What is this Numbness?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

What is this Numbness?

Postby Yana » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:19 am

Hi everyone,

When practicing Anapanasati ,i wonder is it normal .. after i get up and go about to my daily routine,i feel like there is cloudy,sort of numbness to my perceptions/thoughts/feelings etc.

You see i always had the impression that meditation makes your senses sharper.Like you just know things or have xray eyes..But i seem to be experiencing the exact opposite.

Like my head feels a bit drowsy/numb/tranquilized.
I don't know if this is a good or bad thing ..i almost feel like my senses are shutting down or not functioning as sharp as it used too. To be honest i feel like i'm half sleeping or semi conscious.Not as bad as sleep walking though.but still..

Like i can sense my breathing clearly,my body,my movements, but everything else is sort of blurred out or zoomed out.

Just to give an example:

When i had an argument with my husband instead of going like..seriously psycho..i was still upset but for some reason i felt like i was too drugged up/tranqulized to get mad and even though i was upset my attention automatically directed itself to my body temperature rising, my breathing,my heart beat, and then i felt detached so there was a lack of reasons to get angry.

Normally if my senses were sharp like they used to be,and that happened i would take it to heart and think of all the bad things that has happened to me and retaliate like quick reflex,but this numbness seems to be slowing things down for me.I feel like a turtle.A blind and deaf turtle.
And sometimes i have to poke myself harder to feel..i used to be very sensitive to touch..now it's just :|

This numbness is like a cloud over my head keeping me from taking anything to heart.I have trouble focusing on my own senses let alone let any thing get to me...don't know if it's right,i could be wrong, but according to my observation, meditation doesn't make you sensitive it makes you Not Sensitive...???

My question is what is this numbness...???
Is it a good or bad thing...??
Have you experienced this...??
Does meditation make you less sensitive??

your thoughts... :candle:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Nov 07, 2012 12:56 pm

Could it be indifference?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby daverupa » Wed Nov 07, 2012 6:48 pm

I found a similar result when I practiced anapanasati with an understanding that the third and fourth steps involved a deep breath-focus. Now, I read those anapanasati lines as referring to the calming of intention with respect to bodies, rather than intentionally calming the breath-body in and of itself.

This means that, rather than dissociation - which I would experience using the breath-body version and which sounds similar to the description here (I think of it as 'cotton brain') - I instead experience a certain detachment, which is of an altogether different tenor and which makes metta and karuna easier and more... dynamically fluid in the moment, which also helps to round out the bhavana.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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: What is this Numbness?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:03 pm

Hi Yana,

Sounds a lot like classic "sloth and topor" hindrance to me. It's the sort of thing I've experienced when my mindfulness has not been sharp enough and consequently energy and concentration get out of balance (i.e. too much concentration, too little energy).

We have discussed some suttas on these subjects recently:
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14716
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14382

but it's probably more useful to consult a good teacher or mediation manual. Actually, what Dave recommends above is probably the sort of tuning that is required.

:anjali:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby DAWN » Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:42 pm

Hight concentration effect.
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Reductor » Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:56 pm

You seem to be describing two things: indifference on one hand and muddled alertness on the other.

I don't think your indifference to the argument is all that bad, in itself. A muddled alertness is not good, however. Consider more carefully on how much the lack of alertness and your lack of volitility are connected. Whether or not your lack of volatility is due to muddled alertness or not, you can improve your alertness by thinking more in meditation.

WHAT! Did someone just say you should think more? Yes, yes I did.

Thinking a bit about your body and its state, as well as the state of your attention to that body, is an important anitidote to sloth and torpor (which you seem to be suffering, as Mike said). So long thinking is confined to the internal dynamics of your meditation/meditation-object then there isn't a problem with it. Once you've settled inwardly and your thoughts are consistently on topic, then they can be calmed a bit.

FYI: when I finish meditating my senses very sharp indeed, and I feel inwardly clarified in a way I don't during pre-meditation times.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:16 pm

Some good advice there...

