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Tension related to effort
Answer
6/20/18 7:12 PM
After a while of meditating, I can see tension in the body related to effort in meditation. Sometimes it is physical tension in muscles. Sometimes it is more subtle. I can relax some of it away but I have to give up effort. It seems like for all of the tension to go away, I would need to stop observing anything. Haha

Is there a balance? Do I maintain effort and thus the tension but watch it like any other phenomenon? 

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
6/21/18 3:24 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Actually, if you zoom in real close, there is a continual tug of war between laxity and excitation, modulated by relaxation and focused attention. Not enough relaxation, and the body/mind will have to deal with heightened excitation. Not enough focused attention, and the body/mind will have to deal with increased laxity. You will have to fiddle with this balance until you strike a working compromise. As one progresses and the concentration sharpens, the coarser aspects of lax and exci gives way to more subte lax and subtle exci to deal with. The ideal posture is when the body is completely relaxed while the mind is sharply focused without any tension or effort needed.

Try not to effort. Don't clench your attention around the chosen object. Rest your attention on the object, just like you would gently place a heavy object on some brittle surface. Don't slam it down. You must unlearn the nearly automatic connection not seldom found between sharpened mental focus and the minor and often not so minor undulations of neuromuscular body tension following it.

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
6/21/18 10:36 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Instead of intentionally trying to keep your attention on whatever the specific object of your meditation is, just notice that it is already present in your field of awareness.  It's already there, and you don't have to do anything to make it present.  The object presents itself in awareness and is noticed.  A subtle change in how you relate to the preactice in this way may obviate the need for "efforting" and employing remedies to relax tension away.

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
6/21/18 1:15 PM as a reply to Jason Massie.
You might want to play with the idea that awareness requires no effort.  emoticon

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
6/23/18 9:09 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Might very well be the common insight stage 3, The Three Characteristics, third ñana, in which bodily tension and pain are very commonly reported. To not observe anything would be nearly impossible, yes? Try. Try to not observe anything, and see how that goes. There will be a lot going on in one's sensate experience anyway, as you will rapidly notice. So, not observing doesn't work, but attempts to not observe will show you that things arise anyway.

This "things arise anyway" part is important, as it shows you two of the Three Characteristics: things know themselves and they arise dependent on conditions naturally and then change: these are No-Self and Impermanence. The tention part shows you something about Suffering. These are the Three Characteristics.

People do insight practices, and then, when they start to get insight into the Three Characteristics, they reject these, as they aren't that nice, but insight practices are not about nice, they are about how things actually are. Instead of rejecting these important insights, turn these into opportunities for insight, and learn about the stages of insight so you will be less thrown by them.

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
6/23/18 10:18 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Trying to stay relaxed while meditating almost drove me insane. I believe I have recently made some progress in this area. You can read my practice logs if you'd like: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/8196055#_19_message_8196055

For what it's worth, I think some of what got me going in a good direction was experimenting with:

- No matter what, continuing until the timer was up, even if it means changing postures completely. Until the timer is up, you are meditating, no matter what you are "actually" doing.
- Anytime any sort of doubt arose in my mind, bringing my attention to a physical sensation (you can't judge your practice by how few doubts you have in your mind...it has to be judged by whether or not you shut off the timer prematurely).
- Trying harder to perceive tinier and tinier details in the physical sensations.
- Deciding to keep the body as still as possible, no matter what came up. Even if that means locking myself in a position of tension.
- Giving myself permission to move as much as I want, as long as I stayed focused on the breath while doing so

Some of these may be contradictory. I think, at least for me, it is useful to wiggle back and forth between extremes in order to find the middle ground that works. Each of these strategies was adopted in order to deal with a specific challenge that I was facing at the moment. I considered that my goals are 1) meditate for the determined amount of time, 2) observe the nature of physical sensation while I am doing so. So, every action I take is measured against whether it makes it easier or harder for me to do those things. I also found it helpful to make a list of common situations that occur during meditation, and plan out how I will respond to them (the goal of which is to get me back into observation as quickly as possible, rather than getting lost in thought).

I will tell you that I have recently been playing around with the idea of awareness requiring no effort. But, I don't think I could have gotten there until I made a great deal of peace with the physical stuff first.

Is this safe? I have no idea. I will say that during this process, a lot of weird physical sensations came up. And a lot of it did not go away after I stopped meditating. When I first went through this a year ago, it scared me into backing way off on my meditation. I'm not sure that was helpful.

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
7/4/18 1:18 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Thanks all. I appreciate the replies.

It was definitely 3c's. There were also lots of intense itches as well. I think I got through to the next stage tonight.

After further investigation, the tension/effort thing looks related to trying to maintain attention. Yet it appears that attention is not me because I cannot control it and that is irritating. Attention is just like any other sensation. It even looks like I can help cultivate conditions favorable for attention like not showering might be favorable for itching but those actions are just effects of previous effects. What is original cause? Haha

RE: Tension related to effort
Answer
7/4/18 5:17 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Nice, well done! So much of practice is like that:thinking you have one problem, but it's actually more of an incorrect assumption that gets seen clearly when it is investigated.