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Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation

Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/10/14 08:33 PM

Many people commit to starting a meditation practice at the start of a new year, or to reinvigorating an existing practice. If this is the case for you, perhaps my latest article will help:

Meditation Tips - Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind

This is mostly sharing teachings from Bhante Gunuratana on what he calls 'thinking' and 'sinking' mind, that many people find useful. Feel free to share your own meditation tips or inspiration...
Posted By: Debbie-SpiritualityEditor

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/10/14 09:57 PM

This is indeed very useful, Lisa. I have the most trouble with my busy mind. It is very hard for me to successfully meditate.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/11/14 01:24 AM

Dear Teacher,

You know ,I am more of an active meditator than passive.
I wonder down deep inside of me .if someone that with true love for herself/himself can hurt herself ,if she does not meditate
as the :rules: specify? Does not Love give Love in return?

Just wondering!

Loong
Mahayana Buddhist
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/11/14 12:48 PM

Hi Loong, I do not think there are really 'rules' for meditation. Each approach has guidelines, but part of the reason there are so many different approaches is that different ones work best for different people. This is something the Buddha himself spoke about. So it isn't so much about 'rules' as it is about finding what works.

And I know that mindfulness in daily life is what works for you. But I am still hoping that at some point you will find a sitting practice that you like too, even if it is only for 10-20 minutes a day. There is a reason that every Buddhist tradition incorporates some kind of sitting meditation - it creates space for a different kind of discovery. But I agree there is no reason to force it.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/11/14 12:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Debbie-SpiritualityEditor
This is indeed very useful, Lisa. I have the most trouble with my busy mind. It is very hard for me to successfully meditate.


Hi Debbie, I think it's partly about letting go of what it means for a meditation to be 'successful'. If you tried it, it was successful! Each time you pull your mind back, you have practiced self-awareness. That is all. So it doesn't matter how much your mind wanders, you are practicing pulling it back. Dropping the expectations of anything else can free you up.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/27/14 03:09 PM

To all or none,

This thread has been neglected from my part.Mind you,Lisa,is the
Moderator,but I live for sharing.Lisa is a very very busy women,
that is why ,most of the posts you read are from ,me.
Like a lot of people ,I have a problem,with sitting meditation.

I cannot sit in the Lotus position because of my bad knees,and I
Tend to fall into level one of sleep.

Being no better nor worse than others ,starting from today ,I shall attack ,with love,the sitting meditation.I do active meditation on a regular basis,however,I seem to have a little problem with my
Mindfulness.
So for today ,I found a good article ,for people like me who like meditating with Music.

Following your breath while listening to music.

Listen to a piece of music.Breathe long,light and even breaths .Follow your breath ,be master of it While remaining aware of the movement and sentiments of the music.Do not get lost in the music ,but continue to be master of your breath and your self.

That is it for today.
The next text shall be:Following your breath while carrying on a conversation.Can't wait

Loong
Moving on or up!
Oops,is the breathing only from the nose ,or nose and mouth?
I will ask My Teacher !
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/27/14 03:38 PM

Hi Loong, this sounds like a lovely way to start. The lotus position is not necessary. If someone can do it correctly, it aligns the spine and keeps one balanced so they will not fall over in high states of meditation. But if it causes pain, it just becomes a distraction, and isn't necessary. I think the most important thing is attempting to have a straight spine, and you can do that in a chair perfectly well.

As for breathing, I teach breathe however is comfortable -nose, mouth, whatever. There are many meditation techniques that utilize controlled breathing techniques - in nose, out mouth, or visa versa, or even blocking one nostril and then the other to breathe in one side and out another, and then there are many breathing to a count sequences. These are useful for soothing our mind and energy being initially, as they are tied to energy lines in the body. But they are not necessary. If you have one that you like, then start out with it. Otherwise, just relax and breathe however it feels natural to you.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 01/27/14 03:46 PM

To all or none,

Well ,you just received the info ,from a meditation teacher,

I am sorry ,I am in a very joyful mood today,so let me add:
Is that quick service or not

Loong 😇😇
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/02/14 05:29 PM

To all or none,

I had 'promised :Following your breath while carrying on a conversation.

The problem is that the text is too long to minimize.