Further to my posts, Ajahn Brahm has some excellent advice about Hindrances in his book Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond.
The first five chapters are free:
http://ebookbrowse.com/ajahn-brahm-mind ... -d84597124
From Chapter 4:
The Third Hindrance—Sloth and Torpor
The third hindrance is sloth and torpor. I don’t need to describe it in
detail, because I’m sure we know it all too well through our experience
of meditation. We sit in meditation and don’t really know what we are
watching, whether it’s the present moment, silence, the breath, or what-
ever. This is because the mind is dull. It’s as if there are no lights turned
on inside. It’s all gray and blurry.

Making Peace with Sloth and Torpor
The most profound and effective way of overcoming sloth and torpor is
to make peace with the dullness and stop fighting it! When I was a young
monk in the forest monasteries in Thailand and became sleepy during the
3:15 a.m. sitting, I would struggle like hell to overpower the dullness. I
would usually fail. But when I did succeed in overcoming my sleepiness,
restlessness would replace it. So I would calm down the restlessness and
fall back into sloth and torpor. My meditation was like a pendulum
swinging between extremes and never finding the middle. It took many
years to understand what was going on.
...

:anjali:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Yana » Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:36 pm

Reductor wrote: you can improve your alertness by thinking more in meditation.

WHAT! Did someone just say you should think more? Yes, yes I did.

Thinking a bit about your body and its state, as well as the state of your attention to that body, is an important anitidote to sloth and torpor (which you seem to be suffering, as Mike said). So long thinking is confined to the internal dynamics of your meditation/meditation-object then there isn't a problem with it. Once you've settled inwardly and your thoughts are consistently on topic, then they can be calmed a bit.

FYI: when I finish meditating my senses very sharp indeed, and I feel inwardly clarified in a way I don't during pre-meditation times.


Hi Reductor,

Yes i think your right,i never "think" during my meditation.All i do is concentrate on the breathing until i'm almost in a state of trance.There's no thoughts no nothing.Not one single thought.And it does make me unnaturally calm but i think it also makes my cloudiness get worse.I will try your advice today..think about my breathing..hear myself think about the breathing..like ask myself this breath is long this is short...etc...when i do this breath i am calm when i do that breath i feel uneasy...etc..

I am practicing meditation alone and don't know any Buddhists offline so i try to be careful.I have read that you should contemplate the breath while you are meditating and the first thing i thought is...ehm..how is this possible..??...i always thought if my minds focused on breathing i can't do other things because i'll lose focus of the breathing but this is not true as i have tried it once..not true at all.You can do both especially if your thinking of the actual breathing you are focusing on.Its like dissecting the breath apart actually now that i think of it...i just didn't know what they meant..i thought you were supposed to experience a long or short breath and it's effects not hear yourself think about it...thinking and experiencing were two different things to me...

But thanks for clearing things up for me..i will try that today hopefully i won't get up feeling like i just had a hangover. :anjali:

Cittasanto wrote:Could it be indifference?


Hi Cittasanto,i can't really tell..i want to do things but i feel numb.I don't think it is indifference.Because if it were,i wouldn't want to do it in the first place. :anjali:
daverupa wrote:
I found a similar result when I practiced anapanasati with an understanding that the third and fourth steps involved a deep breath-focus. Now, I read those anapanasati lines as referring to the calming of intention with respect to bodies, rather than intentionally calming the breath-body in and of itself.

This means that, rather than dissociation - which I would experience using the breath-body version and which sounds similar to the description here (I think of it as 'cotton brain') - I instead experience a certain detachment, which is of an altogether different tenor and which makes metta and karuna easier and more... dynamically fluid in the moment, which also helps to round out the bhavana.

:heart:


Hi Dave,I'm sorry could you elaborate this for me i don't understand what you mean. :anjali:

mikenz66 wrote:too much concentration, too little energy


Hi Mikenz,yes that's how i feel like.
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:59 pm

Yes, I've had a similar problem before. I felt stupid because when I read something my mind wasn't fluid enough to be agile in comprehension. It's as if it was stuck. I'd be interested to hear more answers to Yana's question as well as an opinion if my problem has the same causes and "cures" as Yana's.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:07 am

Yana wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Could it be indifference?


Hi Cittasanto,i can't really tell..i want to do things but i feel numb.I don't think it is indifference.Because if it were,i wouldn't want to do it in the first place. :anjali:

yeap, that is how it manifested for me, but I was a little confused by your description unfortunately hence the shortness!
I would go with the sloth and torpor advise myself.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby daverupa » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:22 am

Yana wrote:All i do is concentrate on the breathing until i'm almost in a state of trance.


