Need advice on my meditation experience

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Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Digity » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:46 pm

I've been meditating consistently for a few months now. I'm up to 25 minutes of sitting meditation, which I do after I wake up. Before I go to bed I do 20 minutes of walking meditation. I want to start including metta meditation in my day too. I'll probably start off with 15 minutes per day and gradually increase it along with my other meditation practices.

Anyway, I've been meditating over the months and a handful or so of times I've been able to reach what I believe is "access concentration". My experience is that I'm absorbed with the breath and thoughts are still there, but they're faint and in the background. I feel very zoned in with the breath and focused there. However, I've only been able to achieve this level of concentration a few times and it's usually what I'm striving for each time I sit down to meditate. If I get up from a meditation session and didn't achieve access concentration, which is the case most of the time, I feel a little upset. The thing is, it's very rare that I even achieve it. So, most of my experiences of meditation are moments of concentration mixed in with distracting thoughts. I don't know what to do....should I just continue as is? Is it wrong for me to strive for access concentration? Am I doing something wrong that I can't achieve it more consistently? Should I just learn to sit with what is? Thoughts?
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:18 pm

If you craving for a particular meditative experience - it becomes a barrier.
You should just meditate without expectation. Your job is merely to observe the meditation object.
If you have an exotic experience, keep in mind that it is also ephemeral impersonal and transient phenomena that becomes a source of suffering if clung to.
Just observe.
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: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:48 pm

I agree with Ben. Treat meditation as the goal, rather than the path to the goal. [My experience is far less than Ben's]
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby marc108 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:51 pm

Digity wrote:...



Ajahn Brahm has a useful simile for the question 'why cant we have good meditation every time'... he says its like working a job... you dont get paid everyday. you work all week, and at the end of the week the paycheck comes. meditation is similar.

it's ok and perfectly normal to want better meditation. its a good thing, IF it's properly channeled. wanting to sit more and deepen your commitment to the practice is a healthy way to channel that energy, getting upset and developing striving after specific states is not. in your case, dont trip out too much about what ever state you're getting into and for sure don't 'try' to get any specific state every time you sit. just follow the breath as deep as you can each time. that type of striving for a state will just add dis-ease and restlessness to your meditation in my experience.

start sitting for longer times.. say 1 hour and a time. the 20 minute mark is when things really just start to settle down for me & i think if you start to sit for an hour each day you will be able to more regularly experience that stillness that is so enjoyable. if you start sitting for longer periods things will really open up. you can start watching the breath or doing mindfulness practices during the day. take a serious look at your Sila and see where it can be improved. take a look at how you can better guard the sense doors.

in my experience, once you have the basic method of meditation down, deepening your meditation is a matter of adequate time and energy for practice and adjusting the external life factors in a way that's conducive.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:06 pm

Digity wrote:I've been meditating consistently for a few months now. I'm up to 25 minutes of sitting meditation, which I do after I wake up. Before I go to bed I do 20 minutes of walking meditation. I want to start including metta meditation in my day too. I'll probably start off with 15 minutes per day and gradually increase it along with my other meditation practices.

Anyway, I've been meditating over the months and a handful or so of times I've been able to reach what I believe is "access concentration". My experience is that I'm absorbed with the breath and thoughts are still there, but they're faint and in the background. I feel very zoned in with the breath and focused there. However, I've only been able to achieve this level of concentration a few times and it's usually what I'm striving for each time I sit down to meditate. If I get up from a meditation session and didn't achieve access concentration, which is the case most of the time, I feel a little upset. The thing is, it's very rare that I even achieve it. So, most of my experiences of meditation are moments of concentration mixed in with distracting thoughts. I don't know what to do....should I just continue as is? Is it wrong for me to strive for access concentration? Am I doing something wrong that I can't achieve it more consistently? Should I just learn to sit with what is? Thoughts?

First off, congratulations on putting together a sitting schedule - the fact that you're meditating consistently at all is worth being joyful about.

Anyway, your question about "striving" for access concentration is an important one. The Buddha does tell us to "cultivate, develop, and pursue" the pleasure of meditation:

MN 66 wrote:Now, any pleasure & happiness that arises dependent on these five strings of sensuality is called sensual pleasure, a filthy pleasure, a run-of-the-mill pleasure, an ignoble pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is not to be cultivated, not to be developed, not to be pursued, that it is to be feared.

"Now, there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana ... [the Jhana formula] ... This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.


