2 years of meditation with no progress

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby stardor » Wed May 16, 2012 1:13 am

So I've been meditating for 2 years now. I guess only really 1 year seriously. I've worked my self up to one 20-30 minute session a day. Trouble is, I can't see any progress. I'm still as anxious as I ever was and it's getting to the point where I am asking myself is it even worth it? Why bother get up at 5.30 every morning to meditate when It's not doing anything. am I expecting to much. Do i need to keep at it?
stardor
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 1:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby tomamundsen » Wed May 16, 2012 1:16 am

first, reduction in anxiety is not usually the purpose of meditation. awareness of anxiety might be.

what kind of progress were you expecting?
User avatar
tomamundsen
 
Posts: 539
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Will » Wed May 16, 2012 1:21 am

Keep at it & you are expecting too much.

Progress is in terms of less temper, less craving, less self-centeredness. These metrics might not be noticeable to you now, maybe check up every 5 years.

If those who know you very well, volunteer (no prompting) that you seem better in some way, then that will be a good sign. If you become more cranky, anxious etc. then you are not doing something right.

Do you have an experienced spiritual friend to guide your practice?
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
User avatar
Will
 
Posts: 1907
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:21 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby stardor » Wed May 16, 2012 1:24 am

tomamundsen wrote:first, reduction in anxiety is not usually the purpose of meditation. awareness of anxiety might be.

what kind of progress were you expecting?


I suppose I would like to be able to have better general awareness. I would like to be able to sit and actually be able to keep my mind in the present moment even for a few minutes. I know reduction in anxiety is not the general purpose of meditation, but i'm sure a little reduction occurs. Otherwise, what's the point of just being aware of it if it doesn't subside any? I have heard many Zen teachers say that even a regular practice with a minimum amount of meditation with result in a slightly better sense of well-being. I'm not looking for visions or mind blowing experiences....I'm not one of those spiritual junkies. I just want to enjoy what I have and be able to be in the moment more and appreciate it.
stardor
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 1:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby stardor » Wed May 16, 2012 1:26 am

stardor wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:first, reduction in anxiety is not usually the purpose of meditation. awareness of anxiety might be.

what kind of progress were you expecting?


I suppose I would like to be able to have better general awareness. I would like to be able to sit and actually be able to keep my mind in the present moment even for a few minutes. I know reduction in anxiety is not the general purpose of meditation, but i'm sure a little reduction occurs. Otherwise, what's the point of just being aware of it if it doesn't subside any? I have heard many Zen teachers say that even a regular practice with a minimum amount of meditation with result in a slightly better sense of well-being. I'm not looking for visions or mind blowing experiences....I'm not one of those spiritual junkies. I just want to enjoy what I have and be able to be in the moment more and appreciate it.


No Will, I have no one. No tgeachers, no friends that are into it. Just forums and book and mp3's of dharma talks
stardor
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 1:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 16, 2012 2:29 am

Two years and no progress means you must be doing something wrong, during or after sitting practice.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to do smaller sessions more often through the day, but that doesn't matter much now.
What method do you use? Were you taught? If you learned yourself, what did you read?
We can start from there. You know that the best would be to ask a qualified teacher, but maybe you are just doing some basic mistakes that can be easily discovered.
User avatar
Dechen Norbu
 
Posts: 2798
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:50 pm

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Huifeng » Wed May 16, 2012 3:15 am

stardor wrote:So I've been meditating for 2 years now. I guess only really 1 year seriously. I've worked my self up to one 20-30 minute session a day. Trouble is, I can't see any progress. I'm still as anxious as I ever was and it's getting to the point where I am asking myself is it even worth it? Why bother get up at 5.30 every morning to meditate when It's not doing anything. am I expecting to much. Do i need to keep at it?


Maybe you have high expectations from low input (20-30 minutes per day is not much) over a short time (only 1+ yr).
Have you changed any aspects of your general lifestyle? Basic ethics such as the five precepts at the bare minimum, though really more is required, serves as it's foundation. Not to mention generally refraining from excessive sensory indulgence and the like.

Should you keep at it? - well what are your other options, endless samsara? So, um, looks like a yes (albeit a qualified one, as above).

