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My experience
Answer
4/14/17 6:32 AM
So I should really start with how I got onto Buddhism and the teachings, to date I've been reading about Buddhism now for a few months. Keep a long story short I had an anxiety issue, I remember how my psychologist always said just let the thoughts come and go. This was 10 years ago, maybe 5 years in the anxiety became significantly better and that's through understanding and just being mindful. One thing that happened to me ever since the anxiety was a profound need to understand, I wanted the truth of things and it was insatiable, I didn't stop reading about science and philosophical texts. Maybe around 3 years ago I read a little more on mindfulness and also on echart Tolle and some of his teachings on being present, one thing that stuck with me was when he himself came to his realisation of his own suffering when he uttered the words "I can't live with myself" and started questioning exactly who is this self he was talking about. Shortly after I just forgot about it all because it was confusing to me at the time and made me feel empty. There were times when I'd think about it and it prompted me to be present, really listen to my surroundings, really look at things, trees etc. really listening to birds, crickets etc sometimes when I looked at things it was as if someone turned the brightness up on my tv, everything was so much more vivid and clear because I was paying attention to them. I was also mindful of my breath & did this from time to time, I never actually sat and did hours of meditation though. 
i can say that I can't remember the last time I had some anxiety and it became an issue. 
Now despite reading about mindfulness and having a basic understanding of it I still had moments when I'd be frustrated in myself for example around 3-4 months ago I had these moments when Id let myself go and think about how I'm not good enough because I this, I that, I'm like that bla bla bla and then everything just clicked. What am I doing? None of these things make up who you are. My thoughts rushed back to be still and notice your breath. 
Now this has happened before, Ive had moments of non mindful thinking only to grow frustrated and then I'd kick myself and remember to be mindful only to revert to being unmindful. 3-4 months ago though something happened, I decided that I'm not going back to that unmindful thinking. I naturally just turned to Buddhism after some reading and it just resonated with me. 
Something I realised with my anxiety in the past is that it doesn't ever really go away, it comes and goes, it's just how you handle it. If you're fearful of it and if you're fearful of the thoughts then it will control you and cause even greater anxiety but if you just let go and understand that it comes and goes then everything becomes ok. It comes back only in normal levels but it doesn't have that power over me anymore. No one wants to suffer from anxiety so naturally there is a strong desire to run from the thoughts or to be fearful. The clinging onto this desire is the cause of pain and suffering which I have realised it creates the fear. 
Throughout my daily life I am aware of the things The self thinks. I notice how l attach myself to a "self" and how holding onto this is a source of suffering. I see the mind fabricating and see how clinging onto this sense of self is an illusion. So when I see the self creating some story or making an attempt to rationalise thoughts etc I simply tell myself to just let go of it and I do, I don't have to try too hard because I know it's an illusion I know it doesn't represent anything, it's just the self fabricating and attaching. I have read some of the hardcore dharma book by Daniel m Ingram. Now in terms of mediation on impermanence I understand through meditation I'm able to focus on an object and view impermanence directly. Is this what it's about? Does this mediation then allow me to see the impermanence on a daily basis as I have been at work?
One thing I noticed with all the years of anxiety is having a realisation that it comes and goes, it is impermanent.
Now what do I do from here? can you give any insight into where I am? Maybe it is not important and I should just focus on meditating impermanence? I understand that it's possible to even hang onto the beautiful things because they're pleasant and joyful but that's really just another source for suffering. In terms of how I feel now, I feel fine, I'm not sad or really happy, I'm just calm until someone pisses me off and In that moment it happens I just tell myself don't hold onto it.  I don't know if this makes any sense I feel like I've had some progress of insight through the years of torment the anxiety has put me through but I feel like it was a blessing in disguise because I chose to stay with the pain and suffering. 
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my message, it means a lot and I appreciate any input you can give me. 

Jure

RE: My experience
Answer
4/13/17 10:32 PM as a reply to Jurica Kalcina.
Hi Jure,

Sounds like you have had quite the journey with anxiety!  What you describe as far as coming back to reality, out of the anxious storylines, sounds very meditative!  I personallly dealt with a lot of anxiety in my life, and it was a key issue that made me turn to meditation.

What are your goals for practice, or where would you like to go from here?  It sounds like you have some base in mindfulness, which is good.  You said you read some of MCTB, are you interested in intensive practice or do other forms of meditation appeal to you?  I ask just to get a clearer sense of what you are searching for.

