Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

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

Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby Digity » Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:17 am

Some days I wake up in the morning and I can just tell I feel concentrated. I know when I sit down and meditate I'll be able to focus somewhat well on the breath without being overly distracted. Other days I wake up and I can just tell my mind is agitated and the meditation is going to be a painful process of me constantly trying to pull myself back to my breath the whole time I'm meditating. The interesting thing is that I can usually tell, even before sitting down to meditate, how the meditation will be. This isn't always the case. Sometimes I've gone to sit down thinking it's not going to go well, but I'll settle into the breath.

What do you make of all this? What about those days when you know the meditation is just going to be a pain. I know I shouldn't just skip those days, but they can be so demoralizing. I understand we need to take the highs and lows with a sense of equanimity, but deep down everytime we sit to meditate I'm sure we all want to fall into a sense of calm.

I guess it's good that I'm aware of how inconsistent the mind is. How one day it's agitated and another it's calm. It can be all over the map. I'm aware of this, but when my mind is agitated I do tend to take it personally. I take those feelings to mean something is off about me. I know this goes against what the Buddha taught...that these feelings, perceptions, etc. are not self. They are not mine. However, at this point in my practice it's hard for me not to associate with those feelings, perceptions as if they belong to me and it throws off my mood for the day. If I'm having an "agitated" day then everything gets colored badly. When I'm having a good day I tend to get elated and think maybe I've overcome my hindrances. Surely enough, a day comes when I'm feeling agitated again and it's this constant back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

This is pretty much dukkha at work. How do you develop equanimity over all this. How do you handle this constant up and down in a health way? It just seems when you're having a bad day and feel agitated and unable to focus the weight of that is too strong and I can't show equanimity towards it.
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby culaavuso » Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:41 am

Digity wrote:Some days I wake up in the morning and I can just tell I feel concentrated. I know when I sit down and meditate I'll be able to focus somewhat well on the breath without being overly distracted. Other days I wake up and I can just tell my mind is agitated and the meditation is going to be a painful process of me constantly trying to pull myself back to my breath the whole time I'm meditating. The interesting thing is that I can usually tell, even before sitting down to meditate, how the meditation will be. This isn't always the case. Sometimes I've gone to sit down thinking it's not going to go well, but I'll settle into the breath.

What do you make of all this? What about those days when you know the meditation is just going to be a pain. I know I shouldn't just skip those days, but they can be so demoralizing. I understand we need to take the highs and lows with a sense of equanimity, but deep down everytime we sit to meditate I'm sure we all want to fall into a sense of calm.


It's an excellent sign regarding development of mindfulness that you are aware of how distracted the mind is to begin with. This shows good development of the third foundation of mindfulness and is a big help in understanding how things influence this state of mind.

Regarding the hard days, they can be some of the most rewarding meditation sessions. When the mind is particularly distracted or there is significant physical pain or ill will present there is an opportunity to observe the mind playing some of its tricks that are significant contributors to suffering. Being able to watch those tricks and learn about them allows the ability to more skillfully deal with those same difficult situations and to better recognize what perpetuates those unskillful states of mind so they can be abandoned. It's not unreasonable to view those days when meditation is going to be a pain as the greatest opportunities to develop your skills. If you were trying to improve at chess, for example, playing against someone who you knew you could beat might be a "victory" but it isn't going to improve your skill. Playing against a grandmaster is most likely going to result in a defeat in the game, but you can learn more about the game itself and become a much better player. The same applies to meditation. Developing skill over the long run is much more valuable than the "winning" of a particularly pleasant meditation session in the short run. If you view your difficult days as an opportunity rather than a chore, it can become an inspiring rather than demoralizing situation.

MN 10
MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta wrote:"And how does a monk remain focused on the mind in & of itself? There is the case where a monk, when the mind has passion, discerns that the mind has passion. When the mind is without passion, he discerns that the mind is without passion. When the mind has aversion, he discerns that the mind has aversion. When the mind is without aversion, he discerns that the mind is without aversion. When the mind has delusion, he discerns that the mind has delusion. When the mind is without delusion, he discerns that the mind is without delusion.

