Question... significant happening or false alarm?

S I, modified 10 Years ago.

Question... significant happening or false alarm?

Post: 1 Join Date: 8/12/10 Recent Posts
Hey guys,

First of all a quick introduction... I read this forum every so often, got into Buddhism and meditation a couple of years back when I went on a bit of a mission to try and improve my confidence, mood and all that good stuff, read a few books, eventually found my way to meditation. So I've been practising in some way or another for those 2 years. Mostly just sitting trying to pay attention to my breath for 10-30 minutes a day, most days each week. I've not done any retreats or had formal teaching, just self taught from the net and in particular "Mindfulness In Plain English" and latterly MCTB. I found my way to Kenneth Folk's site earlier this year, and naturally it wasn't long before I stumbled across and read MCTB. Anyway I can have a tendency to ramble so I'll cut it short... basically I feel like something might or might not have happened last night.

I usually meditate in the morning before work for half an hour or so, and lately I'd been feeling like it wasn't going anywhere - I wasn't concentrating well, I just kept finding myself again lost in thoughts. This has gone on for a few months I'd say - I wasn't getting the same nice clear feeling after rising from the cushion, sometimes it felt a bit of a waste of time but I got on with it anyway.

Last night I decided to have a late evening session, around 10pm.My practice has been a bit erratic this week, certainly none that morning and the one before, so I thought I'd squeeze in a session before bed. After an initial disturbance I felt myself doing better than I'd done for a long time - I was nicely fixed on my breath, it was coming naturally, thoughts becoming more distant and less nagging, enough so that I felt that old clear, peaceful feeling that I'd gotten before from meditation especially when I first started.

After 20 minutes or so I couldn't concentrate as much, but I still had the clear feeling. Just like with my best sessions, I soon got up and went about my business, feeling nice and relaxed. When I went to bed it seemed to take me a while to fall asleep, but not in the restless way that sleeplessness usually presents itself to me; I was just lying feeling lovely and chilled out, no tossing and turning. I got to sleep eventually, and even though it wasn't as much as I normally need I feel fine today.

So on to today... meditated in the morning, was more back to my normal not-great sessions of late. However I noticed that especially as today's gone on I've definitely felt a shift in my mood - I've been more happy, quite confident, more relaxed (had a quiet day in work which I'm sure helped that) more in-the-moment. Even now I'm feeling an additional clarity that I don't normally have.

Which finally leads me to the question - does this have any significance? Is it something in the progress of insight going on or did I just happen to have a good session that's left me with a lingering afterglow (after all it was only 24h ago)... has something happened (like a mild A&P) or am I just wasting your valuable time with my ramblings ;) or any advice in general ? Ask any questions if you want. I don't feel my life's been turned around, more just that I've taken some sort of step forward, and it's always good to get some outside opinions to keep me in check, especially since my practice has mostly been something I keep to myself.

Thanks and much love
S
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Question... significant happening or false alarm?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi S,

Welcome to the Dharma Overground. Good to have you here, I hope you find what you're looking for.

That experience was certainly significant: you noticed that your practice actually does something, that progress and development is not just possible but real, that there is a "stratum of mind" (to use Kenneth's term) available to you which you were not previously aware of, and it's all right there in your own experience. Neat, isn't it?

As with anything new that happens in meditation, try to repeat it. If it is repeatable, you'll learn more about it; if it was a one-off thing, well, those occur as well.

Quick tip on "repeat it" - don't get too hung up on searching for the experience, or trying to find your way back to it. Instead, trust that what you were doing was what took you to that place; for example, if you were concentrating on the breath sensation, that is what moved your mind to that place, i.e. don't try to move your mind directly. Further, recalling, remembering the state prior to sitting (aka "inclining the mind towards it"), resolving to get there again by doing the practice that took you there can be very helpful. Experiment a bit.

If you wish, you can post a start-to-finish description of your sit, including as many experiential details as you like, but omittion interpretation. That will make it easier to get a picture of what you are up to.

Cheers,
Florian
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Question... significant happening or false alarm?

