Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Hi, I'm new to this forum! I'm almost 30, I'm from Germany, and my religious background is quite eclectic. And I'm having trouble getting started with focus meditation and was hoping to get some guidance here.

I've been practicing various forms of meditation over the years, basically because of my interest in spirituality and magick, because it's recommended in a lot of places to first learn meditation. Also, I'm using things like autogentic training for relaxation.

One of the most recent practices I tried is void meditation (i.e. emptying the awareness of all thoughts), which some of the classics of modern western spirituality claim you must be able to hold for 20 minutes straight before you can even get started with anything else. Not like I'd truly believe it, but wanted to figure out what they even mean, and what those people mean who claim to be able to do that.

After fruitless discussions online what is meant by "no thoughts", and a couple weeks of daily 10 minute practice (in which I might have achieved it for a second or so on 2 or 3 occasions, but without any memory during it so that I can't tell whether I did it or not), I started attending an online class on meditation, whose teacher used The Mind Illuminated as his primary guide. That lead me to actually start reading up on Buddhist meditation instead of expecting modern western teachings to be sufficient, and trying to practice awareness of the breath meditation.

I'm having a bit trouble with the instructions, though, because, I mean, you are supposed to return to your breath when you notice that you forgot about the meditation object. But I hardly ever forget about that during meditation, I must be extremely sleepy for that to happen with any frequency. So I guess I'm at stage 4 or 5 of the level system in The Mind Illuminated (dunno whether that's a commonly used system here), but without any experience of having been at the earlier stages - I mean, I have done other meditative practices before, but no focus meditation, at least not with any regularity.

So, the next step after noticing a distraction is returning to the breath. But I'm having a huge deal of trouble motivating myself to that. Watching my thoughts is much more comfortable than moving my attention to my breath, so trying to feels like fighting against my own will and quickly ruins my mood. And as I usually when meditating notice the attention shifting almost as soon as it does, I end up trying to shift my focus back to the breath at least every few seconds. I've been told to instead not try to use any effort, but then my attention hardly ever contains the breath because my mind doesn't consider the breath something to frequently put its attention on when I don't actively use it for energy work or something, and even then it doesn't remain there steadily.

Part of the problem is that I don't really understand the purpose of one-pointed focus, nor am I completely sure of the definition. I tend to hyperfocus on things all the time, but the meditation teacher of that online class told me that it has some similarities but is something else. And for one-pointed focus, the way I understood it you basically have to convince your subconscious that it's not supposed to use your awareness for communication between its parts for the duration of the meditation, and I don't think that's something I would want to train my subconscious to get in the habit of doing, I'd like it to tell when something's up and not encourage it to not talking to each other. So these kinds of doubts tend to come up in practice. (I didn't have that issue in void meditation because there I aimed for just a few moments of complete silence rather than for a prolonged time of only one input channel. And also, that worry hadn't crossed my mind yet.)

I read that one can leave the thoughts in peripheral awareness instead of moving them out of one's awareness completely. But I don't really understand what is peripheral awareness - things either are in my attention or I'm not consciously aware of them in that moment. I mean, based on the moments of consciousness model (not sure how it's called outside of TMI terminology) you can't be consciously aware of more than one kind of thing at the same time anyway. So I suppose, peripheral awareness is what my subconscious is aware of and from which it takes things to bring to my attention - but so I can only know consciously that something was in peripheral awareness by my attention having shifted to that something.

Using the breath sensations at the abdomen or back is my preferred option -  the tip of my nose is just so sensitive that it feels really uncomfortable to focus on the breath sensations there. And I read that one is supposed to make it as comfortable as possible so that one's mind actually wants to settle there. But, how is that compatible with one-pointed focus? I mean, then you don't only feel the breath sensations but also the positive emotions and the energetic sensations related to relaxing, and bodily sensations in other parts of the body. So there would be a whole lot of things for the attention to shift between. So why are these kinds of distractions "okay" in meditation, but others not? It might make it easier to enjoy the meditation that way, but when I'm supposed to return to the breath when my attention shifts, it'd make it quite a task to decide all the time whether what it shifted to is "allowed" or not.

I tend to have a lot of difficulties relating to examples in meditation instructions, so it's hard for me to wrap my mind around it all. And in the meditation chats I asked thus far, there were no people familiar enough with this kind of meditation. That's why I figured I might now ask here. Also, since I am suspecting that I might have some form of neurodivergency, and saw that there is a thread or two on that here, perhaps there are some people here who had similar difficulties and can help me situating myself on the map?

I tried some instructions in David Ingram's book (of which I admittedly have only read some chapters) - i.e. just making sure to have the attention on the breath once per breath cycle. Tried it twice thus far, 10 and 15 minutes, and it was very easy. Since I spent most of the breath cycle thinking about random stuff, i.e. just letting my mind do whatever it wants, that's probably not going to lead to one-pointed focus, though. And interrupting my thoughts every 5-10 seconds or so to check in with the breath (did both during inhalation and exhalation) left me feeling quite scatterminded.

My main motivation in regards to focus meditation is wanting to find out how it works and whether it's useful for me. Perhaps that's the wrong motivation?

Also, unrelated to meditation, I get what might be sensations of piti (strong, very pleasurable tingling particularly in the upper half of the spine). I don't know whether it's that, though, been getting that irregularly since over a decade, i.e. since before I ever did any spiritual practices. Been told it likely has something to do with energy/qi and that it probably wouldn't be kundalini. If it is piti, then that makes me even more confused in regards to focus meditation, because that is completely unrelated to whether I've been focusing on something or not, and it usually happens outside of meditation.

Sorry for the wall of text, not sure which bits are relevant as I'm quite new to all this. Thanks for any input!

TL/DR: Lack of motivation for focus meditation due to wondering what's the point of one-pointed focus, whether I'm understanding it right, and whether it has negative side effects in the way I understand it.
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Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 430 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Natheris, welcome to DhO.

I'm no expert, so buyers beware. You posed too many questions, so it's not easy to give an answer. I just write a few pointers of things that come to my mind.

