I Wasted 8 Years of Meditation Because I Didn’t Understand These 4 Things

Most people meditate for a long time with little improvement because of these four myths.

Boat on the sea going nowhere prayer flagsI Wasted 8 years of meditation because I didn't understand these four things ineffective meditation practice

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Contents

  • Introduction
  • Striving for unusual or one-off experiences
  • Misunderstanding non-judgemental awareness
  • Thinking that trying to exert any kind of effort in meditation is a mistake
  • Extremely vague or unstructured meditation instructions
  • Conclusion

Introduction

I’ve been practicing meditation for a few years, but I still can’t keep my attention on my breath for more than a few seconds at a time. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and I’m starting to get really discouraged; I’m hoping you can give me some advice?” 

I was attending a meditation day at a Buddhist centre, being run by a much-anticipated guest. He had decades of meditation teaching experience, and had written a number popular meditation manuals. More than one person at the centre had mentioned to me what a masterful teacher he was – somebody with a deep practice, they said, who radiated a powerful equanimity. So I was curious to hear how he’d respond to this question posed to him by one of the other attendants in the first Q&A session that morning.

Having spent a very long time making minimal progress in meditation myself, I felt for the questioner. A number of potential questions sprung immediately to my mind for her: how often and how long was she practicing for? What meditation technique was she using to keep attention on the breath? How did she react and what did she do when she noticed a distraction? How much sleep was she getting?

The old teacher sat in Yoda-like contemplation for a few seconds. “I’m not really sure what to say about that… I don’t really know,” he said at last. “If you just keep practicing, I think you’ll get there eventually.”

I left the event after that Q&A, but I was later told that those in attendance had been impressed with his ability to recite poetry by heart in a deep, warm voice.

Imagine a chess coach saying to a student who has been practicing chess for two years with no sign of improvement “Well, I don’t know what to say, just keep doing what you’ve been doing, I guess”. For that matter, imagine assessing the skill of a chess teacher by their ability to recite poetry about chess in a nice voice. 

This story is symptomatic of a deep problem: many people, and often even esteemed teachers, have very little understanding of how to improve at meditation.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are a number of insidious myths about meditation which lead people to adopt highly ineffective practice methods.

The second is that the findings from the scientific study of skill acquisition are simply not well known, and ineffective training methods are relatively common amongst practitioners of any skill.

Both of these problems are easy to debug. This blog will deal with the first.
(Part 2 of this blog: The (Sort of) Complete Guide to Actually Getting Better at Meditation deals with the second.)

The Myths of Meditation

There are four main problems I’m aware of that get in the way of a skillful approach to meditation:

  1. Striving for unusual or one-off experiences
  2. Misunderstanding non-judgemental awareness
  3. Thinking that trying to exert any kind of effort in meditation is a mistake
  4. Vague or unstructured meditation instructions

Let’s look at these one by one.

1. Striving for unusual or one-off experiences

Meditation is a skill, and like any skill, the markers of development are enduring trait-level changes, not fleeting experiences.

One problem I hear a lot is meditators striving for unusual, one-off experiences, and trying to assess how well developed their practice is on the basis of them. Every now and again even a terrible chess player will make a great move, and every now and again even an unskilled meditator will experience unusual bodily sensations, a distorted sense of time, altered states of consciousness, upwellings of bliss, and the like. 

If you can’t replicate it, and it doesn’t have any enduring effects, you haven’t developed a trait – you’ve just had an experience. 

It is true that altered states of consciousness are more likely as one gets better at meditation, just as good moves are more likely as one gets better at chess. But these are the cart that follows after the horse of skill. Making good moves does not make one better at chess – practicing chess correctly makes one better at chess, and thereby increases the likelihood of making good moves. Similarly, having unusual experiences does not make one a better meditator; practicing meditation correctly makes one a better meditator, and MAY increase the likelihood of unusual experiences. 

This analogy isn’t perfect because one assesses the skill of chess players by their ability to make good moves, but skill at meditation is certainly not measured by how often one has unusual experiences.

The only way to get better at meditation, and to maximally benefit from the many fruits meditation practice has to offer, is to practice meditation well. One-off unusual experiences may be encouraging and fun, but they are a symptom of progress, not the means. Trying to progress by generating unusual experiences is a dead end.

