Advice for beginners

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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 5:18 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 4:20 AM

Advice for beginners

Posts: 13 Join Date: 4/20/23 Recent Posts
Hey there, i just discoverd dharmaoverground. I wasn't sure if I should post this thread in the motivation or the concentration category. I have been meditating for about 3-4 years for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. A year ago maybe also for an hour. However my meditations sessions were not consistently, I missed sometimes a few sessions here and there. Last summer I even took part in a Vipassana 10-Day Meditation retreat. All these years I haven't really made any progress in concentration or had any direct insights. I don't know if it is the missing consistency, the interference of daily life or not meditating right. I hope to gain some insight from your replies regarding my missing progress. I am eager to hear your ideas or advice.
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 5:29 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 5:29 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Tell us about your experience on the 10 day vipassina retreat.
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 6:39 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 6:39 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 13 Join Date: 4/20/23 Recent Posts
I knew how the schedule on the retreat is going to look like. Therefore I tried to meditate every day up to an hour before going to the retreat. Hence I didn't have any problems with meditating the whole day and I could follow all the meditation instructions. What I had problems with, was a lot of pain in the knees and the back and negative thoughts (worries, ...) sourrounding people that are close to me. It seemed like I used the retreat as a medium to process build up worries. On the last day and the day afterwards I felt really peaceful without any problems. But I didn't have any profound experiences or insights. In the weeks after the retreat I felt in a kind of hole. I rarely did anything productive. The reasons could also have been that I had, right before the retreat, some really importat exams, for which I had to learn a lot. It could be that I wasn't motivated to do anything afterwards because all the workload fell away. 
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 7:50 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 7:50 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Okay, thanks. And what are your hopes for your meditation practice? Anything in particular you are hoping to achieve/improve?
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 11:30 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 11:30 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 13 Join Date: 4/20/23 Recent Posts
I mainly want to explore consciousness and reality by developing a knife sharpe concentration. But like I said, I lack the progress in that field
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 12:01 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 12:01 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Ah, okay. I'm not great at concentration, so I'll let other chime in.
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 1:56 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/20/23 1:50 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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What type of meditation are you doing?

I would suggest you try to notice how you feel before and after your meditation sessions. That way you will have a better idea of what your practice is doing for you. What is your mood like? Are you relaxed or tense? Is your mind quieter after the sessions? 

Rather than use a fixed time for meditation each day it might be better to understand how the meditation process works, what the effects are, and decide what you want the meditation to do for you - and then meditate to get that result. You might not get that result every day but you should get it some days.

My philosophy is to meditate each day for the benefits I get that day. For me that is a calm mind so I suffer less from stress and I have the ability to be mindful of the activity of my mind in daily life.

The way the Buddha taught meditation is to calm the breath, the body, the emotions, and the mind (in that order), and then use the mind to gain insights.

The biggest obstacles to concentration are stress, mental fatigue, and sexual thoughts. For stress and mental fatigue I recommend this type of meditation (it should quickly help you calm the breath, body, emotions and mind.):
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/preparing-for-meditation-with.html

There are different opinions on what to do about sexual thoughts, some people think you should learn to let go of them using will power, other people say that is too hard for most people and you should satisfy your sexual urges to reduce sexual thoughts.

For gaining insights, I recommend mindfulness in meditation and daily life. Watch the activity of your mind (thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensory experiences, and sense of self). Notice reactive emotions (emotions that arise inresponse to a situation or thought) in particular, and noticing the physical sensations in your body that accompany emotions can help you to become sensitive to reactive emotions as soon as they arise. Notice how your ego is often involved in reactive emotions. Unpleasant emotions are easier to notice than cravings but try to also notice craving - when wanting something, or fear of losing something, is making you feel unpleasant - again notice if your ego is involved. Notice what happens as the reactive emotions fade. What helps them fade faster? Some of the weaker emotions you can let go of just by relaxing. Others you might have to do the meditation I linked to above to let go of them.

Practicing mindfulness in daily life is more important than most people realize. When the Buddha taught mindfulness techniques he said: a monk should live doing .... . To get the results Buddha got, you have to practice the way he taught, and he taught that you have to practice mindfulness in daily life.

