Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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pinkfrost99
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Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by pinkfrost99 » Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:44 am

I have been practicing insight meditation for over ten years with a lot of problems and, it feels like not a lot of progress has been made.

I feel a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I try too hard when I sit. I cannot help it. The very moment I attempt to meditate some tiny cognitive command seems to subconsciously kick in and I tense up.

Instead of observing my breath or body I put a whole lot of energy into the observation process itself - in my efforts to try and get as much out of it as I can. Sometimes its so bad I come away feeling really unstable, but I can't seem to stop it.

I am reluctant to try another form of meditation as I feel this is my path. However I recently tried instead to just observe what is happening in the moment (inside and outside my body) thinking that would be less pressure - but the same thing is beginning to happen. All this energy is going into my observations and it doesn't feel natural at all and I come away feeling edgy.

If I try and relax it just gets worse...because my brain seizes on another opportunity to 'try' and the opposite ends up happening.

A lot of really bad stuff has happened to me over the years and I just can't let go in any circumstance. I'm constantly on guard, and constantly trying / struggling to salvage my life. I suffer from anxiety and chronic insomnia.

The saddest irony is, when I found out the peace of mind that could be attained with meditation, because being human I naturally desired this, my mind could not seem to help but go into overtime and ever since has tried way too hard every time I sit, or even think about sitting.

Your thoughts and / or advice would be genuinely appreciated.

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kirtu
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by kirtu » Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:09 am

pinkfrost99 wrote: Instead of observing my breath or body I put a whole lot of energy into the observation process itself - in my efforts to try and get as much out of it as I can. Sometimes its so bad I come away feeling really unstable, but I can't seem to stop it.
How about lightly but undistractedly observing the breath for 5 minutes at a time? Then stand up and do walking meditation (or just walk). Then resume for abt. 5 minutes. Repeat.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

Bakmoon
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Bakmoon » Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:36 am

pinkfrost99 wrote:I have been practicing insight meditation for over ten years with a lot of problems and, it feels like not a lot of progress has been made.

I feel a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I try too hard when I sit. I cannot help it. The very moment I attempt to meditate some tiny cognitive command seems to subconsciously kick in and I tense up.

Instead of observing my breath or body I put a whole lot of energy into the observation process itself - in my efforts to try and get as much out of it as I can. Sometimes its so bad I come away feeling really unstable, but I can't seem to stop it.
What exactly is this feeling? Is it a sudden feeling that you want to control? Is it a feeling that you want to observe something in particular?

SeeLion
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by SeeLion » Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:36 am

Instead of observing my breath or body I put a whole lot of energy into the observation process itself
Insight meditation isn't about observing the breath, but about knowledge and observing the mind.

Which seems to go reasonably well for you: you have a lot of knowledge, you know that you are trying too hard, are anxious, tense, struggling, etc.

And sometimes getting knowledge is a difficult path and there is suffering on the path. Like a scientist who researches tornadoes or tigers or volcanoes.

A scientist who wants it peace and quiet, should not research into the mind. But maybe cuddly bunny instead ? Or turtles ? Take your pick.

You have made lot of progress and results (in terms of knowledge about your mind) that you describe in your post:
Controlling, clinging, craving for results: "I try too hard", "efforts to try and get as much out of it as I can", "reluctant"

Disappointed: "feels like not a lot of progress"

Tense, anxious: "I tense up", "feeling really unstable", "feeling edgy"

Feeling powerless: "I can't seem to stop", "I cannot help it"

And also confusion, and doubt I guess, since you complain that you don't know what to do or how to "fix" your meditation.
Those are great results for insight meditation.
The saddest irony is, when I found out the peace of mind

Like I said above, insight meditation is not about peace, but about insight, knowledge, about knowing the mind and realizing how flawed it is.

And it is certainly flawed, because otherwise we would all be enlightened.

-------------------

Correct me if I am wrong, but the only problem seems to be that you dislike the wealth of results of your insight meditation, of your mind observation and research.

----------

Now, the question may arise if there is something you could do to tweak your approach to insight.

I possibly have some suggestions there, but from your description, I am not sure how your meditation progresses second by second.

Maybe it would be helpful to try a little bit of meditation, even few minutes, and then write down how you progress through it.

And I think this is an important point, for us to comment about it, it's not enough that you describe some events that happened during your meditations over your last week or last 10 years, it's more practical to comment on just few minutes.

