Meditation


#1

I’ve never gotten the hang of it, which is quite sad because I’m told it does wonders for stress management. I just can’t tune out the world so it becomes for me just sitting until i start to nod off. I bring this up because as regulars here will note I tend to be a ball of stress and anger with few real outlets I can use to distract from the things that make me want to pour gasoline on everything and throw lit matches around.

Anyone here meditate or otherwise try the whole zen thing?


#2

I used to meditate every day, twice a day, fifteen minutes per session. I practiced zazen-style, using a kneeling position (my knees can’t tolerate cross-legged positions).

I started meditating to improve my resilience and to clarify my thoughts. I know it’s not very Zen to have reasons for meditating but I say whatever gets you started, go with it.

For me, meditation did bring a sense of balance, the sort that quickly springs back to equilibrium after you’ve been knocked off center. I felt more ready for life.

It did not, however, bring me peace and tranquility. Which was fine, that wasn’t what I was going for anyway. What surprised me is that meditation can actually dredge up some deeply entrenched stuff. One session actually left me crying at the end. But I was OK with this because I also realized at that moment that I’d shone a light in a corner of my mind that hadn’t seen light in a very long time.


#3

I know it isn’t meditation but Taoist Tai Chi really helps me calm down. Once your body know the moves it becomes rather meditative. If sitting around doing nothing isn’t your thing I’d suggest trying a class or workshop and see if works for you. You don’t have to get into the spiritual side of it and most groups I have visited with don’t push that part on it unless you show interest.

Side note - being a kinda martial art I find it helps with my anger and frustration without injuring myself or others.
Other incentive: green tea and cookies during breaks.


#4

I don’t think “tuning out the world” is an accurate description of what meditation is supposed to accomplish. Or maybe I haven’t reached that level.

When I meditate, I sit with my back straight (benefit 1: better posture), and close my eyes, and just try to think about my breathing. It’s not that I’m tuning anything out; rather, I’m trying to focus on what my breathing sounds like, feels like, what my chest and diaphragm expanding would look like. I’m not tuning things out, I’m tuning one very specific thing in.

Of course, you can’t just force yourself to think about your breathing for twenty minutes (or, again, I can’t). Your brain will come up with other stuff to distract you. At that point, you need to do three things:

  1. Allow the thought to fully surface. Don’t try to wrench your train of thought back to your breathing, but allow the thought to become clear.
  2. Accept the thought. What I generally say to myself at that point is, “Yes, I’m thinking about purple elephants. That is a perfectly normal thought, but not my concern at the moment. I will allow this thought to leave, and will return to it later, when I am not meditating.”
  3. Make a mental note of what you were just thinking (which transforms it from just “meditation” to “mindfulness meditation”).

Once you have accepted the thought and allowed it to leave, return your focus to your breathing and continue the meditation.

When you’ve had enough, go back to your list of mental notes, and see if there’s anything there that needs further examination (benefit #2: better self-awareness).

After a good few minutes of meditation, I find that my thoughts become less attached to emotions (benefit #3), that things tend to be in more perspective (benefit #4), and that I have become aware of issues that I didn’t know were truly bugging me (benefit #2 again).

And (benefit #6), the actual physical act of just sitting down and breathing for awhile tends to relax me.

ETA: Another thing that I tend to do, before I go to sleep, borders on meditation: lie down, on my back, and, starting with my toes, I move each part of my body in each range of motion. So, I bend my toes, relax them, and extend my toes, and relax them. I roll my ankles around and relax them, then roll them the other direction, and relax them. I continue this all the way up to my face, and then start over again.

After three passes of this, I’m generally relaxed enough that I have absolutely no desire to move. Which would be nice for sleeping, except I can’t sleep on my back, so I know I’ll eventually have to move onto my side. Sometimes I go from that to actual meditation, but most times, I just lie there and enjoy the relaxation.


#5

That’s why I (briefly) enrolled in a class. (Not sure whether it was Taoist; it was thru the local community college.) I tried following the motions and one guy kept coming over and correcting me. “No, this way. No no, like this.” I went there hoping to relax, but it just seemed like one more thing that I had to do exactly right, so I gave up.

