7 months, no real progress, monkey mind prevails

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Steve 2 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #3654

    Laura K
    Member

    I’ve been practicing the TMI method every day for the past 7 months (minimum 45 mins, often more than an hour), but I’m still getting real bouts of mind wandering.

    Some days I can concentrate quite well and recognize the distraction before the wander (sometimes/rarely I reach stage 3 or 4 for maybe 20-30 mins), other days, the wandering prevails and agitation often ensues (which I observe and don’t get too wrapped up in).

    I’ve hit higher stages on retreats (Vipassana – Goenka), but daily sits using TMI method don’t seem to be improving my practice (the frequency of reaching stage 3-4 isn’t increasing, & the duration I spend in gross distraction or wandering doesn’t seem to be decreasing).

    I remind myself its not about getting attached to advancing but simply the intention to come back to the breath and being happy that I returned to the breath and ‘woke up’, but still! +6 months and lots of mind wandering… I can’t help but think I’m missing something, any tips?

    Happy to provide more info/description

    Wishing everyone the best on their path

    #3655

    Tanvi
    Member

    I am a novice, and cannot help you technically however I would like to congratulate you that you have been consistent in your practice for 6 months and can devote 45 -60 minutes of your time to meditation. I try to do it 11-15 minutes a day but fail to do it consistently.

    All i can say is keep practicing and you will get there one day. Also, Re-reading the book sometimes helps! Good luck with your practice. I hope you succeed soon!

    #3656

    Tom
    Member

    Hi, Tanvi is right it is really good that you’ve been meditating for about seven months that is an achievement in itself (whoo!!). it sounds like you’re frustrated with how slow your progress is and it might be worth reflecting on why you’re doing it, on the progress you’ve made so far (stage one is completed definitely), on the good things that will come out of your meditation practice in the future and renewing your passion for it. in the book, as well, there is the ‘preparation for meditation’ with some good things to reflect on.
    With regard to not making any further progress the only thing I can think of is to go back a stage and really make sure you have reached the goals for it. the only thing I can think of is that you might find it helpful to sure-up on some elements you might have missed and improve a few of the things you still might be getting to grips with in those stages; you then have a really solid foundation from which to go forward.
    someone would probably tell you different and I’m only guessing really but like I say you are doing great at the moment and meditating for an hour isn’t something the average person can do.

    #3660

    Ricardo
    Member

    Hi Laura. Congrats on your progress so far, you have a really solid practice in terms of consistency and time! Also it is a great achievement that you are able to catch a distraction in peripheral awareness before it catches your attention!

    What I believe has been useful to me to make mind wandering shorter and shorter is that I’ve developed a kind of reflex by which every time I come back to the breath I feel that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Then joy comes naturally with this feeling of ease. This all took a long time to develop. However, it is hard for me to tell how long it took because at the beginning my practice wasn’t consistent.

    I think this reflex developed by being grateful to the part of my mind that senses the wandering mind and also thanks to appreaciating the quality of the mind when I’m on the breath. It just feels nice to be present and I purposely try to keep that nice feeling in the background (ie in peripheral awareness) while I’m on the breath. I do this not only during formal practice but also in daily life. Specially when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, coming back to the breath feels increadibly nice even if it is just for a few moments.

    Other tips I can give you: try fitting a mindful review (appendix e) in your daily practice, be it by taking some time off your current practice time or by adding it if possible. Try that for 3 weeks and see if that helps. The more mindful you are during your daily life, the more mindful you’ll be while sitting.

    Perhaps also try changing one of your sitting practices every 3 days by either a walking meditation (appendix a) or a loving-kindness meditation (appendix c). Choose one at random every three days and go with that. Or that day you do 20 minutes less of your shamata-vipassana sit and dedicate those 20 minutes to either walking or loving-kindness. Or, if you have the time, add those meditations to your routine. See if that helps. These ancilliary practices can have a powerful impact sometimes.

    Wishing you the best in overcoming this obstacle!

    #3661

    Jason
    Member

    How’s your mindfulness throughout the day off the cushion? Do you remember to be mindful when you’re doing everyday tasks like walking, brushing teeth etc, and how often? I ask because you mention that you’ve been able to reach higher stages on retreats so I wonder if it’s a momentum type issue that’s holding you back, or what TMI calls having a ‘leaky bucket’

    TMI indicates the cure for monkey mind is getting grounded in your body. How’s your body awareness?

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  Jason.
    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  Jason.
    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  Jason.
    #3668

    Michael Dunn
    Member

    I’d like to propose another option, and that is to move ahead and to try Stage 4 practices and to see if this additional work and new territory engages your mind enough to be less wandering.

    I found that when I didn’t challenge myself in meditation that my mind wandered more because it was simply bored, but take on a more challenging practice and all of a sudden your attention has more to do and to work with and you can start to train the sub minds that this is an important activity to engage in and to stay attentive.

    If needed, try a Stage 5 practice for a bit, it won’t hurt anything.

    As a student you should always be familiar not only with the stages you are in but also the next stage so that you can move forward in your practice and not be static.

    You’re doing great, keep up the practice and all will follow!

