How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Mike B, modified 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 1:56 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 1:33 PM

How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/7/21 Recent Posts
Greetings all,

I hope I’m posting this in the right spot, since I’m relatively new here (part-time lurker, first time poster). I had a bit of an irregular journey to Buddhism in general and as such, am having a bit of trouble figuring out where I may be on the path. I am starting to struggle a bit with motivation and just want some potential insight and encouragement from this forum to push on (and most notably, in which direction).

A quick bit of background - I was raised Roman Catholic, but it very much felt just like going through the motions for me when growing up. I think Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Living Buddha, Living Christ’ really helped sort all of this out for me, but I digress. About 5 years ago, I had my initial psychedelic experience. At this time I had stopped attending church and was in a bit of a spiritual free fall after years of disillusionment with Catholicism. I went on to have a handful of additional psychedelic experiences, and have since stopped, as I believe I’ve gotten the message, so to speak. During these experiences, I underwent complete ego dissolution and believe a small handful of A&P events. At the time, I’m not sure I fully understood these occurrences, at least in the same context I do now. But a serious hospitalization last year helped me connect the dots and I’ve been on the spiritual path since then.

I have gained certain insights as a result of these psychedelic experiences that have stuck with me now for years. Some of these insights are now engrained in me, but I’m unable to access them at will through any sort of practice. They’re just sort of with me. So I’m not sure how I should be progressing at this point. I certainly need to work on my meditation/concentration practice significantly. But at the same time, my connection to these insights that I gained more “instantaneously” with the aid of entheogens, or not with formal meditation practice, are proving to be motivational hindrances because I find myself expecting to be farther along than I am during formal sitting practice. I feel like I have a strong intellectual understanding of various spiritual teachings, yet can’t “realize” them through more traditional means. This relationship is a bit hard to put into words, and I’m certainly not trying to make any claims to attainments. I’m simply trying to best communicate where I think I may be.

As such, it feels somewhat difficult to place myself or my progress on a POI map. I have been reading through MCTB2 and TMI - I am somewhere around stage 3/4 in TMI currently. I think I should just continue along this same path, but lately I have been finding myself discouraged due to slow progress in formal sitting practice. Currently, my practice consists of one daily 40 minute sit and use of the Mahasi noting style throughout daily life. I have not been on any retreats yet, as I’d like to get a bit more disciplined in formal practice, with sits at least reaching an hour. I have been seriously practicing several months now, with about a year of fairly serious dharma study. I do not have a teacher or sangha, as there are extremely limited options in my geographic area, but have plans to seek out a teacher in the near future.

I guess some lapses in motivation can be understood as not trusting in the path fully. I would agree with this assertion, yet I also feel completely confident in the path and where it leads. It feels like a bit of an odd predicament, but is maybe quite normal and happens when one has gained some early insights, but not experienced complete streamentry. When I read or listen to a number of spiritual texts or dharma talks (Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, Burbea, Shinzen Young, etc.), I feel like I have a strong understanding of what’s being presented. Yet this level of understanding is based on these now deep-seeded insights. Therein lies the biggest obstacle to overcome - reconciling where I am currently in formal practice and what I think I already know and managing those expectations/attachments to views. I think the key here is to keep practicing like normal and give up any attachments to these views. However, in many cases it is these views that help motivate me to practice and have given me the idea that this path is correct. It seems like a very tricky situation to sort out, so that’s where I’m hopeful DO can help! emoticon

Thank you,
Mike
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Mind over easy, modified 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 2:22 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 2:19 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 239 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Hey and welcome! emoticon

Your background is pretty similar to mine in quite a few ways. I'd like to point out that you seem to have a really healthy sense of being aware that there are insights to be gained, things that are compelling that do merit invesigation, and of course, the sense that the paths that many in this community and similar report working on and getting benefit from. I find it super respectable and healthy to be able to find your experience compelling and indicative of something deeper that you're inclined to put work into, yet you seem to be careful about being unreasonably compelled or assured by the experiences you've had. I think that's a great sign and also a good general spirit that serves people well in any pursuit, especially the "weirder" and more "esoteric" ones like this domain of investigation and practice. 

