The secret to a successful meditation session

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

Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:19 am

Given that those Pavlovian factors exist tsuzumi, and they certainly do, I think it behoves us to utilise them to positive ends rather than simply regarding them as irrelevant or even somehow dangerous. The problem comes when the conditioned response is seen as explaining a range of functions that are clearly not a result of simple operant conditioning. But yes, in my case I also have a mug of tea to hand, but it is strong Yorkshire tea at room temperature. Retros remark about for Si Lankans its always tea time is also true of Brits. I light incense also and arrange my cushions, to send a message to my discursive mind that its meditation time, dont bother me for a while.
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby imagemarie » Fri Feb 26, 2010 10:03 am



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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:16 am

Hi Retro
Interesting question!

After having a think about it, for me any 'unit of practice' be it meditation or something else (dana, listening to dhamma, keeping precepts) would be a success if
it led to a change in myself
temporary or permanent
towards reducing craving, aversion or delusion.

I think it is important to know what craving, aversion and delusion is, then know what it feels like in the mind (and it's manifestations in speech and actions) and be able to determine whether the practice is having a beneficial effect. Otherwise without this internal appraisal you might as well be pouring water into barrel without a bottom. So in that sense I think it is important to know whether a unit of practice is 'successful' ie leading to where you want it to go- but that does not mean clinging to the results. IMO however it would be better to cling to the results ('caga'- it gives rise to effort) rather that practising not know what you are practising for.

with metta
With Metta

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Mudita
& Upekkha
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby effort » Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:38 pm

i think The secret to a successful meditation session is ....

to let it go...

ps: i heard it somewhere i think!!
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Guy » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:02 am

Hi All,

I just got back from my first weekend meditation retreat led by Ajahn Cittapalo. I think one of the most important thing I learned there was that "there is no way to peace, peace is the way". In other words, it doesn't matter what you experience in meditation so much, just make peace with it (call it metta and uppekha if you like), that way you are creating good meditation kamma and avoiding creating bad meditation kamma. Even if thoughts and feelings based on the defilements arise it is better, in my opinion, to just be aware of them in terms of anatta and anicca rather than to identify with them and think "oh no I am a failure at meditation, I still have strong cravings, I still have lots of ill-will". Even when mindfulness isn't all that strong, just make peace with dull-mindedness.

Still nothing original to add to the topic, but for me it seems to be an important point that can't be over-stated.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:00 am

Nice post, Guy!
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:18 pm

I am not one for pre-meditation rituals (I don't like any smelly things like incense and why lit candles when I close my eyes anyway?). All I use to prepare is a body-scan to relax the physical body and focus the mind. Otherwise I go with what acinteyyo wrote:

acinteyyo wrote:This always has been very helpful for me:

1. take some time before you start the meditation session to allow the mind to calm down naturally from the stirring "outside-world" and its commitments (e.g. do a brief chanting or something else which helps the mind to turn towards a supporting attitude for the planed meditation)

2. think about or contemplate on what you are going to do at this meditation session (e.g. metta-bhavana, anapanasati, kayanupassana, vedananukpassana, objects, anicca-dukkha-anatta, 4NT, dependent origination, samatha, vipassana and so on...) and go for one particular task (except in case if you use for example metta-bhavana as a preparatory work to initially calm down the mind (point 1) and then you go on to do anapanasati (point 3), that's also okay)

3. when you feel readily prepared, leave all the worldly commitments aside and keep in mind that your only exercise for the time you meditate will be the meditation - your total commitment is required - don't allow anything to disturb you while meditating and remind yourself if necessary that except for the planed task nothing else will be your business from the moment on when you started your meditation

4. meditate

5. you shouldn't stand up directly after meditation and immediately resume worldly live. take some time after you finished meditation and try to maintain the state of mind for some time. you maybe get the chance to observe how the mind gradually withdraws from the state developed in meditation

best wishes, acinteyyo
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby meindzai » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:02 pm

I don't think there is anything wrong in trying to set up certain conditions for a meditation session to be more "successful," however you are defining success. In fact this is what Sila is all about, isn't it?

If I'm judging meditative success based on the factors like tranquility, etc. sila is probably the main thing. Also proper moderation in exercise, food, caffeine, sleep, television, radio, and having a clean house. I'm not a huge advocate of feng shui but it does at least seem that having a messy house reflects somehow internally, and if one is messy the other will be messy. Props like incense, etc. are helpful pavlovian sort of devices, but the trick is not to get too attached to them. I do use incense and a candle on my altar as it just kind of establishes "this is the time for meditation and not for other activities."

-M
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby RayfieldNeel » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:04 pm

I've never had a "pre-meditative" ritual, but as a result of this thread I've begun experimenting with doing a brief metta prior to sitting. First impressions are that I start in a "clearer" place, if that makes any sense.
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Guy » Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:31 pm

meindzai wrote:I don't think there is anything wrong in trying to set up certain conditions for a meditation session to be more "successful," however you are defining success. In fact this is what Sila is all about, isn't it?

