Cannot ignore thought...

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Myotai » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:46 am

Hi all,

I have had a lot of advice over the years about how to deal with a busy mind, but never really been able to implement one to any real effect.

For instance I understand that the best course of action is to be just OK with any thoughts that arise, and I am sure this might well work for some. I can only speak for myself clearly but that approach doesn't seem to cut it. It feels a little like avoidance or some sort of safety behaviour that has no real effect on shutting the mind up sufficiently to be able to focus.

What are you experiences/thoughts re this?

Thanks,

Tony...
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby waterchan » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:55 am

Myotai wrote: It feels a little like avoidance or some sort of safety behaviour that has no real effect on shutting the mind up sufficiently to be able to focus.


Mindfulness is in fact the opposite of avoidance or shutting the mind up. It is actively staying with the thought as an observer, as opposed to identifying with it. If it's an upsetting thought, you make peace with it, let it peacefully coexist within you without struggling with it or taking it personally. The magic of it is that when you stop struggling with your negative thoughts, they leave on their own.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Myotai » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:59 am

waterchan wrote:
Myotai wrote: It feels a little like avoidance or some sort of safety behaviour that has no real effect on shutting the mind up sufficiently to be able to focus.


Mindfulness is in fact the opposite of avoidance or shutting the mind up. It is actively staying with the thought as an observer, as opposed to identifying with it. If it's an upsetting thought, you make peace with it, let it peacefully coexist within you without struggling with it or taking it personally. The magic of it is that when you stop struggling with your negative thoughts, they leave on their own.


Thanks for your reply. I guess its the "peacefully coexisting" bit that implies that you have already found a way of separating yourself from the thought.

Its this bit that I still struggle with. If I could create a dichotomy as you describe then I could see the thought as a separate mental event and not subscribe or be taken in by it. Currently I cannot.

Tony...
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby purple planet » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:01 pm

did you try labeling it : "thinking thinking thinking " ?

you can add reason to it - not doing it to all thoughts - just those you think are unwholesome and not helpful - thoughts about a song "hearing*3" angry thoughts "angry*3" imagination " imagining*3" all thoughts which dont seem to help you in life labelt them as "thinking"
Last edited by purple planet on Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:05 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby binocular » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:02 pm

MN 20 is the standard source to go to.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Myotai » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:04 pm

purple planet wrote:did you try labeling it : "thought thought thought" ?

you can add reason to it - not doing it to all thoughts - just those you think are unwholesome


But as anapana is my main practice labeling seems to drag me away from my initial focus
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby James the Giant » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:59 pm

Myotai wrote:
But as anapana is my main practice labeling seems to drag me away from my initial focus

Consider broadening your practise to include tools and techniques which might be helpful in this case.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby waterchan » Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:31 pm

Myotai wrote:Thanks for your reply. I guess its the "peacefully coexisting" bit that implies that you have already found a way of separating yourself from the thought.

Its this bit that I still struggle with. If I could create a dichotomy as you describe then I could see the thought as a separate mental event and not subscribe or be taken in by it. Currently I cannot.


Don't think of it as a dichotomy. Thoughts are really just visitors. All thoughts and feelings are like members of the library that is your mind — they come, they stay for a while, and then they leave when their business is done. If it's a good feeling, you can't cling onto it and force it to stay. It has to leave some time. If it's a bad feeling, there's no use worrying about it and telling it to scram. It has a valid library membership — it has the right to be there! Negative thoughts by themselves are actually quite harmless. They only become a problem when you get negative at the negativity. The problem isn't anger; it's getting involved with the anger. Sometimes we get angry with the anger, thinking "You are evil! You don't belong here in my mind!" Other times, we associate ourselves with it, thinking "Come, anger, you are righteous and well-deserved! Let us fight together as one!"

When you watch the anger, acknowledge it, make peace with it instead of grabbing it by the collar, or being possessive and thinking "This anger is mine", it gets bored and eventually leaves.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:14 pm

Myotai wrote:
purple planet wrote:did you try labeling it : "thought thought thought" ?

you can add reason to it - not doing it to all thoughts - just those you think are unwholesome


But as anapana is my main practice labeling seems to drag me away from my initial focus


If you're doing e.g. third tetrad activity and experiencing the mind (seems to be already happening), move in the third tetrad alongside the breath and gladden & calm the thing. No need to set the breath aside (your "initial focus", I assume), but there may be benefit in continuing to refine how anapanasati is undertaken since third tetrad occurs with the breath, as they all do, and not instead of it.

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    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby pegembara » Thu Mar 27, 2014 4:03 am

Myotai wrote:Hi all,

I have had a lot of advice over the years about how to deal with a busy mind, but never really been able to implement one to any real effect.

