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Feeling (un)sure of myself

Hello all,

So a recent trend in my meditation has been a niggling, sometimes thundering doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing. This voice says things like:

“I’m not doing the right practice. Breath-focus is a basic technique and I should have moved on by now.” (FYI, I do do other practices from time to time.)

“I’m terrible at meditation. What good is it doing me or anyone, if I can’t even do it properly?”

“I’m not spending long enough doing this each day.”

And so on, all within a mind that has become quite prone to meditative dullness recently.

Has anybody else experienced periods of disillusionment with meditation? Did you overcome them?

It strikes me as perfectly ironic that being so unsure of myself, is actually a sign that I’m sure of my [space] self. I’m sure that these doubts are “mine”, sure that my meditative progress is part of “me”. Do you know what I mean?

Comments

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    Hello all,

    So a recent trend in my meditation has been a niggling, sometimes thundering doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing. This voice says things like:

    “I’m not doing the right practice. Breath-focus is a basic technique and I should have moved on by now.” (FYI, I do do other practices from time to time.)

    “I’m terrible at meditation. What good is it doing me or anyone, if I can’t even do it properly?”

    “I’m not spending long enough doing this each day.”

    Hello @adamcrossley . What you call the voice is simply an activity of mind. All activities of mind are seen with the mind's eye and allowed to come and go. They are not given any special notice, no matter what they say. In the best scenario one notices what the voices are, not what they say. Try to look at the voices and see what they are or aren't (there's a little hint).

    And so on, all within a mind that has become quite prone to meditative dullness recently.

    Has anybody else experienced periods of disillusionment with meditation? Did you overcome them?

       Yes, they come from wanting something from meditation. Any wanting or expectations lead to disillusionment with meditation. Yes, i overcame them, but to fully do that requires considerable insight. At a certain point meditation has no meditator, only limitless space, peace, an unreal world that you (no you) are not separate from and vivid awareness. 
    

    It strikes me as perfectly ironic that being so unsure of myself, is actually a sign that I’m sure of my [space] self. I’m sure that these doubts are “mine”, sure that my meditative progress is part of “me”. Do you know what I mean/

    Are you experiencing a space as yourself? Answer that and i will know better what you mean.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Has anybody else experienced periods of disillusionment with meditation?

    Before, after and during.

    Did you overcome them?

    No need.
    http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_english_14.php

    Long live/die meditation. Hail Buddha. Sangha for president ... [lobster rants off into the sunset]

    Buddhadragonyagrkando
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited May 16

    @adamcrossley said:
    Hello all,

    So a recent trend in my meditation has been a niggling, sometimes thundering doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing. This voice says things like:

    “I’m not doing the right practice. Breath-focus is a basic technique and I should have moved on by now.” (FYI, I do do other practices from time to time.)

    “I’m terrible at meditation. What good is it doing me or anyone, if I can’t even do it properly?”

    “I’m not spending long enough doing this each day.”

    And so on, all within a mind that has become quite prone to meditative dullness recently.

    Has anybody else experienced periods of disillusionment with meditation?

    Hell yes.

    Did you overcome them?

    I still meditate but use different methods depending on the mood/day/setting. I don't think it is about overcoming them (thoughts) but understanding them.

    It strikes me as perfectly ironic that being so unsure of myself, is actually a sign that I’m sure of my [space] self. I’m sure that these doubts are “mine”, sure that my meditative progress is part of “me”. Do you know what I mean?

    Sure do. These kinds of thoughts are exactly what you need to learn how to deal with these kinds of thoughts as well as the thought process you use.

    Just remember you are not your thoughts. The thoughts are your tools, not the other way around.

    Also returning to the breath/now is not supposed to be a punishment but a new opportunity.

