Meditation is hard...

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby anjali » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:59 am

Matticus wrote:Also, I don't really have a lineage. I've obtained most of my knowledge from reading the work of Master Nan Haui Chin. I don't really know If that would really qualify him as my Guru, but I can actually picture his photograph fairly well. Would that be appropriate or should I choose an Image of Buddha or Boddhisattva or something. One more thing, I stumbled onto the practice of Kasina last night, focusing on a candle seems like a reasonable way of practicing holding a sustained image in my mind. Any thoughts? Again, thank you all!


Matticus, you are to be congratulated on your interest in meditation and your efforts at practice! Going it alone can be darn near impossible. My suggestion, and I suspect a lot of others' suggestion as as well, is, if at all possible, to find a meditation teacher to help with your practice.

  • Since you are interested in the teachings of Master Nan Haui Chin (I'm not familiar with him or his teachings--I had to look him up just now), have you looked into whether he has any direct disciples that also teach?
  • Does he teach in a particular tradition that you are attracted to (Chan, Taoism)? If so, have you looked to see if there are teachers in the tradition that you gravitate to?
  • Have you looked to see what your local area has to offer for meditation practice and instruction? I know that sometimes it can be hard to find a local resource to learn meditation. Please do take a look around and see what you can find, you may be surprised!

In the interim, there are a few books on meditation that I can recommend. They are not hard to read, and are extremely valuable in their own right:


If you are looking for a thorough discussion of various meditation practices known as shamatha (tranquility) and vipashana (insight) I would recommend

Some basic meditation practices like watching the breath or a candle are fine for now, but, in the long run, you will need to make a connection with a teacher. Specifically regarding a visualization of Master Nan Haui Chen. Yes, in my opinion that would be fine--especially if you feel devotion and respect toward him. You are using your mind's energy to visualize him. Every time you manifest his form into your mind, you will be receiving his blessings. I encourage you to ask him to bless and guide you to the teacher and teaching you should now follow to deepen your practice. And don't stop looking until you've found that teacher, teaching, and community you can take refuge in.

Best wishes!
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:58 pm

Jeff wrote:Hi Greg,

I also agree it is not a big deal, I just thought we were having an interesting intellectual discussion regarding karma/merit. :smile:

For an action to be wholesome, for me, it would require a wholesome intent. Earlier you stated the relative importance of the action, and your position that an offering with a negative intent still generated merit. My position is summed up below...

In the Nibbedhika Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 6.63) the Buddha said:
"Intention (P. cetana, S. cetanā) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."

:namaste: :smile:
Just to get this topic out of the way and the thread :focus:

According to Ju Mipham Rinpoche complete karma vipakka requires: intention to act, eager motivation, the action is brought to completion, rejoicing or regreting the action, application or not of a remedy for the action, capacity to ripen into fruition.

I want to collect merit. I eagerly set about collecting merit, I execute the action that collects merit, I am happy for executing a meritorious action, I dedicate the merit that I accumulated by executing the action, circumstances allow me to reap the benefit from accumulating the merit.

Voila! Intentional accumulation of merit with a positive outcome.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:59 pm

Matticus wrote:
...

On a 2nd note for the discussion on merit in the thread. From what I loosely understand about merit, even if you were to give money or food to a begger selflessly and without a mind thinking of the possible benefits coming back your way it may not be good. If that begger uses the money to harm himself or others, or dies of a crazy food allergy, even with the purest intentions you would still be on the recieving side of some bad Karma. That thought makes me super cautious about what Charity's I donate too. I suppose a decent example would be the Heiffer Organization. Through them you can buy an animal through the organization and they will send it to an impoverished family or village. Unfortuantely, sometimes they send over an animal that is invasive and increadibly harmfull to a foreign ecosystem. Or I've read about articles about family's not being able to pay for veteranarian bills to keep their animals healthy. In the end both the family's AND the animal suffered and were harmed through the charities honest and wholesome intentions. I don't know if this really applies to what you good folks are discussing though.


Hi Matticus,

The above logic thread is a good example of your "issue" in meditation. One "thread" of what if after another. Mental obstructions or "Ego" is the mind worrying about the past or future, rather than being focused in the moment.

Just focus on having a good (or wholesome) intent and don't become attached (or worried about) the outcome. In "existence", stuff happens, good or bad is just a duality of the mind.