- 20 minutes without thoughts won't happen. You may have no verbal o image thoughts when your mind is calm enough, but still you'll have every now and then unconscious thoughts and intentions. So just be realistic with your goals. Only in hard jhana does that happen, and that needs serious amount of work.
- If following the breath in a single point doesn't work for you, just do whole breathing like it's said in TMI for stage 5
- As you are interested specifically in magick, you would probably benefit more with a visual object for concentration. Google "Kasina + concentration". In particular, fire kasina as it has plenty of info. 
- There's a whole section in Daniel Ingram's posts compilation dedicated to Magick that you might enjoy to read. 
- Some DhOers have practiced TMI, there are plenty of threads you can check in the search box above, but probably you may find a broader TMI community in Reddit/StreamEntry.

Good luck!
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for your reply! So I guess, I better add individual threads for the questions? Figured it's useful for seeing the underlying issue to have a list of the open questions.

Guess I need to probe my online acquaintance again who claims to be able to do 20 minutes. Guess they still haven't understood what "no thoughts" means, they said they can do it and do it often, even after I gave them a detailed list of what "thought" includes, namely also perceptions, non-verbal/non-image thoughts, etc. - or we are wrong and it is possible.

So, distractions would only include verbal and image-based thoughts? That seems like cheating, most of my thinking is just this nonverbal knowing/feeling.

Was considering doing the whole body thing, but I kinda first want to understand the goal a bit better. And I've done similar kinds of meditations before and I don't have the impression that it has any mind-quieting effect, whatever that's supposed to be. It's relaxing, sure, but that doesn't cause any steadier focus.

I haven't worked with kasinas yet, but I heard of them (from aforementioned acquaintance actually). Magick is basically what got me to meditation, but I would also be interested in meditation unrelated to magick, currently my main motivation in relation to it is wanting to understand it, rather than wanting to use it for anything.

Not necessarily limiting myself to the TMI approach, I encountered the same difficulties understanding other approaches. Might also ask in that Subreddit, thanks for this and the other suggestions! 
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Jim Smith, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 1002 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Natheris .
Hi, I'm new to this forum! I'm almost 30, I'm from Germany, and my religious background is quite eclectic. And I'm having trouble getting started with focus meditation and was hoping to get some guidance here.

I've been practicing various forms of meditation over the years, basically because of my interest in spirituality and magick, because it's recommended in a lot of places to first learn meditation. Also, I'm using things like autogentic training for relaxation.

One of the most recent practices I tried is void meditation (i.e. emptying the awareness of all thoughts), which some of the classics of modern western spirituality claim you must be able to hold for 20 minutes straight before you can even get started with anything else. Not like I'd truly believe it, but wanted to figure out what they even mean, and what those people mean who claim to be able to do that.

I find that this type of meditation is not really a good practice. It leads to suppression of thoughts and emotions and can cause irritability - that is the opposite of what you want if you are pursuing spirituality.

In my experience I have found the best way to quiet the mind is through relaxation. Stress and mental fatigue cause the mind to be unruly. Relaxation quiets the mind. Then gentle focus without trying to stamp out thoughts leads to a quieter and quieter mind. I think this is one of the hardest things to learn - to focus the mind gently without trying to forcefully stop thoughts.


After fruitless discussions online what is meant by "no thoughts", and a couple weeks of daily 10 minute practice (in which I might have achieved it for a second or so on 2 or 3 occasions, but without any memory during it so that I can't tell whether I did it or not), I started attending an online class on meditation, whose teacher used The Mind Illuminated as his primary guide. That lead me to actually start reading up on Buddhist meditation instead of expecting modern western teachings to be sufficient, and trying to practice awareness of the breath meditation.

I'm having a bit trouble with the instructions, though, because, I mean, you are supposed to return to your breath when you notice that you forgot about the meditation object. But I hardly ever forget about that during meditation, I must be extremely sleepy for that to happen with any frequency. So I guess I'm at stage 4 or 5 of the level system in The Mind Illuminated (dunno whether that's a commonly used system here), but without any experience of having been at the earlier stages - I mean, I have done other meditative practices before, but no focus meditation, at least not with any regularity.

So, the next step after noticing a distraction is returning to the breath. But I'm having a huge deal of trouble motivating myself to that. Watching my thoughts is much more comfortable than moving my attention to my breath, so trying to feels like fighting against my own will and quickly ruins my mood.


Don't make an intense effort. Try to be more of an observer than a doer.



And as I usually when meditating notice the attention shifting almost as soon as it does, I end up trying to shift my focus back to the breath at least every few seconds. I've been told to instead not try to use any effort, but then my attention hardly ever contains the breath because my mind doesn't consider the breath something to frequently put its attention on when I don't actively use it for energy work or something, and even then it doesn't remain there steadily.



If your thoughts are grabbing your attention it means your mind is turbulent and you need to relax more to quiet it. Your experience shows that trying to force your mind to focus doesn't work. Quiet your mind through relaxation and a longer period of gentle meditation and you will be able to wield your focus with greater skill.

The mind is very hard to get under control, you are expecting it to be much easier than it really is - I think that is a common misunderstanding. For most people it is better to think of  quieting the mind not as somehting you get better at with practice (like playing a musical instrument) but something you achieve by living a quiet life and spending time every day doing relaxation exercises and meditation.  




Part of the problem is that I don't really understand the purpose of one-pointed focus, nor am I completely sure of the definition.

It leads to altered states which are fun but which, in my opinion, not terribly useful. I only recommend it as a substitute for recreational drugs.

What is useful, in my opinion, is to use relaxation or relaxing meditation to quiet the mind to the point where you can have the presence of mind to watch thoughts and emotions arising and passing away without getting carried away by them. That allows you to see how suffering arises and passes away and that understanding leads to great advancements in well-being.



I tend to hyperfocus on things all the time, but the meditation teacher of that online class told me that it has some similarities but is something else. And for one-pointed focus, the way I understood it you basically have to convince your subconscious that it's not supposed to use your awareness for communication between its parts for the duration of the meditation, and I don't think that's something I would want to train my subconscious to get in the habit of doing, I'd like it to tell when something's up and not encourage it to not talking to each other. So these kinds of doubts tend to come up in practice. (I didn't have that issue in void meditation because there I aimed for just a few moments of complete silence rather than for a prolonged time of only one input channel. And also, that worry hadn't crossed my mind yet.)

