Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation Background

Sit : Love : Give

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Is meditation for me?

waterfallPresumably, if you’ve got this far, you’re interested in meditation. But you may be wondering whether you’re “cut out for it”. I hear a lot of people saying things like, “Oh, I could never meditate; I’m too easily distracted”.

I’d like to reassure you that anyone can meditate, and that you don’t need any special abilities to follow this path.

In fact, the “I’m too distracted to meditate” attitude really betrays a misunderstanding of what meditation is about. (It’s OK to start out with misunderstandings, incidentally. How could we not start out with misunderstandings of something we know little or nothing about?).

The idea behind meditating is not that we’re seeking to have “perfect meditations”, like an Olympic gymnast going for a perfect 10 in a competition, but that we’re doing some basic work on developing our minds, more like when we go to the gym and do some exercise.

When we go to work out, it wouldn’t be a very helpful attitude to think, “Oh, I can’t work out, I’m not strong enough or fit enough”. The whole point of working out, as we know, is to start from where we are and to develop greater levels of strength and fitness.

It’s the same deal with meditation. If we’re very distracted, or very anxious, or we keep getting irritated by sounds in our environment when we’re trying to meditate, that’s just what we’re starting with. That’s our raw material.

Meditation helps us to become aware of these habitual tendencies, and also helps us to work with them so that they become less prominent in our lives, so that we become a bit less distracted, less anxious, more accepting.

And just like working out at the gym, where we don’t make some sudden leap to athleticism, in meditation we change gradually. Breath by breath, meditation by meditation, day by day, we work changes within our hearts and minds; changes that accumulate over time.

It’s worth bearing in mind that lots of research has shown the benefits of meditation. For example, a study by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin looked at what happened when workers in a tech company meditated for eight weeks. One of the major findings was that those people’s brains changed. Activity was lowered in parts of the brain associated with negative emotions, and was increased in parts of the brain associated with feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Also, the participants in the study were given a flu vaccine at the end of the study and were found to have an improved immune response. One important thing to realize is that there was nothing special about the participants in this study, or in the many other studies that have shown the benefits of meditation. They were ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives.

It’s possible to change from being a very anxious person to a very confident person; to move from being habitually stressed to being more laid-back; to move from being prone to bad moods to being happier. We just have to do the practice.

Comments

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Comment from Sadhu
Time: May 24, 2007, 9:40 am

Beautiful, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Comment from piper
Time: June 5, 2007, 6:16 pm

Thank you ……

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Comment from sothea
Time: February 3, 2008, 8:01 am

meditation is very beneficial to me. when I my head seems to be full and difficult to get new information, I try to practise meditation.
As a result, my head and body is very relaxed.

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Comment from thecatsmother
Time: March 17, 2008, 11:55 am

I’ve been meditating daily for about a month now and I can’t believe how calm and relaxed I am becoming. I want to spread the word so everyone can feel the same feelings I am experiencing. The world would be a more loving place.

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Comment from David
Time: September 2, 2008, 2:17 am

I have been meditating for quite some time now, and I cannot believe how relaxed I am about everything. All of my stress just seems to melt away.

I have one question, and I wasn’t sure where to put this. Whenever I meditate (I’m not sure when this started) I get this tingling feeling first in my hands, and then my whole body. What’s more, I feel pressure, not pleasurable or painful, just pressure, on the middle of my forehead. I this normal, or is it something I should be worried about?

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Comment from Sunada
Time: September 2, 2008, 2:23 pm

Dear David,

What you’re describing is a fairly common experience for meditators, and nothing to be concerned about. It could be one of two things. First, it could be that your mind and body are just not used to being with so little stimulation. And so they go off and start making up experiences like this in order to keep themselves occupied! Just like anything else, if you let them be, they will pass.

The other possibility, especially if you’ve been meditating for quite some time, is that you’re becoming more sensitive to the subtle goings-on in your body. Maybe you’ re starting to become aware of different kinds of bodily energy flows. Hands are a common place to feel lively energy — and that tingling you’re feeling could be exactly that.

In any case, I think you’re fine to think of them as just another thing in a parade of passing experiences. Or how about using them as the focus of your concentration and see what happens? Might be an interesting experiment

Best wishes,
Sunada
http://www.mindfulpurpose.com

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Comment from Kar
Time: September 6, 2008, 11:23 am

In the past I’ve put off meditation until I felt I was ready for it. I thought I had to be calm and that meditation was useless unless I was perfectly at peace and 100% focused on breathing. Not surprisingly, the pressure I put on myself to meditate “perfectly” made me give up in frustration. Later on I came to this site. This article inspired me to try it again, only this time I won’t be concerned about doing it right. Just do it!