Best, Jeff
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:24 pm

On the candle thing, personally a visual focal point is the easiest object for me, I don't think it matters what you choose, as long as you can focus on it one-pointed and not reflect on it, so make it something that doesn't swell your emotions etc. I think in at least some traditions that using an "outer object" visually is considered a bit easier than the breath. Don't try too hard, just pick an object, set it front of you, gaze at it for a while until you can feel your mind starting to drift and involve with thoughts, and keep pulling it back to the object when it does. Personally, if it were me I wouldn't bother with anything involving visualization if the concentration isn't in place..I have no idea if that is the standard approach, just my (limited) experience.

No idea about the merit or lack thereof with the animal and all that..if I were in your shoes i'd just keep trying to meditate personally, but without any great hope of advancement, just put in the time, do your best, and try to let go of looking for results all the time.. persistence pays off some times, and is a good thing of and within itself IMO. The way i'm coming to see it, the times that meditation "fails", the times where it brings up nasty stuff..all of that is part of the process.

Then again I don't know squat, and am just going off personal experience, so take with a bag of salt. Would be best if you could get even a small bit of time with a teacher or spiritual friend, even one or two sessions with a good teacher can help with confusion like this I think.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sara H » Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:28 pm

I just gotta say,..

Every time I see the title of this post, "Meditation is hard..."

It makes me laugh. :twothumbsup:

Lol

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:22 am

Matticus wrote:1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally.

if youre paying attention to your control of the breath then you have lost your meditation object--the tactile sensation of the breath (or whatever it is..normally its the tacticle sensation somewhere around the nose).

so go back to actually practicing meditation by actually trying to remain on your object
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:44 pm

Does anyone have any advice on how to correct a dreamy meditation state? It's really hard for me to describe accurately, other than It's like I'm in a waking dream. Much like actual dreams It's difficult to actually control whats going on. It's really difficult to bring my mind back to being mindfull on the current meditation. Like dragging a boat through thick muddy water. Sometimes it happens only a few minutes into meditation, usually further/ later in the session though. Does this mean I've actually fallen asleep, or is something else going on? Any advice on this subject would be incedibly appreciated!

I also just want to say how thankfull I am for all the advice already given here!
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:52 pm

Matticus wrote:Does anyone have any advice on how to correct a dreamy meditation state? It's really hard for me to describe accurately, other than It's like I'm in a waking dream. Much like actual dreams It's difficult to actually control whats going on. It's really difficult to bring my mind back to being mindfull on the current meditation. Like dragging a boat through thick muddy water. Sometimes it happens only a few minutes into meditation, usually further/ later in the session though. Does this mean I've actually fallen asleep, or is something else going on? Any advice on this subject would be incedibly appreciated!

I also just want to say how thankfull I am for all the advice already given here!


The most consistent bits of advice i've gotten, both on here, in person from teachers, and in books is:

White light visualized at the crown

open eyes a bit wider

turn gaze upwards a bit

small amount of physical exercise before meditation

Try to recreate the level of concentration you would need for a certain task, say hammering a nail or something, and apply the "feeling" of that concentration to your object.

Alot of people say that often times when you are searching for some complex explanation or antidote for sluggishness, the first thing you need to do is just check that your posture is good. I have found this to be huge personally, and it's usually the first thing I check when I get sleepy..nine times out of ten i'm slumping and don't know it.

These have worked for me so far.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:10 am

I'll most definitely give these a try sir, thanks for the input. On a sort of side note, I heard that meditating outside around 4:30 in the morning is really helpufll. Supposedly trees switch back over to producing massive amounts of fresh air during this time and it's very beneficial for meditation. Any personal experiences?
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby 5heaps » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:22 pm

there are the 9 stages of meditation, 10 if you include stage 0
at stage 0 the person suffers from "lethargy" which is a heavy feeling in the mind that prevents you from decisively distinguishing the object.
stage 1 starts when lethargy is overcome and there is a clear and decisive intention to find and stay on the object, and then actually managing to do that, even briefly.
stage 2 is when, through doing this repeatedly, you can then decisively distinguish and intend to stay on the object, succeed in moving to the object with conviction, and then actually stay there for some extended duration of time (say, 20-30 full seconds)

general over stimulation of the senses and in particular extended computer use produce lethargy...you have to get used to just sitting quietly and doing things that promote the mind being light and fresh
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:30 pm

Matticus wrote:I've been meditating for about 1 year now, and I've recently re-affirmed myself to practice more this year. In the past, I've mostly attempted a practice regimen of Anapana and the White Skeleton meditation. I'm terrible at both of them, to be quit honest. I would still like to keep practicing them due to the great benefits I've heard both of them have for ones health and success at achieving Samadhi. Samadhi, I should mention is my first "big goal". I'm posting here to hopefully gleam some advice and wisdom from the ladies and gentlemen on these forums.. I'll post both meditations, and underneath I'll list the problems that seem to be blocking me from making much progress. I've read that the hardest meditations for you are usually the best ones, and getting through the difficulties will be VERY beneficial for you. It makes sense to me, just like working out for health, pain while excersizing means that your body is becoming more healthy and strong. I don't want to give up on these meditations, and I don't plan too. So any advice would be MASSIVELY appreciated.

