No net progress after almost a year, dullness, unwholesome lifestyle

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Ted Lemon 1 year, 9 months ago.

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  • #1933

    Sasha
    Member

    Hello. I started meditating with TMI in fall of last year during a calm break from life and had steady progress. But then I went on holiday abroad for a week where I couldn’t meditate and progress was halted. After this I never quite recovered. My main issue was dullness and drowsiness, which I would counter with exercising right before meditation. But I have also been suffering from depression, insomnia, and have quite a busy schedule so it was not always possible to exercise, so my ‘baseline dullness’ is rather severe. So after this holiday that broke the camel’s back, I eventually stopped meditating because I was overwhelmed by strong dullness (I reached stage 4) and in particular was terrified of developing a habit of it.

    I’ve started again from the beginning but still suffer from the subtle progressive dullness issue. It happens around five minutes into starting which is very strange. I absolutely can’t meditate without keeping my eyes open. And on some days it doesn’t happen as much, so the unpredictability not only is frustrating (because it feels uncontrollable, as in I can’t determine the exact cause) but also makes me afraid that I might develop a habit. I mean it just feels like the dullness that develops during meditation is due to lifestyle + a little bit during meditation that tips it over the edge, so that the progressive subtle dullness really accelerates. Then again, I am sitting here typing this sleep deprived but still fully alert. But how can I get to developing mindfulness if my progress keeps being swayed by this unpredictable dullness?
    I also unfortunately already committed to another week where it will be hard for me to meditate, and I can’t opt out without really damaging some relationships. But I feel like if I go that week, I’ll just lose my practice again.

    I have another huge problem of resentment that has been bubbling since last year and has really taken over my life. I don’t want to go into details online, but I can just say that the root of the resentment is sense desire (music) and also identity/past karma. But this contributes to me self medicating with going out drinking a lot till the wee hours, and usually being unsatisfied with the music and resentful, craving for this city where I can’t be yet because of money, and all this also really contributes to fatigue. I am OBSESSED with this city, it occupies my mind every few thoughts, and many things in my life remind me of it. It is beautiful and filled with sense pleasure and social status of the highest quality and variety in the world. This has led me to deeply resent this place and it sometimes makes me filled with rage, because I know people who got to that place and who have become smug and who I am jealous of. The only things that have given me deep contentment are meditation and music, and obviously meditation is the better one. But without going out drinking and dancing, and without sitting being sedentary on the computer or phone almost constantly 24/7, and being in this place I currenrly am in (feeling so out of place, feeling so alone) I feel empty, bored, depressed, deprived of the social status and music of that place I both hate and love so so so very much, and suicidal. I am a student so I don’t have any fixed hours which is also really not conducive to having a routine that can help give me control. I know that I need to make lifestyle changes to combat the roots of the drowsiness/dullness, but it is just so difficult and I feel sort of trapped. I can see the roots of karma leading to my current state, but I don’t know how to cut them. It’s truly a catch 22…meditation helps me let go of these things easier, but in order to meditate successfully you need to get rid of these things first.

    Sorry if this is long, but I don’t know what to do and really am despairing. I really don’t want my practice to keep being destroyed again and again by the ‘householder lifestyle’ but this is what keeps happening. Meanwhile I am finding it so difficult to counter this lifestyle because it’s such an ingrained habit. And I don’t want to develop a habit of meditating in subtle progressive/strong dullness. I could try doing the hard exercise again and then meditating right after, but I can’t always exercise, and when I don’t do it regularly the baseline fatigue returns. Also, the antidotes don’t really work, as in I have to keep doing them again and again, they only keep dullness at bay for a minute or so, and that’s all the practice becomes.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    #1945

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    Can you go out and not drink, just experience the music? Can you do it in moderation, so that you aren’t always tired?

    One of the key things that you get out of a meditation practice is an understanding of how to be bored and be okay with it. But possibly you are also lonely?

    As for your problem with dullness, how hard are you focusing on the object? Can you try to back off on the intensity of your focus and see if anything changes? If you are really overtired, this won’t help, but if you’re in an okay state of awakeness, it should be possible to notice that the more perfectly you try to hold your concentration, the more dullness arises. In stage four, perfect concentration isn’t a goal, but it seems so attainable, so we have a tendency to try to get ahead. But if you do that, you wind up launching right into progressive subtle dullness.

    #1946

    Kim L
    Member

    If you are suffering from depression, insomnia, deep resentments, boredom, loneliness and suicidal thoughts like you are describing it is very much time to visit a therapist.

    Reading your post it also seems like you are experiencing manic phases aside from the depressive phases. These could point to a number of psychological issues no one on the internet is qualified to diagnose or help treat for you. You are dealing with psychological issues that need the care and help of a professional and not just self help in the form of meditation.

    Please take care of yourself,

    Kind Regards,
    Kim

    EDIT: It is from some extensive personal experience that I am giving the above advice to you. Do not take random internet advice on what you should or shouldn’t do, do not take any internet diagnosis from anyone serious, do not listen to anyone who isn’t a qualified professional with experience (and even these can often be hit and miss, I would advise you to exercise a little care with picking a therapist as well).