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Comment from kurt
Time: October 13, 2008, 7:51 am

I have been depressed for about 20 years and have done a lot of things like taking antidepresive medications, talk therapy, electroshock therapy.
I have tried to meditated but have not been very consistent. Also I am afraid that it can make my depression get worse or that it can make me kind of Psycotic or crazy.
Would you give me some enlightment about.
Thanks in advance, Kurt

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 14, 2008, 9:46 am

Hi Kurt,

If you don’t already suffer from some kind of psychosis (which I take to mean experiencing hallucinations, delusions, or both) it’s vanishingly unlikely that meditation would push you in that direction. Meditation has convincingly been shown to be helpful in preventing relapse in people who have suffered depression — Google “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression” for more information.

It is possible that meditating might make your depression worse, although it wouldn’t exactly be the meditation itself that would do that; the tendency of the depressed mind to ruminate in an unhelpful way can be heightened when turning the attention inwards. With appropriate guidance this is much less likely to happen, and I’d suggest you look into finding a professionally-run mindfulness-based program for depression.

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Comment from levan
Time: October 19, 2008, 12:48 am

beautiful! I read about stopping seeing noise around you as your enemy. I know it’ll improve my situation too. thank you!

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Comment from Shamash
Time: October 28, 2008, 5:37 am

I think meditation is very effective for reducing depression. I have found it has helped many of my clients to help them get out of their head and more attentive to bodily sensations and the outside environment.

I recently worked with a lady that has MS and at first she was very skeptical, but did the course because her daughter encouraged her. She now says she feels much better, and never knew what a positive effect it has, both to relieve her stress and help her to stretch her body in ways she doubted she could do earlier.

Mindfulness meditation is my favorite kind of meditation.
Best wishes,
Shamash
http://www.learnmindfulness.co.uk/

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Comment from loza
Time: December 17, 2008, 10:23 pm

I tried medetation many many times, didn’t work for me at all, i get frustrated even more, now i stop doing it, i am doing something wrong? help lol

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 18, 2008, 8:11 pm

Hi Loza,

It’s pretty much impossible for me to answer your question. You don’t say what you did when you were meditating, what you expected to happen, and what did happen when you said it “didn’t work.” That doesn’t give me much to go on.

Often when someone manages to formulate a question in a clear way they are most of the way to answering the question themselves, so I’d suggest you work at clarifying what you were trying to ask. At the very least I’ll have some information to go on and at best you may even find that you’ve answered your question by asking it.

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Comment from Cristal
Time: April 6, 2009, 2:12 pm

Hi,
hello
I just wanted some advice please,
I am new to meditating and sometimes when i sit to meditate
after maybe 10 minutes i find that everything seems to be spinning
even if i open my eyes slightly the room still feels like its spinning.
sometimes i can sit through it and it passes other times i have to end the meditation.
any ideas?
many thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 6, 2009, 7:01 pm

Hi Cristal,

There are a couple of possibilities that spring to mind. If you’re controlling your breath then it’s possible that you’re hyperventilating a little and making yourself dizzy.

On the other hand, if you’re fairly sure that your breathing is relaxed and natural, this may be what we call a samapatti, which is a sign that you’re starting to get concentrated. The kind of samapatti that is disturbing, like yours, is a sign that you’re getting concentrated, but haven’t quite adjusted to the inner quietness you’re developing. People have various kinds of disturbing samapattis, including swirling lights, feeling that parts of the body are greatly enlarged, etc.

It may be hard, but when the samapatti starts to arise I’d suggest you basically ignore it and just keep your attention on the object of the meditation. You might even want to look for the most subtle part of the object (like the sensation of the breath on the rims of the nostrils, if you’re doing the mindfulness of breathing practice).

People who are prone to samapattis are also likely to experience a more useful, and similar phenomenon, which we call nimittas. Nimittas are generally more stable, also arise when we’re getting more concentrated, but when we pay attention to them they help us to focus and still the mind even more. So I’d suggest you watch out for something that seems superficially similar to a samapatti but is stable.

Feel free to ask more questions if this isn’t entirely helpful.

