do it,

Thanks to you that make an effort to help me out

« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 06:39:04 PM by anubic »

mcgee55

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2009, 07:43:49 PM »
anubic,

Awareness is simply the thing that makes the human mind so special.  We are capable of not only higher thought, but of observing our minds and body in the process.  The problem is that the human mind, while capable of observational awareness, is very much tuned into the higher thought process.  Most of us are trained throughout life to engage ourselves in higher thought, so as to take advantage of that wonderful human brain.  It is, after all, the mind's natural tendency to think.  We are not, so to speak, taught to engage ourselves in awareness.  To many, awareness is totally alien.  Think about how much of your life is spent lost in a thought.  But as Bhante G puts it, there is a difference between being lost in a story and knowing that a story is being told. 

Thus, awareness is not something you need too look for.  Rather, you must train your mind to engage itself not so much in the story, but about recognizing that the story is being told.  Mindfulness meditation is about training your awareness, and concentration is a tool to help you do so.  You seem to be spending too much energy looking for thoughts.  Don't worry, the thoughts are definately there, somewhere in your mind.  The idea is to not LOOK for thoughts with awareness.  Rather, focus your energy on trying to follow your breath.  To start, pick a spot, and follow it in and out.  The breath is your anchor in the present moment.  Make your purpose to try and always be aware of your anchor, not looking for thoughts.  You will find that many times you realize that you are not following the breath, but are thinking.  That is a moment of pure natural awareness.   Thus meditating brings you ultimate awareness.  You are aware of your breathing, and aware when you are not.  Your goal, now, is to do that an infinite number of times.

You also touch on something that I recently thought of and posted about, and that is effort.  Meditation does require a gargantuan effort, but don't get confused about what the flavor of effort is.   There is right and wrong effort.  Wrong effort is to try so hard to make something happen that you get frustrated when it does not happen.  Wrong effort is to not have equanimity where you are.  I too have this problem.  Right effort is to sit on the chair or cushion, and give a good faith try to follow your breath.  Right effort is to accept where you are in your practice.  If you follow your breath and maintain concentration, wonderful.  If not, that is fine too.  There is no success or failure in meditating, it is all simply meditation.  Remember, the real idea is to have present moment awareness, and thus you can be mindful of anything. 

Flipasso

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2009, 10:37:45 PM »
Mindfulness meditation practice, Shamtha/Vipassana, requires repeating the same simple procedures over and over...
As people have said here, you follow your breath and when you notice that you've been distracted you notice that and go back to the breath.
This practice will have you gradually become more and more aware of both the breath and the movements of your mind - whether the mind moves to a thought, a feeling, etc.. If you practice like this, you'll find yourself, soon, becoming aware of your thoughts as you want to.
To me it's more like, when I manage to finally be aware of what I am thinking, it lasts for a second, that feeling of knowing what your thought is, then I don't know what I'm thinking anymore and have to try again.
If you use this mechanism over and over you'll gradually see yourself becoming aware of your thoughts uninterruptedly. But once again, I also recommend you combine your practice of awarenes (of thoughts, feelings, etc.) with concentration on the breath. The 1st reason for this, is that it's easier. You'll have something to compare your degree of attentiveness. The 2nd reason is that concentration, specially on the breath, calms your mind.

There are more than enough advice here for you to start your practice.. And TIB's advice of not reading as much as you practice is a very good one. - which I, myself don't practice much..
If you really feel the need for written guidance on this kind of meditation i.e., mindfulness, you can read Bhante Gunaratana's book Mindfulness In Plain English, which is linked on this forum or you can get a teacher os this type of meditation. - But beware.. even with a good book, and a good teacher, there will always reamin doubt, the best antidote for it is, in fact, practice...
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware, non-judgementally, of whatever is going on be it thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, etc...
Hope it helps!

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2009, 12:14:03 AM »
I thank you for your answers and opinions, I am open for more suggestions and advices regarding this, as it doesn't exist exact answers to my questions.


Sorry if I wasn't clear in my answer. I did answer your question. I explained in great detail what you are doing wrong and how to put it right quite simply. If you don't want to hear it then that is probably your over analytical mind at work. I offered a direct method to conquer that problem. Try reading my answer again slowly and let it sink in.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: November 30, 2009, 12:16:23 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2009, 12:17:44 AM »
anubic,

Awareness is simply the thing that makes the human mind so special.  We are capable of not only higher thought, but of observing our minds and body in the process.  The problem is that the human mind, while capable of observational awareness, is very much tuned into the higher thought process.  Most of us are trained throughout life to engage ourselves in higher thought, so as to take advantage of that wonderful human brain.  It is, after all, the mind's natural tendency to think.  We are not, so to speak, taught to engage ourselves in awareness.  To many, awareness is totally alien.  Think about how much of your life is spent lost in a thought.  But as Bhante G puts it, there is a difference between being lost in a story and knowing that a story is being told. 

