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Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving

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It seems I've heard people talk generally about coming up with solutions to daily problems through meditation, but I have no idea how to do that. I guess it vaguely has something to do with intuition.... Does anybody have a practice where they can settle a problem of some kind through a meditation practice? Or is this nonsense?

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
10/23/12 1:00 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
Does anybody have a practice where they can settle a problem of some kind through a meditation practice? Or is this nonsense?

Not nonsense at all.

The process you're speaking about is what I call "contemplation." It is the very same process used in Buddhist meditation in order to realize "awakening" to the Buddhadhamma. Except that the subject matter which is focused on is the Dhamma taught by the Buddha rather than on personal problem solving.

In terms of learning how to do this, it all starts with being able to quiet the mind. Until one can accomplish this, they will be caught in a whirling dervish of their own discursive thoughts. This is why concentration-building techniques (such as absorption or jhana) are taught to help the practitioner gain more control of their wandering mental processes so that they can learn to bring these to stillness in order to begin a process of contemplation.

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
10/23/12 1:16 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thank you, Ian. So, you would enter a particular jhana and then hold the problem in your mind as a sort of static object? Instead of the breath or jhana factors, I would focus on say, the overall feeling of a problem? Am I on the right track? Thanks for your help.

Jason

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
10/23/12 7:02 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
So, you would enter a particular jhana and then hold the problem in your mind as a sort of static object? Instead of the breath or jhana factors, I would focus on say, the overall feeling of a problem? Am I on the right track? Thanks for your help.

Hi Jason,

Don't get too hung-up on the mention of jhana (absorption). The practice of being able to enter into absorption is just a tool to help the practitioner begin to be able to control the movement of mind at will. If you can bring your mind to stillness at will, then you can enter into contemplation at will also. It's not necessary to think that you always have to enter into absorption in order to be able to accomplish this. The practice of absorption, for me, was a way to help me train the mind to be quiet. Once I was able to achieve a quiet mind (very similar to the fourth jhana), I learned how to enter that state at will without having to formally think about achieving absorption in order to get there. It just happened whenever I sat to meditate, because I knew how to make it happen.

Yes, you're on the right track with regard to contemplation. Generally, insight into problem solving occurs in a quiet mind, as you are able to focus in on the aspects of the object (problem) that you are observing/contemplating about. You may run through several scenarios before one that appeals to you occurs to you. I do this all the time in my own contemplation practice with great success.

One hint that may help when practicing to gain more insight into the Dhamma is to read or think about whatever aspect you are wanting insight about (such as the three characteristics, the teaching on anatta, or whatever aspect that you are studying) ahead of time in the moments just before you sit for formal meditation. This activity acts as a kind of "priming of the pump" so to speak, assisting the mind to be thinking ahead of time about the subject matter it is to take up during contemplation. If done right, you will be amazed at the insights that will occur to you during contemplation. Things or ways to view things you never thought to consider suddenly occur to a mind at ease and open to new ways to viewing things.

In peace,

Ian

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
8/20/14 12:27 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
In my limited experience of trying to do an "indecision meditation", I did have a bit of a breakthrough by focusing on what might be causing the sense of being blocked.  I went into that and found that a lot of what was guilt about leaving a relationship, and and underlying belief causing that guilt, which was the belief that it is wrong to abandon someone you love.  The indecision meditation I did helped me to recognize the underlying belief, and then I used inquiry to see through the belief (Byron Katie's inquiry method worked for me).

This was just peeling away a layer on the problem.  I still don't have a sense of resolution, but one of the many forces operating in my mind seems to have quited down.  Perhaps continuous meditation on the feelings block clarity might help in time.

There is a great book called Sources of Power that explains the psychology of how decisions are made in naturalistic settings.  But basically it's usually pattern recognition and mental simulation.  Problem solving and decision making are essentially the same thing.  At the basic level the book describes a model of intuition.  However if the mental simulation on how to resolve the issue runs into blocks, a decision cannot be made because essentially no way can be imagined forward.  Usually we don't weight options, but just pick the first mental simulation that seems to work, and the insight for solutions comes mostly from experience of what has worked in the past.

I agree that insight comes when the mind is at rest in the silence of contemplation. The alpha waves delivering signals from the right hemisphere of the brain can be more easily detected in relaxed or meditative states of consciousness.

I am still struggling with a decision now about to leave or stay with a relationship, and haven't yet found a practical solution on how to resolve the question.  It seems to come down to the lack of information that I have to base a decision on.  There may be some situations were a decision is not possible, simply because the conditions are not there for a decision... lack of adequate information about starting conditions, lack of clarity on target conditions, or lack of clarity on how to move from starting to target conditions.

Wisdom and clarity seem to be the key to a sense of "knowing" what to do and intention seems to arise from that, and lead to action.  I gues  all that can be done is to work on increasing clarity, but if there is not enough information, then is there really a decision possible? 

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
8/23/14 8:52 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
Discusison on meditating with questions, derived partly from the Zen koen tradition.

http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2014/02/bg-308-working-questions/

RE: Meditation for Decisions and Problem Solving
Answer
8/23/14 11:08 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
Focusing comes to my mind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focusing