So first off, I would like to make it clear that you should, indeed, be excited by and interested in finding access concentration and generally moving forward on the path towards Jhana and its myriad pleasures.

Furthermore, in the Buddha's awakening story in MN 36, he states:

"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?' I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities, but that pleasure is not easy to achieve with a body so extremely emaciated."


With this in mind, I would first just like to reiterate that there is no problem with enjoying and even desiring meditative absorption and pleasure; don't feel as though access concentration or other heightened states are somehow 'naughty' or unwholesome. They form a concrete backbone to the practice and are a wonderful object towards which to be motivated.

Many Buddhists today seem to be afraid to give meditation a point beyond pure, unbroken equanimity, but the Buddha clearly saw meditation as an activity of more than just passive awareness; we are to direct our attention towards that which leads to dispassion and strive with energy towards the absorptions that blind Mara. Respectfully, I'm going to have to disagree with Ben's statement that you should "just observe"; I think it is clear that there is a more active role in Buddhist meditation than that. So no, to your first question, it is not wrong to strive for access concentration or Jhana - in fact, striving earnestly for Jhana is about the most wholesome thing any being in existence can do!

The problem, as Ben does correctly point out, is that often that wholesome desire (or motivation, as desire is somewhat of a loaded word in Buddhism) to find a non-sensual pleasure can itself be a barrier if it becomes a clinging to the expectation of that experience. The desire to run a marathon is a good one, but your practice can be sidelined quite quickly if you believe you'll go all 26.2 miles in the first try; in the same way, it is important and necessary to strive for Jhana (and access concentration) but the expectation that it will always be there is a great way to bring about frustration and failure.

Unless you're commonly breaking your precepts, I doubt there is much you are doing that causes access concentration to elude you on occasion. In my daily practice, I can have very productive sits interspersed with days or even weeks of middling ones - but that is the name of the game. Ajahn Brahm likes to use the metaphor of the monthly paycheck; you put in a lot of sometimes unrewarding, even exhausting sits so that every once in a while, it pays off with an energizing and beautiful experience, in the same way that a man might put in days of work at a factory knowing that his hard work will bring an even bigger paycheck soon in the future.

So don't learn to just sit with what is, but don't consider any sit without access concentration to be a failure. Find a happy medium, where you see the value in every session but still strive with wholesome energy towards those periods which lead to greater samadhi. It's a hard balance, and being too complacent with a middling sit or too strenuous in your pursuit of Jhana can both derail your progress. I've been meditating for a few years now, and there are times when access concentration still eludes me, sometimes for days at a time! I tell you this not to discourage you, but to let you know that everyone faces these problems. Such is the life of a meditator. The most important thing is to keep your eyes on the goal while still understanding the reality of the situation.

Finally, I'd just like to reiterate again that it is valuable to reflect on the progress you have made up to this point and take joy from that. If you'd like to discuss specifics of your meditation "routine", I'm always available for PM.

Good luck friend.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:21 pm

And let us not forget that Buddhist practice is not about accumulating.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Viscid » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:43 pm

Yeah, I've found how deep the meditation is depends how much I can concentrate on my object.. and even if I consciously put the same initial effort into staying with the object ("OKAY! No going away from the breath ANYMORE!") whether I do or not seems to be based on factors not within my control.. and these factors change from day to day. Don't worry about it.

I've also found it better to dismiss such concepts as 'access concentration' or 'jhana,' really, the definitions of what constitutes either are so all over the place that it just introduces a lot of nonsense about what you are or aren't achieving. It's immediately obvious how decent your meditation is, and how it could be better-- as long as you have the right effort, I think the classification of meditation depths is rather superfluous.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:12 pm

Digity wrote:If I get up from a meditation session and didn't achieve access concentration, which is the case most of the time, I feel a little upset.
There is something to learn from that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Sylvester » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:03 am

Digity wrote:If I get up from a meditation session and didn't achieve access concentration, which is the case most of the time, I feel a little upset.


Well, no need to fret about the grief you experience. As MN 44 has it, that kind of grief based on this kind of longing is not triggered by the latent tendency to aversion. As Tilt advises, there is something to learn there. Check out the learning opportunities of such grief in MN 137, under the renunciation grief sections.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Dmytro » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:18 am

Hi Digity,

Digity wrote:Anyway, I've been meditating over the months and a handful or so of times I've been able to reach what I believe is "access concentration". My experience is that I'm absorbed with the breath and thoughts are still there, but they're faint and in the background. I feel very zoned in with the breath and focused there. However, I've only been able to achieve this level of concentration a few times and it's usually what I'm striving for each time I sit down to meditate.