Like I said, my background is quite similar. I came from a religious background (the Mormon church, LDS), eventually rejected it, had compelling experiences due to various experiments of the mind, whether purely by my own investigation, or with, external influences. From all my own understanding and experience, I'd second your diagnosis that you've hit A&P events. Even without explicitly reporting that, many people from around here will generally second the notion that doing so, intentionally or unintentionally, knowingly or unknowingly, it's often hitting the A&P that leads people to some sense of an important and very real insight into something pertaining to the ego, thoughts, etc... and often how they end up investigating and coming to places like these.

The insights and seeming shift in perspective is certainly "real" and is clearly significant, though I often think of it as a "door" or "headwaters" that lead to the journey. "This is only the beginning", etc... Important, yet also important to not be overly compelled and sure of what the implications are. Again, it seems like you have a really healthy approach of respecting the significance, yet maintaining rationality and balance in light of it. Even in the depths of practice, blind adherence and outright rejection of uncertainty and skepticism is generally unhelpful. As is overly paralyzing skepticism, uncertainty to the point where there is an absolute desire to be 100% certain before taking any steps or giving practice it's fair trial.

So I guess I'd say, it's totally fine to feel generally sure that you're onto something important and meaningful, yet struggle with the feelings that come along with holding onto a healthy degree of skepticism, unsureness, doubt, etc... Doubt and skepticism don't have to be recklessly abandoned or pushed away to begin to make progress and see for yourself, as long as they aren't overly paralyzing and truly preventing you from conducting the experiments yourself. Likewise, confidence and cautious certainty that you're onto something and are actually on a path to something meaningful, these feelings are A-OK and they don't have to be abandoned entirely to make progress either.

It sounds like you're contending with the balance of these things as you make your way, and I would give my vote of confidence that to have these feelings of where that balance is, is totally natural. Like many things in life, it's humanizing, skillful, and wise, to be okay with working to balance the two faces of extremes. Sometimes the balance needs to be adjusted. Sometimes it feels like you're in the wrong if you don't entirely give in to one extreme or the other. "The Middle Way" is often talked about, and I feel like this gets at the heart of that. 

But yeah, again, sounds like you are approaching things from a very healthy and mature point of view, and I just want to share my voice of assurance that all of this comes off as very natural, very mature, and wise. I feel doubt all the time too, even after making what I see as progress. Sometimes I'm also overly confident and assured and have to keep that in check as well. With patience and kindness for yourself, this balancing act is no problem, and it's ok to not be sure! However, as always, press on, keep at it, and the insights that you started out with will surely keep deepening, and the merits of your practice will surely be a huge factor in helping you with confidence and sureness of your practice.

All the best, and again, welcome!

(Editemoticon
P.S.-
There's a general coherence in the aim of practice in a place like this, yet there are often differing voices, differing levels of experience, conflicting opinions, varying levels of "qualification" to advise, yet anyone can post whatever they feel like, regardless of the merits of their practice, or motivations. All OK, all healthy, and at best, leads to a lot of cool discussion and cross-pollination of the varying approaches and bits of wisdom that many work towards and obtain. Another reason why healthy skepticism is totally fine, healthy, and actually a great tool! emoticon
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Mind over easy, modified 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 2:39 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 2:39 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 239 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Apologies, one last thing- I'm coming from a background of practicing within the 4 path model as presented in MCTB. Here's some more practice-geared advice:

"I think the key here is to keep practicing like normal and give up any attachments to these views. However, in many cases it is these views that help motivate me to practice and have given me the idea that this path is correct. It seems like a very tricky situation to sort out, so that’s where I’m hopeful DO can help!"