Cheers!

RE: My experience
Answer
4/14/17 12:15 AM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks T dc for your reply. I feel like I've turned to the Buddhist teaching because they are true, very profound and I could see the truth in them. I'm looking for a better understanding on my existence and ultimately the truth of my existence and my experiences if that means practicing meditation more etc then yes I am interested. Thanks 

Jure

RE: My experience
Answer
4/14/17 11:47 AM as a reply to Jurica Kalcina.
Awesome, sounds like you've come to the right place!  I would recomend starting a daily meditation practice, and see where it goes from there.  I started meditation practicing shamatha-vipassina meditation, from Tibetan Buddhism via Chogyam Trunpa's books.  There are also plenty of resources on here for vippasina meditation, MCTB's a good one.

So there are lots of meditation options.  The key is to pick one that resonates with you and stick with it, meditation practice is all about continued practice.  I am recomending easing into starting a practice, versus jumping in the deep end as it were and going full bore with noting and mindfulness as someone really focused on gaining path attainments might do.  I think it is helpful to get your feet wet first with some consistent practice before ramping it up, to develop a base level of mindfullness and concentration before really turning to intensive practice, but to each their own. 

The benefit of being involved with the DhO, and the pragmatic dharma community in general is the explicit focus on attainment, i.e. acheiving genuine change in our minds, which seems to be lacking from many other more mainstream traditions.  There is lots to learn from all Buddhist traditions, but the explicit idea that the core purpose of the Buddhist path is the genuine overcoming of mental suffering, and that this can really be achieved here and now is to me a hallmark of the pragmatic dharma movement, and a very helpful guiding light to practice.

RE: My experience
Answer
4/15/17 1:23 AM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks T DC. So should I maybe start to concentrate on the breath for a certain amount of time and then increase the time as my concentration becomes better? Thanks 

jure

RE: My experience
Answer
4/15/17 8:54 AM as a reply to Jurica Kalcina.
You have a natural talent for this, Jurica. The stage you're at is called "3Cs" (three characteristics).

RE: My experience
Answer
4/15/17 9:12 AM as a reply to Jurica Kalcina.
I used to suffer from terrible anxiety as well. Generalized anxiety disorder and even panic disorder. 

You need to start doing samatha (also known as calm-abiding or concentration) meditation. You can worry about insight meditation later. Most meditative traditions recommend samatha first, and insight later. For example, in the MTCB, Daniel recommends being able to focus on your breath, and notice every little sensation of the breath for an hour without getting distracted before moving on to insight.

The basic instructions -- just focus on the breath, and whenever the mind wanders, notice it, congratulate yourself with a "aha" for noticing that your mind has wandered and return to the breath.

This is especially important for people with anxiety issues. Samatha meditaton will calm you down significantly. If you can do two hours a day it feels like taking a xanax. 

When you first begin, you will absolutely not be able to keep focused on the breath for any significant period of time. Start formal sitting, perhaps 15-20 minutes at the beginning and just do your best. Gradually up the amount of time you spend in formal meditation to 30,45, or up to an hour after a month or so. Whatever you can handle.

Again, that doesn't mean you will need to fully concentrate on the breath the whole time before adding more time to your sits, how long you sit for is mostly up to your ability to tolerate discomfort, both mental and physical. You don't want to schedule a meditation sit that's too long that you won't feel happy about doing it, as that will enforce negative conditioning. But also don't sell yourself short, you can probably sit longer than you think. 

RE: My experience
Answer
4/15/17 10:47 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Thank you everyone who replied it's a big help. I've started meditating and will see where it takes me. Dark night sounds familiar but don't know what to expect. All will be revealed I guess. Thanks again to Derek and jinx! 

jure

RE: My experience
Answer
4/15/17 2:14 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
I used to suffer from terrible anxiety as well. Generalized anxiety disorder and even panic disorder. 

You need to start doing samatha (also known as calm-abiding or concentration) meditation. You can worry about insight meditation later. Most meditative traditions recommend samatha first, and insight later. For example, in the MTCB, Daniel recommends being able to focus on your breath, and notice every little sensation of the breath for an hour without getting distracted before moving on to insight.

The basic instructions -- just focus on the breath, and whenever the mind wanders, notice it, congratulate yourself with a "aha" for noticing that your mind has wandered and return to the breath.