It's like learning a skill: one has to figure how things work. Many people strive to achieve success, but few carefully study what's going on.

When exactly thoughts become faint and in the background? When they stand out?
When you feel more zoned? When you fell less zoned?

Just explore one by one such exact questions, and when you will know answers to them, achievements will beg you to come :^)
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Digity » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:04 am

Thanks for the replies! I found them helpful. I know I shouldn't get attached to the meditation experience. I guess it's going to take some time to train myself not to think that way. At least I'm aware of the problem. I find that if I keep bringing awareness to an issue it has a way of solving itself over time. It's strange how that works, but just continuously bringing attention to something, when it arises, seems to weaken its effect. It's almost as if you're exposing it for what it is each time you bring awareness to it. My hope is that I can bring awareness to my attachment to certain meditative states and doing so I'll eventually just drop that attachment.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:09 am

One thing that has been of benefit to me has been to take to heart my teacher's instruction:
"Just be aware, just be equanimous.
Every moment aware, every moment equanimous"
and
"Just observe"

Wishing you all the very best with your practice.
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


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Digity » Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:02 pm

My last two sittings I've had a much better attitude, I believe, and have just allowing things to unfold as they are. In the past sittings I think I've tried to control it more. Anyway, we'll see how it goes, but I think I understand better now the proper attitude to bring to my meditation sittings.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Dmytro » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:53 am

Congratulations, Digity!)
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Digity » Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:00 am

Today my meditation was very muddled, but at least this time I didn't get upset about it afterwards. However, I also don't want to become complacent in my meditation and just turn it into a session of zoning out for a while. I think you need to strike a balance between not striving too much but at the same time not getting complacent...similar to the lute string analogy the Buddha used. Today things felt a bit too lax, which isn't good.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby manas » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:30 am

Digity wrote:Today my meditation was very muddled, but at least this time I didn't get upset about it afterwards. However, I also don't want to become complacent in my meditation and just turn it into a session of zoning out for a while. I think you need to strike a balance between not striving too much but at the same time not getting complacent...similar to the lute string analogy the Buddha used. Today things felt a bit too lax, which isn't good.


Hi Digity

your post reminded me of something. That, of course we want to bring forth a non-muddled mind as much as possible, but when it is muddled - and trust me I've been there heaps of times - there's an interesting thing going on - the fact that you can perceive that it's actually 'muddled'! There is still something in the mind that has enough mindfulness to know how un-mindful it is, if you get my meaning. Sometimes - not all the time, but sometimes - when I try to kind of seek out and locate that knowing, look at it as it were, by focussing on the knowing, more of the knowing 'takes over' as it were, and some of the muddle-headedness is dispelled. Anyway, I experiment like this a bit, and sometimes I learn something from it.

Up, down, happy, sad, clear, muddled...states of mind are really impermanent, they change way faster than our bodies, actually...like cloud-shadows moving across a landscape...

_/I\_
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Digity » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:34 pm

I've decided to start following the instructions in Bhikkhu Buddhadasa - Mindfulness with Breathing: http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm

I focused on the long breath as described in section two. However, I close my eyes when I meditate even though it's suggested that the eyes stay open. Anyway, I focused on the entire breath throughout the body and started to feel concentrated. After a while I started to lose some feeling and perception of the body. I think this is a good sign...makes me think my concentration is developing.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:03 pm

Digity wrote:I've decided to start following the instructions in Bhikkhu Buddhadasa - Mindfulness with Breathing: http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm

I focused on the long breath as described in section two. However, I close my eyes when I meditate even though it's suggested that the eyes stay open. Anyway, I focused on the entire breath throughout the body and started to feel concentrated. After a while I started to lose some feeling and perception of the body. I think this is a good sign...makes me think my concentration is developing.

Honestly, despite being a follower of Buddhadasa as well, I've never understood his whole thing about keeping the eyes open either. So I wouldn't worry about that at all. Good to see things are working out though!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Need advice on my meditation experience

Postby Aloka » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:42 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Honestly, despite being a follower of Buddhadasa as well, I've never understood his whole thing about keeping the eyes open either. So I wouldn't worry about that at all.



Keeping the eyes open is also a Tibetan Buddhist practice. Although I now consider myself a Theravadin, I still keep my eyes open when meditating because for me it is definately preferable to do that.

"Different strokes for different folks" as the saying goes !

.
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