What am I doing wrong?

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 am I doing wrong?

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:04 pm

Hi everyone,

All I seem to do in my practice now is doze! I know this happens but all following the breath seems to do is make me feel drowsey to the point that I keep 'waking up' several times in each session. Starting to think I might just as well stay in bed :broke:

Also when I am concious, I seem to go through a dialogue that shifts from questioning my practice per se to ruminating on the benefits of other techniques. then, when I return to the breath I fall asleep (albeit for a matter onb a minute).

Any advice welcomed!

BB...
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:22 pm

Always precede sitting meditation with at least ten minutes of walking practice.

The Benefits of Walking Meditation
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby reflection » Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:34 pm

Over the years, while all other hindrances I can usually evade quite well -at least their grosser forms-, the hindrance of sleepiness/dullness is one I still have some troubles with as well. Because it's almost the direct opposite of mindfulness, it's hard to investigate it thoroughly. But I've learned about it quite a bit and this is only possible if you don't cut off your meditation even if you are sleepy.

It's not really that you are doing something wrong. This hindrance will be there until you are fully enlightened, that's the way it is. And even enlightened ones need sleep.

I've found out several reasons for it to occur:
#1 is the easiest, you are simply tired. Especially outside of a retreat setting, the mind is so active all of the time, it'll be sleepy and when it gets the chance, it'll go to sleep. This I found best to just sit out, just be tired, nod away a bit. Amazingly after such a meditation the mind can still be very peaceful, because you've made peace with it.

#2 is boredom with the breath. You don't find it interesting. If you can recognize this early on, you can evade the dullness just by seeing it. Other ways may be to change the attention to another body part, notice other sensations of breathing, change the breathing a bit etc. Everything to make it just a bit different.


That's my advice, but here is some advice that's probably better: :tongue:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB3cUVxfYBA
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby Beautiful Breath » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:54 pm

...thanks for your replies. I guess it reminds me of a statement by a Tibetan Practitioner when I told him how I was practicing, he said "A stone can sit and not think".

I think the implication was that any practices that dull the mind (in his opinion like breath work or silent witnessing) are useless. He would err more on the active analytical methods in his tradition - each to their own I guess!

BB...
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:41 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:...thanks for your replies. I guess it reminds me of a statement by a Tibetan Practitioner when I told him how I was practicing, he said "A stone can sit and not think".

Right. So if we can't manage to sit without thinking, it looks like we have less meditation skill than a stone. :smile:
"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: What am I doing wrong?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:28 am

Beautiful Breath wrote:...thanks for your replies. I guess it reminds me of a statement by a Tibetan Practitioner when I told him how I was practicing, he said "A stone can sit and not think".

I think the implication was that any practices that dull the mind (in his opinion like breath work or silent witnessing) are useless. He would err more on the active analytical methods in his tradition - each to their own I guess!

BB...

Each to his/her own, of course, but 'breath work' is (or can be) training in concentration, in paying attention to the here-and-now. It can also be (less usefully, IMO) a relaxation practice, and one that is particularly likely to lead to drowsiness. Good meditation is hard work, demanding the degree of effort that any creative discipline (musical performance, writing, etc) demands.
I agree with Bhikkhu Pesala that walking meditation before sitting is good. An alternative would be a short session of yoga, tai chi or qi gong, all of which will tend to shake off drowsiness without creating agitation.

:namaste:
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby manas » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:46 am

Beautiful Breath wrote:...thanks for your replies. I guess it reminds me of a statement by a Tibetan Practitioner when I told him how I was practicing, he said "A stone can sit and not think".


Yes, but that's not what we are trying to achieve here. I find that statement misses the point.

Beautiful Breath wrote:I think the implication was that any practices that dull the mind (in his opinion like breath work or silent witnessing) are useless. He would err more on the active analytical methods in his tradition - each to their own I guess!

BB...


''...practices that dull the mind"? No disrespect intended, but has he actually read the suttas?

The problem isn't anapanasati, it's the five hindrances. The problem is that we have not yet fully developed the skill of cleansing them out of the mind. What you are going through is normal, although not easy.

Abandoning sloth and drowsiness, he dwells with an awareness devoid of sloth and drowsiness, mindful, alert, percipient of light. He cleanses his mind of sloth and drowsiness.

(Thīnamiddhaṃ pahāya vigatathīnamiddho viharati ālokasaññī sato sampajāno. Thīnamiddhā cittaṃ parisodheti.)

...

