Looking for some practice advice

Front Page Forums Meditation Looking for some practice advice

This topic contains 12 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  KimW 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #2795

    Black Ghost
    Member

    Hello,

    I was hoping for some advice from the wise folks of DT.

    I will have been practising for 5 years before too long and am wondering how to proceed – I’ve had the book for a year and although I’ve found parts of it useful, I’m still stuck in terms of practice as I have been since starting sitting.

    I’m still in stage 2/3 territory but more importantly I’ve not really seen any progress in my practice over the years. Generally I haven’t experienced mind becoming any more settled, either over time nor during meditation sessions – my mind is generally still hyperactive even at the 40+min mark. I’m aware most people seem to experience some degree of the monkey mind but it seems people generally see some degree of settling, within months if not years.

    I’ve been aware of a mind that races most of the time along with a very poor level of concentration since I was a kid, so it’s not something I’ve come to be aware of through sitting. Conversely I also experience significant brain fog due to having Chronic Fatigue so I guess these issues are making things particularly tricky to work with.

    In terms of TMI, one thing that isn’t helping is that my ability to focus seems weakest when practicing on any body sensations. I still struggle with being able to feel much in terms of bodily sensations and my mind seems most prone to wandering when these sensations are used as the focus. I know the book mentions other options but feeling sensations seem to be fundamental to TMI practice, at least during the early stages. The very rare times I have had some settling of the mind has been during open awareness-practice, when I eventually have relaxed with some focus on the sound of breathing, never any sensations of the breath nor any other body feeling. Having said that, with this type of practice it’s usually the usual hyperactive mind experience – I’m aware settling the mind isn’t necessarily the only objective but I’d have thought I’d be better at least having some help to find a method which gives me the best chance of seeing some progress.

    I’ve done a fair bit of Dharma study in this time which hasn’t been a problem but it’s not been the case with the practice side of things which I’ve struggled with since day 1 and I’ve been having frequent breaks from sitting due to these issues and I’m worried I’ll just give up eventually if things continue as they have been. I’m wondering whether the best thing to do at this stage would be to consider having some one on one tuition – I’ve explained the issues to a few teachers in interviews but none of their recommendations nor reading various books etc has made any real difference. I’m not in work due to some health issues so I wouldn’t be able to consider anything too costly so I don’t know whether this or something else would be the best way to proceed.

    Many thanks.

    • This topic was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    • This topic was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    #2798

    Frederic
    Member

    Hi,

    Could you walk us through a typical sit?

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Frederic.
    #2800

    KimW
    Member

    Hi Black Ghost,
    In addition to describing a typical sitting, could you share specifics as to how your 6 point preparation for practice goes? Have you tried any of the other forms, such as walking meditation or loving kindness practice, and if so what did you notice? What was the advice from other teachers, and specifically what happened when you tried it?

    I hear the difficulty of practicing with the brain fog of Chronic Fatigue, which may be easier with more vivid/less unpleasant meditation objects.
    Thanks, Kim

    #2801

    Black Ghost
    Member

    Hi, yes I’ve tried other practices, walking, metta, bodyscans, using sound etc. Pretty much the same experience – lack of being able to reach any kind of stability of being able to keep focus on the object for even short periods, as I mentioned usually worse when it comes to body sensations. It’s usually a strange mix of some mental fatigue along with a racing mind.

    It’s very unlike the experience of having even a degree of the mind settling into stage 4 territory which I’ve only experienced very rarely. This hasn’t seemed to have improved over time however as I had similar, rare experiences within the first few weeks of sitting, years ago and my typical sit now is similar to how it was back then.

    Re the 6 points I have written notes regarding right attitude to practice etc which I regularly go over and I’ve read a huge amount on correct mindset towards sitting but I’m still stuck unfortunately.

