Basic Question

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Basic Question

Postby ClaireJ » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:19 am

I know this is a very basic question that isn't even quite specific to Buddhism but to spirituality in general...but I'm sure some of you may have some experience with it.
I am just beginning buddhist practices, and have been doing so for a few months now. I find that there are a few weeks where I have so many realizations and feel like I'm growing all the time and that my meditations are effective and improving. However, then, a few weeks or more will go by where I am consciously still determined, watching dharma talks and reading and meditating trying to remember the feelings I had before, but I feel so dull and empty, like my heart isn't there and my inner self won't....budge. I don't know how to explain it. And I just have to wait and wait until finally something sets me in motion again, and it can be frustrating and depressing sometimes!

Does anyone experience these ups and downs? And if so, is there a way I can help my practice to be more consistent and stable? I'm not sure at those times whether to increase practice, keep it the same or decrease it...I just don't know what to do.

Thanks so much for any advice,
Claire
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Re: Basic Question

Postby Ayu » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:46 am

Ups and downs are very normal. Personally i am in a down right now.
One can smooth this by not taking it too serious. For me it is like weather. Like daytimes.
If there is an up, don't hang on it. If there is a down also. See what matters really - and get in contact with your inner voice. Then you better find out, what to do next. Every answer is within.

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Re: Basic Question

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:50 am

Obscurations. Bodhicitta, the Four Powers with prostrations, offerings, and aspiration prayers will clear them away.

This is mentioned in Not for Happiness and Clarifying the Natural State.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Basic Question

Postby heart » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:03 am

ClaireJ wrote:Does anyone experience these ups and downs? And if so, is there a way I can help my practice to be more consistent and stable? I'm not sure at those times whether to increase practice, keep it the same or decrease it...I just don't know what to do.

Thanks so much for any advice,
Claire


Yes, still after decades of practice. Contemplation on impermanence is good, but since you are a beginner perhaps that is a part of your practice (and your experience). I would suggest that you relax a little. Go watch a movie or have dinner with your friends. Dharma is not just a discipline it is the actual way things are. Dharma is everywhere once you start looking. The whole point of Dharma practice is actually to relax and experience things as they are instead of always projecting. So Dharma is a discipline of relaxing.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Basic Question

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:30 am

Whatever happens is the subject for meditation. THis is not to rationalize anything. But we all remain subject to many influences and conditions. It is part of the human condition. So learning to remain with that and not give up aspiration to practice, is called persistence and patience, both of which are good qualities.

The other thing to contemplate is that all phenomena are impermanent, including such feelings. When you're down, everything looks grey, but even though you can't see it at the time, know that this will pass, it is simply a phase, like a cloudy sky.

And - it's not a basic question.


:namaste:
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Basic Question

Postby Dharmaswede » Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:37 am

It is a great question actually, and really tricky resolve... Not being too lax when you feel that the practice is uphill and let yourself off the hook too easily, but then not pushing so hard that it feels like a chore and burn out your practice.

I was once told (don't know if it is true) that there is measurement of length of walking in China that takes into account any difficulties, so that one mile walking in rain is longer than one in sun. I often think about that when I feel resistance; a meditation session on a good day is sheer pleasure, but meditation on a bad day can feel sooo difficult to muster myself to do. But even though I experience more progress on a good day, I think the real work is done on the bad days and I try to congratulate myself for doing that extra mile in the rain so to speak...

Also, I feel that I have tried all the alternative approaches to Samsara (distractions, drugs, "going back to sleep" etc.) – and know in my heart that there is no other way out than the Three Jewels. So sometimes a little coaxing might help, including the four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma.

Good luck!

Best Regards,

Jens
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Re: Basic Question

Postby dakini_boi » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:02 pm

Great question.

ClaireJ wrote:Does anyone experience these ups and downs?


Yes, everyone does.

ClaireJ wrote:And if so, is there a way I can help my practice to be more consistent and stable?


