How to start again after many failed attempts?

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Chris 3 weeks, 5 days ago.

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  • #3372

    Sasha
    Member

    I am seeking advice on how to start meditating again. I tried meditating with this book a couple years ago and while I reached stage 4 or 5 and received some benefits, I would regress. After a while I became frustrated and then stopped for a bit. Then I started again, then again stopped. This happened a few times. I would stop primarily because: there are too many instructions to keep in mind which leads to confusion (e.g. keeping in mind the relevant intention for one’s stage, following/connecting, let thoughts come/be/go, the vague instruction to intend to keep attention strong and awareness ‘bright’ despite needing to only have effortless intentions); not really knowing what awareness feels like experientially despite reading so much about it from commenters and in the book–what does it feel like to you?; my posture is terrible and sitting for long with a straight back is very uncomfortable; most importantly I don’t really derive much pleasure from meditation to compensate for the physical and mental discomfort; dullness/drowsiness seeming an impassable obstacle, and when I did eventually begin to finally come around to controlling it after many effortful sessions using the stage 4 antidotes, I got a back injury, and now the dullness is even worse when I try to meditate than back then; losing lots of progress due to injury/illness/a shitty week following a night out (all of which make sitting impossible or dramatically increase dullness, and finding motivation to continue again after regressing is difficult).

    This year I read some great comments on reddit about not needing to strive but rather simply to have an intention even if it doesn’t lead anywhere, as the mind must be trained, though this seems rather vague and contradictory to me, because we at once need to effortlessly intend but also to exert effort using the antidotes to dullness and in keeping our awareness ‘bright’ and attention strong. I tried again, this time really spending time on the stage 1 4-step transition of letting attention roam anywhere in all senses, then restricting it to physical sensations, then breath sensations, then breath sensations at the nose, but still would become frustrated as I wouldn’t know when to move on to the next stage and I experienced the same frustrations/obstacles I described above. Please help me overcome these issues. I have heard that metta can help to pacify the mental discomfort or anger that comes with confusion, dashed expectations and all manner of negative critical thoughts, but I have tried metta and not have had much success with it, as it seems very contrived and (ironically) frustrating.

    #3373

    Siavash
    Member

    I would suggest practicing Shinzen Young’s Focus In technique for a while, and specially practicing See In and Hear In techniques that focuses on thoughts, meaning on mental images and mental talks, to get a handle on arising of negative thoughts and emotions that lead to confusion and frustration. And after practicing Shinzen’s Focus In techniques for a few weeks, then come back to TMI practice.

    #3374

    Maaike
    Member

    From your wording it sounds like you are being really hard on yourself.

    “Losing lots of progress due to injury/illness/a shitty week following a night out (all of which make sitting impossible or dramatically increase dullness, and finding motivation to continue again after regressing is difficult).”

    Regressing is inevitable. Culadasa writes that progress through the stages is not linear, and that one can expect to go up and down stages on different days and even within the same session. Instead of looking for success in the “achievement” of a stage, I try and look the benefits the practice has brought me in daily life.

    Look at “losing progress” (I would say there is no such thing!) as a learning opportunity. Illness and injury, as well as other kinds of life events, impact the stage one practices at – this is inevitable, and a good lesson to learn: I do not OWN my meditation practice, it’s not even MY practice, strictly speaking; all I can bring is right intention, right effort and a lot of kindness. I do not have control over these conditions, and these conditions will impact my practice – both ways, by the way: sometimes conditions come together in such a way that practice is really easy, and one will shoot up a couple of stages – but getting frustrated because conditions change and one “loses progress” is not helpful. It will give one valuable information about the kind of attitude one is (maybe subconsciously) bringing to practice though.

    “Losing progress” after a night out is also a learning opportunity: it shows what sleep deprivation and possibly alcohol consumption do to practice. I used to drink quite a lot and have a very erratic sleeping schedule; meditation has shown me more clearly than anything else the impact these things have and conqesuently, I have greatly modified my behaviour.

    “I have heard that metta can help to pacify the mental discomfort or anger that comes with confusion, dashed expectations and all manner of negative critical thoughts, but I have tried metta and not have had much success with it, as it seems very contrived and (ironically) frustrating.”

    Metta might seem contrived – at first. It’s really, really, REALLY worth it, especially if one is very much striving for “success” and being full of self-judgment. For me, Rob Burbea’s metta instructions were very helpful (to be found here: https://dharmaseed.org/retreats/1265/ and here: https://dharmaseed.org/retreats/1084/ , this one is a bit simpler and probably more immediately helpful), as well as the book “The mindful path to self-compassion” by Christopher D. Germer. Other people have had succes with TWIM metta meditation.

    The thing I found helpful in Burbea’s approach is that he emphasizes intention and not so much “the feeling of metta” as I too was struggling to generate any warm metta feelings, and ofcourse trying to force metta feelings is not helpful, because then metta just becomes another thing “one must succeed at”.

    I think in the TWIM approach if one is unable to get the feeling going, one is supposed to do forgiveness meditation until the heart softens a bit – there’s a guided meditation on this on Insight Timer.

    Good luck 🙂

    #3375

    Samuel
    Member
    #3386

    Chris
    Member

    FWIW, I find that practicing one skill at a time for a few days helps a lot. You don’t really have to keep a lot of instruction in your mind. You should really just practice one thing at a time. Once that skill becomes automatic, then you can build on it with more instruction / skills. It should get easier over time. Not harder.

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