Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

R Andreas, modified 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 3:29 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 3:29 PM

Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

Posts: 2 Join Date: 6/25/14 Recent Posts
Well, I suppose I know I'm doing something, but without a teacher other than one that I can speak with on the phone for brief stints, this all new territory and I'm getting lost, naturally.

Background:

I've only been meditating going on two months now.  The first 3 weeks was very low intensity, about 15 to 20 minute mantra based meditations along with some chanting here and there. Mostly twice a day.  By week 4, I started doing 30 min to 40 min sessions, but mostly guided meditations.  It wasn't until about week 6 or 7 that I dropped the guided meditations and started getting serious with samadhi and vippassana practice.  I alternate, and usually meditate twice, sometimes three times daily.  Usually 30 to 40 min seems to when I naturally come out of it.

I'll just get to the three most significant incidents that have occurred so far.

1.) During a concentration practice early on, I felt a flood of emotions just come over me.  I decided to just sit and watch it happen.  Probably not the most skilled decision, but I did anyway.  So I listend to "me" just say every dark thing it had to say, including all of its frustrations and hates.  I probably was just projecting stuff, but every resentment I had just poured over me. I have never cried during a meditaiton in my life, but I spent a good twenty minutes doing that, feeling my body convulse, another heat wave, and then I would go back to my breath and keep doing.  Pressure in my head when I "knew" thoughts were coming, followed by release.   I felt relief when I finally woke up, and actually felt good for a while.  Didn't have a repeat of that.

2.) Vipassana very recently. I was busy noting.  A lot of my noting ended being thoughts and feelings about an ex girlfriend. Just what's floating in my mind, lately.  I noted everything, and watched it pass.  At some point, felt a tingling sensation of elation while watching a particularly negative emotion and actually observing it (which felt counter-intuitive), and then I noted the sensation as joy.  At that precise moment, I then also noted something along the lines of "also not real, and unsatisfactory", and then I started laughing uncontrollably for a good five minutes.  All the aches and stress that I've been carrying for the last two months has since been severely muted.  It was interesting.

3.) Just now, today, I've been feeling very edgy.  My mental hang ups are kind of muted since the Laughing incident, but I'm still very bothered. In fact, for many years I've been pretty existentially bleak about my life. To make matters worse, I rely on having relationships with women to kind of cover that dark side up. When I'm committed, I go all out, and I feel better about myself. When it ends, I go back to the same dark place over and over.  And I have the same obsessive thoughts about the previous girlfriend.  It's not specific. It's just attached to whatever the most recent object was that I used to cover up my... I don't know what it is.

My concentration now is really off.  I try samadhi, and then 15 minutes in of feeling a bit more blissful, I can't fight off the urge to just start Noting Practice again.  And every time I note, it gets more dark and intense. This time, "heard" myself calling all the dark parts of myself out, like I wanted to "fight". And so the voices from the 1st incident came up, and the pressure, and the heat, and I would just "listen" and "see" and other noting words, and then it would just vanish and I'd feel empty.  All of my feelings of lust and failure to take life by the reins would pop up, and I felt more awake and alive, but I would just note it.  Ultimately, it just left me confused, and obviously I can't "analyze" it or find any wisdom. I just noted it and let it fade off and drop.

I now feel a little better, but it seems like I don't feel normal anymore unless I sit.  Fortunately, I'm a teacher on summer break, so I have time to do it, and do it often.

Any insight or guidance would be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to balance my practice out and stop noting so much?  Metta?  Do I even know what I'm talking about?
thumbnail
Nikolai , modified 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 7:48 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 7:48 PM

RE: Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
R. Andreas:
Well, I suppose I know I'm doing something, but without a teacher other than one that I can speak with on the phone for brief stints, this all new territory and I'm getting lost, naturally.

Background:

I've only been meditating going on two months now.  The first 3 weeks was very low intensity, about 15 to 20 minute mantra based meditations along with some chanting here and there. Mostly twice a day.  By week 4, I started doing 30 min to 40 min sessions, but mostly guided meditations.  It wasn't until about week 6 or 7 that I dropped the guided meditations and started getting serious with samadhi and vippassana practice.  I alternate, and usually meditate twice, sometimes three times daily.  Usually 30 to 40 min seems to when I naturally come out of it.

I'll just get to the three most significant incidents that have occurred so far.

