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|03-24-2011, 10:45 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2010
Location: England, UK
Two enormous meditation mistakes I had been making
Meditation had become a directionless, difficult chore for me the last few months and I was no longer getting anything out of it. That made me depressed as hell, as meditation has always been my golden ticket to feeling good regardless of what's happening (or not happening) in my life. I would force myself to meditate, even though I no longer knew how to do it or what it "did", spend half an hour frustrated, then finish up feeling worse than before.
Yesterday I had a breakthrough which managed to iron out the problems and make it do its job again -- in fact, better than ever. I had real presence and fulfilment all day yesterday just from doing one short session in the morning.
What I did was to just go back to the Buddha's original meditation, with no frills, no expectations, and no other technique being brought into it. That meditation is just mindfulness and equanimity. Watching thoughts as an observer, letting them arise fully, but not being led down their path. This is amazing in that you see the areas of the brain lighting up when thoughts occur for example -- you feel the soft tugging of the tongue and other speech muscles and see that thoughts are just very quiet speaking. In this way they lose all personality as you see them as just as reactive as everything else.
Anyway this highlighted two massive mistakes I'd been making for the last several months:
1) Suppressing thoughts rather than allowing them to arise and seeing through them. I figured out sometime ago that I could apply a reverse kinaesthetic to thoughts. Thought begins to arise -> I notice this via mindfulness -> I apply a suppression kinaesthetic to it. I had thought that this was a good thing to be able to do, and had got into the habit of suppressing pretty much all thoughts, as I viewed thoughts as a problem in and of themselves. This isn't true. The problem with this method is that, instead of it freeing up your awareness, it actually creates two processes: the thought itself and the suppression process. This is very hindering, makes your brain work twice as hard, and turns it into a a muddy block that is fighting itself. What should happen instead is that you allow the thought to arise fully, but simply watch it without following it. Thoughts are just a tool, a reaction. They arise in waves and you can watch the wave rise then dissipate through just watching it and not blindly following it, being non-judgmental about it whatever its content, and seeing it for what it is. By trying to suppress it, that is just another thought, and it means you are identifying with the need to suppress, assuming that the suppression thoughts are the "real authority" on the matter. You end up identifying with the thoughts seeking to suppress, hence you are still embroiled in thoughts. This brings me to the second mistake.
2) Identifying with yet another set of processes. Meditation had become something I did to "get rid" of bad thoughts, and also to get into "good states" so "I" could "do and feel as I wanted". I was identifying with goals, plans and schemes, assuming that they had my best intentions, and that they were the "real me". This was a clever trick I had pulled on myself, believing me to be spiritually pure and adept, and therefore that my goals were of a "true" nature. Of course there is no "real me", there is just natural hedonic urges, and these urges had co-opted meditation as their own in pursuit of this hedonism.
I think this is a trap many of us fall into -- using meditation for specific outcomes, whether we are aware of it or not. So I had created a new, more powerful ego, which hid itself under the guise of spiritual mastery. I thought "I can do all these things with my mind, I need to be using it for X, Y and Z goals". That is a recurring trap I have fallen into many times over the years as I have got more involved in my meditation. The ego has many ways of hiding. Usually I don't use words like "ego" as it is intangible and means something different to everyone. In this case I use it to mean the normal hedonic desires in combination with the intellect, and how practices such as meditation can be co-opted by the intellect to further these hedonistic goals. The trick is to notice that this is going on, watch it going on, and see right through it.
