Backsliding in my sitting meditation

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

Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Digity » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:06 pm

I don't fully understand what's going on, but I feel like I've been backsliding in my sitting meditation. Before I could at least have a few sittings where I got fully concentrated on my breath. However, now it never happens. It's been like this for weeks and weeks. I just can't bring myself to concentrate on the breath. I would think with practice I'd get better at this, but it seems like I just can't do it...I can stay with the breath, but I can't get fully absorbed in it. I'm trying to play with the breath and stuff to see if that would help. Sometimes I get glimpses of getting back to that concentration, but it doesn't last long. Anyone experience this before? Any advice? Should I take break from meditating? I'm guessing not.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby daverupa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:59 pm

Take a break from seeking to have the meditation be one way or another. This dissatisfaction has arisen; find the causes for that hindrance, yes?

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    "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: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:17 pm

daverupa wrote:Take a break from seeking to have the meditation be one way or another. This dissatisfaction has arisen; find the causes for that hindrance, yes?

:heart:


:goodpost:

Yeah, dont judge, just do the method and let it be what it is.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby manas » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 pm

Hi Digity,

while I also agree with letting go of expectations in a meditation session, in favour of just doing the practice to the best of your ability (while still remaining sensitive to what works and what doesn't so you can remember that), I also think that if a significant obstacle has arisen, it is ok to seek some guidance from a wise and experienced meditation teacher, who knows the terrain, has probably been where you are right now, and might be able to guide you through. Some make themselves available to talk over the phone.

So I will not advise regarding meditation itself, because I really think that is best left to an expert, and I mean someone who has mastered the method you are engaged in. But I will remind you (remind because I'm sure you already know the following) that 1. all of the Noble Eightfold Path, every single factor, matters a lot and we can always work on improving the other factors, regardless of how our meditation practice is faring at present. We 'western, intellectual types' often tend to be too overly focussed on the samma sati / samma samadhi limbs of the Path (as compared to the other six limbs), in what I think is a slightly unbalanced way (please note - I include myself in that admonishment, and I apologise for generalising :) ). 2. Virtue. I heard more than one meditation teacher say that most problems come not from wrong technique on the cushion, but from what we do off the cushion. Increase and purify Virtue, that can help. 3. Be kind to yourself.

:anjali:
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby marc108 » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:33 pm

We all go through those periods. Could you say specifically what's happening and describe your practice a bit?
"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: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby alan... » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:38 am

Digity wrote:I don't fully understand what's going on, but I feel like I've been backsliding in my sitting meditation. Before I could at least have a few sittings where I got fully concentrated on my breath. However, now it never happens. It's been like this for weeks and weeks. I just can't bring myself to concentrate on the breath. I would think with practice I'd get better at this, but it seems like I just can't do it...I can stay with the breath, but I can't get fully absorbed in it. I'm trying to play with the breath and stuff to see if that would help. Sometimes I get glimpses of getting back to that concentration, but it doesn't last long. Anyone experience this before? Any advice? Should I take break from meditating? I'm guessing not.


for me what made it solidify is learning jhana. it's such a blissful state that the mind runs toward it full speed every time you sit.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Nyorai » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:21 am

Use counting of breath, breath one to breath ten repeating these ten counts again. Alternatively the counting of Buddha name :sage:
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:57 pm

Digity wrote:I can stay with the breath, but I can't get fully absorbed in it.


It might just be that you're trying too hard. In the suttas there is the example of a musical instrument string which needs to be tight, but not too tight.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby kirk5a » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:18 pm

