Meditation and University Studies

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Meditation and University Studies

Postby Ashitaka21 » Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:00 pm

Hey,

I'm new to this board. It was recommended by someone on the E-Sangha boards.

Let me cut to the chase. I have been meditating for approximately one year now. At the moment, I am meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. I study at a University. Ever since I started meditating, I noticed that every time I am try to think, I exert pressure in my head. I literally exert physical pressure to my head to induce clearer thoughts - and it works, at least when writing papers and working on assignments. The problem is that when I am in this state of exerting pressure on my head, I tend to feel anxious, nervous, and lack compassion for others - I cannot be friendly in this mode. But, this way of thinking helps me maintain good grades...

I have been trying to reduce the pressure on my head. The corresponding affect of this is that thinking is not as powerful and I have little control over it - the pressure actually allows me to dictate what I think. In any case, I understand that this pressure is the opposite of what meditation is all about. When I meditate, I don't use this pressure, but when I'm done I turn the pressure back on. I don't know when I started using this pressure, but it has been very helpful in my studies. Without the pressure, I feel as though I have no control over my thoughts, and I don't feel intelligent whatsoever. I feel as though my knowledge regresses whenever I alleviate the pressure on my head, which is very strange I know. For example, I tried to do an essay without this pressure in my head, and it took me three hours to write one paragraph. I would love to retain my knowledge and effective way of thinking WITHOUT the pressure in my head, but this seems futile.

I was hoping that someone else on this board has experienced something similar. I have been trying to lighten up on the pressure but when I do that, thinks become chaotic and I have no control over what I'm thinking - it is a scary prospect, especially in school.

Thank you for your time,

Ashitaka21
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Rui Sousa » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:01 am

Hello Ashitaka,

What kind of meditation are you practicing? Are you following instructions from any source?

If you don't feel comfortable with the pressure you are feeling, then maybe it is good to stop until you can find some assurance on being on the rigth track.
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby pt1 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:00 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:I was hoping that someone else on this board has experienced something similar.

Hi, I might have, though there’s no way to be sure. When I was just beginning with samatha-type meditation, it seemed to produce a kind of calm and clarity, which extended into the rest of the day. However, from that calm POV, it became clear that most types of analytical thinking, as well as “normal” thinking (daydreaming, internal chatter, etc) seemed to require a lot of tensing up in the head. As you say, that’s not very pleasant, and I think that most of it is really linked to some sort of craving/clinging that comes out of lack of mindfulness, so not a wholesome thing.

I don’t really know what advice to give you other than seeking an experienced teacher who can guide you appropriately having been there before him/herself.

In my case so far, it seems that with time and practice, thinking in a calm and relatively mindful way becomes possible – so it stops seeming confused (if we’re talking about the same thing here). But it’s also a different kind/mode of thinking that needs a bit of getting used to – basically just one thought arises and you immediately understand what’s going on, or you know exactly what you need to do and there’s just no more need for all the extra “tense” thinking. I guess the “confusion” part seems to happen initially because it seems weird that only a single thought is needed to understand or do something.

The “tense thinking” might seem to be more effective, but when examined – it has a lot of redundancy and ineffectiveness due to constant skipping of attention. The “calm” thinking on the other hand is to the point every time. Also, with time, it becomes possible to read, study, write and give lectures in this “calm” way – I’m doing some postgrad studies at the moment, and often notice my mind skipping between the “calm” and “tense” modes. I would generally prefer to do things in the “calm” way now because it seems more effective, but mind would still very often jump between the two modes.

Anyway, an experienced teacher can often save you a lot of time and trouble when dealing with new things that come up along the way.

Best wishes
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Ashitaka21 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 11:21 pm

pt1,

Thank you for your input. I believe you definitely understand where I am coming from. The switching between the two modes, tense and calm, is definitely something that I practice regularly. I understand that I should seek out a teacher, but that is not feasible at this time, being on campus and all. I am trying to make the transition into the calm state of mind, and in that state I learn "real knowledge." It feels more authentic, but at the same time I don't feel as intelligent - it is a strange paradox, and I feel as though I can't "win."

Regarding meditation, I am practicing Vipassana. I focused on the breath for a while, but recently, I have been focusing on a mental image and trying to stay with it, it's called Sutta I believe? I switched to a mental image to help with my current problem of "calm" thinking. I also try to get some "loving kindness" in before every session.

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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby pt1 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:32 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:I understand that I should seek out a teacher, but that is not feasible at this time, being on campus and all. I am trying to make the transition into the calm state of mind, and in that state I learn "real knowledge." It feels more authentic, but at the same time I don't feel as intelligent - it is a strange paradox, and I feel as though I can't "win."

