Thread: "The Problem with Meditation Instructions"

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    "The Problem with Meditation Instructions"

    Hi all :) I just signed up to Tricycle magazine and received this article: https://tricycle.org/magazine/proble...7131-308322473

    I've always felt (and others have concurred) that I'm never sure I'm doing it (meditation) right! So this article was food for thought, and made me feel a little better

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    Also thinking that, rather than being "perfectionist", I'd rather just keep trying, even if I'm not getting it quite right. (The alternative would be giving up, and I don't want to do that.)

    Onwards and upwards

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    Quote Originally Posted by Khanti View Post
    Hi all :) I just signed up to Tricycle magazine and received this article: https://tricycle.org/magazine/proble...7131-308322473

    I've always felt (and others have concurred) that I'm never sure I'm doing it (meditation) right! So this article was food for thought, and made me feel a little better
    Hi Khanti,

    Unfortunately I wasn't able to read the article unless I subscribed to Tricyle magazine!



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    Ah, sorry. Well, I didn't actually subscribe, I just gave them my email address for the daily newsletter. I think this means I get the first three articles for free, and then possibly they'll ask me for money!


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    Forums Member dwlemen's Avatar
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    Having read the article (apparently I signed up... this is free article #2 to me), I'm not sure what I think. I am pretty new to meditation, and entirely self/internet taught, so I am never sure if I am "doing it right" or not. I suppose it's reassuring that, if it is correct, that there is no way to do it wrong. I don't know how rigid different teachers might be. The ones I've listened to, seem pretty open to the variations presented (watch nose or belly, etc.). I suppose their assertion to do whatever works would be correct, though, it may be hard to know what's really working until you've been trained, causing a bit of a catch-22.

    As a tangent, the article mentions one thing that I've seen elsewhere and never been quite sure how to take it:

    Bring your attention to the touch of your hands resting in your lap or on your thighs. But do not try to hold your attention there. Allow thoughts, feelings, and sensations to arise, and let your attention go with them.

    If your attention leaves the touch of the hands for a long period of time (several minutes), you can gently bring your attention back. Otherwise, just sit with what comes up. If you encounter an experience that is hard to tolerate, after a while of being with it you can bring your attention back to the touch of the hands. But only hold it there long enough to feel grounded or relaxed, and then, if your mind goes into that kind of experience again, just let it.

    People have made rules out of these instructions, and you might too. That is fine. At some point, hopefully, you will become aware of those rules. But, for now, it is enough to know that there is no way to do this wrong, as it is not about following an instruction as much as about allowing your experiences to unfold. Seeing for yourself, from your own experience, what works and what doesn’t is what meditation is all about.
    When I "let (my) attention go" with whatever pops up, what do they mean? I'm sitting there counting in/out 1-10, and I start thinking about, say some scenario at work, and replaying it, and how I might have done things differently or whatever. Now, does this mean to just continue to fantasize about that? I've found that I can keep my counting going while otherwise off in some daydream or another. Is this correct?

    What I try to do is, when I realize one of these daydreams has come up, to quickly, but gently(ish... I do get frustrated by them) say "SHH!!" and focus even more deliberately on my counting. They usually go, though seem always replaced by another. I know "the monkey mind" and all, so I get that this is how the mind works, but, while meditating, how do I sit with what arises the right way? If being lost in these thoughts is correct, I could be a meditator all day!

    Peace,

    -Dave

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    Hi Dave

    I can only comment from my own experience, so


    Quote Originally Posted by dwlemen View Post
    Having read the article (apparently I signed up... this is free article #2 to me), I'm not sure what I think. I am pretty new to meditation, and entirely self/internet taught, so I am never sure if I am "doing it right" or not. I suppose it's reassuring that, if it is correct, that there is no way to do it wrong. I don't know how rigid different teachers might be. The ones I've listened to, seem pretty open to the variations presented (watch nose or belly, etc.). I suppose their assertion to do whatever works would be correct, though, it may be hard to know what's really working until you've been trained, causing a bit of a catch-22.
    It helps to understand that there are two forms of meditation, Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM).

    FA is commonly called concentration practice, although I think concenration is not quite the right description, what they mean is a composure around a single object, such as the breath or mantra or visulisation, this is what is culturally recognised as meditation.

    The more you can relax around the object of meditation the more focuse you naturally become, to the eventual exclusion of everything else.

    It brings states of calm, wellbeing, bliss etc.. as described in the descriptions of the Jhana's

    The second form of meditation OM, is vipassana or insight meditation, it does not focus on one object, rather it is described as momentary concentration, your awareness encompasses whatever becomes most predominant in an open spacious way

    As a tangent, the article mentions one thing that I've seen elsewhere and never been quite sure how to take it

    When I "let (my) attention go" with whatever pops up, what do they mean? I'm sitting there counting in/out 1-10, and I start thinking about, say some scenario at work, and replaying it, and how I might have done things differently or whatever. Now, does this mean to just continue to fantasize about that? I've found that I can keep my counting going while otherwise off in some daydream or another. Is this correct?
    What is being described is the method of OM, what you seem to have missed is that in order to "let (my) attention go with whatever pops up" first it helps to have established some stability from the breath concentration practice, the stability is a relaxed feeling of spaciousness, where your monkey mind is seen but your awareness is not caught by it.

