View Full Version : Mindfulness meditation

27th July 2011, 02:14 PM

I would like to share my meditation experience with you and eventually get your feedback. It is important for me to know if I progress in the right direction. I have no guru next to me and no one to ask about this. I appreciate your help. I'll try to be as brief as possible.

I begin with breath awareness to calm down my wild mind. I do alternate nostril breathing to balance the Ida and Pingala flows. Then I bring my attention on between the two nostrils being mindful about the air going in and out in equal flows. Of course my mind starts to wander but I gently bring back the attention to the nostrils. I keep that for sometime (~10 mins) until the distracting thoughts reduce and become clearer (meaning I quickly realize that a though has appeared and dragged my attention so I can bring it back). As next, I drop the attention from the breath and focus on watching the thoughts. Here comes the fun.
Not sure if this explains the best but I focus on the focus. In other words I concentrate and watch for thoughts. Thoughts do not appear one after another but there is a space in between. When a thought comes it drags my attention away. In the next moment I realize I'm thinking and make an attempt to ignore it. With no attention on it it quickly fades away. And so on and so on...

Here comes the tricky part. Two distinct things I can do:
a) I continue to apply attention and focus which reduces the thoughts to a minimum. BUT this is because I keep my attentions on the focus so I block the thoughts this way. The most readings about mindfulness meditation say that this is wrong as this suppresses the thoughts.
b) I apply less attention but still stay aware. This opens the door for thoughts and they more or less drags my attention. So I guess even though these thoughts are there I should somehow be aware of them and ignore them...?
Also this state gets me deeper and visual images start to appear in addition to thoughts. I enter into hypnagogia state. The flow of thoughts and visual images drags me in. Regaining the attention stops the imagery.

The question is which path I should pursue - a) or b). The second, looks like to right one and definitely a lot more interesting. But is this aligned with Meditation or looks more like a kind of a trance state?


27th July 2011, 02:46 PM
Hello, Atanas.

I haven't really mastered this for myself, but my experience is very similar. When I try to focus on my thoughts strongly, they cease. I'm pretty sure this is not the goal of the mindfulness meditation. In fact, I think this comes under the heading of trying too hard.

I think using thought itself as meditation object is rather hard. It might be more helpful to use another meditation object to first learn a different skill - relaxed and sustained concentration. The breath and body sensations are usually recommended. After a while of doing this, spontaneous thought will arise. At some point you will either just notice this (and not get drawn in) and let it go. Or you get drawn in, notice at some point that you're absorbed in thought, and gently return your attention to the original meditation object.

I would think this would work much better for you. I also think there's a progression right there: Initially you will have your attention withdrawn by the thought. That is the nature of habitual thinking. So, by bringing your attention gently back to the object of meditation you lessen a bit your tendency to do so. This will continue within your practice until you will be able to sustain your attention on the breath mostly and only note that a thought is arising. I'm talking not necessarily within the same session, but over many meditations.

Then, when you can sustain your concentration on your original meditation object and have also lessened the distracting effect of thought themselves on your mind, you might be ready to extend your focus to pay more attention to the thinking process, including when the thought arises and when it ceases. As far as I understand the Anapanasati Sutra - Mindfulness with Breathing - this is also meant by minding the breath and becoming simultaneously aware of the mind:

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.'

So, the meditation object is used to stabilise the mind in sufficient concentration to use it as tool for observation. When you can sustain this more easily, you may gain insight into the workings of the mind by observing the mind itself.


28th July 2011, 09:17 AM
Thanks Oliver!

I've been meditating for several months and lately I'm able to sustain concentration on the breath. Thoughts still arise but rarely and I'm able to catch them quickly and return focus on the breath. I can play this game for a long period (an hour or more).
Staying in this state means a couple things:
- thoughts will always arise from time to time
- concentration on the breath suppresses the thoughts
- breath awareness gets you deep but to a certain point

I would like to progress further to a deeper level. It is time to face the thought machine. For that I need to release the attention from the breath (meditation object) and let the thoughts flow freely. The key here is to preserve awareness and not to focus too much on the thoughts content. Transcending the thoughts actually means detaching the attention from the thoughts content. I find this extremely challenging as thoughts and attention go hand in hand. Thoughts drag the attention and create distraction.

