Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
MrLearner
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Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by MrLearner » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:08 pm

Hello everyone,

Problem with meditation for me as a beginner is

1. I find concentrating on breath going in and out so boring after a while. Is there anyway to make it more interesting?
2. Can I do meditation with any neutral or positive single thought that I find interesting (obviously not negative thoughts), for example lets say my favourite film (that was a poor example but I think you get the point), and only think and concentrate about that which I can easily do because it is interesting. Alteratively concentrate on any single activity I find interesting? Is this still called meditation? Should meditation only involve breath?
3. I'm asking this because I think I heard a story somewhere, about Buddha giving this monk a dirty cloth to wash and he kept doing that and attained nirvana?

Thanks a lot :)

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Sam Vara
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:31 pm

A big problem with thoughts that we already find interesting is that they are usually interesting because they involve us in sequential thinking. We like to jump from thought to thought, and this is the opposite of what we try to achieve in meditation. We are already good enough at it, and we really need practice in attending to just one thing.

Breathing is an excellent object to practice with, precisely because it is neutral and not very interesting in itself. My advice is to persist with the breathing, seeking further advice from a teacher if you can. Lots of people had the same "problem" as you, but overcame it. The in and out breath is also the object that the Buddha himself recommended.

lostitude
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by lostitude » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:50 pm

I have the same problem as you, I find breathing so boring. But the author of the book I am using (recommended to me here by other participants) says that if you find breathing boring, it is because you are not focused enough to really capture all its minute details, and if you did you would see that no two breaths are the same. Just thought I'd share this, because even if I still can't do it, maybe it will help you more than me :)

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Mkoll
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Mkoll » Wed Aug 26, 2015 7:11 pm

MrLearner wrote:Hello everyone,

Problem with meditation for me as a beginner is

1. I find concentrating on breath going in and out so boring after a while. Is there anyway to make it more interesting?
2. Can I do meditation with any neutral or positive single thought that I find interesting (obviously not negative thoughts), for example lets say my favourite film (that was a poor example but I think you get the point), and only think and concentrate about that which I can easily do because it is interesting. Alteratively concentrate on any single activity I find interesting? Is this still called meditation? Should meditation only involve breath?
3. I'm asking this because I think I heard a story somewhere, about Buddha giving this monk a dirty cloth to wash and he kept doing that and attained nirvana?

Thanks a lot :)
1. You could reflect on the benefits of doing the practice (that it leads to your well-being and the well-being of others), you could use thoughts and imagination as skillful means to keep you on the breath (e.g. making the breath pleasant as in Ven. Thanissaro's instruction), you could reflect on death as in AN 6.19 (this one usually helps me). Be creative. :) And as Sam advised, keep persisting with the breath and I think things will slowly but surely get better.

2. Meditation definitely need not only involve breath. One would do that with something the Buddha recommended like the brahmaviharas, six recollections, asubha, etc.—lots of choices here. The Visudhimagga gives 40 objects of contemplation with the breath being just one. There is also discursive reflection on the Dhamma teachings that you're able to bring to mind—though some might not label this meditation proper I've found it helpful from time to time. However, meditation on sensual pleasures probably won't do much except increase the desire to get up and engage in them—at least it does for me. ;)

3. If I recall correctly, that monk had a very poor memory and couldn't keep any teachings in mind. So the Buddha gave him something very simple to do while thinking "anicca." I imagine he was cultivating the perception of impermanence, a practice recommended in the suttas and a subject that can also be take up in meditation.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Bakmoon
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Bakmoon » Wed Aug 26, 2015 7:39 pm

MrLearner wrote:Hello everyone,

Problem with meditation for me as a beginner is

1. I find concentrating on breath going in and out so boring after a while. Is there anyway to make it more interesting?
Ajahn Thanissaro give advice on how to do this in his book With Each and Every Breath on page 33. Also, you might benefit from listening to one of his guided meditations as a way of spicing up your meditation. His basic point is that you can adjust your breathing and try breathing in different ways to try to find a more comfortable or pleasurable way of breathing.

If that doesn't work then maybe you might want to switch to a different meditation object such as Metta.
MrLearner wrote: 2. Can I do meditation with any neutral or positive single thought that I find interesting (obviously not negative thoughts), for example lets say my favourite film (that was a poor example but I think you get the point), and only think and concentrate about that which I can easily do because it is interesting. Alteratively concentrate on any single activity I find interesting? Is this still called meditation? Should meditation only involve breath?
While meditating on a film might not be a good idea, you can meditate on a variety of objects. If you want to develop deep meditation you will eventually need to switch to a meditation object that is very stable and doesn't involve discursive thinking, but there are objects that use discursive thought in the beginning. For example, in Metta meditation, you use discursive thinking (such as "May I be happy, may I be happy") to generate a feeling, and then once the feeling is strong enough you can just meditate on the feeling.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

SarathW
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by SarathW » Wed Aug 26, 2015 9:34 pm

Once you practice for a while, you will find breath is very pleasing and interesting.
I do breath meditation in conjunction with listening to a Dhamma talk.
I follow the Goldstein' s Satipathana series.


http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/6162/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

Pinetree
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Pinetree » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:53 pm

1. I find concentrating on breath going in and out so boring after a while. Is there anyway to make it more interesting?
Maybe making it more interesting isn't what you need.

