Meditation is hard...

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:43 am

I've been meditating for about 1 year now, and I've recently re-affirmed myself to practice more this year. In the past, I've mostly attempted a practice regimen of Anapana and the White Skeleton meditation. I'm terrible at both of them, to be quit honest. I would still like to keep practicing them due to the great benefits I've heard both of them have for ones health and success at achieving Samadhi. Samadhi, I should mention is my first "big goal". I'm posting here to hopefully gleam some advice and wisdom from the ladies and gentlemen on these forums.. I'll post both meditations, and underneath I'll list the problems that seem to be blocking me from making much progress. I've read that the hardest meditations for you are usually the best ones, and getting through the difficulties will be VERY beneficial for you. It makes sense to me, just like working out for health, pain while excersizing means that your body is becoming more healthy and strong. I don't want to give up on these meditations, and I don't plan too. So any advice would be MASSIVELY appreciated.

ANAPANA
1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally. After I've settled down and bring my awareness towards my breath, I seem to unintentionally control it like a robot..
If I try to just let it go and work on it's own I tend to just end up holding my breath.. I've heard a correct way to begin practice is to "Watch your breath like a parent watches a baby sleep, don't try to interfere" I feel like what I end up doing is taking an emergency breathing device and then I start using it the "sleeping baby" If I relax my attention on my breath to just let it happen naturally my mind just wanders around anyways.

WHITE SKELETON
1. This ones easy, I'm just plain TERRIBLE at visualization practices. It's not that I can't manifest an image in my mind, It's that I can't keep it stable. Thats a pretty gross understatement too. My mind runs wild with uncontrollable imagery, colors, patterns and movements. Sometimes, I can keep a "stabelish" Idea on imagining my skeleton, "beginning with my left big toe", and then my skeleton is usually a slick, brackish black, brown or yellowish color" instead of a dazzling white that It's supposed to be visualized as. I've read that i'm supposed to repent, if this is the case. I can honestly say I haven't commited any serious crimes in my life, and I'd like to think I'm a good person in general. I'm not a saint by any means either though... I Imagine it's past Karma that makes this process so frustrating. The saying about trying to bake a cake using sand comes to mind.

Any advice on breath work and improving visualization practice, or ANYTHING that ANYONE thinks will help, will be most welcome and most sincerely appreciated.
Matticus
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:28 am

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:47 am

Matticus wrote:I've been meditating for about 1 year now, and I've recently re-affirmed myself to practice more this year. In the past, I've mostly attempted a practice regimen of Anapana and the White Skeleton meditation. I'm terrible at both of them, to be quit honest. I would still like to keep practicing them due to the great benefits I've heard both of them have for ones health and success at achieving Samadhi. Samadhi, I should mention is my first "big goal". I'm posting here to hopefully gleam some advice and wisdom from the ladies and gentlemen on these forums.. I'll post both meditations, and underneath I'll list the problems that seem to be blocking me from making much progress. I've read that the hardest meditations for you are usually the best ones, and getting through the difficulties will be VERY beneficial for you. It makes sense to me, just like working out for health, pain while excersizing means that your body is becoming more healthy and strong. Or the quote "anything worth having is worth working for". I don't want to give up on these meditations, and I don't plan too. So any advice would be MASSIVELY appreciated.

ANAPANA
1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally. After I've settled down and bring my awareness towards my breath, I seem to unintentionally control it like a robot..
If I try to just let it go and work on it's own I tend to just end up holding my breath.. I've heard a correct way to begin practice is to "Watch your breath like a parent watches a baby sleep, don't try to interfere" I feel like what I end up doing is taking an emergency breathing device and then I start using it the "sleeping baby" If I relax my attention on my breath to just let it happen naturally my mind just wanders around anyways.

WHITE SKELETON
1. This ones easy, I'm just plain TERRIBLE at visualization practices. It's not that I can't manifest an image in my mind, It's that I can't keep it stable. Thats a pretty gross understatement too. My mind runs wild with uncontrollable imagery, colors, patterns and movements. Sometimes, I can keep a "stabelish" Idea on imagining my skeleton, "beginning with my left big toe", and then my skeleton is usually a slick, brackish black, brown or yellowish color" instead of a dazzling white that It's supposed to be visualized as. I've read that i'm supposed to repent, if this is the case. I can honestly say I haven't commited any serious crimes in my life, and I'd like to think I'm a good person in general. I'm not a saint by any means either though... I Imagine it's past Karma that makes this process so frustrating. The saying about trying to bake a cake using sand comes to mind.

