What should meditation feel like?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

What should meditation feel like?

Postby Animamia » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:19 pm

Hello everyone

I've very new to Buddhism, I apologise for perhaps using the wrong wording in my post. I was just looking for some input regarding my meditation. I have been practising for a week now and can never get past the feeling of discomfort above all else. However, this evening it was different and I'm just wondering if it's progress or not.

I started out very uncomfortable as usual. Within five minutes I'd developed the most irritating itch on my back and my foot was hurting and had pins and needles. However, I told myself to let it go and tried to concentrate on breathing. A few minutes later I'd begun to feel almost numb. The itch and the pain I could no longer feel, or didn't notice. I felt very light and sort of detached from my body if this makes sense? But this time I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the feeling of floating and the feel of my skin. It felt like my mind was completely separate from my body. I feel embarrassed for writing this, but I wasn't sure if 1) This is how it it supposed to be, 2) I was actually drifting to sleep as I am rather tired, or 3) My very shallow breathing that I didn't notice until afterwards was actually making me dizzy and numb.

Once again, thank you for any advice :)
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:31 pm

Hi Animamia,

All kinds of odd feelings can arise when one starts to meditate (or continues). For anyone to usefully comment you will need to explain what approach to meditation you are taking. Are you following some book, recording, web page, etc?

:anjali:
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby bodom » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:36 pm

From Bhante G.

People experience all manner of varied phenomena in meditation. Some people get itches. Others feel tingling, deep relaxation, a feeling of lightness or a floating sensation. You may feel yourself growing or shrinking or rising up in the air. Beginners often get quite excited over such sensations. As relaxation sets in, the nervous system simply begins to pass sensory signals more efficiently. Large amounts of previously blocked sensory data can pour through, giving rise to all manner of unique sensations. It does not signify anything in particular. It is just sensation. So simply employ the normal technique. Watch it come up and watch it pass away. Don't get involved.


http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Animamia » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:36 pm

No not really. I have read lots, watched videos, listened to MP3's. All I'm trying to do at the minute is keep my focus on the breath and not the discomfort. Once I can achieve this I was planning on learning more. I tend to overwhelm myself with information sometimes and then worry where to start, so I thought I should start simply and build on it as I go. :)
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Animamia » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:41 pm

bodom wrote:From Bhante G.

People experience all manner of varied phenomena in meditation. Some people get itches. Others feel tingling, deep relaxation, a feeling of lightness or a floating sensation. You may feel yourself growing or shrinking or rising up in the air. Beginners often get quite excited over such sensations. As relaxation sets in, the nervous system simply begins to pass sensory signals more efficiently. Large amounts of previously blocked sensory data can pour through, giving rise to all manner of unique sensations. It does not signify anything in particular. It is just sensation. So simply employ the normal technique. Watch it come up and watch it pass away. Don't get involved.


http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

:anjali:


Thank you. Problem number 3 it seems. I should not pay attention to these feelings and just continue. Is this progress from just feeling plain uncomfortable, or is it just a different problem altogether? Am I getting anywhere? :)
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:50 pm

Hi Animamia,
Animamia wrote:Thank you. Problem number 3 it seems. I should not pay attention to these feelings and just continue. Is this progress from just feeling plain uncomfortable, or is it just a different problem altogether? Am I getting anywhere? :)

Just pay attention to the breath and let go of any ideas of "how things should feel like" and "progress".
In the words of my teacher: Just Observe!
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Animamia » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:55 pm

Okay Ben, I am obviously over-thinking as usual. I will keep trying. Thank you :)
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:04 am

Animamia wrote:I started out very uncomfortable as usual.


If you are starting out very uncomfortable then you are starting out on the wrong foot, excuse the pun.

You need to start out in a comfortable position, cross legged is not necessary, a chair or kneeling is fine, disconfort may or may not arise later. Just make sure your back is not supported as otherwise you may end up sleepy.

If you want to get serious about this practise then it is worth learning to sit cross legged properly, but this takes several weeks of daily doing the butterfly stretch and other yoga stretches.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby Ben » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:07 am

No worries Animamia!
We all tend to overthink from time to time.

With the breath you may also wish to be more precise with what you are doing.

What I do with the breath is to observe the sensation of "touch" the breath makes in the area under the nostrils during the in-breath and out-breath and maintain continuous awareness of the touch of the breath for longer and longer periods. This is the samatha variation of anapana and leads to deeper levels of concentration and absorption known as the jhanas.

Another approach to the breath involves observing the rise and fall of the abdomen. It is an approach favoured by the students of Mahasi Sayadaw and is the Vipassana variation of anapana which leads to penetrative insight into the nature of mind and matter.

