On Hindrances, sleep, and motivation in novice practice

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Eli 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #3291

    Eli
    Member

    Hey everybody,

    I’d say I’m resolutely in stage 3 on a normal day. I’ve been practicing daily since the beginning of July. I’m tremendously grateful; the change in my life has already been enormous. I struggled with depression for years and even at this early stage, when I manage to be mindful most of the day, life feels blissful to me. However, I still have some questions on some problems in my practice.

    1. (This on has some background, sorry) A while back I made a poorly worded commented to a former housemate. I intended to be frank, but I came off as being condescending and insulting. This person and another then promptly expressed their anger/blocked me from further communication. I tried very thoroughly to apologize, but I don’t think they are willing to forgive or acknowledge my apologies. From a logical standpoint, I think I’ve done what I can and just need to forgive myself, but how?

    In this instance, I feel like there are a number of hindrances that I’m struggling to get past. First, it seems like I have the worldly desire of avoiding blame in some form. Second, I feel like this also relates to aversion – there are a lot of emotions here like self-accusation that could be applied.

    In my practice, thoughts of these people I’ve wronged often pass through my awareness/become gross distractions/cause mind wandering. In some sense, I feel like focusing on the breath is way of running away from the guilt I feel. That is, I get the sense I am having an averse reaction to this guilt.

    I’m worried that I’m thinking about this situation in an unhealthy way that isn’t helping my practice. How can I rearrange my thoughts to frame this better?

    2. Occasionally I will sleep terribly and wake up feeling like a zombie. A pervasive, strong dullness accompanies me throughout the day, along with what feels like old habits of the mind (irritability, negative thoughts). Is there anything constructive I can make out of these situations?

    3. I’m still confused about “checking in”. I don’t exactly get what the experience of checking in is supposed to be. My original interpretation was that I should pull my attention inward where it would occupy the “space” of my mind, waiting for thoughts or sensations to come by. This felt too clunky and I abandoned it in favor of the explanation I found on /r/themindilluminated by Nick (https://old.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/comments/77j5tr/tips_for_stage_4/). But this idea of taking a “snapshot” of the mind also feels weird to me. When I’m following the breath, I’m almost always trying to be conscious of all the details I’m feeling, the kind of sensation, whether the sensation expands/contracts, etc. I sort of seems to me that if I’m always trying to pay attention to the quality of these details, why check in?

    4. As a beginner, I feel like I have to read about meditation every day to sustain my motivation. I also feel like there are so many details in TMI that I’m constantly at risk of forgetting something useful (e.g. today I rediscovered “let it come, let it be, let it go”). Is this normal and is there an efficient way to remedy this? I don’t particularly mind reading TMI, etc. but there are of course other desires in life.

    These questions got very long. Thank you for your patience!

    #3292

    Eli
    Member

    I forgot one question:

    5. I’ve started trying loving-kindness meditation. Is this appropriate for helping with my issue in question 1? Or is there some other technique I could employ?

    #3293

    Alex K
    Member

    Dear Eli,

    I also recently started the TMI method and have experienced some of the issues you talk about. There are others here who I hope will be able to help you work through them.

    Wishing you well in your life and practice.

    Best regards,
    Alex

    #3294

    Philip R
    Member

    Hi Eli,

    I’m very new to this community and yours is the first post which I’ve read. I also started studying TMI in July. I’m finding it a really helpful resource which has allowed me to get a sense of where I’m at, having meditated for the past 40 years.

    When I read your post my overall response was, ‘Be patient with yourself.’ It’s all okay. I’ve been greatly helped by listening to Culdasa in retreat talks on Utube, but one thing which came back to me when I read your post was him saying that ‘everyone’ has issues to deal with. So even the two people you mention who shut down communication with you, they also have a story which determines their responses. You’ve apologised, and you can only leave it there. But again, my feeling is, ‘Be patient with yourself and continue the daily practice.’

