Should we be tense or not tense?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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DeadBuddha
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Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:48 pm

Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

Hi. :meditate:

I practice Pa Auk style meditation.

Usually, when I concentrate on the breath, I make a lot of effort, so that I am very tense. This allows me to stay focused for 40-50 minutes almost non-stop on the breath. The concentration is good enough that I no longer feel the strong pain in my knees. If I put so much effort and tension, it's because I don't want my mind to be detached from the breathing, not even for a moment (is that a mistake ????!!!).
However, I don't think I've reached the access concentration.

But recently, I read that it is important to avoid being tense, and that it is better to be more relaxed.
I've tried this several times, and the problem is always the same: as soon as I relax a little, my mind wanders MUCH MORE and I have a LOT of trouble continuing the meditation.

What should I do?
Should I stop trying so hard to keep my mind from wandering?
Should I accept that it can wander and have to keep bringing it back to the breath?
Maybe the problem lies elsewhere?

Thank you very much.

May all beings annihilate ignorance.
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Ceisiwr
Posts: 20041
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by Ceisiwr »

DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:42 pm Hi. :meditate:

I practice Pa Auk style meditation.

Usually, when I concentrate on the breath, I make a lot of effort, so that I am very tense. This allows me to stay focused for 40-50 minutes almost non-stop on the breath. The concentration is good enough that I no longer feel the strong pain in my knees. If I put so much effort and tension, it's because I don't want my mind to be detached from the breathing, not even for a moment (is that a mistake ????!!!).
However, I don't think I've reached the access concentration.

But recently, I read that it is important to avoid being tense, and that it is better to be more relaxed.
I've tried this several times, and the problem is always the same: as soon as I relax a little, my mind wanders MUCH MORE and I have a LOT of trouble continuing the meditation.

What should I do?
Should I stop trying so hard to keep my mind from wandering?
Should I accept that it can wander and have to keep bringing it back to the breath?
Maybe the problem lies elsewhere?

Thank you very much.

May all beings annihilate ignorance.
Too much effort is a hindrance. Its about finding the right balance. When you do, the meditation will develop and become deeper and deeper with each sitting. Its a bit like weight training, but with the mind.
“The teacher willed that this world appear to me
as impermanent, unstable, insubstantial.
Mind, let me leap into the victor’s teaching,
carry me over the great flood, so hard to pass.”


- Tālapuṭattheragāthā
DeadBuddha
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:48 pm

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:52 pm
DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:42 pm Hi. :meditate:

I practice Pa Auk style meditation.

Usually, when I concentrate on the breath, I make a lot of effort, so that I am very tense. This allows me to stay focused for 40-50 minutes almost non-stop on the breath. The concentration is good enough that I no longer feel the strong pain in my knees. If I put so much effort and tension, it's because I don't want my mind to be detached from the breathing, not even for a moment (is that a mistake ????!!!).
However, I don't think I've reached the access concentration.

But recently, I read that it is important to avoid being tense, and that it is better to be more relaxed.
I've tried this several times, and the problem is always the same: as soon as I relax a little, my mind wanders MUCH MORE and I have a LOT of trouble continuing the meditation.

What should I do?
Should I stop trying so hard to keep my mind from wandering?
Should I accept that it can wander and have to keep bringing it back to the breath?
Maybe the problem lies elsewhere?

Thank you very much.

May all beings annihilate ignorance.
Too much effort is a hindrance. Its about finding the right balance. When you do, the meditation will develop and become deeper and deeper with each sitting. Its a bit like weight training, but with the mind.
Thank you. I'm having trouble finding the right balance.
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Ceisiwr
Posts: 20041
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by Ceisiwr »

DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 2:08 pm

Thank you. I'm having trouble finding the right balance.
It takes time
The Buddha said to him, “Soṇa, as you were in private retreat didn’t this thought come to your mind: ‘I am one of the Buddha’s most energetic disciples. Yet my mind is not freed from defilements by not grasping. But my family has wealth. I could enjoy that wealth and make merit. Why don’t I resign the training and return to a lesser life, so I can enjoy my wealth and make merit?’”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Soṇa? When you were still a layman, weren’t you a good player of the arched harp?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When your harp’s strings were tuned too tight, was it resonant and playable?”

