Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

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

Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Vardali » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:30 am

Hi there,

I got a question concerning my meditation practice.
I am not a good meditator, I have to admit - I keep at it regularly, I enter into in a positive frame of mind (yet) and I think I am pretty ok on the body awareness part and also have long since stopped thinking about future/past and following up on the thoughts.

But still, I have thoughts - they flashing up briefly, nothing I need to follow, but obviously I notice them. They are easy enough to let go but they are like inner comments on my sitting feelings - "this feels so and so", "there are my toes", "long breath - deep breath" etc. etc. And lately, I get these repeated thought flashes of "this is boring" or "I am bored".

Just that - I can put it behind me and not reflect on it during the meditation, but I have been thinking about it afterwards. It seems like I am actualy relieved when my sitting period is over. So I am a bit concerned that through this awareness of my boredom, I might develop an aversion to sitting and mediate.

So far, I can start meditate in a positive mindframe. But if I am so glad to have "done" my meditation time, isn't it probable it will develop into some sort of drugery like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom? And then I might just develop an "meditation aversion" :shrug: I would like to find a way to minimize this risk.

I have tried to count on my breath but this is even worse - I have a long standing habit of visualizing numbers, so my counting immediately leaves brilliant flashes of 6 - 5 - 4 ... in my mind - which distracts me from my breath more than my thought fragments.

Any suggestions if there is anything I can do about this or do I just have to "suffer" this and perhaps exercise some loving-kindness to my stubborn mind? ;)
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby piotr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:46 am

Hi, :smile:

One solution which works for me is to make object of yor meditation (for example, a breath) more interesting. Take a look what it exactly does to your body, which kind of breathing feels good, and try to refine your breathing proccess. This will make meditation more interactive. It seems to me that you are bored with it, because your meditation is very passive.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:09 pm

Hi Vardali
Boredom is quite possibly the manifestation of the hindrance of restlessness. All of us have to contend with restlessness at some point or other during our practice. In your situation, I would examine my practice and whether I was practicing as instructed. Boredom also indicates that you have dropped your awareness of the object of meditation and are reacting to, perhaps, the unpleasant vedanas (sensations) which is arousing slightly aversive feelings towards meditation.

If you are practicing anapanasati, then visualising bright flashing numbers as breath counters may in-fact be distracting your mind away from the breath-object.
For some inspiration, you might like to read Ledi Sayadaw's 'Manual of Respiration (Anapana-dipani): http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html
or the section on Anapana meditation in the Visuddhimagga and to follow the instructions precisely and maintain your attention on the object for longer and longer periods.
All the best with your practice.

Ben
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Vardali » Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:53 pm

piotr wrote:Hi, :smile:

One solution which works for me is to make object of yor meditation (for example, a breath) more interesting. Take a look what it exactly does to your body, which kind of breathing feels good, and try to refine your breathing proccess. This will make meditation more interactive. It seems to me that you are bored with it, because your meditation is very passive.

Thank you, Piotr, I think you are right.

Funnily enough, after having posted this, I stumbled (accidentally) over a talk by Sister Vayama who tackled that particular issue (Making Peace with Conditions). She actually suggested something along these lines too. So this is very helpful to try out :)

Ben wrote:...
For some inspiration, you might like to read Ledi Sayadaw's 'Manual of Respiration (Anapana-dipani): http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Anapa ... asati.html
or the section on Anapana meditation in the Visuddhimagga and to follow the instructions precisely and maintain your attention on the object for longer and longer periods.
All the best with your practice.

Ben

Ben, thanks a lot too, and I will look into that reference. Yes, I did see it as a hindrance but finding the solution to it is not always as obious to oneself than to someone else. So I am grateful for all the points :)

Metta :thanks:
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby piotr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:18 pm

Hi, :smile:

Vardali wrote:Thank you, Piotr, I think you are right.