This is especially important for people with anxiety issues. Samatha meditaton will calm you down significantly. If you can do two hours a day it feels like taking a xanax. 

When you first begin, you will absolutely not be able to keep focused on the breath for any significant period of time. Start formal sitting, perhaps 15-20 minutes at the beginning and just do your best. Gradually up the amount of time you spend in formal meditation to 30,45, or up to an hour after a month or so. Whatever you can handle.

Again, that doesn't mean you will need to fully concentrate on the breath the whole time before adding more time to your sits, how long you sit for is mostly up to your ability to tolerate discomfort, both mental and physical. You don't want to schedule a meditation sit that's too long that you won't feel happy about doing it, as that will enforce negative conditioning. But also don't sell yourself short, you can probably sit longer than you think. 

This is good advice.  Just a comment, what you describe as shamatha meditation is what I would call Shamatha-Vippassana.  When I think about shamatha vs vippassana vs shamatha-vippassana, I tend to differentiate the first two as coming from the Theravada tradition, with the third from the Tibetan tradition.  I know lots of tibetan teachers teach that shamatha leads to vippassana, as you said, but as far as meditation is concerned there really doesn't seem to be much differentiation.  Shamatha leads to vippassana in this context seems to imply simply a gradual progress in which the mind is calmed and subsequently insight is achieved, versus a defined switch in technique.

Shamatha-vippassana meditation, as you decribed, involves a light focus on the breath in which we gently come back to the breath when we recognise we are distracted, aka continued placement.  Over time, we begin to recognize that coming back to the breath involves the recognition of distracted awareness, and the subsequent realization, or recognition, of present moment awareness.  Having recognised a distracted awareness, we return to and attempt to maintain a continuity of present moment awareness; this process is the ultimate basis of progress on the path.  In this way, shamatha-vipassana functions as a stalwart, 1-2 punch meditative approach that can be used throughout the entirity of the path; developing concentration and insight in tandem.

I think of strict shamatha meditation more as a precurser to the jhanas, involving heavy or strong concentration on a meditative object, such as the breath, to the exclusion of other factors.  Such an approach is neccesarily paired with a strict vipassina practice, as the effect of strict concentration practice on mental factors is one of suppression, versus genuine insight into their true nature and subsequent natural removal.  Obviously there is some cross bleed between the two, when practicing vippassana especially it seems unavoidable one would also develop some concentration, but still there is largely a distinct separation.

Just my 2 cents!  I am not well studied in the Theredava tradition, so I'm mostly getting this from MCTB and my own personal practice.  Perhaps a more informed Therevada practitioner would have different definitions of shamatha vs vippassana meditation practices.  That said, it seems like a good discussion to have, though it may be beyond the scope of this thread.  Cheers!

RE: My experience
Answer
4/16/17 8:16 AM as a reply to T DC.
So I've been doing the breath meditation every night since writing my original post, the sessions last around 20 minutes. I just finished a session and this session was awesome. I noticed how my breath doesn't ever truly stop, it's just continuous even the little pauses between an intake of air is no a pause, it's a process kind of. I also couldn't feel my hands and I was wearing a hoody and couldn't feel the hoody on my head. Really noticing how the breath was just flowing felt cool and I can get there again I think..

jure

RE: My experience
Answer
4/16/17 8:50 AM as a reply to T DC.
T DC,

Technically what I am describing is samatha-vipassana, however that initial technique is more samatha than vipassana. You are more focused on developing concentration, and one could say that developing awareness is part of the process. The goal here is to develop mindfulness, which is the combination of attention and awareness. Just as you said. 

Once mindfulness is strong however, then the practitioner does switch technique by starting to investigate the three characteristics. So there is a switch in technique. 

As once one no longer loses the breath, and can remain continuously concentrated on the breath, then he or she can then start noticing the impermanence of the breath, or the other characteristics or switch over to noting, or whatever other insight technique they like, etc. 

RE: My experience
Answer
4/18/17 5:44 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Thanks Jinxed for the reply.  What you described is certainly an option, perhaps more of an MCTB insight approach.  As I said in my post, I think Tibetan shamatha-vippassana can, after some intial focus on the breath, naturally transition into a much more profound technique which uses present moment awareness as the object.

Jurica, good job on starting a practice!  It is natural at first to have all kinds of pleasant and seemingly profound experiences, but the trick is not to get too distracted by them, and just focus on staying with the techinique. 

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