2. Misunderstanding non-judgemental awareness

Another myth is the idea that even trying to get better at meditation is a bad idea, or that it’s impossible to make progress at all. There is a sentiment I hear expressed all the damn time in Western secular mindfulness culture that any meditation session is just as good as any other, and that there’s no way to do meditation wrong.

Take a look at a typical quote I found in ten seconds on a popular blog about mindfulness practice:

Mindfulness is not about trying to be mindful. We are already mindful right now – try not being mindful/aware right now – impossible.”

Then, later in the same blog:
I cannot stay mindful all of the time, but I can notice what takes me away from being mindful“.

But you just told us that it’s impossible not to be mindful.

From another mindfulness blog:

Here’s the good news: it’s not possible to be bad at meditation. There’s doing it and not doing it. That’s all…

Then, later:

All experiences of meditation are good and valuable because they cultivate the skill of being present, of strengthening the mind. How many other skills would we expect to master without much practice?

The thundering contradiction rings out here as well; to assert that it isn’t possible to be better or worse at meditation, and then immediately expound on how one can get better at it with practice like any other skill simply does not add up, yet I see this contradiction everywhere.

The grain of truth in this bizarre meme it is that a meditation session does not have to be full of peace and bliss to be an effective one – indeed it may be full of frustration and distraction. By the same token, one need not win a game of chess to learn from it – indeed it may be full of blunders and poor strategic judgement.

But the lesson to take away from this is not “It doesn’t matter whether or not I win at chess to get better at it – therefore any attempt to win is pointless and I can just sit at the board and move the pieces with a vague intention to attack the enemy king, and if I practice like this for long enough, I’ll become a master.” One may learn – eventually – to recognise and avoid some obvious traps, but one will not be developing a fine grasp of chess strategy any time soon. 

Yet the idea seems to have latched in the collective brain of the Western meditation community that as long as one is sitting with a vague intention to keep attention on the meditation object (and perhaps not even that), one’s practice can admit of no improvement, and enough time will reliably bring forth the fruits of practice.

There is a great deal of confusion on this point. I think that much of it stems from a misunderstanding of the virtues of being ‘non-judgemental’.

The term “non-judgmental” can be read in two ways. The correct way is in the sense of equanimity – an absence, or at least a quieting, of desire and aversion. The second, misleading, way is in the sense of non-responsiveness. Let me make the difference clear and explain why a conflation of these two renderings has caused such confusion. 

Equanimity is the ability to have positive and negative experiences without grasping at them or pushing them away. For example, one feels a wave of warmth from a pleasant memory that arises – and it can exist in awareness without pulling one into other memories or fantasies. Then the warmth is followed by contraction and shame as a negative thought arises, and that too is seen, and allowed to arise and pass away in awareness without causing either a spiral into rumination or a desperate attempt to get rid of it.

Equanimity is a wonderful thing, and the emphasis on it is not for nothing. The skills of meditation hang on a finely cultivated equanimity in a way that the skills of boxing, mountain biking, probably taxidermy, and so on, do not.

This is simply because there is more potential for negative feedback loops when you are using mental states to cultivate other mental states (e.g. concentration). Without equanimity, a brief distraction turns into a bit of frustration, which provokes more distractions, and so on.

Cultivating equanimity forestalls these vicious cycles that desire and craving can create. When one is equanimous, a brief distraction turns into… nothing. It just arises and passes, and causes no negative feedback loops. 

So equanimity – a reduction in desire and aversion – is great.

On the other hand, “non-responsiveness” is the idea that a meditator is doing something wrong if they try to change any aspect of their state of mind whatsoever – an instruction which is obviously in conflict with cultivating the challenging skills of meditation. Much contemporary meditation teaching would lead you to believe that if you are trying to change anything, then you must be motivated by your judgement that your current experience – whether it be of distraction, or drowsiness, or anything else – is not good enough, and that this is clearly a failure in being non-judgemental.

But if you notice that you’re dozing off in meditation, trying to rouse your mind back to alertness is not necessarily a failure in equanimity – it is merely being responsive to feedback, and this is an essential part of the practice. Similarly, if you elect to withdraw your attention from a niggling distraction and engage more completely with the meditation object, this need not have been motivated by the workings of desire or aversion. In other words, certain kinds of discriminating judgement must be made to correct course, but these corrections may be carried out with perfect equanimity.