I would measure progress by how you feel in daily life (not by ability to concertate or by insights). Do you have more equanimity? Are there situations that give you particular problems that seem to be getting easier to deal with?

https://www.lionsroar.com/on-enlightenment-an-interview-with-shinzen-young/

On Enlightenment – An Interview with Shinzen Young
...
When it [enlightenment] happens suddenly and dramatically you’re in seventh heaven. It’s like after the first experience of love, you’ll never be the same. However, for most people who’ve studied with me it doesn’t happen that way. What does happen is that the person gradually works through the things that get in the way of enlightenment, but so gradually that they might not notice. What typically happens is that over a period of years, and indeed decades, within that person the craving, aversion, and unconsciousness—the mula kleshas (the fundamental “impurities”), get worked through. But because all this is happening gradually they’re acclimatizing as it’s occurring and they may not realize how far they’ve come. That’s why I like telling the story about the samurai.

This samurai went to the Zen temple on the mountain and lived there for many years. He didn’t seem to be getting anything out of the practice. So he said to the Master, “I think I need to leave. Nothing’s happening as a result of this practice.” So the master said, “Okay. Go.” As he was coming down the hill one of his former comrades, a fellow samurai, saw him in the tattered robes of a Buddhist monk, which is equivalent to a glorified beggar from a samurai’s point of view, and he said, “How could you be so undignified to join the counter-culture of Buddhist beggars?” and he spit on him. Now in the old days the samurais were extremely proud. Any insult to their personal dignity meant a fight to the death. So the monk who had formerly been a samurai just walked on and after he’d walked a certain distance, it occurred to him that not only did he not need to kill this guy, he wasn’t even angry.

As the story goes he turned around and bowed toward the mountain three times where he had practiced. He bowed in his recognition of all that he had worked through. He recognized he no longer needed to kill someone that had offended his dignity. He noticed how fundamentally he had changed as a human being.

Of course, it’s not just samurai in sixteenth century Japan. The same things apply to twenty-first century North Americans. Maybe they’ve been practicing for ten, twenty, or thirty years and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. And then something big happens like a major bereavement, a major illness like cancer, a serious injury, or their life is somehow threatened. Then they notice how everyone around them is freaking out and how much less they’re freaking out.

I’ll give you an example that happened just a few weeks ago. Someone who has been coming to retreats for quite a while went to have a biopsy to determine whether they had a serious cancer or not. While waiting for the results, this person noticed they weren’t worried. Anyway, it turned out that the biopsy was negative. So all the unnecessary suffering that would’ve happened but didn’t, that was the effect of that person’s years of practice.
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 4:15 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 4:15 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 13 Join Date: 4/20/23 Recent Posts
Thanks for all the advice. I will try noticing how i fell before and after the meditation for one week then I am going to write here what I noticed. Usually I start with anapana (I am not really good with the terminology), after a few minutes I start doing Vipassana meditation. While doing the meditation I can clearly feel and concentrate the sensations on my body, but it seems like there is no process. My perception has been like that for a few years. Now I know that one shouldn't only have in mind the attainment of some states or an altered perception, but sooner or later you have to ask yourself if it is the right technique or if you are doing something wrong.
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 8:21 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 8:15 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 1508 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Yannik Nikolic
Thanks for all the advice. I will try noticing how i fell before and after the meditation for one week then I am going to write here what I noticed. Usually I start with anapana (I am not really good with the terminology), after a few minutes I start doing Vipassana meditation. While doing the meditation I can clearly feel and concentrate the sensations on my body, but it seems like there is no process. My perception has been like that for a few years. Now I know that one shouldn't only have in mind the attainment of some states or an altered perception, but sooner or later you have to ask yourself if it is the right technique or if you are doing something wrong.


It's possible to do vipassana in a relaxing way. If you could add to your current method of vipassana also noticing the in and out of the breath and try to relax and notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation I think you might find the meditation would work better. If you could do two 20-30 minute sessions a day that would be good also.

