Struggling with practice

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  • #1689
    Profile photo of Stefan D
    Stefan
    Member

    (This is a slight reformulation of text I originally wrote on TMI subreddit. I was referred to this place so that I can ask Culadasa directly for advice about my problem.)

    I have been meditating for 5+ months with TMI (1 hour daily) and my sessions still feel as poor as they did on day 1. I have a lot of problems with kriyas/kundalini syndrome (https://youtu.be/aTaDZqB_RY8) which manifested as a result of my previous practices. Because of that, I had to take a different primary object for meditation (blackness that is in front of me when I close my eyes, the reason for this will become apparent below). I am still at stage 2 (I know this because the length of mind wandering hasn’t reduced significantly). There is no indication that I’ll move past it at this rate. Constant negative feedback has slowly eroded my will to practice.

    My old approach goes like this:

    A) I settle my attention on primary object
    B) After few seconds, my attention gets captured by a peculiar chronic tension in my body (head and spine)
    C) I resettle my attention on the object while tension is still there
    D) If I am lucky regular relaxation seems to kick in and I can notice and appreciate when I recover from mind-wandering

    The general idea was to use the blackness as primary object until stage 4 where I’d switch to breath sensations.

    The chronic tension I mentioned has following qualities:

    – It appears whenever I place my attention somewhere on the body
    – It is usually spread throughout spine and face
    – It feels “sticky” and constantly demands my attention
    – My face tenses up, it can be subtle or so intense that my whole face ends up in a grimace (the kind of grimace that a human would have when suddenly noticing a fast, unavoidable flying object like ball on a collision course with their had)
    – It is often hard to breathe in this tension bubble (this is the reason why I went with black space in front of my closed eyes as object)
    – If let tension have its way it dissipates after a few seconds only to start again after several seconds as well
    – If I ignore it lingers in the background (alternating attention) and makes entire meditation session forceful
    – It may be tied to emotional trauma
    – It may be due to fact that I habitually try to grasp objects with my intention as a result of kriyas
    – Outside meditation tension is present but it is not a problem
    – Usually it dominates my entire session but things get better at the very end of session (after about 50 minutes just as I am near the end I can end up in relaxed state)

    Two weeks ago, after reading some text from the site I decided to revise my practice. Now I do it like this:

    A) I settle my attention on primary object
    B) After a few seconds my attention gets captured by a peculiar tension in my head
    C) If tension is so obstructive that it completely takes over my attention I observe it until it relaxes by itself (otherwise I just let it linger in the background)
    D) Attention easily resettles on primary object after I relax
    E) It lasts only a few seconds before I I have to go back to step B

    This seems to be a more proper way to deal with it because it involves minimum effort.

    Not being able to see any signs of progress after six months of meditation has been devastating for me. I was disciplined and meditated every day for one hour.

    I’ve done body scan meditation in the last few days and it has shown me just how much my body is riddled with tension.

    I considered adding this body scan meditation (Reggie Ray’s somatic meditation or perhaps Goenka’s) to my regular practice as a way to settle the body but I don’t know if it will help me in the long run. There is also Do Nothing/Choiceless awarness which may have potential to help me but, once again, I have no long-term experience with that type of meditation (if I sit for hour like that I do get noticeably less tense).

    I would appreciate advice as I am on verge of quitting this practice and I really don’t want to. It seems that my body is simply not suited for samatha practices.

    One last thing I feel like I should add is that it is not always bad as I described it. Even if I struggle with progress I sometimes and up tranquil as a result of practice which feels very good in my anxiety-riddled life. That helped me with motivation when it got bad.

    Thanks in advance.

    Stefan

    #1690
    Profile photo of Blake Barton
    Blake Barton
    Member

    Hi Stefan,

    Welcome to the forum. Your post starts with the following “… my sessions still feel as poor as they did on day 1”. Right away this shows that you have a lot of judgment and dissatisfaction with your practice. It is very difficult to develop tranquility when you have this much resistance. I recommend trying to let go of judgment as best you are able, but also be alert that you can have judgment about the judgment.

    The tension you are feeling could be related to the kriyas/kundalini. That is one way that they can manifest. I have spent quite a bit of time in my practice working with kriyas.

    It could be helpful to keep your attention on your object, but also be aware of thoughts and emotions.

    I noticed that you posted a link to on of Shinzen’t talks. He has a meditation technique called Focus In where you observe thoughts, and emotions. Thoughts either manifest as Self Talk or Images that come up in your minds eye. You note and label them as either “hear” or “see”. Emotions manifest as sensations in your body, and you note and label them as “feel”.
    Thoughts and body sensations related to emotions become your meditation object. This can help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions and get in touch with your resistance.

    I think your newer practice approach is on the right track. It helps to get in touch these body sensations. It would also be beneficial to see the thoughts and emotions that arise related to the tension. Your attention can be on the body sensations, that you interpret as tension, and your peripheral awareness can notice thoughts and emotions. You can even use the noting if this helps.