To be clear, it is of course true that somebody who is in a state of equanimity may choose not make such corrections, and also that the attempts to rouse one’s mind back to alertness or away from distractions may be made by somebody in the grip of much unhelpful craving. But the crucial insight is that neither of these two meditators will be acting optimally, because equanimity and responsiveness are orthogonal – becoming more equanimous does not mean that you must become less responsive, and becoming more responsive does not mean that you must become less equanimous.

This table should make things clearer with some examples:

Non-responsivity to hindrances Responsivity to hindrances
Non-equanimity
(i.e. aversion or craving)
in response to hindrances
Terrible
Example: strong craving towards a hindrance,
like an especially appealing fantasy, and then
going along with it, doing nothing to correct
for the mind wandering.
Better
Example: a distraction arsies, and frustration
with it follows. Fuelled by this frustration, one
tries to correct for the tendency to distraction
with skillful antidotes. Yet, the aversion to the
initial hindrance becomes its own form of
hindrance, and reduces the effectiveness of
any corrective measures.
Equanimity to hindrances Better
Example: One is frequently mind-wandering,
and when one notices that one is mind-wandering,
such distractions are each noted calmly and
objectively, but one does not do anything to
correct for the arising of mind wandering itself.
Equanimity itself will do little to correct for this,
and so the root of the tendency for distraction
is left unaffected.
Perfect
Example: when distractions arise, they are noted
calmly and objectively. One identifies the cause of
such distractions, and corrects for it with skillful
antidotes.

Getting frustrated certainly is not an effective way to address – for instance- distractions, but, by itself, neither is just accepting their presence.

 Overcoming obstacles in meditation such as distractions, dullness, aversion, craving, agitation, impatience, and so on, requires the application of the right kinds of intentions. To apply the right kinds of intentions as an antidote to the corresponding kind of problem, one must be responsive to what arises, without being derailed by vicious cycles of, for example, frustration. Equanimity and responsivity are not opposites therefore; they are in fact highly complementary, and one can and should train both simultaneously.

Meditation teachers seem to love sharing paradoxes like these with an enigmatic smile: “Ah, to get better, one must let go of trying to get better.” “To get from point A to point B, you need to just really BE at point A.” And so on. 

These are half-true, but can seem to conflate being non-judgemental with being non-responsive in a way that is needlessly confusing.

I’m sure that anybody halfway through an introductory 8-week mindfulness course will object that distractions and the like truly don’t matter to them because the brand of meditation they have learned does not require the development of concentration, or any other kind of mental state, but only for one to note whatever arises in the mind – whether that’s a distraction or anything else.

Here, however, we must still differentiate between mental activity that is indeed noted as a meditation object as soon as it arises, and true distractions that capture one’s attention so fully that one temporarily forgets that they are trying to meditate upon such mental events at all. Accomplishing the former and obviating the latter is a skill which must be practiced, and there simply are better and worse ways of doing so.

Meditation and mindfulness are complex mental skills – like any other complex skill, they require a huge amount of dedication and practice time to perform well. The idea that there’s no way to do them better or worse may be useful as a provisional model of practice, for some people, some of the time, but I’m skeptical of even that much, and it seems to be doing more harm than good.

3. Thinking that trying to exert any kind of effort at all in meditation is a mistake

There are some schools of thought which imply or outright insist that trying to do anything at all in meditation is a mistake. One such argument goes that the feeling of being a separate self, and the feeling of wishing to impose control over the world—that is, to resolve one’s desires and aversions—are the same feeling. Therefore, since effortful meditation is itself a manner of trying to impose control, it is nothing but an exercise of the ego, and has no effect other than to strengthen the attendant tendencies for desire and aversion.

Dogen said that you can’t sit and meditate unless you are already a Buddha. In which case, why meditate? All meditation is just a way of how Buddha sits. And he called this sitting just to sit; not to attain enlightenment. The minute you do that, you see, you’re not meditating. So you only become a good meditator if you’re not looking for anything.