Hi, explore around your campus, I accidentally found a small Buddhist student group in mine after three years there. Apparently almost every university has one, though I guess it would depend where you live. Also, a teacher in Theravada doesn’t really have to be someone you spend a lot of time with. It can be someone you email about your problems only once in a few months, but you know that the info that comes back is reliable and actually helps you.

Ashitaka21 wrote:Regarding meditation, I am practicing Vipassana. I focused on the breath for a while, but recently, I have been focusing on a mental image and trying to stay with it, it's called Sutta I believe? I switched to a mental image to help with my current problem of "calm" thinking. I also try to get some "loving kindness" in before every session.


Not sure what you’re saying here, “sutta” refers to scriptures, maybe you mean nimitta, but nimitta is usually associated with samatha practices, not vipassana. Further, “focusing” might be tricky in the beginning and lead to all sorts of problems if done incorrectly. A bit of reading on the subject might help. Loving kindness (metta) is probably the safest way to proceed in the beginning, and it can also be used as object of meditation instead of breath, if you’re having trouble with breath (which some say is not such an easy meditation subject).

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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Ben » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:52 am

Hi Ashitaka21

From my perspective it appears to me that you maybe associating concentrated thinking with the sensation of pressure in your head. As a veteran of nearly 25 years experience of vipassana (vedananupassana: observation of sensation), one of the things that I have observed is the pervasive and subtle relationship between sensation and mental conditionings.
I recommend that you continue with vipassana and to also seek advice and instruction from a qualified teacher to discuss your individual needs and experiences.
Metta

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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby pink_trike » Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:10 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:Hey,

I'm new to this board. It was recommended by someone on the E-Sangha boards.

Let me cut to the chase. I have been meditating for approximately one year now. At the moment, I am meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. I study at a University. Ever since I started meditating, I noticed that every time I am try to think, I exert pressure in my head. I literally exert physical pressure to my head to induce clearer thoughts - and it works, at least when writing papers and working on assignments. The problem is that when I am in this state of exerting pressure on my head, I tend to feel anxious, nervous, and lack compassion for others - I cannot be friendly in this mode. But, this way of thinking helps me maintain good grades...

I have been trying to reduce the pressure on my head. The corresponding affect of this is that thinking is not as powerful and I have little control over it - the pressure actually allows me to dictate what I think. In any case, I understand that this pressure is the opposite of what meditation is all about. When I meditate, I don't use this pressure, but when I'm done I turn the pressure back on. I don't know when I started using this pressure, but it has been very helpful in my studies. Without the pressure, I feel as though I have no control over my thoughts, and I don't feel intelligent whatsoever. I feel as though my knowledge regresses whenever I alleviate the pressure on my head, which is very strange I know. For example, I tried to do an essay without this pressure in my head, and it took me three hours to write one paragraph. I would love to retain my knowledge and effective way of thinking WITHOUT the pressure in my head, but this seems futile.

I was hoping that someone else on this board has experienced something similar. I have been trying to lighten up on the pressure but when I do that, thinks become chaotic and I have no control over what I'm thinking - it is a scary prospect, especially in school.

Thank you for your time,

Ashitaka21


Your observation is quite clear, imo. I also have noted the somatic, physiological pressure that is felt when forced by circumstances to quickly produce the fruits of thought - and have experienced the brain and body somatic effects that arises in university and in certain professional environments. Imo, the demands of the marketplace (the university is just an extension of the market place) has created a tendency towards a distended mental focus...a distending of the organism we call "brain"...an abberant extending (distending) of the capabilities of the brain organism. It is interesting to speculate on the spike in brain tumors in our modern brain-centric culture that forces us all into an upwardly-displaced sense of presence.

We can balance this external, damaging influence through our practice, and by doing so, add the mind state of contemplation to the more results-oriented mind state of concentration. Concentration focuses the mind, and contemplation frees the mind...a necessary and healthy balance that the current market place imperatives disallow in the short-sited interest of immediate monetization. Do we live for the marketplace? Or do we live for some other purpose?
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Rui Sousa » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:16 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:but at the same time I don't feel as intelligent


Intelligence is a theoretical exercise in which the mind plays with concepts, wisdom is a direct knowledge of realities without the use of speculative exercises.

Putting so much effort on your "intelligence mode" can be very extenuating and in the long term there might not be great benefits coming from that effort. Studying with commitment is a good thing, so is getting your degree, but you don't have to strain yourself on the way.