With all the stuff I said above aside, rest assured that the depths of practice often entail realizing that all our maps and understandings and perspectives, while helpful, all break down at a certain point. They are helpful and get us going, but within practice itself, it's good to realize that even these thoughts about practice, feelings of needing to be in-line and confident that your take on it all is correct, it's all simply fuel for the fires of insight. These thoughts and feelings are all subject to impermanence and lack of agency. It's okay that they occur, yet they're just more fuel for the fire. It's good to pay attention to how when these thoughts and feelings come up, they're just more things to be investigated. Note them, be aware of them, let them rise and pass. Notice how there is grasping, how there is inherent suffering in how the mind seems to want to hold on and be sure. It's okay to feel the need for the stick that stirs the fire, yet it's also important to let the stick itself be consumed. You don't have to align your mind with anything to get it done; you just have to be able to truly investigate it all, truly investigate the sensations in real-time. Let them be, let them breathe, notice where there is pushing away and holding on within the moment. Noticing the stress and suffering involved is okay. It's not a defeat; it's a sign that you're becoming more and more open to brutally examining your moment-to-moment reality and revealing the layers of attachment and aversion. Hope that's helpful!
Mike B, modified 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 8:00 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/7/21 8:00 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/7/21 Recent Posts
Thank you so much for the kind words and the encouragement. I found your response very helpful and a few parts in particular really stood out to me.​​​​​​​

The insights and seeming shift in perspective is certainly "real" and is clearly significant, though I often think of it as a "door" or "headwaters" that lead to the journey. "This is only the beginning", etc... Important, yet also important to not be overly compelled and sure of what the implications are. Again, it seems like you have a really healthy approach of respecting the significance, yet maintaining rationality and balance in light of it.
I think I've been putting a bit too much stock into some of these rather rudimentary insights. As you described in regards to A&P events being the initial catalyst for pursuing this type of spiritual path typically, I'm not certain without those experiences I ever would have began a practice like this. So I think on the one hand, some of these "insights" were significant to at least initially get me going. But I think treating them as anything more than a jumping off point is likely an example of "wrong view" and an attachment to dukkha. I have seemingly found attachment to these views and find that I often mold a great deal of my interpretations of the spiritual teachings I've read/heard over time to fit my perception associated with these views.

They are helpful and get us going, but within practice itself, it's good to realize that even these thoughts about practice, feelings of needing to be in-line and confident that your take on it all is correct, it's all simply fuel for the fires of insight. These thoughts and feelings are all subject to impermanence and lack of agency. It's okay that they occur, yet they're just more fuel for the fire. It's good to pay attention to how when these thoughts and feelings come up, they're just more things to be investigated. Note them, be aware of them, let them rise and pass. Notice how there is grasping, how there is inherent suffering in how the mind seems to want to hold on and be sure. It's okay to feel the need for the stick that stirs the fire, yet it's also important to let the stick itself be consumed. You don't have to align your mind with anything to get it done; you just have to be able to truly investigate it all, truly investigate the sensations in real-time.
I think I've fallen victim to this. Where perhaps I've become a bit too convinced or concerned that my current take is correct. I know this to not be true because of how quickly and differently my way of thinking has already radically transformed over the past year+. However, I do tend to get caught up in practicing the "right" way, and trying to frame certain understandings according to my specific beliefs. One of the things I need to keep in mind is that thoughts and feelings are all subject to impermanence - this is a key point that I've definitely lost sight of, specifically lately.

Thank you again for your replies. I greatly appreciate this direction and encouragement you've provided. 

​​​​​​​- Mike
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 2:50 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 2:49 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 1206 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
If you are having problems with motivation it could be because you don't see how meditation is helping you to accomplish anything.

So I would suggest you make sure you
  • understand what you think meditation is going to do for you
  • make sure you understand how meditation works to help people accomplish that goal
  • use a technique that produces observable results from the first day where you get as much out of it as you put in right away not some day hopefully in the future.

Then if you don't practice it's because there are other more important things in your life - and that is exactly right, you shouldn't practice a lot if you don't value what meditation does for you.  You don't have to practice a lot if you don't want to.

If you want to say what you want meditation to do for you, it might get you more specific answers. It's up to you you don't have to.
Mike B, modified 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 9:36 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 7:57 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/7/21 Recent Posts
Sure! Thank you Jim for your response. Stated plainly, I would like meditation to aid me along the spiritual path. I believe I have opened Pandora’s Box, so to speak, and have had enough powerful insights to pique my curiosity and continue down this path. It would be impossible, at this point at least, to abandon the path completely. My mind is fairly consumed and I find myself noting throughout the day. 