    #2802

    KimW
    Member

    Hi Black Ghost,

    It sounds like you are feeling frustrated with the inability of the mind to settle. See if the following may be useful, and if not, something else can be tried. It is difficult to do these practices without falling into some expectations of what should be happening. Especially if you have been doing them for awhile. However, certain conditions, such as brain fog, may make it more difficult. In that case, it may be especially useful to pay more attention to the cultivation of skillful intentions rather than the results of those intentions.

    Perhaps the first of those would be to acknowledge your intention to persevere in the case of difficult conditions, which is the practice and cultivation of patience and perhaps equanimity. If you can bring up the intention of compassion and kindness for yourself, those are also skills which can be cultivated during these difficult times, and can help to free the mind from suffering.

    Notice the aversion that arises when the mind does not settle. This increases mindfulness of the hindrances. Consider trying to pay more attention to anything in your experience that is pleasant, or at least not unpleasant. Especially body sensations. It sounds like it is hard for you to connect to body sensations. Perhaps that is due to past conditions or to present illness. However, if the body is explored, you may be able to find an area which is accessible to your attention. If you find any area which is pleasant, consider using that area as a place to rest your attention, while still opening to peripheral awareness.

    If there is no area of body sensation which you can find which is pleasant, then since you were able to rest attention on the sound of the breath, there is no reason why you cannot use that. Just make sure to keep practicing peripheral awareness at the same time.

    Perhaps the goals of your practice could simply be to sit as well as you are able at any given time, noticing pleasant sensations, and cultivating mindfulness of both mind wandering and aversion to it, as well as compassion for yourself for the difficulties that you face.

    #2803

    Mimi M
    Member

    Hi Black Ghost,
    I would recommend that you try some Yin Yoga to support your meditation practice. Because it produces high sensation in the body and clears out blocked energetic channels, it might help you feel more subtle sensations in the body when you are sitting.
    It works primarily with connective tissue in the body which is pervasive….no cell left behind 🙂

    Namaste,
    mimi
    Teacher-in-Training

    #2804

    Black Ghost
    Member

    Hi – thanks. I would say I generally have been unable to find pleasure in meditation when I have looked for it – I generally though spend more focus on trying to accept things as they are though than trying to find any pleasure. I’m sure my focus would be better were I able to find some enjoyment in the experience, which is usually neutral at best. Focus on any part of the body seems to be lost immediately, even more so than other meditation objects – I get the impression that my mind finds no interest what is being observed and therefore wanders off into thinking of anything else.

    My peripheral awareness is generally ok but in noticing things like aversion, frustration, expectation, I don’t think I’ve been able to see them with much equanimity unfortunately – it’s somewhat possible for a period but after a few years of the same experience it’s become harder if anything.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    #2809

    Bernadette
    Member

    Hello Black Ghost

    No advice, too early in my practice yet, but loving kindness coming your way.

    Struggling with the some of the same frustrations and appreciate your explicit descriptions.

    Bernadette

    #2810

    roncraig
    Member

    Hello BG,

    You stated that “I still struggle with being able to feel much in terms of bodily sensations.” Let me ask you, right now as you read the next words, are you breathing in or breathing out? If you could answer that question maybe the description that I give below might be helpful. If not, maybe using a mantra might help.

    I don’t know if the technique I use will be of value or not but I will explain what I do to develop concentration.

    First, I do Culadasa’s Six Point Preparation (but I added a step to hold myself in loving-kindness). I have memorized: PM Drop Hold GED

    Posture
    Motivation
    Drop worldly concerns
    Hold self in loving-kindness
    Goals for sitting
    drop Expectations and Judgements before and after sitting
    I commit to work Diligently during this sitting

    After doing the Preliminary I place my attention on the breath.

    (1) If the mind is scattered:

    after I observe the beginning of the in-breath, I say to myself “in breath”
    after I observe the beginning of the out-breath, I say to myself “out breath”

    After the mind has calmed a little:

    after I observe the beginning and the middle of the in-breath, toward the end of the in-breath I say to myself “in”
    after I observe the beginning and the middle of the out-breath, toward the end of the out-breath I say to myself “out”

    (2) When even more calm, drop the self-talk and I just focus on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the nostrils.