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Kim L.
    #1955

    Sasha
    Member

    Thank you both for your replies.

    Ted: I feel like dullness increases when I relax my attention actually. I suppose I’ll just try to soldier on. I think I’ll break my sessions into 10 minute sessions throughout the day to try avoiding the subtle progressive dullness issue.

    Kim: thank you for the advice but I think my post sounds a lot unstabler than I actually am! I have tried therapists and they have not worked and have actually made me feel worse. And I just can’t afford to dish out 200+ dollars per session. I like to keep an open mind but I really have faith in meditation precisely because it is the ONLY thing that has helped me before. Its just that due to the recurring dullness problem and not wanting to make it a habit, I stopped meditating

    #1956

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    What is your awareness like when you relax your attention and dullness starts to progress?

    #1959

    Sasha
    Member

    Hi Ted. I’ve partially gotten around the dullness problem by strategically timing my sessions, for example right after I’ve come back from outdoors. Aside from this, I find a couple of the antidotes to help. I think there’s really no universal answer and individuals need to figure it out for themselves, and finding joy is so important precisely because we do need to exert great diligence in the earlier stages at least. I also have split up my sessions into smaller segments at different times of the day. I also was not really structuring my sessions with specific goals beforehand which contributes to dullness. I do notice that dullness onset coincides with the empty moments of consciousness referred to in the book, and the importance of introspective awareness in helping one to realise this so one can snap out of this. It feels as though one’s awareness is sort of ‘diffusing’, less vivid, and it helps making this into an joyful ‘aha’ moment followed by intending to follow the breath and remain present and aware.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Sasha.
    #1962

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    Great! Yes, that’s what I was getting at.

    #1964

    JavaJeff
    Member

    Note: first post here in these forums, and of course what follows is my opinion only. I make these comments from a place of compassion, because much of what you said is very similar to how I have felt in the past.

    From a strictly Buddhist perspective, not adhering to the 5 lay precepts will cause hindrances to arise during meditation that are going to slow your progress. Of particular note is the drinking. Drugs and alcohol put a serious damper on mindfulness and TBH you are pretty much stunting your spiritual growth if you’re regularly ‘partying.’

    From a more practical/real-world perspective: alcohol dulls the mind (it’s classified as a depressant), and when consumed regularly by someone who has a propensity towards depression, can really wreak havoc in their lives. I would encourage you to take an honest look at your drinking and ask yourself if you could possibly have a problem there. From the sounds of it, you’re young, so perhaps it has not become completely obvious yet, but just know that alcoholism is progressive. Over time, it gets worse, never better. The good news is there is a solution if you decide that you need help. Personally, it took 26 years of my life to finally admit that I had a problem with alcohol.

    As far as the music goes, I don’t buy that music is a sensual pleasure that is to be avoided. I consider music to be wholesome, not unwholesome…IMNSHO it is one of mankind’s greatest gifts. You’re not a monk, and you’re not beholden to all 227 precepts in the vinaya, so don’t sweat it about enjoying music!

    #2001

    Samuel
    Member

    Do you think it would help to learn some self awareness techniques that do not depend on meditation?

    #2002

    JavaJeff
    Member

    Hi Samuel,

    Not sure to whom you were asking, but IMHO, it’s never a waste of time for people to take an honest look at themselves. What self awareness techniques are you thinking of in particular?

    #2003

    Samuel
    Member

    When I use the term self awareness, I use it as a technical term with a highly specific meaning. According to emotional intelligence research we do not control when we experience an emotion or craving. Instead, these things are controlled by automatic unconscious processes.

    What I mean by self awareness is the ability to reflect on one’s emotions and to intelligently decide what to do with them, rather than be driven by them. Thus, what I meant by a self awareness technique is a strategy for making one’s emotions an object of one’s meaning making, instead of the method of one’s meaning making.

    Examples:
    1) Labeling: Identify which emotion you are experiencing and give it as specific a label as possible. Instead of the simple label of anger, for instance, distinguishing between indignation, frustration, mild impatience, rage, and angry regret. People who use labeling in daily life are less likely to abuse substances and more likely to eat in moderation.

    2) Body awareness: Identify what your emotion is doing to your body. Figure out where it impacts your body, being very specific. Figure out what sensations it is producing. This trains our minds to detect the emotion more rapidly in the future.

    3) Observe the observing:
    Your state of mind is coming from part of you but is not coming from you as a whole. Observing the fact that you are observing the emotion makes this experientialy clear and makes emotional discomfort more tolerable.

    Sources: the books “The Upside of Your Dark Side” and “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  Samuel.
    #2005

    JavaJeff
    Member

    All good stuff and I don’t see any downsides to this, other than it takes away time from the TMI method [which IMHO is the best, clearest and most thorough path to liberation I have seen].

    #2006

    Samuel
    Member

    What I am suggesting is that Sasha’s catch-22 may be best solved using techniques that do not depend on meditation during daily life.

    #2007

    JavaJeff
    Member

    I see. I didn’t get that you were replying to Sasha. I thought you were asking a question to the group regarding what YOU should do. 🙂

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