Sorry about that

loong
flying very high
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/04/14 05:32 PM

I have decided to turn this into a general meditation tips thread, so I will periodically add little posts of things you can try in meditation. I have meditated daily for 25 years, and have taught meditation for about 12.

Today's tip: Experiment with your posture. Our body holds everything, and what you feel in your body will be reflected in your mind and visa versa. Don't feel that you need a perfect posture, although a straight spine is very helpful, because it aligns your nervous system and skelo-muscular system, for maximum alertness. But this shouldn't come at the expense of pain. Use lower back cushions and pillows to the extent that you need them, and gradually strengthen your posture.

To experiment, sway back and forth and then gradually make your motions smaller and smaller, until you are barely moving side to side, and then gradually settle into a still state. While you do this, try and feel from the inside where your body wants to settle. Whenever you find that your mind has wandered during your meditation, try this rocking and feeling from the inside to settle again.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/11/14 06:08 PM

Next tip I would like to offer: Whatever you are focusing on in meditation, whether it's the breath, a mantra, a chakra, or mind itself, whenever your mind wanders and you catch it, before you shift your mind back to your focus, try to find the part of your mind that pulled you back from your mental wandering. Just for a moment, try to look for the part of your mind from which the thought 'Ah, I'm supposed to be meditating!' came from. When you glimpse this part of your mind that pulled you back, even if just for a moment, you are still, you are aware. Then you can go back to concentration meditation if you like.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/19/14 03:28 PM

Next tip: Try to meditate at the same time and place every day, especially when you are first developing a meditation practice. We are very much creatures of habit. Neuroscientists have now validated that if we want to build a new routine or habit of any type, it helps to repeat it exactly the same, at the same time of day and place, for 6 weeks or so. If you aren't trying to meditate every day, consider setting certain days of the week for it, so you have a regular weekly routine. Our brain stores all of this, and once the routine has been 'written' into our brain, it will trigger us at the appropriate times. Then you are more likely to get your routine back on track quickly after it's been interrupted for whatever reason (illness, travel, etc. The same is true of an exercise routine, BTW.)
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/27/14 05:18 PM

Something that can be very helpful in supporting a meditation practice is to spend some time creating a space for it in your home that really inspires you. It can just be a little corner, or if you have no space to create a dedicated meditation alter or corner, it can be a box that you pull out whenever you meditate. Select pictures, books, candles, incense, flowers, or anything else that soothes you, creates a sense of safety, and inspires you. In general it's best to steer clear of family pictures and things from your personal life, as viewing them right as you meditate is likely to get you thinking about those individuals or experiences with them, or dialogue you want to have with them. Instead, select things that really signal a break from your regular like for your formal meditation. Over time, your body will respond to this as soon as you sit down to meditate.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/27/14 05:42 PM

To Lisa ,
Just did 18 minutes of sitting meditation ,it is a start!

Loong
simple Buddhist.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/27/14 08:24 PM

Dear lisa

You being the expert on Meditation,When I meditated today,
I was listening to music ,having read in TNH book that one can meditate with music.What happened ,is once,i almost fell asleeo,second I had some sort of beginning of anguish.

Where did I go wrong.
Mind you just finished 3 hours of reading texts and typing them.

I await your comments.

loong
simple buddhist
p.s. the local newspaper has an article of 2 pages on a Mahayana Sangha about 20 minutes drive.
Posted By: Elleise - Clairvoyance

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/27/14 10:19 PM

Lisa,

This is a really GREAT insight! It's spot on and it DOES bring into focus the duality as beings of human nature on this plane one can endure.

I could expand, but in short, can a person willingly, even meditating, choose to expel themselves?

My feeling is "Yes" most certainly. I feel this in persons in Hollywood (those whom could pay any amount for any type of happiness they so desire, etc.).

However, those whom happen to be extra-ordinarily sensitive may have a difficult time of it, "settling" in - finding a comfort zone of sorts.

So your words are imperative!

Each of us is as a "snowflake." None like the other. However, each (in balance) is a cumulative which can restore, even within their designated "posts."

lovers
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/28/14 08:05 PM

Hi Elleise, love what you said about each of us being a 'snowflake' - completely unique and transient. I do see meditation as a way of discovering this level of our being.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/28/14 08:17 PM

Originally Posted By: loongdragon
When I meditated today,
I was listening to music ,having read in TNH book that one can meditate with music.What happened ,is once,i almost fell asleeo,second I had some sort of beginning of anguish.

Where did I go wrong.


The type of music is very important, and then still for some people music is not the right choice. It is very individual. Music triggers synapses, memories and emotions in our brain, and so depending on your own associations with a certain type of music, it may trigger a response. Some music, and sounds (like Tibetan chanting and 'singing bowls') are designed for meditation - they actually help us to access a silent mind, and different vibrational states (similar to visual cues like mandalas.) But most music is more from 'mansland' (to use your term!) and so it mostly reflects states of human emotion. And a lot of new age music is very sleepy - a lot of people use meditation for insomnia, so some of the music written for this can make you very drowsy.

So you can try out other music, or just give up on that altogether. Another idea is to try ambient nature sounds - you can actually get mp3s or CDS of these, and for many people, this is actually a much better background for meditation.

Or just working with silence is always good. Don't judge your meditation - even if you think for 90% of it, and only pull your mind back to present awareness once, that is one 'push-up' - one training in pulling your mind back to present awareness. All sorts of things are shown to us when we really have to sit with our mind - that is the value of sitting meditation.

If you go back to the article at the very start of this thread, 'sinking' mind is drowsiness. Incorporating some 'active' focus into our meditation will help us break this.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 02/28/14 08:42 PM

Dear Lisa

Thank you.
Will be rereading your first post.You know that I am not crazy about meditation, however it seems one the ways to enlightenment

Thank you

loong
simple buddhist
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/02/14 11:47 AM

Yes, it's really a very important part of the Eightfold Way. I can't think of any lineage that does not have sitting meditation as central to the path. Traditions vary in terms of meditation methods and recommended length of time, but it is always present.

Sitting meditation gives us a controlled environment in which to discover the luminosity at the heart of our awareness. It doesn't often feel like that at the beginning, because we are dealing so much with our thoughts. But even then, by looking at where our mind goes, what occupies it, we learn about its layers and energies. It is like being a scientist of our own mind.

That's why it is so important not to judge a meditation. Examine it but don't judge it. Examine it as a means of understanding your own mind, but don't judge its worthiness. Just do it!
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/10/14 06:37 PM

I wanted to talk about breathing in meditation a bit. Many meditation approaches revolve around focusing on the breath. This might include counting breaths, or controlled breathing (breathing in a certain pattern.) Or it might simply be using the breath as the initial 'object of focus' - pulling the awareness back to the breath over and over, often focusing on the associated sensations.

For many people, this is a wonderful way to begin meditating. They find focusing on the breath very accessible and centering. However, for others, focusing on the breath brings challenges. They have a hard time breathing naturally when focused on the breath, and end up forcing the breath, which makes them feel lightheaded or semi-hyperventilated.

They key to working with the breath is to really focus on this idea that you are 'watching' the breath. If you think in terms of watching, rather than controlling, it makes it much easier. Usually for someone who finds breath meditation challenging, counting or controlled breathing might not be the best choice initially. But if you can think in terms of watching the breath and noticing the sensations it creates on your mouth, throat, etc, as it goes in and out, that is much easier.

Also, keeping the breath centered in your belly is helpful. If we tense up we breath higher up, in our chests. Gently placing one hand on your belly, and focusing on the rise and fall as you inhale and exhale, can help with relaxing into the breath, rather that feeling as if you are forcing it...
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/20/14 06:27 PM

Next meditation tidbit: Handling expectations in meditation. We hear many encouraging things about meditation, in terms of how it can benefit our health, help our concentration, connect us with spirit, transport us to bliss, awaken us - you name it, it's been said about meditation! And although those 'benefits' help to motivate us and are all wonderful, they can also end up discouraging us from meditating if we don't experience those benefits right away. We may feel like "ok I've been doing this for a few days/weeks/months now and all I am doing is sitting here wasting time thinking, I am not getting any benefit."

Some things that may help you to not give up: Studies on both the health benefits of meditation and the increases in self-awareness (which maps to brain changes) have shown that these benefits are actually not linked to how much someone enjoys, or doesn't enjoy, their meditation, or even whether they felt they were doing 'well' or 'not well'. In other words, we really can't judge these kinds of benefits ourselves. But most likely, if you were to test your blood pressure and stress hormones and other physical measures before you began meditating regularly and after a few weeks, you would see a difference, even if you felt like you were just sitting there thinking. And the same is true for psychological self-awareness assessments.

Just the very act of practicing - of sitting down and pulling your mind back to itself (or your breath, or whatever you are focused on) over and over after it wanders, has benefits. It is like exercise in that way - whether you enjoy doing pushups or not, if you do them, your arms will get stronger!

On another level, this word 'practice' is really key. We talk about a meditation 'practice' and it's important to remember that is what meditation is. Practice. Practice for focusing our mind, practice resting in our true nature, practice inquiring into the roots of our awareness, practice connecting with spirit - whatever you view it as. And as in any practice, we don't always feel progress. But repetition always pays off. So letting go of the expectations is key.

On still another level, letting go of those expectations is itself an important part of our meditation journey. Those expectations themselves are thoughts and thoughts structures. Sometimes they arise as the result of subconscious fears we may have about what meditation may surface for us. In that sense, simply sitting calmly with the doubts themselves, and gently letting go of them, will allow a greater peace to arise.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/20/14 06:40 PM

Dear Lisa

Funny you write this article.I was about to E-mail you regarding Vipassana Meditation .What I got on Wiki is ok ,but you know me,I want it simple.
What is Vipassana Meditation ,give me YOUR view ,and how to start.

Thanking you in advance

loong
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/21/14 04:39 PM

Here's my article on it, but I will respond in more depth later.

Vipassana or Insight Meditation

As with anything, there are multiple forms taught, so all that matters is that you find an approach that you connect with. It's also often called insight meditation, especially here in the West, because the Insight Meditation Society is very well-known.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/21/14 05:55 PM

Dear Lisa,

Did a bit of Vipassana ,watching or feeling the air caressing the naustrils.I tend to fall asleep ,

loong
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/22/14 02:43 PM

Yes, it's not a form that offers a lot of stimulation in the way that mantra, chakra, or visual practice does. Although those other forms are meant to lead to the same practice once the mind has stilled.

Another form of Vipassana/Insight meditation is slightly more active - you ask questions as a way of moving deeper into your awareness. Things like 'what part of my awareness is always still?', 'where do my thoughts come from?', 'what part of me sees my own mind?' 'what or who sees that 'seer'?'

After a question you simply try and sit and allow the answer to arise - not as words, but as a shift into a deeper awareness. It is a bit like koan practice.

Really, this practice is found in some form in every Buddhist tradition I can think of, as is focusing on the breath.
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/22/14 03:06 PM

Dear Lisa
What you have written ,I do every nite, questionning my understanding and living all the material learnt in the day ,choosing what is for me r not,refreshing old beleifs etc ,however I do not do it in a meditation position .

loong
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/22/14 03:27 PM

Yes, this is a little different. This is not the same as contemplating these questions philosophically or intellectually, as then you stay in the mind, in mentation. As insight meditation, you ask these questions to turn your mind on itself, like a mirror facing a mirror. You do not seek to answer them. They are like arrows you cast into your mind, and then sit in stillness and discover the awareness coming through you. They loosen the sense of there being a 'thinker' - you begin to connect with awareness coming through you, apart from any opinions or beliefs.

So if you are used to doing this anyway, you may want to experiment with doing it in meditation. Just wait between questions and look into the workings of your awareness. It is just very tricky to do this without creating new mental structures - without getting stuck in the intellectual mind.

In my view, it is best balanced with heart work too - metta meditation, compassion meditation, Tara or heart chakra work - some form that centers in metta or boddhicitta.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 03/26/14 12:58 PM

Next Meditation Tip: Another wonderful tool for handling a busy or drowsy mind is what's called 'noting' in the Insight meditation tradition. Whenever you catch your mind wandering, take a moment to label what it is you were doing, like 'worrying', 'planning', 'projecting', 'daydreaming', 'dozing' etc. You just label it, and then return your mind to your meditation. Just this simple step helps you to detach from the mental activity in a way that is non-judgmental - just noting/noticing.

If you have a lot of one 'activity' happening, say you are returning to worrying or planning over and over, then take a moment to explore what is happening in your body as you do it. Notice where you feel it in your body - you may notice you are tensing your shoulders, gripping your jaw, or feeling butterflies in your stomach. Or perhaps if you are drowsy, you notice that you are slumping, or your mouth has fallen open. Again, don't judge, just note, and then return to your meditation.

Remember, you are building your meditation 'muscles' - as Insight teacher Sharon Salzburg puts it, "Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the 'real' meditation."
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/01/14 08:04 PM

Along the lines of the 'noting' tip above, there is another tool that forms the acronym RAIN:


R Recognize what is happening
A Allow life to be just as it is
I Investigate inner experience with kindness
N Non-Identification.

This is used by several meditation teachers, but I am familiar with it from Tara Brach. It is a series of steps you can use in meditation and out, and in fact you can view your meditation as practice for using these four steps when difficult emotions come up in life.

First, become aware of what you are feeling or thinking - this is the RECOGNIZE step. Then note any part of you that is resisting it, trying to push it away or avoid it, and instead ACCEPT what is happening, what you are feeling. Then use your natural curiosity to INVESTIGATE how it is manifesting in your body - where do you feel it, how does it feel etc. And finally settle into NON-IDENTIFICATION, meaning don't attach, let it float on through you like a cloud in the sky- not pushing it away, but not attaching either.

Really, all of meditation is practice for using these steps throughout our life until they become second nature...
Posted By: AKLisa- Knitting Editor

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/03/14 06:03 PM

I have something that keeps happening during my meditation times that I don't understand. I think this is the best thread to post about it. Often when I meditate, after a time, tears begin to roll down my face. It is not the same type of crying as in a reaction to pain, yet it happens fairly consistently. This is especially true if I am using a chakra or energy center based meditation instead of a mindfulness meditation - what is going on? is this a problem? Is there something I can do differently?
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/03/14 06:18 PM

Hi Lisa, I teach and practice a lot of chakra and energy-based meditation, and usually tears of this type are a kind of releasing. Are there emotions involved or not - are you feeling anything in particular as they arise? If so, then those emotions are able to come to the surface when you are meditating - there may not be enough 'space' in your life for them to do so at any other time. Also, whatever chakras you are focusing on may be holding emotions that release in this way.

However, it's also not uncommon for tears to simply fall, seemingly not linked to any particular emotion that we might usually associate with tears, especially when we engage in chakra meditation. In these cases, it is simply the body's and subtle body's way of releasing energies that don't need to be held. It is like when we release tension in a muscle through a massage or pressure point. Everyone's body releases energies differently - in your case, tears may be one way it does so. It is actually not that unusual at all - not sure if that is a comfort or not! I tend to shiver/tremble when I am releasing, as if I am cold, but I am not actually cold. There are other things people often feel - some people feel extreme tension in their shoulders, and then it releases suddenly when they end the meditation.

So in terms of whether or not to do something differently, I would say no, the tears themselves are not a reason to do anything differently in and of themselves. If they are accompanied by emotions, you may want to do some inquiry work around the emotions themselves. If they are not, you can either accept them as part of your release process, or you can try to find other ways to release from your body - for example, stretching or doing yoga just before meditation may clear you out more, so that this kind of releasing doesn't need to happen. Often, we go through phases, so this might happen for a few weeks or months while your energy body is going through a shift, and then suddenly it will stop.

I hope that helps - please feel free to provide more detail if you want, and I may be able to help see more specifically what is going on. And thanks for a great question!
Posted By: loongdragon

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/03/14 06:31 PM

To Lisa,

Tears coming from right eye,have been happening in the last 2 years.You know I do not meditate sitting.

I have always blesssed these moments as gifts from my Mind,for
living such a fantastic life.

Truly yours
loong
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/08/14 01:35 PM

Wanted to share this additional quote from Sharon Salzburg about 'chitta' (or citta):

“In Buddhism there is one word for mind & heart: chitta. Chitta refers not just to thoughts and emotions in the narrow sense of arising from the brain, but also to the whole range of consciousness, vast & unimpeded.”

In any kind of meditation, we are dealing with chitta. Often we think only in terms of thoughts, but we are really dealing with anything that arises - physical, emotional, mental, astral - really most of what we experience is a combination. Anything that arises in our consciousness.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/08/14 11:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism
Along the lines of the 'noting' tip above, there is another tool that forms the acronym RAIN:


R Recognize what is happening
A Allow life to be just as it is
I Investigate inner experience with kindness
N Non-Identification.

This is used by several meditation teachers, but I am familiar with it from Tara Brach. It is a series of steps you can use in meditation and out, and in fact you can view your meditation as practice for using these four steps when difficult emotions come up in life.

First, become aware of what you are feeling or thinking - this is the RECOGNIZE step. Then note any part of you that is resisting it, trying to push it away or avoid it, and instead ACCEPT what is happening, what you are feeling. Then use your natural curiosity to INVESTIGATE how it is manifesting in your body - where do you feel it, how does it feel etc. And finally settle into NON-IDENTIFICATION, meaning don't attach, let it float on through you like a cloud in the sky- not pushing it away, but not attaching either.

Really, all of meditation is practice for using these steps throughout our life until they become second nature...


I wanted to say a bit more about this tool, and particularly the non-identification step...non-identification isn't a pushing away of thoughts or emotions. It isn't repression. It's simply allowing the thoughts to keep moving through...this is why it is the last step, not the first one, because if it's the first step, we tend to react by pushing away a thought, which sometimes creates its own dynamic, where we then end up in an internal 'battle'...
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/10/14 12:34 PM

I was reminded today of how helpful focusing on posture can be in meditation. Mind and body are not separate, and we can really see this when we note our posture each time we realize our mind has been wandering, or that we have gotten drowsy. Often when our mind is busy, we will find a lot of tension in parts of our back, and our posture may be crooked or arched. When we are drowsy we usually slouch in some way - if not in our back, then in our head or face.

Sometimes working with the body is actually the most helpful way to find the balance between alertness and calm. If our body is too tense, our mind tends to be busier - we are generating a lot of tension that translates into mental activity. So in that case, taking some deep breaths and relaxing into our posture may help. On the other hand, when we are too relaxed, we will get spacy or drowsy. So it's a matter of finding the middle point, alert and calm.
Posted By: AKLisa- Knitting Editor

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/13/14 01:30 AM

Thanks, Lisa, for the reassurance that there is not a problem. I do feel a little more cleaned out after the crying occurs in meditation.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/13/14 01:44 PM

Then I think just let it be. I think your body is just doing what it needs to do. The more I practice, the more I realize the body really holds everything, and has its own wisdom:)
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/20/14 08:42 PM

I was reminded today of how helpful longer meditations can be at times. I have had a very busy, social weekend, with visitors and kid activities etc. So when I sat down today to meditate, my mind was especially busy. I pulled my mind back over and over for awhile. Eventually it was like the sky cleared - my mind settled down, like when stirred up water gradually settles, and then it was a much calmer and more self-aware meditation. This is just how it is - our nervous system and subtle body get stirred up by all sorts of things, and it takes time for them to settle.
Posted By: Lisa LowCarb

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 04/29/14 01:30 PM

I just wanted to offer an alternative thought. Whenever I sit on my futon, tears start rolling down my cheek. I realized it was the blanket there which had allergens on it. When I washed the blanket, it stopped happening.

So it might be worth it to try meditating in other locations, just to see if there is an allergen problem in one specific area.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 05/15/14 10:09 PM

Continuing this theme of working with our body, it is amazing to center in the body as a form of practice in and of itself. Noting each of our physical sensations in turn is actually a wonderful mindfulness practice, and for some people it's especially useful when struggling with strong emotions during a meditation.

So for example, if you are feeling angry with someone or anxious about something coming up, you may find your mind returning over and over to thoughts and 'stories' related to this. Sometimes in this case, pulling the mind back to the breath or a visual meditation focus may be very difficult. Instead, try focusing on one physical 'sense' at a time, and noting everything you perceive through it. For example, first note everything you are smelling, then everything you hear, then every color you see, every sensation on your skin, etc. Spend some time really settling into each sense.

I find that often a physical mindfulness practice like this will be more calming than a breath or visually focused one...
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 06/12/14 01:19 PM

The Solstices are considered very special times for meditation in every tradition I can think of. I think they are a wonderful time for discovering a sense of internal space, or expansive awareness. When the mind is busy, instead of fighting with it, try taking a deep breath and as you exhale let go into a sense of expansiveness. Imagine all of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations - all of the 'busyness' that captivates us so much, are just so much flotsam and jetsum floating around in the larger expanse of space and awareness inside of you. At this time of intense energy, there is often an increased access to this feeling...
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 07/08/14 05:39 PM

I wanted to talk about meditation ruts a little bit. There is great value in simply sitting every day, and letting go of expectations of anything in particular happening. Then we can just see what arises and deal with it directly. However, sometimes we may feel like we are in a meditation rut, where we are just stuck in cycles of drowsiness of busyness day after day, and in that case, we may need to change things around more assertively. Two things that I feel really help with meditation ruts are 1) meditating outside (or changing my meditation location in some other significant way) and 2) switching to walking meditation for a few days instead.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 07/28/14 08:51 PM

I wanted to talk a little bit about spaciness in meditation. This is when you feel a bit floaty, or as if you are moving in and out of focus in your meditation. You might suddenly come back to your meditation, and realize that you were 'away' but you don't remember what you were thinking about (in contrast to when you come back from a thinking bout or 'busy mind.') You might feel floaty, or a bit like a part of you is somewhere else. Sometimes you might not be sure whether or not you were asleep, because you may have the sensation of having woke from a dream, but there aren't any indications you've been asleep (such as drooling or your head snapping back up!) You don't necessarily have a quiet mind when experiencing this spaciness either - you might have thoughts running in one part of our mind, and feeling this spaciness in another part, and then find yourself coming back from both.

As with all meditation experiences, that feeling of coming back is the key moment. That is the 'watcher' or mindfulness part of your awareness springing into action. Often spaciness means we have traveled into what's sometimes called the 'astral planes ' - planes of awareness that are dreamlike but not empty. The trap of these planes is that some of them actually feel very blissful so we can easily get attached to them. I think especially in this very over-stimulated world we all live in, the astral planes can seem like an escape. Also if we are in physical discomfort of some kind, some part of us might seek the escape from our body that going into these planes seems to offer.

There's nothing wrong with these planes, and in fact seers and shamans often learn to navigate them, as they believe that omens and signs can be found within them. But from a Buddhist perspective, they are not abiding awareness or Buddha-mind. The seeming dissolution we seem to feel in them is not the same thing as true ego-dissolution - it is more like ego escape. Abiding awareness or Buddha-nature has a clear, crisp, even ordinary feeling to it. It is full presence, not absence (even though it is sometimes described as emptiness - there is a koan for you!)

I myself am very prone to these states, as someone who works with energy and intuition. I do use them for certain things in my work. But they aren't awakening states. I have had to learn (and am still learning) how to detach from these states and move into a more full presence.

Hope that's helpful to someone out there!
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 08/24/14 09:14 PM

Here is a great quote that I like:

"Realization is not knowledge about the universe, but the living experience of the nature of the universe. Until we have such living experience, we remain dependent on examples, and subject to their limits." - Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

This is what meditation ultimately is: the living experience of the nature of the universe. Thinking is being dependent on examples, and subjected to their limits. Of course meditation doesn't often feel like this, but even those little gaps of space and silence that we get between our thoughts are moments of experiencing ourselves as the vaster nature of the universe.
Posted By: Lisa - Buddhism

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 11/21/14 12:48 PM

With the holidays coming up many of us find our minds particularly busy, and it's easy to get caught up in the stress. I think this is a great time to remember the fundamentals of deep breathing, both as part of our meditation and just throughout our day. Science has proven again and again that simply taking a few deep belly breaths can halt the momentum of stress chemicals building up in our system.

Whenever we are stressed, our breathing constricts, and we begin to breathe more in our chests, with smaller, shorter breaths. Stress triggers different coping mechanisms, and for many of us (myself included) our minds become busy, spinning through all of our worries or ways we can get everything done (other people space out or 'escape', so it's helpful to think about what your reactions to stress are.) As we do this, we trigger the release of stress chemicals - adrenaline and cortisol among others - in our system, and then it becomes a cycle, because these cause more constriction and tension in our mind and body.

Deep belly breaths, where we expand our belly on the inhale and relax on the exhale, can break this cycle. It causes us to take more air into our lungs, which begins to relax our body, and that in turn slows the momentum of stress chemicals. 2-3 deep belly breaths at any time can really help deal with stress, and doing a series of deep breaths before meditation can really help start your meditation off on the right foot.
Posted By: Trichakra

Re: Dealing with Busy and Drowsy Mind in Meditation - 09/16/16 01:49 AM

[quote=Debbie-SpiritualityEditor]This is indeed very useful.[/quote]

Agree with you. Its very useful.
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