I, too, practiced in just such a way once upon a time. I named this "deep breath-focus" earlier. The trance-state is what I called "dissociation", and would result in "cotton-brain". Reading, social engagement - like being underwater, where the senses just don't function well.

So, I recommend that you re-consider the third and fourth steps of anapanasati; some consider that they ask us to focus on the breath and zero in, as above. I find that the instructions are asking us to relax bodily intention altogether, including the intention to "calm the breath" or to "experience the breath". The body mostly runs on autopilot - here, we're being asked to let the whole thing go, not wrangle it this way & that.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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: What is this Numbness?

Postby Yana » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:35 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Yes, I've had a similar problem before. I felt stupid because when I read something my mind wasn't fluid enough to be agile in comprehension. It's as if it was stuck. I'd be interested to hear more answers to Yana's question as well as an opinion if my problem has the same causes and "cures" as Yana's.


YES that's it!! My mind's not fluid or agile or versatile...you know like i'm not as quick..It will be very interesting to get at the bottom of this..i don't think it's sloth or torpor because i am pretty energetic and very enthusiastic about meditating..i never get sleepy during meditation.. and have to remind myself not sit too long because i have to do other things..so the only reasonable explanation for me is my meditation technique..i must be doing something that makes my mind dull..

Cittasanto wrote:
Yana wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Could it be indifference?


Hi Cittasanto,i can't really tell..i want to do things but i feel numb.I don't think it is indifference.Because if it were,i wouldn't want to do it in the first place. :anjali:

yeap, that is how it manifested for me, but I was a little confused by your description unfortunately hence the shortness!
I would go with the sloth and torpor advise myself.


Hi,sorry for the confusing description but i don't know how else to explain it except to tell it as it is,and this is exactly what i experienced.it would be easy to pin down the problem if all it did was make my mind cloudy.Easy,Sloth and torpor.But if it also makes me super calm and detached which is a progress then ...i get confused. :(

daverupa wrote:
Yana wrote:All i do is concentrate on the breathing until i'm almost in a state of trance.


I, too, practiced in just such a way once upon a time. I named this "deep breath-focus" earlier. The trance-state is what I called "dissociation", and would result in "cotton-brain". Reading, social engagement - like being underwater, where the senses just don't function well.

So, I recommend that you re-consider the third and fourth steps of anapanasati; some consider that they ask us to focus on the breath and zero in, as above. I find that the instructions are asking us to relax bodily intention altogether, including the intention to "calm the breath" or to "experience the breath". The body mostly runs on autopilot - here, we're being asked to let the whole thing go, not wrangle it this way & that.

:heart:


Hi!..OMG! omg..! I get it!!!I get it!!!
I just tried that before i read this, so i'm soo happy to tell you this!i realized something! You know when you want to focus and concentrate on your long breaths,Sure it makes you calm!BUT did you realize something!!

I could pick up this subtle stress on my head or brain!!Like pressure!!It's subtle but i picked it up!It's like while trying to control your breathing with the intention of calming your body your actually applying pressure on your brain!And that's the exact spot that gives me these headaches/drowsiness/cloudy/cotton mind!

So the more i try hard to concentrate the more i am straining my brain.My body is calm due to my controlled long breathing affecting my body but my mind is stressed with pressure,there's an agitation present..And this explains why my body is calm but my mind isn't..it's like a magnifying glass i walk around seeing everything zoomed in and quite naturally it gives me a a headache.

So what i did was just breath naturally without trying to control anything..i don't control long or short breath.I am just "aware" of my breathing which is done on autopilot usually...and i realized something even if it is short breaths it changes into fine breath and immediately i felt the pressure lift up ..

So my conclusion is if we can learn to be aware of our breathing...short or long etc...in whatever condition it is ...IN THAT EXACT MOMENT..JUST AS IT IS...it will change to fine and your mind will be calm!

:anjali: :anjali: :anjali:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:54 am

Thank you for your insight Yana! :smile:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Reductor » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:07 am

daverupa wrote:So, I recommend that you re-consider the third and fourth steps of anapanasati; some consider that they ask us to focus on the breath and zero in, as above. I find that the instructions are asking us to relax bodily intention altogether, including the intention to "calm the breath" or to "experience the breath". The body mostly runs on autopilot - here, we're being asked to let the whole thing go, not wrangle it this way & that.