Any advice on breath work and improving visualization practice, or ANYTHING that ANYONE thinks will help, will be most welcome and most sincerely appreciated.
Matticus
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:28 am

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Huifeng » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:54 am

If samadhi is your goal, first prepare the requisites for samadhi, such as pure sila.

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

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:05 pm

Hi Matticus,

If you don't mind, a meditation suggestion... Instead of trying to watch your breath for a while, try "just listening" to relaxing music for a while. Put on some headphones/earbuds and just listen. While listening, you may actually notice that the music seems to actually get louder. Music can be very good to help calm the salvage beast/mind.

Regards, Jeff
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:29 pm

Ven Huifeng is 100% correct, problems in meditation are due to lack of merit, listening to music won't solve that! Maybe take and keep some precepts and start a series of daily offering practices (water bowl offerings for example) to generate merit and 35 Confession Buddha practice to work on the (past) causes of your current problem (this practice also starts to focus your mind on not engaging in unwholesome behaviour, so it works on what you do now, thus it also influences present karma and future outcomes).
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9322
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby futerko » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:38 pm

Matticus wrote:I've read that the hardest meditations for you are usually the best ones, and getting through the difficulties will be VERY beneficial for you.

Not if you get discouraged, you could always try something easier and then step up at a later time. I agree with the other posters that practices to increase merit will benefit, but ultimately practices to increase merit and wisdom meditation are not so different, The first thing that comes to my mind which would include both would be something like Tonglen or Avalokiteshvara practice.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
User avatar
futerko
 
Posts: 993
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:58 am

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:47 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Ven Huifeng is 100% correct, problems in meditation are due to lack of merit, listening to music won't solve that! Maybe take and keep some precepts and start a series of daily offering practices (water bowl offerings for example) to generate merit and 35 Confession Buddha practice to work on the (past) causes of your current problem (this practice also starts to focus your mind on not engaging in unwholesome behaviour, so it works on what you do now, thus it also influences present karma and future outcomes.
:namaste:


Does doing a practice with the goal/purpose of generating merit, generate merit?

Regards, Jeff
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:26 pm

Try out different objects of focus than breath, for instance gazing at an object, or concentrating on a visualized object, you can also try to focus on no object, I find that harder.
"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
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2409
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby futerko » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:32 pm

Jeff wrote:Does doing a practice with the goal/purpose of generating merit, generate merit?

Regards, Jeff


If the intention is selfless.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
User avatar
futerko
 
Posts: 993
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:58 am

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:41 pm

futerko wrote:
Jeff wrote:Does doing a practice with the goal/purpose of generating merit, generate merit?

Regards, Jeff


If the intention is selfless.


Is it possible for an intention be selfless, when one is doing it for the purpose of generating merit? If there is expectation/attachment to the result of the action, by definition, is it no longer "selfless"?

Regards, Jeff
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:07 pm

Jeff wrote:Does doing a practice with the goal/purpose of generating merit, generate merit?

Regards, Jeff
Does intentionally digging a hole create a hole?

Do you believe that intentionally engaging in unwholesome behaviour creates demerit?

So why wouldn't intentionally engaging in wholesome behaviour (meritorious) create merit?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9322
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:28 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Jeff wrote:Does doing a practice with the goal/purpose of generating merit, generate merit?

Regards, Jeff
Does intentionally digging a hole create a hole?

Do you believe that intentionally engaging in unwholesome behaviour creates demerit?

So why wouldn't intentionally engaging in wholesome behaviour (meritorious) create merit?
:namaste:


Intentionally digging a hole creates a hole, but is not merit defined in the true motivation for the the hole, rather than the "act of digging the hole"?

As futerko said, is it not the selfless action (no expectation/attachment to results) that generates merit? If one does an action for the express purpose of gaining merit, does then one gain merit?