I read that one can leave the thoughts in peripheral awareness instead of moving them out of one's awareness completely. But I don't really understand what is peripheral awareness - things either are in my attention or I'm not consciously aware of them in that moment. I mean, based on the moments of consciousness model (not sure how it's called outside of TMI terminology) you can't be consciously aware of more than one kind of thing at the same time anyway. So I suppose, peripheral awareness is what my subconscious is aware of and from which it takes things to bring to my attention - but so I can only know consciously that something was in peripheral awareness by my attention having shifted to that something.

Using the breath sensations at the abdomen or back is my preferred option -  the tip of my nose is just so sensitive that it feels really uncomfortable to focus on the breath sensations there. And I read that one is supposed to make it as comfortable as possible so that one's mind actually wants to settle there. But, how is that compatible with one-pointed focus? I mean, then you don't only feel the breath sensations but also the positive emotions and the energetic sensations related to relaxing, and bodily sensations in other parts of the body. So there would be a whole lot of things for the attention to shift between. So why are these kinds of distractions "okay" in meditation, but others not? It might make it easier to enjoy the meditation that way, but when I'm supposed to return to the breath when my attention shifts, it'd make it quite a task to decide all the time whether what it shifted to is "allowed" or not.

I tend to have a lot of difficulties relating to examples in meditation instructions, so it's hard for me to wrap my mind around it all. And in the meditation chats I asked thus far, there were no people familiar enough with this kind of meditation. That's why I figured I might now ask here. Also, since I am suspecting that I might have some form of neurodivergency, and saw that there is a thread or two on that here, perhaps there are some people here who had similar difficulties and can help me situating myself on the map?

I tried some instructions in David Ingram's book (of which I admittedly have only read some chapters) - i.e. just making sure to have the attention on the breath once per breath cycle. Tried it twice thus far, 10 and 15 minutes, and it was very easy. Since I spent most of the breath cycle thinking about random stuff, i.e. just letting my mind do whatever it wants, that's probably not going to lead to one-pointed focus, though. And interrupting my thoughts every 5-10 seconds or so to check in with the breath (did both during inhalation and exhalation) left me feeling quite scatterminded.

My main motivation in regards to focus meditation is wanting to find out how it works and whether it's useful for me. Perhaps that's the wrong motivation?


It's not bad to try a meditation just to find out about it. But I think you should also understand what you want to accomplish through meditation and investigate techniques that will help you achieve your goals. Ideally you will find a person who demonstrates the qualities you want to attain and can use the same method they say helped them. But it can be hard to find a good teacher so trying different techniques might be the best alternative. In my own practice, I tried many different techniques and read many books and worked out a system which works well for me.



Also, unrelated to meditation, I get what might be sensations of piti (strong, very pleasurable tingling particularly in the upper half of the spine). I don't know whether it's that, though, been getting that irregularly since over a decade, i.e. since before I ever did any spiritual practices. Been told it likely has something to do with energy/qi and that it probably wouldn't be kundalini. If it is piti, then that makes me even more confused in regards to focus meditation, because that is completely unrelated to whether I've been focusing on something or not, and it usually happens outside of meditation.

Sorry for the wall of text, not sure which bits are relevant as I'm quite new to all this. Thanks for any input!

TL/DR: Lack of motivation for focus meditation due to wondering what's the point of one-pointed focus, whether I'm understanding it right, and whether it has negative side effects in the way I understand it.


Here are some links to my blog and website that might clarify what I have written, or answer some of your questions that I didn't say anything about above:

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2021/05/a-path.html
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/preparing-for-meditation-with.html
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/easy-meditation.html
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/a-quick-guide-to-producing-bliss-with.html
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/psi_experience
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/02/joy-during-meditation.html#joy_trip
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/mystical_experiences#mystical_kensho
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for your reply! Gonna give a more detailed answer when I got around reading your links in more detail, only skimmed through them.

Perhaps you explain it there, but one question I'm having is, what is a quiet mind? Feelings of relaxation are one of my primary distractions after all.

Perhaps that strategy of going beyond the hypnogogic state might work for me? Based on limited experience with it, I get into the hypnogogic state particularly in label-less noting meditation because of how the rapid noting of things arising in the mind (like several times per second) fragments the flow of thoughts, leading to the quickly changing pictures typical of just before falling asleep.

> What is useful, in my opinion, is to use relaxation or relaxing meditation to quiet the mind to the point where you can have the presence of mind to watch thoughts and emotions arising and passing away without getting carried away by them.

I'm pretty sure I'm in that state already.

I don't really know how to tell whether I'm getting involved or not, because my mind does all kinds of things without my involvement, like thinking this very sentence. The deciding to write it down did feel like me being involved, though.
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Jim Smith, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 1002 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Natheris .
Thanks for your reply! Gonna give a more detailed answer when I got around reading your links in more detail, only skimmed through them.

Perhaps you explain it there, but one question I'm having is, what is a quiet mind? Feelings of relaxation are one of my primary distractions after all.

Perhaps that strategy of going beyond the hypnogogic state might work for me? Based on limited experience with it, I get into the hypnogogic state particularly in label-less noting meditation because of how the rapid noting of things arising in the mind (like several times per second) fragments the flow of thoughts, leading to the quickly changing pictures typical of just before falling asleep.

> What is useful, in my opinion, is to use relaxation or relaxing meditation to quiet the mind to the point where you can have the presence of mind to watch thoughts and emotions arising and passing away without getting carried away by them.

I'm pretty sure I'm in that state already.

I don't really know how to tell whether I'm getting involved or not, because my mind does all kinds of things without my involvement, like thinking this very sentence. The deciding to write it down did feel like me being involved, though.


Relaxation in the sense that I mean it is not sleepiness. You can go to sleep even though you are anxious, have nightmares, and wake up anxious. But you were asleep (relaxed?).

What I mean by relaxation is being fully awake but at the same time deactivating the stress response in the body (activating the parasympathetic nervous system and deactivating the sympathetic nervous system). When you are not experiencing stress, you are not feeling any unpleasant emotion, you are not suffering.