ANAPANA
1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally. After I've settled down and bring my awareness towards my breath, I seem to unintentionally control it like a robot..
If I try to just let it go and work on it's own I tend to just end up holding my breath.. I've heard a correct way to begin practice is to "Watch your breath like a parent watches a baby sleep, don't try to interfere" I feel like what I end up doing is taking an emergency breathing device and then I start using it the "sleeping baby" If I relax my attention on my breath to just let it happen naturally my mind just wanders around anyways.

WHITE SKELETON
1. This ones easy, I'm just plain TERRIBLE at visualization practices. It's not that I can't manifest an image in my mind, It's that I can't keep it stable. Thats a pretty gross understatement too. My mind runs wild with uncontrollable imagery, colors, patterns and movements. Sometimes, I can keep a "stabelish" Idea on imagining my skeleton, "beginning with my left big toe", and then my skeleton is usually a slick, brackish black, brown or yellowish color" instead of a dazzling white that It's supposed to be visualized as. I've read that i'm supposed to repent, if this is the case. I can honestly say I haven't commited any serious crimes in my life, and I'd like to think I'm a good person in general. I'm not a saint by any means either though... I Imagine it's past Karma that makes this process so frustrating. The saying about trying to bake a cake using sand comes to mind.

Any advice on breath work and improving visualization practice, or ANYTHING that ANYONE thinks will help, will be most welcome and most sincerely appreciated.


No need to have a clear picture. Just an idea.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jikan » Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:11 am

Matticus wrote:Thank you all for posting! I'm going to try to digest and apply the advice I've learned from you all. I've got a few questions on some of the responses. What is a "Water Bowl Offering"? Also, I don't really have a lineage. I've obtained most of my knowledge from reading the work of Master Nan Haui Chin. I don't really know If that would really qualify him as my Guru, but I can actually picture his photograph fairly well. Would that be appropriate or should I choose an Image of Buddha or Boddhisattva or something. One more thing, I stumbled onto the practice of Kasina last night, focusing on a candle seems like a reasonable way of practicing holding a sustained image in my mind. Any thoughts? Again, thank you all!

On a 2nd note for the discussion on merit in the thread. From what I loosely understand about merit, even if you were to give money or food to a begger selflessly and without a mind thinking of the possible benefits coming back your way it may not be good. If that begger uses the money to harm himself or others, or dies of a crazy food allergy, even with the purest intentions you would still be on the recieving side of some bad Karma. That thought makes me super cautious about what Charity's I donate too. I suppose a decent example would be the Heiffer Organization. Through them you can buy an animal through the organization and they will send it to an impoverished family or village. Unfortuantely, sometimes they send over an animal that is invasive and increadibly harmfull to a foreign ecosystem. Or I've read about articles about family's not being able to pay for veteranarian bills to keep their animals healthy. In the end both the family's AND the animal suffered and were harmed through the charities honest and wholesome intentions. I don't know if this really applies to what you good folks are discussing though.


Hi Matticus,

It's good that you have a connection to Master Nan Huai Chin. But when we talk about a teacher and tradition, what we're getting at is a situation in the "real" world out there where you can interact with the teacher, ask questions, get specific instructions, learn from others, and put it into practice more systematically. Group practice helps put so many of these issues into perspective easily and quickly. I'd recommend putting all this aside for now and focusing on one aspiration:

may I find a teacher & community where I can learn the Dharma, for the benefit of all

:cheers:
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:39 pm

5heaps wrote:there are the 9 stages of meditation, 10 if you include stage 0
at stage 0 the person suffers from "lethargy" which is a heavy feeling in the mind that prevents you from decisively distinguishing the object.
stage 1 starts when lethargy is overcome and there is a clear and decisive intention to find and stay on the object, and then actually managing to do that, even briefly.
stage 2 is when, through doing this repeatedly, you can then decisively distinguish and intend to stay on the object, succeed in moving to the object with conviction, and then actually stay there for some extended duration of time (say, 20-30 full seconds)

general over stimulation of the senses and in particular extended computer use produce lethargy...you have to get used to just sitting quietly and doing things that promote the mind being light and fresh


So if I understand these stages correctly, you just briefly visit the next stage, drop down again, and then briefly move up, and repeat until the next stage stabilizes? Also I do spend a lot of time on the computer unfortunately, so your advice right there is important for me to keep in mind now.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:05 pm

Matticus wrote:So if I understand these stages correctly, you just briefly visit the next stage, drop down again, and then briefly move up, and repeat until the next stage stabilizes?