“No, sir.”

“When your harp’s strings were tuned too slack, was it resonant and playable?”

“No, sir.”

“But when your harp’s strings were tuned neither too tight nor too slack, but fixed at an even tension, was it resonant and playable?”

“Yes, sir.”

“In the same way, Soṇa, when energy is too forceful it leads to restlessness. When energy is too slack it leads to laziness. So, Soṇa, you should apply yourself to energy and serenity, find a balance of the faculties, and learn the pattern of this situation.”

“Yes, sir,” Soṇa replied.

After advising Soṇa like this, the Buddha, as easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, vanished from the Cool Grove and reappeared on the Vulture’s Peak.

After some time Soṇa applied himself to energy and serenity, found a balance of the faculties, and learned the pattern of this situation. Then Soṇa, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute, soon realized the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life. He lived having achieved with his own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.
https://suttacentral.net/an6.55/en/suja ... ript=latin
“The teacher willed that this world appear to me
as impermanent, unstable, insubstantial.
Mind, let me leap into the victor’s teaching,
carry me over the great flood, so hard to pass.”


- Tālapuṭattheragāthā
DeadBuddha
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:48 pm

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 2:15 pm
DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 2:08 pm

Thank you. I'm having trouble finding the right balance.
It takes time
The Buddha said to him, “Soṇa, as you were in private retreat didn’t this thought come to your mind: ‘I am one of the Buddha’s most energetic disciples. Yet my mind is not freed from defilements by not grasping. But my family has wealth. I could enjoy that wealth and make merit. Why don’t I resign the training and return to a lesser life, so I can enjoy my wealth and make merit?’”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Soṇa? When you were still a layman, weren’t you a good player of the arched harp?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When your harp’s strings were tuned too tight, was it resonant and playable?”

“No, sir.”

“When your harp’s strings were tuned too slack, was it resonant and playable?”

“No, sir.”

“But when your harp’s strings were tuned neither too tight nor too slack, but fixed at an even tension, was it resonant and playable?”

“Yes, sir.”

“In the same way, Soṇa, when energy is too forceful it leads to restlessness. When energy is too slack it leads to laziness. So, Soṇa, you should apply yourself to energy and serenity, find a balance of the faculties, and learn the pattern of this situation.”

“Yes, sir,” Soṇa replied.

After advising Soṇa like this, the Buddha, as easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, vanished from the Cool Grove and reappeared on the Vulture’s Peak.

After some time Soṇa applied himself to energy and serenity, found a balance of the faculties, and learned the pattern of this situation. Then Soṇa, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute, soon realized the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life. He lived having achieved with his own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.
https://suttacentral.net/an6.55/en/suja ... ript=latin
Thank you, I hear about this very often, but I never really understood what was called "restlessness", or at least when I am very tense and energetic, I don't really feel restlessness, and on the contrary I feel much less pain than when I relax a little.

For example, I just finished a 47-minute meditation session where I was very tense most of the time, but at the end I decided to relax a little bit to try to relax myself, and it immediately produced a kind of feeling of tranquility, but (paradoxically), it also produced very strong pain in my buttocks.

I'm a little confused about what to do.
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nirodh27
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Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by nirodh27 »

DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:42 pm What should I do?
Should I stop trying so hard to keep my mind from wandering?
Should I accept that it can wander and have to keep bringing it back to the breath?
Maybe the problem lies elsewhere?
There's no problem as far as I can see. You asked advice 31/01. Now it is 4th february. Concentration jhanas takes month to years to be realized and you don't have ideal conditions (since you're not a monk I think). It is a marathon unless you are an exception exceptionally gifted. You have to build it step by step, little victory by little victory and failure after failure. As a personal note, it took me at least 3 years, the last year without skipping a session, and five retires working on that to get something worthy to be called concentration.

The meaning of "There's no bad meditation" is that, as long as you put effort and intelligence in it, you will put a seed for future progress.