I post this excerpt from Ajaan Maha Boowa from time to time because it's a different take on breath meditation, than to be completely preoccupied with the breath indefinitely.
The same holds true if you focus on keeping the breath in mind. Whether the breath is heavy or refined, simply be aware of it as it normally is. Don't set up any expectations. Don't force the breath to be like this or that. Keep your awareness with the breath, because in meditating by taking the breath as your preoccupation, you're not after the breath. The breath is simply something for the mind to hold to so that you can reach the real thing, just as when you follow the tracks of an ox: You're not after the tracks of the ox. You follow its tracks because you want to reach the ox. Here you're keeping track of the breath so as to reach the real thing: awareness. If you were to start out just by holding on to awareness, you wouldn't get any results, just as you wouldn't be sure of finding the ox if you simply went around looking for it. But if you follow its tracks, you're going to find it for sure. Your meditation word has to keep moving in. This is called following the tracks of the ox step by step until you reach the ox, or what knows: namely the mind.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... tml#tracks
"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: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Digity » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:21 am

manas wrote:Hi Digity,

while I also agree with letting go of expectations in a meditation session, in favour of just doing the practice to the best of your ability (while still remaining sensitive to what works and what doesn't so you can remember that), I also think that if a significant obstacle has arisen, it is ok to seek some guidance from a wise and experienced meditation teacher, who knows the terrain, has probably been where you are right now, and might be able to guide you through. Some make themselves available to talk over the phone.

I do have a teacher I can talk to and I plan to at some point if I can't get through things on my own. Although, I don't want to create a habit of running to the teacher every time something I don't like happens. :D

manas wrote:So I will not advise regarding meditation itself, because I really think that is best left to an expert, and I mean someone who has mastered the method you are engaged in. But I will remind you (remind because I'm sure you already know the following) that 1. all of the Noble Eightfold Path, every single factor, matters a lot and we can always work on improving the other factors, regardless of how our meditation practice is faring at present. We 'western, intellectual types' often tend to be too overly focussed on the samma sati / samma samadhi limbs of the Path (as compared to the other six limbs), in what I think is a slightly unbalanced way (please note - I include myself in that admonishment, and I apologise for generalising :) ). 2. Virtue. I heard more than one meditation teacher say that most problems come not from wrong technique on the cushion, but from what we do off the cushion. Increase and purify Virtue, that can help. 3. Be kind to yourself.

:anjali:

Yeah, I think this is one of my biggest problems. There's certain aspects of the path where I'm weak in and I don't give them the necessary attention. I need to get it through my thick head that you need to given all aspects of the teachings balanced attention.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Digity » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:33 am

marc108 wrote:We all go through those periods. Could you say specifically what's happening and describe your practice a bit?

I do breath meditation and focus mostly on the breath at the nose. The thing I'm experiencing is a kind of dullness...at times I feel like my mind is just resisting my desire to pay attention to my meditation object. When this happens the mind just feels shut off. That's what I noticed today during my walking meditation. It's not always happening...there's times when I'm focused, but it's not consistent enough. I think before with my breath meditation, the times when I did get concentrated, my mind was more engaged. I'm lacking that feeling of wanting to be engaged in the breath like I did before. I think that's my problem, but I'm not sure. I'll try and pay closer attention to see what's going on.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:42 am

An interesting comment that Ajahn Brahm makes repeatedly is that meditation isn't forcing the mind to concentrate on one point. My Vipassana teacher also said that focussing on the breath isn't meditation but a concentration exercise. This is a bit surprising, considering how many people do meditate this way, so I am not sure how to take this. At any rate, just thinking out loud (or through the keyboard rather), maybe if focussing on the breath for a longer amount of time doesn't work, you could try exploring your distractions mindfully (vipassana) to both cultivate acceptance and to just discover where all of that restlessness or distraction comes from? I am in the process of trying out this new kind of meditation where I sit down at a miserable moment deliberately (tiredness, backpain, you name it) and focus on letting go of expectations and try and train myself in accepting the unsuccesfulness of that meditation session which is sort of doomed from the beginning. You could say this is sort of a self-directed metta meditation. Not sure yet how this works out but it's an interesting approach.
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Re: Backsliding in my sitting meditation

Postby Digity » Fri May 10, 2013 12:26 pm

I spoke to my teacher and described what was happening. He thinks that my awareness is developing more and that I'm just more aware now of what's going on. I honesty thought the same thing at one point....so hearing it from him too is encouraging. Anyway, he said it was a good sign and to continue with the practice.
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