I think I understand how meditation would help me accomplish that goal. My very oversimplified understanding of it that I can put into words is that it is a tool that systematically helps steady the mind so that one can observe the Mind more closely by repeatedly recognizing distractions. So it sort of works to create a state of mind of observation, so that bodily sensations and thoughts can be observed and once enough realization is attained, separated and no longer attached to. That’s essentially my understanding of what I’m building towards now - sort of a “depersonalization” from my thoughts and feelings to be able to observe the bigger Mind.

I think this may be where I’m getting stuck and the source of some of my “frustration.” I still practice daily and I’m in no way disillusioned with the practice at this time. But I feel like I have this idea of where the path may be leading next, perhaps due to some of my more spontaneous A&P events, as mentioned in my OP, yet feel very far from realizing them currently. Also as mentioned in a previous post, this seems like maybe an attachment to wrong views. But I am finding difficulty in abandoning these views or expectations to an extent.

​​​​​​​I also believe that more practice would aid me in traversing the path a bit faster. As it currently stands though, I have difficulty meditating on a cushion for 40 minutes. I can recognize myself losing concentration halfway through the meditations or so. So rather than push on to longer sits, I’m attempting to stabilize attention for shorter durations first before graduating to longer practice periods. That was how I structured my initial development - I started with 10 minutes and have slowly worked my way up incrementally to my current 40 minutes.

Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for your response.

- Mike
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 10:44 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 10:30 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 1206 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Mike B
Sure! Thank you Jim for your response. Stated plainly, I would like meditation to aid me along the spiritual path. I believe I have opened Pandora’s Box, so to speak, and have had enough powerful insights to pique my curiosity and continue down this path. It would be impossible, at this point at least, to abandon the path completely. My mind is fairly consumed and I find myself noting throughout the day. 

I think I understand how meditation would help me accomplish that goal. My very oversimplified understanding of it that I can put into words is that it is a tool that systematically helps steady the mind so that one can observe the Mind more closely by repeatedly recognizing distractions. So it sort of works to create a state of mind of observation, so that bodily sensations and thoughts can be observed and once enough realization is attained, separated and no longer attached to. That’s essentially my understanding of what I’m building towards now - sort of a “depersonalization” from my thoughts and feelings to be able to observe the bigger Mind.

I think this may be where I’m getting stuck and the source of some of my “frustration.” I still practice daily and I’m in no way disillusioned with the practice at this time. But I feel like I have this idea of where the path may be leading next, perhaps due to some of my more spontaneous A&P events, as mentioned in my OP, yet feel very far from realizing them currently. Also as mentioned in a previous post, this seems like maybe an attachment to wrong views. But I am finding difficulty in abandoning these views or expectations to an extent.

I also believe that more practice would aid me in traversing the path a bit faster. As it currently stands though, I have difficulty meditating on a cushion for 40 minutes. I can recognize myself losing concentration halfway through the meditations or so. So rather than push on to longer sits, I’m attempting to stabilize attention for shorter durations first before graduating to longer practice periods. That was how I structured my initial development - I started with 10 minutes and have slowly worked my way up incrementally to my current 40 minutes.

Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for your response.

- Mike


I find it helps my concentration if I prepare for meditation before I begin. 
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/preparing-for-meditation-with.html
When I have been on meditation retreats at a Buddhist monastery, we would do bowing practice and chanting practice before sitting meditation. This is how the monks normally prepare for meditation. If the monks who are professional meditators need to prepare for meditation, it seems reasonable that a lay person would also need to prepare for meditation...
The link suggests relaxation exercises to do before meditating. I find the biggest obstacles to concentration are stress and mental fatigue so relaxation exercises can help.

I (and other people in the forum) can give you advice but I think it would help us to still know more about what you are experiencing during meditation.