As far as meditation goes: I’ve tried it (sitting still, letting thoughts go, not thinking about thoughts, and trying not to think about not thinking…). I’m not sure if “the zone” is the same thing, but I used to hit it when I regularly practiced the saxophone. I’d get going thru an exercise and, after a while, it was like I was just observing from within my own body and not actually doing any of it.

Sometimes I’m on a walk and realize “wow, did I just go from here to there, crossing the street etc.?” But that’s the opposite of meditation because then I’m generally in deep thought (and/or listening to music).


#6

I think the spirit of repetition is maybe most important. Not just the repetition of the sessions, but the repetition of refocusing yourself when you notice that you are not paying attention.

Getting the thing seemed important at the time, but I see so many others who have obviously also experienced it behave so badly. I think waking up is probably the starting point for the absolute beginner. A first foot on the path.
IMO the constant return to concentration is much more important and I feel like the real focus should probably be on proceeding within that context… conscientiously understanding the nature of the thing throughout all aspects of human activity, rather than promoting some kind of fast-food enlightenment as the binding beacon of your practice.

Proceeding with that practice from within satori or gnosis or an awakened state or in a visionary sublimation or whatever is nice, and you will probably do more work or get better results or whatever in that state. But it’s not so much of an achievement in and of itself, methinks.

The slow horse may come first and the fast horse last.

/gadfly


#7

I would ask who told you that meditation has anything to do with tuning out the world. :slight_smile:

Vipassana meditation, for example, is the opposite of that.

I found the biggest blocking points to people meditating are:

  1. The preconceptions they have of what meditation is (Oh, it is serene bliss, etc. or emptying your mind until you have no thoughts).

  2. The idea that they’re “no good at it” so they stop (If I had a quarter for every time a sincere person has told me that they suck at meditating).

  3. The lack of a regular habit: even five or ten minutes, done every day, is better than 30 minutes or more done every few days.

My friend, Michael Taft, wrote a fairly approachable (and secular) approach to Vipassana meditation called “The Mindful Geek.” You can get the PDF of it for free from https://themindfulgeek.com/ or from Amazon at:

It’s a free book for Kindle Unlimited readers. I’ve sat with Michael for a couple of years and his primary meditation teacher (Shinzen Young) is my own as well. I’d recommend starting with his book.


#8

In fact, I’ve had teachers argue that this re-focusing of attention is a primary part of the practice, like doing reps with weights. Each time you notice your attention has wandered and you pull it back to your focus of concentration (assuming you’re doing a concentration type practice, such as following your breath), it strengthens your ability to do so again later. This builds over time.


#9

“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that is the way to bet.”
-Hugh E. Keough (via Terry Pratchett?)


#10

Luckily for me my concentration wanders all the time. My rep count is through the roof!


#11

I have this meditation up on SoundCloud:


#12

Me too and after a decade of on and off practice, I still tend to nod off (I have a sleep disorder so I’m generally not well rested…).

I remember when I was working on a graduate degree in Buddhist studies (which I wound up dropping out of fairly quickly), one of my friends and advisors, who had just gotten his doctorate, mentioned that he’d become a Shin Buddhist partially because he tried meditation on and off and he was just no good at it. My response is always “EVERYONE says they’re no good at it and feels that way. This is not unique. You just have to keep trying and (maybe) try other methods if the one you have isn’t working.” This is part of why actually working with an experienced meditation teacher who knows lots of methods is a good idea.

I do recommend, as an alternative to Zen practice, trying noting meditation (from one of the Vipassana traditions). Shinzen has a couple of videos on it:

He does teach a version of “choiceless awareness” or “just sitting”, which is also a simple practice (and I tend to alternate “do nothing,” as he calls it, with noting):

Shinzen has an official channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy5nVIPtaJlsHXx5cjCNnDA (the above videos are older and from a senior student). He also has a recent book on Amazon and at least one audio series on “How to Meditate.”

I know I’m shilling for him here but I’ve worked with a number of people over more than a decade and I wound up doing retreats with Shinzen and taking him formally as a teacher specifically because I found him very accessible and technique focused.


#13

I don’t know what to call it, certainly not meditation, but I have discovered a way to force myself to go to sleep under even the noisiest conditions by focusing part of my concentration on my breathing but letting the rest of my mind wander. Usually whilst lying down.

Asleep in two minutes flat, every time. I think I should call it anti-meditation or something equally glib. I could teach a class for insomniacs.