What I mean by relaxation is best explained here:

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/preparing-for-meditation-with.html
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for the clarification! I hadn't been thinking of sleepiness, that state of rapidly changing mental images isn't one of feeling sleepy in and of itself, it only most typically happens when very sleepy.

I rarely feel any unpleasant emotions in meditation, unless I try to let go of anything that comes up, or get agitated about not understanding how meditation is supposed to work. Well the latter isn't necessarily an unpleasant emotion either, but it causes tension. It only becomes a negative emotion when there are strong doubts that what I'm doing there is beneficial for me in any way or even worry that it's harmful. But perhaps I just am not consciously aware of my emotions.
Eudoxos ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 79 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Hi Natheris,

welcome to the world of meditation emoticon The Buddhist framework (Theravada that is, also explained in Daniel Ingram's MCTB book ; perhaps read Part I / chapters 1–4) framework is that you can train concentration or insight (and morality, of course); and that it is insight which actually brings wholesome changes to how you experience reality (traits, as opposed to states). Some meditators/lineages/traditions go concentration-first (this is how I understand the TMI, though I only had a cursory look), others go to insight practices directly (and develop concentration on the way).

And for one-pointed focus, the way I understood it you basically have to convince your subconscious that it's not supposed to use your awareness for communication between its parts for the duration of the meditation, and I don't think that's something I would want to train my subconscious to get in the habit of doing, I'd like it to tell when something's up and not encourage it to not talking to each other. So these kinds of doubts tend to come up in practice.
I can relate to this, having trained one-pointed effortful breath-counting (different tradition) for over 5 years initially. While it gave me quite a bit of willpower, later (that's how I understand looking back) it contributed to depression, sicknesses and a kind of burnout, as I learnt (and built an unconscious habit of it) to disconnect from feelings, from body sensations etc, just pushing them out and ignoring them. Perhaps a skilled teacher could have adjusted me back then, to be less controlling, less serious.

I second the suggestion that you work 1:1 with a teacher. Every practice builds habits; if you cultivate some which are "not good" in the long run, you might have to find yourself un-learning them later (such as in my case dissociation from by feelings & stuff, and putting too much effort) which is tough and painful. It will also spare you some frustration trying to understand (even the good) texts about meditation using frameworks which are not yet familiar to you.

There is quite a few high-quality vipassana centers in Germany I know; I assume the same will be true for concentration practices, but can't give you any specific pointer here. Doing a few days of retreat in a center might give you a direct dive into the practice, if you have time, confidence and willingness.

Good luck!
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Thanks! I have read a few sections from MCTB a couple weeks ago. Primarily section 3, 4 and 27, if I remember correctly. But probably should start at the beginning.

Yes, TMI starts with concentration and puts insight practices quite to the end. If I remember correctly, it says that one first needs to reach one-pointed concentration for the jhanas, and that those are necessary for insight practices.

Currently I'm just really curious about what one-pointed focus is and how it is possible. Independent from whether I actually need it for anything.

Thanks for the heads-up regarding disconnection from feelings. Yeah, I should be careful in these regards - I tend to dissociate from my body (especially when I hyperfocus), and I probably have alexithymia. Mndfulness meditation is supposed to help with dissociation, and I guess also with alexithymia, but who knows which form of mindfulness meditation is meant... When I try mindful eating and things like that, I only face resistance because of hypersensitivity issues making things feel too intense (which might be part of why I'm dissociating in the first place).

Having a teacher would likely be helpful, yes. In regards to a lot of the things I read in relation to the insights, I'm often like, I can't relate to what the author says about how people would normally perceive things, but the way s/he says that things actually are sounds quite obvious to me - so I probably don't understand what s/he's talking about. Not always, but often enough to make me wonder whether I'm understanding anything at all. So having someone to ask questions directly might help.

Currently I'm busy finishing my PhD, and afterwards I'll likely move to another place (depending on where I get a job), which is part of why I haven't been searching much for a meditation teacher here. Well I had that teacher in that online class, but that's a bit different than in real life, and he seems to be busy currently so we haven't continued our discussion of my questions in a bit.
Eudoxos ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 79 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Yes, TMI starts with concentration and puts insight practices quite to the end. If I remember correctly, it says that one first needs to reach one-pointed concentration for the jhanas, and that those are necessary for insight practices.
This is one of the evergreens of concentration-first proponents ;) It makes sense in a way but it is also disproved by those who did have transformative insights without previous formal concentration training. I am nowhere compared to Culadasa but would not take this argument too seriously.
Mindfulness meditation is supposed to help with dissociation, and I guess also with alexithymia, but who knows which form of mindfulness meditation is meant... When I try mindful eating and things like that, I only face resistance because of hypersensitivity issues making things feel too intense (which might be part of why I'm dissociating in the first place).
That sounds like quite a good experience emoticon mindful eating &c is supposed to bring up all these things (resistance, ovewhelming feeling, perhaps judgement, anger, thoughts, analyzing, doubt about oneself, etc; perhaps also positive feelings); it is actually a good sign about your mindfulness that you can be aware of those; plus you already see the stress of those feelings causes your attention to turn away (dissociate). Those are mind states and reactions you have in your daily life as well (only without mindfulness, automatically) — same mind, same habits. If you do insight practices, such things will come up more and you will learn to deal with them better; and will have less need to dissociate. This is true for both "good" soft-mindfulness like MBSR/MBCT and hardcore vipassana, though obviously with a different intensity and impact (MBSR/MBCT are helpful to relate the less-intense meditation experience to one's life; intense practice will be more transformative but often with less obvious implications for off-cushion life).

I've had repeated experiences that a good MBSR course is a helpful preparation for intense retreat, as many misconceptions or expectations about mindfulness wil have been addressed already, the experience of one's mind chaos will have been already normalized, there is rudimentary insight into the basics (body-mind, cause-effect and 3c).

Now, lots of mindfulness courses "out there" is self-gratifying wellness-oriented pop-psychology which can be, understandably, quite confusing and frustrating.
In regards to a lot of the things I read in relation to the insights, I'm often like, I can't relate to what the author says about how people would normally perceive things, but the way s/he says that things actually are sounds quite obvious to me - so I probably don't understand what s/he's talking about.
Before doing vipassana (insight practice), I read many books on depression, could recognize myself in that very well — but was still depressed just the same. It was not until I sat down that things actually started to change. The insight is a change of perspective, it comes by itself by doing the practice.

