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Seek advice for my meditation - Dhamma Wheel

Seek advice for my meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
starter
Posts: 875
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm

Seek advice for my meditation

Postby starter » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:05 pm

Hi friends, thanks for your very helpful input to my previous posts. I'm very glad to have such highly advanced practitioners in this forum, whom I really should call teachers instead of friends. I'd like to get your comments and advice about my meditation practice as well.

Since October I’ve separated my meditation into:
1) Insight meditation which combines Ānāpānasati and Satipatthana (adapted to walking meditation instead of breathing so that I can sit in full lotus for longer time during concentration meditation which is done after insight meditation). I’ve been doing contemplations only on 3 characteristics of / detachment from the 5 aggregates and 6 sense objects. Thanks to your help – now I’ve decided to add “those mental fabrications/qualities*”mentioned in MN 110 to my contemplation of the aggregate of mental fabrication, and especially add the contemplation of the property of the deathless to my insight meditation. [*directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and the unification/singleness of mind; the contact, feeling, perception, volition/intention and consciousness; the desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention].

2) Concentration meditation which is mainly step 1-4 of Ānāpānasati, and my mindfulness/awareness that 'The whole body is breathing in/out' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. Sometimes I can enter “trance”, and after emerging from it I don’t want to talk (or act/think actively) while feeling very tranquil, which can last for hours and is usually accompanied by the “shower” rapture (once lasted 1.5 days with sukha- 轻安?).

I wonder if my concentration meditation is the sort that blocks things out as mentioned by Ven. Thanissaro? Is this “trance” the right kind of state?

Any comment/adivce on my meditation would be most appreciated.

Metta,

Starter

PS: I’ve understood from the two suttas Kenshou kindly recommended (MN 111 & AN 9.36) that,
1) before attaining the dimension of nothingness, it seems better to contemplate the 3 characteristics of & detachment from those mental fabrications* and to contemplate the property of deathlessness while in the jhanas/samadhi.
2) After this stage, such contemplations are done after emerging from the jhanas/samadhi.
Last edited by starter on Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Goofaholix
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Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:48 am

The fact that you've described it as a trance isn't a good sign but probably the best way of determining whether this is a desirable state or not is to look at how aware or how present you are during that time.

If it is a good state of concentration then you should know that you are aware and what you are aware of all during that time, even if it is only one object, you should be very present and awake.

If you are not entirely present, or are disengaged, or it feels fuzzy, or like you've been drifting, or like time flies then this is not good, this is bad. I think you'd better stop doing concentration practice and just do Insight practice until you've got a teacher to guide you.

Kenshou
Posts: 1030
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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby Kenshou » Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:05 am

Yeah, Goof is right, maybe you should describe this "trance" thing more specifically? Focused and aware yet solid and one-pointed is good, but a blurry and unaware mind is not so good, or at least, not useful. The medicine for that is more energy and mindfulness, I figure.

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kirk5a
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Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby kirk5a » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:41 am

This is far too much complication. Far, far too much. Buddhist meditation is not a Chinese smorgasbord where you pile everything onto your plate and have a go. You are asking for trouble. As for your "trance" state who knows exactly what its nature is. Certainly not you. This is something you could discuss with a competent meditation teacher, who will be able to put such things in their proper context, and provide you with a practice that is straightforward and appropriate for you.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

rowyourboat
Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:27 pm

Hi Starter,

If your sila is good....

..focus on your samadhi- yes, one thing at a time. Your goal should be to get good samadhi- by that I mean a mind state free from the five hindrances. I would have you reading up on the five hindrances and becoming a bit of an expert on overcoming them. The anapanasati sutta is good in the sense that it shows the various developments in the breath as samadhi deepens. You might notice that it is after the 12th step that vipassana (focusing on anicca) starts- so don't be in a rush to get there right away. The mind must be ready and well prepared before attempting vipassana- otherwise there can be complications.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

starter
Posts: 875
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby starter » Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:50 pm

Hi friends,

Thanks for your kind concern and helpful comment/advice which made me think deeper about my "trance". I have actually experienced different types of "trance":

1) Type 1: it was focused and one-pointed most of the time, except occasional thought or sound distractions which are usually pulled back right away (restlessness is my biggest hindrance), and surely I was aware of my breathing and those distractions, and was present and awake. Although I didn't feel like to talk (or think/act actively) after emerging from it, my mind was surely clear, aware, fresh and tranquil. The body sometimes experiences "momentary" and "shower" rapture, which could be accompanied by bodily pleasure (sukha 轻安?) or occasionally by bodily pain.

2) Type 2: occasionally it seems my mind entered subconsciousness and has almost left this world, but I was still aware of my body and the state. After emerging from it I felt very fresh and it's not accompanied by rapture and the mode described above, and felt normal except freshness.

3) Type 3: occasionally I did experience a blurry mind and felt like time flies (one hour like some minutes), which occurred when my brain felt tired but I still did sitting around 12pm. I think I've overcome this by stronger mindfulness and effort.