Putting effort on developing Vipassana, has higher fruits on the long therm, and is a worthy thing to do.

Letting go is a part of the Path, why don't you let go of the feeling "intelligent" and just study gently, with diligence, without the aim of being intelligent?
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Rui Sousa » Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:20 am

pink_trike wrote:Do we live for the marketplace? Or do we live for some other purpose?


An extremely valuable question.

We should choose well were we put our effort and energy.

I believe a balance is possible, although impermanent, and we can mostly have a mentally hygienic live, but it is not easy to tune in to that mental station.
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Ashitaka21 » Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:04 am

pink_trike wrote:
Ashitaka21 wrote:Hey,

I'm new to this board. It was recommended by someone on the E-Sangha boards.

Let me cut to the chase. I have been meditating for approximately one year now. At the moment, I am meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. I study at a University. Ever since I started meditating, I noticed that every time I am try to think, I exert pressure in my head. I literally exert physical pressure to my head to induce clearer thoughts - and it works, at least when writing papers and working on assignments. The problem is that when I am in this state of exerting pressure on my head, I tend to feel anxious, nervous, and lack compassion for others - I cannot be friendly in this mode. But, this way of thinking helps me maintain good grades...

I have been trying to reduce the pressure on my head. The corresponding affect of this is that thinking is not as powerful and I have little control over it - the pressure actually allows me to dictate what I think. In any case, I understand that this pressure is the opposite of what meditation is all about. When I meditate, I don't use this pressure, but when I'm done I turn the pressure back on. I don't know when I started using this pressure, but it has been very helpful in my studies. Without the pressure, I feel as though I have no control over my thoughts, and I don't feel intelligent whatsoever. I feel as though my knowledge regresses whenever I alleviate the pressure on my head, which is very strange I know. For example, I tried to do an essay without this pressure in my head, and it took me three hours to write one paragraph. I would love to retain my knowledge and effective way of thinking WITHOUT the pressure in my head, but this seems futile.

I was hoping that someone else on this board has experienced something similar. I have been trying to lighten up on the pressure but when I do that, thinks become chaotic and I have no control over what I'm thinking - it is a scary prospect, especially in school.

Thank you for your time,

Ashitaka21


Your observation is quite clear, imo. I also have noted the somatic, physiological pressure that is felt when forced by circumstances to quickly produce the fruits of thought - and have experienced the brain and body somatic effects that arises in university and in certain professional environments. Imo, the demands of the marketplace (the university is just an extension of the market place) has created a tendency towards a distended mental focus...a distending of the organism we call "brain"...an abberant extending (distending) of the capabilities of the brain organism. It is interesting to speculate on the spike in brain tumors in our modern brain-centric culture that forces us all into an upwardly-displaced sense of presence.

We can balance this external, damaging influence through our practice, and by doing so, add the mind state of contemplation to the more results-oriented mind state of concentration. Concentration focuses the mind, and contemplation frees the mind...a necessary and healthy balance that the current market place imperatives disallow in the short-sited interest of immediate monetization. Do we live for the marketplace? Or do we live for some other purpose?



This statement makes me quite nervous. I don't like applying pressure to my head, it's just it's the only way I can get through my University studies; it's all I've ever know, at least since high school. I've also noticed that I can summon creativity when I exert pressure to my head - I have tried to remain calm and be creative, but nothing really "clicks." From your response, however, you seem to be very intelligent and informed, providing me with an example of someone who is a meditator and is smart.

I just keep having these doubts. My mind says, "you can be great and successful if you apply pressure to your brain, it's the only way you can reach your full potential." It's as if I have discovered a secret way of using the brain that no one else know about, and I can exploit it to reach my goals - I know this sounds sick. I'm a History and Studio Art double major, and I fear that I will lose my abilities if I succumb to meditation. This is a scary point in my life.

On a side note, I just found out that Mike Love (of the Beach Boys) practiced Transcendental Meditation... I HATE MIKE LOVE (I know this thread isn't about hate, but this man is a pompous, self-righteous, no-talent, jerk.) He has sued Brian Wilson countless times, and opposed the brilliance of both Pet Sounds and SMiLE. This may seem comical to you guys, but after discovering this it makes me wonder how this guy can be such a jerk after practicing meditation for his whole life and it calls into question the practice - although TM is a very different breed I suppose. I need better example of those who have been practicing meditation, those who are successful people and have a kind heart. David Lynch is one of them, as are the Beatles, but is there any other meditators who have been successful, outside of Hollywood (Hollywood has turned meditation into a fad).

Sorry if I am ranting and offended anyone here, that isn't my intention. I am just trying to better understand meditation and why I should continue pursuing it when everything in my mind tells me it might not be working.