I digressed from one-pointed concentration, I hope you don't mind emoticon
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Eudoxos .
That sounds like quite a good experience emoticon mindful eating &c is supposed to bring up all these things (resistance, ovewhelming feeling, perhaps judgement, anger, thoughts, analyzing, doubt about oneself, etc; perhaps also positive feelings); it is actually a good sign about your mindfulness that you can be aware of those; plus you already see the stress of those feelings causes your attention to turn away (dissociate). Those are mind states and reactions you have in your daily life as well (only without mindfulness, automatically) — same mind, same habits.
It is? From other people practicing it, I heard what it's supposed to cause is renewed enjoyment of food by tasting it more, and awareness of what one is eating so that one doesn't binge.

And it also doesn't bring up most of these things for me - only the negative physical sensations and resistance against feeling them, nothing on top of that really except for the conclusion that that strategy isn't helping, and some agitation that I have to add another thing to the long list of spiritual practices that don't work for me.

You don't have to get angry at a hot plate or at yourself for touching it in order to avoid it in the future.

Before doing vipassana (insight practice), I read many books on depression, could recognize myself in that very well — but was still depressed just the same. It was not until I sat down that things actually started to change. The insight is a change of perspective, it comes by itself by doing the practice.
​​​​​​​I'm having the impression that some of my problems are coming from thinking in an "insightful" way rather than in the normal way, though. I've read the first few sections of Seeing that Frees a few weeks ago, and that was kinda my impression. Well, some also do come from thinking in the normal way, though.
I digressed from one-pointed concentration, I hope you don't mind emoticon
Perhaps I should start a thread on only that.
Eudoxos ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 79 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
 It is? From other people practicing it, I heard what it's supposed to cause is renewed enjoyment of food by tasting it more, and awareness of what one is eating so that one doesn't binge.

 And it also doesn't bring up most of these things for me - only the negative physical sensations and resistance against feeling them, nothing on top of that really except for the conclusion that that strategy isn't helping, and some agitation that I have to add another thing to the long list of spiritual practices that don't work for me.

Strictly speaking, there is nothing a particular insight/contemplative/observatory practice "should" bring up. That said, negative experiences are very common in this case, and are to be welcome as they tend to get repressed very often. Low-quality mindfulness (called McMindfulness by those who think we can do better) talks about enjoying the present moment, seeing how delightful a raisin is etc. And then, undrstandably, people who happen to have a different experience (such as repulsion, doubt about what kind of stupid practice this is, being depressed and thus definitely not enjoying anything, the pressure of what one "should" experience) feel excluded and lose interest. Giving space to the negative (including "negative sensations", "resistance" and "agitation that I have to add another thing to the long list of spiritual practices that don't work for me") and addressing hidden expectations ("did not work") is of utmost importance, and I am sorry you did not have that. I am saying all this with confidence as a trained MBSR teacher who knows the curriculum (mindful eating is an introductory exercise in MBSR) and who guided dozes of people.
​​​​​​​I'm having the impression that some of my problems are coming from thinking in an "insightful" way rather than in the normal way, though. I've read the first few sections of Seeing that Frees a few weeks ago, and that was kinda my impression.

The mind can get stuck in any of the stages (or types) of insight, whether one practices or not, for short or for years. The insight practice is not just experiencing those states (such as confusion, anxiety, irritation, depression, frustration, resignation — typical "dark night" feelings, in the sequence from bangha to patisankha) but also, crucially, learning to see them for what they are (= seeing the 3 characteristics) and learning how to get unstuck, how to disembed, how to let go.
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Eudoxos .
Strictly speaking, there is nothing a particular insight/contemplative/observatory practice "should" bring up. That said, negative experiences are very common in this case, and are to be welcome as they tend to get repressed very often. Low-quality mindfulness (called McMindfulness by those who think we can do better) talks about enjoying the present moment, seeing how delightful a raisin is etc. And then, undrstandably, people who happen to have a different experience (such as repulsion, doubt about what kind of stupid practice this is, being depressed and thus definitely not enjoying anything, the pressure of what one "should" experience) feel excluded and lose interest. Giving space to the negative (including "negative sensations", "resistance" and "agitation that I have to add another thing to the long list of spiritual practices that don't work for me") and addressing hidden expectations ("did not work") is of utmost importance, and I am sorry you did not have that. I am saying all this with confidence as a trained MBSR teacher who knows the curriculum (mindful eating is an introductory exercise in MBSR) and who guided dozes of people.


Thanks for your input! Yes, I didn't practice that one with a teacher, just on my own based on what people in some meditation chat were writing.

The mind can get stuck in any of the stages (or types) of insight, whether one practices or not, for short or for years. The insight practice is not just experiencing those states (such as confusion, anxiety, irritation, depression, frustration, resignation — typical "dark night" feelings, in the sequence from bangha to patisankha) but also, crucially, learning to see them for what they are (= seeing the 3 characteristics) and learning how to get unstuck, how to disembed, how to let go.

For me it's rather, getting confusion and social anxiety due to seeing things a bit more as they are than others and not being able to understand how people see them in another way and how to behave around people accordingly. Based on what people wrote in the thread on neurodivergency, that's not too uncommon for neurodivergent folk.
Not claiming I'm seeing things 100% as they are xD Just, to take an example from Seeing that Frees, it recommends looking at the individual elements of a situation when the situation as a whole is giving one negative emotions. But I already usually have my focus on the elements rather than the whole, and it's specific ones of these elements that are giving me the negative emotions in question, or sometimes the confusion about how to combine these elements to a whole that is similar enough to what other people perceive to talk about it with them.
John Doe, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Dealing with negative emotions is complicated. I often run into mild negative emotions when I practice meditation (anxiety, aversion to the task, boredom...). To these I actually give them my whole attention and do my best to not reject them. When I do that, I stop feeling the revulsion I have to them. I stop feeling the urge to run away, and I can almost feel comftable in the experience of discomfort. At these levels, I take it as a challenge to not let myself be bent by the aversion, and overcoming them by accepting them feels deeply rewarding.