You have to make an effort to stay on the object, but when it wanders you don't have to feed aversion, but simply accept. And effort. And accept. And effort. Corrado Pensa used to say "be ready to always begin again": literally millions of times. Reviewing what you do is essential, at the same time don't be tempted to actively search for shortcuts. As Sumedho said "With Samatha Patience is more important than force of will".. This guided me a lot and it is actually the first phrase of my notes about Jhanas.

Another important thing is not never, ever, judge your ability as a meditator by starting unuseful papanca. Be patient with yourself, don't judge yourself (and if you can actually avoid to acquire an "I am" at all :rofl: ), always go back and be happy to go back, it means that you actually had a sati moment of knowing of wandering. Rejoyce and make positive reinforcement here by being happy and recognizing a little success!

Another important thing is that consciousness is scattered due to gratification and desire, so you might also question outside of jhana of why you are so tempted by search for gratification. You will have an hard time if you don't question at least a little the gratification and the allure of the world.

I've tried to collect my pc notes, but are too disorganized (and in Italian). I really suggest you to take a book like one of Shaila Catherine or ayya khema to support you in this quest.

Lastly: be happy to have the conditions to meditate, they are not always there so this is something extraordinary that you should really cherish and be grateful of that :smile:
DeadBuddha
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:48 pm

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

nirodh27 wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 3:59 pm
DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:42 pm What should I do?
Should I stop trying so hard to keep my mind from wandering?
Should I accept that it can wander and have to keep bringing it back to the breath?
Maybe the problem lies elsewhere?
There's no problem as far as I can see. You asked advice 31/01. Now it is 4th february. Concentration jhanas takes month to years to be realized and you don't have ideal conditions (since you're not a monk I think). It is a marathon unless you are an exception exceptionally gifted. You have to build it step by step, little victory by little victory and failure after failure. As a personal note, it took me at least 3 years, the last year without skipping a session, and five retires working on that to get something worthy to be called concentration.

The meaning of "There's no bad meditation" is that, as long as you put effort and intelligence in it, you will put a seed for future progress.

You have to make an effort to stay on the object, but when it wanders you don't have to feed aversion, but simply accept. And effort. And accept. And effort. Corrado Pensa used to say "be ready to always begin again": literally millions of times. Reviewing what you do is essential, at the same time don't be tempted to actively search for shortcuts. As Sumedho said "With Samatha Patience is more important than force of will".. This guided me a lot and it is actually the first phrase of my notes about Jhanas.

Another important thing is not never, ever, judge your ability as a meditator by starting unuseful papanca. Be patient with yourself, don't judge yourself (and if you can actually avoid to acquire an "I am" at all :rofl: ), always go back and be happy to go back, it means that you actually had a sati moment of knowing of wandering. Rejoyce and make positive reinforcement here by being happy and recognizing a little success!

Another important thing is that consciousness is scattered due to gratification and desire, so you might also question outside of jhana of why you are so tempted by search for gratification. You will have an hard time if you don't question at least a little the gratification and the allure of the world.

I've tried to collect my pc notes, but are too disorganized (and in Italian). I really suggest you to take a book like one of Shaila Catherine or ayya khema to support you in this quest.

Lastly: be happy to have the conditions to meditate, they are not always there so this is something extraordinary that you should really cherish and be grateful of that :smile:
Thank you so much for your post, it was very helpful.
I would love to become a monk to be a full time yogi. But because of the aversion to community life, and because of the desire to live with my own hygiene, I'm not psychologically ready to be a monk at the moment. I would risk being disgusted. I hope this will change soon. Thank you again for your help.
malunkyaputta
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Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by malunkyaputta »

I have recently listened to a dhamma talk and the Ajahn said that you better use wholesome mindstates and approaches as the factor that drives your meditation.

Using too much effort is not a peaceful state of mind, and is not inline with what you’re trying to achieve.

This agitates the mind, so it will not become peaceful.
You may stay focused using will-power and desire (to stay focused), but it’s not conducive to peace and samadhi.

Try to use compassion, patience, loving kindness (to the breath) as your engines. Try to think of a driving force that is peaceful and makes you peaceful, and use that to approach the meditation.

ask yourself “is my mind-state now wholesome and peaceful or does it agitate the mind” ?