Thanks,

Ashitaka21
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby pink_trike » Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:15 am

I used to be quite intense in the way I approached thought and creativity, and often experienced somatic blowback. What helped me as an artist and grad student in a difficult, competitive setting that demanded uniqueness and unreasonable levels of memory and productivity was meditation and hatha yoga (and especially the gentle breathing exercises). Over time, I was able to stop pushing myself for results and let creative thought and understanding flow. I also noticed over time that that when I wasn't able to do this, or had the most difficulty doing it, was when I really had limited or no interest in what I was doing, so I began to follow the direction of my heart instead of forcing intellectual/creative conformity/results out of the brain. The brain is ideally a tool that supports heart consciousness.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby Ashitaka21 » Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:57 am

pink_trike wrote:I used to be quite intense in the way I approached thought and creativity, and often experienced somatic blowback. What helped me as an artist and grad student in a difficult, competitive setting that demanded uniqueness and unreasonable levels of memory and productivity was meditation and hatha yoga (and especially the gentle breathing exercises). Over time, I was able to stop pushing myself for results and let creative thought and understanding flow. I also noticed over time that that when I wasn't able to do this, or had the most difficulty doing it, was when I really had limited or no interest in what I was doing, so I began to follow the direction of my heart instead of forcing intellectual/creative conformity/results out of the brain. The brain is ideally a tool that supports heart consciousness.


May I ask how you transitioned into this phase of calmness? Did you just go cold turkey one day or did you gradually introduce calmness to your studies. I'm trying to transition it into my studies and creative process, but it just isn't working.

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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby arayan » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:01 am

Dear Ashitika,

thanks for your question. it is relieving for me to see that I am not alone in having questions such as these.

in my own experience i felt quite blocked, and particularly tense and ridden with anxiety (although i wouldn't have called it that at the time) when i was writing essays. In my experience, and interpretation, I think I was trying too hard to be concise (akin to concentrated) to get my point across. I could not flow easily in my essay writing. This may also have partly to do with a fear of criticism, and not being given room to make mistakes.

I think I did a lot of damage on the way to resolve these issues. So my first advice would be to take whatever approach you do slow and gradual. Sometimes settling into whatever your process is, removes the pressure you have to feel, esp if the case is that you are trying too hard).

Examine what you think might be causing you the anxiety? Do you write on your own about topics? Are you more comfortable writing something that is not going to be examined or marked?

Perhaps you also need more time for the material you are writing about, to be digested by your brain after you read it. Or perhaps you need to plan better. Perhaps the pressure is a result of the brain grasping at the material you have just read and trying to piece it together. Maybe you need time and repetition to internalise whatever you are writing, so when your words come out of you, it is coming from a steady, stable place inside of you.

I am wondering - does this pressure feel like you are trying very hard to focus, or does it feel like you are pushing your focus out - as in pushing words out too? In the past I have confused creativity for reactivity. I think this is often done in the art world. Often, people can come up with all sorts of words and such, in a short period of time, and it looks impressive. However, if you look at the quality of the words, they're often quite poor. Concentration is important here.

I am also wondering - how easy you find it to sit long periods to read or write? Do you find the build up of pressure overwhelming? Can you read for a long period of time?

Perhaps your thought is too concentrated to be comfortable. Perhaps you need to learn to sit and choose an anchor.. like your breath, and/or learn to use a little less effort. I think this is a dangerous term ppl (incl myself) misinterpret what it means to relax your attention. Personally, I find when my attention is more relaxed thoughts and words flow out more. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but I think it helps with conventional studying.

Often in a university or school setting, we take that organisation to be the authority, and if we cannot conform to those standards, then we think there is something wrong with us. I often think that the school system can do a lot of damage. People are encouraged to have an opinion about everything, you are encouraged to read (I don't think reading is bad, but the way my schools went about it had a lasting negative impression on me), and things like exams and cramming, can put a lot of pressure to the mind, in a way that feels quite 'unnatural' and possibly harmful over a period of time.
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Re: Meditation and University Studies

Postby lojong1 » Sat Oct 09, 2010 4:05 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:successful

[Pursed lips and tightly furrowed brow emoticon]
Successful?...successful?...successful?...Tiger woods meditated in his youth, then became "successful" after he stopped meditating, poor guy! Now he sees the value of buddhist practices.

I consider Ajahn Chah to have been far more successful. There's also a Tibetan cat 30 miles from here who struggles to pay the bills each month with grunt labour and a little daana for teachings...he's successful as all get-out.
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