Regards, Jeff
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby justsit » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:28 pm

Jeff wrote:As futerko said, is it not the selfless action (no expectation/attachment to results) that generates merit? If one does an action for the express purpose of gaining merit, does then one gain merit?

If the express purpose of gaining merit is accompanied by the express intention of dedicating that merit for the benefit of all sentient beings, then yes, one gains merit. IMO. One can't give away what one doesn't have.
User avatar
justsit
 
Posts: 641
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:24 pm
Location: Delaware

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:43 pm

justsit wrote:
Jeff wrote:As futerko said, is it not the selfless action (no expectation/attachment to results) that generates merit? If one does an action for the express purpose of gaining merit, does then one gain merit?

If the express purpose of gaining merit is accompanied by the express intention of dedicating that merit for the benefit of all sentient beings, then yes, one gains merit. IMO. One can't give away what one doesn't have.


If one is truly doing it "for the benefit of all sentient beings", then it would seem to be selfless, and hence merit. But, if one is doing an action for their own merit (Above example: for the expected purpose of quieting their own mind), then the question becomes, is there merit?

Regards, Jeff
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby anjali » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:27 pm

Matticus wrote:ANAPANA
1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally. After I've settled down and bring my awareness towards my breath, I seem to unintentionally control it like a robot..
If I try to just let it go and work on it's own I tend to just end up holding my breath.. I've heard a correct way to begin practice is to "Watch your breath like a parent watches a baby sleep, don't try to interfere" I feel like what I end up doing is taking an emergency breathing device and then I start using it the "sleeping baby" If I relax my attention on my breath to just let it happen naturally my mind just wanders around anyways.


Your description of overcontrol vs undercontrol/wandering mind is perfectly natural. You may be familiar with the Buddha's famous story of the stringed lute being not too tight, not too loose. The struggles you are having is just naturally part of anapanasati. Stay with it and continue to develop relaxed focus. The key is gentleness. People get so frustrated when the mind becomes distracted and wanders. What they don't realize is that to have any mindfulness at all is major progress! You are working with a mind that has been distracted from time immemorial. Every time you come back from being distracted, you train yourself in freshness of mindful presence. Also, working with the frustation/impatience you feel is wonderful practice in equanimity.


Matticus wrote:WHITE SKELETON
1. This ones easy, I'm just plain TERRIBLE at visualization practices. It's not that I can't manifest an image in my mind, It's that I can't keep it stable. Thats a pretty gross understatement too. My mind runs wild with uncontrollable imagery, colors, patterns and movements. Sometimes, I can keep a "stabelish" Idea on imagining my skeleton, "beginning with my left big toe", and then my skeleton is usually a slick, brackish black, brown or yellowish color" instead of a dazzling white that It's supposed to be visualized as. I've read that i'm supposed to repent, if this is the case. I can honestly say I haven't commited any serious crimes in my life, and I'd like to think I'm a good person in general. I'm not a saint by any means either though... I Imagine it's past Karma that makes this process so frustrating. The saying about trying to bake a cake using sand comes to mind.


I don't have much to say about this particular practice since I haven't done it myself. But generally, maintaining focus can't be forced. Think of it like exercising a muscle. You can work on strength and/or endurance. The same principle works with the mind. You can work on vividness and detail and/or you can work on sustained imagery. Start with where you are, and work with your mind patiently. Something I've noticed over the years is that I have no problems sustaining visualization if the image is of something I care deeply about. It may be that the skeleton practice is not the best one to start with for you. I don't know anything about your path or practice lineage, but I would suggest visualizing something you can put some emotional/devotional energy into. Perhaps the Buddha, a guru, a deity, a sacred symbol. Something that you have a positive connection with.

Best wishes!
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
anjali
 
Posts: 324
Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:33 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:58 pm

Jeff wrote:If one is truly doing it "for the benefit of all sentient beings", then it would seem to be selfless, and hence merit. But, if one is doing an action for their own merit (Above example: for the expected purpose of quieting their own mind), then the question becomes, is there merit?
If you give some money to a beggar to feel good or you give them money for them to feel good do both actions generate merit or only the later action?

