Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

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

Post by householder » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:35 am

Hi all,

I did my first 10 day Vipassana retreat roughly this time last year, made great initial progress, and the benefits of continuous practice were made abundantly clear to me.

The nature of the 2 jobs I work since then has meant that my 30 and 45 minute sits have been sporadic at best - some weeks I sit once or twice a day, sometimes I'm required to be out and about with minimal downtime (20 hour days sometimes) so won't sit for several weeks at a time.

Things have calmed down a bit now so I'm sitting daily for 45 minutes, but feel that my progress has plateaued. I'm doing anapanasti, though find it difficult to focus on the sensations of the breath as I have a chronically blocked nose (which I'm having treatment for). Just a basic level of samadhi would be more than acceptable at this stage due to the infrequent sittings.

On the positive side daily mindfulness and noting is more sustained and requires less effort than this time last year. When it lapses and I realise it, I simply ask myself 'What am I doing?' and the noting comes back again. It's a crude/gross noting of physical and mental sensations most of the time, but I'm content with that as I don't realistically expect myself to be able to discern every subtle sensation at my level and timetable of practice.

I'm booking another 10-day retreat for April or August, but wonder if anyone else has these obstacles and frustration with progress, and how it can be remedied (apart from more sitting)? Thanks.

PS the jobs and sometimes long hours are not a source of frustration or desire to be or do other - they're helping me save for my ordination!

Virgo
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by Virgo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:45 am

Interesting that you think of wisdom without mentioning having sila well established day in and day out. Without that what progress will you make?

Your "timetable" is everyday. Do you get obsessed with objects you look at?

Kevin

Virgo
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by Virgo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:46 am

householder wrote: PS the jobs and sometimes long hours are not a source of frustration or desire to be or do other - they're helping me save for my ordination!
Amodana :clap:

Kevin

householder
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by householder » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:50 am

Virgo wrote:Interesting that you think of wisdom without mentioning having sila well established day in and day out. Without that what progress will you make?

Your "timetable" is everyday. Do you get obsessed with objects you look at?

Kevin
I observe and maintain the Five Precepts (abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and drugs entirely), strive to practice Right Speech and certainly have noted (and have had pointed out) progress in that area, and my jobs do not encroach on Wrong Livelihood.

As to getting obsessed with objects I look at, the answer would be no unless I'm using it as an object of concentration (or am required to observe/analyse it as part of one of my jobs!)

EDITED POST HAVING MISREAD VIRGO'S
Last edited by householder on Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

Virgo
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by Virgo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:53 am

householder wrote:
Virgo wrote:Interesting that you think of wisdom without mentioning having sila well established day in and day out. Without that what progress will you make?

Your "timetable" is everyday. Do you get obsessed with objects you look at?

Kevin
I didn't mention wisdom specifically (as it hadn't occurred to me as you point out), but as you bring it up, I observe and maintain the Five Precepts (abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and drugs entirely), strive to practice Right Speech and certainly have noted (and have had pointed out) progress in that area, and my jobs do not encroach on Wrong Livelihood.
That is excellent. I want you to know that I am not calling your sila into question, by any means. I just happened to notice that in your initial post you talked a lot about trying to develop wisdom in your situation but never once mentioned sila, which is a support for it.

Thanks,

Kevin

householder
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by householder » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:57 am

Virgo wrote:
householder wrote:
Virgo wrote:Interesting that you think of wisdom without mentioning having sila well established day in and day out. Without that what progress will you make?

Your "timetable" is everyday. Do you get obsessed with objects you look at?

Kevin
I didn't mention wisdom specifically (as it hadn't occurred to me as you point out), but as you bring it up, I observe and maintain the Five Precepts (abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and drugs entirely), strive to practice Right Speech and certainly have noted (and have had pointed out) progress in that area, and my jobs do not encroach on Wrong Livelihood.
That is excellent. I want you to know that I am not calling your sila into question, by any means. I just happened to notice that in your initial post you talked a lot about trying to develop wisdom in your situation but never once mentioned sila, which is a support for it.

Thanks,

Kevin
I probably put the cart before the horse by doing the retreat first, but it did incite me to bring mindfulness to my conduct and speech in daily life. The speech part was most interesting, as I used to enjoy finding out about gossip, interrupt and chip in with speculation and opinion on matters I had little knowledge of, little ability to verify or increase my knowledge of and which were, in the main, trivial beyond belief. I'll now happily (and prefer) to stay out of gossip, happily profess my ignorance on a subject if required and qualify that any opinion I hold on most anything is based on my 'take' of things and thus can be informed and changed. I've encountered few problems since WRT right speech, but need to maintain mindfulness/vigilance over it. Asking myself 'what is the benefit and why do I want to chip in here?' helps too - though I don't ask myself as often as I'd like and sometimes speak when not required. Still work to be done, as talking too much has always been a problem of mine, but there's certainly changes afoot here.

