Forcing myself to Meditate

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Alexander B 1 year, 4 months ago.

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    Alexander B


    I was wondering if anyone has some insight on whether or not it is unhealthy to force yourself to Meditate, and what the difference between using willpower to Meditate and using diligence to meditate. When I first started meditating I was so intent on getting rid of my anxiety that I forced my attention on my breath for many days until I no longer though of the anxiety, and although it took a while this process actually worked and cured my anxiety. After reading TMI, however, I am worried that this is somehow unhealthy, even though it does seem to work. So if my goal is to train the Mind to become as strong as possible, why would it be harmful to not constantly be directing my attention to the breath like a weightlifter constantly working out to increase his strength? Is it possible to somehow “overtrain” the Mind and injure it, and how do I know what the optimal rate of training is for me to obtain optimal efficiency and mindfulness without overtraining.

    I truly appreciate any comments anyone has, and thank you in advance.



    Chloe B

    I think this depends. For one there is no way to use willpower to meditate although your strong intention/ motivation to do so can your mind train itself to do so. You feel like you are in control of your mind but you are really not in control of all areas that is why you are training it over time. It’s not at all harmful to constantly be directing your attention to your breath like a weightlifter. That is exactly what you are supposed to do to train your mind.

    If you have focused with “willpower” on the breadth, the question to ask yourself is how is my awareness? Have you closed off your access to peripheral awareness to the point that while you are forced and locked on the breath your scope of awareness of sounds, sensations, etc around you have diminished? Is your anxiety cured because you have blocked it out of your field of awareness or because it has truly diminished? This is really the key. You are training your mind to have the widest possible vantage of open awareness while resting in attention on the breath. The idea is not to block things out through forced attention on the breadth. How do you feel your practice is in regards to awareness?

    Do not worry about overtraining your mind and injuring it. There are people who go on retreats for month on end and meditate the full day and through the night. Their minds are not injured. There are phenomena that can happen after extensive retreats but unless you are in this category it is probably not necessary to concern yourself about this. I am not sure what your goal is with optimal efficiency and mindfulness? Meditation is an important building block for realizing stable mind, single pointed concentration, equanimity, and provides a fertile field for insight into the true nature of reality to appear.

    Let me know if there are further questions. I hope this was helpful.


    Doug Tataryn

    Hi Alex, Chloe has provided wonderful context and perspective for the question you asked. There are some implications of your question however that I would like to point out. Mediation is providing you with two skills, the ability to focus your mind where you want it to so that you stop feeding the anxiety. In the process you will also learn to dis-identify with the anxiety and not take it so seriously when it arises. In a sense you will stop being your anxiety and start just noticing the activation of your body which used to make “you” anxious.

    Now the not so good news. As you continue your meditation and progress through the stages, your will have to face your “anxiety” more directly, ideally with more tools and understanding than you have now, on top of the concentration (distraction from anxiety) and the dis-identification you will earn in the earlier stages of meditation.

    I work with this all the time with my clients. In my clinical work I define anxiety as a cultural construct which we use to interpret the sensations of emotions and feelings as “bodily sensation and cognitive activity outside of our control”. A deeper analyses of anxiety is those symptoms are actually symptoms of unresolved feelings and emotions that need to be addressed and resolved. I would suggest trying to find the feelings giving rise to your anxiety and spend time experiencing them and learning to stop fearing them. Ideally feel them deep enough to find the tears and cry them out of your system. As you do that the anxiety will subside and eventually jsut become feelings you need to process instead of symptoms you need to run from or control.

    Hope this is helpful. All the best

    Doug Tataryn, Ph.D.
    Teacher in Training




    As the previous replies suggest, it might be that ‘willpower’ is impairing peripheral awareness. In my experience, the antidote is that the attention should be more awareness on the actual sensations of breathing (wherever that might occur e.g tip of nose etc), rather than rigidly blocking off anything else that may arise (peripheral awareness). As I progress through the meditation, it almost always becomes easier for the attention to maintain on the sensation of breathing (unless dullness intervenes) – the initial effort required for maintaining awareness of the sensation of breathing becomes relatively less effort. The peripheral awareness is a consequence of expansion of consciousness and all sorts of things will arise in awareness – if one maintains breath sensation these slowly subside until you can be aware of them without ‘going to them’ – you can just observe them as passing mind moments, and by golly, there are lots of them. But insights arise here, such as how uncontrolled the mind is, the plethora of things occurring ‘under the surface’ of the mind, the impermanence of the mind moments etc. Eventually as the meditation session progresses, there is a natural quietening of the mind, and ones awareness comes to the forefront in a clearer, more pristine form. This can and will then carry over into life, affecting your behaviour patterns and modifying your life path towards greater insights into yourself.

    At least thats my take on the issue – metta, Bluelotus9

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  bluelotus9.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  bluelotus9.

    Alexander B

    Awesome thanks for the replies!

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