Funnily enough, after having posted this, I stumbled (accidentally) over a talk by Sister Vayama who tackled that particular issue (Making Peace with Conditions). She actually suggested something along these lines too. So this is very helpful to try out :)


I hope you will benefit by this approach. You may find bhante Thanissaro's instructions helpful too. Especially this one:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#imagine
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby PeterB » Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:31 pm

We can make friends with boredom rather than adding boredom to our list of things to be in aversion to. :smile: Of course if we do make friends with it, it stops being boredom. Then we need to be sure that it hasnt become too cosy. Its always a little adjustment to the right, then another to the left etc. Like steering a car.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Jechbi » Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:32 pm

Hi there, Vardali,
Vardali wrote:But still, I have thoughts - they flashing up briefly, nothing I need to follow, but obviously I notice them. They are easy enough to let go but they are like inner comments on my sitting feelings - "this feels so and so", "there are my toes", "long breath - deep breath" etc. etc. And lately, I get these repeated thought flashes of "this is boring" or "I am bored".
To me this sounds like a really good thing, a sign that you're doing something right. In my opinion, if we go into sitting practice with the expectation that things are just going to get better, that thoughts never will arise, that it's going to be engaging and interesting all the time, then we're not being realistic. The reality is that things change all the time. Great that you had some period of stable, easy sitting, but now that's over with and you're getting to some meat. Boredom, that's rich stuff. Be happy it's coming up. Sit with it for as long as it manifests. It's going to be ... boring! Really boring. Wow. You get to work on that now, so good for you.

And if it shifts to aversion, wow. Now you've really got some good stuff coming up. You're definitely doing something right. And guess what? It won't last forever. A day will come when you'll get bliss again, and you'll be all happy that you're "back in the groove." But guess what? That won't last forever, either.

Work with what you get. Don't have expectations. That's key, in my view.

Vardali wrote:Just that - I can put it behind me and not reflect on it during the meditation
Don't put it anywhere. Just allow it to be there, perhaps subtly in the background. Don't try to shove it around.

Vardali wrote:... I would like to find a way to minimize this risk.
Be a risk-taker!

Ben's right, make sure you're following your instructions correctly. And if you are, then be kind to yourself. What you're describing is, in my view, a common experience, and yeah, folks get discouraged. That's all part of of the process, right up to and including the discouragement part. To me it sounds like you're doing great.

Metta
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby piotr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:37 pm

Hi, :smile:

Jechbi wrote: Boredom, that's rich stuff. Be happy it's coming up. Sit with it for as long as it manifests. It's going to be ... boring! Really boring. Wow. You get to work on that now, so good for you.


In my opinion to work with that one needs really strong power of concentration. Without this power it's really easy fall into destructive attitude: 'let it be, because that's how things are'.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby genkaku » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:36 pm

Is the one who is bored bored?

Basically, we all face one obstacle or another (and another and another and another, perhaps), and ... well ... just keep going. If the discipline of meditation were nothing more than a means to some imagined bliss, everyone would do it. Just keep going ... and leave the bliss to the pill-poppers. :smile:
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby imagemarie » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:33 pm

leave the bliss to the pill-poppers


Is that a fair comparison to make on a Theravadin forum??
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby genkaku » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:42 pm

imagemarie wrote:
leave the bliss to the pill-poppers


Is that a fair comparison to make on a Theravadin forum??


Sorry if I said the wrong thing. It struck me as fair on a human forum, but maybe not.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:50 pm

imagemarie wrote:
leave the bliss to the pill-poppers


Is that a fair comparison to make on a Theravadin forum??


Its fine.
No vedana is a goal, and bliss is just another vedana.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Vardali » Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:52 am

Thank you, all :)

I am keeping at it, no worries. It doesn't seem to be such an unusual problem, so I guess it's trying to see what will work for me.

And my pillpopping days have been over for a while, so no temptation :rolleye: :coffee:
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby PeterB » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:29 am

Its not at all unusual Vardali, not everyone is as prepared to be open about it as you were. But, the fact is that for a long time for many of us meditation is hard work, and for a number of reasons. Actually what you are experiencing is less tricky to deal with than " blissing out" complete with pink kittens, which in my view presents a bigger obstacle to clear understanding than good old reliable boredom. You know where you are with boredom, its very fertile soil.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby piotr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 8:09 am

Hi, :smile:

Ben wrote:No vedana is a goal, and bliss is just another vedana.


Some feelings, when they are based on seclusion from passion-&-desire for objects of the five senses, may turn into a means to the goal – they are part of concentration practice. And the Buddha said that one of five qualities which leads to disappearance of the true Dhamma is a disrespect for the concentration (SN 16.13).
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:01 am

Hi Piotr,

piotr wrote:Hi, :smile:

Ben wrote:No vedana is a goal, and bliss is just another vedana.