"Now suppose that a man is bound in prison. As time passes, he eventually is released from that bondage, safe and sound, with no loss of property. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, I was bound in prison. Now I am released from that bondage, safe and sound, with no loss of my property.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

(Seyyathāpi mahārāja puriso bandhanāgāre baddho assa, so aparena samayena tamhā bandhanāgārā mucceyya sotthinā abbayena1, na cassa kiñci bhogānaṃ vayo, tassa evamassa: "ahaṃ kho pubbe bandhanāgāre baddho ahosiṃ. So'mhi etarahi tamhā bandhanāgārā mutto sotthinā abbayena. Natthi ca me kiñci bhogānaṃ vayo"ti. So tatonidānaṃ labhetha pāmojjaṃ, adhigaccheyya somanassaṃ)

(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)


I have not arrived at what i am about to describe very often, but ime, if we put forth sustained, steady effort, we can sort of 'ease into' a mind that doesn't mind having to steadily exert itself, because it has been cleansed of laziness. It is wakeful and alert. Now I have not experienced such a mind for long periods of time, or very often, but my limited experiences with it inspire me when things get tough because I know it is possible. And it does indeed feel very positive just like the Buddha says, it's kind of like the mind is more pure, virtuous, kind of heroic and at peace with sacrificing a bit of comfort for the sake of a higher goal. (& although having no form or colour, it is beautiful to perceive the presence of that mind.) One realizes, 'oh this is a better mind than usual.' I just wish I could be like that all the time, but alas that's not the case as yet!

Take heart, BB. Sloth & torpor is a bane for most of us, myself no less than you. The following might be of assistance also:

Denourishing of Sloth and Torpor

There is the element of rousing one's energy, the element of exertion, the element of continuous exertion; frequently giving wise attention to it — this is the denourishing of the arising of sloth and torpor that have not yet arisen and of the increase and strengthening of sloth and torpor that have already arisen.

— SN 46:51

...

Six things are conducive to the abandonment of sloth and torpor:

Knowing that overeating is a cause of it;
Changing the bodily posture;
Thinking of the perception of light;
Staying in the open air;
Noble friendship;
Suitable conversation.

These things, too, are helpful in conquering sloth and torpor:

The recollection of Death
To-day the effort should be made, Who knows if tomorrow Death will come?

— MN 131

Perceiving the suffering in impermanence

In a monk who is accustomed to see the suffering in impermanence and who is frequently engaged in this contemplation, there will be established in him such a keen sense of the danger of laziness, idleness, lassitude, indolence and thoughtlessness, as if he were threatened by a murderer with drawn sword.

— AN 7:46

Sympathetic joy

Cultivate the meditation on sympathetic joy! For by cultivating it, listlessness will disappear.

— MN 62

Contemplation of the spiritual journey

"I have to tread that path which the Buddhas, the Paccekabuddhas and the Great Disciples have gone; but by an indolent person that path cannot be trodden."

— Vism. IV,55

Contemplation of the Master's greatness

"Full application of energy was praised by my Master, and he is unsurpassed in his injunctions and a great help to us. He is honored by practicing his Dhamma, not otherwise."

— Ibid.

Contemplation on the greatness of the Heritage

"I have to take possession of the Great Heritage, called the Good Dhamma. But one who is indolent cannot take possession of it."

— Ibid.

How to stimulate the mind

How does one stimulate the mind at a time when it needs stimulation? If due to slowness in the application of wisdom or due to non-attainment of the happiness of tranquillity, one's mind is dull, then one should rouse it through reflecting on the eight stirring objects. These eight are: birth, decay, disease and death; the suffering in the worlds of misery; the suffering of the past rooted in the round of existence; the suffering of the future rooted in the round of existence; the suffering of the present rooted in the search for food.

— Vism. IV,63

(more at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#sloth)


One more thing just occurred to me. Recently I found that focussing on the sensation alone was unable to sustain my interest (and it is important to find something of interest!). And so I switched to perceiving how there (seems to be) 'nothing', then there is the in-breath, then a tiny gap, then the out-breath, then 'nothing' again...arising and cessation...over and over again. And if you like, be 'analytical' about that, if it helps keep you awake. In my case, the change of focus from the sensation of the breath to perception of it's arising and passing away resulted in the mind both calming down considerably, and being quite awake and alert. The perception of impermanence - watching how the breath, after arising, inevitably vanishes again, (in one sense, DIES) - tends to wake one up, ime. (Sometimes if I am really struggling, I get creative and say to myself, "ok I am going to witness the lifetime of a single breath from beginning to end". Just as one would observe a human life. So, bringing attention to the breath, we watch how it arises, reaches it's peak, declines, and then ceases. There, that was it - the 'lifetime of a single breath'.) Changing what aspect of the breathing process we are looking at can help.

with metta :anjali:
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:29 am

The only thing that ever worked for me with that difficulty was making sure i was getting enough calories, good nutrition and plenty of sleep.

For instance if you eat sugar and sit down to practice you will fall asleep when you have the sugar crash, or if you are hungry you will probably fall asleep.

I used to sometimes take a nap before sitting when i was having this difficulty.
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
-- Cato
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