"When the mind is constricted, he discerns that the mind is constricted. When the mind is scattered, he discerns that the mind is scattered. When the mind is enlarged, he discerns that the mind is enlarged. When the mind is not enlarged, he discerns that the mind is not enlarged. When the mind is surpassed, he discerns that the mind is surpassed. When the mind is unsurpassed, he discerns that the mind is unsurpassed. When the mind is concentrated, he discerns that the mind is concentrated. When the mind is not concentrated, he discerns that the mind is not concentrated. When the mind is released, he discerns that the mind is released. When the mind is not released, he discerns that the mind is not released.
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby barcsimalsi » Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:21 am

Imagine the mind as a dirty fish tank, when the fishes were not active the dirt will lay firm at the bottom of the tank and this will fool people to think that the tank has become clean but as the fishes started to stir around, what happen?

Similarly, as long as there’s defilement rooted in the mind, it is just a matter of time that it will be stimulated and had the mind juggling again.
A calm state of mind doesn’t mean it is totally free of defilement, it might just be the absence of its associated stimulus.

Instead of being agitated with it and telling the fish and snail not to move, take the opportunity to get to its roots and purified it.
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:24 am

That's a good simile, thank you. :thumbsup:
Peace,
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby Digity » Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:38 am

Thanks, you guys hit the nail on the head. I've fooled myself in the past thinking maybe I've overcome my hindrances enough for them to be too weak to really get to me, but they're actually just lying dormant. I can still see them sitting in the background just waiting to pounce up again when the conditions are right. I see this in my mind and it irritates me, because I know when I'm having a "bad" day those defilements will have at it and have a party in my head. :D

In some ways it's interesting to watch all this happening...in other ways it's quite stressful, because I don't know the causes needed to put the defilements to rest. When they do arise and cause me to feel agitated it feels like I'm at war with them. I try the stuff I'm told to do to put these defilements at bay and I sometimes question if they're working. Maybe so, maybe bit by bit I'm eating away at them, but it seems like I'm not getting the dramatic shift I want.
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby culaavuso » Wed Feb 19, 2014 6:04 am

Digity wrote:Maybe so, maybe bit by bit I'm eating away at them, but it seems like I'm not getting the dramatic shift I want.


Perhaps that greed for a dramatic shift is another interesting defilement to observe in action.

A Still Forest Pool
Ajahn Chah wrote: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.

Why not give it a try? Do you dare?
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby Babadhari » Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:15 am

thanissaro bhikku wrote:Start where you are. Too many meditators get discouraged at the outset because their minds won't settle down. But just as you can't wait until you're big and strong before you start strength training, you can't wait until your concentration is strong before you start sitting. Only by exercising what little concentration you have will you make it solid and steady. So even though you feel scrawny when everyone around you seems big, or fat when everyone else seems fit, remember that you're not here to compete with them or with the perfect meditators you see in magazines. You're here to work on yourself. So establish that as your focus, and keep it strong.

Establish a regular routine. You're in this for the long haul. We all like the stories of sudden enlightenment, but even the most lightning-like insights have to be primed by a long, steady discipline of day-to-day practice. That's because the consistency of your discipline is what allows you to observe subtle changes, and being observant is what enables insight to see. So don't get taken in by promises of quick and easy shortcuts. Set aside a time to meditate every day and then stick to your schedule whether you feel like meditating or not. The mind grows by overcoming resistance to repetition, just like a muscle. Sometimes the best insights come on the days you least feel like meditating. Even when they don't, you're establishing a strength of discipline, patience, and resilience that will see you through the even greater difficulties of aging, illness, and death. That's why it's called practice.

Strength Training For the Mind
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby kirk5a » Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:50 pm

Digity wrote:This is pretty much dukkha at work. How do you develop equanimity over all this. How do you handle this constant up and down in a health way? It just seems when you're having a bad day and feel agitated and unable to focus the weight of that is too strong and I can't show equanimity towards it.

Does equanimity not develop due to craving?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Days you feel concentrated vs days you don't

Postby Babadhari » Wed Feb 19, 2014 4:52 pm

i was under the impression that equanimity was a result of a calm concentrated mind.
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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