Although my sila is not yet perfect, but most of time it's fine. And when I do sitting meditation, my mind is usually free from the first four hindrances but could be distracted by thoughts (e.g. the things I need to do for my work ...), and by sounds and bodily feelings. I'll surely read more about the five hindrances and try to become more skilled in overcoming them.

During my insight meditation, I follow almost every step of Anapanasati until the last step, except changing the steps for mindfulness of feeling into "experiencing bodily sensation/feeling (instead of piti) " and "experiencing mental feeling (instead of sukha)" since piti and sukha do not occur every time. I didn't jump from Step 4 directly to Step 16 for the insight meditation. Only for the concentration meditation, I use Step 1 to Step 4 and rest my mindfulness/awareness at the state that 'The whole body is breathing in/out' is just maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance (not strong focus). I appreciate that some of you are worried about the complications of such meditations to a beginner, but to me the insight meditation/contemplation doesn't seem to be dangerous at all -- it helps a lot to comprehend the nature of the 5 aggregates and 6 sense objects and to let-go the attachments to them.

Indeed I should try to find a competent meditation teacher to guide my meditation personally, if possible. My sincere thanks again.

Metta,

Starter

rowyourboat
Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:40 am

Hi Starter

If someone told you that metal often comes in chunks and is thick and bulky and cannot be used for fine work- what would you say? Would you say 'yes that is true- I cannot possible use metal for fine work' or say 'well maybe there is a way metal can be used, it might be possible to sharpen it so that it can slice through...'. In the same way Samadhi can be thought of as a trance- but it is very useful if utilized in a different way -in the right way, to slice through reality- to see the inner workings of the mind. But it must be used in a very specific way to get the best results..(ie a meditation method called vipassana). Hope thats helpful at this moment in time..

..Meditate..

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

farmer
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:42 am

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby farmer » Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:39 pm

Starter,

Like you, I'm trying to develop meditation skills without a flesh and blood teacher. I have found Ven. Thanissaro's dhamma talks on Dhammatalks.org to be an extremely useful resource. The only problem with them is that there are so many, and it can be difficult to find the one you need when you need it.

Here are a few that might address some of the meditation issues you asked about:

101002 The Breath all the Way
070324 Fabrication Theory
050422 Ekaggata
031130 Learning from the Breath
041225 Seeing Requires Focus
070609 Normalcy

I don't believe there is only one right way to meditate, but I found I started to make better progress once I focused in on the instructions of one teacher. It is helpful to have a sense of sequence -- what to work on first -- rather than trying to take on everything all at once like that cow in the Gavi Sutta.

starter
Posts: 875
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby starter » Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:59 pm

Hi friends,

I probably should have waited a few more days before posting my first thread -- wait after reading "On the Path of the Breath" of Ven. Thanissaro's Meditation IV. He has actually explained in this talk what I describe as "Type 2 trance ("subconsciousness" mode):

"Sometimes you settle down and you're still sort of hovering around the breath as you try to adjust it. Other times you can let yourself simply dive into the breath, to be bathed by the breathing, without having to analyze much at all. What you've done is that you've moved from using directed thought and evaluation to help with the concentration to the point where you don't need them anymore. You can let them go. There's a much greater sense of refreshment that comes, a greater sense of fullness, as you're one with the breath as opposed to hovering protectively outside. That's one way of releasing the mind. Then you can compare which state is more easeful, which state has more stress. And then again you can provide the mind with what it needs."

Although I don't think mine was a real jhana since I could still hear sound ..., but it's probably not important if it's a real jhana or not; what's important is to develop the tranquility which can suppress the lust and refine the power of awareness.

RYB kindly advised that "Samadhi can be thought of as a trance- but it is very useful if utilized in a different way -in the right way, to slice through reality- to see the inner workings of the mind. But it must be used in a very specific way to get the best results..(ie a meditation method called vipassana)." I thought my insight meditation is vipassana. Probably I can try to do insight meditation after the concentration meditation, instead of before the concentration meditation as I did before (but this way really helps calming down the mind and concentration).

Thanks "Farmer" for the recommendations of Ven. Thanissaro's talks. I'll listen to them. I'd recommend his Meditation IV. He also has a talk on how to obtain jhana, which can be found using search function in his Dhammatalks.org. Metta,

Starter

rowyourboat
Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:35 pm

Hi Starter,

Do not worry whether your jhana is real or not. You will need to keep developing your samadhi at every level of attainment, upto stream entry and beyond- so just keep developing deeper and deeper samadhi- there is no end point. Even if a person is in jhana- there is still the refinement of that jhana- then there is mastery of that jhana... and so on. So relax- just keep going without concern whether you have reached jhana or not.

Good luck,

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Spiny O'Norman
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Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 8:46 am
Location: Suffolk, England

Re: Seek advice for my meditation

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:33 pm



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