Why meditate

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
being5
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:58 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Why meditate

Postby being5 » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:43 am

Can someone say why we meditate?

I seem to have lost the plot a bit. Feeling strong mental rebellion about sitting have now just stopped.
I'm not happy about it but when I do sit my mind is just all over the place. So it seems pointless, it's not really meditation is it? It's just sitting on a meditation cushion thinking.
Discouraging.

I find that I can still keep a reasonable level of mindfulness going in ordinary activities so why isn't that enough? Why meditate?

being5

User avatar
Collective
Posts: 217
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:12 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Why meditate

Postby Collective » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:19 am

I feel 'exactly' the same 'exactly'.

Lately it's a case of 'ready, steady...and start thinking!'. Seems like I've not moved forward 1 inch toward anything even remotely resembling anything akin to awakening. I know this can take a looong time but my point is, I seem to be gettong worse during my meditations.

Still I carry on regardless

Moggalana
Posts: 331
Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 11:31 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Germany

Re: Why meditate

Postby Moggalana » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:28 am

Meditation leads to a calm, clear, purified mind (samatha) and allows you to investigate the nature of reality (vipassana). Recognizing the crazy monkey-mind is the first step. Most people are so distracted, they don't even recognize their distraction. Skill comes with practice. Sit down, close your eyes, and watch your breath :)

Ajahn Brahm wrote:The first meditation teacher I had told me something that then sounded quite strange. He said that there is no such thing as a bad meditation! He was right. All those meditations which you call bad, frustrating and not meeting your expectations, all those meditations are where you do the hard work for your `pay cheque'...

It is like a person who goes to work all day Monday and gets no money at the end of the day. "What am I doing this for?", he thinks. He works all day Tuesday and still gets nothing. Another bad day. All day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and still nothing to show for all the hard work. That's four bad days in a row. Then along comes Friday, he does exactly the same work as before and at the end of the day the boss gives him a pay cheque. "Wow! Why can't every day be a pay day?!"
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 2097
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Why meditate

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:53 am

Goenka always used to say, "Continuity is the secret of success."

Meditating in fits and starts is not utterly useless, but it won't produce significant results. To boil a large pot of milk you have to keep it on the fire for a long time — if you take it off after ten minutes, then put it back on again, it will never boil even if you put it on the fire and take it off again for the entire day.

Another much used simile is making fire by rubbing two sticks together. Effort must be energetic as well as continuous. And the sticks must be dry — if your mind is still addicted to sensual pleasures, you cannot meditate effectively. There must be at least some renunciation and morality too. Eight precepts and noble silence is the basic observance for a meditation retreat. Five precepts are sufficient at other times, but without keeping even five precepts, meditation won't bear much fruit.

Walking meditation is also a great aid to success in sitting. Trying to develop concentration in sitting without walking is like trying to start a car with a flat battery. Precede each sitting meditation session with at least ten or fifteen minutes of walking. If you have one hour to spare, do twenty minutes of walking and forty minutes of sitting.

Day-dreaming and thinking cannot be abandoned easily — they are the bad habits of an entire life-time, or many lifetimes. The wandering mind must be noted systematically — not to make it go away, but to understand its true nature.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
Posts: 16345
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Land of the sleeping gods
Contact:

Re: Why meditate

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:14 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Goenka always used to say, "Continuity is the secret of success.".


He still does.

Hi being5

It was on my second or third course and on the closing day when the AT said that he thought there was only one thing harder than practicing vipassana - not practicing vipassana. Perhaps its a bit of a cliche but from my experience, I have found it to be true.
My observation has been that many people's practice seems to swing in a pendulum like oscillation between super intensity to needing to have a break (or turning their back on the Dhamma altogether). Maintaining practice is hard. Every time we engage with our practice and walk on the path, we're swimming against the stream of samsara. Not only are there significant difficulties "outside" by way of multifarious distractions, the action of insight meditation brings to the fore all of the defilements we are trying to eradicate. Its hard, uncomfortable and lonely.
Sometimes a short break is what some people need to rediscover the reason why they meditate, and for some people to find samvega pasada that motivates them for the rest of their lives.
metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

Brizzy

Re: Why meditate

Postby Brizzy » Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:30 am

being5 wrote:Can someone say why we meditate?

