Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.
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Ytrog
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Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:24 am

I have a problem in meditation, but I don't really know if it is a problem or not:

When I meditate my mind sometimes wanders off (this is not the problem though), however as soon as I'm aware of it the thought stops directly and I'm unable to observe it. It doesn't seem to be participatory observation to me.
Is this a problem? Is this perhaps normal? If not: what can I do about it.
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:56 am

Ytrog wrote:I have a problem in meditation, but I don't really know if it is a problem or not:

When I meditate my mind sometimes wanders off (this is not the problem though), however as soon as I'm aware of it the thought stops directly and I'm unable to observe it. It doesn't seem to be participatory observation to me.
Is this a problem? Is this perhaps normal? If not: what can I do about it.

I don't have that problem at all. But then, I don't observe mental contents directly.
Its hard to know what advice is best suited to you given that its not clear which particular method or whose teaching style you are practicing under. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ask experienced practitioners of the meditation style you are practicing for some counsel.
kind regards

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

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:23 pm

"What was that thought" is, itself, a thought, so the thought being chased away is being chased away by more thinking, I'm going to guess. Perhaps you mean that in attending to the thought there is silence there, but I doubt that as it wouldn't likely have been seen as a problem. So, since there is still thinking, you haven't lost the thought, it just changed. The mind changes so fast, there is no metaphor for that.

There aren't discreet "thoughts" to catch so much as "the thinking process" (citta) to be sensitive to, allowing one to gladden it, THEN steady it, THEN release it.

Of course all of it with the caveat that I'm not experiencing what you are, only comparing your description to experiences I do know.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby kirk5a » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:29 pm

Ytrog wrote:I have a problem in meditation, but I don't really know if it is a problem or not:

When I meditate my mind sometimes wanders off (this is not the problem though), however as soon as I'm aware of it the thought stops directly and I'm unable to observe it. It doesn't seem to be participatory observation to me.
Is this a problem? Is this perhaps normal? If not: what can I do about it.

To me, this is a bit like noticing that if you stand still, you can't observe yourself walking. Thinking is an activity. If we stop doing it, then there aren't thoughts to observe.
"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: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Monkey » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:46 pm

I once heared the following which might be helpful: if you are observing thoughts, then you'll notice that there is a gap in between the thoughts (after the last thought ended and when the next thought hasn't arisen yet). Simply observe the thought when there is one and rest in the gaps between the thoughts.

I guess it's a good sign that the thought desolves once you observe it (as all the things you observe will do eventually).

It's the same idea as observing the breath. Between the out-breath and the in-breath there is a little gap. Simply observe the breath and rest in the gaps.

I agree with Ben though, ask your teacher or people who practice this.

Cheerios

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:23 pm

daverupa wrote:Perhaps you mean that in attending to the thought there is silence there, but I doubt that as it wouldn't likely have been seen as a problem.

That is exactly what I mean: the moment I become aware of the thinking the thought drops dead into silence.

So, this isn't a problem? :anjali:
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby bodom » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:35 pm

Ytrog wrote:I have a problem in meditation, but I don't really know if it is a problem or not:

When I meditate my mind sometimes wanders off (this is not the problem though), however as soon as I'm aware of it the thought stops directly and I'm unable to observe it. It doesn't seem to be participatory observation to me.
Is this a problem? Is this perhaps normal? If not: what can I do about it.


Hi Ytrog

I believe you mentioned that you read Mindfulness in Plain English in another thread. I highly recommend going back and re reading that book. If you are practicing alone without a teacher make that book your constant companion. Here is a section in particular that you should review:

Just as breathing comes in stages, so do the mental states. Every breath has a beginning, a middle and an end. Every mental states has a birth, a growth and a decay. You should strive to see these stages clearly. This is no easy thing to do, however. As we have already noted, every thought and sensation begins first in the unconscious region of the mind and only later rises to consciousness. We generally become aware of such things only after they have arisen in the conscious realm and stayed there for some time. Indeed we usually become aware of distractions only when they have released their hold on us and are already on their way out. It is at this point that we are struck with the sudden realization that we have been somewhere, day-dreaming, fantasizing, or whatever. Quite obviously this is far too late in the chain of events. We may call this phenomenon catching the lion by is tail, and it is an unskillful thing to do. Like confronting a dangerous beast, we must approach mental states head-on. Patiently, we will learn to recognize them as they arise from progressively deeper levels of our conscious mind.

