Non-meditation and distractions

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Non-meditation and distractions

Postby duckfiasco » Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:34 am

Concerning mindfulness serving or not serving as the meditation: some deluded people appear to concentrate with rigid fixation and believe that keeping their mind hostage is the meditation of mahāmudrā. That is nothing but their personal fault. The authentic great Kagyu masters took self-cognizant mindfulness as their practice, which is identical to the primordially pure self-awareness of the dzogchen system. Thus, despite different terminology, there is no difference in meaning. Neither system, mahāmudrā nor dzogchen, considers that meditation is the conceptual mind that fixates on mindfulness.
-- Tsele Natsok Rangdröl


In my experience, it feels like I have two choices: try to allow the mind to relax and settle, in which case it does the opposite and relentless distractions and daydreams sap the entire session, no matter if I sit for 10 minutes or two hours. After meditation, the result is a strong feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Or I try to remain aware of an object as a reference point, "fixating on mindfulness" perhaps. When the volition behind this focus invariably wanes, the restlessness comes. Then volition comes back, goes away, comes back... the result is a tug of war that results again in restlessness and dissatisfaction. Meditation books often say as you practice coming back to the object, you can stay with it longer. That has not been my experience at all.

I have some sense of awareness and cognizance of all thoughts and feelings, since I recall the contents of the daydreams and easily recognize mental objects. But because there seems to be something amiss somewhere, my meditation nearly always results in tension and restlessness. Meditation is becoming more and more unpleasant.

I have no clue how to approach what Tsele Natsok Rangrdröl is talking about.

I also found this related passage from Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
What is this non-meditation? How do we meditate without meditating? Whatever situation mind is in, whether there are discursive thoughts of good, bad, clean, unclean, and so on, if you drop all of these so that you are without even a whisker of the conceptual activity of mind, the nature of mind whatever it is will shine forth as non-stopped clarity and that is called self-arising rigpa. This does not need to be created or produced or purchased; when you let mind itself, just as it is, shine forth and stay in that, that is called self-arising rigpa.... That self-arising rigpa and thamal gyi shespa are the same thing.


So how am I to drop conceptual activity without engaging in dropping conceptual activity? "Stopping concepts" is another conceptual activity isn't it? It feels like letting things drop away has been my approach so far but clearly there's something I'm not getting. I've been meditating for at least an hour a day for a good while, and I feel like I'm lost in a thicket of distractions with no compass. Hence my umpteenth thread on this subject! :P

Thanks for any input :)

edit: I found this link in another thread and it seems to speak directly to this: http://www.purifymind.com/ObstaclesPath.htm
Last edited by duckfiasco on Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby asunthatneversets » Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:06 am

The non-meditation they're speaking of is resting in the ultimate nature of mind [sems nyid] so it's free of a reference point. That is why it's called 'non-meditation', because it's free of mind, and is therefore free of an agent which is performing a meditation. Non-meditation from the standpoint of mind isn't possible, but (introduction from your teacher, along with) practices like śamatha, if done correctly, will help to create the right conditions for recognition of the mind's nature.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Lindama » Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:10 am

Thanks for the quote from Tsele Natsok Rangdröl, I like the image of "keeping the mind hostage". I don't know much about the technicalities so I'm curious what others have to say. Sounds like this is what is happening in both steps for you with concentration. Then there is relaxing, opening the gaze without effort. My first teacher called it beach chair meditation... imagine!
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby reddust » Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:22 am

I had the same problem before I went to do a retreat, not a long one, just 10 days of meditating 10 hours a day. The mind finely got tired of running around. Seriously, it was that simple for me. Around the 3rd day of focusing on breath the mind settled down. But don't count my first couple of retreats, they were slightly explosive. But after that meditation on a single object or on many like sensation on or in the body/mind was much easier. I grew up with horses, it reminds me of breaking a horse the easy way, get on it and let it run, buck, do what ever until it tires out. I grew up with the horses I rode they never really bucked hard, they loved me very much. I think there are some Dharma stories related to this, let me see if I can find them.
Sorry I don't have any answers, all my teachers told me was to go sit some more :shrug:
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:05 am

Yeah, i've never quite understood this either. The closest i've gotten is shamatha without an object, which is still conceptual.

The best advice i've gotten for the restlessness though (which btw, I get with more often with focus on an object than without) is just to look at the restlessness itself until it unwinds.

I found The Practice of Mahamudra by Chetsang Rinpoche to be by far the most helpful book i've read in terms of categorization of "conceptual" vs. non conceptual..ironically, the language is fairly clear and simple, and he does a good job of explaining..well, concepts. One of the best parts of the book is when he talks about measuring where someone is at, and what is appropriate for them, by how they view discursive thought.