This is my personal opinion only but if it isn't obvious to you that the meditation is making you feel more relaxed and giving you more equanimity in daily life then I think you could benefit from making some changes. I suggest trying what I suggested above in this post and if you don't see any change think about trying a different technique (I recommend the first link in my pervious post above).
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Aeon , modified 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 9:35 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/21/23 9:34 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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"While doing the meditation I can clearly feel and concentrate the sensations on my body, but it seems like there is no process. "

If you would describe your meditation practice, as if teaching me how to replicate your exact practice, we might be able to help you evaluate it.
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 2:25 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 2:25 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Sorry I forgot to mention previously that I actually do feel a lot more relaxed after my meditation. It has come to a point where I want to meditate everyday because I don't want to feel restless.
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 2:41 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 2:41 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Ok I will do that: I sit down on a cushion and start concentrating on my breath. I focus on all the different sensations sourring the nose while breathing in and out. While doing that I try to stay with the breath and not being distracted by thoughts, sometimes it works for multiple seconds and sometimes only for a few. After doing that for about 5-10 minutes I start doing Vipassana, by focusing on the highest point on my head and perceiving all the different sensations. Fom here on I am going down my body, body part by body part while only covering a small field (in which I perceive the sensations) with my awarness. I hope you can understand what I wrote. English isn't my first language. Thanks for the help
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 6:02 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 6:02 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Yannik Nikolic
Sorry I forgot to mention previously that I actually do feel a lot more relaxed after my meditation. It has come to a point where I want to meditate everyday because I don't want to feel restless.


That's good. And that's about what I think is reasonable for 20-30 minutes once a day. If you want to get more out of it I think you'll have put in more time. Have you tried mindfulness in daily life? Trying to maintain the relaxed feeling after meditating by doing things in a relaxed way and being aware of what you are doing as you are doing it?
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 6:35 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 6:35 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 13 Join Date: 4/20/23 Recent Posts
ok good. I sometimes try it, but I keep forgetting it when daily life catches up with me. I've never tried to maintain the feeling directly after meditation, but throughout the week there is seldom a time where I am in a meditative like state. The state is not characterised by concentration, rather it is a feeling of peacefulness.
Thanks for the advice, I will try to implement it.
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Aeon , modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 10:26 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 10:26 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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@yannik Understand completely.

It seems as if you are calmly and passively observing sensations, rather than "busting vibrations" with a sportsman like attitude; attempting to actively expand your attention to capture more impermanence/changes/frames/vibrations per second.
When I intuited this new way of doing vipassana, after reading MCTB2 section on insight, I progressed up to the equanimity nana.

You might also like to read this about the Goenka method and retreats:
https://danielpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#jump-to-288
(TL;DR: They are not the best for serious progress and attainments of paths)
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 12:58 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 12:58 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 1508 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Yannik Nikolic
Hey there, i just discoverd dharmaoverground. I wasn't sure if I should post this thread in the motivation or the concentration category. I have been meditating for about 3-4 years for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. A year ago maybe also for an hour. However my meditations sessions were not consistently, I missed sometimes a few sessions here and there. Last summer I even took part in a Vipassana 10-Day Meditation retreat. All these years I haven't really made any progress in concentration or had any direct insights. I don't know if it is the missing consistency, the interference of daily life or not meditating right. I hope to gain some insight from your replies regarding my missing progress. I am eager to hear your ideas or advice.

I recommend reading this article. It is about the many ways people respond to meditation. Not every one reacts the same way. I think it's unfortunate there aren't more articles like this (and the interview with Shinzen Young I linked to above). There is a kind of stereotype that gets propagated that is not true for everyone maybe not true even for most people. I don't know why more isn't done to present the full spectrum to students and readers of books etc.

https://inquiringmind.com/article/2701_w_kornfield-enlightenments/

Enlightenments
By Jack Kornfield
...
There is also what is called the “gateless gate.” One teacher describes it this way: “I would go for months of retreat training, and nothing spectacular would happen, no great experiences. Yet somehow everything changed. What most transformed me were the endless hours of mindfulness and compassion, giving a caring attention to what I was doing. I discovered how I automatically tighten and grasp, and with that realization I started to let go, to open to an appreciation of whatever was present. I found an ease. I gave up striving. I became less serious, less concerned with myself. My kindness deepened. I experienced a profound freedom, simply the fruit of being present over and over.” This was her gateless gate.
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 1:14 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/22/23 1:10 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

Posts: 1508 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Yannik Nikolic
ok good. I sometimes try it, but I keep forgetting it when daily life catches up with me. I've never tried to maintain the feeling directly after meditation, but throughout the week there is seldom a time where I am in a meditative like state. The state is not characterised by concentration, rather it is a feeling of peacefulness.
Thanks for the advice, I will try to implement it.