Unless you roll a crit on a d20.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:21 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Matticus wrote:So if I understand these stages correctly, you just briefly visit the next stage, drop down again, and then briefly move up, and repeat until the next stage stabilizes?

Unless you roll a crit on a d20.



:rolling: :rolling:

Don't wanna have to lose your level 8 meditator and have to reroll.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby 5heaps » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:58 pm

Matticus wrote:
5heaps wrote:there are the 9 stages of meditation, 10 if you include stage 0
at stage 0 the person suffers from "lethargy" which is a heavy feeling in the mind that prevents you from decisively distinguishing the object.
stage 1 starts when lethargy is overcome and there is a clear and decisive intention to find and stay on the object, and then actually managing to do that, even briefly.
stage 2 is when, through doing this repeatedly, you can then decisively distinguish and intend to stay on the object, succeed in moving to the object with conviction, and then actually stay there for some extended duration of time (say, 20-30 full seconds)

general over stimulation of the senses and in particular extended computer use produce lethargy...you have to get used to just sitting quietly and doing things that promote the mind being light and fresh


So if I understand these stages correctly, you just briefly visit the next stage, drop down again, and then briefly move up, and repeat until the next stage stabilizes? Also I do spend a lot of time on the computer unfortunately, so your advice right there is important for me to keep in mind now.

yes often its the case that at the beginning the higher stages, when they occur, are not too familiar or strong, so they are hard to maintain. thats why meditation primarily means 'becoming accustomed to'. better and better morality helps meditation immensely as well
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby philji » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:53 pm

My teacher gave us a series of 1 month meditations
1 visual object
2 breath
3 mantra
4 international visualisation of object focused on in month 1 etc.
And others which are more detailed.
But a 1 month focus...maybe 10 mins aday is quite doable I find... You can change the object of focus.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Ramon1920 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:03 pm

Matticus, visualizations have to be cultivated over long periods of time before they become clear and stable. If you are distracted all the time by the 5 hindrances then your visualization might not develop at all. I'm not speaking from experience here, just repeating what I've read in reliable texts.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:39 pm

Torpor and Lethargy are definitely a large hindrance in my practice atm. It's really annoying. I mostly try to improve my Anapana practice at the moment, and it gets vary hard to stay focused on the breath. The Lethargy kind of comes and goes in waves too, it'll settle away and I'll be able to focus, and then I'll slowly drift off again into a sludgy haze. Sometimes without even realizing it.

Also, the prospect of finding a good teacher is an issue I wrestle with as well. I'm reading "Autobiography Of a Yogi" atm, and while not exactly Buddhist in nature, it's a story about the Guru-Disciple relationship. I do indeed yearn to meet a teacher that's well accomplished in cultivation work and wisdom. Finding a highly attained teacher like Shri Yukteswar, or Master Nan Hai Jin doesn't seem to be that likely in the middle of Nebraska, and I don't have much money to travel to India or Asia. I'm also terrified of the "New Age" crowd. Running around with crystals and droaning on about auras isn't really my bag. There are so many people out there willing to claim they Spiritual accomplishment and are will teach you, not having a CLUE about what they're talking about.
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Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby anjali » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:10 am

Matticus wrote:Also, the prospect of finding a good teacher is an issue I wrestle with as well. I'm reading "Autobiography Of a Yogi" atm, and while not exactly Buddhist in nature, it's a story about the Guru-Disciple relationship. I do indeed yearn to meet a teacher that's well accomplished in cultivation work and wisdom. Finding a highly attained teacher like Shri Yukteswar, or Master Nan Hai Jin doesn't seem to be that likely in the middle of Nebraska, and I don't have much money to travel to India or Asia. I'm also terrified of the "New Age" crowd. Running around with crystals and droaning on about auras isn't really my bag. There are so many people out there willing to claim they Spiritual accomplishment and are will teach you, not having a CLUE about what they're talking about.


The Autobiography is a very good read. As it so happens, I'm reading it again at the moment after my last reading of several years ago. PM me if you'd be interested in discussing it off-line. (As a side-note, I received kriya yoga initiation from Yogananda's organization many years ago now.)

anjali

Apologies to others for the :offtopic: comment...
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