Even with normal Shamatha though, if I try to focus (or "not focus" really) 100%, it always ends in frustration, if I adopt a loose, relaxed attitude, and care less about results the part that is always looking for results calms down.

On the dissatisfaction bit though, I remember reading something from Trungpa Rinpoche where he basically says that in a relative sense, feelings of dissatisfaction during Shamatha is exactly what you should feel, a sort of boredom and restlessness..he phrased it as something like "seeing the vibration of your neuroses". I don't take this to mean that you should always feel horrible, only that until an advanced level we will naturally notice this dissatisfaction very clearly..however, if the practice is working we can avoid involvement with it the way we normally would.

Your experiences describe mine pretty well, the one thing I can say is that when I feel like i'm "successful" - whatever that means-, the restlessness is there, but the part that cares about the restlessness dissolves, and I can just look at the restlessness the way I would any other phenomena.

Hope that made some sense, sorry if it didn't.

Basically, maybe tug of war is ok, as long as we stop picking a team.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby oushi » Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:22 am

duckfiasco wrote:In my experience, it feels like I have two choices: try to allow the mind to relax and settle, in which case it does the opposite and relentless distractions and daydreams sap the entire session, no matter if I sit for 10 minutes or two hours. After meditation, the result is a strong feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Or I try to remain aware of an object as a reference point, "fixating on mindfulness" perhaps. When the volition behind this focus invariably wanes, the restlessness comes. Then volition comes back, goes away, comes back... the result is a tug of war that results again in restlessness and dissatisfaction. Meditation books often say as you practice coming back to the object, you can stay with it longer. That has not been my experience at all.

Such struggle was also my experience. Those seems to be two totally different paths, and I was always leaning toward the first one (relaxation). I could not convince myself that effort and tension can be removed by... effort. Now I think differently. I found out that those two can be combined and used simultaneously. We can fix our focus on an object, and bring effort to stay concentrated on it, while relaxing physically and intentionally. While relaxation progresses, it starts to dissolve also the mental tension, finally reaching and removing the effort of focusing on the object. Effort is gone, but the mindfulness remains. The object of meditation, and not only, gains clarity like a fog, or noise were removed. Sharp focus point of our awareness, which was brought by the effort before, now expands flooding everything. Single-pointed awareness becomes all encompassing.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby padma norbu » Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:47 am

I wish I could tell you how and when I got over this hurdle, specifically. The best I can remember, it came naturally from doing Namkhai Norbu's practices. Now, even if and especially if I am having an incredibly stressful time with lots of worries, I sit down and do a short tun. I pretty much only do short tun practice, actually, and cultivate mindfulness throughout the day and vajra breathing. And some other Vajrayana practices that I do to hopefully clear obstacles and generate merit.

I have become very good at being aware and not fixated on thoughts when I decide to be. I want to say "blank," but that's not accurate because occasionally a thought does arise, but it is very easy to basically forget it before it even really materializes. Right now, I am typing with this sort of awareness and I keep pausing while typing to see if there is any thought and there isn't. I just feel very aware of everything like noises, sensations, changes in light perception. But, when I decide to resume typing, the words come without effort or thought. I have no idea what this state is. It is the one I have become familiar with during Namkhai Norbu's practices, particularly. I keep reading about rigpa and everything, but I've given up trying to figure that out. I figure if it's rigpa and makes people say EMAHO! then it will be obvious when it happens. But, I don't think this is a bad state or an inhibitory state. I walk all around the city like this and don't get hit by cars.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:55 am

I'm not sure how helpful this is going to sound but I found that because I was a long term adherent of neigong (specifically in the realms of Taijiquan and Hua Yue Xing Yi Men. with Zhan Zhong, Bagua circle stepping and SanTi stance holding) that relaxing the body during seated meditation came more easily than it seems for others. With the body relaxed - especially in the joints - the mind seemed to have less problem settling on following the tides of the breath (my preferred 'way in').

I guess what I am trying to say here is that it can benefit your meditative practice if, at times, you look to a different (and sometimes unrelated) approach to help with certain transitions.

You cannot be relaxed if you are trying too hard to be relaxed. You have to let go.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Lindama » Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:21 pm

I don't know a lot about Chan, but I was taught body relaxation when first sitting down. Scanning every part of body and relaxing. After meditation, a quick massage of muscles and joints. I found it very helpful. Beach chair non-meditation was oriented towards dzogchen... open energies, open chakra, open eyes... also relaxed.

does non-effort require relaxation?
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Punya » Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:08 pm

Thank you for the recommendation for the Chetsang Rinpoche book JD.

The clearest explanation I have found is in one of the collections of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's teachings As It Is Vol 2 in the Shamatha and Vipashyana chapter.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby TaTa » Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:11 am

Punya wrote:Thank you for the recommendation for the Chetsang Rinpoche book JD.