If I'm judging meditative success based on the factors like tranquility, etc. sila is probably the main thing. Also proper moderation in exercise, food, caffeine, sleep, television, radio, and having a clean house. I'm not a huge advocate of feng shui but it does at least seem that having a messy house reflects somehow internally, and if one is messy the other will be messy. Props like incense, etc. are helpful pavlovian sort of devices, but the trick is not to get too attached to them. I do use incense and a candle on my altar as it just kind of establishes "this is the time for meditation and not for other activities."

-M


:goodpost:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Freawaru » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:32 pm

Hi Meindzai,

meindzai wrote:I don't think there is anything wrong in trying to set up certain conditions for a meditation session to be more "successful," however you are defining success.


Agreed. However, it seems that different persons react differently to different conditions, it is quite a journey to find out what works best for oneself.

Another condition I heard is very helpful to many is to meditate in a group or/and the presence of a teacher. Just like with rituals I tried it but it showed no effect whatsoever in my case (don't know what is different in me) but I have heard this so often that I would say "give it a try" just as in the case of rituals.
On the danger of sounding zenish: whatever works. :smile:

In fact this is what Sila is all about, isn't it?


I don't think so. Sila is an inner condition, f.e. one of them the self-consistency of a personality. There are people who are more or less always in some state of lying to themselves, this lying takes so much energy, produces so much diversity, they can't concentrate properly on their own mind (not to mention develop awareness of their own mind).

I don't know why but there are many people who can't stand it if they have done something wrong, whatever it is. They can't face failure or being wrong, even for the small things. So they are in a constant struggle to alter the facts in their mind in such a way that whatever happens it is either the fault of others or did not happen at all. In their mind they are busy altering memories, meanings, intentions and so on. They are not aware that they do so. They really believe what they say, what they remember, what they imagine. They do not lie intentionally to others but they lie to themselves. It is my observation that this type of persons can't meditate at all because they can't concentrate on their own mind. Concentration on other things, work, crosswords, etc seems to be intact but not on their minds and even body is reduced.

I suspect they develop this lack of inner sila because they were taught that external (social) sila is important and has to be kept at all cost.
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:16 pm

Freawaru wrote:I don't think so. Sila is an inner condition, f.e. one of them the self-consistency of a personality. There are people who are more or less always in some state of lying to themselves, this lying takes so much energy, produces so much diversity, they can't concentrate properly on their own mind (not to mention develop awareness of their own mind).

I don't know why but there are many people who can't stand it if they have done something wrong, whatever it is. They can't face failure or being wrong, even for the small things. So they are in a constant struggle to alter the facts in their mind in such a way that whatever happens it is either the fault of others or did not happen at all. In their mind they are busy altering memories, meanings, intentions and so on. They are not aware that they do so. They really believe what they say, what they remember, what they imagine. They do not lie intentionally to others but they lie to themselves. It is my observation that this type of persons can't meditate at all because they can't concentrate on their own mind. Concentration on other things, work, crosswords, etc seems to be intact but not on their minds and even body is reduced.

I suspect they develop this lack of inner sila because they were taught that external (social) sila is important and has to be kept at all cost.


You are bringing up good points about one of my favorite subjects - cognitive dissonance. But I don't think that this diminishes the value or sila as described in the eightfold path - which is not so complicated. Abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants. I think that the fouth precept is the most difficult, especially when self-deception is taken into account . But I think that if one is a sincere practitioner of the precepts then one can eventually arrive at the true spirit of the precept , which includes clarity and honesty towards oneself. I think meditation is supportive of this, but is itself supported by the day to day "external" sial.

-M
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby nathan » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:44 am

...is the session before that, etc..

:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby catmoon » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:27 pm

nathan wrote:...is the session before that, etc..

:anjali:


Practice practice practice, hm? :jumping:
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby BlackBird » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:16 pm

I think the very fact that you've sat down to meditate is a success unto itself.

metta
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby nathan » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:20 pm

catmoon wrote:
nathan wrote:...is the session before that, etc..

:anjali:


Practice practice practice, hm? :jumping:


Yes and no. To be effective and expedient for it's purposes meditation should persisted in, unbroken for as many days, months or years that it takes to achieve the given objectives. That meditation is more commonly divided up into relatively brief and sparse periods of time spread over many years changes the context of that activity in significant ways. So, in terms of the objectives that the Buddha indicated should be sought for by meditating monks, the division of meditation into brief and intermittent sessions is most certainly a prescription for continual failure. However, given that people today have all sorts of other objectives in mind when they apply themselves to the practice of meditation, the degree to which a meditation 'session' could be considered a success will depend upon whatever those objectives might be. If people have no objectives whatsoever or objectives only after the fact it would then be a simple matter of whether a person chose to describe the given 'session' as successful or not.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:36 am

catmoon wrote:Aren't they all succesful?


Not if you can't concentrate on the object of meditation. That's why we need a lot of practice. :tongue:

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Re: The secret to a successful meditation session

Postby salmon » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:47 am

1. Maintain a clear conscience (ie. keep your precepts ALL THE TIME). A clear sila means that nothing can shake/shock/shame you when you are sitting.

2. When the mind is at a calm, comfortable state, regardless of whether or not I am in a meditation room, just make use of that 5 minutes to meditate. It's akin to a power nap. More effective than a "forced sitting".


This may not work for everyone, but it works for me :smile:
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