This doesn't mean giving up on desires and living in a cave or whatever, mostly it means identifying the future timelines that get created by the intellect as its means of fulfilling those desires. For example, I have often meditated with the goal of feeling good, feeling natural, so I could then go out and socialize more naturally. This seems harmless enough, but the rub is that there is an agenda hidden, unfolding, which is going to influence your behaviours and perceptions in ways that attempt to align outcomes with that agenda. I would call that agenda the "ego". It is just a quirk of human consciousness that we have the ability to project into false futures, see all the shiny things in those futures, and then have our behaviours switched onto paths which try and head towards those things. The problem is those things do not exist at all -- they are all creations of the intellect, of our ability to imagine and project. Your behaviours become less natural as a result, as they respond to imagined goals rather than the real environment. A simple example would be from seduction, and having models in your head such as Mystery Method. You go out with the idea that everything is going to follow that model, and the intellect changes your perceptions so that you see things as being part of the model, when the model doesn't actually exist. Hence your interactions become unnatural as you are subconsciously (or consciously) trying to force everything to fit that model. You see what you want to see. Better to have fewer thoughts on the matter and a freedom of behaviour, as we are all equipped by nature to pick up on the "real model" of mating behaviours -- subtle cues from the girl, and your reciprocal cues you will give off yourself to progress things, IF you allow freedom and don't stifle the process with expectations and intellectual models. It's in your genes rather than your intellect.
Anyway this point is about expectations and agendas (hidden or otherwise). It is about how easy it is to start thinking of yourself as a great meditator (or communicator, or whatever) and then have these things co-opted as part of agendas of the intellect. The intellect is just the ability to project into false futures, nothing more particularly.
I was sitting down to meditate with outcomes in mind. I wanted to end the meditation in X state. This expectation and agenda wrecks the entire process, since meditation is about seeing THROUGH those expectations and agendas. I have LONG struggled with consistency in getting to good meditative states. I always found if I meditated in the week just because I felt it was time, or whatever, I would have no expectations and would enter great states. However, if I sat down with a purpose in mind, I could never get the state I wanted. Of course I realize why now. I'm identifying with the expectation. And that wrecks the whole process, which is about seeing expectations for what they are with equanimity. You don't have equanimity if you want those expectations to come true. It is a judgment that the target state is "better". The only state that exists however is the one you're in now. And when you can see through thoughts, agendas and expectations, "good" or "bad" in the hedonic sense becomes irrelevant -- you just "are". This is the greatest liberation.
Last night I went out and had a fantastic time with my brother and a friend of ours. I found I could do this kind of liberation even whilst out and about. It was about not suppressing ANYTHING, thoughts or feelings, rather allowing them to arise and seeing that reality stayed the same regardless. I would have a thought, watch it arise, watch my vocal muscles going "buzz buzz buzz", and then look THROUGH the thought at reality in front of me, and realize that I was still there in the present moment and nothing had changed. In the past I had labelled thoughts "good" or "bad", tried to suppress them if they were bad, and identify with them if they were good. They are the same imposter either way. They are just a reactionary tool that attempts to align your reality with your agendas. Being able to see them for what they are is the greatest freedom.
The beautiful thing is that by consistently seeing through thoughts and not identifying with them, this process does indeed become habituated. I would say I stayed present and enjoying the moment last night for the longest time I have experienced. I would not even call keeping this process going "maintenance", as you aren't actually DOING anything. You are just seeing thoughts as they really are. I would say it is LESS effort than actually following the thoughts. There is no suppression involved (point 1 in this post). I used to feel worn out by this stuff, because I was suppressing. I would say that to choose to see life like this is actually a selection of process rather than an active thing. To follow thoughts, or to watch them. Since I had the switch very quickly yesterday and it maintained itself quite effortlessly, I would say this is probably the easier choice to pick! That is great news. It means meditation and presence is more about kicking out complex processes in favour of something more simple, rather than creating new processes through which to live your life. It is the difference between meditation being a chore -- something that must be practised diligently -- and it simply being a way to choose to see the world.
|03-24-2011, 12:00 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2010
This post is very helpful for me because I would tend to do the same thing. I really like the initial sentence of noticing whether or not you are getting anything out of meditation. I believe every action we take has a purpose and if we never stop to consider how well the purpose is achieved, then we might habitually repeat an action, such as meditation, and do it in a way that does not produce the desired result.