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Comment from Dr Kabindra Bajracharya
Time: July 25, 2009, 4:27 am

I fully agree, with practice we can reach to our original purity of mind, washing all tanha, emiting compassion.

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Comment from Sarah
Time: August 10, 2009, 10:56 am

Hi there

Can someone help me understand somethiing i am experiencing when meditating.
Firstly, Whislt in the mditation state I feel/become very sensitive to external sounds and the feelings they create. When i hear anoise my heart races and I get sudden feelings of anxiety type emotions in my stomach.
Is this normal, am I meditating right??

Secondly, when finished meditating, although I feel at ease, comfortable etc..I’m left with these feelings of anxiety. I feel quite subjude (spelling wrong!) and very sensitive like i could cry or someone could upset me easily (not that they have). These feeling will go to bed with me so I couls be having them for about 4 hours after.
I just wondered if, again, this was ok normal or not?

Any help or sugestions would be greatly apprieciated.

Sarah

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 10, 2009, 11:24 am

Hi Sarah,

These kinds of experiences are not very common, but I have heard about them in connection with Transcendental Meditation. I’ve also met one person who was prone to panic attacks who experienced something similar. I think what goes on is a positive feedback loop where your mind reacts to certain sensations with anxiety, and then goes on to react to the sensations of anxiety by producing more anxiety — in other words we get anxious about being anxious, and that’s why it lasts so long.

It would be useful to know more about the kind of meditation you’re doing, and specifically what you do in that meditation. It may be something about the way you’re approaching the practice — or the form of the meditation practice — that’s setting you up for this kind of experience.

But in general there are a number of things you could do that might help. One is to accept the feelings of anxiety and to learn to accept them as a normal experience. You can break the sensations down and name them, for example: “heart beating; energy in hands; churning stomach”. Treat each one as a guest, and pay friendly attention to it. Treat each one like a scared child that you’re giving solace to. We can find that even when we’re anxious there’s a calm part of ourselves that we can relate from, and so we can embrace our anxiety in a calm and compassionate field of awareness. That’s a valid approach, but it may not be the best one to start with.

Another approach is to help you calm down, and I’d suggest (without of course knowing what kind of practice you’re doing) that you pay attention to the sensations of the breath in the belly and particularly pay attention to the outbreath, perhaps by counting after each exhalation (see the guidance for stage one of the mindfulness of breathing practice). If any sensations of anxiety arise, you can say “It’s okay to feel this. Let me feel this.” And if the sensations don’t simply pass quickly then move on to the “welcoming” approach I mention above.

If it’s sounds that particularly trigger this I wonder if you’re generally aware of sounds in your environment while meditating, or whether you tend to forget about them and then when you hear something it comes as a surprise to you? If that’s the case, then I’d suggest you actually include an awareness of the sounds (and other sensations) in your environment as part of your meditation practice. You can start your meditation by being aware of your surroundings (with your eyes closed) and then maintain that awareness as you begin to follow the breath.

If you tell me more about what you actually do in meditation then I can give you more tailored advice, perhaps.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Dr. kabindra Bajracharya
Time: August 24, 2009, 9:02 am

one day I was meditating and one thought came to my mind.Now I am at the state to do something for others,for benefit for others my any means.So if I get I will do.I mean if I get money I will use for poor.If I get knowledge I will spread.If I have health I will work for others like that.Immediately the reply came from my mind.You do you will get.That means if I start to give donations for poor people I will get wealth.If I help ill,I will be healthy.If I start to give virtuous teaching to other I will get wisdom like this.
This is great teaching I got from my meditation “you will do if you get,no no,but to say do you will get”
any coments welcome.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 24, 2009, 10:12 am

Hi Dr. Bajracharya,

I’m glad you feel impelled to help others. Realistically, I don’t think it follows that if we give to others we will become rich ourselves, or that is we help the sick we will be healthy. That may or may not happen, and in fact the opposites may also happen. I think the important thing is that if we help others we can become rich and healthy in other ways: we can experience the inner wealth of knowing that we are helping others and we can experience a healthy glow of joy in connecting with other people.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Ralf
Time: August 27, 2009, 7:57 am

When I meditate- and focus on some idyllic scene, eg sitting alone by a stream in a field, I can make myself have this relaxed feeling that flows through my stomach which resembles almost the gentle feel of adrenaline flowing in my abdomen. However it is a warm and relaxing feeling. In fact if I hold that feeling on for long enough it can actually have the same effect as when I am nervous, i.e. I need to visit the toilet. What is going on here as it is actually very comforting

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 27, 2009, 9:48 am

Hi Ralf,

I’m glad to hear that you’re experiencing pleasant sensations in meditation. Just a physiological point — adrenaline being released would be the opposite of what’s happening. You’re experiencing the physiological effects of the parasympathetic nervous system kicking in as you relax, while adrenaline is part of the sympathetic system that is related to stress and anxiety.