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
S I:
I usually meditate in the morning before work for half an hour or so, and lately I'd been feeling like it wasn't going anywhere - I wasn't concentrating well, I just kept finding myself again lost in thoughts. This has gone on for a few months I'd say - I wasn't getting the same nice clear feeling after rising from the cushion, sometimes it felt a bit of a waste of time but I got on with it anyway.

It is never a waste of time, as long as you have some foundation in the teaching to fall back on to encourage you to continue during these self-perceived "drought" times. While this practice is certainly more than just studying the academic aspects of what was taught (the Dhamma), it is equally more than just the practical aspects of the meditation practice in and of itself. These two aspects must be linked and go hand in hand if you are to experience any kind of confidence in the teaching enough to inform you of their personal value within your own life. Right now, from what you have presented, it seems as though your practice is more oriented toward the practical aspects of the meditation practice, rather than also taking into consideration learning about the Dhamma.

You can't expect to read a book like Mindfulness in Plain English (or even Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha) and then think that you have exposed yourself to everything you need to know. You have to learn to use what you learn on the academic side and how to take that knowledge into the practical meditation side. There's a give and a take and a balancing act going on, if you really want to learn how to end dissatisfaction (dukkha) and then begin gaining confidence in your ability to adjust positively to the changing aspects of physical life, thus ending dissatisfaction and opening up to a wider and more positive appreciation of life and your place in it. It takes time, and it is a gradual process. But a process about which the more you realize, the more you appreciate what you are gradually learning.

Some days will be good days. Others will be not so good (that is, in terms of how we perceive them). If you are working with equanimity in your practice, then you will let the good and the bad slide gently off your back, and won't be overly discouraged by the bad nor overly encouraged by the good. From your description, you seem to be working well with this. Keep it up.

S I:
So on to today... meditated in the morning, was more back to my normal not-great sessions of late. However I noticed that especially as today's gone on I've definitely felt a shift in my mood - I've been more happy, quite confident, more relaxed (had a quiet day in work which I'm sure helped that) more in-the-moment. Even now I'm feeling an additional clarity that I don't normally have.

Which finally leads me to the question - does this have any significance? Is it something in the progress of insight going on or did I just happen to have a good session that's left me with a lingering afterglow (after all it was only 24h ago)... has something happened (like a mild A&P) or am I just wasting your valuable time with my ramblings ;) or any advice in general?

You had a good day, that's all. But as far as I can tell from what information you've provided, no "progress of insight" or anything like that. You experienced what it feels like to have a clear, uncluttered mind, not being bothered by outside influences (a "quiet day at work") that might spoil or upset the natural positive flow of events. You got a taste of what it might be like if you keep on practicing and begin to make some real breakthroughs that will change the way you see and experience things in the future. It's a good thing. But nothing to write home about quite yet.

As far as helping you to get more out of what you are doing, I liked Florian's suggestion about "recalling, remembering the state prior to sitting (aka "inclining the mind towards it"), resolving to get there again by doing the practice that took you there. . ." This is more of a parlor type trick to trick the mind, but it works, and it works very well if you understand the mechanism behind how it works. When one is still working at clarifying one's mind, training it to obey one's wishes, it helps to give the mind some direction before hand to go by. Therefore, if you spend a bit of time before meditating, recalling all the aspects of a previous "good session" and how you got there, recalling how it felt and such, the mind has a much better idea of where you want to go and how to get back there. It works as a kind of pre-hypnotic suggestion for the mind, giving the mind a road map to go by. You tell the mind where you want to go, and the mind takes you back there in the present moment. That is, as long as it is able to make contact with undistracted concentration on the pleasantness of the past experience.

As far as general advice is concerned, if it is at all possible, I would encourage you to find a good Buddhist meditation teacher or guide to help you. Someone with whom you have trust who can be a good role model and friend on the path. There's only so much one can learn from reading books and using the Internet to learn by, without having any one-on-one human contact. You should also take your time in choosing this person. If it's possible, make sure they embody enough of the Dhamma in their own actions and how they live their life that they can be a positive inspiration for your own practice.

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