Failing at meditation

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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NineLions
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Failing at meditation

Post by NineLions » Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:22 pm

Hello,

I have been trying to meditate for as long as I can remember. I think my posture is the right one (although I do sit in my bed so maybe that's part of the problem).

Anyway, I have this tension right in the middle of my chest, between the breasts. It's difficult to explain it, to describe it, but it triggers when I'm anxious. I would say it's there most of the time. It's very uncomfortable and it tends to lessen when I manage to meditate successfully for a minutes.

Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.

I did Vipassanna retreat a while back and I remember being able to meditate very well. It seems I can't do it anymore nowadays.

I want to get rid of this feeling in my chest, I can hardly breathe with it.

Thank you!

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Ayu
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Ayu » Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:54 pm

I wouldn't call that "failing". Such obstacles occur and they can be viewed as a task to work with and learn something.

What about asking a teacher?
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:01 pm

NineLions wrote:Hello,

I have been trying to meditate for as long as I can remember. I think my posture is the right one (although I do sit in my bed so maybe that's part of the problem).

Anyway, I have this tension right in the middle of my chest, between the breasts. It's difficult to explain it, to describe it, but it triggers when I'm anxious. I would say it's there most of the time. It's very uncomfortable and it tends to lessen when I manage to meditate successfully for a minutes.

Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.

I did Vipassanna retreat a while back and I remember being able to meditate very well. It seems I can't do it anymore nowadays.

I want to get rid of this feeling in my chest, I can hardly breathe with it.

Thank you!

I would not sit on a bed, especially a soft one would do weird things to the way you hold yourself. Get one or two actual cushions that are comfortable for meditation. Learn the five point meditation posture in detail, not just generalities, posture has a huge effect. I'd try that and see the chest thing is still there. really feeling things in that area is really common during meditation. You might want to seek out the help of a meditation teacher. Definitely don't force thoughts away, the point is to have awareness of them, without wanting them to stay or go, just let them be as they are.

That said, if this is the problem you are having, it really sounds like instruction is the way to go, if you don't want/can't find an actual teacher there are lots of resources out there on shamatha meditation.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Redfaery
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Redfaery » Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:12 pm

So, this may seem like a random question, but are you burning incense while you meditate? It's a wonderful offering, but I've found that if I breathe the smoke in for too long, it triggers a tightness in my chest like you mention. Just something to think about.
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by AlexMcLeod » Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:40 pm

Try standing meditation. Much easier for beginners.
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Ayu » Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:57 pm

Redfaery wrote:So, this may seem like a random question, but are you burning incense while you meditate? It's a wonderful offering, but I've found that if I breathe the smoke in for too long, it triggers a tightness in my chest like you mention. Just something to think about.
Thank you. This is a hint. I will try that out.
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by seeker242 » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:33 pm

NineLions wrote:
Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.
Not silly at all! :smile: I do simple breathing meditation and I find the best way to deal with the thoughts is simply to return your attention to the breathing in and out. So ideally, what you do with the thoughts is actually...nothing! You don't try to make them go away and you don't try to stop them. You just breathe in and out and that's it.

So in essence, you don't make your mind become quiet. You can't do that anyway, that's impossible. The very activity of trying to make it quiet, is itself, a disturbance. What you do is just put your attention on the breathing, or other meditation object, I prefer the breath, and just let it quiet down all by itself.

"Making it quiet" vs "letting it become quiet". That can be a subtle distinction, but It's a very important one IMO.
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:45 pm

I find trying to force them away doesn't help, one technique I've heard mentioned is to note the appearance of the distraction, its nature and its duration and using that as break in the distraction and let it go. The idea being to use awareness to distract you from the distraction. The letting it go part is of course tricky, using a count synchronized with the breath has been effective for me; where I busy the monkeybrain counting breaths right when I am recovering from a distraction, continue for a few breaths then stop counting as the brain settles.