1.) During a concentration practice early on, I felt a flood of emotions just come over me.  I decided to just sit and watch it happen.  Probably not the most skilled decision, but I did anyway.  So I listend to "me" just say every dark thing it had to say, including all of its frustrations and hates.  I probably was just projecting stuff, but every resentment I had just poured over me. I have never cried during a meditaiton in my life, but I spent a good twenty minutes doing that, feeling my body convulse, another heat wave, and then I would go back to my breath and keep doing.  Pressure in my head when I "knew" thoughts were coming, followed by release.   I felt relief when I finally woke up, and actually felt good for a while.  Didn't have a repeat of that.

2.) Vipassana very recently. I was busy noting.  A lot of my noting ended being thoughts and feelings about an ex girlfriend. Just what's floating in my mind, lately.  I noted everything, and watched it pass.  At some point, felt a tingling sensation of elation while watching a particularly negative emotion and actually observing it (which felt counter-intuitive), and then I noted the sensation as joy.  At that precise moment, I then also noted something along the lines of "also not real, and unsatisfactory", and then I started laughing uncontrollably for a good five minutes.  All the aches and stress that I've been carrying for the last two months has since been severely muted.  It was interesting.

3.) Just now, today, I've been feeling very edgy.  My mental hang ups are kind of muted since the Laughing incident, but I'm still very bothered. In fact, for many years I've been pretty existentially bleak about my life. To make matters worse, I rely on having relationships with women to kind of cover that dark side up. When I'm committed, I go all out, and I feel better about myself. When it ends, I go back to the same dark place over and over.  And I have the same obsessive thoughts about the previous girlfriend.  It's not specific. It's just attached to whatever the most recent object was that I used to cover up my... I don't know what it is.

My concentration now is really off.  I try samadhi, and then 15 minutes in of feeling a bit more blissful, I can't fight off the urge to just start Noting Practice again.  And every time I note, it gets more dark and intense. This time, "heard" myself calling all the dark parts of myself out, like I wanted to "fight". And so the voices from the 1st incident came up, and the pressure, and the heat, and I would just "listen" and "see" and other noting words, and then it would just vanish and I'd feel empty.  All of my feelings of lust and failure to take life by the reins would pop up, and I felt more awake and alive, but I would just note it.  Ultimately, it just left me confused, and obviously I can't "analyze" it or find any wisdom. I just noted it and let it fade off and drop.

I now feel a little better, but it seems like I don't feel normal anymore unless I sit.  Fortunately, I'm a teacher on summer break, so I have time to do it, and do it often.

Any insight or guidance would be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to balance my practice out and stop noting so much?  Metta?  Do I even know what I'm talking about?
Hi there,

Hard to tell 'where you are at' if we are talking progress of insight. We need to see more patterns emerge and the only way to see patterns is for you to start sharing your sits here on the forum over, let's say, a wekk or two. Perhaps then some patterns will emerge. Other than that. Sometimes shaking up an approach to 'concentration' practice snaps us out of a rut and leads to progress as we may be unaware of some act that we may be doing that hinders progress. 

What is your concentration practice exactly? What is 'samadhi' practice in your case? There are a vairiety of ways to go about it dependent on your preferences and personality characterisitcs.

Sometimes, our heads are just plagued by the 5 hindrances too much to be able to practice vipassana in whatever form/approach/technique and may simply lead to aggravating and fueling them more. Let's see if the hindrances can be tempered somewhat beforehand. What are you currently doing to calm the mind (as opposed to making it one pointed and ultra focused) as this is a vital step in being able to practice vipassana well?

Nikolai
R Andreas, modified 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 11:45 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 11:45 PM

RE: Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

Posts: 2 Join Date: 6/25/14 Recent Posts
Nikolai .:
R. Andreas:
Well, I suppose I know I'm doing something, but without a teacher other than one that I can speak with on the phone for brief stints, this all new territory and I'm getting lost, naturally.

Background:

I've only been meditating going on two months now.  The first 3 weeks was very low intensity, about 15 to 20 minute mantra based meditations along with some chanting here and there. Mostly twice a day.  By week 4, I started doing 30 min to 40 min sessions, but mostly guided meditations.  It wasn't until about week 6 or 7 that I dropped the guided meditations and started getting serious with samadhi and vippassana practice.  I alternate, and usually meditate twice, sometimes three times daily.  Usually 30 to 40 min seems to when I naturally come out of it.

I'll just get to the three most significant incidents that have occurred so far.