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Caodemarte » Sat Feb 13, 2016 6:58 pm

I share your problem. It may be helpful to remember that "trying too hard" mind or tense concern is not separate from anything else. It is not an external obstacle posed by some other to be removed. The wrestler is wrestling with himself. Observe it closely enough and, like everything else closely observed, it will vanish. If it doesn't, that's OK too. As our teacher here is fond of saying, "You're right on schedule. Everything is right on schedule."

At least I have found this approach helpful.

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by anjali » Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:25 pm

pinkfrost99 wrote:I have been practicing insight meditation for over ten years with a lot of problems and, it feels like not a lot of progress has been made.

I feel a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I try too hard when I sit. I cannot help it. The very moment I attempt to meditate some tiny cognitive command seems to subconsciously kick in and I tense up.
Habituated patterns are not easy to break and may take a long time. No worries. Here are some suggestions. Maybe you will find some of them helpful. Maybe not. Maybe you already do some of them.
  • Check your diet. Reduce or eliminate stimulants like caffeine, sugar, etc.
  • Check your lifestyle. Are there activities/situations in your life that are causing you stress that can be minimized or eliminated? If your days are highly stressed, that spills over into your mediation practice.
  • Learn to physically relax. Look at physical relaxation and learn what physical relaxation feels like. Orient towards a whole body experience. Scan your body from head to toes and consciously let the muscles relax. Repeat as often as necessary. Get regular massages (seriously), and/or get adequate exercise.
  • Mental relaxation. Forget about striving, looking at the process, etc. If you can't help it, then don't. Just let your need for a certain kind of meditation go. Can you accept whatever you are experiencing in the here and now?
  • You might want to experiment with some other meditation techniques to see if they help. Here are a couple of examples. 1) Get yourself a set of mala beads. The bead count is 108. Count each breath on your beads, up to 108, and repeat. Two or three rounds can be quite effective in focusing and relaxing the mind. Once you've done that for a couple of rounds (or more), then you can return to watching the breath. 2) Another method is using a pebble, or other small object of your choosing, as the focus of meditation. Pick a small stone, place it in front of you, and let your attention lightly rest on it until your attention wanders. When it wanders, gently bring it back. Don't focus on the qualities of the pebble (what it looks like). You are just using the pebble as a resting place for your vision. This method orients you to the here and now through your sense of sight, and gets you out of your mind (If you focus on the sense of sight, you are not in your mind).
  • And finally. If you can, work with a meditation teacher. The best any of us on a forum like this can do is give you some general suggestions. A teacher can work with you directly in your day to day life.

Best wishes!
Last edited by anjali on Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Vasana
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Vasana » Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:28 pm

:good:


Sounds like you could use some shamatha /shiné (calm-abiding). If insight meditation isn't progressing it's usually because there's a lack of calm-abiding. This isn't my opinion but one commonly stated by many of the great masters of the past and present*.

If you're used to insight and analytical mediation, it can feel very strange to try and just fix your attention on something or nothing at all. With 'shiné with an object', you use either a pebble,stone,stick or a small image of a Buddha,deity,symbol and so on, and simply fix your gaze on it for quite some time until the mind settles. This can sometimes take 5 minutes and sometimes 40... Then once this is stable you can try it without an object - without analysis or visual focus of any sort. Unless the mind is calm and tranquil it can be difficult to really arrive at any clearer insight if you've already exhausted all of your topics of inquiry.

You might also benefit from physical exercises,Yoga, qi-gong , breathing exercises and so on. Above all, learn to let go a little. Tsoknyi rinpoche uses the example of holding on to a tissue or something delicate. You don't need to squeeze it with full force,veins bulging,hands shaking, you can just open your hands gently and it's supported. Same with the mind. It's easier said than done though so i hope you're able to find the time to help yourself in the way you need.


---
*
I really recommend the explanations from Thrangu rinpoche when it comes to insight/vipassana and shiné and how they enhance one another. This book is particularly clear and concise.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essentials-Maha ... 0861713710


* "One who neglects the branches of tranquillity (shamatha), even though he struggles mightily to meditate for millennium upon millennium, never will attain concentration (samadhi).

When the tranquillity of yogins is attained, so too are the transcendental faculties (abhijna). Nonetheless obscuration is not destroyed without the perfection of insight (prajnaparamita).