    When my attention leaves the breath, I gently but firmly bring my attention back to the breath.

    (3) When I am even more calm, observe the beginning of the inbreath, the middle of the in breath, the end of the inbreath, see if there is a space between the inbreath and the outbreath, observe the beginning of the outbreath, the middle of the outbreath, the end of the outbreath, the space between the outbreath and the inbreath. (If I make the commitment to see the beginning of every in breath, usually my mind will stay with the breath for a while and I will know that I am in the middle of the inbreath and this sort of continues.)

    Note: There may be a time when my mind is in such a state that it is difficult to watch the breath. During those times I begin by watching the chest expand and contract with each breath. But, I still do the self-talk. After a while I will be able to change your focus to the sensation of the breath.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————-
    Once the mind has been calmed, one can do a serenity meditation or insight meditation.
    —————————————————————————————————
    Sometime when my mind if very scattered, I spending the entire meditation sitting doing my self-talk, “inbreath, outbreath, inbreath, outbreath, inbreath, outbreath.”

    If my explanation as to what I do is helpful good. If you don’t find it of any value, that’s fine. But know that I am sending metta and wish you well on this adventure toward awakening.

    #2811

    Black Ghost
    Member

    Hello all, many thanks for the replies, they are all appreciated.

    Honestly, I think I may be past the stage where any suggestions are going to make much difference as I’ve consulted various teachers in the past and I’ve read plenty on the suggested antidotes for the various obstacles I’m experiencing, without any making any real difference. This is why I was wondering whether finding a teacher for consistent help may be the recommended option at this stage, if I can find something within budget.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Black Ghost.
    #2815

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Black Ghost,

    I would like to give you one more piece of advice. It seems to me that you are lacking introspective awareness. You are not seeing the movements of attention. I recommend having a more spacious awareness of the meditation object, so you can also notice when your attention moves to something else. When you notice that your attention moves, use the labeling practice described in Stage 3. Just use a simple label like thinking, hearing, feeling etc. After the label just gently bring your attention back to your meditation object. Generally this practice is recommended after you totally forget the meditation object, but in your case I think it would be best, at first, to do it any time your attention moves.

    Knowing what your attention is doing is the fundamental skill that will help to stabilize your mind. While we are working to stabilize attention, one of the main goals is to study our mind. With this labeling practice, you will start to see the things that take your attention away from the meditation object. So you can have a great deal of scattering of attention and still be building understanding. Also, don’t forget to label any thoughts or judgments about your meditation practice. Hopefully this curiosity about how the mind works will engage you. If your mind is really unstable, try speaking the labels out loud.

    Since body sensations are difficult, and you have had some luck with it in the past, you might try using sounds as your meditation object. Just let your attention move freely amongst any sounds in your environment. When you notice anything other than a sound, just label it and bring your attention back to sounds.

    It is great that you have stuck with the practice so long, and your motivation must be strong. I think it would be a good idea to work one on one with a teacher.

    The following is a list of Dharma Treasure teachers and teachers in training who offer assistance to students. The ones that are underlined have contact information. Most offer these services on a donation basis, so you can pay whatever you can afford.

    https://dharmatreasure.org/teachers-in-training/

    Best Wishes,
    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

    #2816

    Black Ghost
    Member

    Thanks for the reply Blake, I’ll bear it in mind. Regards.

    #2817

    KimW
    Member

    Hi Black Ghost,

    You were clear in your posts that you thought it would be a good idea to talk to someone. If you haven’t contacted anyone on the Teacher Training list, and would like to explore speaking with me, I would be willing to email you about our options. This would be by donation, rather than a set fee. I just started the Teacher Training in this method, although I have have been teaching other methods for a number of years. If you are interested, please let me know your email address.

    With Much Metta,
    Kim

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