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Thread: Is it sure that I "can't do it wrong"?

  1. #1
    Forums Member federica17's Avatar
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    Is it sure that I "can't do it wrong"?

    Hi!
    Not sure if this is the right section, but my question is not exactly about meditation or about the teachings...it's more about the whole "Buddhism experience", if I may say so.

    I'm a total beginner, I've been practicing meditation and studying the basics of Buddha's teachings on my own using books and websites (no sanghas around my town...) for just a couple of weeks now, after eight weeks of MBSR online course.
    I must say I feel a bit confused...

    It's like all the stuff I'm reading is pulling me in different directions. For example, I'm a pretty neurotic person, the kind of person that always has to-do-lists and plans in advance, with a strong urge to control everything in detail. So, on one hand there is this general sense of self-compassion, kindness, acceptance that makes me think "relax, let go, go with the flow" but on the other hand I am trying to stay mindful during the day and this is anything but spontaneous, on the contrary it requires a continuous effort that is keeping me tense ("gosh, you forgot to be mindful today!").

    Similarly in meditation, for example today I sat for half an hour and I spent almost the whole time running after irrelevant thoughts. I know it's ok and normal and it takes time and practice to "improve". But when I think about my session, on one hand I get this kind of "do not expect anything, accept the present experience as it is, there is no such thing as a bad session" vibe while on the other, it still seems to me that it should be possible to "make some progress", so that with practicing it becomes easier and easier to stay mindful, which makes me think of it as a sort of mental training, and I worry whether it occurs automatically with practicing or whether I could go on for years without ever getting "there" if I don't do it "right".

    So it's like I have these two sides of the coin in my experience so far, "just keep sitting everyday, studying and doing your best and do not worry, it will work anyway" vs. "if you don't manage to find how it's done properly you will never get better at it" and I'd like some advice to understand how to disentangle this!

    Also if anyone has memories regarding their very first period as Buddhists and how it felt, I'd be glad to read! Sometimes book seem so "wise" that I cannot relate, I just get the feeling that everything will clear up with time, but I would feel much better if I could read other people's impressions and experiences from when they were at the very first steps.

    Thank you and may you all be happy!

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    Forums Member KathyLauren's Avatar
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    It is not true that you cannot do it wrong. You can. Making no effort would be doing it wrong. Making such an effort that you get stressed would also be doing it wrong. As with most things Buddhist, the Middle Way is the best.

    When you catch yourself thinking, "gosh, you forgot to be mindful today!", that is good mindfulness. It is better if you catch yourself sooner, but that comes with practise. In meditation, you want to be able to notice when your mind wanders. When you notice, that is mindfulness. Then you just bring the mind back to the intended focal point, and carry on.

    Once you understand how mindfulness works with respect to meditation, then you can apply it to other aspects of life.

    Om mani padme hum
    Kathy

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    You wouldn't expect to do well at a sport just by reading about it. You need to get fit generally and to carry out exercises which help that particular sport. You need to practice aspects of the sport, but also play the sport for real. When both aspects are in place you might expect to make some progress, but not before that. Mindfulness is just the same. You need to not only read about it, but to practice other elements of meditation, gaining mental strength and suppleness, and then look at a structured approach to developing mindfulness during meditation, which can then gradually be extended to the real world. It all takes time, depending on the individual, so don't be hard on yourself for not being perfect at any time.

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    Forums Member federica17's Avatar
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    Thank you both for your kind answers: your words were very useful and clarifying to me.
    I especially appreciate that you both stressed how learning mindfulness starts in meditation, and can then be extended to daily life. This helps me understand that right now, when I try to be mindful, the quality of my attention is the same quality of attention I manage to obtain during sitting sessions (and even a little less, of course, due to all the distractions and things going on)...and with time and practice, and the right effort, this quality can improve. Somehow I was mistakingly assuming that stressing over it should make my mindfulness "better" whenever it occurs, but now thanks to you I see that it's good to do what I am able to do now, and keep practicing!

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    Forums Member Citta's Avatar
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    Don’t be hard on yourself. It is not a race nor competition. And nobody is judging you but you. So relax, first of all. One of the most beautiful things about Buddhism is the lack of being judged.
    Start easy, learn the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
    Focus on basic meditation practice using breath as your object.
    And remember that meditation is called practice largely because one is practicing being mindful which will eventually spill over into your daily life. Just relax, practice and let it come.
    Don’t self-critique and don’t expect.

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    Forums Member federica17's Avatar
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    Thanks Citta for your kind words! The lack of judgement is beautiful but it is something I still need to learn :)
    I started with the four noble truths (trying to focus on one every week, today I'll examine the fourth!) and afterwards I plan to move to the eightfold path.
    I'll try to follow your wise advice! Have a good day!

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    Hi Frederica

    Quote Originally Posted by federica17 View Post

    I'm a total beginner, I've been practicing meditation and studying the basics of Buddha's teachings on my own using books and websites (no sanghas around my town...) for just a couple of weeks now, after eight weeks of MBSR online course.
    I must say I feel a bit confused...
    The first thing I would say is that you are not alone, there are many people who can not find a sangha or may I say a suitable sangha in their easy reach.