Scientifically speaking, boredom means the mind is too agitated. So relax more :)

A teacher even said that relaxation is what you should start with, and only when your mind is "soft" enough, that's when you should really get into meditation, watching the breath, etc.

I think it's very important when learning meditation to find the right balance between alertness and relaxation. Sometimes it feels like this alone is enough to make meditation progress. Too alert and you'll start jumping around, too relaxed and you'll fall asleep.
2. Can I do meditation with any neutral or positive single thought that I find interesting (obviously not negative thoughts), for example lets say my favourite film (that was a poor example but I think you get the point), and only think and concentrate about that which I can easily do because it is interesting. Alteratively concentrate on any single activity I find interesting? Is this still called meditation? Should meditation only involve breath?
Maybe not the best choice. There is a recommendation to learn to meditate by focusing on neutral things, meaning not something that you like or dislike a lot.
3. I'm asking this because I think I heard a story somewhere, about Buddha giving this monk a dirty cloth to wash and he kept doing that and attained nirvana?
Apparently the Buddha taught different things to different people, he used to "customize" the teaching process.

hermitwin
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by hermitwin » Thu Aug 27, 2015 3:56 am

It does not have to be the breath.
yes you can meditate on radiating loving kindness to yourself and others.
the whole purpose of meditation is to train the mind to become peaceful and "concentrated".
it is the opposite of letting the mind think about whatever it wants. no, you are not in control of the mind, not yet anyway.

just as people choose different execises for their body. some people like hiking, some like dancing.
you should choose a way of meditation that suits you.

Another method you could try is contemplating on the different parts of the body.

many beginners find chanting helpful. find your own mantra eg I wish for peace and contentment for everyone.

meditation is not easy esp in the beginning, just dont give up. even a bad session is good.
just like exercising the body, your body benefits from it.

every attempt to meditate is beneficial. good karma.

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Kumara
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Kumara » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:28 am

As a meditation teacher, I find watching "breath going in and out" pretty boring too! Fortunately, that's not the only way to practice, though a suitable one for certain people.

I watch physical sensations and the mind, usually. If you're interested to know more, see http://sayadawutejaniya.org/teachings/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

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Goofaholix
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by Goofaholix » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:49 am

If you find the breath boring try this simple technique...

Fill a large sink full of water, put your head in the water and wait.

Pretty soon you'll find the breath is not boring at all, in fact it will suddenly become very interesting, in fact you'll crave the breath like your very life depends on it, of course your life does depend on it. So why do we find something that our very life depends on so boring? because we take it for granted, because no matter what we've got we crave something else, we look for distraction, something to take our mind off the everydayness of our experience.

This is one of the reasons why the breath is such a good meditation object because it forces us to face up to our habit to take things for granted and and look for something else to distract our attention.

But yes you could use another object of meditation, but the above habit is still a problem and will continue to raise it's head and you'll look for another meditation object and again and again.

So better to face up to and get free of this habit.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

pegembara
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by pegembara » Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:02 pm

The reason why the boring breath is used as an object is that it gives a foretaste of what nibbana is. If one cannot stay long with the breath, how can one be ready to accept the experience of nibbana?


When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, "But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?"

"Just that is the pleasure here, my friend: where there is nothing felt. There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing; sounds cognizable via the ear... smells cognizable via the nose... tastes cognizable via the tongue... tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Whatever pleasure or joy arises in dependence on these five strings of sensuality, that is sensual pleasure.

Nibbana Sutta
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

SarathW
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by SarathW » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:14 pm

Does this mean breath meditation shift from five sense sensuality to mind based sensuality?
Why Buddha did not mention the sixth sense? The mind.
:thinking:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

pegembara
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by pegembara » Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:50 am

"Now there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana:

The mind withdraws from sensuality based on the 5 senses first leaving mind based sensuality. The rest of the sutta goes into detail what this mind based sensuality is.
"Furthermore, there is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with the dimension of nothingness, that is an affliction for him. Now, the Blessed One has said that whatever is an affliction is stress. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how pleasant Unbinding is.

"Furthermore, there is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. And, having seen [that] with discernment, his mental fermentations are completely ended. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how Unbinding is pleasant."

All forms of mind based sensuality is abandoned. It is the letting go of all experience. IMHO
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

SarathW
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by SarathW » Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:55 am

:goodpost: Pegembara
:D
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

nmz
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Re: Can you do meditation with any type of single thought or activity?

Post by nmz » Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:51 pm

In my opinion, mindfully reading and comtemplating sutta is also a form of meditation.
Should I say dhammanupassana?

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