Intention is only one part of karma. The action itself produces outcomes as a consequence of the action itself too. So offering brings merit. Offering with a selfless intention brings more merit. Offering with a negative intention gives less merit.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9322
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:38 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Jeff wrote:If one is truly doing it "for the benefit of all sentient beings", then it would seem to be selfless, and hence merit. But, if one is doing an action for their own merit (Above example: for the expected purpose of quieting their own mind), then the question becomes, is there merit?
If you give some money to a beggar to feel good or you give them money for them to feel good do both actions generate merit or only the later action?

Intention is only one part of karma. The action itself produces outcomes as a consequence of the action itself too. So offering brings merit. Offering with a selfless intention brings more merit. Offering with a negative intention gives less merit.
:namaste:


Our discussion seems to be centered on your point of "Offering with a negative intention gives less merit." So, in your beggar example... If one gives the beggar money, solely for the purpose/intent of impressing others as to make them think one is good/generous person (ego enhancing) while truly having disgust for the beggar, one still generates merit?

Or, maybe said... Action trumps intent in generating merit?

:namaste: :smile:
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:41 pm

Jeff wrote:Or, maybe said... Action trumps intent in generating merit?
No, the intention will bring its result and the action will brings its result. If the intention is negative it will bring a negative result, if the action is wholesome it will bring a positive result. But really, gathering merit in order to develop meditative stability is hardly negative intention now, is it? I mean let's get serious here.

Anyway here is an explanation based on the Jataka tale describing a past life of the Buddha where he had to kill a bandit to save some merchants.
10. The fruit of virtue and non-virtue appears seperately.
...
Captain Mahakaruna, for example, was exchanging himself with others,
As he intended to kill a person, intriguing against him and others, for the benefit of the other young merchant.
The intention was virtuous, the act of killing the miscreant non-virtuous.
Furthermore, because he exchanged himself for others,
He gathered the [positive] accumulations of many kalpas,
but due to the negative act, he was pierced by an acacia thorn.

Jigten Sumgon Gonchig commentary by Rigdzin Chokyi Dragpa The Lamp Dispelling the Darkness
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9322
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Jeff » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:24 am

Hi Greg,

I also agree it is not a big deal, I just thought we were having an interesting intellectual discussion regarding karma/merit. :smile:

For an action to be wholesome, for me, it would require a wholesome intent. Earlier you stated the relative importance of the action, and your position that an offering with a negative intent still generated merit. My position is summed up below...

In the Nibbedhika Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 6.63) the Buddha said:
"Intention (P. cetana, S. cetanā) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."

:namaste: :smile:
Jeff
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 2:22 pm

Re: Meditation is hard...

Postby Matticus » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:36 am

Thank you all for posting! I'm going to try to digest and apply the advice I've learned from you all. I've got a few questions on some of the responses. What is a "Water Bowl Offering"? Also, I don't really have a lineage. I've obtained most of my knowledge from reading the work of Master Nan Haui Chin. I don't really know If that would really qualify him as my Guru, but I can actually picture his photograph fairly well. Would that be appropriate or should I choose an Image of Buddha or Boddhisattva or something. One more thing, I stumbled onto the practice of Kasina last night, focusing on a candle seems like a reasonable way of practicing holding a sustained image in my mind. Any thoughts? Again, thank you all!

On a 2nd note for the discussion on merit in the thread. From what I loosely understand about merit, even if you were to give money or food to a begger selflessly and without a mind thinking of the possible benefits coming back your way it may not be good. If that begger uses the money to harm himself or others, or dies of a crazy food allergy, even with the purest intentions you would still be on the recieving side of some bad Karma. That thought makes me super cautious about what Charity's I donate too. I suppose a decent example would be the Heiffer Organization. Through them you can buy an animal through the organization and they will send it to an impoverished family or village. Unfortuantely, sometimes they send over an animal that is invasive and increadibly harmfull to a foreign ecosystem. Or I've read about articles about family's not being able to pay for veteranarian bills to keep their animals healthy. In the end both the family's AND the animal suffered and were harmed through the charities honest and wholesome intentions. I don't know if this really applies to what you good folks are discussing though.
Matticus
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:28 am

Next

Return to Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests

>