    My own perception of ‘checkimg in’ is less specific than you’re suggesting. I have a tiny electronic alarm which I keep in my pocket. I set it on vibrate and every 50 minutes it goes off for approximately 15 seconds, all day long. Whatever I’m doing, for those 15 seconds I stop and just ‘check in’ which is usually just a matter of coming back to seeing how my mind is at that moment. It might be just a matter of having been involved in something where my attention had been too focused, and perhaps I’d lost my peripheral awareness, so it’s like someone saying to me, ‘How’s it going?’ The regularity of it is so helpful.

    I do remember that feeling of needing to read a spiritual book constantly to keep myself on track, but again, if you’re patient with yourself and regular in your practice, I’ve found that it gets easier and easier to remain motivated. In the end it just becomes the source of all that one is and does.

    Best wishes,

    Philip

    #3296

    Florian
    Member

    Hello Eli,

    first of all: great that you’re here! Congrats on starting a meditation practice.
    I might be mistaken, but training the mind appears to be the wisest thing homo sapiens sapiens can do.
    So: keep at it, you’re totally in the right place and doing the right stuff!

    Let’s see if I can be of some assistance here:

    1. The issue with your former housemate and the other person:
    I’m coming here from an evolutional/psychological standpoint (see “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright for further reference).
    The disturbance/pain you’re experiencing seems to originate in the social rejection/exclusion you’re experiencing.
    After all you “lost” friends/aquaintances. Now being the social animals that we are, falling in discgrace with our fellow humans
    is something that does not feel good for us. After all, we thrive on social connections.
    So if I were to estimate, I’d say this pain might stay with you for a while.
    As far as issues to deal with: Forgiving yourself? Look at it this way: there’s actually nothing to forgive (and nobody who actually needs forgiveness :))
    The things that happened lay in the past (and you did all the appropiate atonement).
    Rather than dwelling in what happened and what might be necessary to be done, use the pain as part of your practice:
    Whenever the thoughts of the event/people comes to you (on or off cushion), it will probably come together with some emotion
    – which in turn will manifest as a physical sensation: oberserve that and what it does to you.
    It will be elusive and difficult in the beginning, and you may very well be dragged into the story of what happened and what you could have done differently and what you need to do now etc, etc (aka: you will “identify with the thought/emotion”).
    But with time, you’ll get better at just watching the emotion arise as well as its effects.
    So: make the pain not your enemy or your hindrance, make it an object of contemplation and study.
    And I bet that interesting things will happen.

    2: I really got no concrete idea on that one. Just some random thoughts: Bad sleep can be caused by wrong sleeping conditions: are your sleeping quarters ventilated? Did you take caffeine bevore sleeping (which is a bad idea)? Is it maybe too warm in your sleeping quarter? Stuff like that.
    As with feeling worn out after a bad night: well that’s pretty natural. My own approach to sleepiness/gross dullness is taking a nap during the day.
    About 30-40 minutes can work wonders.
    Against short episodes of strong dullness on cushion I got good results by holding the breath:
    After the outbreath I’d simply not breath in for a while (and concentrate on my heartbeat).
    When my body starts clamoring for air, I’d start breathing very very shallowly for a little while
    (which seems to satisfy the breathing reflexes whithout actually getting any air into your lungs).
    And after some seconds more I’d finally breath in again.
    That seems to flood the body with stress hormones and get you going again.
    Has the downside of agitating the mind though, so if you overdo it, concentration still goes down the drain 🙂

    3: Checking in: Yeah, me too. Never quite got that part. Kinda skipped it actually (I think).
    What I did try to do was simply to evaluate very shortly how my mind was doing: Am I sleepy? Dull? Edgy?
    Is my concentration stronger/weaker/narrower/wider than the last days?
    After a while this evaluation will happen “automatically” – aka Awareness will take care of it. But you gotta “train” it first by looking at that stuff with Attention.

    4: Same here. It gets better though: Meditation practice is all about positive reinforcement and habit building. Just give it time. Try to get on cushion every day. At the same time if possible. Make that “your” time: time to relax, heal, strengthen yourself.
    And: reading about meditation is fascinating anyway, so no problem there 🙂

    Hope that helps a little.
    All the best!

    #3301

    Eli
    Member

    Alex, Philip and Florian: I want to thank each of you for your replies and contribution to the discussion of my questions. I now have a new mindset I can work with for so many things!

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