The clearest explanation I have found is in one of the collections of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's teachings As It Is Vol 2 in the Shamatha and Vipashyana chapter.
.
.

Where can i find those books?
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Punya » Mon Dec 23, 2013 5:53 am

Both are available from Amazon USA if you're not averse to this retailer. There is a kindle version of As It Is.
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Dec 23, 2013 8:20 am

Thanks Punya, i'll be checking that one out for sure.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby hop.pala » Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:58 pm

Non-meditation is no distractions.Non-meditation is as are you getting on train and hold on by low energy input.The whole meditation is leaded by the meditation and you are only observer.When reach aggree only that the mindlevel do not go away.Its similary as you watch television.Intent necessary but minimal,because are you not who meditates.Only let the meditation meditate on its own way.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby dimeo » Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:58 pm

In my experience, it feels like I have two choices: try to allow the mind to relax and settle, in which case it does the opposite and relentless distractions and daydreams sap the entire session, no matter if I sit for 10 minutes or two hours. After meditation, the result is a strong feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Or I try to remain aware of an object as a reference point, "fixating on mindfulness" perhaps. When the volition behind this focus invariably wanes, the restlessness comes. Then volition comes back, goes away, comes back... the result is a tug of war that results again in restlessness and dissatisfaction. Meditation books often say as you practice coming back to the object, you can stay with it longer.


I think this is great and you've got some insight here. But instead of thinking it's two different choices, allow the mind to settle and keep gently directing your attention back to your breathing. If distractions, daydreams, restlessness and dissatisfaction arise... just note it and gently return your attention to the breath. It happens on the path, and it's essential direct experience you're having. Don't be discouraged if you keep getting distracted. If you notice the monkey mind chattering and wandering from thought to thought, just note it and gently return your attention to the breath.

Practice calm abiding mind (shamatha) and gently return your single-pointed concentration to the breath whenever your attention is distracted. Understand how distractions, daydreams, restlessness and dissatisfaction are impermanent sensations like the nearby sound of a chirping bird or a barking dog. Feelings will continue to arise and cease but your confidence in finding the 'right concentration' in your practice will improve with familiarity and studying the teachings.

With practice eventually a gap opens up between the series of thoughts. Relax in this space between thoughts, let it deepen and this pause becomes longer. It can help at the start to keeping count of each out-breath until you reach ten. Then start over and count again. Do this until your mind is calm and your can stop the counting and calmly watch the breath.
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby padma norbu » Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:29 pm

Just wanted to relate one page from Naturally LIberating Whatever You Meet by Khenpo Gangshar.

(I was initially only going to post the first 2 paragraphs, but kept going to the end of the section. I enjoy concise teachings like this immensely.)

...



Keep your body straight, refrain from talking, open your mouth slightly and let the breath flow naturally.

Don't pursue the past and don't invite the future. Simply rest naturally in the naked ordinary mind of the immediate present, without trying to correct it or 'replace' it. If you rest like that, your mind-essence is clear and precise, awake and naked, without any concerns about thought or recollection, joy or pain. That is awareness (rigpa).

At that time, there is no thought of, "Sights and sounds are out there!" Everything appears without obstruction. There is also no thought of, "The perceiver, the six types of consciousness, is within!" Clear and nonconceptual naked awareness is unceasing.

While in that state, your body is left to itself without fabrication, free and easy. That is the body of all the victorious ones. That is the essence of the development stage.

Your speech is free from fabrication, without efforts to track down the root of sound, but simply expressing directly and openly whatever comes to mind. It is all-pervasive from the very moment of being heard, a nonarising empty resounding. That is the speech of all the victorious ones. It is the essence of all recitation.

When you rest your mind in unfabricated naturalness, no matter what thought may arise, good or evil, happy or sad, the mind-essence which is free from concerns about joy or sorrow is clear and empty, naked and awake.

This mind-essence is the nature of all sentient beings, the realization of the buddhas of the three times, the essence of the 84,000 dharma-doors and the heart of the glorious master, the supreme guide. It is the transcendent knowledge of the second set of teachings and the sugata-essence of the last turning of the Wheel of the Dharma. According to the general system of mantra it is called "continuity of ground," the spontaneously present mandala of the inherent nature. According to the Annuttara tantraas it is called Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra and so forth.

As for the three inner tantras: according to Mahayoga it is the great dharmakaya of the exalted inseparability of the two truths. According to Anuyoga it is the basic mandala of bodhicitta of the 'son great bliss.' According to Atiyoga it is the great perfection of awareness and emptiness.

All these renowned expressions point to the mind essence itself, and nothing else. This point is also presented in the Gelug school, as stated by the great lord (Tsongkhapa),

Appearance, the unfailing dependent origination,
And emptiness, understanding beyond statements—
As long as these two seem to be separate,
You have still not realized the intent of Shakyamuni.