I agree with you almost completely, except for the calming of intentions to "experience the breath." Unlike breathing, the "experiencing of the breath," in terms of attention to its quality, is not automatic. Especially in the beginning. In the beginning I'd say some intention must be fostered and maintained - in as much quantity as is necessary to put away all those intentions with the outside (this is where thinking more is helpful).

Once competing intentions and thoughts have been put away, then a very gradual calming of "experiencing" intentions is appropriate, along with a calming of all other intentions too (a long road, but I am certain you agree it is the right one).

Anyway, nice post.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:35 am

I think these replies have probably answered everything but I'd like to just add that you might be stuck, so to speak, on the first two steps of Anapanasati (contemplating long, contemplating short) when you're actually too concentrated for them. Try going for steps three and four (experiencing the body, calming the body) and you might be able to balance that concentration with the newly generated mindfulness. And then if piti and sukha arise, you can move on to those!

Good luck!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby Reductor » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:55 am

Hey Yana,

I'm glad if anything I've written is helpful in any way.

I, too, focused on the breath in away that created mental tension (and tension in my eyes and head). The belief was that calming came from focusing, and that focusing was akin to the narrowing of sunlight with a magnifying-glass. But the mind doesn't work like that and all I did was make tension. Then, when I had exhausted myself from maintaining this tense alertness, I would then become a little hazy and slip a bit in my attention. This changed state developed into a dullness similar to the dull experience of near-sleep; a dullness that is calm, and relaxing, but lacking alertness to it.

In the past I considered concentration to be analogise to the concentrating of sunlight with a magnifying-glass, as I already mentioned. That is, the mind would become narrow, intense and hot. But intense and hot doesn't seem compatible with blissful, does it? Not to mention that such a narrow beam of light requires much effort to maintain (your hand might get tired of holding the glass, or the sun moves and you must follow it).

Now I offer the analogy of concentrated orange juice, if you will indulge me.

At first you begin with mild tasting juice, to which you then apply some heat. The heat evaporates the water, thereby leaving behind the essentials of orange along with a much stronger taste.

The heat is this initial thought concerned with the body and (or) breath. The thoughts and intentions related to the outside world compose the water. As the initial thoughts are applied, the water dissipates but the essentials of the mind are left behind along with a strong taste of knowing -- the inherent taste of the mind, so to speak. EDIT: Last, last, thought! I swear -- once the essentials of mind are left, we may remove the heat. In this way those essentials, like the syrup left after concentrating the juice, cease to roil and boil and instead become calm and cool.

In this sense we concentrate not by making things more narrow and intense, but by removing those things that have less value while preserving those things that have greater value.

EDIT: Last thought -- concentrated orange juice, I am sure we can all agree, is in a much more stable state than the narrow point of light we might make with the glass. And it tastes very good, too (mmmm... ever eat that frozen concentrate straight from a can -- delicious!)
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby daverupa » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:52 am

Reductor wrote:...


Well, I had wondered about that line and whether it would snag; it is meant simply to note that the breath is experienced as part of the whole package in step three, and not isolated out and made salient in intentional ways; one knows it, certainly, as that lies throughout anapanasati, but one uses it as a metronome, as it were, rather than playing around with it.

"He trains" is indeed a call for intention; however, this is nowhere directed to the breath alone, but I suppose this hinges on how one reads step three.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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: What is this Numbness?

Postby Yana » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:26 am

Thank you everyone for your helpful insights , my cotton mind is lessening :clap: :anjali:
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Re: What is this Numbness?

Postby pegembara » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:40 am

If you follow Bhante Vimalaramsi's anapanasati instructions

Don't control the breath. The most important part is to notice where the tension in the body is.
When noticing any tightness or tension, the 1st place that needs to be
observed is in the head. Every thought, every movement of mind begins with
a subtle tightness or tension arising in the head. Meditators need to be aware
of this and relax on the in breath and relax on the out breath. The meditator
uses the breath as a reminder to relax.

http://www.dhammasukha.org/Study/Books/ ... et-1pg.pdf
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