I seem to have lost the plot a bit. Feeling strong mental rebellion about sitting have now just stopped.
I'm not happy about it but when I do sit my mind is just all over the place. So it seems pointless, it's not really meditation is it? It's just sitting on a meditation cushion thinking.
Discouraging.

I find that I can still keep a reasonable level of mindfulness going in ordinary activities so why isn't that enough? Why meditate?

being5


Hi

I meditate because it makes me a happier person.

Sometimes over concentrating can be a problem and lead to dis-satisfaction.

Some people try to stop thinking, right from the start of a session "just be mindful" - Your mind wants to play? Give it some Dhamma to play with.

:smile:

being5
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:58 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Why meditate

Postby being5 » Sun Mar 21, 2010 12:08 pm

thankyou for all for your replies, I appreciate you taking the time to post.

Moggalana wrote
Meditation leads to a calm, clear, purified mind (samatha) and allows you to investigate the nature of reality (vipassana). :)


So they say.
But so far that hasn't been my experience. Like Collective I seem to be getting further from this ideal, instead of closer. And while I'm willing to take it on faith - I have so far - I start thinking that maybe it would be better to just go back to ordinary life where at least there were some pleasures to be had. Ephemeral, uncertain and unsatisfactory they may be, but ordinary pleasures are at least gettable.
I haven't had any moments in my Dhamma practice where I could say "Oh yes, this would be worth giving up the world for". When none of the "joys" of meditation and practice (as described by others) are there, even briefly or even the memory of them, it's all rather grim.


Ben wrote
Its hard, uncomfortable and lonely.


Yes, and I find myself questioning why I'm trying to do it. (See above) Given that I don't seem to be getting any of the benefits despite my best efforts. How do I know I'm not just wasting my time either because I'm not doing it right, or bad karma from the past or something else. If there's no progress or payoff it's just another promisory system, like Christianity - do this now and later you'll get xyz

Ben wrote
only one thing harder than practicing vipassana - not practicing vipassana.


Yes again. I believe what I've read of Dhamma, even though personally I can't verify any of it, and so I'm really caught - if I don't practice I'm afraid of what will happen and if I do practice (at the moment, anyway) I'm resentful.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
if your mind is still addicted to sensual pleasures, you cannot meditate effectively.


Bhante, I just don't know what this means for householders. Yes, I'm addicted to sense pleasures - I enjoy warm sunshiney days, stroking the cat, seeing blue skies, talking to friends, gardening. Nothing too wild but sense pleasures all the same. For some time I tried to renounce these things but without enough progress on the path there is then just a grey drabness to everything - nothing has any worth because it's all conditioned and bound to pass away. I got very low in spirits. I'm living a pretty simple and quiet life, keeping the 5 precepts as best I can but perhaps this is part of the problem - I will look at it again.

being5

User avatar
acinteyyo
Posts: 1055
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:48 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Neuburg/Donau, Germany

Re: Why meditate

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:01 pm

being5 wrote:Can someone say why we meditate?

I seem to have lost the plot a bit. Feeling strong mental rebellion about sitting have now just stopped.
I'm not happy about it but when I do sit my mind is just all over the place. So it seems pointless, it's not really meditation is it? It's just sitting on a meditation cushion thinking.
Discouraging.

I find that I can still keep a reasonable level of mindfulness going in ordinary activities so why isn't that enough? Why meditate?

being5

Hi,

I think you are attaching too much importance to your thoughts. You seem to act still out of the same habit. You meditate with the desire to get something out of meditation. Now you didn't get anything special or pleasant, you can't see anything desirable to achieve and so you start doubting and thinking, what leads only to further confusion.

I read a book at the moment "Gifts He Left Behind - The Dhamma Legacy of Ajaan Dune Atulo". A quote I like from that book is:
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.

