Dullness arising from lack of emotion in meditation

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

Post by dhamma_learner » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:05 am

Hello all,

I have found that, during many of my meditation sessions, I experience a sense of ill-will which I believe arises from a lack of anything "special" happening during my meditation. What I mean by "special" is experiencing any sense of beauty, happiness, or bliss. I have found that, during the time that I become extremely calm and focused during meditation, my emotions seem to become dimmer as well. There is a certain point at which I perceive that I neither feel positive nor negative emotions at all. I admit that that I have some desire to experience blissful feelings during meditation, and so the lack of feeling at all can act as a hindrance to my meditation. In fact, it is not simply a lack of emotion, but also a dullness, or numbness, that arises from this lack of feeling, and with it goes my motivation as well. Could this perhaps suggest that I am simply ignoring or even repressing my emotions? If so, I would very much appreciate hearing some suggestions as to how to deal with this problem.

With metta,


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Re: Dullness arising from lack of emotion in meditation

Post by Ben » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:53 am

Wanting something special and developing aversion to what is being experienced is the problem.
During meditation - maintain your focus on the meditation object.
Meditation isn't about having pleasant experiences, its about developing samatha (concentration) and vipassana (insight). If your meditation experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neither - it is largely irrelevant and no indication of efficacy or progress.
kind regards,

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Dullness arising from lack of emotion in meditation

Post by reflection » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:26 am

Hi there,

At those times it may be useful to spend some time cultivating joy. When there is joy in the mind, the mind will be bright and not as dull. This is partly why the suttas say joy is a support for concentration, and not only a result. While I agree with Ben that we shouldn't crave for pleasant feelings, it's to me quite obvious the Buddha did describe the results of meditation as pleasant. And one of these results is joy. If this doesn't arise, I think it's good to wonder why. That's not necessarily craving or aversion.

Specific meditation subjects I find very useful to create some joy are contemplation of virtue, of dana, and contemplation of the (characteristics of the) Buddha. Loving kindness can also create joy, but it is a bit more indirect. All those meditation subjects are also mentioned in the suttas in one way or the other, so it's not something exotic I am advising here. ;) We had a thread lately that put some emphasis on them also. There I also said that for me breath meditation can be enough to create joy on its own. But it is not always like that and then those other contemplations can assist.

It's impossible to say exactly what causes what in other people's meditation, especially over the internet, so see the above in this light. Although the above will most certainly help in a way, there may be another issues beneath it for you. For example, when I am in a period of general sense indulgence, I am more likely to experience similar meditations that don't really take off and are dullish or bland. So to decrease your sensual intake may be another thing to consider. Also the amount of rest/sleep I find can have quite an influence.

Hope it helps in any way!

With metta,

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Re: Dullness arising from lack of emotion in meditation

Post by floating_abu » Mon Jun 03, 2013 7:26 am

What Ben said, drop the expectations and desires.

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