On the other hand, I've yet to experience truly deep pain and apply these acceptance techniques to it. Maibe it would help, but I don't know at all.

If I would give some advice, is not to think of aversive experiences as bad, but as an opportunity to practice acceptance and strength in the face of adversity. And if you practice it enough, maybe the aversive sensations will yield and you will actually enjoy the feeling that once felt disgusting. I used to hate the sliminess of spinach, but after practicing these techniques with it I am starting to appreciate it in my morning eggs.
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Resistance against the practice itself, based on anxiety of doing it wrong in a harmful way, is also the negative emotion that comes up the most for me during meditation.

But how do you give it your attention without thereby stopping the practice?
John Doe, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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I gotta warn you before you follow my advice. I'm still a noob without stream entry. I've not even crossed the Arising and Passing away. This mostly comes from my intellectual exploration of the topic and my readings on it. I AM trying these techniques on my practie, but since I've started practicing seriously only recently, I'm not sure where these techniques would lead you to. If you are worried you will actually hurt yourself, get an insight coach that will gets to know you personally, so they can tell you if you are harming yourself in case you don't notice, and the reverse too, let you know you are fine even when you are worrying too much.

that said, here's my take:

how do you give resistence your attention without stopping your practice?

Well, as I understand it, there are only two types of practice: concentration and insight. Concentration is about making something solid and persistent. Insight is about noticing the three characteristics of something.

To use resistence to practice as an object of concentration practice, you focus really hard on the resistence. Notice how does it feel in your body, where sensations arise, make them as solid as possible, be as clear as you can about how it feels. True concentration practice might ask you to EXTEND the sensation for as long as you can, but I would suggest you just pay attention to it until it feels unstable, until it feels weak. Then you drop it and go back to the breath. If the sensations of resistence to practice come up again, repeat the above instruction.

I don't think this kind of focus will hurt you. On the contrary, you can train yourself to be immune to this anxiety by exposing yourself without running away. Its like exposure therapy used in CBT, in my opinion.

As for using resistence to meditation to train in insight, I like to use noting. If you meditate, and the anxiety arises, you say to yourself "anxiety" as it comes up. Then you can keep saying "anxiety" as long as its there, or you can note the sensations in your body. My anxiety makes me feel kind of tingles behind my ears, so I note "tingles" when they arise.

I suggest this video by shinzen young on noting practice as a general guide: https://youtu.be/StBTuX0tqU8

I also suggest chapter 22 Harnessing the Energy of the Defilements, in daniel ingram's MCTB2. There is a 12 step algorithm on how to extract use from negative emotions that I use just normally in my daily life because its soo good, but also there are suggestions on how to investigate negative emotions, which is what insight practice is all about.
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Thanks for your input!

It doesn't feel like anxiety alone but rather like hurting myself in that very moment (by forcing myself away from pleasant sensations and thoughts without being sure that it's what I'm supposed to do). The anxiety is rather about wondering whether this hurting myself is gonna lead to lasting damage.

Trying to keep using the breath at the nose as my focus object even though my mind said, that feels really uncomfortable, has after all had the lasting side effect outside of meditation that I now also notice sometimes throughout the day how uncomfortable it feels there.

And I have noticed that I also outside of meditation sometimes end up supressing/interrupting thoughts I'm enjoying, as a habit developed from meditation. It hasn't happened often but it seems worrisome.

So I'd rather tackle the cause for the anxiety rather than the emotion of anxiety.

I have tried noting meditation before (without labeling, though), but I end up noting small shifts in attention like 10 times a second, and so the frequent noting leads to a very scatterminded state of mind as it makes longer thoughts impossible. Last time I tried it, it quickly got me into a hypnogogic trance (i.e. the state of consciousness typically right before sleep where you see images quickly flashing by in your mind's eye), but without being sleepy.

Well, in the video he goes into different rhythms for noting. So slower rhythms, and including labeling, might be useful. Not really for being aware of what happens, but perhaps for finding ways to categorize it.

I have alexithymia probably, so I perceive emotions primarily as physical sensations anyway. Strong anxiety for me tends to for example involve getting heartburn. Perhaps the trying to categorize might make it easier to read my own emotions not just based on the sensory perceptions.
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Not two, not one, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Just a few thoughts, for what they are worth.

(1) Think of attention as the primary focus, and awareness as the peripheral focus.  It's ok to have all sorts of things in awareness, but the trick is not to let them drag you off your primary focus (attention).  So don't look out the window of the car at a distracting sight, and then have a crash because you lost attention!  Over time, you can rebalance the relationship between attention and awareness, but your first task it NOT to suppress your peripheral awareness, but rather just to stop it snatching your attention.  Tolerate the periphery, but stay focussed on the centre.

(2) Many techniques (like TMI) are quite advanced, but people seem to do quite well starting with them.  TMI for example, is stage 10 of a 16 stage programme called anapanasati.  Vipassana is stage 14.  If it not working for you, go back to an earlier stage, like the first tetrad stages 1-4.   Of course, every stage contains elements of every other stage.  One trick for building concentration from TMI is this: when you start to notice your awareness threatening your attention, expand the focus of attention (for example, from the breath at the tip of the nose, to the breath throughout the whole torso).  That will soak up mental bandwidth so that awareness calms down and gets back in it place.

(3) There are heaps of different approaches, and combining them too early on can result in real confusion.  So find one approach - take the one seat, as Ajahn Chah said.  Stick to that until you have made some progress, and only then expand to other techniques.

So that is your task now.  Take the one seat.  You have to choose.  :-)   Then stick to it. 
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Not two, not one
Just a few thoughts, for what they are worth.

Thanks for your reply!

(1) Think of attention as the primary focus, and awareness as the peripheral focus.  It's ok to have all sorts of things in awareness, but the trick is not to let them drag you off your primary focus (attention).  So don't look out the window of the car at a distracting sight, and then have a crash because you lost attention!  Over time, you can rebalance the relationship between attention and awareness, but your first task it NOT to suppress your peripheral awareness, but rather just to stop it snatching your attention.  Tolerate the periphery, but stay focussed on the centre.
What is meant by it snatching my attention?
  • consciously noticing it at all, i.e. having one's attention shift there for a moment?
  • having one's attention shift there for however long one's mind finds it interesting, while being aware of having shifted there?
  • having one's attention shift there without one noticing?