Yes, keep practicing. Don't judge the success of your practice by what you experience. Instead, ask yourself, "Did I do my best given the circumstances?" Let it humble you and be happy you did your best. Let the practice itself be unconditional, but don't expect results to be unconditional. . . yet.

ClaireJ wrote:I'm not sure at those times whether to increase practice, keep it the same or decrease it...I just don't know what to do.


Try it both ways. There's no rule about it. However you approach it, you will learn about yourself, that is what is important.


Also, I should add - depending on what kind of difficulties you have, you can tailor your practice to your needs on any given day. For example, sometimes you may need more shamata, or more reflecting on the 4 thoughts, or making more aspiration prayers, etc.
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Re: Basic Question

Postby ngodrup » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:18 pm

Yes definitely, you can experience a fair amount of boredom.
You can also experience a fair amount of bliss and upset.
You'll have a few epiphanies along the way too,
The scriptures and Lamas advise that we don't confuse understanding
with realization. And even understanding goes through layers of meaning.
So, today's "aha" is nothing special tomorrow.

I think the underlying question, the question behind the question, seems
to be what encourages the occurrence of progress and can help one
continue all the way to the end?

Ngondro contains all that is necessary for successful Buddhist practice:
refuge, Bodhicatta, accumulation of merit, purification and Guru yoga.
Guru yoga is especially useful in removing obstacles. Find a Lama
whom you trust, and who trusts you, receive teachings from him or her,
and work hard. My teacher says the most important quality is "stubbornness" --
Just keep doing the work of practice, as much as possible.
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Re: Basic Question

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:40 pm

dakini_boi wrote:Great question.

ClaireJ wrote:Does anyone experience these ups and downs?


Yes, everyone does.

ClaireJ wrote:And if so, is there a way I can help my practice to be more consistent and stable?


Yes, keep practicing. Don't judge the success of your practice by what you experience. Instead, ask yourself, "Did I do my best given the circumstances?" Let it humble you and be happy you did your best. Let the practice itself be unconditional, but don't expect results to be unconditional. . . yet.

ClaireJ wrote:I'm not sure at those times whether to increase practice, keep it the same or decrease it...I just don't know what to do.


Try it both ways. There's no rule about it. However you approach it, you will learn about yourself, that is what is important.

Also, I should add - depending on what kind of difficulties you have, you can tailor your practice to your needs on any given day. For example, sometimes you may need more shamata, or more reflecting on the 4 thoughts, or making more aspiration prayers, etc.

:good:
I would just add that this kind of stop-start progress - or what feels like stop-start progress - is absolutely typical of learning any new skill such as playing a musical instrument or doing calligraphy or playing basketball. You feel like you're making good progress, then it plateaus for no visible reason although you are putting in just as much time and effort, then you feel like you're moving ahead again. In the plateau phase you are often integrating a whole lot of what you have recently learned (and when you look back, you may see that) and you need to do it before you are ready to absorb more new material.
Don't worry about it - just keep on putting in the time, patiently and without over-thinking your progress.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Basic Question

Postby heart » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:56 pm

:good:
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Basic Question

Postby mandala » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:28 pm

I think there's a general misconception that there's such a thing as a "successful" meditation session - in particular, there's a danger when you've had heightened emotions or feeling of an "experience" that seem to raise the bench and then create an expectation of how you want to feel during/after a meditation session. Being attached to the 'highs' is said to be a major hindrance to meditation practice, so it's all good.. relax and let it come and go.

Ups and downs are perfectly normal - on the 'downs' I find it helpful to welcome those feelings in, investigate where it comes from and just try to be a bit kinder to myself. If you feel a bit stuck, perhaps change up the kind of meditations you're doing.. loving kindness meditation, breath meditation or some purification practices like the 4 opponent powers or Vajrasattva?

But most of all, keep up the good work and keep going! :)
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Re: Basic Question

Postby ClaireJ » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:48 pm

Wow, I can't tell you all how much I appreciate the advice! That was so helpful! Thank you.
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