Does your practice influence you on a daily basis? Do you feel different before and after you meditate?

Does meditation effect your mental state?

How do you meditate? 

You don't have to answer these on the forum just considering them might help you. And I'm not testing you, there aren't right or wrong good / bad answers. But knowing what you are doing and experiencing could help find a way of practicing that would give you the kind of effects you could see every day that would be positively reinforcing so you would find it rewarding and you would naturally want to practice without willpower.
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Stefan Stefan, modified 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 10:54 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 10:54 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 238 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
obstacle to overcome -- reconciling where I am currently in formal practice and what I think I already know and managing those expectations/attachments to views.

Sounds like you're biting off more than you can chew. Start by chewing slower and biting less. How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece. Go to your TMI book and read Stage 3/4 instructions and apply them diligently. Learn to guard the breath, learn to follow the breath. TMI from Stages 1 to 7 will most likely not be producing insights. Be okay with that. Shamatha is good. Getting ahead of yourself is a mental game you're playing, recognise when it's happening. 

I think the key here is to keep practising like normal and give up any attachments to these views. However, in many cases it is these views that help motivate me to practice and have given me the idea that this path is correct. It seems like a very tricky situation to sort out, so that’s where I’m hopeful DO can help!

Correct. You must abandon these views, they are not productive and massive hindrances to your practice. 

To get motivated? Think of how nice it'll be to finally meditate not because you think you're so flash hot and ready for the awesome insights but because it's fun, intrinsically rewarding, teaches you something unique, and makes you happier than any worldly thing.
Alex, modified 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 11:28 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/8/21 11:28 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/28/20 Recent Posts
Hi Mike,

I am not very experienced myself, but a huge motivational boost for me was when Piti or meditative joy finally showed up.

It's a very strong bodily and mental feeling of happiness and can be like a guiding light in concentration practice.

With your level of experience and daily practice you should be able to get it quite soon. MCTB has sections on it. Generally all books on Jhana/concentration/Samatha discuss it.

My personal tip: you get Piti by striking a balance between concentration and relaxation. Really only having your object in focus and nothing else, but in a relaxed manner seems to be the key (Buddha: happiness born of seclusion).

Hope this helps! Good luck to you!

Alex
Mike B, modified 9 Months ago at 12/11/21 5:43 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/11/21 5:43 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/7/21 Recent Posts
Jim - Thanks for the advice! I tend to just “jump” into my meditation practice, so I’m certain I’m carrying a good deal of unrest/stress to the practice, even if at times it can be subconscious. It’s sort of been more of a feeling of obligation in a sense - at least lately. I think my new plan will be to shorten my time spent in formal practice and incorporate a bit of preparation time on the front end instead. Then I can begin re-extending my formal practice time from there when I’m ready. The link you provided with relaxation exercises is very useful - I will work on developing a routine based on some of the techniques detailed there.

I would say my practice influence on a daily basis varies. Some days I’m generally more relaxed, look forward to my period of formal practice, and am mindful enough to note throughout the day. However, there are also plenty of days where the opposite is true. I have little to no improved mood, don’t remember to frequently note during the day, and my formal practice feels more like a requirement rather than something I’m anticipating.

I think the same can be said of my mental state - where some periods after practice I will feel especially calm and relaxed. Whereas other periods, I’m somewhat agitated after practice - especially when I feel like I’m having to shoe horn my meditation practice into my schedule.

I formally practice once daily for ~40 minutes in the evening. I try to remain mindful throughout the day and note as often as I remember. This can fluctuate wildly. Lately my issue with practicing in the evening is that I’m more tired and occasionally practice feels forced. I am planning to shift my practice to the morning before I begin work. I find that when I’m more awake/alert, I practice much better - more focused on the object of meditation (in my case, the breath) and generally tend to experience a much calmer state of mind.

—————

Stefan - Thanks for some perspective! I do agree that I’m getting ahead of myself and expecting certain results too fast. I will reread those TMI chapters.