Thus, awareness is not something you need too look for.  Rather, you must train your mind to engage itself not so much in the story, but about recognizing that the story is being told.  Mindfulness meditation is about training your awareness, and concentration is a tool to help you do so.  You seem to be spending too much energy looking for thoughts.  Don't worry, the thoughts are definately there, somewhere in your mind.  The idea is to not LOOK for thoughts with awareness.  Rather, focus your energy on trying to follow your breath.  To start, pick a spot, and follow it in and out.  The breath is your anchor in the present moment.  Make your purpose to try and always be aware of your anchor, not looking for thoughts.  You will find that many times you realize that you are not following the breath, but are thinking.  That is a moment of pure natural awareness.   Thus meditating brings you ultimate awareness.  You are aware of your breathing, and aware when you are not.  Your goal, now, is to do that an infinite number of times.

You also touch on something that I recently thought of and posted about, and that is effort.  Meditation does require a gargantuan effort, but don't get confused about what the flavor of effort is.   There is right and wrong effort.  Wrong effort is to try so hard to make something happen that you get frustrated when it does not happen.  Wrong effort is to not have equanimity where you are.  I too have this problem.  Right effort is to sit on the chair or cushion, and give a good faith try to follow your breath.  Right effort is to accept where you are in your practice.  If you follow your breath and maintain concentration, wonderful.  If not, that is fine too.  There is no success or failure in meditating, it is all simply meditation.  Remember, the real idea is to have present moment awareness, and thus you can be mindful of anything. 

Very nicely put.

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

mik1e

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2009, 02:10:28 AM »
Hi anubic,

I personally know two such practices. The first one, as I said, is just sitting with straight spine and observing the breath. This practice is “simple” only by its ideology – you have to do ONLY these two things and nothing more. I.e., when a thought comes to your mind, you just “don’t do” thinking of it, but let it go its own way.

The biggest problem here is to sit with straight back, since curved spine and neck cause serious pressure on the head and mind, and this leads to the constant thinking. So, I am almost sure that your problems are mainly caused by improper body position. There may be some other reasons (say, sitting on a chair which bears the energy of other person), but they are not as important as straightness of the spine.

The other technique of mind calming is to “dissolve” your consciousness in sounds. That is, you attempt to hear and be aware of _all_ sounds around you (does not matter how far they come from), trying not to miss any of them and not to focus on any of them.

This practice calms down the throat center; you can’t calm it really deeply if you don’t calm your mind. However, I have to underline that “dissolving in sounds” will not help you to move further if your spine is curved. All practices of working with body and mind are based on rigorous laws of physiology and physics. You can use these laws to make your practice more efficient, but you cannot trick them.

By the way, I am going to start the group of guided online practice. The main goal of this group is to help beginners to master the basics (straight spine, awareness of breathing, mind calming, and feeling of energy flows in the body) to be able to move further. If you are interested, you can contact me by e-mail (in my profile) for details.

anubic

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2009, 06:15:36 AM »
I've red everything you posted in detail, and I will try it also, but I am just looking for others viewpoints on this too, I appreciate your answer, which was in great detail, I will make an effort to follow what you said.

And thanks Mik1e, will look up into it.
Good points, flip&mc.

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: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2009, 08:40:13 AM »
By the way, I am going to start the group of guided online practice. The main goal of this group is to help beginners to master the basics (straight spine, awareness of breathing, mind calming, and feeling of energy flows in the body) to be able to move further. If you are interested, you can contact me by e-mail (in my profile) for details.


Hi mik1e,

Is there anything stopping you adding this to the forums?

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

EDIT: Answer moved to here: http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,617.0.html
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 11:32:40 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2009, 09:11:11 AM »
I've red everything you posted in detail, and I will try it also, but I am just looking for others viewpoints on this too, I appreciate your answer, which was in great detail, I will make an effort to follow what you said.

Well, what I said included not thinking about meditation and not analysing meditation which imply not talking about meditation. Looking for other viewpoints means you certainly paid no attention to what I said there. Since I posted you have done a lot more of that already.

Let me put it very simply: Your main problem is not a personal problem at all it is a cultural problem of over-engagement of the rational mind and suppression of the feeling body-mind. This cultural problem pervades the west and educated classes everywhere around the world.

The only answer is to stop rationalising, stop analysing and stop looking for "other viewpoints" and stop chasing your thoughts - just go and do the practice as described above. In the first post I covered the rationale and methodology of what you are doing, how to prepare yourself, when to sit, how to sit, what to do when sitting and what not to do. I also explained how this stage of sitting that you seem to want to refuse to engage in is THE essential fundamental of the path.