For instance I understand that the best course of action is to be just OK with any thoughts that arise, and I am sure this might well work for some. I can only speak for myself clearly but that approach doesn't seem to cut it. It feels a little like avoidance or some sort of safety behaviour that has no real effect on shutting the mind up sufficiently to be able to focus.

What are you experiences/thoughts re this?

Thanks,

Tony...


If you cannot ignore thought, try following it and see where it leads. Does it lead to peace and freedom or the opposite? After some time, you will realise that some thoughts are simply not worth entertaining. You can actually do this in your daily life. The important thing is to not forget (sati) to step back a bit from your thoughts.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby SarathW » Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:04 am

Great answers to your question from Joseph Goldstine.
One of the best hours I invested!
:)

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/3552/
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:41 pm

Hi Myotai,

If you're doing anapanasati, I'd just go back to following the breath every time that you felt like you were distracted by thoughts. It is part of the practice, including trying to learn how to deal with the annoyance, frustration or whatever.

Also, I would think about what the five hindrances are, the seven factors of enlightenment, and how they apply to the practice. Pay attention to how they come up (along with how they would cease), either during the practice or whenever you're contemplating about it afterwards.

Part of the first tetrad is to learn how to calm yourself with the way the breathing feels. The skill that you develop during this should also apply during the rest of the tetrads... so I wouldn't skip it that easily. If the thoughts pull you away from it, learn how to calmly go back to the breath.

Also, there is no dichotomy that is going on. There is no "yourself" that you're trying to separate.

:anjali:
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Bakmoon » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:28 am

Hi, Myotai. Could you tell us what method of meditation you have been practicing? Sometimes the way you deal with distraction depends on what method you are using.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:34 pm

Myotai wrote:Hi all,
For instance I understand that the best course of action is to be just OK with any thoughts that arise, and I am sure this might well work for some.


Sometimes thoughts are like small children wanting attention, so perhaps you can give them a little attention and they will wander off in due course.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby randall » Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:39 pm

maybe the thought can't ignore you :D
"Bhikkhus, possessing five factors, speech is well spoken, not badly spoken; it is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise. What five? It is spoken at the proper time; what is said is true; it is spoken gently; what is said is beneficial; it is spoken with a mind of loving-kindness. Possessing these five factors, speech is well spoken, not badly spoken; it is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise."
AN 5 198
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Myotai » Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:30 am

Bakmoon wrote:Hi, Myotai. Could you tell us what method of meditation you have been practicing? Sometimes the way you deal with distraction depends on what method you are using.


Hi, my session starts with a period of just sitting in an attempt to allow my thoughts to wear themselves out - they calm down after around 15mins. them I move to the breath, to calm my mind further. Then ultimately settling into a general awareness of the body just sitting there - ala Silent Illumination or a sort of general awareness of the body (though not a body scan). If there is wandering then I go back to the breath...then back to the sense of the body sitting on the cushion.

Been practicing this way for some time now, at least the last 18 months - its just recently I have found intrusive thoughts a real problem. I have been practicing for many years now too.

Thanks...
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:36 am

Myotai wrote: If there is wandering then I go back to the breath...then back to the sense of the body sitting on the cushion.


What might help is just returning to the breath, ie keep it really simple.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Myotai » Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:48 am

SarathW wrote:Great answers to your question from Joseph Goldstine.
One of the best hours I invested!
:)

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/3552/


Listened to this three times now...excellent talk - Thanks Sarath :anjali:
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby Ananda26 » Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:40 pm

Myotai wrote:Hi all,

I have had a lot of advice over the years about how to deal with a busy mind, but never really been able to implement one to any real effect.

For instance I understand that the best course of action is to be just OK with any thoughts that arise, and I am sure this might well work for some. I can only speak for myself clearly but that approach doesn't seem to cut it. It feels a little like avoidance or some sort of safety behaviour that has no real effect on shutting the mind up sufficiently to be able to focus.

What are you experiences/thoughts re this?

Thanks,

Tony...


First Jhana Technique: Here quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states one enters upon the first jhana which has thinking and pondering with rapture and pleasure of seclusion.

Second Jhana Technique: With the stilling of thinking and pondering, by gaining internal serene confidence and unification of mind one enters upon the second jhana which is without thinking and pondering with rapture and pleasure of concentration.
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Re: Cannot ignore thought...

Postby SarathW » Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:09 pm

From another great book:

In the wordless observation of the breath, there are two states to be avoided: thinking and sinking. The thinking mind manifests most clearly as the monkey-mind phenomenon we have just been discussing. The sinking mind is almost the reverse. As a general term, sinking mind denotes any dimming of awareness. At its best, it is sort of a mental vacuum in which there is no thought, no observation of the breath, no awareness of anything. It is a gap, a formless mental gray area rather like a dreamless sleep. Sinking mind is a void. Avoid it.

Page 46
http://www.stefan.gr/buddhism/books/hen ... nglish.pdf
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