—————

​​​​​​​Alex - Thank you for the encouragement. Sometimes I am able to recognize or trigger full body chills. If I then focus on these chills, they are a feeling I can reproduce over and over. They definitely don’t seem like what I’ve read about Piti, which as I understand is a more unmistakable bodily sensation of pleasure/happiness. The chills I’m describing are ordinary chills one experiences from some very mild bodily pleasure - like a back tickle or something. This feeling does seem to also trigger a bit of a calming/happy mind state and generally I am more satisfied coming out of my formal practices in which I’m able to tap into this feeling. Any idea if this is indicative of any early progress toward Piti?
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago at 12/11/21 6:36 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/11/21 6:33 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 1206 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Mike B
...
I would say my practice influence on a daily basis varies. Some days I’m generally more relaxed, look forward to my period of formal practice, and am mindful enough to note throughout the day. However, there are also plenty of days where the opposite is true. I have little to no improved mood, don’t remember to frequently note during the day, and my formal practice feels more like a requirement rather than something I’m anticipating.

I think the same can be said of my mental state - where some periods after practice I will feel especially calm and relaxed. Whereas other periods, I’m somewhat agitated after practice - especially when I feel like I’m having to shoe horn my meditation practice into my schedule.
...

To a certain extent it is inevitable that you will have different experiences meditating on different days. Life can complicate matters and metabolic variation related to diet and other factors can introduce variability too. One way to make it more consistent is to have a series or stages you go through every time you meditate and if you can't reach a certain stage you don't skip it you just stay where you are. That way you are always at a known stage and know what to expect. For example one could prepare for vipassana by doing some type of samatha meditation. This is the advice Buddhasa Bhikkhu gives in his book on anapanasati. He describes calming the breath, then the body, then emotions, then quieting the mind, then when the mind is prepared to work doing vipassana (looking for the three characteristics in the breath, body, emotions, and mind). He says this dissolves attachments and ends dukkha. I think this can also reduce the problem of dark nights if you don't force your mind to do vipassana when your mind is not really in condition for it.

I am not saying everyone should meditate the way Buddhadasa says to, I don't. But the strategy can be applied to different types of meditation and I think it is a very good strategy.

It also might help to try to meditate in a relaxing way. Whatever technique you use, try to do it in a relaxing way.
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Mind over easy, modified 9 Months ago at 12/12/21 3:12 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/12/21 3:12 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 239 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Heyo, lots of good discussion and tips and such which is cool to see! 

Just wanted to throw this out there as well- these discussions are netting some great tips and perspectives to consider, but also consider... luckily, you don't have to ever "resolve" these questions in terms of changing your beliefs or deciding what the correct theoretical approach is. With healthy skepticism and balance, it's not a problem to feel unsure or to not "know" that your thoughts are right. You have a dedicated practice which is already basically the hugest factor to ensure progress.

Within the realm of practice, all that's needed is to keep to the basics as far as sticking with the sensations. The thoughts will come, the doubts will come, the feeling of not being sure, being wrong, etc... when you're practicing there is no "right" or "wrong" mindset or thought or belief. This is great news, since you can fully let yourself practice and just examine the moments come and go. Rest assured that while practicing, every single moment is equally valid, every single thought and emotion, every single feeling of doubt or confidence. Sometimes practice feels good and confident, sometimes practice feels confusing and vague, sometimes the doubts really build up and get to you.

The impermanence aspect is easier to point to and just to see "oh this experience came, was here, then went". But the suffering/unsatisfactory/stressful nature can be tougher, at least in my opinion. I've personally found that when the negative and difficult situations arise, whether it's doubt, lack of clarity, unsureness, frustration, etc... with patience and a loving attitude, accept that these things are truly signposts, and with maturity and bravery, you can resolve to dive into them. I find that this kind of resolve and attitude towards the negative stuff can be really helpful.

Then, to get at the "nature of suffering", unsatisfactoriness, etc... you might notice how these things that are frustrating/unclear/unpleasant, are actually tied to some deep-seated "holding on". There is a relaxing and patient releasing type act that can be good here, where you notice this tension, notice how there is indeed some kind of grasping, holding on, like some muscle you didn't realize was tense but can start to see. You can calmly and evenly accept the moment where you find it, and learn to really accept it and meet it where it is. I find that there is definitely a tension here, some deep and subtle aspect where the mind is trying to hold on to something, and how that is really tied to the suffering/tension/unease.