#14

From a quick flick through it sounds like he’s mostly talking about managing conceptual boundaries through application of concentration.

That’s an interesting take on the process. Strikes me as a kind of recursion. Deliberately concentrating on the malleability and the range of specificity of your perception of concentrating on your unbidden thoughts emerging from the subconscious.


#15

I just can’t tune out the world so it becomes for me just sitting until i start to nod off.

The purpose of meditation is to notice this tendency of the mind to be chaotic.

They call it “monkey mind.” EVERYONE feels like this when they meditate.

I bring this up because as regulars here will note I tend to be a ball of stress and anger with few real outlets I can use to distract from the things that make me want to pour gasoline on everything and throw lit matches around.

There’s this myth that meditation will bring you to a blissful, peaceful place. FALSE.

Meditation will make you aware of how fucking chaotic your mind is AND
once you observe that you can retrain it.

You will learn to practice kindness toward yourself. Instead of saying about yourself:

I bring this up because as regulars here will note I tend to be a ball of stress and anger with few real outlets I can use to distract from the things that make me want to pour gasoline on everything and throw lit matches around.

You can retrain yourself to think of yourself as a human being who has a tendency to anger that you can control using a technique of refocusing your attention.

To retrain it, pick the tool that works for you. They are all good:

Pick one:
Count your breaths
Stare at a candle flame
Gaze in a mirror
Listen to a chime
Say “in” every time you breathe in, “out” every time you breath out
Notice the feeling of air moving in and out of your nostrils
Rub your hand on a prayer bead
Repeat a mantra

Loving Kindness Meditation is a prayer that you send out.
I have a guide here for this. It is an especially lovely meditation.

Free with the code HEART

It’s gonna suck at first and for a long time. BUT be kind to yourself and trust that you can learn and it WILL GET BETTER.


#16

It is a pretty standard vipassana technique other than him getting technical and talking around it, if you’re discussing noting.


#17

I’ve meditated for years and look at me! I can be a reactionary and emotional mess!


#18

Bhante G has a new book on loving kindness meditation coming out soon.

Loving-Kindness in Plain English: The Practice of Metta https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KG5GPXE/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_j2jRyb9FDY413


#19

My standard technique for getting to sleep (if just lying down and doing toe-to-head relaxation don’t work) is visualization.

I am absolutely, ridiculously bad at bringing up realistic images in my mind. The only time when my imagination shows me anything resembling photorealism is when I’m dreaming.

While I thought of it, for the longest time, as a detriment, I’ve figured out that it also works in reverse for me. That is, if I’m lying in bed, I can try to construct images, and it will get me closer to sleep, which will enable me to add more detail, which will get me closer to sleep, and I can keep the feedback loop going until I drift off.


#20

I’ve only seen it once, but I happened to go from barely meditating/falling asleep to full lucidity whilst sleeping without any gap in consciousness between. In twenty years of practice I have not been able to fully duplicate the effect.
The image I was visualising, imagining, was not perceived as an image, but rather that kind of pre-visual, structural type that most waking imagination consists of, so just a normal thought.

As I fell asleep, I was distinctly aware of the thought transitioning from the abstract to the visual and I can only describe it as being very much like the petals of a flower unfolding from a dimensionless point in the centre of my attention, very quickly revealing a visual component to the thing being concentrated upon where before there was non-visual, abstract structure.

More organic than the kind of spiral dimensionality you see when hallucinating, more elegant than the structure of your visual system. Different pieces of information became the corresponding part of the image. The thing I was thinking about was yellow, so out of the memetic tensor network of ideas clustered around the subject emerged the colour yellow, which unfolded into the right places in the right way to end up with a cohesive, properly coloured image.

So, to my point, I do have a point, honest. My personal belief is that the visualisation component of dreaming is an innate part of consciousness which it takes some training to activate in waking experience. You can do it already.

Evolutionarily it’s not good to actually see the imagined lion leaping at you when a real one could at any moment. But with practice, I think you can concentrate on the normally subliminal, innate visualisation ability and have it overlay the abstract informational system which is most commonly used when awake.

I can’t do it but, as I’ve mentioned before elsewhere, I know painters who can. Architects and people who do 3D design can visualise 3D spaces fairly easily, it’s just a matter of insane amounts of practice. And maybe the occasional opium and laudanum binge.

:smile: