Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Exploring modern Theravāda interpretations of the Buddha's teaching.
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mgm2010
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Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by mgm2010 » Sat Oct 29, 2016 3:31 am

I am a non-buddhist but I am avid reader and practitioner of buddhist scriptures. Since quite some time , an idea has been haunting me as to why, at all, it becomes so difficult for the mind to come to a single focus or to remain watchful of what is going on [ mindfulness ] ?? What is it in the fundamental structure of the mind that makes these activities so very difficult ?? Can it be that our evolution and survival so far has been based on the thought process ?? Hence the mind has been conditioned over billions of years to the thought process and is not able to mould itself to thoughtlessness or concentration or mindfulness(These terms I am using rather loosely).
2. Secondly, I am interested to know what does the buddhist scriptures have to say about
(a) Meditation before going to sleep
(b)Meditation during sleep ??

SarathW
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by SarathW » Sat Oct 29, 2016 6:27 am

it becomes so difficult for the mind to come to a single focus or to remain watchful of what is going on [ mindfulness ] ??
If you undestand the standard Jhana definition you have the answer.
a) Seclusion
b) Free from unwholesome thoughts

So it is important that you observe at least the five precepts and practice Brahama Viharas.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

mgm2010
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by mgm2010 » Sat Oct 29, 2016 8:58 am

My query is more fundamental, in the sense that, for one-pointedness all these conditions have to adhered to whereas free flow of thoughts go on all by itself. Nobody has to tell us how to let the thoughts flow freely. Why is it so ??
How and Why has the mind got conditioned to free flow of thoughts to begin with ??
And now the mind is finding it difficult to de-condition itself from free flowing thoughts and get one-pointed ??

SarathW
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by SarathW » Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:15 am

How and Why has the mind got conditioned to free flow of thoughts to begin with ??
These are called Anussaya (latent tendencies)
This is the say binary machine code of our mind.
The whole objective of Buddha dhamma ( say source code) is to re-programme this.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:36 am

mgm2010 wrote:My query is more fundamental, in the sense that, for one-pointedness all these conditions have to adhered to whereas free flow of thoughts go on all by itself. Nobody has to tell us how to let the thoughts flow freely. Why is it so ??
How and Why has the mind got conditioned to free flow of thoughts to begin with ??
And now the mind is finding it difficult to de-condition itself from free flowing thoughts and get one-pointed ??
Water always flows downhill — that is its nature. Wise people build dams and reservoirs to make the water more useful to mankind.

The mind follows the easy downhill path unless it is restrained by mindfulness and concentration. Thus, if one has let it flow freely since childhood it has become defiled by greed, hatred, and delusion. That is why it is now hard to control.

Wise people practice mindfulness and develop concentration, restraining the mind from unwholesome thoughts of lust, anger, envy, meanness, and so on, thus making it more useful to themselves and others too.

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SarathW
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by SarathW » Sat Oct 29, 2016 10:01 am

Water always flows downhill
:goodpost:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

JohnK
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by JohnK » Sun Oct 30, 2016 3:49 pm

mgm2010 wrote:...Since quite some time , an idea has been haunting me as to why, at all, it becomes so difficult for the mind to come to a single focus or to remain watchful of what is going on [ mindfulness ] ?? What is it in the fundamental structure of the mind that makes these activities so very difficult ??...
Just thinking with you: In terms of concentration, as we evolved as both predator and prey, too much single focus (on the hunt for example) could result in being prey. In terms of mindfulness of mind, most existential threats were from the outside, so scanning out there was more essential.

Even now, the default strategy for happiness and survival seems to be: approach the pleasant and avoid the unpleasant, reacting habitually to the changing phenomena presented to the senses. These are translated in the suttas as "underlying tendencies" which can be related to your "structure of the mind" idea. So, both concentration and mindfulness can be characterized as going against the stream.

I have also sometimes thought of humans as carrying the "us/them curse" -- knowing what is "us" and safe and what is "them" and threatening (be they other humans or animals) was/is adaptive to some degree, but it also leads to all sorts of cruelty that haunts our species. The curse inserts itself at micro and macro levels from family dynamics to international relations. Sadly, even the institutions that might counteract the curse (such as religions and other groups that try to counter the curse) often fall victim to it. I don't really believe in curses, but it is a strong metaphor (perhaps related to the "structure of the mind").
"Why is it, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?"
"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics" (AN 2: iv, 6, abridged).
Kindly eyes, not verbal daggers.

Caodemarte
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:01 pm

Another explanation is that it is not difficult or easy, but made so by the ingrained habits of the mind. Remember the Buddha despairing because of all his wasted effort until he remembered easily falling into a jhana as a child? After that he got on the right path.

Look at people diving into a pool. Some tense up and get hurt. Some go in gracefully. It is not the diving which is diffult, but the mind which makes it so. It takes time and practice for people to learn to dive in a "naturally" relaxed fashion.

The lute cannot be strung too tightly or loosely. Now excuse me as I go tighten the strings and break them once again.

SarathW
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by SarathW » Sun Oct 30, 2016 7:34 pm

most existential threats were from the outside, so scanning out there was more essential.
Good point.
Then why we like to talk, here or think about gossips?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

JohnK
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by JohnK » Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:27 pm

SarathW wrote:
most existential threats were from the outside, so scanning out there was more essential.
Good point.
Then why we like to talk, here or think about gossips?
Talk/Gossip is "out there," and such talk may inform us of potential threats (and pleasures). So, listening could be good for our survival and sharing such talk may establish alliances for protection/survival. (I hope I understood your question correctly.) I am just speculating here along the lines of the OP's evolution of mental patterns that may run counter to mindfulness ("downhill" perhaps).
"Why is it, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?"
"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics" (AN 2: iv, 6, abridged).
Kindly eyes, not verbal daggers.

SarathW
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by SarathW » Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:34 am

I think mind is like Google!
When you think some thing your mind present you with other similar (links) things.
It is no difference to surfing the net.
:rolleye:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

pegembara
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by pegembara » Mon Oct 31, 2016 4:43 am

mgm2010 wrote:My query is more fundamental, in the sense that, for one-pointedness all these conditions have to adhered to whereas free flow of thoughts go on all by itself. Nobody has to tell us how to let the thoughts flow freely. Why is it so ??
How and Why has the mind got conditioned to free flow of thoughts to begin with ??
And now the mind is finding it difficult to de-condition itself from free flowing thoughts and get one-pointed ??
Why is it hot in summer and cold in winter? Zen question.
Knowing the how is more useful than the why.

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress'... 'This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed'... 'This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.'
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

rajitha7
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by rajitha7 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:28 am

Please find an audio guide here ->

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bwjp9K ... BGZFU/view

It helped me.
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

whynotme
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by whynotme » Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:26 pm

Caodemarte wrote:Another explanation is that it is not difficult or easy, but made so by the ingrained habits of the mind. Remember the Buddha despairing because of all his wasted effort until he remembered easily falling into a jhana as a child? After that he got on the right path.

Look at people diving into a pool. Some tense up and get hurt. Some go in gracefully. It is not the diving which is diffult, but the mind which makes it so. It takes time and practice for people to learn to dive in a "naturally" relaxed fashion.

The lute cannot be strung too tightly or loosely. Now excuse me as I go tighten the strings and break them once again.
Very good point

Maybe because people doesn't jump into the right start, so it is very hard. Let's say 8 years old boy in elementary school wants to learn quantum physics, well it is very difficult since he did not develop his basics maths skill yet.

There are many times where the Buddha said the 8 fold path starts with right view, but people often jump right into meditation or mindfulness which is also a kind of meditation. They did not fully developed right view, i.e. there is wrong views in them, but they often think that is enough of right view, and let start meditation, so it is very hard to be mindfulness. Because wrong views lead to desires, which are obstacles of anykind of concentration. If people develop right view fully before anything else, then they will run straight to the arahantship easily.

The story of the Buddha is also a good example, because the Bodhisatta had wrong view, he wasted many years without any result. If he still grasped to those wrong view then in the next million of years he would hadn't achieved enlightenment.
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Jetavan
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by Jetavan » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:44 pm

mgm2010 wrote:why, at all, it becomes so difficult for the mind to come to a single focus


Nothing focuses the mind like the Ultimate deadline: death.

There's an App for that: maranasati.

gben
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by gben » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:55 am

Mindfulness is simply a matter of practice. You were once very, very mindful for the first year or so of your life, then you were taught to separate yourself from everything else and center your thoughts on you.

The more you practice watching and learning the more you will head back to that first year. Learning does not have to be large or complicated. When you come home from work learn where you put your jacket, wallet and keys. Before you go to be learn where you laid your eyeglasses. Learn someone's name etc.. When you are washing dishes look at your hands at work, look at the dishes as they are picked up, washed and put on the rack. Stop and learn the way you are sitting or laying or walking. Then forget those things and look at the grass and sidewalk and clouds and telephone wires.

Thinking is man's worst enemy, it has taken over and although the men it is attached to are alive it works tirelessly to destroy those men and all of life. Silly huh? Thought it to be used like a screwdriver, taken out of the toolbox when it is complimentary to life, but stowed back away when it is not needed, is destructive or is not practical. If someone throws a brick at your head and you think about it then it hits you, but if you move without a thought then you are saved.

Realize there is no free will. Left alone your body will function like a plant, moving towards what it needs to live, retracting from what harms it. Your thoughts are also the same as a tree, moving towards what perpetuates them and away from that which destroys them. Because thought has separated itself from life and forgot it needs life, it can destroy it. This is what ignorance is. Anyone can see that things that work in harmony continue, things that work against each other decay. The ego has forgot what it is, had made up new identities for itself, new divisions and set them against each other.

Once you see what you are then you are free of all this. You will be part of the whole again and you will execute your nature. Thought can be played with like a toy as long as it is not mistaken for what is real.

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The Thinker
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by The Thinker » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:50 am

A talk that investigates our intentions, which I hope will be an aid to those struggling with mindfulness. msb.dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/163/19556.html

Dharma Seed - Shaila Catherine's Dharma Talks at Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

lostitude
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by lostitude » Mon Jan 16, 2017 1:38 pm

mgm2010 wrote:Can it be that our evolution and survival so far has been based on the thought process ??
Most definitely yes, and I'm quite surprised to see that no one has pointed this out in this thread previously.
Our flowing thought process is key to innovation, imagination, visualisation, which are all necessary ingredients in order to invent tools, then invent techniques, then invent customs and traditions, types of social organization, strategies, etc. it's not a coincidence if many great inventions occured to people right when they were day-dreaming.

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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by Cittasanto » Mon Jan 16, 2017 9:50 pm

mgm2010 wrote:I am a non-buddhist but I am avid reader and practitioner of buddhist scriptures. Since quite some time , an idea has been haunting me as to why, at all, it becomes so difficult for the mind to come to a single focus or to remain watchful of what is going on [ mindfulness ] ?? What is it in the fundamental structure of the mind that makes these activities so very difficult ?? Can it be that our evolution and survival so far has been based on the thought process ?? Hence the mind has been conditioned over billions of years to the thought process and is not able to mould itself to thoughtlessness or concentration or mindfulness(These terms I am using rather loosely).
I would say it is a matter of personal narative, projecting into the future (possibilities of what one will become) and what was. this giving us a context of self in the present.
I would include here that looking for danger... is included here as a form of future projection.
Concentration in all its forms, and mindfulness are natural abilities of the mind. However, for them to be upright (samma), they need to be put to use in the correct context of upright view.
That is not to say one has to become a Buddhist.
2. Secondly, I am interested to know what does the buddhist scriptures have to say about
(a) Meditation before going to sleep
(b)Meditation during sleep ??
to my knowledge lucid dreeming (or similare sleep based awareness) is not mentioned in the texts.

In Truth
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Aloka
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Re: Why is Mindfulness So Difficult ??

Post by Aloka » Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:01 pm

Hi mgm2010,

This little mindfulness booklet by Ajahn Sumedho might be helpful :


http://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/upl ... umedho.pdf


:anjali:

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