~~ Huifeng
User avatar
Huifeng
 
Posts: 1469
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:51 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby sangyey » Wed May 16, 2012 3:50 am

Same thing happened to me but for about 9 years. Wind disturbance. It took a lot of practice/ purification to find this answer.

The problem isn't necessarily arising from your mind but from your heart (where the subtle mind resides). Your [heart, body, mind] need to be extremely relaxed and calm before anything else. If you can't even do that, well...dull, unhappy heart.

Wind disturbances are common in this day and age.
User avatar
sangyey
 
Posts: 418
Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 12:00 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Andrew108 » Wed May 16, 2012 6:51 am

It's a paradox but when you want to meditate, meditation then becomes difficult. It becomes a difficult thing and it should be the easiest thing. Right?
So here is what you do:
Sit comfortably. Meditate for very short sessions. Again and again. Something like 4 seconds. Then again and again. If you think that you have to sit for 20 minutes then that will stir up a lot of resentment. So enjoy - short session after short session. Then when you feel this is enough then leave it at that.
Hope this helps.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby greentara » Wed May 16, 2012 7:16 am

How do you know you've made no progress? Meditation, self enquiry and quietude are very subtle and cannot be measured in an empiricle way.
It depends how you cope with your own level of disatisfaction and suffering.
I say it to myself, and you as well have courage and persevere.
greentara
 
Posts: 922
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:03 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby steveb1 » Wed May 16, 2012 7:39 am

If you have decided that meditation is your path, then I wish you success with it. On the other hand, if your path is not yet settled, there is a form of Buddhism that not only does not teach meditation, but actually eschews it. This is Jodo Shinshu or Shin Buddhism, wherein self-power practices are abandoned and the "Other-Power" of Amida Buddha is relied on for salvation and enlightenment. Shin adherents are permitted to meditate, but they do not believe that meditation can accomplish salvation and enlightenment. For them, practices might be beneficial for mindfulness, concentration, relaxation, etc., but are not instruments of spiritual fulfilment.
So - if the path of meditation is starting to burn you out, you might want to investigate Shin Buddhism, right here at Dharma Wheel, under "Pure Land" in the "East Asian Buddhism" category here.
In any case, best wishes :)

Gassho,

Steve
steveb1
 
Posts: 287
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Simon E. » Wed May 16, 2012 8:14 am

I think its sometimes the case that its precisely when we think we are not making progress that our meditation is doing what it should.
Sometimes in fact we are stuck...as others have said a teacher can often tell the difference.
Simon E.
 
Posts: 2543
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 11:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby stardor » Wed May 16, 2012 5:55 pm

Thank you all for your replies. I'm not good at answering individual quotes but I will just provide info to answer most. Someone asked what I had read. Well, all of Brad Warners books, Alan Watts - Way of Zen, Three pillars on Zen, Wes Nisker - Buddha Nature, TNH - teachings of the Buddha, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, What the Buddha Taught, Stephen Bodian - Wake up now, to name a few. I listen to tons of Dharma talks from many different teachers. I don't particularly like reading any of the Sutras or ancient teachings...I find them difficult to understand and hard to read.

What method do I use? None really. I have given up counting my breath as I lose it after counting to 10 2 or 3 times. Now I just sit there and let the mind calm naturally. This normally happens after 10-20 mins if it happens at all. Maybe I should try mantras or something.
Was I taught? No, not at all. I thought that by reading and listening I would learn enough. I mean, all I have to do is sit there right? I fail to see what a teacher could tell me that I can't learn from places like this or books by accomplished masters. Then again, by the looks of it, I am totally wrong :(

I was visiting a Zen Center for a while but I developed an aversion to the place. I can't pinpoint one single reason - I see lighting incense, statues, bowing and prostrations as resembling religion too much and pointless. It feels too much like worship (I grew up RC). Also I find the general atmosphere too rigid. I felt too tense and was continually afraid of messing something up.
I had Dokusan with the teacher there once and I told him I was anxious. He told me to just sit with that anxiety and get to know it and not too run away from it. Well, I already knew that (from places like this or books by accomplished masters).They also have regular retreats but there is just no way I could commit to three to five days out of work and away from the three kids I have. I have issues with being cooped up like that with so many people so close... hygiene and that. In fact, even sitting in a room with other people so close to me meditating, bellies rumbling, coughing, sniffling etc, turns me. So I ended up hating going the place altogether.