So when you can sit without… creating problems all the time… by trying to control your mind… you then just simply discover that there is no way of controlling what you’re experiencing because what you are experiencing is you. And to try and really fundamentally control that is just going around in a circle.”

– Alan Watts

There is certainly value to these sort of ‘no-effort’ practices. I’m uncertain how much and in what contexts (and that’s a whole other discussion), but I am confident that for the vast majority of people, they will only be useful alongside a well-guided meditation practice, with a clear rationale and clear instructions. 

Such practices are ultimately inadvisable as one’s sole practice, simply because they fall desperately short of the principles of effective skill acquisition that I cover in the second part of this blog.

Also worth mentioning here is “awareness of awareness” practice, and its many variations. In this practice one observes (for example) how awareness can feel like the open sky, in which experiences can arise and pass, leaving the ‘space’ of awareness itself unaffected.

The model underlying these forms of practice asserts that awareness has equanimity as an intrinsic characteristic. Equanimity thus requires no practice or cultivation, but needs only to be “realised” or “tapped into”.

Proponents of these models of practice often proclaim that any effort to cultivate a mental state of any kind is misguided, since mental states, like everything else, only arise and pass away in the innately flawless space of awareness. All one needs to do is to rest back into the all-inclusive space of awareness, which is already present and perfect in every moment.

One can certainly have experiences that seem to meet this description, and it can be an extremely valuable and liberating practice to cultivate and make such a perspective readily available.

Yet, the perception of awareness as a ‘space’-like thing, and all similar perspectives fostered by such practices are themselves species of mental state which must be cultivated to endure, and to be available in emotionally charged situations where they are most needed. 

This cultivation is a skill which must be practiced, and, again, there are better and worse ways of doing so.

4. Extremely vague or unstructured meditation instructions

There are many styles of meditation or spiritual practices more generally, for which the practice instructions are notoriously vague. One example is Rinzai Zen koans – those bizarre questions that demand a spontaneous non-intellectual answer, such as the famous “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” and “Show me your original face before your parents were born.” One is given very little by way of instruction other than to just “sit with” the question. Also prominent is Soto Zen Shikantaza – “just sitting” – practice, which is pretty much what it says on the tin; one gets few to no actual sitting instructions, and is instructed to simply sit in the meditation posture. There are many other examples.

Without clear instructions, one may practice for a long time (indefinitely, depending on how vague the practice instructions are) without understanding what one is supposed to be doing at all. This is simply wasted time, and may even be worse than wasted time, since there are many bad habits that one must be vigilant not to pick up in meditation – which take a long time to unlearn.

I know of one man who had been a Zen monk for decades. After leaving the monastery and taking up practice with a highly skilled meditation teacher, it quickly became clear to him that he had spent his years in the zendo accidentally training himself to remain in a state of ‘stable subtle dullness’. This is a state which is very pleasant, and which can masquerade as deep concentration, because few thoughts arise, but these qualities are due to a drop in mental energy – like dozing in a sunbed – rather than a powerful and clear concentration. As a result of this bad habit being so deeply ingrained by years of daily practice, he found it almost impossible to develop his concentration any further, and many of the fruits of advanced meditation practice remained out of reach. Such stories are not uncommon – and most people never get clear enough meditation instructions to even realise where they have gone wrong. Unclear or vague instructions are a surefire way to cultivate a number of bad habits.

Perhaps such unstructured practices are the equivalent of musical improvisation: a trained musician can do a beautiful job improvising on an instrument, and this may be a useful way to tap into some spontaneous creativity and new ideas or insights. But such skilled spontaneity is the result of years of intentional, directed, repetitive practice. Ad-libbing on an instrument is not the way to learn to play it from scratch, and a beginner can spend an indefinite amount of time making a terrible racket, learning some bad habits, and making no progress whatsoever if they tried to learn to play this way. Undirected styles of meditation have their place, perhaps especially as insight practices, but they are probably only useful for those who have already trained their mind to a very high degree.

Conclusion

I sometimes think that meditation teaching today is sort of where medicine was in the 19th century. It was generally accepted that medicine could be a kind of science, but nobody had any goddamn clue what they were doing. They wouldn’t even have randomised control trials for another hundred years, so any oversized moustache with an idiot attached could say “I have a great new technique for treating mental illness – let’s strap people to a chair and just spin it around at high speeds for a few minutes.” And people said “Why would that work?” and the moustache would say “Well, it could reduce, you know… brain congestion,” and if the moustache was oversized enough, people would nod thoughtfully and then it would become standard medical practice for a few decades until a bigger moustache with a stupider theory sauntered along.

And look, I didn’t go balls to the wall with the historical research on this one, but you get my point. Until only a few generations ago, the history of medicine is the history of the placebo. People occasionally hit upon medicines that really did work, but until medical science really got its shit together, doctors were so unreliable at telling which were working and which were actively harmful that you were probably safer just waiting your illness out.

Science has barely begun testing which components of the profusion of available meditation practices are effective (and in what respects), and I think that we should expect to look back after a hundred years of better science and see many elements of these practices as we now see bizarre old medical practices like strapping schizophrenic patients to a chair to spin the crazy out.

Time will tell, but the best we can do for the time being is to draw on established psychology to inform which meditation practices to trust. There is every reason to believe that the mental faculties one cultivates in meditation answer to the same psychological principles as all other types of skill; which is to say that there are better and worse ways to cultivate them. The study of how to learn skills effectively has been well underway for decades, and has some very detailed advice to give. As we would expect, it runs counter to a lot of meditation teachings, which have percolated down to us without any particularly rigorous filters – and certainly nothing even approaching randomised control trials. My hope is that this blog has highlighted the major clashes between such teachings and what’s reasonable to expect based on the current psychology. 

For more on the details of the science of skill acquisition and how to apply it to meditation, please read part 2 of this blog: The (Almost) Complete Guide to Actually Getting Better at Meditation.

Author: RationalShinkai

Ollie lives in England. He likes meditation, peanut butter, and Oxford commas.

34 thoughts on “I Wasted 8 Years of Meditation Because I Didn’t Understand These 4 Things”

    1. haha Thanks Vidyamala!! I’m touched and slightly embarrassed that you read it 🙂
      You were great at St. Michael’s earlier today!

  1. Something that would improve meditation even more is realizing that there is a soul. When in beginner meditation you tell the mind to clear and it does the opposite and becomes “crazy monkey mind” who is it, what mind is it, that is noticing that this other mind went full on bananas? The mind of the soul is looking at the mind of the body. The mind of the soul said clear. The mind of the body rebelled. Meditation is to train the mind of the body to allow the mind of the soul to be in charge. Until one comes to this understanding, their meditation is in vain.

      1. Why complicate such a simple practice! Become aware of the natural breath. The cool air entering the nostrils the warm air exiting the nostrils the gentle rise and fall of the diaphragm…full breath awareness. Chant your mantra aloud or silently for a comfortable time, discontinue mantra, look out into the space between the closed eyes “chittakasha” The minds space, repeat mentally 3 times I am a detached witness and simply just watch the thoughts come and go as if you were watching a tv screene, totally detached from the fluctuations of the mind just letting the thoughts come and go giving them no energy what so ever. Bring the awareness back to the natural breath for a few minutes and slowly open the eyes…Simple. If you have trouble focusing on mantra or breath awareness learn how to use the mala beads…each breath you move on to the next bead. Hair Om. Suryananda Saraswati

        1. Absolutely. Simple things when not done in simplified way results in complications. Medical science itself is trying to gather statistics around changes in human body activities during meditation practices. Benefits are getting recorded and more research is going on. Blogger has gone through few things in his practice which can be due to improper guidance or not being simple and natural. Stay blessed.

  2. I never have been able to control my gag reflex, when I hear the word mindfulness, in the same article with meditation. Meditation is the ability to set the self, and its mind aside. Your mind and thoughts are the main hinderance, when meditating. One of the best tips I received, when learning, was don’t allow yourself the use of language. And don’t allow yourself to analyze the experience. If your able to set the self, and all that ,of which you cannot take with you aside, just observe, and let the nature of your existence unfold itself to you. You will have an awakening. If thoughts arise, everything will momentarily stop. Don’t entertain them. Just watch without allowing anything from this life in. I hope that this will help you.

  3. As a long-term proponent of Transcendental Meditation, I invite the author to explore what makes TM different than contemplation- or concentration-based meditation techniques. Many of the concerns you have brought up, such as the lack of scientific validation or the vagueness of the instruction technique are fully addressed by TM.

    https://www.tm.org/

  4. I never saw meditation as a skill at all, but rather an activity. The activity itself I never asked what the point of it was. I just felt compelled to do it. The more I did it, the more I began to express the internal purpose of the experience. The purpose of meditation for me as I learned was to discover who I am. Who am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? At the end each sitting I would be slightly closer to an answer, everyday I would sit and ask again, and again. As it turns out the end result of meditation is enlightenment. To be enlightened is to lie the head of the physical body in the lap of the Soul self and to acknowledge maya. I, like the master in the story, wouldn’t know how to tell someone how to do that better. Each meditation journey is unique to the individual. Some require strict dogma and instruction. Some need an open experience that they can fill in. It seems to me there are as many types of meditation practices as there are paths to enlightenment or God. This is a thorough article and I enjoyed reading it, however I feel that you might have missed the point of meditation altogether. Peace

      1. Meditation is merely the restful or the default State of Consciousness. It is enough, if the Consciousness gets it or reaches it only once. It won’t be lost again. @gmybird

  5. I didn’t appreciate the critical tone in this blog. I actually believe a successful practice in meditation brings one to a place where feelings of superiority and ego eventually diminish. That’s not to say we can’t share good things learned in our meditation journey. But I’m not much of a chess player. And the wordiness of this blog and the link near the end, which is supposed to give us practical examples of how to be successful — I just didn’t find it helpful. Perhaps the author has such a love for chess that it’s hard to translate to the non-chess lover and aspiring meditator. I’m not saying there was nothing good here. Just didn’t care for the attitude behind it the words.

  6. Meditation is a path. If the method told by others not working for you, maybe you should try something different. Maybe it is not for you at present and only you are the best judge. Happy Life.

  7. Yes sounds like you said trying to force it to happen. it does not work like that this is why a lot of people fail at meditation they think there’s going to be instant results I’ve seen many a folk walk away saying it does not work but believe me it does I must have been lucky I stuck at it for 18 months not knowing if it was working following the teachers instructions one day somebody said I looked laid back and unflustered like I usually am, I then realised the meditation was having an effect on me it would slow my monkey mind down to snails pace and that felt really good. It has many benefits. But if you gave up please try OM chanting it’s a quick way into a trance like meditative state it maybe best to go to a group OM chant. Normal mediration requires the mind to become disaplined and that can take time

    1. May I know are you a Buddhist. This is important as cultivation in buddhist psychology will very much help you in meditation. The principle of discipline,concentration/mindfulness and clear understanding will prepare a person to perform this act. Once you have undergone the learning and practise of the many facets of Buddha teaching then meditation should follow.

    2. This article is an expression of a big Ego! The only thing that is clear is how to apparently do it right as per your understanding but when you describe how others do it wrong or teach it wrong it gets very blurry. Seems to me you trying to make them look bad by making it more complicated than it is. I am not an expert indeed but I meditate for two years only and it had changed my life profoundly. The only thing I know for sure is that it shouldn’t be so complicated, complicated means coming from the ego.

      1. Agree entirely! It’s what it means to the individual and how they wish to practice xxx no prizes for
        who meditates better. How it helps and supports is more important and doesn’t come from ego xxx

  8. Meditation is a kind of deep love with master lord( god)

    If it’s real deep you are good at it

    if it is not that deep you try again and again.

    It’s not only you in love. If you take a step the lord takes a millions towards you.

    A decade is the norm. Unless you have spent in your earlier life.

  9. So much resistance in the comments… I thought there was good perspective in this article. With an intention to help people learn from your experience.
    I also agree that meditation is a skillful disapline, that becomes effortless with time.

    1. An interesting and useful contribution to the debate. Yet, at the heart of meditation is concentration. Concentration comes with practise and with practise comes with the ability to notice when your mind has wandered. That is the essence. ‘Sati’. I don’t know if you can get ‘better’ at that, but you can become more ‘familiar’ with your mind and hence take your practise away from the meditation cushion.

  10. Becomes apparent one needs to be highly intelligent to meditate. Could not understand the half of your article. The bits I did get were appreciated. Still no clue on the “how ” though.