    Buddhadragonlobster
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Just wait...it will pass :)

    BuddhadragonShoshin
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    Our mind segregates thoughts the same way our stomach segregates gastric juices.
    You don't need to pay attention to everything.
    Most is papanca.
    Eventually, the more you keep bringing your attention back to your breath, the less you'll "hear" your mind.
    🌹🐉

    ShoshinlobsterDavid
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited May 18

    When I flunked out of a Zen monastery, it depressed the hell out of me. My sky-high aspirations were more full of poop than a Christmas turkey. I was a lousy student.

    Looking back now, I see the adventure as one of the most important and affirming of whatever Zen practice later evolved. A first-class blessing for which I say a daily thank-you.

    What person in his/her right mind would imagine that sitting still and straight on a meditation cushion could achieve a happier lifestyle? That's nuts, right?

    Yes. It's nuts.

    Do it anyway.

    adamcrossleylobsteryagrKaydeekay
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    ... Do you know what I mean?

    Yes B)

    As mentioned, uncertainty (not morbid anxiety) is to be expected ... Plan iz ...

    Do it anyway.

  • edited May 18

    @adamcrossley

    I recently went through a period where I was falling asleep almost as soon as I started my session. It became such a mental game after a few times in a row where I was unsure if I'd even ever be able to meditate again! Actually I was quite depressed during this time.

    It doesn't seem to matter how many teachers you hear say its gonna happen, you think it won't. And when it does you scour the books trying to find the solution, the trick. I found myself looking at every other possible obstruction before I came to look within my own self!

    I started to pay especial attention to.my eating habits, as I've noticed when my Self runs away with myself I tend to gorge on sugar and shit food. I also payed attention to my reactions when I was angry or sad or overwhelmed with joy. I started to see how myself was Selfing and sure as shit I realized that I was not happy with my own effort in my practice outside of sitting and what made it worse was I believed my own thoughts! It felt like the weight of the world was lifted and I could finally just get on with the day.

    Everyone on this site has come across the same issues in meditation and/or life, however its the way YOU manifest when they arise that's different, so by looking inward you might find the answer was there all along!

    Hope this helps, this practice seems to be full of ups and downs but I think if I can always keep in mind the emptiness of thoughts the ups and downs may eventually even out.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Welcome to NewBuddhist @ChromeYellow B)

    I recently went through a period where I was falling asleep almost as soon as I started my session.

    A certain Lama had this effect on me. I can only put it down to an extreme calming field. No matter what I did, I relaxed into sleep. Some time later the same Lama was falling asleep, easy to tell ... head drifted forward to floor ...

    One solution is changing to walking meditation for awhile.

    Back to the OP (Original Poster) ...

    @adamcrossley said:
    “I’m terrible at meditation. What good is it doing me or anyone, if I can’t even do it properly?”

    Tee hee.
    'Improper meditation' is the whole of my practice ...
    https://thenone.org/zen-practice/what-is-doubting-meditation/

    Ay caramba!

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 20

    You can ignore that voice. I think my teacher had referred to it (voice) as "the voice of lordly judgement". And that voice you can ignore. Maybe that voice is an example of an 'appearance' that can have sway over us as in the passage below?

    CONTROL OVER APPEARANCES
    Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamsto Rinpoche
    .
    "Student: Why does it seem like everybody's somewhat under the control of appearances, instead of controlling the appearances?
    .
    KTGR: Actually, having control over appearances does not mean jumping off buildings and flying. Rather, it means that you do not cling to appearances as they seem to be in the usual worldly way of relating to them. Such appearances will not cause you suffering or tie you up once you have gained mastery over them through not clinging.
    .
    It is prajna realizing selflessness that frees you from samsara. Through knowing appearances to be inseparable from emptiness, you have mastery over them. It is not necessary to engage in behavior that is contrary to a mundane way of seeing things."
    .
    Emaho!
    .
    <3 to all who see but do not cling to what is seen. <3
    .
    (From "The Gradual Path of the Heart of Wisdom," Karme Choling 1995. Translated by Michele Martin.)

    I'm unsure about the dullness though. I have dullness too.

    lobster
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    For sure.

    The thing is .. you are approaching meditation as a "goal", as something you accomplish.
    If, instead, you pay more attention to the process, to your experience, you will not spend so much time evaluating how well you are approaching the goal.