Some feelings, when they are based on seclusion from passion-&-desire for objects of the five senses, may turn into a means to the goal – they are part of concentration practice. And the Buddha said that one of five qualities which leads to disappearance of the true Dhamma is a disrespect for the concentration (SN 16.13).


I think you know what I mean, which is, bliss or some other superfine vedana (sensation/feeling) should not be taken as the goal for path. All vedana are anicca, all vedanas are unsatisfactory and all vedanas are not-self. As the Buddha himself said: sabbe dhamma anatta. Rather than mistaking a vedana like bliss as Nibbana, one should utilise thee experience as an object of vipassana.
IMy comments were not indicative of disrespect for bhavana which would be completely counter to everything I hold dear.
Kind regards

Ben
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby piotr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:13 pm

Hi, :smile:

Ben wrote:I think you know what I mean, which is, bliss or some other superfine vedana (sensation/feeling) should not be taken as the goal for path. All vedana are anicca, all vedanas are unsatisfactory and all vedanas are not-self. As the Buddha himself said: sabbe dhamma anatta. Rather than mistaking a vedana like bliss as Nibbana, one should utilise thee experience as an object of vipassana.


Sure, this are important insights, but they stand almost at the end of the path. And they are not a goal either – they are a means. Take a look at SN 12.23 and Dhp 277-279, where this is clearly stated by the Buddha. And so is concentration, which makes good use out of certain kind of feelings. It's just unfair to compare this to a situation of a person who is addicted to medicines – the Buddha gave us much better similes.
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby imagemarie » Sun Aug 16, 2009 6:07 pm

Thanks piotr.

:anjali:
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby Jechbi » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:04 pm

Hi piotr,

My perception is that this is a sitting practice-related thread, and therefore the most useful comments will be those that support and encourage such practice for those who choose to engage in it. If you agree, then it might be more helpful to find common points of understanding than to highlight perceived disagreement.

Toward that end, please notice that Ben was very careful to write that no vedana is "a goal." He did not say it is "the goal." With regard to other comments related to bliss and pill-taking, I don't read any of that as disparaging blissful states, if that's your concern. And I agree it's important to understand that those states also are anicca.

I think we also can agree that the Buddha was a master of similes, so any simile we give probably won't measure up to that standard. (Not to stir that pot of gold with a ten-foot pole ... ;) )

I think Ben is talking about vedana-nirodha as encapsulated in these words of the Buddha: "Sabbavedanasu vitaragovitarago, sabbam vedamaticca vedagu so" found amid Sabhiya's questions (here's a link:
http://books.google.com/books?id=o5zXeK ... q=&f=false
if someone has a better link, that would be great.)

Metta
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But never soddens what is open;
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Re: Bored with meditation - solution or acceptance?

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Aug 16, 2009 8:28 pm

So boredom has arisen- is reality not giving enough distraction? is the present moment not fun enough? it IS boring, it doesn't satisfy our desires, this reality. we go through life from one distraction to the next. yet with our breath, here we are faced with reality -- and yet we look for another distraction. we see it as a problem. yet ..wait for the shocker... this is not a problem- it is part of the solution- you are beginning to see dukka- unsatisfactoriness of phenomena. Our minds arent used to seeing it- it wants to run away from this insight- because that is what it is trained to do. Scary stuff. The path is right through that door that you dont want to go through. It takes a Buddha to find that door.

If you did- the first response will be nibbida- dinenchantment ('is that all there is???'). you keep on continuing to see this, despite this thought. then after some time you will get used to it-it gets easier- but with the full insight of the futility of phenomena- this is viraga- dispassion. If you continue to watch without stopping- you will get into nirodha- cessation-everything will look like they keep passing away- you will be focused on endings. if you continue even further- and with a bit of good kamma- you might even experience magga-phala (if you get past the non-self hurdle earlier on).

Just keep watching- watch the aversion as well- know that this is reality- accept it- watch it-let it be- but dont turn you gaze away- otherwise mara will strike again and you will be blinded once again.
With Metta

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& Upekkha
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