1.) During a concentration practice early on, I felt a flood of emotions just come over me.  I decided to just sit and watch it happen.  Probably not the most skilled decision, but I did anyway.  So I listend to "me" just say every dark thing it had to say, including all of its frustrations and hates.  I probably was just projecting stuff, but every resentment I had just poured over me. I have never cried during a meditaiton in my life, but I spent a good twenty minutes doing that, feeling my body convulse, another heat wave, and then I would go back to my breath and keep doing.  Pressure in my head when I "knew" thoughts were coming, followed by release.   I felt relief when I finally woke up, and actually felt good for a while.  Didn't have a repeat of that.

2.) Vipassana very recently. I was busy noting.  A lot of my noting ended being thoughts and feelings about an ex girlfriend. Just what's floating in my mind, lately.  I noted everything, and watched it pass.  At some point, felt a tingling sensation of elation while watching a particularly negative emotion and actually observing it (which felt counter-intuitive), and then I noted the sensation as joy.  At that precise moment, I then also noted something along the lines of "also not real, and unsatisfactory", and then I started laughing uncontrollably for a good five minutes.  All the aches and stress that I've been carrying for the last two months has since been severely muted.  It was interesting.

3.) Just now, today, I've been feeling very edgy.  My mental hang ups are kind of muted since the Laughing incident, but I'm still very bothered. In fact, for many years I've been pretty existentially bleak about my life. To make matters worse, I rely on having relationships with women to kind of cover that dark side up. When I'm committed, I go all out, and I feel better about myself. When it ends, I go back to the same dark place over and over.  And I have the same obsessive thoughts about the previous girlfriend.  It's not specific. It's just attached to whatever the most recent object was that I used to cover up my... I don't know what it is.

My concentration now is really off.  I try samadhi, and then 15 minutes in of feeling a bit more blissful, I can't fight off the urge to just start Noting Practice again.  And every time I note, it gets more dark and intense. This time, "heard" myself calling all the dark parts of myself out, like I wanted to "fight". And so the voices from the 1st incident came up, and the pressure, and the heat, and I would just "listen" and "see" and other noting words, and then it would just vanish and I'd feel empty.  All of my feelings of lust and failure to take life by the reins would pop up, and I felt more awake and alive, but I would just note it.  Ultimately, it just left me confused, and obviously I can't "analyze" it or find any wisdom. I just noted it and let it fade off and drop.

I now feel a little better, but it seems like I don't feel normal anymore unless I sit.  Fortunately, I'm a teacher on summer break, so I have time to do it, and do it often.

Any insight or guidance would be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to balance my practice out and stop noting so much?  Metta?  Do I even know what I'm talking about?
Hi there,

Hard to tell 'where you are at' if we are talking progress of insight. We need to see more patterns emerge and the only way to see patterns is for you to start sharing your sits here on the forum over, let's say, a wekk or two. Perhaps then some patterns will emerge. Other than that. Sometimes shaking up an approach to 'concentration' practice snaps us out of a rut and leads to progress as we may be unaware of some act that we may be doing that hinders progress. 

What is your concentration practice exactly? What is 'samadhi' practice in your case? There are a vairiety of ways to go about it dependent on your preferences and personality characterisitcs.

Sometimes, our heads are just plagued by the 5 hindrances too much to be able to practice vipassana in whatever form/approach/technique and may simply lead to aggravating and fueling them more. Let's see if the hindrances can be tempered somewhat beforehand. What are you currently doing to calm the mind (as opposed to making it one pointed and ultra focused) as this is a vital step in being able to practice vipassana well?

Nikolai
Thanks for replying.

Your reply is helpful, as you went in a direction that I've been worried about.  My "samadhi" practice consists of little more than simply following my breath.  And, as far as calming the mind is concerned, it's been very dicey.  There have been times where I became very calm, and had no trouble following, and other times where I feel very blissful for a brief period, but then I "snap" out of it (unfortunately).  

Truth be told, I'm practicing it with little skill or direction.  There are times where I feel calm enough to note, and I probably exaggerated my frustration a bit in my first post.  Today was simply aggravating.  But I will state that I feel I'd do a lot better if my concentration were better honed or fine tuned.  I'm not sure how to go about it.

I follow my breath.  Eventually my breath goes shallow. Some sensations are pleasant. I try to follow that, but ultimately it fades within the first minute. Then I'm back to breath.  Lately, it's been difficult to keep doing that.  
thumbnail
Nikolai , modified 7 Years ago at 7/4/14 2:30 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/4/14 12:59 AM

RE: Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
R. Andreas:
Nikolai .:
R. Andreas:
Well, I suppose I know I'm doing something, but without a teacher other than one that I can speak with on the phone for brief stints, this all new territory and I'm getting lost, naturally.