I don't see seeking a result as the problem itself, since I see all activity as an expression of some goal that is desired at some level. But I do see a powerful shift in changing the underlying goal. If instead of seeking to have a certain positive emotional state, the purpose is to become more aware of all thoughts and feelings without being 100% immersed in them, then a result is a more aware and less immersive life.
I also like the concept of models such as the mystery method that can make everything around us seem like they are part of the model. This to me is so relevant to how we live, since everything always looks to fit the model we make, and this is done automatically, though I wouldn't say effortlessly because some automatic models can be quite draining to maintain.
What occurs for me after reading this post is the distinction between immersion and awareness. When I have lived years of my life not really enjoying myself, I was always immersed in a perspective that encompassed everything and left no room for growth. Life got much more fun when I started becoming less immersed in the world I perceived. So switching from 100% immersion to 90% immersion seemed to unlock an outdated system that was no longer working.
I would not say that awareness only occurs when we are not fully immersed, but when we are 100% immersed then 100% of our awareness will go along with the world in our heads, which doesn't really exist. As we become less immersed, as described for milleniums with the concept of detachment, we open up some of that awareness to see the model itself, rather than just being fully immersed within the model. This leads to freedom. The parts of the model that are working are great and will be maintained, but the parts of the model that don't work and lead to frustration can be recognized and dropped.
I'm not sure what degree of attachment is most effective though. Just the shift from 100% to 90% for me has been life changing. Though I consider 0% attachment to be completely indifferent to anything and perhaps would be even more liberating, but I wouldn't want to jump straight from 90% to 0% overnight. But since 90% works so well, heck maybe I'll try 80% and see what happens. This does seem to be forming a second level of consciousness, and can seem like effort when I've gotten comfortable to spending my day fully immersed in my experience, but it also seems to grow more natural over time and in moments when I'm not thrown into an emotional spiral by events the energy savings is immediately noticeable.
I really like your approach and that you ask yourself what works or not. This might result in often changing the definition of what working even means, but it is such a powerful question and many live their entire lives never really wondering whether or not their actions really work to support the results they want.
Last edited by AaronB; 03-24-2011 at 12:03 PM.
|03-24-2011, 01:31 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Czech Republic
being a meditation teacher I can certainly appreciate proper instructions for meditation. Fortunately, I myself am very lucky to have met an excellent meditation teacher thanks to whom I never fell into those traps you have described. But sometimes I come accross people who come to my meditation course and no matter what I say they stubbornly stick to surpressing thoughts because someone had told them or they had read a book written by a supposed authority that this was the right way to meditate. It is a hard work sometimes to help them change their deep ingrained beliefs.
Well, sorry about the grumbling . This is just something very close to my heart, so I felt I wanted to comment. Thanks for sharing.
|03-24-2011, 02:53 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Nationality: British Soul: Otherworldly Current Location: Barcelona, Spain
Good point. Meditation is getting out of the mind rather than using mental techniques. If meditation makes you more mental, maybe you need to take a step back from it and take things on from a different angle.
I personally don't have a meditation routine. Perhaps I should? But what I do is to aim to remember to meditate in what I do as much as possible. Keeps things fresh.
|03-24-2011, 04:43 PM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Czech Republic
|03-27-2011, 04:56 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Central California
Your post reminds me that position of mind is more important than position of body. The Buddha himself is reported to have said that he clearly intended for us to give up our map of hopes and fears, and instead travel the road between desires and expectations by dealing with the world as it really is. My "monkey mind" is just the way I really am, so the detachment of observing it rather than trying to manage it reveals ways to be less reactive and more creative. Thanks for starting this thread..
|03-27-2011, 07:07 PM||#7 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2007
I don't think you made such enormous mistakes after all!
Self-control or Self-observation? Both are valid methods.
Which one to choose? Mostly depends on one's temperament / energy configuration.
Last edited by javamannen2; 03-27-2011 at 10:44 PM. Reason: KaiZen
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