Regression for several weeks

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  moln1 6 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #1319

    moln1
    Member

    Greetings!
    I have been following the book up till stage four and things were moving along nicely. I sit 45 minutes to an hour a day. But suddenly about three weeks ago, things have become increasingly fuzzy for me. My attention can be fairly steady on the breath sensations for, perhaps 10 minutes, but then it just turns into a frequent wandering. My spontaneous awareness seems to work fine though, since I never stay there very long. I congratulate myself on noticing, reaffirm my intentions to be aware introspectively and to maintain attention on the breath. But that intention seems to “fade” very quickly, and then I am gone again, and the same thing happens again. I have re-read the chapters again and reaffirmed that basically I (or “I”) am not in control, but that I just need to make the intention again and again. I was just thinking that I just continue practicing and watch what happens, but now I notice sadness over this increasing.
    Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that I try to revert to more stage three practices, but when I do it’s still fuzzy and not as clear at all as when I was at stage three before.
    So… Suffering, and the tendency not to accept what is, is clear to me, and also the knowledge of the stages and craving of progression along the stages.

    The question is probably as fuzzy as my experience right now, but I would really love any suggestions on how to proceed(as I have no teacher nearby).

    #1320

    moln1,

    It sounds like what you’re experiencing is a textbook case of strong dullness and gross distraction, which, as I’m sure you know, are the obstacles of Stage Four in Culadasa’s model.

    So, firstly, and without trying to be condescending: congratulations! This is a sign of progress — at least according to the model and my own experience of it. That said, strong dullness and gross distractions aren’t really a lot of fun, so I’m sure you’re eager to progress beyond this phase of your practice.

    Some suggestions:

    If you haven’t yet, I recommend starting to incorporate into your routine the walking meditation set out in Appendix A of the Mind Illuminated. Not only can it be just as profound as what might be achieved on the cushion, it actually seems quite crucial for one’s development when one arrives at a certain stage of practice. Perhaps you are there.

    You might also want to experiment with when and where you do your sit. I have found that, at different times of day, our capacity to be mindful would peak, plunge, and plateau. Of course, what this suggests is that one’s capacity to meditate is contingent on other factors, like biological factors (general health, circadian rhythms, etc.) and environmental factors (lighting, temperature, noise, etc.). So, basically, try to take care of yourself, your health, and the setting in which you are doing your practice. In many ways, working on these things seems to be part of the practice, and perhaps some might say *is* the practice.

    Finally, and perhaps most simply, you might just want to try meditating with your eyes open — at least while you’re working on getting through this stage of the practice. It might be a little distracting at first, but it should offer an immediate boost to the mind’s ability to be alert and attentive. It should also start helping cut through the apparent duality of “inside” and “outside”.

    In any case, I hope some of this proves useful for you. And I encourage you to go easy on yourself whilst you’re navigating this stage of the path — which is something that gets said a lot, but perhaps can’t be said enough.

    Best of luck.
    Nelson

    #1324

    moln1
    Member

    Hi Nelson!
    Thank you for your great suggestions on how to use skillful means to deal with this phase.
    I have done a fair bit of open-eyes meditation before, and I seem to be quite apt at zoning out with my eyes open as well.

    My resources of meditation options are quite restricted at the moment trying to raise a toddler and doing household chores, so I am quite impressed by my own ability to maintain a consistent 45-60 minute daily practice! But I can’t choose too freely when I sit.

    Today I tried walking meditation for 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes sitting with open eyes.
    At many times these last few weeks it seems as if I am back at square one really. My mind is doing its best to jump off at times. And there is quite tangible craving for entertainment. Today during walking, suddenly I found myself having entered some thoughts on using some technical gadgets I recently acquired.
    But as I said spontaneous awareness soon jumps in. I reaffirm the intention to catch this earlier, but have still not found any improvement. It was quite fast to begin with, but isn’t improving much right now.

    Also, I believe, which seems to be the case for many meditators on these boards (from reading some posts), I am a little confused about introspective awareness. It is quite clear to me how it WORKS, when it directs attention (quite easy to see), but how I perceive thoughts and emotions as being in the background, in the periphery, is still a mystery to me.

    Anyho, I will attempt to do proportionately even more walking and standing meditation with open eyes and see if this is a skilful way. Right now this seems like such a huge obstacle to me.
    I just hope I am actually progressing (I have meditated some years before this) and not just running around in circles.

