Mind's resistance to meditation

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: BradyE
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I've been getting into the swing of regular meditation, using breathing as an object, and I've noticed that the better I get at it, the more creative my mind gets. When I've learned to stop thinking of the TV show I watched earlier, my mind shifts to uncertainties in the future, and once I get past that, my mind starts pulling up reasons to engage in self-pity, or otherwise provokes emotional resoponse. It's so crafty, that it's disconcerting. It's like my mind is a distinct creature unto and of itself desperately struggling for survival.

I know the only real recourse is to keep on going (mediating), but the phenomenon is interesting none-the-less. Can anyone offer me some insight into what is going on here?
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I think you've described it (the process of "what's going on") very well indeed!

You're mind is just going back over all its content, that's all. You have yet to gain control over it, although it sounds as though you may already know how to do this when you said, "When I've learned to stop thinking of the TV show I watched earlier...."

The way you gain control of the other thoughts that enter the mind (when your mind shifts over to those other thoughts) is to just watch them without becoming attached to them and continue to return to the breath as your meditation object. What is happening to you (i.e. what you have described) is what happens to us all. Nothing new or nothing unusual.

It's at about this time that you may begin to get a bit bored with this process that the mind is going through. You have to begin showing the mind who exactly is in control. If your concentration is good, you should be able to end any thought pattern simply by telling the mind to "stop" its proliferation of thought. Failing that, you may wish to begin a practice in meditative absorption, which will help strengthen your concentration, and hence your ability to gain more volitional control over the mind.

There's no need to continue to put up with a mind that is "desperately struggling" to maintain its own survival. (Because that's exactly what it's trying to do. You've described it perfectly.) Your practice won't really begin to make any more progress until you are able to quiet the mind at will. Once you are able to accomplish that, you will be ready for satipatthana practice and contemplation on the themes of the Dhamma.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
"Can anyone offer me some insight into what is going on here?"

It's a mind and it's doing what minds do naturally. Watching it will, over the course of time, tend to slow it down a bit, but vipssana practice is about investigating what's going, not trying to stop what's going on. You can have a busy mind and still be still and quiet. The part of "you" that's observing your mind isn't affected by the movement in your mind, is it?
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: BradyE

Yes and no.

While passively watching my thoughts go by is useful, I've been finding it more productive to focus on the object (breath).

Watching my thoughts passively while meditating makes me feel like I've got one foot in the pool and one out.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Like I've said before, the mind will show you the whole universe just to keep you interested, stay the course and stick with the breath, that will serve you well. The mind has endless resources for distraction, don't be fooled, disciplining the mind will pay rich dividends in due course.

take care
upekkha
!!!
U
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
True enough, but I like having the option of shutting it off. It's work but it is worth having the option of just turning the mind off when it isn't being co-operative.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: ratanajothi

Try relaxing the body a little, it seems to help me to still the thoughts.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Brady,
You don't mention details of how you are doing your meditation but from what I see, this thread is touching upon one of my favorite topics which is looking at the different forms of breadth meditation.

From the standpoint of a vipassana practice (the Burmese style noting practice that Daniel covers in his book) thoughts are just to be noted along with any other phenomena that arise.

On the other hand, if you are working with breath meditation as defined by Thanissaro Bikkhu (Thai Forest Tradition) and others, then it depends on a few factors. If the thoughts are coming up in the background but not causing you to loose your object (the breath) then just keep working at immersing yourself in the object – staying with it as best you can. This is also a concentration practice. If you are getting totally lost in the thought (no longer with the breath) then drop the thought and return to the object. As to what is going on, here is a short talk on this subject with lots of good tips (from Thanissaro Bikkhu):
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/041201%20Mindstorms.mp3
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: BradyE

Well, I try not to over-think it (no pun intended), but I just try to stay with the object (the sensation of breathing). Observing thoughts passively and letting them drift by is fine-- I've done this before and it works okay, but whether I'm thinking passively or actively, I'm still thinking, which means to one degree or another, I've lost my object.

Right now, meditation is a constant struggle to focus. This "all or nothing" approach, has been working quite well on good days, and very poorly on bad days.

I just try to focus on breathing. That's all.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
Well, yes and no. I can tell you what I've discovered, which is that the the alleged primacy of the thought stream in life is fairly delusional, akin to the nose, the touch, hearing or any other of the senses declaring itself to be the center of experience. Even the much vaunted, self reflective, posturing and narrational thought stream is just another series of sensations. In fact close examination of practically any ordinary human experience such as, for example, driving a car, show that, unless we aggressively divert our overall attention to the thought stream (e.g. by texting while driving), the majority of the driver's awareness is devoted to the many requirements that driving a vehicle place on the senses. Because the thought stream habitually grants itself a central importance we may think that what we are actually doing is remembering the plot of last night's tv show, but it is simply not true. What we are doing is driving and a moment's attention to the true nature of our experience will prove that. A near accident will prove it with drama! The same is true of meditating. You may state that you have lost your object but you really are still breathing, sitting, moving your chest up and down, experiencing the sensations of air across your skin, and all the ten thousand other sensations that comprise the sensorium of the instant. The habit of a lifetime is to give primacy to the thought stream, but I do assure you it is a habit that falls away with diligent attention to reality. Piercing the idolatry of the thought stream is fundamental to spiritual revelation.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Haha! Yes. Dogen called that "cutting the root of thought" and said that doing so pretty much guarantees enlightenment.
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RE: Mind's resistance to meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: BradyE

I think I'm picking up what you're putting down.

I'm still an amateur mediator, and when I practice, there is always going to be some texting on the phone of mind while driving the car of vipassana. So, in that sense I have no choice but to work through it. If focus on the object isn't possible in the moment, it helps to realize that the thoughts I'm thinking aren't "me," and it's better to just observe them than be swept away by them. I realize very well that my thoughts don't make the fundamental "stuff" of being; I have no trouble "piercing the idolatry of the thought stream," at least conceptually, if not always in practice.