"The knowledge that comes from a mind that's quiet is extremely subtle and profound. So let your knowledge come out of a mind quiet and still.

I would say, don't pay the content of your thoughts too much attention, finally what you know is probably just a lot of hearsay more or less and doesn't come from your own mind. Perhaps you could try to examine where your thoughts come from. Only sitting on a cushion with the eyes closed isn't meditation. A certain amount of effort is required.
Didn't you already do what your thoughts say for a long time yet? Why don't try to not give a damn on what you thoughts say and see what happens? Simply keep on going ;)
best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

meindzai
Posts: 592
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Why meditate

Postby meindzai » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:03 pm

If you are meditating, and your mind doesn't get quiet, that's fine - dont' beat yourself up about it. That just causes more noise. I call it the "Samadhi of non-reprimanding" and I consider it a kind of "level" of meditation where your mind is not quiet but you're ok with it.

If you're not meditating, don't beat yourself up about it either. Just don't let it go too long. Maybe you can shift your attention to some other Dhamma activities (aside from forums!)

-M

User avatar
jcsuperstar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: alaska
Contact:

Re: Why meditate

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:40 pm

in ajahn jayasaro's bio of ajahn chah he mentions that ajahn chah had a hard time with meditation when he 1st became a monk. he would sit down and think of food, so much so that his mouth would salivate!

bhikkhu bodhi has also mentioned having a rough time on the cushion.

michael jordan couldnt even make it onto his high school basketball team.. what? oh yeah my point is we all start somewhere, some of us have a smooth start others have to work harder but still end up being great!
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

alan
Posts: 2624
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Why meditate

Postby alan » Sun Mar 21, 2010 5:06 pm

Perhaps Bhikku Pesala, coming here from a position of strength, can explain to us what it means to be addicted to sense pleasures.
Certainly, Sir, you are not going to come out against sitting in a lovely garden on a sunny day with purring kitties romping through the greenery?
:smile: [url][/url]
Alan

Kenshou
Posts: 1029
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:03 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Why meditate

Postby Kenshou » Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:05 pm

I think there's something to be said for the fact that when learning new skills, sometimes there can be a period where you do feel like you're going backwards or getting worse. But this isn't the case, often it can seem that way because you're getting a better understanding of what needs to be done. When you just begin you don't even know what you don't know. But after you improve a little you start seeing those things. And so it might feel like you're getting worse and making no progress, but it's only a sign that you are.

You can even find some room for understanding even when your meditation is completely awful. Mind jumping from thought to thought like a crazy little kid? Impermanence. Can't get control of it, it all keeps happening weather you want it to or not? Anatta. You get annoyed that it isn't doing what you want it to do and this sucks? Dukkha.

User avatar
Collective
Posts: 217
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:12 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Why meditate

Postby Collective » Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:23 pm

Great encouragement!

This is my thought on all the negativity I sometimes experience. Whatever the problem is, I'll be sitting when next my meditational time comes around. Even if I sit glowering at it in my mind's eye :)

Just sit and meditate regardless.

User avatar
acinteyyo
Posts: 1055
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:48 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Neuburg/Donau, Germany

Re: Why meditate

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:41 pm

Kenshou wrote:I think there's something to be said for the fact that when learning new skills, sometimes there can be a period where you do feel like you're going backwards or getting worse. But this isn't the case, often it can seem that way because you're getting a better understanding of what needs to be done. When you just begin you don't even know what you don't know. But after you improve a little you start seeing those things. And so it might feel like you're getting worse and making no progress, but it's only a sign that you are.

You can even find some room for understanding even when your meditation is completely awful. Mind jumping from thought to thought like a crazy little kid? Impermanence. Can't get control of it, it all keeps happening weather you want it to or not? Anatta. You get annoyed that it isn't doing what you want it to do and this sucks? Dukkha.