If you chase thoughts I promise you, they will run wild like rabbits in a field and you will always be in that field chasing those rabbits.

If you stop THINKING, TALKING and ANALYSING and just sit and watch your breath - as basically EVERYONE here has told you to do, then you will, probably for the first time in your life, actually be meditating fairly soon.

You can seek as many views as you wish, convincing yourself the right view will come along that solves your problem. It won't come along because you have ignored several people saying the same thing and you know that you know better than them, you have thought your way around this subject so much .. you just need that "special trick" to watch thoughts.

That "special trick" has been explained in pretty much the same way by everyone:

Sit, watch the breath, don't think but do not force quiet on your mind, let thoughts arise and fall, pay attention TO THE BREATH. Do this a lot because you need to.

YOU ARE NOT READY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THOUGHTS AND GET ANYWHERE WITH PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO WATCH YOUR BREATH AND ESTABLISH CALM FIRST.

It's boring but that is the point. Your mind is used to being entertained and so you are entertaining it both on and off the cushion. First lesson for the mind: learn to be quiet. Second lesson: use the quieted mind for introspection. Time between first lesson and second lesson: it depends. Can be never if you don't listen to people who walked the path before. Can be very quick for some who listen, understand and practice with diligence.

In the Dhamma,

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

anubic

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2009, 03:38:01 PM »
So TIB, just let me get this straight, you are suggesting that I do practice being aware of my breath and keeping my awareness on my breath, as soon as I get interupted, for example a thought pops up, I should just notice it and come back to being aware of my breath. This would help me attain concentration and calm, which would later help me with the observing thoughts practice, which I can't do before I have developed concentration and calm with the help of the breath awareness technique,
So the breath awareness technique in itself is not a technique to be aware of your thoughts, but to develop the skills needed to do so (concentration, calm)

have I got it right?

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2009, 07:03:48 PM »
Yes anubic. That is a very good summary. Just notice thoughts and let them go, no judgement, no "oh this is a bad thought" or "this is a good thought" (because that is more thinking). Recognise thought as thought (i.e. BE AWARE), let go and return attention to the breath.

Before you have a calm and concentrated mind any attempt to examine it's inner workings in the fine detail needed will be fruitless. It will slip from your hands like an eel in the river.

In the Dhamma,

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

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2009, 11:42:56 PM »
So the breath awareness technique in itself is not a technique to be aware of your thoughts, but to develop the skills needed to do so (concentration, calm)

An addendum:

The breath awareness techniques can take you to realms of conciousness where all duality cease to exist. But that is irrelevant at your stage of practice. It comes much later in the path. What matters now is to understand that you will never stop meditating in the way that you do with breath awareness. You will change the object of the meditation at later stages to develop other faculties and insights but for now it is the bedrock of your practice - everyone's practice, whether they recognise that or not - and if they do not then it is missing the most significant aspect of practice. the beginning and end off practice is "Shamatha" or "Calm-abiding".

In the Dhamma,

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

Crystal Palace

  • Member
  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2009, 07:14:42 AM »
Well this sort of internal conflict can come up quite often, as to who is doing the thinking, and who is controlling that thinking and when is one simply observing without consciously ordering the mind to observe. The key, i think, here is to remain calm. The rest will follow automatically.

I suggest you try this method to calm the mind down:

Now you have realized that your mind has started running wild. That the inner chattering does not stop and there seem to be too many contradictory thoughts. Tell yourself that you have given yourself a timeframe of 10,000 years (this life plus the many lives hereafter) in which to achive one pointed concentration. So even if the mind wanders a bit and keeps wandering, you are not worried. While meditationg, just observe the breath. IT GOES IN. IT COMES OUT. IT GOES IN. IT COMES....Suddenly a thought disrupts this observation. You realize that the mind has wandered, say, after 10-15 mins from the time it actually wandered away. No problems. Smile. And come back to the breath. After all you have 9,999 years and 364 days still left to achive this. Repeat this process.

It may so happen that for one month non stop your mind does not calm down. It may even take a year or two. How much time it takes depends on the sankharas you have accumulated. But you can be sure that by staying calm and repeatedly bringing back the mind to the breath, without any feeling of defeat or inadequecy this will happen SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.

Just remember not to confuse this calm for being lazy. sleepy, or inactive during meditation.

So just to sum it up there will be many, many, many times your mind will wander away, and all you have to do is smilingly bring back the mind to the breath each of those times. Its a battle of patience with the mind. And you have to win it.

With Metta
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2009, 11:11:43 AM »
I do not recommend fabricating mental tension by the invention of a story around the meditation such as "tell yourself ... you have 10,000 years".