Background:

I've only been meditating going on two months now.  The first 3 weeks was very low intensity, about 15 to 20 minute mantra based meditations along with some chanting here and there. Mostly twice a day.  By week 4, I started doing 30 min to 40 min sessions, but mostly guided meditations.  It wasn't until about week 6 or 7 that I dropped the guided meditations and started getting serious with samadhi and vippassana practice.  I alternate, and usually meditate twice, sometimes three times daily.  Usually 30 to 40 min seems to when I naturally come out of it.

I'll just get to the three most significant incidents that have occurred so far.

1.) During a concentration practice early on, I felt a flood of emotions just come over me.  I decided to just sit and watch it happen.  Probably not the most skilled decision, but I did anyway.  So I listend to "me" just say every dark thing it had to say, including all of its frustrations and hates.  I probably was just projecting stuff, but every resentment I had just poured over me. I have never cried during a meditaiton in my life, but I spent a good twenty minutes doing that, feeling my body convulse, another heat wave, and then I would go back to my breath and keep doing.  Pressure in my head when I "knew" thoughts were coming, followed by release.   I felt relief when I finally woke up, and actually felt good for a while.  Didn't have a repeat of that.

2.) Vipassana very recently. I was busy noting.  A lot of my noting ended being thoughts and feelings about an ex girlfriend. Just what's floating in my mind, lately.  I noted everything, and watched it pass.  At some point, felt a tingling sensation of elation while watching a particularly negative emotion and actually observing it (which felt counter-intuitive), and then I noted the sensation as joy.  At that precise moment, I then also noted something along the lines of "also not real, and unsatisfactory", and then I started laughing uncontrollably for a good five minutes.  All the aches and stress that I've been carrying for the last two months has since been severely muted.  It was interesting.

3.) Just now, today, I've been feeling very edgy.  My mental hang ups are kind of muted since the Laughing incident, but I'm still very bothered. In fact, for many years I've been pretty existentially bleak about my life. To make matters worse, I rely on having relationships with women to kind of cover that dark side up. When I'm committed, I go all out, and I feel better about myself. When it ends, I go back to the same dark place over and over.  And I have the same obsessive thoughts about the previous girlfriend.  It's not specific. It's just attached to whatever the most recent object was that I used to cover up my... I don't know what it is.

My concentration now is really off.  I try samadhi, and then 15 minutes in of feeling a bit more blissful, I can't fight off the urge to just start Noting Practice again.  And every time I note, it gets more dark and intense. This time, "heard" myself calling all the dark parts of myself out, like I wanted to "fight". And so the voices from the 1st incident came up, and the pressure, and the heat, and I would just "listen" and "see" and other noting words, and then it would just vanish and I'd feel empty.  All of my feelings of lust and failure to take life by the reins would pop up, and I felt more awake and alive, but I would just note it.  Ultimately, it just left me confused, and obviously I can't "analyze" it or find any wisdom. I just noted it and let it fade off and drop.

I now feel a little better, but it seems like I don't feel normal anymore unless I sit.  Fortunately, I'm a teacher on summer break, so I have time to do it, and do it often.

Any insight or guidance would be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to balance my practice out and stop noting so much?  Metta?  Do I even know what I'm talking about?
Hi there,

Hard to tell 'where you are at' if we are talking progress of insight. We need to see more patterns emerge and the only way to see patterns is for you to start sharing your sits here on the forum over, let's say, a wekk or two. Perhaps then some patterns will emerge. Other than that. Sometimes shaking up an approach to 'concentration' practice snaps us out of a rut and leads to progress as we may be unaware of some act that we may be doing that hinders progress. 

What is your concentration practice exactly? What is 'samadhi' practice in your case? There are a vairiety of ways to go about it dependent on your preferences and personality characterisitcs.

Sometimes, our heads are just plagued by the 5 hindrances too much to be able to practice vipassana in whatever form/approach/technique and may simply lead to aggravating and fueling them more. Let's see if the hindrances can be tempered somewhat beforehand. What are you currently doing to calm the mind (as opposed to making it one pointed and ultra focused) as this is a vital step in being able to practice vipassana well?

Nikolai
Thanks for replying.

Your reply is helpful, as you went in a direction that I've been worried about.  My "samadhi" practice consists of little more than simply following my breath.  And, as far as calming the mind is concerned, it's been very dicey.  There have been times where I became very calm, and had no trouble following, and other times where I feel very blissful for a brief period, but then I "snap" out of it (unfortunately).  