    Many of us are in that situation and compensate for this by a regular retreat practice, podcasts, and reading

    It's like all the stuff I'm reading is pulling me in different directions. For example, I'm a pretty neurotic person, the kind of person that always has to-do-lists and plans in advance, with a strong urge to control everything in detail. So, on one hand there is this general sense of self-compassion, kindness, acceptance that makes me think "relax, let go, go with the flow" but on the other hand I am trying to stay mindful during the day and this is anything but spontaneous, on the contrary it requires a continuous effort that is keeping me tense ("gosh, you forgot to be mindful today!").
    I can really feel for you, I think on a spectrum we are all subject to trying to control life, why shouldn't we, after all that is how we measure success in our culture, the ability to control our endevours for a successful outcome.
    It is quite natural for you to bring this attitude to the endevour of meditation, I certainly did, all I can say is that as you begin to understand more the easier it becomes, insights into what it is to meditate and the benefits of meditation in daily life come with time and practice.


    Similarly in meditation, for example today I sat for half an hour and I spent almost the whole time running after irrelevant thoughts. I know it's ok and normal and it takes time and practice to "improve". But when I think about my session, on one hand I get this kind of "do not expect anything, accept the present experience as it is, there is no such thing as a bad session" vibe while on the other, it still seems to me that it should be possible to "make some progress", so that with practicing it becomes easier and easier to stay mindful, which makes me think of it as a sort of mental training, and I worry whether it occurs automatically with practicing or whether I could go on for years without ever getting "there" if I don't do it "right".

    So it's like I have these two sides of the coin in my experience so far, "just keep sitting everyday, studying and doing your best and do not worry, it will work anyway" vs. "if you don't manage to find how it's done properly you will never get better at it" and I'd like some advice to understand how to disentangle this!

    From my own experience what I found was the biggest difficulty to overcome was my expectation of meditation, easy to say just let expectation go, good luck with that !, expectation is often the reason you are meditating in the first place.

    The answer I found was to divert expectation into curiosity, this is developing the ability to see your experience as if through the eyes of a child, the amazing revelation that you sat for half an hour and your mind was wirring away in irrelevant thoughts, what were those thoughts, what was powering them, was there accompianing body sensations, emotional element to the thinking, I could go on but the point is to be curious about your mind and how and why it is doing what it is doing.

    This curiosity takes away expectations of performance, you can be curious and that is "doing it properly", what is more you are learning all about yourself and how you are in the world at the same time, that is wisdom
    We all I believe go through a learning curve, it takes time and effort, but the rewards are tangable and immediate, perserverance with an open inquiring attitude, combined with study of the buddha's teachings has taken me a long way with out a regular permanent sangha close by.

    Hopefully you will tread the path well yourself, best of luck

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    Forums Member federica17's Avatar
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    Hi McKmike!

    From my own experience what I found was the biggest difficulty to overcome was my expectation of meditation, easy to say just let expectation go, good luck with that !, expectation is often the reason you are meditating in the first place.
    Here it is, yes! Some of my confusion comes from this, I tell myself "do not expect progress" but on the other end of course I want some kind of progress with time, and I know that craving is not wholesome but also wanting to follow the path and to reach deep understanding is good I guess. Your suggestion to develop curiosity is really on spot. This is something I feel I'm not good at, in the sense that for most of my life finding the right answer has been more important than gaining insight into how it is right and how others are wrong and so on, and having something new sounds menacing because it means there are things I do not know and cannot control so instead of being curious I naturally tend to retract - I suppose this is common experience! I am happy that meditation can help me change this perspective and I thank you for pointing that out for me! One things is sure, all this - included the times when it seems to me I have not had a single mindful second in the whole day - is showing me things I did not know and could never expect about my mind.

    I am now all the more motivated to stick to my practice and explore further. Thanks!

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    Here it is, yes! Some of my confusion comes from this, I tell myself "do not expect progress" but on the other end of course I want some kind of progress with time, and I know that craving is not wholesome but also wanting to follow the path and to reach deep understanding is good I guess.
    From my own experience I found that "progress" on the path was not as obvious to me as it was to others, people who were close to me noticed that I became less reactive, calmer, situations that were previously difficult and I could be relied upon to react I nolonger did.

    So do not expect to see your own progress, so much as become more reflective and notice your interactions in daily life.

    Your suggestion to develop curiosity is really on spot. This is something I feel I'm not good at, in the sense that for most of my life finding the right answer has been more important than gaining insight into how it is right and how others are wrong and so on, and having something new sounds menacing because it means there are things I do not know and cannot control so instead of being curious I naturally tend to retract - I suppose this is common experience! I am happy that meditation can help me change this perspective and I thank you for pointing that out for me! One things is sure, all this - included the times when it seems to me I have not had a single mindful second in the whole day - is showing me things I did not know and could never expect about my mind.
    You beautifuly describe, as you say, the most common problem for most people, that of trying to control, I would like to say that this disappears with practice, but I have found that it goes deep, it is easy to say "i will try and stop controlling" however, I believe that the need to control is driven by fear, not so easy to ignore or dismiss.

    My experience is that the grip of fear is loosened by confidence, the more you practice, the more you begin to see what letting go of control means, the easier it becomes, we often forget that letting go is letting go into something.

    I am now all the more motivated to stick to my practice and explore further. Thanks!
    Excellent, from your insightful posts I suspect you will do well

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