    Michael

    #3669

    KimW
    Member

    Hi Laura,
    It sounds like you are doing a lot of skillful things to train your mind, such as practicing regularly, and giving yourself positive feedback when you wake up. I also hear that you notice some agitation when there is mind wandering, and I’m wondering if there are particular topics around the mind wandering which you might notice? Although labeling is not really part of the 2nd stage, perhaps when you are practicing in stage 3, you could prioritize labeling and notice if there are any particular themes. Is there a lot of emotional content with any of these themes?

    In the 6 step preparation, are you able to name some of the distractions which might come up and intend to put them aside when they arise? Also, are you spending plenty of time noticing pleasant body sensations, relaxation, and joy during the 4 step transition?

    I had one teacher tell me (not TMI) that if the same thing keeps coming up in meditation practice, it might be a good idea to address whatever it is when you are not meditating. Therapy is sometimes helpful if challenging things are arising, and are causing agitation.

    Just some thoughts, and best of luck in your practice!

    #3676

    Laura K
    Member

    Thanks so much everyone for your tips and advice! I should have said, I think the TMI method is fantastic – it did improve my practice when I started out with it e.g. in the first few weeks (that’s why I’ve stuck with it), just not so much improvement since then

    Thanks Kim, the distractions that hook my mind are a range of things, from seemingly ‘important’ things like job/family stuff, to really mundane stuff like food. I’m not getting any big emotional things arising – a lot of that came up on earlier retreats and its rare for that to happen during a sit these past few years. Although – I wouldnt mind! For sure more stuff is lurking around. Yup, I do the full 6 step prep and focus on the joy & peaceful side

    hi Michael, yes, I have tried stage 4 and 5 – sometimes it seems like it fits well and works for a bit, sometimes I don’t have the concentration for it and wonder if the only reason why it appears to work better for a while is the novelty. I agree that boredom / lack of challenge causes the mind to go in search of more interesting pursuits, but I guess in order to fully get into higher stages we need to conquer the lower ones? (In line with what Tom is saying)

    Jason: thanks, good idea. During meditation Ive found body awareness – i.e. the capacity to feel sensations all over my body is actually quite strong, probably because I did a fair bit of vipassana previously – but again, gross distraction leading to mind wandering seems to be just as much of an issue when I widen focus out to my body as it is when I am focusing on the breath. I do check in with my body whenever I’m doing the tasks you mention – but I should make more effort there.

    Thanks Ricardo – true, I should pay more attention to those appendices and properly do a mindful review, and mix it up with some walking meditation & loving-kindness (I’ll often do loving kindness for a few minutes at the end of a sit).

    I suspect the issue might be something to do with effort. If I get really determined then there is higher chance of agitation and not celebrating the waking up but becoming a bit impatient. If I relax more into it and realize that all I can do is set the intention and be happy when I realize I’ve wandered I feel like maybe that leads to a lower energy state where I can get hooked by enticing thoughts more easily. Not sure, but it seems like maybe I’m oscillating between these two without hitting the happy medium.

    I will try out these various tactics and if I find a solution will post it here in case it helps anyone else in the future!

    Thanks again to all you lovely people!

    #3680

    tjansen
    Member

    Congratulations on your practice. I have no reason to think that this might help, but it’s something that most of us miss in the preparation steps. On page 94 there is a gray box which is advised to be used as part of our preparation for meditation. Just for fun, you might take a look and see if you are doing those things. And if not, give them a try.

    #3681

    Ricardo
    Member

    I get what you mean Laura by not hitting the happy medium. I’ve been there many times. When I get too serious at the beginning of the sit then I fail to tune in to the good feels of being present. I would say, do not worry too much just now about being in a “lower energy state”. If I understand correctly, that lower energy state is related to dullness and that’s an issue that is properly addressed in stage 5. However, subtle dullness is your friend and ally before stage 5. Use it to your advantage. The type of effort required here is “just” setting the intention again and again. The right attitude is, I believe, that of gentle diligence and playfulness, with energy but not too wrapped up in the outcome. It’s cool to win and it’s ok to lose because playing is fun.

    If I may ask, would you share with us what is your motivation when you do the 6-step prep?

    #3689

    Steve
    Member

    Hi Laura, I’m in one of Culadasa’s teacher training classes and just saw your post about monkey mind. I’ve been practicing with TMI since July, 2015 and in the past several months had the same problem, lots of distraction and mind-wandering. I had to back up from Stage 7 practices and I went back to Stages 2-3, really focusing on several things:
    1. Setting and holding intentions for stable attention and powerful mindfulness
    2. closely following the sensations of breathing (not the mechanics, just the sensations like temperature, pressure, velocity)
    3. connecting, noticing the similarities and differences between “this breath” and the last one.
    4. checking in frequently.

    There is an instruction in TMI that when the “monkey” is agitated, give it a bigger cage by intentionally expanding the scope of attention to take in more locations, even up to whole body. The key word: “intentionally.”

    Going back to earlier skill building feels really good. I can think if each in breath as the only thing that’s actually happening right now, and then the same for each out breath. I like to imagine nothing else exists except “this breath.” And I know I have limited time to sit, so I try to focus strongly on each in and out breath. I discovered I wandered at the bottom of the out breath, if I hung out there too long, so I try to watch there even more closely. And sometimes I can’t even count 10 breaths! If I can’t even do that, I might switch to Metta practice for a while and come back to it. Some people get up and walk a bit.

    Anyway, wishing you well.

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