Truth be told, I'm practicing it with little skill or direction.  There are times where I feel calm enough to note, and I probably exaggerated my frustration a bit in my first post.  Today was simply aggravating.  But I will state that I feel I'd do a lot better if my concentration were better honed or fine tuned.  I'm not sure how to go about it.

I follow my breath.  Eventually my breath goes shallow. Some sensations are pleasant. I try to follow that, but ultimately it fades within the first minute. Then I'm back to breath.  Lately, it's been difficult to keep doing that.  


Hi R.

Are you up for shaking it up a little and trying a few differing aproaches to calming the mind to see if you can find something that works well for you?

If so, let's experiment. You can dedicate some sits to an approach and report back here. Alternatively send me a PM on this site if you don't want it public. 

Put the breath approach aside for a bit (you can always come back to it later) and try this approach.

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/yogi-tool-box-letting-go-approach-to.html

thumbnail
Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago at 7/4/14 12:18 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/3/14 11:49 PM

RE: Confused as to Whether I'm making Progress At All

Posts: 1652 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
The first progress is to identify the self as simply consciousness which = awareness = knowing.  When you look at a wall you KNOW that you are seeing a wall.  This is the same for thinking so since thinking is being seen thinking is not a self.  Treating thinking as a self (and even worse) a permanent self that will satisfy you leads to disappointment because of the impermanence of everything.

Noticing how the knowing doesn't react to anything and can just watch all emotions arise and pass away.  Emotions don't have to be blocked per se but just by being consistently aware of them prevents the ruminating/clinging from going too far.  It's like an impassive mirror that doesn't judge what it sees.  

Resting in a "permanent self" that is just awareness isn't the be all and end all but it provides a meditator with a lot of relief.

Most people stop at this stage because the relief can be so satisfying that the little stress that's still embedded in our remaining habits and in our consciousness of objects (we like to react the same way to familiar objects) goes unnoticed.

The next stage is a push to develop more metta habits to keep negative people and situations from living in your head rent free.  Along with metta the mindfulness practice needs to get more refined by noticing how we treat objects as inherently real.  By inherently real I mean that objects appear to us to have a separation from cause and effect which is not the case.  

When we look at objects as not being completely solid or permanently real it's easier for the brain to react less to its visable impermanence.  We get less shocked and we develop a further equanimity.  By noticing how the brain is simplifying a complex universe into our data and creating experience in our brains the sense of a here and there becomes less.  The light that's hitting my eye is right at my eye it's not "over there".  

By reading more into dependent arising we see the interlocking of consciousness and objects the interdependence of the mind to objects shows there is no permanent self.  All conditioned things deteriorate and if everything has a condition (including the mind) then there is no separate self that is permanent.

The attention moves towards objects the same habitual way it has in the past.  Try and let the awareness go where it wants to, to see these habits.  Get disenchanted simply by seeing the repetitiveness of the habits and move the awareness to more fruitful paths to create better habits.

To me the sign of progress is when habits start changing for the healthier and the mind feels healthier.  When you are truly more equanamous, happy, contented and can tolerate frustration better then that's real progress.

One of the things that really helped me to not cling to meditation was to see that I still had aversion to work and completing tasks.  One should bring this equanimity into getting things done so you don't feel that doing work is not what supposed to happen.  Enjoying the benefits of success without clinging can be very enjoyable because you enjoy it for what it is and can let go when it's gone.  That's such a relief.

Another thing that helped to go beyond the "meditator self" was to make sure I wasn't clinging to meditation.  You really aren't supposed to cling to anything if you want to bring relief as far as possible.  Don't cling to Buddhism.

Here's a reminder not to cling to Buddhism:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/74/talk/22715/

Here's a reminder to not get stuck in "not doing":

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/10028/

It wasn't that long ago for me that leaving dishes in the sink for a week and really procrastinating a lot was really a problem with the "do nothing" stage.  It was a good stage to be in but people shouldn't just stay there.

Can we react to perceptions of objects less by noticing avoidance in the habitual intentions to pay attention to the same objects in the same way.  When we see clearly the mind's attention bending towards a short-term like to avoid an unpleasant or onerous responsibility we can see some stress that wasn't seen previously.  When it happens again push it back to your responsibility and check and see if you are okay.  Aversion is impermanent.  Notice how the brain is reacting to simply thinking about "is there something better to do?" to struggle with what is.  Struggle with what is less by not treating objects as permanent or nothing.  This way you can give objects the respect they deserve without clinging to it.

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9553/

This is a lot of stuff here but it shows how much progress there actually is to move so at whatever level you're at you can continue to improve your entire life.

Metta,

Richard

Breadcrumb