  11. Hello, your article was great. Meditation is a way of living and not simply a technique and that also without judging the actual needs and duration of a practice. People tend to run after names and in the long run remains empty handed. The technique becomes a ritual and nothing else. A dangerous trend indeed.
    Have discussed this issue in my channel named Akshay Chaitanya in the youtube. At least awareness is needed for those who’re misguided by the market.

  12. Quite interesting article. Will need to read again for better understanding. Do you practice Vipassana. The most profound terms used, are the ones often spoken by Achara SN Goenka of Vipassana

  13. No wonder people are put off by meditation when it appears to have sooo many rules and regulations! Must do this or must not, surely its personal to whoever does it and any relaxing practice can be seen as meditation like a walk in nature and gardening. Why does it have to be clever and complicated? It involves all the senses not just the mind x observe nature as the best teacher x blessings x

  14. Handy excerpts:-

    … we can allow all seen things to come and go exactly as they please. “The perfect person employs the mind as a mirror,” says Chuang Tzu. “It neither grasps nor rejects; it receives, but does not keep.” The mirror effortlessly receives its reflections, just as you effortlessly see the sky right now, and just as the Witness effortlessly allows all objects whatsoever to arise. All things come and go in the effortless mirror-mind that is the simple Witness.
    Embracing amd welcoming so called “uncomfortable” thoughts, sensations etc and asking them to stay for as long as they please without resistance is such a beautiful experience (however ridiculous this mind sound).
    ——–
    “My friend had received the most important teaching, one that had its origins in the Buddha’s revolutionary approach. He did not have to transform himself in the way he imagined: He just had to learn to be kind to himself. If he could hold himself with the care Dada showed while clutching the old pot, it would be enough. His ordinary self, wrapped in all of its primitive agony, was precious too.”

  15. What a fantastic insight into meditation, brilliantly written, with a good amount of humour and facts. I’m inspired to change my mediation practice and try to become more skilful. Thanks for the blog, it made me laugh as well as opening my mind up to a new way of meditation.

  16. For developing minds, meditation can be of great help, and even more so than in adults. Lately there has been a great interest on the part of educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to schools. Many schools have recently implemented these practices within their daily schedules and have seen that grades and attendance have increased. Thus it has also been proven that there are cognitive and emotional benefits for children.

  17. Nice article. I can identify with the headline. I have also meditated for a number of years with some amount of sincerity at least with negligible results.

    I also got confused by books that I had read. I think that I would do well with step by step instructions which take me from one level to the next. The Buddha is supposed to have taught more than 80,000 meditation practices. The central point is that each person is different and his (or her) ailment needs to be diagnosed and a tailored remedy suggested. This is similar to going to a doctor and receiving a prescription tailored for you.

    Will explore and try out the suggestions in the second part of this blog

    Thanks

  18. Unfortunately I find this to be a very flat one dimensional take. Seeing meditation as a “skill” is in my opinion a flawed model from the start. It is more like an orchestra performance although you make the analogy at one point, it’s a near miss. I say that because just like there is no “objective” good performance there is no objective “good meditation”. Sometimes the music hall, and the acoustics makes all the difference. Regardless, I agree the training is important.

    Another thing about meditation teachers and paradoxes. I see it as kind of a tool. They leave some questions unanswered for the mind to grapple with, and may be give up. May be it will shut down the discriminating mind even for a while. Also I find that some times it’s important for a good teacher to not communicate certain things and leave the question as is.

    This post sounds similar to the articles I read on bodybuilding forum 6 years ago. Although I acknowledge such rigid “THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT” works for strength training, I will be very cautious approaching meditation that way. Because it is hard to measure improvement in subjective experience (or suffering for someone following Buddhist doctrine).

    I like a more philosophical take here than an engineering approach because there it’s okay to not have answers, and it’s okay to have paradoxes. It’s okay to see the limits of rationality and structural language itself and settle for a “bounded rationality”. It is okay to accept this and that at the same time although this says that is not possible.

    I appreciate the effort, intention and the different opinion. But the authoritative and critical tone is off putting considering the breadth (or lack thereof) of the perspective.

  19. I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

  20. Thank you for this useful content. I don’t see how the people who wrote the negative comments got drawn to a blog with your focus in the first place;-)Keep it up!

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