Hindrance

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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
Hello everybody, i have a back problem (structured adolescent kyphosis) that is a huge distraction from concentrating on the abdomen. The pain is often just light, but the psychological problem is the issue, for which i am actually under SSRI (it became a kind of Body Dysmorphic Disorder - i'm 24). It is ever-present particularly while sitting.

These are the symptoms:

Some pain while sitting
Depressed mood while sitting, especially when there is a slight pain, that reminds me that my back is deformed.
Strong desire to correct even the smallest defect in my posture, for example: contracting abdominals, adjusting pelvis, neck and shoulder rotation, straightening up the back. This is done very often. I can't resist the desire to straighten up if i perceive myself slouching, because i have an enormous fear just to think or see myself as permanently "curve"

The result is that i can't concentrate on the breath effectively. I spend most of the sitting sessions thinking about my back and about correcting it. So, ehm, maybe somebody of you has an advice on what to do, what to change to improve? Thanks!emoticon
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Eran G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
One option is to turn the hindrance into a part of the practice. Notice the pain in the same way that you notice the breath, notice the unpleasantness of the sensations, notice the aversion that arises, notice the thoughts and stories that arise around it, notice the reaction to those thoughts, notice the tendency to fix your posture, notice the fear... Try to simply notice all those things arising and passing, with as little judgment as possible. By being mindful of all that arises, we can make anything into a part of the meditation.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Mark R.:
Hello everybody, i have a back problem (structured adolescent kyphosis) that is a huge distraction from concentrating on the abdomen. The pain is often just light, but the psychological problem is the issue, for which i am actually under SSRI (it became a kind of Body Dysmorphic Disorder - i'm 24). It is ever-present particularly while sitting.

Some pain while sitting. . . . Depressed mood while sitting, especially when there is a slight pain, that reminds me that my back is deformed.

The result is that i can't concentrate on the breath effectively. I spend most of the sitting sessions thinking about my back and about correcting it.

While Eran describes a good approach to this, and one that you may wish to incorporate into your sits until you realize its importance, what you inevitably need to do is to eliminate this "hindrance" from your sitting experience altogether, or else it may plague your sits continuously. And Eran's advice may help you to do this.

You have correctly described the root of the problem as being psychological. Now, you just need to deal with that insight in order to overcome the view of this as being a hindrance to your meditation. If you accept this aberration in your physiology as just being a normal part of your physical being, then it may cease to cause you psychological problems during your sit. Ideally, this is where you want to arrive, so that you may progress on from there with your contemplations.

You might want to consider the following meditation: Is this physical curvature of the back "mine?" Or is it just a physical phenomenon of this back? Is this back "me?" Or is it just "a back." Do I need to identify myself with this deformity? Or can I let it go? Why am I making such a big deal about this? Why can't I just accept it and get on with things?

Can you see where this is heading? You have to defuse these thoughts before they overtake your consciousness and distract you from your intended goal of meditation. Once let go of, they should not bother you any longer. And you can make progress in other areas of insight into the Dhamma (although not saying that this isn't a big one in itself).


Eran G:
One option is to turn the hindrance into a part of the practice. Notice the pain in the same way that you notice the breath, notice the unpleasantness of the sensations, notice the aversion that arises, notice the thoughts and stories that arise around it, notice the reaction to those thoughts, notice the tendency to fix your posture, notice the fear... Try to simply notice all those things arising and passing, with as little judgment as possible. By being mindful of all that arises, we can make anything into a part of the meditation.
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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for the replies. i didn't see them until now. Very helpful.
Ian And:

You might want to consider the following meditation: Is this physical curvature of the back "mine?" Or is it just a physical phenomenon of this back? Is this back "me?" Or is it just "a back." Do I need to identify myself with this deformity? Or can I let it go? Why am I making such a big deal about this? Why can't I just accept it and get on with things?

Can you see where this is heading? You have to defuse these thoughts before they overtake your consciousness and distract you from your intended goal of meditation. Once let go of, they should not bother you any longer. And you can make progress in other areas of insight into the Dhamma (although not saying that this isn't a big one in itself).

Conceptually yes, probably need of love or reproduction (in the sense of getting girls). This is strong enough to generate some violent states of mind. emoticon

As i said they are very invasive and tend to persist because they are triggered also by sensory inputs that are always there, such as pain, proprioception and chemicals in the chest, throat etc.
So i was thinking about leaving completely the practice of focusing on the abdomen, and instead cultivating awareness of the feelings (emotional) that arise. That would mean abandoning the practice of Samatha, wouldn't it?

The problem is that if i continue to try to be focused on the movement of the abdoment without losing it in distraction.... i cantemoticon
It is an infinite yet lacerating operation.

Another issue is whether to give a name to the states that arise or not. I think noting is good explicitly for recovering immediately from distractions, to return fast on the object of concentration. But if i don't use such an object? Also, probably i would have to note just a few things repeatedly and use a limited vocabulary.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
What about focusing on the spot at the nostrils where the breath comes in and out?
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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
What about focusing on the spot at the nostrils where the breath comes in and out?

I tried in the past, it was a waaaaaaay better point of focus, only problem... it caused an unpleasant feeling and then some liquid to be produced in the nose and even on the palate. It's strange to say, the feeling has something to do with dryness in the nose, felt just when i pay attention to airflow in the nostrils. The liquid seemed real like when your nose becomes stuffed. I should try again.
Aaron J, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 10 Join Date: 11/20/09 Recent Posts
When it comes to meditation, you have lots of options... as you and others have pointed out. 'Mindfulness-based stress reduction' (MBSR) is not in my basket of practices, but I've heard good things about it for working with pain, or probably more precisely, the relationship with pain. You could search that term or Jon Kabat-Zinn, who popularized it to find books, articles, videos, podcasts, etc.

If pain is the most dominant sensation in the field of awareness, then you could turn towards it and tune into it, rather than turn away from it and view it as a distraction. As I wrote recently in a different thread, you could map it, study it and play with the attention in regards to it, amongst other things. Certainly, you could pay attention to the emotions, mind states... related to it. But in practice, I've tended to find that paying attention to the bare sensations of pain is simpler -- useful both for insight practice or for samatha practice.

Pain can be such an amazing object of meditation, because it tends to be made up of so many sensations... And pain can be a compelling object, so it can be relatively easy to settle and concentrate on as compared with a more subtle object. Turning towards pain and tuning into it can be challenging, because of the unpleasantness, but rewarding. I'm not saying that pain is a better object; different objects seem to be work better for certain people at certain times.

I was blown away by the 'things' that happened in my practice when a composed attention settled on the field of pain and probed into it. For one thing, it eventually wasn't pain anymore. I'm not saying pain went away forever, but in my experience, pain is a creation of mind, a translation of sensations that are not-pain into something called pain. And if the mind is unconsciously translating sensations that are not-pain into pain, then what else is it unconsciously doing?

If the pain isn't going away, then it seems like learning to relate more skillfully with it would be for the good.

In karuna
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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
I am confused to a high degree about what to do.
I'm trying to concentrate to the nostrils airflow as of now, sitting (i can keep my body still enough). I don't know what to do with unpleasant feelings that arise. In MCTB i'ts written that first one should begin to practice concentration on an object at least to access concentration. It is also said that the mind faculties (my term) of insight and concentration are different and can be developed independently or in combination. From this i understand that developing concentration helps the practice of insight. If i suppose that it would be great to attain access concentration first, why should i begin with something dispersive as walking meditation, that it looks like more an insight practice (from Daniel's post "paying a lot of attention to every little movement...")? Also, i tried it two days ago and done slowly it's worst that be sat. To do it someway without worry or pains it should be much faster, in the streets or some park almost at normal walking speed, but done this way it becomes hard to pay attention to every little movement.

I can't probably begin with taking pain as an object of concentration because it often isn't there at the beginning, i should begin with nostrils. It also changes place such as the back, cervical area or sometimes shoulders and it triggers a global feeling in the thorax, abdomen, stomach, throat, mouth etc. It's not the pain that is felt when, for example, you accidentally hit the nerve of your elbow. It feels like chemicals are spread trough the body, particularly in the areas listed before. Think about if you go home and find your loved one in bed with someone else (sorry for the example lol), then a strong burning-like depressive or quite unpleasant feeling would start to pervade the body, particulary the chest area wouldn't it? It is like this (just probably less intensive than the example).
So these feelings are multiple (there is also the bare physical pain) and wide, they summon thoughts, suck up energy and motivation, and are not always there. As a preliminary program i can concentrate on the breath for how much it is possible, then if they become too much a distraction putting the breath aside and start noticing the related vibes and so on. It sounds strange.

There is also the exercise of the index fingers, but can the faculty of concentration be developed too with that exercise? (as it is presented as an investigation in Impermanence). Shouldn't i begin with attaining access concentration first? Does the latter consist of noticing the vibrations that derive from JUST the object took in account, and the first in noticing all that is in the field?

I had that to say. Thanks to everyone for giving attention to my previous messages!
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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
Another way to reformulate most of the questions asked before, is: if one can often change object or method and still proceed on what he has established to attain, or if it's best to stick with one thing despite the conditions or the mind whining. Thanks.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I'm not sure anyone here can provide you with an answer that you could comprehend or institute. If you are able, you would do best finding a qualified meditation instructor and handling this in person, rather than in a disjointed rambling over the Internet. There seems to be too much misunderstanding here to be able to clear up using this medium. Also, too many cooks spoil the broth, and such (if you understand what I'm hinting at, as a source for your confusion).

Mark R.:
I am confused to a high degree about what to do.
I'm trying to concentrate to the nostrils airflow as of now, sitting (i can keep my body still enough). I don't know what to do with unpleasant feelings that arise.

Unpleasant feelings, then, for you become a hindrance. You have to get beyond this hindrance first before your meditation will yield the benefits you seek.

If you're planning on using meditation to help you get beyond this hindrance, then you're going to need to develop the ability to concentrate upon and contemplate the nature of the hindrance so that you can see it for what it is and let go of it. But this needs to be accomplished first before you will be able to reliably carry on with making further progress with developing samatha (calming and concentration of the mind) and vipassana (insight contemplation on phenomena and the Dhamma).

Mark R.:

In MCTB i'ts written that first one should begin to practice concentration on an object at least to access concentration. It is also said that the mind faculties (my term) of insight and concentration are different and can be developed independently or in combination.

That is true – i.e. insight and concentration are different – and yes, they can be developed independently or in combination.

Mark R.:

From this i understand that developing concentration helps the practice of insight. If i suppose that it would be great to attain access concentration first, why should i begin with something dispersive as walking meditation, that it looks like more an insight practice (from Daniel's post "paying a lot of attention to every little movement...")?

Because walking meditation serves to redirect the mind away from the original hindrance and to focus it on another activity and phenomenon. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. It can become kind of tricky, trying to follow all of these suggestions, can't it. That's why I suggest that you find someone qualified who you can discuss these things with in person rather than using the Internet.

Mark R.:

Another way to reformulate most of the questions asked before, is: if one can often change object or method and still proceed on what he has established to attain, or if it's best to stick with one thing despite the conditions or the mind whining. Thanks.

You'll need to clear up the "mind['s] whining" first before you'll be able to reasonably make any progress on the fronts of calm and insight into the Dhamma. This is why, in the suttas, Gotama stresses the importance of letting go of worldly concerns when in the process of meditation, as in this passage from the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118):

"Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a bhikkhu, breathing in long, understands: 'I breathe in long,' or breathing out long, understands: 'I breathe out long'; breathing in short, understands: 'I breathe in short,' or breathing out short, understands: 'I breathe out short'; trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body'; trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body'; trains thus: 'I shall breathe in tranquillising the bodily formation'; trains thus: 'I shall breathe out tranquillising the bodily formation' — on that occasion a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. I say that this is a certain body among the bodies, namely in-breathing and out-breathing. That is why on that occasion a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world."
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Mark R., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 17 Join Date: 3/17/11 Recent Posts
Ian And:

Unpleasant feelings, then, for you become a hindrance. You have to get beyond this hindrance first before your meditation will yield the benefits you seek.

If you're planning on using meditation to help you get beyond this hindrance, then you're going to need to develop the ability to concentrate upon and contemplate the nature of the hindrance so that you can see it for what it is and let go of it. But this needs to be accomplished first before you will be able to reliably carry on with making further progress with developing samatha (calming and concentration of the mind) and vipassana (insight contemplation on phenomena and the Dhamma).

Ok.

Ian And:

It can become kind of tricky, trying to follow all of these suggestions, can't it. That's why I suggest that you find someone qualified who you can discuss these things with in person rather than using the Internet.

Incidentally, the qualified persons are the same who generally say or are said they don't like to work with.........ooops emoticon Talking about the internet. I even heard someone who didn't dare to ask because he didn't attain first path yet. Willpower is the only thing i have for the rest i imagine being a waste of time for anyone who's qualified since it appears i don't even the requirements to start off. So i didn't even try to ask until now. If anyone can deny the above please do so! I depart tomorrow morning for a small sesshin in the time.

(althought i attend a Zen group, in my area there isn't anything good).
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hindrance

Posts: 3192 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Reminds me of the standard stage when people obsess about the minutia of posture and it hurts: Stage 3, The Three Characteristics. Could even be that, coupled with your particular physiology.

Could try reclining or standing or walking: all good postures. Walking meditation in particular, done with the same intensity and precision and diligence one would apply to sitting, can be really powerful and is often underestimated and under utilized.

Advice: pick a 15-25 foot linear area to walk, walk back and forth, paying a lot of attention to every little movement, particular the turnarounds, and go for it. An hour of that, done well, might be much better than an hour of sitting where you were neurotic about posture.

Just my thoughts,

Daniel