Seeking advice

Orion Leckel, modified 1 Month ago.

Seeking advice

Post: 1 Join Date: 5/12/21 Recent Posts
 For the last two years I've been meditating regularly.  I live a solitary, nomadic lifestyle so finding time and solitude is not an issue, as well the meditation adds some happiness and a feeling of purpose which I think was missing from my life. I've never talked with anyone about my meditation but I've consistently run into the same issue and seek advice, any general advice is welcome as well. I'm not sure how much detail is required to answer my questions so I feel this post May run on the long side, I figured too much detail can't hurt.  So forgive me if this post is a long read.

In the beginning: I started out with a typical breath meditation at the tip of the nose. I followed the Visuddhimaga method of counting in an out breaths 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 and saw little progress with regards to calming the thinking mind (practicing 4+ hours a day).  I grew up an only child using fantasies and my own thinking as a companion, as well I have a strong analytical and engineering mind ( I wan to know how everything works), I'm sure this combination has giving the thinking mind a lot of power over the years.  

After about 6 months I switched to the rapid counting method described in the Visuddhimaga, counting 12345 in 1234567 out 1234 in, while doing this method I started to notice my mind gravitated towards the numbers rather then the breath at the tip of the nose.  I started focusing more on the mental image of the numbers running through my imagination. I hazard to call it a visualization, rather a murky, mental impression that Lacks clarity.  Using this method I could tell my mind was calming down and that it/i actually enjoyed the practice much more.  With this I was able to increase my effort and reach a place where my mind could no longer produce the mental sound for the numbers.  The mind would no longer produce the sub-vocalization and my body was engulfed by a feeling of energy something like being covered in bees that weren't stinging just vibrating all around me.  As well my mind was different,  it's capacities had been limited as if trapped in a sphere watching things happen but not knowing where to go or what to do. Sorry it's hard for me to describe but I'm guessing others have had similar experiences and this description will suffice.  Alas it only happened one time .  The next day and every time since when my sub-vocalization starts to shut down I begin to sweat and breathe heavily, not at all a pleasant experience. 
A lot of stress tension and pushing accompanied my meditation to this point, I understand this is not a desirable way but at that point in time and to some extent now, pushing and striving with might and energy has been my go-to method for accomplishing any and all goals but it was obviously not working for this.

Side note:
I think the reason I was unable to have success with the breath meditation is because I never found the breath interesting,  interpreting bodily feelings as well as emotions seems difficult for me, I've tried the method of looking for Pleasant feelings in the body while doing breath meditation and find myself more wondering “ is this a pleasant feeling” “is this what a pleasant feeling feels like”. As well emotionally, unless the emotion is very strong I'm not really sure how I feel.  From reading a few books and others experiences it seems common for people to have a much better grasp of these things even without meditation.  As well I'm the type of person who gets bored very easily, I pick something up with heavy interest and then get board quickly.  

After trying to get back to the point where the mind shuts down without success, I gave up for a while.  I thought maybe a reset would work, kind of a turn it off and on again type of thing.  This didn't work either so now I have been practicing with the idea that my mind just isn't ready yet, for the moment I just can't make it over the hump.  

I have been developing and trying to understan with more clarity where my mind is right now when I do meditation.  My basic system is as follows.  I start off with a body contemplation from the Visuddhimaga combined with a body scan, basically visualizing the parts of the body and trying to feel them in the body... Toe nail, skin, bone, ect...I thought this might enhance my ability to feel Bodily feelings and I think it is but progress is slow.  Consequently it turned out to be a very good method for reaching the spot where sub-vocalization becomes difficult. Once I reach this spot I switch to breath meditation.  There is no need for counting at this point and I can watch the breath at the tip of the nose consistently.  As well there is a lot of energy, not like after sub-vocalization stops but softer rolling throughout the body.  Also, either my body has stopped sending pain signals or the soft energy is covering it up as I can sit for long periods without pain but as soon as sub-vocalization starts to come back my body is quickly in pain.. horse or the cart I'm not sure.  This usually happens at the 1.5 hour mark.  I try and do this twice a day once in the morning an once at night as well as some walking meditation sporadically throughout the day.   

Things I have noticed:

This works well but if I give up the body contemplation and try only breath meditation the thinking mind will slowly erode the stability of my meditation.  If I just do breath meditation for 4 days I have no chance of reaching the energy spot until I pick up the body contemplation again for and extended time period.

When I stick to this schedule I need very little sleep, 3 hours at night and a short nap during the day is more then enough.  

After a session my mind is relatively quiet . Still a lot of thoughts but I don't feel as deeply invested in them. But still easily dragged into them.

After 5 days of this schedule my mind will start to get foggy, it doesn't want to think or do meditation just kind of dull so I stop for a day or two and repeat.

I notice after meditation I am happy and giggle for a while.  This stands out as I am a depressive type and this is an unusual experience.

Once I stopped meditation and started reading a book, the words went directly into my mind without sub-vocalization and I could read much faster than normal.  I tried duplicating this but without success.

If a loud sounds occurs while in meditation strong chills course through my body.

My ears ring as concentration increases.

I'm not sure what my question is, general advice would be most helpful, some direction, comments ect.  I would like to get back to the space after Sub-vocalization stops working, it was an extremely interesting space I would like to explore more.

Thank you for any advice

Please be advised, I have limited internet access so responses from myself will be sporadic and can take up to two weeks
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Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Seeking advice

Posts: 15 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Hi Orion and thanks for sharing all these things!