Have you changed any aspects of your general lifestyle? Well, yes. I quit smoking, quit eating mammals (i know but it's a start), and quit drinking altogether after years of drinking waaay too much. I was going to take the precepts at the Zen Center but the Rokusu sewing part drove me nuts and I realized that I didn't have the time or the patience to finish it in time for the ceremony. I would rather just buy one already made but I don't think that suggestion sat well with the teacher.

Anyway so that's it so far really. I have been going solo now for quite a while and if I'm not going anywhere near the Zen Center, I have no chance of meeting any kind of a teacher even if I wanted to. Maybe Zen isn't an ideal path for me. Maybe I should try A different tradition? Problem is, the reason why I stuck with Zen in the first place was that it was the least religious of all the traditions. Maybe Buddhism isn't the correct path for me period? Because the more I read and practice, the more resentment and confusion I feel.
stardor
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 1:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby tomamundsen » Wed May 16, 2012 9:10 pm

Theravada Vipassana groups can be almost entirely secular. You might want to look into something like that if all of the ritual puts you off.
User avatar
tomamundsen
 
Posts: 539
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby ClearblueSky » Wed May 16, 2012 9:25 pm

I have one suggestion that's kind of off the map, and that's that you consider looking into Dialectical behavior therapy. It's a certain type of therapy, and mindfulness plays a big part in it. You wouldn't need to stop any part of your practice, but maybe you could learn dbt and get your anxiety in check, and then continue to choose what aspects you're interested in in the rest of your practice.
User avatar
ClearblueSky
 
Posts: 173
Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:27 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby Nighthawk » Wed May 16, 2012 10:52 pm

Meditation is no walk in the park. It takes some serious diligence. If you think you can no longer continue striving then try looking at Pure Land teachings.
Nighthawk
 
Posts: 776
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:04 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby stardor » Wed May 16, 2012 11:05 pm

tomamundsen wrote:Theravada Vipassana groups can be almost entirely secular. You might want to look into something like that if all of the ritual puts you off.


You know you've just cleared something up for me. I wondered why people like Stephen Bachelor and Kenneth Folk, the most secular of all, kept going on about Vipassana. I thought that because it was associated with Theravada it would the opposite. I have a center just 45 mins away. Will definitely check that out thanks.
stardor
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 1:09 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby greentara » Thu May 17, 2012 12:07 am

Stardor, Appreciated your honesty. I'm saying nothing formal. How about self enquiry? Every thought that comes up ask 'To whom does this thought arise?' It's away of 'starving' the wondering mind and bringing it back to its source. Don't beat yourself up if the mind flits about which it will do, but when you remember just bring the mind back to the self enquiry.
greentara
 
Posts: 922
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:03 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 17, 2012 2:01 am

Have you ever had formal meditation instruction?
If not, it would probably help.

2 years is really not a long time.

Just breathe normally, but pay attention to the breathing. Watch the air go in your nose and into your lungs and then back out again. Just watch. Don't try to "do" anything like deep breathing. If you need to yawn, just yawn.

Pretty soon you will become distracted from watching this boring breathing! That is typical, because your mind is always looking for entertainment. So, the next part of this practice is to count your breaths. Each time you breathe in, then out, count one breath. (so, inhale, exhale ="one" ; inhale, exhale="two" ; inhale, exhale="three" and so on.) Count in your mind. Count to 21 breaths, and then start over again at one. At some point you might just forget that you are counting. Your mind may be very calm, or you might be distracted by thoughts.

The first thing you may notice is just how easily you become distracted, and before you know it, you've just spent the last minute or so thinking about grocery shopping, or something that happened a long time ago, or a noise outside. That's okay. That is what happens to everybody! When that happens, just notice it, and think the word "thinking" and then simply go back to counting breaths again. You don't need to try to stop distracting thoughts or block them. After a while they will just settle on their own, like children who run around and around and then suddenly lie down and fall asleep. Just remember as soon as you notice that your mind has wandered off again, just think the actual word "thinking" and just begin counting breaths again.

Try to do this for 5 minutes. Not 30. Maybe 30 later. Take a break, strech or walk around, and then try it again for another 5 minutes. You should try to do this on a regular basis every day, even for 5 minutes. Gradually make it 10 minutes, 15, a half hour, 1 hour, whatever you can manage. It is more important to keep up with it on a regular basis, like 10 minutes a day the same time every day, than to try to sit for a long tme one day and a short time the next.