But that tension in your chest angle suggests panic attack/anxiety to me, which would surely interfere with meditation. Old resentments have been troublesome for me, leading me into obsessive and lurid though, and they can be so habitual its hard to perceive them. It might be useful to pursue that kind of thing using other approaches in addition to meditation.

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by avisitor » Sat Jan 14, 2017 4:57 am

NineLions wrote:Hello,

I have been trying to meditate for as long as I can remember. I think my posture is the right one (although I do sit in my bed so maybe that's part of the problem).

Anyway, I have this tension right in the middle of my chest, between the breasts. It's difficult to explain it, to describe it, but it triggers when I'm anxious. I would say it's there most of the time. It's very uncomfortable and it tends to lessen when I manage to meditate successfully for a minutes.

Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.

I did Vipassanna retreat a while back and I remember being able to meditate very well. It seems I can't do it anymore nowadays.

I want to get rid of this feeling in my chest, I can hardly breathe with it.

Thank you!
This reply is kinda late but I hope it helps someone
I find that the pressure of tightness in the chest or anywhere is just one's effort of putting attention there
Like when my teacher told me to follow my breath at my nose. I could feel a sort of pressure at the nose.
When I asked my teacher about this feeling, he told me to concentrate on the bottom of my belly.
Follow the movement. Guess the answer could be to focus on another part of your body?
Perhaps focus upon one's hands in the mudra?

Oh, the thoughts popping up ... again, asked my teacher and it was to just let it go and go back to following the breath.
I guess if one observes thoughts then one can get carried away by them
And to just let them go means to not interact with them

Well, I hope that Ninelions is feeling better and has gotten past this issue.
Namaste

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Sun Jan 22, 2017 6:07 am

NineLions wrote:Hello,

I have been trying to meditate for as long as I can remember. I think my posture is the right one (although I do sit in my bed so maybe that's part of the problem).

Anyway, I have this tension right in the middle of my chest, between the breasts. It's difficult to explain it, to describe it, but it triggers when I'm anxious. I would say it's there most of the time. It's very uncomfortable and it tends to lessen when I manage to meditate successfully for a minutes.

Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.

I did Vipassanna retreat a while back and I remember being able to meditate very well. It seems I can't do it anymore nowadays.

I want to get rid of this feeling in my chest, I can hardly breathe with it.

Thank you!
usually this strong tension in the center of our chest occurs when we try to control out thoughts and emotions by forcing them. consequence on this method is chest pressure sensation and -when tension goes to our head- the development of generalized tension and/or nerviosism.

in meditation the principle is relax, observe, and see what surges from this. i suggest you to do not block your thoughts and emotions, just relax, whatever surges be present wen it surges and dissolves by itself. we do nothing, just witness in awareness. later try to live this way in normal life, in general more relaxed and aware.

this way thoughts and emotions cannot control us, and we can make better decisions in daily life

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Minobu
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Minobu » Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:54 pm

NineLions wrote:Hello,

I have been trying to meditate for as long as I can remember. I think my posture is the right one (although I do sit in my bed so maybe that's part of the problem).

Anyway, I have this tension right in the middle of my chest, between the breasts. It's difficult to explain it, to describe it, but it triggers when I'm anxious. I would say it's there most of the time. It's very uncomfortable and it tends to lessen when I manage to meditate successfully for a minutes.

Which brings me to the next thing:

When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.

I did Vipassanna retreat a while back and I remember being able to meditate very well. It seems I can't do it anymore nowadays.

I want to get rid of this feeling in my chest, I can hardly breathe with it.

Thank you!

i had a problem with vulgarity during meditation...really annoying during Tantra meditation..
My Rinpoche told me to say "Shut Up" ..he said by telling it to shut up it would...it actually worked...he said it was part of the purification process and not to worry.

maybe another approach is to tell it to STOP...
i'm not a teacher...