Some general thoughts from me, I hope these are helpful:
  1. Quieting the mind/ stabilizing the mind / not having intrusive thoughts as an objective for Vipassana practice is not necessarily the right framework, not for all people and not at all times. There are periods where this will be impossible, and it is also generally not necessary. 
  2. Stick to objects that feel more intuitive - if body scan is good/better than breath, stick to that. You can also try more visual stuff (eyes open) or open-field (taking the whole field of experience, all 6 sense doors as object for your meditation). Btw, thoughts are an absolutely valid meditation object (how they come and go - anicca, how they are and cannot be a ME (anatta) and how they don't satisfy and create unpleasantness (dukha).
  3. Are you familiar with the stages of insight? Based on your descriptions, it seems to me you might be progressing along the stages of insight, but I cannot be sure.  E.g. see here for summary tablehttps://static1.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/5475825de4b0ac156d2453a4/1416987229931/Nanas+and+jhanas+tablep1.pdf ; or video https://vimeo.com/69793499; Or read MCTB2 / Practical Insights Meditation / Path with Heart
  4. At certain points in our practice / certain stages of insights (Dukha nanas, Equanimy), too narrow meditation focus, focusing on too narrow an object is generally a hindrance. It is better to focus on everything, or as much as possible, that arises in your field of experience, and that includes thoughts, sub-vocalizations, etc.
I hope these are helpful
Kaloyan
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Nicolas Epstein, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Seeking advice

Posts: 14 Join Date: 4/28/21 Recent Posts
I think the reason I was unable to have success with the breath meditation is because I never found the breath interesting,  interpreting bodily feelings as well as emotions seems difficult for me, I've tried the method of looking for Pleasant feelings in the body while doing breath meditation and find myself more wondering “ is this a pleasant feeling” “is this what a pleasant feeling feels like”. As well emotionally, unless the emotion is very strong I'm not really sure how I feel.  From reading a few books and others experiences it seems common for people to have a much better grasp of these things even without meditation.

I can completely relate to this. I am still a total beginner, but right off the bat, I've run into the same hurdle of finding it very difficult to identify any pleasant sensations at all . It's also generally difficult for me to know how I feel at any given moment. This is known as alexithymia, the inability or difficulty, in perceiving and expressing emotions. It's common for people with alexithymia to confuse sensations and emotions as well (for example, thinking one is sad or irritated, when in fact one is hungry or in physical pain).

It's also very common for autistic people to be alexithymic. I'm on the autistic spectrum and the way you describe being very analytical and "in your mind" feel quite familiar to me. Not suggesting you are autistic, but it might be something to consider.

In any case I'll be watching this thread, I'm very curious if anyone has advice on this issue.

P.S: You can find a thread I created on the topic of concentration and autism here: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22726467
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Nicolas Epstein, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Seeking advice

Posts: 14 Join Date: 4/28/21 Recent Posts
Been reading this guide since yesterday: https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/beginners-guide

Seems to have a lot of good advice on how to learn to discover and investigate the breath in a joyful and pleasant way. I will be putting this into practice over the next weeks and will report bac. Good luck!

Specifically:

For a simple example of right versus wrong attitude, consider the basic instruction to sit and focus attention on sensations of the breath at the nostrils. If you've ever tried to do this, you may have found it quite difficult to maintain awareness of the breath this way for even a few seconds, let alone for ten minutes, thirty minutes, or an hour! The mind continually gets caught up in distractions, and attention jumps to thoughts, fantasies, memories, and stories instead of remaining on the breath.

The wrong-attitude approach is to deal with this obstacle by using effort to try to force the attention to stay on the breath. This is usually what a beginner will do when they encounter the obstacle of mind-wandering. It's natural, because we're used to overcoming obstacles through effort in other parts of life. We may not even know there's any other possibility! But although this kind of effort and forcing may lead to temporary states of concentration, it's a dead end—it will never lead to real progress, because it's only another instance of the mind fighting itself. Trying to force attention to stay on an object this way will produce feelings of tightness, tension, frustration, and being off balance.

The right-attitude approach, on the other hand, is to begin by taking a few big, deep breaths and really enjoying them. We spend the first five, ten, or thirty minutes of a session just relaxing deeply, sinking into the many deep and interesting sensations of the body and breath, tuning in especially to the pleasure, joy, and relaxation that can readily be found just beneath the surface of our everyday anxious and restless life. After sinking deeply into the body and this profound and pleasurable sense of relaxation—while remaining present and alert!—we very gently begin tuning in to the sensations of the breath as it moves slowly in and out. Gently we tune in more and more to these sensations—while remaining grounded in a relaxed, full awareness of the whole body—and find that they're beautifully elaborate and complex. The more we tune in, the deeper we can explore this mysterious intricacy of the breath. We find whole worlds in these sensations that we never knew existed, because we always assumed they were nothing special, and never bothered to look.

When the mind becomes distracted, there will come a moment where we "wake up" and know that distraction has happened. We respond by gently releasing the distraction—just withdrawing attention from it completely—and then taking a deep breath and re-relaxing the whole body. Distractions bring tension along with them, so to fully release the distraction, remembering to fully relax the body this way is important. After releasing the distraction and any tension that may have arisen, we gently return to a relaxed and pleasurable awareness of the whole body, and tune in again to the sensations of the breath.

Practicing consistently in this way, we find that, over time, the attention will simply remain on the breath for longer and longer periods. This happens, not because we're forcing it to stay there, but because more and more energy is being withdrawn from distractions. When distractions subside this way, the attention remains on the breath by itself, without any effort on our part. This is how real states of concentration, unification of mind, and meditative absorption arise.

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