If you do sitting meditation in the morning, take care of whatever you need to get done first, so you won't be thinking "Oh I should be making breakfast" or whatever. If you meditate at night, don't do it sitting in bed or right before going to sleep, or you will condition yourself to fall asleep every time you meditate.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: 2 years of meditation with no progress

Postby jikai » Thu May 17, 2012 8:06 am

I agree with many of the suggestions made by PadmaVonSamba.I’d also like to suggestion some things of my own.
Firstly, I notice your strong emphasis on avoiding anything you feel may be ‘religiously’ inclined. You mentioned that you were raised a Roman Catholic I believe? Indeed I myself was raised in the same way. BUT, I think at times we tend to get too caught up in what we think is this or that and miss what it genuinely had to offer. I think it was Norman Fischer who commented that we in the West are generally “allergic” to religious form. I think this is true. Having been a Catholic myself, I based my conclusions of what a religion is on that experience as a Catholic. I viewed all other religious forms, rituals as being much the same thing. However, that has very little to do with what ‘religion’ is and more to do with my opinion of it. At first, I was myself adverse to any mention in Buddhism of ritual or faith. I think most of us who come to Buddhism are. But as time has gone on and I’ve stopped myself ‘getting in the way’ of my experience more, my relationship to this has changed. The rituals themselves have great purpose. They can in a very strong way ‘condition’ us in the right ways to practice effectively. I also think that again, its often all too easy for us to hear the words ‘faith’ or ‘other-power’ and get caught up again in the connotations we place upon it. I assume the two problems above are the cause of your troubles with sutra’s?

I think the teacher at the Zen centre you visited was correct. Yes, conceptually you know that you should ‘sit’ with your anger and see it for what it is rather than run from it. BUT, you need to live from that understanding. In other words, if you did know that, truly, you would have ‘sat’ with your anger and it would have lessened by the very process.
In regards to the retreats, I can understand that with work and a family it is probably quite difficult to participate in those sorts of things. But the fact that you mentioned ‘being cooped up’ and hygiene etc suggests to me something a little more fundamental issue. Try removing ‘yourself’ from the equation if you will. I notice most of the problesm you discussed relate to how you feel about something or your perception of what it is...As GreenTara suggested, asking yourself things like ‘to whom does this thought arise?’may help with this. Essentially it might be connected to your understanding of self, try reading something like Seng Tsan’s verses on mind and faith to get an idea of what I mean. The problem is not with having those perceptions, its thinking that there is something ‘tangible’ or concrete about your preferences. It’s easy to think to oneself things like: “this is just the type of person I am” or “this is just the sorts of things I like and dislike”. But the key is not to limit yourself with these sorts of ideas. After all, they are illusory. Buddha-nature is to have a nature, not a ‘character’ after all, a character is a ‘confine’ that excludes anything outside it. Buddha-nature is the denial of that, it’s potentiality.
If sowing the Rakusu is not appealing to you, there are other traditions in which that is not necessary. That shouldn’t stop you from taking the precepts. For example in my own tradition (Tendai) there is no need to sow the Rakusu. But Again, I would suggest you exercies some caution here as well. Make sure you have reasonable grounds not to sow the Rakusu. In other words the Rakusu here is not the issue- it could be doing anything. Do you genuinely have the ‘dedication’ to do this? Or was it simply because you didnt have the time or other conditions. Again, I don’t know your personal situation but I am merely suggesting you give it some thought.

The disatisfaction with the results of meditation and the general anxiety you’ve mentioned may all be linked in one way or another to this same ‘self-getting-in-the-way-ness’ I’ve talked about.
Hope it helps, and I wish you luck. Meditation is tough and it takes a great deal of hard work, frustration, willpower, time and dedication to really progress with it. I wish you all the best.
Gassho
Jikai
"There are no seperate dharma's in the Three Realms. There is only the operation of the one mind."
"Whoever wishes to benefit beings ought to establish teachings that fit their capacities, expound the dharma in accordance with their capacities, and match the doctrines to them"
User avatar
jikai
 
Posts: 118
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:52 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia

Next

Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: emptydreams, Majestic-12 [Bot] and 7 guests

>