We want to "feel like we're doing it right", "feel like we're on the right track", "feel like we're practicing correctly", "feel like we know what we're doing", and of course it's okay to read information, look to see what kind of approaches might be best, etc... but in practice, even all of these sorts of things can be seen as just more fuel for the fire. It's okay to see how in the moment, every single thought, including practice thoughts, they are all just passing blips that we have to see we're holding on to. "Everything must go" - My Aunt's garage sale sign emoticon

IMO it's good to have a few "tools" and "modes" of practice and learn to apply them as needed. I feel like pre A&P, noting is indeed very helpful. Past the A&P and in to the more uncomfortable territory, I find that it's helpful to practice in the way described above, really noticing the stress of holding on and noticing how surrender and easing the grip of the mind, going deeper into more "choiceless awareness" type approaches, etc... is really good. However, it can get tough and sometimes throw you off, and in those cases, it can be useful to "shift gears" into things like noting. At least pre stream-entry, it's probably the case that noting could be just about enough to get it done. However, it's not bad to kinda get used to the different bandwidths the mind hits and learn how to tune into what each stage has to offer. There is a goal off in the distance, however each and every stage and state, and really each and every experience, has a deep and necessary lesson to dig into and work with and absorb. It doesn't have to be conceptual at all; just learned well enough that you can view the impermanence, and unsatisfactoriness/stress/uneasiness of subtle holding on. And of course, the implication is that it's the notion of a permanent "you" that is holding on. It aint' the case though!

Hope this helps, I know I'm somewhat repeating myself and others too emoticon just offering what might help and give you the confidence to keep digging into each moment and truly just doing the simple practice, truly assured that each moment is exactly perfect and valid fuel for the fire of the practice. 
Mike B, modified 9 Months ago at 12/20/21 6:08 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/20/21 6:08 PM

RE: How to Progress? Some Motivation Issues From a Newer Practitioner

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/7/21 Recent Posts
Jim - All great ideas. Thank you again so much. I have been working on incorporating some relaxation exercises into my routine this past week+ or so (prior to beginning formal practice) and have noticed a definite improvement. There has been a slight decrease in agitation, allowing me to maintain better focus on my meditation object. As such, I also find myself looking more forward to sits once again - I definitely think this was a necessary jolt to keep practice alive and take it to the next step. I plan to continue bolstering my relaxation techniques/routine, as I am currently only spending ~5 minutes on this before formal practice.

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Mind over easy - 

Within the realm of practice, all that's needed is to keep to the basics as far as sticking with the sensations. The thoughts will come, the doubts will come, the feeling of not being sure, being wrong, etc... when you're practicing there is no "right" or "wrong" mindset or thought or belief. This is great news, since you can fully let yourself practice and just examine the moments come and go. Rest assured that while practicing, every single moment is equally valid, every single thought and emotion, every single feeling of doubt or confidence. Sometimes practice feels good and confident, sometimes practice feels confusing and vague, sometimes the doubts really build up and get to you.
We want to "feel like we're doing it right", "feel like we're on the right track", "feel like we're practicing correctly", "feel like we know what we're doing", and of course it's okay to read information, look to see what kind of approaches might be best, etc... but in practice, even all of these sorts of things can be seen as just more fuel for the fire. It's okay to see how in the moment, every single thought, including practice thoughts, they are all just passing blips that we have to see we're holding on to. "Everything must go" - My Aunt's garage sale sign emoticon

These bits resonated with me in particular. I've been chewing on your post for ~a week now and have found these to be very encouraging statements. I had some concern that I was practicing "incorrectly," but I understand now that isn't the case. I said this earlier in the thread, as well, but thank you for providing some much-needed words of wisom and encouragement. 

I appreciate all of the responses thus far. My practice has benefitted greatly from everyone's posts. Thank you all so much.

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