That's good too. Notice what interferes with the feeling of peace. Notice if your ego is involved. When you start noticing this, see if you can let go of what interferes with the feeling of peace. If you do this you are observing dukkha, impermanence, and anatta (the three characteristics), by letting go you are interrupting the chain of dependent origination after step 7.

https://inquiringmind.com/article/2701_w_kornfield-enlightenments/
As Ajahn Chah described them, meditative states are not important in themselves. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind so you can practice all day long wherever you are; see when there is grasping or aversion, clinging or suffering; and then let it go. 
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:04 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:04 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Jim Smith
I recommend reading this article.
Thanks a lot. The article was really refreshing. It would still be nice to sometimes have a sign that I am doing the right thing. 
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:12 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:12 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Thanks for the information. I still think the 10 day Vipassana retreats are still good for a start. There aren't a lot of costs involved and it is the nearest from where I live. I am actually thinking about signing up for another 10 Day Vipassana retreat this summer. 
I am definitelty going to read MCTB2 and the chapter on insight. Do you have any advice on how to activate the sportsman like attitude. How do you practice Vipassana?  
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:36 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/23/23 2:30 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Yannik Nikolic
Jim Smith
I recommend reading this article.

Thanks a lot. The article was really refreshing. It would still be nice to sometimes have a sign that I am doing the right thing. 

The feeling of peace is your sign. It's up to you to cultivate it and learn to maintain it for longer periods of time. More meditation will help, trying to be mindfuil in daily life will help, trying to keep the calm mind after a meditation session will help, living in a way that does not produce mental turbulence can help - although it might be hard if you are a student, or have a full time job, or a family - which includes most people - and is why Buddha and monks abandoned ordinary life - so if you are not going to live like a monk, you have to accept the limitations ( I am not suggesting you live like a monk) - but even within that constraint there is still a lot of room for you to expand your practice. 


Yannik Nikolic
ok good. I sometimes try it, but I keep forgetting it when daily life catches up with me. I've never tried to maintain the feeling directly after meditation, but throughout the week there is seldom a time where I am in a meditative like state. The state is not characterised by concentration, rather it is a feeling of peacefulness.
Thanks for the advice, I will try to implement it.
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Yannik N, modified 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 10:23 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 10:23 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Thanks for all the helpfull replies. You mean that at the end of the day it comes all down to observing realty every moment of the day.
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 12:02 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 12:02 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Yannik Nikolic
Thanks for all the helpfull replies. You mean that at the end of the day it comes all down to observing realty every moment of the day.


And learning from the observations. Noticing duhhka arising and learning to let go without suppressing. A lot of the thinking that causes suffering is so ingrained that it is hard to see it because it's there all the time so it's hard to recognize, like the air around us - most of the time we don't notice it, we don't realize we are under 14.696 psi of air. And letting go is not easy either. First you have to accept the situation is not the problem it is our internal reaction that is the problem. Then you have to learn to relax when your fight or flight instincts are telling you something different - and that means you have to find all the places there is tension - which can be just as subtle as and difficult to recognize as the thoughts that cause it.
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Aeon , modified 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 2:30 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/24/23 2:30 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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@yannik With regards to the sportsman like attitude to vipassana, I think MCTB2 can explain it better than I can.
What do you say we touch base after you read through the section on the progress of insight?

If you feel moved to do so, it would be cool if you made a meditation log here on the forum, and let us know what goal you set, what methods you choose, and how you do on retreat etc. Feel free to tag us there too.
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Yannik N, modified 4 Months ago at 4/27/23 3:40 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 4/27/23 3:40 AM

RE: Advice for beginners

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@aeon @jimsmith
Thanks for all the help. I am going to establish the mentioned practices, such as daily mindfullness and the observing of dukha arising and passing. And I am going to make a meditation log.
​​​​​​​@aeon I am going to write again, when I have read the chapter on insight. I am probably going to have some questions emoticon if that is ok with you.
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Aeon , modified 4 Months ago at 4/27/23 5:11 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 4/27/23 5:11 PM

RE: Advice for beginners

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Of course, by all means ask questions whenever ready. We all benefit from that in an open learning environment like this.

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