    Understand that our habits of a lifetime (of lifetimes, perhaps), are not changed overnight. And evertime you pull yourself BACK to your meditation, from one distraction or another, you are slowly creating the habit OF meditating.

    Pema Chodron (a Western Buddhist nun, trained in the Tibetan traditions), says that even after 35 years of practice she has trouble meditating.

    Just remember .. Buddhism is not a goal . .it is a process.

    Shoshinlobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Process is a helpful insight. <3

    here are two mantras, not so different ...

    IAM MEDI TAT IN'
    YAM KNOT MEDI TATIN'
    AY CARAMBA!

  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    When I flunked out of a Zen monastery, it depressed the hell out of me. My sky-high aspirations were more full of poop than a Christmas turkey. I was a lousy student.

    Looking back now, I see the adventure as one of the most important and affirming of whatever Zen practice later evolved. A first-class blessing for which I say a daily thank-you.

    What person in his/her right mind would imagine that sitting still and straight on a meditation cushion could achieve a happier lifestyle? That's nuts, right?

    Yes. It's nuts.

    Do it anyway.

    I think a truly zen attitude is this one - why I love Zen :)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Just remember you are not your thoughts. The thoughts are your tools, not the other way around.

    Got it!
    ... I mean I got it in a detached sort of way ... My thoughts are my most prized possession - yep worthless ... who wants to be possessed ... ;)

    Also returning to the breath/now is not supposed to be a punishment but a new opportunity.

    Meditation, it ain't what you think. Tee hee. My mind, is not my mind or if it is ... I don't want the contents ... Thanks @David useful reminder, well expressed. <3

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I'm unsure about the dullness though. I have dullness too.

    :) I wonder if when clearly dull, we know it. At what point do we become alerted to a label, a description or perhaps a need for some more oxygen ... (cue walking meditation, chanting or a return to the breath)

  • Just checking back in. Thank you for the supportive comments. The dullness has begun to clear up now. I still doubt that I’m a “good” meditator, but mostly I know that that concept is a load of rubbish.

    It’s hard for me not to approach meditation as a goal, I think. There are textbooks and teachers for it, people are “better” or at least more experienced at it, there are pitfalls, and for all the talk of beginner’s mind, there are beginners’ mistakes.

    And I guess this is one of the founding questions of Zen (and other) practice, and I’ve read it’s what drove Dogen to travel to China: If awakening is our natural state, always available to us, if enlightenment could happen at any moment, then why practise at all?

    What a question...

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

    if enlightenment could happen at any moment, then why practise at all?

    Once upon a time there was a little bird who refused to fly south for the winter. His friends tried every argument they could think of, but the little bird was adamant: He wasn't going! After a while, his friends gave up and headed south as winter approached.

    Bit by bit, the weather got colder. After a while, the little bird decided he might have made a mistake: He could freeze to death. So, belatedly, he took off for the south. But the weather had turned and as he flew, the ice and snow clung to his wings and he grew more and more tired. Finally, sensing he could go no further, the little bird gave up and let himself fall to the earth, sure he would die.

    As it happened, the little bird fell to earth in a cow pasture and as he lay there waiting for the cold to end it all, a passing cow crapped all over him. The manure warmed and thawed his wings. He was saved! He was also so happy not to die that he began to sing. A passing barn cat heard the singing, cleared away the manure, found the little bird, and promptly ate him.

    There are three morals to this story:
    1. Not everyone who shits on you is necessarily your enemy.
    2. Not everyone who gets you out of the shit is necessarily your friend
    and
    3. If you're happy in your own pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

    Not sure if it is, but this story seemed somehow relevant ....

    Kundo
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    if enlightenment could happen at any moment, then why practise at all?

    So we are aware, when present ...

  • ZenMathsterZenMathster Grantham, United Kingdom New

    @adamcrossley, when you become aware of the "voice" you are being mindful,... and that is exactly what you are trying to achieve. Keep up the good work :)

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