For me, usually only the first and second kind happen in meditation. And when I try to stop my attention to be interrupted by things from peripheral awareness, my subconscious starts complaining right away.

(2) Many techniques (like TMI) are quite advanced, but people seem to do quite well starting with them.  TMI for example, is stage 10 of a 16 stage programme called anapanasati.  Vipassana is stage 14.  If it not working for you, go back to an earlier stage, like the first tetrad stages 1-4.   Of course, every stage contains elements of every other stage.  One trick for building concentration from TMI is this: when you start to notice your awareness threatening your attention, expand the focus of attention (for example, from the breath at the tip of the nose, to the breath throughout the whole torso).  That will soak up mental bandwidth so that awareness calms down and gets back in it place.


Ah yes, the practice it recommends for stage 4. I don't know which stage I'm at, but 4 or perhaps 5 or 6 seems likely. I don't really understand the aim of the practice, though. When I focus on the breath sensations in the whole body, I still notice other things entering my attention.


(3) There are heaps of different approaches, and combining them too early on can result in real confusion.  So find one approach - take the one seat, as Ajahn Chah said.  Stick to that until you have made some progress, and only then expand to other techniques.

So that is your task now.  Take the one seat.  You have to choose.  :-)   Then stick to it. 
I would stick to one, but I would first like to understand what to do in it.
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Not two, not one, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Hey Natheris, to answer your question:

Yes, training in meditation means stopping your attention shifting without you noticing, and also stopping having your attention shift there for however long you find it interesting.  There is a more advanced practice that does that second thing called choiceless awareness, but it is not suitable for introductory practice.

So when your attention shifts, notice that it has shifted, and move it back to the breath. Yes it can be hard!  But you are slowly building up the attention 'muscle'.  Notice the breath, notice when your attention moves off the breath, be pleased you noticed this, and move it back.  All sorts of other things will gone on in your mind - that is normal - but keep them in awareness rather than attention, and when they force their way into attention, notice that, and move your attention back to the breath.

My recommendation would be that you start a practice log here, and record how each sit goes.  :-) 

Malcolm
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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The problem is that I notice the attention shifting up to several times per second. I guess that's then awareness rather than attention, but I don't really know how to determine the difference. And therefore, shifting back my attention so frequently feels like trying to block all mental activity, which seems like a bad idea, so I get lots of resistance and don't know how to practice.

When I make all breath related sensations the object of meditation (giving it a really wide definition so that the subtle shifts of intention for keeping up the practice, my heartbeat, any tactile sensations, relaxation-related emotional sensations, and even my tinnitus don't count as distractions), then attention mostly switches back and forth between many of those. But as soon as there is any noise around, like birds singing for example or a car passing by, I end up noticing that instead and my attention is mostly on that for the second or two that it can be heard, and there may also be mental distractions, particularly in regards to summarizing what I'm doing or wondering whether something that entered my attention counts as part of the object of focus or as distraction.

I would start a practice log, but I don't know how to practice.

So, could you explain please what's the difference between attention and awareness?
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Not two, not one, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Hey Natheris, I would count that as the first entry in your practice log.  Keep going!  If you need more explanations of the difference between attention and awareness, it is clearly laid out in TMI.  But the main idea is just to increase the proportion of mind moments that are focussed on the object of meditation, and working toward having the majority of your mind moments being of the object of meditation.  That is attention.

Try it on your next attempted sit, and record the results here!  The only bad sit is the one you didn't do.  :-) 

Metta 

Malcolm
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Thanks for the encouragement! But that's what I'm not understanding. When I try to have all mind moments on the object of meditation, I need to stop all other conscious mental activity, i.e. to stop my subminds from using my consciousness for communicating with each other for the duration of the sit, and they don't like that idea at all, so that trying to ruins my mood within seconds. Which is why I first want to really understand what to do before giving it another try.

Also, how is this goal compatible with keeping peripheral awareness open?

When all my mind moments are on the object of meditation, it might well be that peripheral awareness is open, but I can't access it. You can only know consciously what is in your peripheral awareness by getting your attention moved to it, i.e. by getting distracted.
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Not two, not one, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Natheris . Thanks for the encouragement! But that's what I'm not understanding. When I try to have all mind moments on the object of meditation, I need to stop all other conscious mental activity, i.e. to stop my subminds from using my consciousness for communicating with each other for the duration of the sit, and they don't like that idea at all, so that trying to ruins my mood within seconds. Which is why I first want to really understand what to do before giving it another try. Also, how is this goal compatible with keeping peripheral awareness open? When all my mind moments are on the object of meditation, it might well be that peripheral awareness is open, but I can't access it. You can only know consciously what is in your peripheral awareness by getting your attention moved to it, i.e. by getting distracted.

Not all the mind momments, Natheris, just the majority.  That is, over 50% and maybe up to 80% or thereabouts.
​​​​​​​
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Not two, not one
Not all the mind momments, Natheris, just the majority.  That is, over 50% and maybe up to 80% or thereabouts.
​​​​​​​

Thanks for clarifying that!

But why is it then called one-pointed or unwavering attention? Seems to be a misnomer xD

More importantly, what is TMI then talking about in regards to the distractions to overcome on particularly stage 6 (and 4)? What else are subtle distractions than these remaining 20 to 50%?
John Doe, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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As a noob in meditation, I agree that its really attractive  to want to understand what the higher stages will be like. It feels as being important for your practice at the moment, especially when you are starting out and one barely knows any of the meanings of the words or where one might be going.

My opinion now is that this knowledge of where you are going (called mapping) is useful for motivation, and to avoid getting lost, but especially in the early stages, its not that useful for your practice right now. At the start, there are only a few goals: get to a sitting routine (at least once a day), increase the length of time you spend on each breath (at least a couple of breaths). How you accomplish these two tasks is not really important. Noting the sensations of the breath, noticing all parts of the breath, letting your mind focus on the ambient noices for a while before going to the breath... what the specifics are does not matter, as long as the time spent on one object of meditation increases week by week.