He compared it to riding a bike and holding the handlebar too tightly. You get tired and just use too much energy.
pegembara
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Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:39 am

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by pegembara »

DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:42 pm
Usually, when I concentrate on the breath, I make a lot of effort, so that I am very tense. This allows me to stay focused for 40-50 minutes almost non-stop on the breath. The concentration is good enough that I no longer feel the strong pain in my knees. If I put so much effort and tension, it's because I don't want my mind to be detached from the breathing, not even for a moment (is that a mistake ????!!!).
However, I don't think I've reached the access concentration.
If you close your eyes, how do you experience the body?
As the pain in the knees, air movement as you breathe in and out, the pressure sensation on the buttocks etc.
When you do that, you are bringing your attention to whatever is happening right here instead of the mind wandering off somewhere else.
Is the pain purely physical or is there a mental component as well?

Keep doing that and eventually, it becomes second nature to be present and the mind stays in samadhi.
Then you watch what the mind is doing. Is the tension in the mind or body or both? Is the tension permanent or not?
What is the cause for its arising and what makes it go away? Cause and effect.
“Bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling might experience revulsion towards this body composed of the four great elements; he might become dispassionate towards it and be liberated from it. For what reason? Because growth and decline is seen in this body composed of the four great elements, it is seen being taken up and laid aside. Therefore the uninstructed worldling might experience revulsion towards this body composed of the four great elements; he might become dispassionate towards it and be liberated from it.

“But, bhikkhus, as to that which is called ‘mind’ and ‘mentality’ and ‘consciousness’ —the uninstructed worldling is unable to experience revulsion towards it, unable to become dispassionate towards it and be liberated from it. For what reason? Because for a long time this has been held to by him, appropriated, and grasped thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.’ Therefore the uninstructed worldling is unable to experience revulsion towards it, unable to become dispassionate towards it and be liberated from it.

https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/bod ... ight=false
"Now, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones, when touched with a feeling of pain, does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught. So he feels one pain: physical, but not mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, did not shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pain of only one arrow. In the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught. He feels one pain: physical, but not mental.

"Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of pain, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it disjoined from it. This is called a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones disjoined from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is disjoined, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
DeadBuddha
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Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

Thank you very much for your messages. I will practice your advice.
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nirodh27
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Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by nirodh27 »

DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 5:00 pm Thank you so much for your post, it was very helpful.
I would love to become a monk to be a full time yogi. But because of the aversion to community life, and because of the desire to live with my own hygiene, I'm not psychologically ready to be a monk at the moment. I would risk being disgusted. I hope this will change soon. Thank you again for your help.
There's the middle way. Consider a short (better 14-21 days, but you have to take what you can get) lay-people retires in the west. Many have an acceptable level of hygiene, 1 person rooms, and day-to-day interviews with accomplished meditators. There are some that are jhana-specific as well. I think you could look at Tina Rasmussen, Shaila Catherine, etc. Many mindfulness retreats are instead Samatha retreats in disguise. Of course it depends where you live.
DeadBuddha
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:48 pm

Re: Should we be tense or not tense?

Post by DeadBuddha »

nirodh27 wrote: Mon Feb 06, 2023 1:18 pm
DeadBuddha wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2023 5:00 pm Thank you so much for your post, it was very helpful.
I would love to become a monk to be a full time yogi. But because of the aversion to community life, and because of the desire to live with my own hygiene, I'm not psychologically ready to be a monk at the moment. I would risk being disgusted. I hope this will change soon. Thank you again for your help.
There's the middle way. Consider a short (better 14-21 days, but you have to take what you can get) lay-people retires in the west. Many have an acceptable level of hygiene, 1 person rooms, and day-to-day interviews with accomplished meditators. There are some that are jhana-specific as well. I think you could look at Tina Rasmussen, Shaila Catherine, etc. Many mindfulness retreats are instead Samatha retreats in disguise. Of course it depends where you live.
Thank you very much for your help. I read you very carefully. I hope I will overcome my aversion to group living. It is necessary to free beings.
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