    So you see the thoughts, feelings and emotions arising, but whilst you are aware of them, and the thought stream, you are able to see it rather than be it.

    This state naturally arises when you are able to relax with the breath cycle, each time you are taken away, do not worry, that is normal, just gently without judgement go back to the breath.

    After time you find it will be easier to stay with the breath, your concentration will gather around the breath, you will feel relaxed and a feeling of open awareness will arise.

    The thoughts and feelings will still arise, but you will have a different relationship to them, you will be able to hold them in this open awareness


    What I try to do is, when I realize one of these daydreams has come up, to quickly, but gently(ish... I do get frustrated by them) say "SHH!!" and focus even more deliberately on my counting. They usually go, though seem always replaced by another. I know "the monkey mind" and all, so I get that this is how the mind works, but, while meditating, how do I sit with what arises the right way? If being lost in these thoughts is correct, I could be a meditator all day!
    What you describe is so common to people starting out in meditation, it is driven by a very understandable preconception of what meditation is, often that all thought should stop and you drift into an altered state of conciousness, this is often reinforced by discriptions of the jhana's, which are altered states of conciousness.

    I had the same problem when I started meditation, it was not until I found a teacher that explained and guided me through my preconceptions that I settled into meditation that was transformative for me.

    As you say you are now seeing how the mind works, that is an excellent start, my advice is to now get curious, just notice just how fast the monkey mind is, see how it seeks, a few seconds on the breath and it is off to something else.
    Get curious about this and you will be amazed for the rest of your life !!
    See how it changes, see where it goes, but do not get caught in the stories or judge it, how you do that is as soon as you notice you are caught up, gently return to the breath

    My working definition is "know what is happening, as it is happening, with out being caught or judging"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dwlemen View Post

    When I "let (my) attention go" with whatever pops up, what do they mean? I'm sitting there counting in/out 1-10, and I start thinking about, say some scenario at work, and replaying it, and how I might have done things differently or whatever. Now, does this mean to just continue to fantasize about that? I've found that I can keep my counting going while otherwise off in some daydream or another. Is this correct?

    I know "the monkey mind" and all, so I get that this is how the mind works, but, while meditating, how do I sit with what arises the right way? If being lost in these thoughts is correct, I could be a meditator all day!

    -Dave
    No, you don't have to go with the thought, but bring the mind back to the counting once you notice that the thought has taken over and start again from 'one'. You can't stop thoughts arising but you can do something about it when you eventually realise you are thinking about something other than the counting. The idea is that over time you gain a measure of control of thoughts during meditation, with the eventual aim of gently letting them go rather than going with them.

    Sometimes the mind throws up something you need to think about, so then it's ok to dwell on that for a while if necessary, but eventually, at least for me, the aim of counting is to settle the mind down in the first couple of stages of a meditation, so that you can move on to the next stages with the right mindset.

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    Hi, Dave.

    Meditation is a very personal experience, so, as others have already stated, my response is based upon my experience:

    What has worked for me is to "observe" any and all mental factors (thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, memories, & etc.), but, no matter what, "choose not to participate": "observe" Pretend to be watching a movie, or video. We know that we cannot jump into the screen and participate along with the actors in a video or movie, no matter how much we want to emotionally.

    Focus on breath to stay in the most recent version of our present, which constantly slides past us like when we sense the wind blowing though our hair on a windy day. Observe sounds, observe feelings on the skin, face, nose, inside organs of our bodies, or outside any and all appendages.

    Just observe! Do not participate or react. When you want to react and can't hold back, choose to smile and enjoy.

    That's it for me.

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    Hi Dave

    Meditation is not done just when sitting down or doing walking meditation, Well a beginner meditator will do this practice while sitting but meditation is also done in every day life, this is what we call mindfulness. Being in the moment , being aware of everything you do or experiences in each moment, letting go of past and future, and live only in this moment. But to get to this point where you can be only focused on one thought, one task or one word take time.

    When one have mastered mindfulness/ vipassana meditation one can do meditation on the 4 jhanas. this is deeper meditation where one experiences strongly the part of letting go. The 4 parts of this meditation takes many many years to master. But to keep it to your question.

    "watch" the in and out breath. when you breath in do not think breath in but make a mental note, "Breathing in" and when breathing you, make a mental note "breathing out." when your mind is calmer you can "watch" the though that arise in your mind. But do not follow it because this is the moment it become thinking and not meditation. A thought arise, see it, accept it , then let it go. What do accept it means? it means the thought is just that, a thought, no matter if it is a happy or sad, it is just a thought.
    most of the meditation is about letting go of the attachments to self/ego. meaning there is no permanent "you/self" to cling to. when one realise this, the mind become silent and calm. even when you do not sit to meditate the mind will only be an observer and not a doer anymore :)

    This post was made from experiance and not from a meditation booklet. so there might be some who will disagree in this way of seeing meditation, but that is normal.

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