It may also be beneficial to take instruction from a teacher or attend a residential retreat at some point.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:26 am

Greetings Animamia,

Animamia wrote:I've very new to Buddhism, I apologise for perhaps using the wrong wording in my post. I was just looking for some input regarding my meditation. I have been practising for a week now and can never get past the feeling of discomfort above all else. However, this evening it was different and I'm just wondering if it's progress or not.

I started out very uncomfortable as usual. Within five minutes I'd developed the most irritating itch on my back and my foot was hurting and had pins and needles. However, I told myself to let it go and tried to concentrate on breathing. A few minutes later I'd begun to feel almost numb. The itch and the pain I could no longer feel, or didn't notice. I felt very light and sort of detached from my body if this makes sense? But this time I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the feeling of floating and the feel of my skin. It felt like my mind was completely separate from my body. I feel embarrassed for writing this, but I wasn't sure if 1) This is how it it supposed to be

With specific reference to question 1, consider the following from Thanissaro Bhikkhu - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tml#tuning

When I first went to stay with Ajaan Fuang, one of the questions I asked him was, "What do you need to believe in order to meditate?" He answered that there was only one thing: the principle of kamma. Now when we hear the word "kamma," we usually think, "kamma-and-rebirth," but he meant specifically the principle of action: that what you do shapes your experience.

If you're convinced of this, you can do the meditation because, after all, the meditation is a doing. You're not just sitting here, biding your time, waiting for the accident of Awakening to happen. Even in very still states of meditation, there's an activity going on. Even the act of "being the knowing" is still a doing. It's a fabrication, a sankhara. In one of the suttas, the Buddha says that all the different khandhas, all the different aggregates that make up experience as a whole, have to get shaped into aggregates by the process of fabrication. In other words, there's a potential for a form, a potential for a feeling, potential for perception, fabrication, consciousness; and the act of fabricating is what turns these potentials into actual aggregates.

It sounds abstract, but it's a very important lesson for the meditation even from the very beginning. You sit here in the body — and of course, that's a fabrication right there: the idea that you're sitting in the body — but given all the many different things you could focus on right now, there's the possibility of choice. This possibility of choice is where kamma comes in. You can choose any of the sensations that are coming into your awareness. It's as if there were a buzz in all the different parts of the body. There's a potential for pain here, a potential for pleasure over there. All these different sensations are presenting themselves to you for you to do something about them, and you have the choice as to which ones you'll notice.

Doctors have done studies showing that pain isn't just a physical phenomenon. It isn't totally a given. There are so many different messages coming into your brain right now that you can't possibly process them all, so you choose to focus on just some of them. And the mind has a tendency to focus on pain because it's usually a warning signal. But we don't have to focus there. In other words, there can be a slight discomfort in a part of the body, and you can focus on it and make it more and more intense, more and more of an issue. That's one thing you can do right now, but — even if you may not realize it — you have the choice of whether or not to do that. You can choose not to make it more intense. You can choose even to ignore it entirely. Many times we have habitual ways of relating to sensations, and they're so habitual and so consistent that we think there's no choice at all. "This is the way things have to be," we think, but they don't.

That's the other implication of the principle of kamma: You can change your actions. If some parts of experience are dependent on choice and fabrication, you can choose to change. You see this really clearly when you focus on the breath. The breath is always there in the body, and if you look carefully you'll discover that it has many levels. It's like looking up in the sky: Sometimes you feel a breeze coming from the south, but you look up in the sky and see a layer of clouds moving east, and another higher layer of clouds moving west. There are lots of different layers of wind in the atmosphere and, in the same way, there are lots of different layers of breath in the body. You can choose which ones to focus on.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby chownah » Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:21 am

Animamia ,
When meditating using the breath as the object or focus the meditation should feel like the breath....the idea is to be sensitive to the breath and of course this means being sensitive to the feelings that one has of the breath.

Surprisingly being sensitive to a thing as simple as the breath can be more challenging and more multifaceted than one might expect.

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Re: What should meditation feel like?

Postby contemplans » Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:39 am

The feelings are an accurate description. Stay with the body. As your breath calms, breathe with the body, like you were one big breath sponge. Spread that energy throughout the body. Spreading this energy can help you stay awake also, and as your breath become more refined, i.e., the ins and outs harder to discern, it will help you stay with the breath. You know you're drifting when you find you're off your object. If you find yourself slipping off, just get back on it. You should be breathing in such a way that you are very awake and alert. Not tense, but just full of breath energy and awake and alert. A very sharp silent alertness.
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