    You also state the following “Not being able to see any signs of progress after six months of meditation has been devastating for me.” I want to remind you that there is no particular rate of progress, and six months is not really that long in the grand scheme of things. Everyone’s path unfolds at a different rate. This statement demonstrates a lack of acceptance.

    It might also be beneficial to study the Buddha’s Four Noble truths. Phillip Moffitt’s book “Dancing with Life” is a good text on the subject. He explains in detail how clinging and aversion create dissatisfaction and suffering.

    Practices like Yoga and Qigong, can help balance the energy and smooth out the kriyas. Walking meditation might be worth trying.

    I wish you the best of luck in your practice, and I hope you will continue to work with the difficulties and not give up. We are here to help.

    Blake – Authorized Dharma Treasure Teacher

    #1691
    Profile photo of Sergey
    Sergey N
    Member

    Hi Stefan!

    I am not an authorized teacher or a direct student of Culadasa, so it’s not an official advice – so you should probably take Dharma Treasure teachers’ advices above mine.
    I am myself at Stages 5-6 and from what you write it sounds like you are at Stage 4 – you get distracted by pain and tension, that’s what happened to me on Stage 4. Stage 2, in my experience, is when you have that tension but you are very caught in all kinds of thoughts in your head and basically all your attention is in these racing thoughts.
    You said that you don’t have problems with this pain and tension outside meditation – can you elaborate? If there’s something from your regular life that you can bring into meditation to easen that pain, that can be helpful – I had back problems so I learned that if I lie down for a bit of time before I start meditation, my session goes painless, otherwise there is a lot of back pain. Also I am heavyweight so I use extra pillows – more than regular cushion offers, to keep me lifted and solid.
    Sometimes I also meditate lying down, or meditate in shorter periods (is your 1 hour one session?). Try meditating 2 times for 30 minutes and see if it helps.
    Finally, I’ve checked quite few sources and books on kundalini subject, and absolutely best I found was “Enlightenment Through the Path of Kundalini” by Tara Springett. It’s on amazon, including ebook version. It really shines in explaining what happens with you, what to do and etc. I think this piece of advice is the most important in all I wrote.
    On a side note, one of somewhat extreme measures is to stop meditating for a week and see the difference – in my experience when I did that (unintentionally) I would always notice how much worse my life becomes – more thoughts, more suffering, less progress, even less inner peace than usual, and even life events falling out of place. That’s somewhat a joking advice, you shouldn’t do that if you can – it’s much harder to start again due to the lost momentum.

    Finally, don’t be discouraged! You are on a very tough but incredibly rewarding path. When so much stuff surfaces, it feels bad but in such cases crysis is an incredibly huge opportunity to grow. It just doesn’t let you do anything else much and you are somewhat forced to solve your issues here and now. That might sound tough, but otherwise you won’t be meditating, researching, and doing what you do – and it will bring it’s fruits soon, because it’s a part of a progress and figuring stuff out! I’ve been through similar amount of problems and suffering in past years but it really changed a lot in me and my life – it feels painful but you do a lot of things at fast speed to get rid of it. So as rough as it sounds, it’s a way of progressing and something that boosts us in our adventure.

    Wishing lots of luck and progress to you, please keep us posted and let’s also see what other much more experienced guys will tell!

    Best,
    Sergey

    #1692
    Profile photo of Sergey
    Sergey N
    Member

    Another piece of advice is to try and make that tension your point of attention, and then try to notice where you react to it – it might be some different place, so then you make that place of reaction your point of attention. If that brings relief, try hanging out in that place as your primary object of attention.
    I also had some tension in my neck that would drive me crazy, so as funny as it sounds, I sometimes meditate without my shirt – it makes that tension go away. So whatever you can physically do to help you sit relatively straight (be it chair or sofa or whatever) and with least pain, is the best.

    #1760
    Profile photo of Stefan D
    Stefan
    Member

    @Blake

    Welcome to the forum. Your post starts with the following “… my sessions still feel as poor as they did on day 1”. Right away this shows that you have a lot of judgment and dissatisfaction with your practice. It is very difficult to develop tranquility when you have this much resistance.

    Tell me about it. Tranquility does come sometimes. I get this effect like I took anti-anxiety pill. That is one of the reasons why I keep going. I believe that there is a light at the end of tunnel. Just wish I had more positive feedback from my practice.

    I recommend trying to let go of judgment as best you are able, but also be alert that you can have judgment about the judgment.

    I find this really hard. The stage system invites judgment even though I find it invaluable in giving me goals to strive for.

    I noticed that you posted a link to on of Shinzen’t talks. He has a meditation technique called Focus In where you observe thoughts, and emotions. Thoughts either manifest as Self Talk or Images that come up in your minds eye. You note and label them as either “hear” or “see”. Emotions manifest as sensations in your body, and you note and label them as “feel”.

    I added it to my daily regimen. It is one hour TMI and thirty minutes of Feel/Image/Talk. We’ll see how it turns out.

    Thoughts and body sensations related to emotions become your meditation object. This can help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions and get in touch with your resistance.

