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Thread: "How" to meditate

  1. #1
    Forums Member dwlemen's Avatar
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    "How" to meditate

    Hey all!

    I've been trying to meditate for a little while now; meaning several months of 15-20 mins a day. I've also read, listened to podcasts, etc. about "how" to do this, but I don't know if I'm doing it right. I am trying to count my breaths. But when the mind wanders off and I "notice" it, I don't quite get what I'm supposed to do. Sometimes, I am counting, day-dreaming, and thinking "oops, I'm daydreaming" all at the same time. And often, even trying to just say "stop and focus on counting" spins off into other tangents.

    I've heard not to try to force myself to stay on the numbers only, but I also have what appears to be an amazing capacity to count and think about tons of things simultaneously. I've tried counting really fast and not the breaths so I trip up quicker. And I even tried for a while counting Fibonacci sequence. That worked at first until I got the lower numbers in the pattern memorized then I could think the numbers and still wander off into La-La land.

    So, what is it that I "do" when I catch myself? Is it just "1... 2... [insert daydream here]... Stop! 1... 2..."? How do I "note" daydreaming? Should it be allowed to continue? Since I can keep track of my breath counting and daydream, I can also say "thinking," or whatever, on each breath and still be in whatever the fantasy is. Is that "noting" it?

    Not sure I even am making sense. I really do want to get this.

    Peace,

    -Dave

  2. #2
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    There is a handbook, Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond by Ajahn Brahm. Buy it and follow its instructions. It can be a good idea to go to a retreat and practice with a personal teacher so to be guided correctly into what meditation is and it is not.

  3. #3
    Forums Member KathyLauren's Avatar
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    The objective of basic mindfulness meditation is to observe the mind. When you catch yourself daydreaming, you are being successful. It is not that counting is the objective and daydreaming is not. It is that catching is the objective.

    When you catch yourself, just bring the mind back to counting.

    I, too, can count unconsciously. I do it all that time even when not meditating. But that doesn't matter. Whether you say, "Oh, I was daydreaming and I have no idea what number comes next" or whether you say, "Oh, I was daydreaming, 18, 19, 20" makes no difference. Just say, "Oh, I was daydreaming. Now I'll count again," and go back to counting. If you don't know where you left off, start at 1 again.

    Om mani padme hum
    Kathy

  4. #4
    Forums Member dwlemen's Avatar
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    OK, but isn't the goal of catching your mind wandering to have your mind eventually stop wandering? My take has been from what I've read/etc. is that you are supposed to go from interrupted counting, to not-interrupted counting, to not even counting. If so, the real objective is to neither count nor have interruptions. It would follow that progress would be less interruptions. But I am not seeing that. I seem to be at a stalemate where my "oh, I was daydreaming..." splinters off into sub-daydreams. It's an endless struggle to even stay focused enough to acknowledge that I wasn't focused and start over my counting. And that only by force of will to stay counting (mental shouting?), or to replace simple counting with something more complicated, where auto-pilot cannot take over, can I even get what I'd consider some degree of having single focus.

    (Esho, I have ordered the book recommended. Should be getting it in the next few days. I do listen to BSWA podcasts regularly, fwiw).

    Peace,


    -Dave

  5. #5
    Forums Member KathyLauren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwlemen View Post
    OK, but isn't the goal of catching your mind wandering to have your mind eventually stop wandering?
    Maybe eventually. But you have to walk before you can run.

    If your mind is spinning, wandering off on tangents, try closing your eyes. If you find yourself falling asleep, open them.

    Om mani padme hum
    Kathy

  6. #6
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    There is actually no goal. Traditional Buddhist awareness meditation should lead to waking up (over time). As Kathy mentioned, when you notice that you are caught in your mind's storyline, simply return back to your breath. One of the side effects of meditation is that you will calm down, usually after 10 minutes or so, and feel more "present". That doesn't necessarily always happen, but on most sits it will. People return to either their breathing, their counting, or their "hara", their lower abdomen.

    Personally, I found counting to be a distraction, and place my attention on the tip of my nose where the air enters and leaves. Everyone is different about what works for them, but you do need a place to put your attention. There is also no such thing as a bad meditation session. A Zen saying is that if your mind wanders 100 times and you notice it and pull your attention back to wherever your one point focus is, that's good meditation. If your mind never wanders during the sit, that also is good meditation.

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