This can be demotivating, is thinking based and fully fabricated. I recommend simply being aware of breath. No complication and no fabrication is needed or helpful. It is simply the repeated physical and psychological act of sitting, breathing and returning the mind to the breath when it wanders that leads to un-fabricated concentration and calm. Anyone that has trouble doing this needs to do it - not start introducing fantasies and stories around their meditation as this usually is a manifestation of their tiger-mind at work.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 01, 2009, 11:12:07 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

anubic

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #22 on: December 01, 2009, 06:04:24 PM »
The breath awareness technique is a form of "One pointed meditation / concentration"? Where you simple place your awareness/ focus on one thing, and try to follow it throughout? Anyway, got some few more things to clear up. Let us pretend I do have good concentration and calm, and if I then wouldn't be able to observe my thoughts. Could it be anything else than not having the needed skills that may prevent me, like could I be doing it wrong somehow? Or is it like, if you have developed your concentration and ability to have a calm mind, you will be able to do this exercise if you try.

I see that what I am asking for here, is to see if anyone knows what I am doing wrong, or could be doing wrong. But it is as people have pointed out, probably because I am not able to concentrate well enough and definatly that I am not able to have a calm mind. One more thing I'd like to clear up, when people are suggesting in articles, expand your awareness and be aware of for example your thoughts, I am thinking that then you should somehow let go of your focus / awareness, but then I feel I am more unaware of everything/ that I don't know what I am aware of.

So to do this expanding of your awareness, instead of letting go of awareness/ focus, is it not more like trying with effort and concentration to be aware of as much as possible/ of more things? Even thought in the articles it suggests that awareness expansion is the opposite of concentration, I suppose they talk about concentrating on one object, not concentrating on trying to be aware of more / expanding your awareness, if anyone understands what I mean in the first place, would be great  :)

I will use the breath awareness technique to try and achieve better concentration and a calmer mind over time, I hope by doing this daily I will do so, thanks for suggestions everyone, great forum, keep the community up.  :)

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2009, 11:42:13 AM »
Anubic,

Quote
Let us pretend I do have good concentration and calm

No. Let us not pretend that.

I do not recommend fabricating mental tension by the invention of a story around the meditation .....

As I said, fabricated stories are a sign of your tiger-mind playing ego games. You are not in that position so it's a totally pointless game, fabricated by your ego. You need to stop pretending and playing mental games.

Please, for the sake of your own sanity, stop thinking and sit on a meditation cushion developing calm and concentration.

Everything that comes out of you until then is ego friking with your head and stopping you from developing the tools you need to become a meditator. You can choose to indulge that as you continually seem to prefer or you can start meditating.

It's that simple.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 11:44:23 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

LisaTech

Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2010, 04:32:12 AM »
Anubic... I have suffered through the 'can't calm the mind' phase (it still comes up frequently) and what is being said of the breath is correct... However I would like to add that for me, in my ever analytical mind, the phrase 'follow my breath' didn't really mean much to me. I didn't have a concrete set of steps of what that meant. What solved it for me was a 10 day retreat, almost 10 hours per day of meditation and a set of steps that I can reproduce whenever my mind is whirling away in the distance.... running around like the tasmanian devil....

For me, I found that the intensity of a single minded focus of the retreat did more for me than the past 5 to 6 years of working at meditation - I also found that the phrase to return me to my own breath exercise became "This is my job right now... feel where the breath touches"

I read a lovely passage in a book called A Path with Heart where the author talks about training the mind and likens it to training a puppy to 'stay' - it doesn't work in the long run to punish the puppy with harsh words or actions but rather a continuous repetition of returning the puppy to the same location with the same focus of 'stay' will eventually connect and the puppy will 'stay' - lol might not stay for a long but overtime the consistent repetition of returning the mind to a single job at hand will train the mind... Another trick I would say, that is so much easier to say than do, is to remain nonchalant about when the wandering happens - the important stuff is that you first of all recognize the wandering and second of all return to observing the touch of the breath... repeatedly...

I believe I can understand your query about whether you are doing it right or wrong and the only advice I can lend to it, is that each person's path is only their own path... no one else's and each person has to work out how to walk the walk of their own path...

The things I found out about myself in the retreat and 'doing things wrong' (spent a good number of frustrated hours) were the some of the most valuable life lessons I have ever learned and most weren't about what the meditation itself did for me but rather about letting go and allowing the dhamma to do its own work...

One valuable thing about doing things wrong then learning enough about oneself to change the pattern is that you are far more able to understand others that struggle with the same issue. For some people for whom the concentration required by meditation comes easily, they are not always able to grasp mechanics of what they are doing successfully and another is doing unsuccessfully... So struggle becomes a boon when overcome by letting go...

I didn't mean to be this long winded but... :)

 

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