    Yes, I noticed the similarities. I notice mind wandering when I am doing Feel/Image/Talk, which is pretty cool as it means I am also working on cultivating stable attention with this practice.

    I think your newer practice approach is on the right track. It helps to get in touch these body sensations. It would also be beneficial to see the thoughts and emotions that arise related to the tension. Your attention can be on the body sensations, that you interpret as tension, and your peripheral awareness can notice thoughts and emotions. You can even use the noting if this helps.

    Practice is bit better now and not that bad, but I still have to will myself into it and it has been eight months. It feels very unstable.

    It might also be beneficial to study the Buddha’s Four Noble truths. Phillip Moffitt’s book “Dancing with Life” is a good text on the subject. He explains in detail how clinging and aversion create dissatisfaction and suffering.

    I will check it out.

    Practices like Yoga and Qigong, can help balance the energy and smooth out the kriyas. Walking meditation might be worth trying.

    I wish you the best of luck in your practice, and I hope you will continue to work with the difficulties and not give up. We are here to help.

    Thank you.

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by Profile photo of Stefan D Stefan.
    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by Profile photo of Stefan D Stefan.
    #1763
    Profile photo of Stefan D
    Stefan
    Member

    @Sergey

    Hi Stefan!

    I am not an authorized teacher or a direct student of Culadasa, so it’s not an official advice – so you should probably take Dharma Treasure teachers’ advices above mine.

    I am myself at Stages 5-6 and from what you write it sounds like you are at Stage 4 – you get distracted by pain and tension, that’s what happened to me on Stage 4. Stage 2, in my experience, is when you have that tension but you are very caught in all kinds of thoughts in your head and basically all your attention is in these racing thoughts.

    I would say that I am (early) Stage 3 since Stage 4 involves overcoming forgetfulness (which I definitely didn’t achieve).

    You said that you don’t have problems with this pain and tension outside meditation – can you elaborate? If there’s something from your regular life that you can bring into meditation to easen that pain, that can be helpful – I had back problems so I learned that if I lie down for a bit of time before I start meditation, my session goes painless, otherwise there is a lot of back pain. Also I am heavyweight so I use extra pillows – more than regular cushion offers, to keep me lifted and solid.

    Sometimes I also meditate lying down, or meditate in shorter periods (is your 1 hour one session?). Try meditating 2 times for 30 minutes and see if it helps.

    I often meditate lying down actually. That could have impacted my rate of progress as I invite dulness in lying posture. I meant to say that tension is not making my life worse outside the practice. Otherwise, I am very anxious and tense in general though.

    Finally, I’ve checked quite few sources and books on kundalini subject, and absolutely best I found was “Enlightenment Through the Path of Kundalini” by Tara Springett. It’s on amazon, including ebook version. It really shines in explaining what happens with you, what to do and etc. I think this piece of advice is the most important in all I wrote.

    On a side note, one of somewhat extreme measures is to stop meditating for a week and see the difference – in my experience when I did that (unintentionally) I would always notice how much worse my life becomes – more thoughts, more suffering, less progress, even less inner peace than usual, and even life events falling out of place. That’s somewhat a joking advice, you shouldn’t do that if you can – it’s much harder to start again due to the lost momentum.

    One of the benefits I got from this meditation is occasional tranquilizing effect that spreads throughout day. Like I took something against anxiety.

    Finally, don’t be discouraged! You are on a very tough but incredibly rewarding path. When so much stuff surfaces, it feels bad but in such cases crysis is an incredibly huge opportunity to grow. It just doesn’t let you do anything else much and you are somewhat forced to solve your issues here and now. That might sound tough, but otherwise you won’t be meditating, researching, and doing what you do – and it will bring it’s fruits soon, because it’s a part of a progress and figuring stuff out! I’ve been through similar amount of problems and suffering in past years but it really changed a lot in me and my life – it feels painful but you do a lot of things at fast speed to get rid of it. So as rough as it sounds, it’s a way of progressing and something that boosts us in our adventure.

    We’ll see. I am a very stubborn person.

    Wishing lots of luck and progress to you, please keep us posted and let’s also see what other much more experienced guys will tell!

    Best,
    Sergey

    Thank you. I hope I’ll have some good news to share in the future.

    #1764
    Profile photo of Stefan D
    Stefan
    Member

    Finally, apologies to both Blake and Sergey for replying so late. When I am in foul mood I tend to get very withdrawn and uncommunicative.

    #1766
    Profile photo of Blake Barton
    Blake Barton
    Member

    Hi Stefan,

    I have been out of town, so I just now saw your reply. I understand about getting withdrawn at times.

    It is truly one of the challenges of the staged approach to progress through the stages without judgment, and it is probably more difficult for certain personality types. I have had many such struggles myself.

    As I progress along the path, I am seeing more and more that a critical component is learning to skillfully work with difficult thoughts and emotions. So much of our suffering is related to this.

    Best of luck, and I hope you will check in from time to time.

    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

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