    #1327

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Moln1,

    It seems like you have quite a few expectations and judgments about how your practice “should” be proceeding. I recommend being aware of any judgment or discontent with your practice. When you notice that your doing this, then let go of it as best your are able. Judgement tends to agitate the mind, and it also makes your practice less fun.

    It is not a linear process, and you will certainly have ups and downs as you progress through the stages, and everyone progresses at a different pace. It is possible to practice diligently and still let go of attachment to the outcome.

    Progressing in meditation involves a great deal of letting go. Even if you don’t feel like you are progressing, you may be on a plateau, and you may be preparing your mind for progress in the future. It might also help to notice anything pleasant that arises during your meditation.

    It seems to take some time and practice to fully understand introspective awareness. At first it will probably be an alternation of attention between the breath and a thought. The simplest example to understand it focused vision vs. peripheral vision. If you focus your eyes on something (attention), you are still aware of things in your peripheral visual field (peripheral awareness) even though you don’t actually shift your visual focus. They are fuzzy and unclear but there is an awareness.

    This exact same process happens with attention and awareness of mental objects or any other sense objects.

    For example, your attention may be centered on the breath, and you also have some awareness that verbal thoughts are happening in the background. If your attention does not shift, then you probably can’t understand these verbal thoughts, but you do know that they are happening.

    Sometimes my attention will shift to something, and I will realize that I have been aware of this for some time in my peripheral awareness.

    Hope this is helpful,
    Blake

    #1330

    moln1,

    Before I saw Blake’s response, I wanted to reply to you and repeat the point about taking it easy, so perhaps we (Blake and I) have picked up on something similar.

    Maybe the key in getting through this stage of your practice is less to do with *what* you’re doing in your practice and more so about *how* you’re doing your practice. *What* you do is still of relevance, and I would continue to recommend that you experiment with walking practice as a means of working with the “fuzziness” (and what appears to be some agitation), but *how* you practice is probably central here. It is, after all, what is being brought to your attention by the practice itself.

    Another thing to recognise as part of this are our very human limits. Raising a toddler and running a home would no doubt create some challenges around practice, and it might well be depleting your capacity to remain attentive whilst meditating. If this is so, you can only work on letting go, as Blake suggested. The question to explore, though, is to let go of what? Perhaps striving. Perhaps some idea about practice or progress. Perhaps something else.

    Lastly, you might also be bumping up against the limits of meditation itself (viz. cushion practice). Perhaps part of the remedy here is to also do some bodywork (exercise, yoga, massage, etc.), assuming that you don’t already do so. In my own journey, incorporating bodywork was crucial in moving beyond the earlier stages. It also helped erode the illusory division between “mind” and “body”.

    Anyway, keep experimenting and please keep us posted on your progress.

    Best of luck.

    Nelson

    #1335

    moln1
    Member

    Blake and Nelson,
    Thanks for your very compassionate and also patient responses.
    I would say that of course there is an expectaion and judgments of how practice should develop implicit in the disappointment I am experiencing.
    I have been into meditation so long (practicing and reading about) that there is an intellectual understanding of relaxing my expectations, and acceptance. But my ending up writing this is proof that there is more work to be done (or actually NOT done/undone?).
    Several years ago meditating without any knowledge of descriptions of stages, I would sit daily for at least 45 minutes and not try to assess my current practice in terms if stages, and I was fine. But probably not progressing because there was no specific guidance of how to deal with each step.
    Now I know some stage models, and, voila! Here comes the doubt in my practice 🙂

    It’s funny but I didn’t recognize my zoning out as gross dullness, as I wouldn’t have said I was close to sleeping.
    But the last days I would say that my zoning out is probably just that. Thanks for pointing that out, Nelson!
    I have tried some standing meditation, but I really zone out then as well, not to the point of collapsing or losing my balance, but…

    So perhaps, as you suggest I try, Nelson, even more movement perhaps at this stage is necessary. I have a veeeery short path at home where I can take a couple of steps in each direction.

    I have done long walking meditation periods in different paces at retreats before, and have also had a yoga practice some years ago, so I guess I have to disregard some of the stage-following perfectionism, and do some experimenting on my own for a while.

    With metta.

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