I've been talking about the breath, but that single object can be anything. I like to keep my focus on the way things move in the perifery when I drive, and I think that counts as meditation. When I shower, I focus on the feel of the cold water in my skin. When I walk, I focus on the pressure on my shoes, or the hinging of my knees. When I sit (outside a meditation session) I focus on the pressure in my back and butt. Anything you can keep your attention focused without changing is a good object of meditation. And even just a couple of seconds on it is good, especially if you are doing it several times a day throughout the day.

If you want inspiration on how flexible practice can be, how many ways there are to practice that all yield results, read MCTB2 from cover to cover. It took me 3 months of a few pages a day, but it gave me a great idea of what counted as practice, how to do that as often as possible, and as a bonus it satiated my map cravings by both presenting a lot of useful maps and being quite frank about how distracting map obsession can be.
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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The thing is, I seem to be at stage 6 of TMI, but without having much experience with the earlier stages xD Forgetting doesn't happen, so it's at least stage 4, and I am getting the impression that what I'm dealing with is subtle rather than gross distractions.

I have practiced daily meditating before (not this kind of focus meditation, though) and kept to it for months at a time - when I know what to do, building the routine isn't difficult. But with the obstacles I'm encountering here, my motivation is low.

Well, I was now recommended to rather focus on enjoying the breath sensations in the body instead of working on reducing distractions. That seems significantly more easy to get motivation for.

I have tried these kinds of practices where you pay attention to the sensations while walking or eating. But that just makes me notice how bad it feels and how much better I feel when just watching my thoughts instead of stopping them. Food tastes so much better when I only pay attention to it when it draws my attention.

And yes, intending to read MCTB2 fully. Only read a few chapters thus far. The only concentration practice it seems to include is the one where you are aware of each cycle of breath at least once during the cycle. Did that (but once per inhalation and once per exhalation). Only did 15 minutes thus far (60 is the goal in the book) but that was extremely easy. Only checking in with the breath every 10 seconds and spending the rest of the time watching thoughts left me scatterminded, though, due to having to interrupt the thoughts every 10 seconds. So I guess that's not how it's supposed to be practiced.
Anna Purna, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Dear Natheris
You said you are meditating because of your interest in spirituality and magick. 
Perhaps you could expand on what your motivation is? What are you trying to achieve with meditation and why?
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Anna Purna
Dear Natheris
You said you are meditating because of your interest in spirituality and magick. 
Perhaps you could expand on what your motivation is? What are you trying to achieve with meditation and why?

Dear Anna,

Thanks for your question! My main motivation is curiosity, i.e. wanting to understand what people are talking about in regards to meditation (both the method and the states of mind accessible through it).

Which is similar to why I'm interested in magick and spirituality.

If it helps with daily life, all the better.
Anna Purna, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Hey

I would plumb the depths of that curiosity from every angle. 

Rhetoric/socratic questions...

Why are you curious? 

Are you trying to develop liberating insight? or jhana? or something else ? healing/channeling/communing with spirits?

It's still not clear to me where you are coming from & where you are trying to go.

(Not that we ultimately come or go anywhere of course, but conventionally speaking...)

I am not suggesting you post personal stuff on here or even respond to this necessarily.

Just suggesting you clarify your goals & ask yourself deep & wide ranging questions about what is motivating your curiosity

If your goals are too diffuse/unclear then when you sit to meditate you may just be confused
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

Posts: 26 Join Date: 6/27/21 Recent Posts
Are you trying to develop liberating insight? or jhana? or something else ? healing/channeling/communing with spirits?
None of these xD They'd be nice side effects, but they aren't my main motivation. It's really about knowledge for knowledge's sake, I'm a bit of a learning-junkie. To me, it's like a riddle that I can't figure out because I'm missing some key so that the solution that makes most sense to me doesn't seem to work.

Well, why this topic of all? Now that get's harder to answer, but it relates to understanding better how my mind works and how other people's minds work and how the descriptions of how meditation is supposed to be done map on my experiences with trying to follow the descriptions.

Solving this riddle in turn will likely also make it slightly easier to understand how other things are meant (books on the insights for example, or on other spiritual practices in general).

As I mentioned in the introductory comment, I probably have some form of neurodivergency (currently under assessment for autism spectrum disorder), and so there are some differences in how my mind works, and that makes it difficult for me to understand spiritual practices because I first need to find out how my "normal" relates to the "normal" of the author. For example, I only recently learned that some meditative practices that are supposed to be trance-inducing by increasing alpha-brainwaves don't work on me because it seems like neurodivergency causes one's brain to have increased alpha-waves by default, and so they have hardly any effect.

Figured I'd reply to your rhethoric question nonetheless, because the personal things mentioned here I also mentioned in other comments, and it might also make it easier for people reading it to see what I'm having problems with in regards to understanding how to practice focus meditation, and how to explain it to me.

I don't know yet whether that's the full answer, there may well be more things feeding my curiosity. Some food for thought for sure!
Anna Purna, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Cool! I could ask many more questions but I won't.
​​​​​​​Best of luck with your explorations
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Thanks!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Now I have read through this thread as well as what we have already talked about in our little slack channel for neurodivergent practicioners. I can see why instructions are so confusing to you. You are operating at a greater level of clarity with regard to complexity than is expected from a beginner, so the instructions are far too general and vague and simplified to make any sense. Also, because you notice more subtle aspects than expected, you tend to set the bar too high, and that becomes a hindrance. My advice would be to take instructions a little less seriously and play with them. Try out different interpretations of them to find out for yourself what they lead to. Modify as needed. Explore whatever quirks of the mind fascinate you, regardless of what others say. You seem to have the intuition for it. That can take you a long way. Let your curiosity drive you rather than some idea of what a beginner should do. You are coming from a different direction than most beginning practicioners. 
Natheris ., modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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Thanks - that might well be the issue, yes.

I'm finding it difficult to see other ways of interpreting the instructions, though. The one I'm picking obviously doesn't work, but other interpretations fit my observations even less.

And my curiosity tends to latch onto trying to make sense of what I read rather than on freestyle exploring what I see.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Newbie looking for advice with focus meditation

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I see. Yeah, that can be a problem. 

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