We actually have forever to get this stuff right.
So no worries.


this might not sound appropriate so take it with a grain of salt, it's opposite to what i just said ...in a way anyway...

The thing that worries you might be just the ticket to spend some time focusing on.

that might sound like a total waste of time...but making that a meditation for awhile might be the ticket for it to burn it self out and you to be able to carry on.
Examine it like an awareness. spend time being aware of it...

this sounds crazy , but in a way try allowing for a month of this and see what happens.

like i said....we have forever.

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Mkoll » Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:15 pm

Hi Ninelions,

I agree with what others have said about the importance of posture. Try not using the bed. Either sit on the floor, on cushions (e.g. zabu + zabuton), or on a chair. Unless you're medically unable to of course.

Sorry about your chest pain. If you've ruled out physical causes for it, then it is probably caused by anxiety, as you've said. Your meditation can help you figure out what it is you're doing that is causing the anxiety. It might be helpful to try discerning the difference between the changing physical and the changing mental aspects of your experience when it happens. We unenlightened beings have the tendency to make physical pain worse because of our defilements, see the Dart Sutta (SN 36.6).

Having a "stormy" meditation and thoughts is a natural outcome of not practicing consistently. Don't take it personally, it happens to everybody. Things will get easier if you make the practice consistent. And be sure to practice virtuous behavior as this is the foundation of good meditation.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:10 am

Also to consider is that not all schools of Buddhism rely on formal seated meditation.
One is not a failed or incomplete Buddhist if one does not practice seated meditation.
There are other ways to benefit oneself and others, such as chanting mantras, sutras, or nembutsu.

In the case of the pain in the chest, it wouldn't hurt to incorporate purification practices, such as bowing or taking special attention to dedicate the merit (good future results) of your practice to all suffering beings.

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Ayu
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Ayu » Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:05 pm

Quote from The Fearless Lion's Roar, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (Mudra, 1972)
If the meditator is able to use whatever occurs in his life as the path, his body becomes a retreat hut. He does not need to add up the number of years he has been meditating and does not panic when "shocking" thoughts arise. His awareness remains unbroken like that of an old man watching a child at play. As is said in a maha ati text: "Complete realization is like unchanging space."
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:04 pm

One meditation you can do is breathing out your busy thoughts in the form of dark smoke. The most important thing is to relax and don't let your past experiences affect your future meditation. Pretty much everyone has obstacles in meditation at some time or other.

The other thing to remember is that every time you try to meditate you are creating the cause for a peaceful mind in the future, even if you judge your present meditation to be unsuccessful, so please don't be discouraged; just try to relax as much as you can.

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by _R_ » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:37 am

1. You can't fail at meditation. Unless you're active on social media during the whole session or whatever..

2. Try something different? Maybe vipassana isn't your cup of espresso at the moment? Mantras? Walking meditation? idk
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nichiren-123
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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by nichiren-123 » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:05 pm

I struggle with sitting meditation but I've found walking meditation easier because it's easier to notice your breath, therefore easier to focus

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by LionelTeo » Mon Jun 26, 2017 5:21 pm

NineLions wrote: When I meditate, my thoughts are like storms. I don't know if I'm supposed to observe them or force them away or just concentrate so much on the present that they are made impossible to appear. What is the best way? Sounds silly to ask, there are probably many ways.
The mind works similarly to an ocean, there are always days that are stormy and days that are calm. During a bad weather, you would want to opt for to wait indoor until the weather calm down before heading out, instead of forcing your way through the bad weather and getting yourself drench. Its ideal to wait for the first few chaotic thoughts to go away by itself, then slowly sank into deeper mediation during each calm moments, you would eventually be in control of your mind and can begin rejects chaotic/evade thoughts whenever it resurface.

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Re: Failing at meditation

Post by Anonymous X » Wed Jun 28, 2017 10:13 am

It would be nice to hear from the OP to see how he has made adjustements and what he discovered.

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