:goodpost:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

rowyourboat
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: London, UK

Re: Why meditate

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:25 pm

we must be skilful in settling our minds. 20-30 minutes of walking meditation before you begin sitting should be standard practice considering how busy our minds are generally. In walking meditation the object is gross (the sensation at the soles of the feet) -therefore easier to focus on- easier to know if our minds have strayed. It also nicely settles the mind. So I do back Bikkhu Pesala's suggestion once again- start with walking meditation- then sit.

Also there's not much point sitting thinking 'I cant do this'. Better to think 'it will happen, give it time'. Because there must be reinitializing of intention again and again to bring the mind back to the breath/soles of the feet. If you are lacking in conviction (in yourself or your teacher or the dhamma) your intention to re-engage with the object of meditation will be weak.

Also daily practice is a must. Patchy practice will make things very frustrating as development will be hard to come by. We get motivated when we see some progress- this is quite natural.

Give it the required amount of time. I would build the practice up to 45min-1hour every day. Without sufficient time for the mind to quieten it is not going to happen any time soon.

with metta

RYB
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

User avatar
Monkey Mind
Posts: 538
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Re: Why meditate

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:33 am

If it is okay to cite Pema Chodron, this 12 minute talk helped with this struggle. Here is a discussion from Pema Chodron about why we meditate. [Click link, and then scroll down to "Why Should We Meditate?" by Pema Chodron: http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Religion-and-Spirituality/Spirituality/Voices-of-Wisdom-Podcast/23674# ]
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

User avatar
jcsuperstar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: alaska
Contact:

Re: Why meditate

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:28 am

http://www.youtube.com/user/dhammatube#grid/user/768ACC9E7E2740DB

these short talks by ajahn jayasaro are interesting and informative. maybe you'll find a bit of what youre looking for there.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

being5
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:58 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Why meditate

Postby being5 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:49 am

thankyou all for your replies, words of advice, links and quotes. All useful to try and get a look at the problem from another angle.

I've been meditating for 10+ years and in the past when problems crop up I have just kept going telling myself that the Dhamma will lead me on.

I wanted to add that I'm not looking for peace, ecstasy or any other 'feel good' thing in meditation - that's not what I meant. What has been happening is the grip I have on "me" has been getting looser and while you'd think that's a good thing, it has actually been frightening and instead of going boldly onwards I have been scuttling back to ordinary life to assuage that feeling. Of course this is grasping at a self but it's not as easy as just recognising that and telling yourself to stop it. Keeping going with practice (that which is loosening the grip) gives me a gut reaction like running towards a cliff and hoping the safety net other people assured me is over the edge really is there. Maybe the safety net is there and I'm about to jump off the wrong cliff, going the wrong way due to practicing incorrectly.

Well I suppose I will just go back to it and keep doing the best I can but I'm fed up with feeling this way.

thanks again
being5

Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Why meditate

Postby Freawaru » Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:01 pm

being5 wrote:thankyou all for your replies, words of advice, links and quotes. All useful to try and get a look at the problem from another angle.

I've been meditating for 10+ years and in the past when problems crop up I have just kept going telling myself that the Dhamma will lead me on.

I wanted to add that I'm not looking for peace, ecstasy or any other 'feel good' thing in meditation - that's not what I meant. What has been happening is the grip I have on "me" has been getting looser and while you'd think that's a good thing, it has actually been frightening and instead of going boldly onwards I have been scuttling back to ordinary life to assuage that feeling. Of course this is grasping at a self but it's not as easy as just recognising that and telling yourself to stop it. Keeping going with practice (that which is loosening the grip) gives me a gut reaction like running towards a cliff and hoping the safety net other people assured me is over the edge really is there. Maybe the safety net is there and I'm about to jump off the wrong cliff, going the wrong way due to practicing incorrectly.

Well I suppose I will just go back to it and keep doing the best I can but I'm fed up with feeling this way.

thanks again
being5


Hi being5,

can you describe this "loosening the grip" in more details? Also, what technique(s) do you use? Do you also feel a difference while you are not sitting or is this a phenomenon limited to formal sitting?


Return to “Theravada Meditation”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests