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How do I know when Im meditating properly?

.... And not just thinking with my eyes closed.

I wont lie, I have fallen victim to many meditation misconceptions like "I'm not supposed to think" or "meditation means I have to be passive and emotionless" and even "when meditating I have to fall into a trance like state" after a year I realised this was just me falling asleep lol.

I have read a few books on mindfulness meditation and the instructions all very simple but still I find myself wondering "am I even doing anything at all" and feel like I have to really be putting in alot of effort to know I'm achieving something. Here's what I do morning and night for around 20 mins each time.

Sit cross legged (I know its not necessary its just how I do it)
Set my alarm and close my eyes, I'm normally confronted with thoughts such as "wow this is gonna be a long 20 mins I really don't feel like this" but I realise this is just thought and it soon goes.
After sometimes even 10 minutes of being lost in thought I go "hang on I'm supposed to be doing something here" so I notice the thought or feeling then note I am to bring my focus to my breath. As I'm aware of my breathing I make mental notes with each one. "breathing in.....breathing out". My mind wanders again of course but I just realise I've gone off course without condemning myself and return to breath and that's it for 20 mins pretty much.
I find because I can't actually get someone actually in my head showing me how to do it I can never truly know if I'm doing it right. Sometimes doubt makes me wonder "am I even doing anything at all" but doubt is normal. It worries me cause I think that if I've been doing it wrong than I've essentially just been wasting my time with it for like 18 months.. Do most people have this concern?

silverdantepw

Comments

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    This concern is absolutely natural and I think with anything it comes down to a few factors:

    quality
    frequency
    motivation

    And I think if the areas are lacking or not fulfilling your expectations, you can always change your expectations or:

    if the_ quality_ of your meditation is not focused, blurry, full of thoughts and not settling: start doing stretches before you sit. Thoughts "yoga of speech" actually occur in the entire body, not just in your head or in your thumbs or whatever. The more attuned your whole body is to breathing and your current state of awareness, the deeper your sit can go.

    I like to think of it more scientifically at times: the body is an instrument of inquiry and it needs (really, needs) positivity, upliftedness, diligence, and a gentle effort that is like putting a tortoise back on a paper to act as a paper weight, but letting it wander and gently steering it back (or carrying it back) from time to time.

    So that's for quality. For frequency it's really up to you, but you can start with something simple "what is the experience of the cosmos in this very moment at this very place?" It's really important to sense out the activity, tension, locked'up'edness or laxity of your body in various areas. Just by "watching" the breath you will be able to take note of when it tenses up, when it's rhythmic, and when it's long and deep or short and quick, or really whatever it is. It's not like you should force an experience, because that would be like trying to push the ocean away, or trying to bring it closer.

    Motivation:
    well a lot of really brilliant people and compassionate geniuses have pretty much laid it down solidly, but meditation is meant to help us unfetter ourselves from our self-centeredness and as such the motivation must be checked from time to time. Bodhichitta (which you may have heard of) is also called Awakening Mind, and it's all about cultivating that mentality which values others more than self, that values their well being. Eventually we can break free from the ingrained habit of viewing our "self" concept as separate and lasting, and self-caused, and see the interconnectedness and reliance all phenomena must have.

    Really, asking for meditation advice on a forum like this though... brave move. I'm sure you'll get a lot of interesting replies but in general I suspect the consensus will be "go see a living master!" in which case, your work may be cut out for you :)

    MingleJeffrey
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Good video! :)

    lobster
  • @seeker242 said:
    Good video! :)

    That was indeed a good video thanks. What resonated with me was what he said about breath being subtle and I can see how even concentration on that you can lose yourself in the rhythm. I do sometimes try and expand my awareness to other things like "breathing in I'm aware of the clock, breathing out I'm aware of the road" it takes abit more proactivity but really keeps the mind focused.

  • @sova said:
    This concern is absolutely natural and I think with anything it comes down to a few factors:

    quality
    frequency
    motivation

    And I think if the areas are lacking or not fulfilling your expectations, you can always change your expectations or:

    if the_ quality_ of your meditation is not focused, blurry, full of thoughts and not settling: start doing stretches before you sit. Thoughts "yoga of speech" actually occur in the entire body, not just in your head or in your thumbs or whatever. The more attuned your whole body is to breathing and your current state of awareness, the deeper your sit can go.

    I like to think of it more scientifically at times: the body is an instrument of inquiry and it needs (really, needs) positivity, upliftedness, diligence, and a gentle effort that is like putting a tortoise back on a paper to act as a paper weight, but letting it wander and gently steering it back (or carrying it back) from time to time.

    So that's for quality. For frequency it's really up to you, but you can start with something simple "what is the experience of the cosmos in this very moment at this very place?" It's really important to sense out the activity, tension, locked'up'edness or laxity of your body in various areas. Just by "watching" the breath you will be able to take note of when it tenses up, when it's rhythmic, and when it's long and deep or short and quick, or really whatever it is. It's not like you should force an experience, because that would be like trying to push the ocean away, or trying to bring it closer.

    Motivation:
    well a lot of really brilliant people and compassionate geniuses have pretty much laid it down solidly, but meditation is meant to help us unfetter ourselves from our self-centeredness and as such the motivation must be checked from time to time. Bodhichitta (which you may have heard of) is also called Awakening Mind, and it's all about cultivating that mentality which values others more than self, that values their well being. Eventually we can break free from the ingrained habit of viewing our "self" concept as separate and lasting, and self-caused, and see the interconnectedness and reliance all phenomena must have.

    Really, asking for meditation advice on a forum like this though... brave move. I'm sure you'll get a lot of interesting replies but in general I suspect the consensus will be "go see a living master!" in which case, your work may be cut out for you :)

    Thanks for the insight. Yeah my work is indeed cut out, I do visit a sangha sometimes and I'm quite long overdue for another visit but I just try and read alot to compensate for the lack of one to one wisdom with a master..

    silver
  • @sova I've read books by Thich Nhat Hanh, Steve Hagen and Bhante Gunaratana. What I really enjoyed though was 10% happier by Dan Harris, I really liked how mindfulness came from the point of view of a very western skeptic. Right now I'm reading Sam Harris Waking Up and after that Im looking forward to reading Eckhart Tolles the Power of Now.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Mingle said:
    Do most people have this concern?

    Nope.
    Been practicing improper meditation for ages. ;)

    ... good video, reading list and advice.

    Here are some pointers that may be useful:

    • association with slowing down and monkey mind taming responds well to cues eg. incense, move to sacred space, prostrations, dedication of merit etc.
    • the eyes kept open and lightly focused on a floor spot, tends to slightly negate the thinking process
    • be gentle with your inability/lack of progress/amateur efforts. You are doing fine. Why? ... because despite everything you are doing. That is the key.

    Doing 'not doing' - how hard can that be? Tee Hee. Now we know ... <3

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Just keep doing what you're doing (even if it's the wrong thing) and eventually you will start to bore yourself with all the dissection, assessment, quality control, craving of gold stars, praising, critiquing ... blah blah blah.

    Seriously, just take a little time out of your life to sit still and focus the mind. Meditation is not that serious ... meditation is just not about something else.

    Keep on keepin' on.

    Best wishes.

    Zero
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Have you worked your way up to 20 minutes, or did you just choose to start there? If you are starting it with dread, you might want to back the time down some. I started with just a few minutes and worked up as I felt comfortable in each time frame and then moved up.

    Just sitting quietly changes the brain and calms the nervous system. Don't worry about "doing" anything or "not doing" anything.

    For myself, I enjoy the way Trungpa and Pema Chodron teach meditation, which is to note when you find your thoughts running away as "thinking" and then gently return to your breath with no judgement. It creates a distinction for my mind and it is easier to let the thoughts go and come back. I've been meditating for 5 years now and there are still difficult days when my thoughts are running amuck and I spend an entire half hour telling myself "thinking, thinking, thinking" over and over again. But the overall process has been extremely beneficial.

    Also, sometimes if my mind is crazy I change tactics and do mantra meditation or tonglen.

    Namada
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Hey @Mingle - For me, the meditation and mindfulness practice was a piece of cake, compared to lots (and I mean lots) of younger people who've been posting tons of their frustrations and insecurities about 'doing it right' on this and a couple of other forums I frequent.

    Yeah, there was a lot of curiosity and puzzlement for me at first, as to what it's 'all about', but it didn't take too long for me to figure after having a few books and conversations under my belt that the bottom line purpose of it all is to create a little elbow room in one's mind by learning (heheh) to think of nothing in particular. And there is no benefit to the false belief that it has to be done any particular way.

    lobsterShoshinVastmind
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited December 2015

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice -- gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."
    ~Sensei Sevan Ross~

    The above quote should be a must read for every one beginning the Buddhist journey of self discovery (or should that be non-self discovery ??? :wink: )

    Practice makes perfect practice perfect @Mingle and patience is a virtue.....

  • It is present and transparent, utter openness,
    Without outside, without inside,
    An all pervasiveness,
    Without boundary and without direction.
    The wide-open expanse of the view,
    The true condition of the mind,
    Is like the sky, like space,
    Without center, without edge, without goal.
    ~ Shabkar

  • MetaphasicMetaphasic NC, USA Explorer

    "How do I know when I'm meditating properly?"

    When you no longer wonder.

    Shoshin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I've come to let go of expectations when I get to this point. Not in any mystical sense or anything, just that instead of using meditation to gain insight or whatever else, I meditate to recharge.

    If I start wandering off which I will, I just come back to center without scolding myself or whatever. The more I wander the better because it can be about coming back to center.

  • @Mingle said:
    How do I know when Im meditating properly?

    Depends on what do you want to achieve.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Barah, there is nothing to achieve. If one sits in Meditation with a specific aim, the target eludes you.
    If you sit in Meditation and permit things to arise, pass and fall away unhindered, then the Mind Comes Home, and Calm Abiding is present.

    Rather like chasing a small deer to give it a handful of peanuts... it will always leap and bound in the opposite direction. Sit quietly in the forest, palm open and offering....
    The 'deer' will come to you.....

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2015

    May sound trite but I feel it is at the core of what people have been wisely saying:

    @Metaphasic said:
    "How do I know when I'm meditating properly?"

    When you no longer wonder.

    Having youthful hormones, rearing to go, trying to master meditation is not fought. Not fighting the mind with more monkey mind is the way.

    Settling, stilling, not wondering or wandering.

    The first 'observing' of the unsettled barrel of monkeys at the core of our being comes as quite a shock.

    The pages of the book want to get to the 'good monkey stuff'. There is no good monkey stuff in this meditational sense ...

    Sit gently, like softly determined, centered, balanced stillness ...

    silver
  • BarahBarah Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @federica said:
    @Barah, there is nothing to achieve. If one sits in Meditation with a specific aim, the target eludes you.
    If you sit in Meditation and permit things to arise, pass and fall away unhindered, then the Mind Comes Home, and Calm Abiding is present.

    First, you say that there is no goal, and then you say about mind coming home, and abiding in the present, which is in fact a goal. ;)
    Anyway, it's up to @Mingle whether he has a goal or not. Jumping into conclusions, and giving recipes for proper practice, often proves to be misleading.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The point is, that it comes home unhurried or unhindered by any objective. It's not the goal, it's the result.

    There's a difference.
    Omitting the remainder of my post in your quote, doesn't change my intended message.

  • BarahBarah Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Anticipated result is... a goal. Now, when you presented it, how do you imagine @Mingle to forget about it? If he takes you seriously, he will try to validate his meditation, checking if his mind came home into calm abiding.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Let's be pedantic. :p

    The goal, way, anticipated result is to sit. It is a method. Oh dear, have we failed in our effort?

    No. The failure is giving up. So the goal is to just sit.

    Just sitting is what the Buddha did after years of fasting, denial, ascetic cleverness etc.

    He just sat under a tree and he still had a reason, motivation, goal etc

    What a failure that Buddha was ... or was he ...

    He sat ... until [wait for it] Mara and monkey/puppy mind/cleverness/dialogue ceased its interference.

    YEAH! Result!

    Go Buddha! Go BUDDHA! GO BUDDHA!

  • BarahBarah Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @lobster said:
    Let's be pedantic. :p

    The goal, way, anticipated result is to sit. It is a method. Oh dear, have we failed in our effort?

    No. The failure is giving up. So the goal is to just sit.

    Just sitting is what the Buddha did after years of fasting, denial, ascetic cleverness etc.

    He just sat under a tree and he still had a reason, motivation, goal etc

    What a failure that Buddha was ... or was he ...

    He sat ... until [wait for it] Mara and monkey/puppy mind/cleverness/dialogue ceased its interference.

    YEAH! Result!

    Go Buddha! Go BUDDHA! GO BUDDHA!

    This is simply not true.
    You can fantasy about how it looked like, but if it doesn't have anything to do with what we know about Buddhism, then what's the point?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Meditation and Buddhism are a bit like a ribbon in the hair. It's good to combine the two, but not always mandatory.
    The OP is focusing on his Meditation. Buddhism need not necessarily be relevant here.

  • I will rephrase my first post in this topic:
    Why do you meditate?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Fair question. :)

    @Mingle has not been coming back much though, has he....? :confounded:

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Hi folks, After reading the last few (slightly contentious) posts, a song came to my head - one that was sung by various family members when I was a pup - couldn't help but wonder if you'd heard it or if it was just another one of those childhood silly songs - called 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain". I'm pretty sure that's why Buddha meditated. He was taught by 'the best' right? The Buddha went as fur as he could go over that mountain. Why? To see what he could see - of course! Like mom always said: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) I think we should keep it that simple when it comes to meditation. (ooh, I almost capitalized the 'm' word) O.o

    Oh...almost forgot: TGIF! :glasses:

  • @silver said:
    He was taught by 'the best' right?

    By whom exactly?

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Well, according to my fave book Old Path White Clouds, they were Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.

  • BarahBarah Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Correct. Your book will probably tell you why he left them ;).

    'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left. - Buddha

    Hard to call them "the best" teachers right?

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Strange how the best teachers all seem to have left their best teachers behind them.

    lobster
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @Barah said:
    Correct. Your book will probably tell you why he left them ;).

    'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left. - Buddha

    Hard to call them "the best" teachers right?

    I guess you haven't read that particular book - written by Master TNH, incidentally. He left both of them, because he reached the ends of what they could teach him, and after exhausting all that the second one had to teach, he surmised that he would have to continue his quest on his own...and he did.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @Barah said:

    @silver said:
    He was taught by 'the best' right?

    By whom exactly?

    I think it was Bruce Lee that said the best teachers are catalysts. In many of the stories of Buddha's awakening there is the girl that felt compassion for the starving Sidhartha like being that was all but rotting under that tree and started feeding him rice.

    I think his own meditation left him open to receive this compassion in such a way as to awaken the Buddha.

    Others may have shown him the ropes but it was this simple act of compassion that allowed him the logic to climb them.

    My own opinion

    silver
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Barah said:
    Correct. Your book will probably tell you why he left them ;).

    'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left. - Buddha

    Hard to call them "the best" teachers right?

    No, not hard at all. They taught him that not everybody is right all the time, @Barah....

  • BarahBarah Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @silver said:
    I guess you haven't read that particular book - written by Master TNH, incidentally. He left both of them, because he reached the ends of what they could teach him, and after exhausting all that the second one had to teach, he surmised that he would have to continue his quest on his own...and he did.

    I quoted from Maha-Saccaka Sutta, probably the most accurate source there is on this subject. It's quite clear about the usefulness of Kalama and Ramaputta practices. What is important, he abandoned them and returning to his own practice from his childhood. I'm not saying that he did not benefit from those practices in some way, they simply didn't lead to Awakening.

    @ourself said:
    My own opinion

    I would say that reality is the best teacher, and Buddha is good example of it.

    @federica said:
    No, not hard at all. They taught him that not everybody is right all the time, @Barah....

    Have your red it somewhere in the scriptures, or did you come up with it just to pinch me?

    Imagine how frustrating it is, to point out mistakes, especially those basic ones.... but if you prefer to remain in those misconceptions, that's fine with me. I am just saying what I know to the best of my knowledge. If I don't know something, I am not preaching about it. If someone proves me wrong, then I am grateful, because he saved me from error. This is an old Hindu philosophers custom, maybe that why it's not seen often nowadays.

    bookworm
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    As already stated, this thread has a post at the beginning seeking guidance on Meditation.
    The OP doesn't necessarily seek any advice on Buddhist meditation.

  • From a Buddhist perspective I feel that "right" is not easily achieved. It may take a lifetime or longer. But as far as regular meditation goes, I guess it's "right" if it feels good before during and after.

    Barah
  • You know you are meditating properly when you

    • are aware of object(s) including monkey mind within your field of awareness
    • can observe their arising and passing away ie. impermanence
    • without getting personally involved in them ie. impersonal nature
    Shoshin
  • How hard can it be? Here yet again is my page on meditation ...
    http://yinyana.tumblr.com/day/2014/11/06

    I want patience but refuse to wait, I want it now! [oops]

    I remember reading about how the most important posture in Qi Ong is 'just standing'. In terms of understanding Tai Chi combat it is of prime importance ... ...
    But ... but ... how can not moving be conducive to knowing how to move?

    How can savasana be considered of vital yogic importance? It is just lying on your back ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavasana

    :confounded:

  • Let me see...hmmm... Oh, here it is (sort of)

    ..When you are calm
    When you are at ease
    When you are at rest
    (but not asleep)
    When your mind is alert
    But tranquil
    With serene awareness
    You have begun

    Athletes and some martial artists have referred to this as being 'In the Zone'.

    As Yogi Berra might have said (and probably did): "Everybody's gotta start somewhere."

    Peace to all

    silverShoshinWalkerlobster
  • @federica said:
    Fair question. :)

    @Mingle has not been coming back much though, has he....? :confounded:

    Lol no. This kinda just went on without me. Just wonderin if I can read all of my 45 notifications!!

    Jeffreylobstersilver
  • Ajahn Brahm says that you are meditating properly when you meditate and feel happy/peaceful/at ease/relaxed/[insert other good qualities in here] :)

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Mingle said:

    @federica said:
    Fair question. :)

    @Mingle has not been coming back much though, has he....? :confounded:

    Lol no. This kinda just went on without me. Just wonderin if I can read all of my 45 notifications!!

    If you - or anyone else - ever wants their own thread 'interrupted' while they catch up with all the 'notifications', posts, comments and input, you (all) only have to ask.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    @federica said:
    Fair question. :)

    @Mingle has not been coming back much though, has he....? :confounded:

    Lol no. This kinda just went on without me. Just wonderin if I can read all of my 45 notifications!!

    45?! We all wrote 45 posts in your absence? Holey Moley! O.o

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    How do I know when Im meditating properly?

    @Mingle when experiencing non-conceptual awareness....That's when the flow of the experience is undisturbed by concepts...( as per @pegembara's explanation )

    "When one sits down to meditate it can be such a wonder full thing-
    but if one thinks someone is doing it, then alarm bells should ring-
    For to think that someone's in control is just a big mistake-
    the more that one thinks one's in control the bigger one's headache
    So tis best to just sit and let things unfold as they are meant to do-
    and things full of wonder will arise and then depart, no need to involve you !"

  • To be awake and alert while dispassionately observing your interior landscape pretty much answers your question.

    Shoshin
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