What do you think about the visual imagery? Am I suppose to experience this during meditation?


28th July 2011, 01:57 PM
Hello, Atanas.

I sometimes have experienced visual imagery and often have found it distracting. I'm not sure what to do about it, but I guess it is often recommended to treat it similarly as in other distractions - do not get drawn in. Meditation can take you so deep your mind might even start to induce the dream state. By staying gently with the meditation object while this happens you anchor yourself in a way that imagery and thought may arise without taking away your attention.

As you train this skill - as you say, not getting enthralled by content - you gain the possibility to notice when a thought arises and when it ceases. Spontaneous insights might even arise. States of consciousness arise and fade away. It's like driving a car - different scenery passes by, but you keep your hands on the wheel, you keep some attention on the road, you keep on driving. This further cultivates a quality of detached observation that will aid you when you try to observe something.

You said concentration on the breath suppresses the thoughts. This might be a case of "concentrating too hard." As you said, there's a focus of the mind. This is your observation tool. It can be tense and narrow, or loose and wide. The next step for you would be learning to widen your focus to allow in another thing while staying with the breath. Then you have an anchor for staying aware plus something to observe. This helps to avoid getting drawn in and avoid blanking out or losing focus in another way. It's a matter of developing flexibility of a sort, and it is also true relaxation of the mind.

The breath is often recommended as an initial meditation object because it has also several near-ideal properties. It's always there as long as you live. So, if you pay attention to it you also gradually learn to pay attention all the time, eliminating gaps in your attention. It connects you to the energetic system and rhythms of your body, facilitating the process of staying both relaxed and concentrated, especially by calming the body. Focussing on the breath can also help protect against nodding off. While your body gradually shades into a sleep/trance state, your mind stays awake and focussed. And all of this is also why the breath can act as an anchor. Each in breath and each out breath always happen now and help you being present.

So, even focussing only on the breath has very beneficial properties and transforms you. It can also lead to deeper absorption into the breath, another experience made in meditation.

While you learn to pay attention flexibly to the breath and to the breath and something else you also lessen the tendency to suppress other experiences, and learn to direct your focus flexibly. This is possibly your next step in developing meditation.

Further ideas for this kind of training can again be had from the Anapanasati Sutra (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html):

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'

Plenty of things to train your focus with. :)


2nd August 2011, 08:50 AM
You speak words of wisdom.

The breath is indeed an excellent meditation object. However, there is a little problem with it. Breath is a gross level object. If you want to go beyond the gross and to reach subtle levels of meditation then focusing on breath might be an obstacle. The meditation evolves in stages. Most people remain focused on that single object, and go no further beyond the gross form of that object. In other words, you may go very deep, or remain in the shallow waters of practice with that gross object, not recognizing the further reaches of meditation.
Meditation on the mechanical aspects of breath is an excellent in the beginning. This is extremely relaxing and brings peace of mind, as well as improved physical health. Yet, if the practice is limited to the breath alone, the higher aspects will be missed.

I'm trying to find a more subtler meditation object to deepen my meditation state. Beyond the gross breath are the energy sensations but they're related to the body thus no subtle enough. The next is the mind and the many levels of mental process and if this is used as meditation object one can go to a really deep state of being. I understand that this is an advanced meditation and it takes a lot of practice but it is a challenge that definitely worth the effort.


26th September 2011, 02:38 AM
I have a suggestion that you might find interesting: have you tried applying what you've developed through your closed eye meditations to open eye meditation?

Using something like a small, smooth stone as the object of focus (you could use anything, but I think the less light it reflects/emits, the easier it is) and just doing you're regular meditation, but with your eyes open, and putting your attention on that object in that moment; completely immersing yourself in the moment, free from the usual thoughts/perspectives our brains provide us with about our environment.

You might like it :)