Since mental states arise first in the unconscious, to catch the arising of the mental state, you've got to extend your awareness down into this unconscious area. That is difficult, because you can't see what is going on down there, at least not in the same way you see a conscious thought. But you can learn to get a vague sense of movement and to operate by a sort of mental sense of touch. This comes with practice, and the ability is another of the effects of the deep calm of concentration. Concentration slows down the arising of these mental states and gives you time to feel each one arising out of the unconscious even before you see it in consciousness. Concentration helps you to extend your awareness down into that boiling darkness where thought and sensation begin.

As your concentration deepens, you gain the ability to see thoughts and sensations arising slowly, like separate bubbles, each distinct and with spaces between them. They bubble up in slow motion out of the unconscious. They stay a while in the conscious mind and then they drift away.


http://www.realization.org/page/namedoc ... ipe_12.htm

: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: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:48 pm

I remember that part. So, I'm catching things as they are almost gone anyway. That explains some things. Luckily there are a lot of thoughts and feelings outside of daydreaming that I can see from (conscious) beginning to end. :)
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Monkey » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:53 pm

"the moment I become aware of the thinking the thought drops dead into silence. So, this isn't a problem?"

I think a lot of people would consider this bit of silence in your mind a blessing Ytrog. Enjoy that silence :smile:

"Since mental states arise first in the unconscious, to catch the arising of the mental state, you've got to extend your awareness down into this unconscious area. That is difficult, because you can't see what is going on down there, at least not in the same way you see a conscious thought. But you can learn to get a vague sense of movement and to operate by a sort of mental sense of touch. This comes with practice, and the ability is another of the effects of the deep calm of concentration. Concentration slows down the arising of these mental states and gives you time to feel each one arising out of the unconscious even before you see it in consciousness. Concentration helps you to extend your awareness down into that boiling darkness where thought and sensation begin."

If you rest in those gaps, or that silence in between the thought, you'll can notice that the silence is being disturbed before you have an actual thought. That would be the vague sense of movement on the text above I think.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:07 pm

monkey wrote:If you rest in those gaps, or that silence in between the thought, you'll can notice that the silence is being disturbed before you have an actual thought. That would be the vague sense of movement on the text above I think.

Is it a bit like the feeling that your breath differs slightly or a slight jolt coming from the lower jaw to the top of your head sometimes moments before a thought arises? Or is that unrelated?
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:26 pm

Ytrog wrote:I have a problem in meditation, but I don't really know if it is a problem or not:

When I meditate my mind sometimes wanders off (this is not the problem though), however as soon as I'm aware of it the thought stops directly and I'm unable to observe it. It doesn't seem to be participatory observation to me.
Is this a problem? Is this perhaps normal? If not: what can I do about it.

Hi,

I know I read somewhere something about it, but unfortunatly I can't remember at the moment. I can only tell you something from my own experience. I guess what you mean is not actually the thought but rather your "inner voice" telling yourself what you are thinking/thought. When one is trying to become aware of the mind, to set up mindfulness without a certain object, it happens as soon as one becomes aware of this inner chatter that it stops. As far as I know it is normal. We don't need to tell ourselves what we think, when we're mindful we know it. When the inner chatter stops somewhere in the "middle" we know how it would finish even without telling us the whole thing. The "citta" or sometimes called "the one who knows" is the "knowing" of what happens in the mind (at leas this is the way I understand it). At the moment we become aware, as soon as we know inner chatter stops naturally. All there is left is just knowing. We're so accustomed to our inner voice that when it stops it seems like a sudden drop into silence. At the beginning people then tend to loose mindfulness and being aware of the present moment, they can't maintain that state of mindfulness which leads to a new beginning of inner conversation. Most of the time trying to tell oneself what just happend or the mind just wanders off completely involved in thoughts and in particular in telling onself what one thinks again again and again.