When all at once and without fluctuation
Your convinction and your notion of an object fall apart,
That is the moment of having completed the analysis of the view.

The lord of Dharma, Drakpa Gyaltsen, has said,
When you have clinging, it is not the view.

The Dharma masters of the Sakya school regard their view of undivided samsara and nirvana to be nonfixation. Moreover, according to the matchless Kagyupa masters, glorious Rangjung Dorje proclaimed,

Learned people accept that everything is neither true nor false,
Like the reflection of the moon in water.
This ordinary mind itself
Is dharmadhatu, the essence of the victorious ones.

Thus, the luminous mahamudra is also nonfixation. It is said that all the learned and accomplished masters of India and Tibet had the same realization and there is not a single master who claims that the realization of the main part of practice is anything other than nonfixation. That is the meaning you should understand yourself and what you should point out to others.

This completes the section which indicates that your body, speech and mind are the Body, Speech and Mind (of the victorious ones). It has the same meaning as the verses by the Great master of Uddiyana, beginning with, "Do this towards all that you see," and so forth.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Dec 24, 2013 7:21 am

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: Yet another thing I should check out.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby padma norbu » Tue Dec 24, 2013 7:25 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote::thumbsup: :thumbsup: Yet another thing I should check out.


It is one of the most helpful little books I ever read. I may have to quote another short little bit if you like about liberating things as you meet them. It is incredibly concise. You read it over a few times til you get it.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby padma norbu » Tue Dec 24, 2013 2:18 pm

This is another little excerpt from the same book (Naturally Liberating Whatever You Meet)....

These six emotions create the causes for the existence of the six classes of beings, such as rebirth in the hells through predominant anger. Whenever one arises, you must recognize it immediately. When recognizing it, don't reject it, don't accept it, just rest in naturalness (looking) into that particular emotion. At that same moment it is self-liberated and is called mirror-like wisdom... [I have edited a portion out for brevity, even though below it only mentions 4 emotions]...

This is mentioned in a song from the Second Treasury of Ratna Lingpa, (this is still the same book, Naturally Liberating Whatever You Meet; it is quoting from the Second Treasury...)

The essence of your angry mind is clear awareness,
Bright and empty the moment you recognize it.
This nature is called mirror-like wisdom.
Young maid, let's rest in the natural state.

The essence of your dull mind is clear self-awareness.
Wide awake the moment you look into your natural face.
This nature is called dharmadhatu wisdom.
Young maid, let's rest in the natural state.

The essence of your proud mind is the unfolding of self-awareness,
Naturally empty the moment you rest, looking into your natural face.
This state is called the wisdom of equality.
Young maid let's rest in the natural state.

The essence of your lustful mind is attachment for sure,
The state of empty bliss, the moment you sustain it without clinging.
This nature is called discriminating wisdom.
Young maid, let's rest in the natural state.

[the other 2 emotions are Stinginess and Envy, but there is no mention of these in the Second Treasury quoted here]

That is how it is. But if you regard emotions as faults and reject them, they may be temporarily suppressed but not cut from their root. Consequently, at some point, the poisonous remnant will re-emerge, as is the case of the mundane dhyana states.

On the one hand, when you regard emotions as emptiness, your practice turns into 'taking emptiness as the path' and not the emotions. Thus, your practice doesn't become the short path, the special quality of mantra. On the other hand, if you indulge in the emotions, thinking they are something concrete, it is like eating a poisonous plant and is the cause which binds you to samsara, just like the copulation of ordinary people.

For these reasons, just like a poisonous plant can be a medicine when eaten as a certain extract, the special quality of this teaching lies in the fact that any emotion that may arise is wisdom the moment you relax in naturalness. Look directly into it, don't deliberately reject it, regard it as a fault, indulge in it concretely or regard it as a virtue.


At the end of the book, he goes on to say...

I have extracted the fresh essence of the profound oral instructions and written them down concisely in a few words. It is taught that in these times when it is difficult to tame beings through the vehicles of effort, the teachings of effortless mind will appear. By the power of the times, if you practice these points, they are a teaching that is easy to apply and devoid of error. At a time when I saw many reasons and was also requested by several eminent people, setting aside elaborate poetry and lengthy expressions, this was written by Gangshar Wangpo, a Khenpo from Shechen, naturally and freely, in a way that is pleasant to hear and easy to understand.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Non-meditation and distractions

Postby padma norbu » Tue Dec 24, 2013 2:34 pm

So if those two portions I quoted sound great, but you're not sure how to get started or can't quite figure out how to apply the teachings here, definitely find a teacher who will give you some instruction and methods.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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