And Kevin I didn't interpret your post as calling my sila into question, but thank you for reminding me of the importance of it as a fundamental area for cultivation and as a foundation of practice.

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salmon
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by salmon » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:53 am

householder wrote: Things have calmed down a bit now so I'm sitting daily for 45 minutes, but feel that my progress has plateaued. I'm doing anapanasti, though find it difficult to focus on the sensations of the breath as I have a chronically blocked nose (which I'm having treatment for). Just a basic level of samadhi would be more than acceptable at this stage due to the infrequent sittings.

...

I'm booking another 10-day retreat for April or August, but wonder if anyone else has these obstacles and frustration with progress, and how it can be remedied (apart from more sitting)? Thanks.
It "plateaus" due to your tanha to gain progress. The solution is to just watch the mind reacting to this inability to progress as much as you expect.
~ swimming upstream is tough work! ~

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Goofaholix
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by Goofaholix » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:37 pm

It only seems like a plateau because your expectations about making continual progress seem unfulfilled, drop the expectations then it won't seem like a plateau any more. It is how it is, much of the time in practice nothing much happens, the practice is to be with that, maintain awareness when nothing much is happening, this is how you strengthen awareness.

It's good that you have maintained your practice when there are so many demands on your time.

Regarding your chronically blocked nose I used to get this problem a lot. Practicing ananapasati with this is your best bet as it means your attention will be on the problem area, you may not feel the breath so much but you'll be feeling other sensations at the nostrils, this should be your meditation object. Learn to relax with your problem, just observe it, and let go of struggling with it.
“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

PeterB
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by PeterB » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:15 pm

I think you are describing a real and common phenomenon.
Many people find that they need a top up retreat from time to time. This should not be seen as odd. Or lacking.
There are very good reasons for the Third Jewel. The Buddha knew what he was doing.
And online Sangha is a best a pallid substitute for the real thing. A playground for the anonymous.

householder
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by householder » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:44 pm

I have the April one booked, just need to get the holidays approved at work (main). I think the fact that I want to first part the April off, rather than the bank holiday bonanza at the end, (for the UK, with a 3-day and 4-day weekend next to each other) should count in my favour.

Although I've never been to the centre before, it runs vipassana retreats in the Mahasi style under who appears to be a lineaged monk, is a short walk from my house and offers ongoing retreat year-round in addition to the formal retreats. I didn't know this place existed before I went to Nepal - I may have struck gold here and am looking forward to it! I will try and visit beforehand.

PeterB
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by PeterB » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:47 pm

Sounds like you have found a good resource there householder. Good for you..

:anjali:

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:46 am

salmon wrote:It "plateaus" due to your tanha to gain progress.
It sounds to me like the plateau effect here is more to do with not having enough time / energy for sitting practice.

Spiny

householder
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by householder » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:39 pm

Today's concentration sittings resulted in an inability to perceive the breath over the anapanasti spot (blocked nose), nearly falling asleep, becoming mindful of that and coming back to the present moment with what felt like a near electrical shock in the brain, despite having a good 7 hours sleep a night this week.

Efforts to focus on a mental image of the Buddha work for a time, though the problem resurfaces soon after the image is (volitionally) dispelled to return to focusing on the breath. I keep my eyes open but feel them closing, and within a few seconds tape loops of thoughts arise that feel like extremely real memories of past events, until awareness (and noting) of thinking kicks in. Frustration with these factors arise, which in itself causes problems.

Repeat twice for 45 minutes at a time, constantly.

Roll on the retreat!

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bodom
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by bodom » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:43 pm

householder wrote:Today's concentration sittings resulted in an inability to perceive the breath over the anapanasti spot (blocked nose), nearly falling asleep, becoming mindful of that and coming back to the present moment with what felt like a near electrical shock in the brain, despite having a good 7 hours sleep a night this week.

Efforts to focus on a mental image of the Buddha work for a time, though the problem resurfaces soon after the image is (volitionally) dispelled to return to focusing on the breath. I keep my eyes open but feel them closing, and within a few seconds tape loops of thoughts arise that feel like extremely real memories of past events, until awareness (and noting) of thinking kicks in. Frustration with these factors arise, which in itself causes problems.

Repeat twice for 45 minutes at a time, constantly.

Roll on the retreat!
Do lots of walking meditation if you are sleepy and have no energy.

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

PeterB
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Re: Meditation 'plateaus' at home?

Post by PeterB » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:53 pm

Chin up Householder...no one said that it was easy...but it is possible..


:anjali:

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