Sacred texts teach that bondage arises when insight (prajna) is severed from means (upaya), and means is cut off from insight as well. Therefore, never neglect this union."
– Atiśa
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Punya » Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:06 pm

I am reluctant to try another form of meditation as I feel this is my path. 
Maybe you are holding onto this idea too. You don't have to give up insight meditation but experimenting with other forms of meditation may help.

I suggest having a look at Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's book Joyful Wisdom. He used to suffer from panic attacks so he has an interesting perspective on how to approach both meditation and life problems. It suggests a range of meditation techniques that I have found valuable with an emphasis on short sessions. It's also written in a way that is very accessible to non-buddhists so practitioners, like yourself, who are not practicing in the Tibetan tradition would still find his advice useful.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

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Anders
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Anders » Sun Feb 14, 2016 2:57 am

I think you need to master breath meditation my friend.

This is the sort of issue that can usually be regulated by learning to regulate the body. Breath meditation is the most straightforward gateway to that.

Also, don't sweat picking up another technique. In fact, you should consider the possibility that your reluctance to do so is just another facet of this compulsive tension.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Feb 14, 2016 3:39 am

I think you need to abandon expectations of progress. Then there might be some!
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 14, 2016 3:46 am

Maybe try observing your neuroses about meditation (whatever it is at the time you try) as nakedly and directly as possible, without any expectation, just look at them and try to rest, this is the sort of thing that helped me..remember that "looking" in this way is actually not thinking, once you are thinking or feeling things about your issues, you are not just looking any more. I had similar problems with vipaysana meditation until I got the right combination of instructions over the years. Try out Awakening The Luminous Mind by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche maybe, this book really helped me fold my neurotic tendencies into meditation. In the book rinpoche talks a lot about not observing with the "smart ego" in meditation, where basically you think you are observing directly, but there is some subtle judgement going on, sometimes it is very tricky.
All this energy is going into my observations and it doesn't feel natural at all and I come away feeling edgy.
It sounds like the "smart ego" to me, check out the book.

Also I think Mingyur Rinpoche has a video or two on panic and anxiety, and how he learned to deal with these in meditation as a child, who had panic attacks. Worth looking up.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Nemo » Sun Feb 14, 2016 7:13 pm

Go meditate more. You clearly aren't bored of the show yet.

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skittles
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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by skittles » Mon Feb 15, 2016 10:08 pm

Experiment. Try out different things and see what works. Becoming skilled at meditation means you have to tinker with your perceptions to find one that's conducive. And the same fix doesn't work every time. So keep experimenting until you figure it out.
"My main teacher Serkong Rinpoche, who was one of the teachers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, explained that having a protector is like having a very strong and vicious dog. If you are a strong person, you could go sit and guard your own gate every night to make sure that thieves don’t attack, but usually people wouldn’t do that. It’s not that we don’t have the ability, it’s just: why bother? You could post a dog there instead." - Alex Berzin http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... rs_ab.html

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Re: Meditation - How to stop trying too hard??

Post by Simon E. » Mon Feb 15, 2016 10:17 pm

pinkfrost99 wrote:I have been practicing insight meditation for over ten years with a lot of problems and, it feels like not a lot of progress has been made.

I feel a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I try too hard when I sit. I cannot help it. The very moment I attempt to meditate some tiny cognitive command seems to subconsciously kick in and I tense up.

Instead of observing my breath or body I put a whole lot of energy into the observation process itself - in my efforts to try and get as much out of it as I can. Sometimes its so bad I come away feeling really unstable, but I can't seem to stop it.

I am reluctant to try another form of meditation as I feel this is my path. However I recently tried instead to just observe what is happening in the moment (inside and outside my body) thinking that would be less pressure - but the same thing is beginning to happen. All this energy is going into my observations and it doesn't feel natural at all and I come away feeling edgy.

If I try and relax it just gets worse...because my brain seizes on another opportunity to 'try' and the opposite ends up happening.

A lot of really bad stuff has happened to me over the years and I just can't let go in any circumstance. I'm constantly on guard, and constantly trying / struggling to salvage my life. I suffer from anxiety and chronic insomnia.

The saddest irony is, when I found out the peace of mind that could be attained with meditation, because being human I naturally desired this, my mind could not seem to help but go into overtime and ever since has tried way too hard every time I sit, or even think about sitting.

Your thoughts and / or advice would be genuinely appreciated.

Find a teacher working within a recognised lineage. Follow their advice.
Back to fishin' folks... :namaste:

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