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:

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:42 pm

The problem though is that most of the time that i'm lost in thoughts it is inner chatter, so it stops immediately upon observation. Bit like if a bodyguard drops in when it sees it and drags it away before you can blink your eye.
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:44 pm

Ytrog wrote:The problem though is that most of the time that i'm lost in thoughts it is inner chatter, so it stops immediately upon observation. Bit like if a bodyguard drops in when it sees it and drags it away before you can blink your eye.

And where do you see the problem there?
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:

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Ytrog » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:16 pm

I was wondering if it was a problem or just normal.

Normal?
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby Freawaru » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:57 pm

Ytrog wrote:I was wondering if it was a problem or just normal.

Normal?


I think it is normal in the sense that it happens to most humans. It is, IMO, no problem for samatha meditation. When the mind chatter stops with the arising of sati the mind can focus back on the object. It is, however, a problem for mindfulness meditation, which you seem to want to practice.

My sugesstion is to first increase the level of concentration so you can observe the surface thougths arising before they are actually on the surface. To increase the speed of your discernment. Sati should stabilize then and you can observe the chatter by momentary concentration.

For me it worked to cut all mind chatter the moment I became aware that it happend. To stop all verbal thoughts on the surface. Whenever I noticed a thought, any thought, arising I spoke in my mind verbally "don't think". After a while all other verbal chatter ceased and then I also stoped the "don't think" verbal thought by just cutting it the moment it wanted to arise. Like "don't think, don't think, don't thi, don't th, don't, do, d,..." When there was no verbal chatter at all I noticed that I still thought, but not on the surface. The concentration now was strong enough to catch each non-surface thought before it reached the surface. This way I learned to become aware of mind chatter while it arises - meaning, it still arises but I can observe it without interfering.

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:48 pm

Ytrog wrote:I was wondering if it was a problem or just normal.

Normal?

Freawaru sumed it up quite well.
I only differ from her post slightly in so far that I would say it isn't a problem neither for samatha nor vipassana. When sati develops up to a certain level idle inner chatter stops naturally. In case of samatha this supports calmness of the mind and in case of vipassana it supports development of insight because the distraction caused by inner chatter ceases (the mind stops running after verbal thoughts and settles down) and allows to "see more clearly" or to focus easier/concentrate more on a meditation object.

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:

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:49 pm

Ytrog wrote:I was wondering if it was a problem or just normal.

Normal?


Hi Ytrog

What you have here is the hindrance of doubt. Please note it- and get rid of it!

To think about it further- why do you assume it is a problem?
What are you trying to achieve in this meditation?

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:25 am

acinteyyo wrote:I only differ from her post slightly in so far that I would say it isn't a problem neither for samatha nor vipassana. When sati develops up to a certain level idle inner chatter stops naturally. ...

I agree, that's what I understand is supposed to happen and it's what I observe on retreats. As RYB says, why should it be a problem?

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby zavk » Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:48 am

Hi Ytrog

My attitude towards this is summed up very nicely by Joseph Goldstein in a Dhamma talk (sorry can't remember which one) I heard. He more or less suggests that we do not think of meditation as an exercise in silencing or stopping thoughts. Rather, it is about developing a different relationship with thoughts--not grasping or chasing after them, and certainly not identifying with them. In my limited experience, this recognition of the restless mind, of the ceaseless movement of thought, is in itself the thrust of the practice. In the past, I used to get upset with myself when I notice the restless mind--I'd think, 'Man, my mind is not settling down.' But in time, I've learnt to let go of such an expectation and simply observe the mind as it plays itself out. By simply accepting the restless mind as it is, without expecting thoughts to stop, I've found that I've been able to relate to my practice with greater ease, and also begin to take joy in sitting.

Of course I'm aware that according to certain teachings, it is said that as the mind becomes more and more concentrated, the mind would become very still. I have not acquired this level of proficiency so I can't comment. Such as it is, I'm happy to simply accept as it is that the mind is restless, that thoughts would constantly arise, and to return to the object of attention over and over again--this is more than enough for me to handle at this stage!

All the best.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Observing a wandering mind stops the thought immediately

Postby phil » Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:24 am

Hi, forgive me for not having read the whole thread, but is there likely to be any value in the content of all that mental dross that runs off during meditation? Well, I guess there could be noting of which defilements were at work behind the thoughts, but won't that just create more web spinning? Any valyable insights will rearise, I think. Then again, I am more a tranquility meditator than vip.
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)


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