A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

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

A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby monkey_brain » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:53 pm

I have been sitting for less than two weeks. And I am simply following the breath (about 30 minutes per session). At first of course it was just all over the place. But now the distractions and drifting off into who know what thoughts have given way to a very specific and repetitive interruption. I mean the following: about fifteen minutes or so into the session, when things have just settled down nicely and I am doing nothing but putting together a few nice constant minutes of experiencing the breath with nothing getting in the way, what happens is I start to become excited a little bit about how well it is going, and so I sort of remark to myself about how well it is going, or about how interesting or pleasant the breath is, and that kind of pulls me off of it. Not completely off. It's still there, but I have to remember to let go the excitement and internal commentary about how well it's going and move back to just watching the breath, which I do easily enough, and again after a few minutes things are going very well again, which seems to engender another bout of excitement about how well it's going, etc., etc.

Is this normal? Has anyone had this? I'm not really discouraged, but I am wondering just a little bit.
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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby Ben » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:30 pm

monkey_brain wrote:Is this normal?

Yes. Its the hindrance of restlessness.
"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."

- Heraclitus


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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:22 pm

monkey_brain wrote:I have been sitting for less than two weeks. And I am simply following the breath (about 30 minutes per session). At first of course it was just all over the place. But now the distractions and drifting off into who know what thoughts have given way to a very specific and repetitive interruption. I mean the following: about fifteen minutes or so into the session, when things have just settled down nicely and I am doing nothing but putting together a few nice constant minutes of experiencing the breath with nothing getting in the way, what happens is I start to become excited a little bit about how well it is going, and so I sort of remark to myself about how well it is going, or about how interesting or pleasant the breath is, and that kind of pulls me off of it. Not completely off. It's still there, but I have to remember to let go the excitement and internal commentary about how well it's going and move back to just watching the breath, which I do easily enough, and again after a few minutes things are going very well again, which seems to engender another bout of excitement about how well it's going, etc., etc.

Is this normal? Has anyone had this? I'm not really discouraged, but I am wondering just a little bit.


It's normal for a beginner to feel excited about progress. When you have practiced a bit more, you'll get used to doing well. So don't worry and take your time. :smile:

The same will happen with pleasant states of mind.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby IanAnd » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:43 pm

Ben wrote:
monkey_brain wrote:I mean the following: about fifteen minutes or so into the session, when things have just settled down nicely and I am doing nothing but putting together a few nice constant minutes of experiencing the breath with nothing getting in the way, what happens is I start to become excited a little bit about how well it is going, and so I sort of remark to myself about how well it is going, or about how interesting or pleasant the breath is, and that kind of pulls me off of it. Not completely off. It's still there, but I have to remember to let go the excitement and internal commentary about how well it's going and move back to just watching the breath, which I do easily enough,...
Is this normal?

Yes. Its the hindrance of restlessness.

Well, I wouldn't necessarily call this a hindrance per se as in the Five Hindrances, because as you say you are able to return to the object: the breath. This is to differentiate between an actual hindrance that keeps or prohibits one from seeing and remaining on the object in the first place such that concentration does not become established as opposed to what you have described here wherein concentration has already become established and is only momentarily distracted by an observation made by the mind. That observation is an example of insight. And yes, this is a normal occurrence. How you are handling this occurrence is the correct way to handle it: by returning to the object.

But an even more important question might be: Now that you have learned how to establish concentration, what are you going to do with that ability? Have you thought about that?

How you answer that question, though, may depend upon what kind of meditation instruction you are following. If you have a meditation teacher or guide, he might instruct you to begin noting phenomena as they arise (if he follows the Mahasi school of instruction) or some other line of action such as noting the three characteristics in phenomena. You may want to look into this further in order to continue to make progress in your practice.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby mlswe » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:55 pm

"Now how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit?

"There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

"This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit."

from anapanasati sutta copied from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 17, 2011 12:54 am

IanAnd wrote:
Ben wrote:Yes. Its the hindrance of restlessness.

Well, I wouldn't necessarily call this a hindrance per se as in the Five Hindrances, because as you say you are able to return to the object: the breath.

A hindrance does not cause focus on the object to be lost permanently - nor necessarily for the remainder of the session.
"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."

- Heraclitus


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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:28 am

monkey_brain wrote:Is this normal?


Yes, this is the practice, you place your attention on the breath and you start to notice the habits of the mind. When the mind does something that takes you away from the breath you just notice what happened without judgement and bring the attention back to the breath.

Continue doing what you're doing, in a few years time you'll be able to look back and see how your mind has changed for the better.
"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
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Re: A Specific Breakdown for Beginner

Postby monkey_brain » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:07 am

IanAnd wrote:...But an even more important question might be: Now that you have learned how to establish concentration,


Oh, I wouldn't say that. Not by a long shot. :?

what are you going to do with that ability? Have you thought about that?

How you answer that question, though, may depend upon what kind of meditation instruction you are following. If you have a meditation teacher or guide, he might instruct you to begin noting phenomena as they arise (if he follows the Mahasi school of instruction) or some other line of action such as noting the three characteristics in phenomena. You may want to look into this further in order to continue to make progress in your practice.


So far, my main source of guidance is just the "Mindfulness in Plain English". And that should do fine for some time I would think, while I look around and see what kind of communities are local to me (Boise, ID). There seems to be a Mayahana presence, mainly. But I've got plenty to do for some time, it seems.

Thanks, all.
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