I’m not sure I can remember all of the physiological interactions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems on the intestines, but I think the sympathetic system (fight or flight) can cause a desire to evacuate the bowels, but otherwise blood supply to the intestines is reduced and digestion shuts down. With the parasympathetic system (the relaxation response) blood supply to the gut is increased, as is gut motility and digestion. And presumably that’s why you feel “you gotta go!”

Anyway, this is all a sign that the meditation is working. You’re relaxing. But there’s always more you can do. You can make sure that you keep working on developing a clear perception of the object of meditation so that the mind doesn’t just turn to mush! And you can cultivate an existential edge in your practice by being aware of the impermanent nature of all your experiences by watching sensations, thoughts, and emotions arising and passing away.

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Comment from Ralf
Time: August 27, 2009, 10:07 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa for your prompt reply and I will keep working on improving my meditation techniques

Ralf

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 27, 2009, 10:11 am

My pleasure.

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Comment from Amanda
Time: September 23, 2009, 4:03 pm

Hello, I was wondering if you could help me. I am new to meditating and only done it ten times or so. I am really enjoying the benefits towards my family and my calmness already. My problem seems to be, when I am coming out of meditation I tingle all over my body and my head feels large and heavy. Its kind of unplesent but Im wanting to stick at it. I am training to be a CBT counsellor and my first experience of this was when I did a group meditation with the rest of the class.

Any help would be great. I also dont focus on anything when i meditate. Should I be?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 23, 2009, 4:15 pm

Hi Amanda,

Those kinds of experiences are not uncommon, and are actually a sign that you’re getting concentrated in meditation. There are two kinds of similar experiences to those you describe: some are pleasant and the others have either an unpleasant quality or can simply be distracting. What’s important is not to attach too much significance to what you’re experiencing. They’re both a sign that you’re making progress and a sign that you’re not yet quite established in a calm, alert, and focused state of mind. If you pay undue attention to these sensations you’ll tend to get stuck. I’d suggest just keeping going with the practice, but I do think it would be useful for you to focus on one particular sensation, such as the sensation of the breath. You should find that you start to experience the other kind of experience I was talking about — these may be a pleasant feeling of flow, or an inner sound that comes and goes with the breath, or a steady light, or a clear and stable image, or a pleasant tingling, or a feeling of warmth. When that kind of sensation arises, pay attention to it. Doing so will help you to go into a deep state of concentration. Do let me know how you get on.

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Comment from Armin
Time: November 6, 2009, 6:23 pm

I have problems keeping my eyes closed, and when they’re open I just can’t fix them to look at one spot.
then I can’t keep my back straight, I have a slightly deformed spine so It’s painful to keep straight when sitting. and then there’s my heart pumping too hard, my whole torso shakes at every heartbeat just when sitting normally, not to speak about the painful process of keeping my back straight.
and last but not least I get distracted way too easily, I’m a never ending thinker, no thoughts would be like death to me.

is there any hope for me?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 7, 2009, 9:55 pm

Hi Armin,

What you seem to be saying is that you can’t imagine how you could feel happy if you were to think less. Why are you so attached to your thoughts? Is it because they make you happy?

Getting a comfortable posture is a problem when there’s some spinal deformity. You probably need some extra support, such as the Back Jack, which braces your back.

As for the rest of the stuff you mentioned, meditating will help you to be less reactive towards sensations you find uncomfortable.

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Comment from Stephen Webber
Time: December 3, 2009, 4:05 am

Brilliant writing! So wonderful!

Thank you for putting it all so well.

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Comment from Rihards
Time: April 21, 2010, 5:15 am

Hello!

I’ve been practicing meditation only few weeks now. Still a long way to go.

I recently found in internet so called mind-sync (brain-sync) audios. I’ve never practiced it and my knowledge about this mind-sync is very superficial. So I wanted to ask if it can be helpful or maybe it’s not even advisable to practice it?

Thank You!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 21, 2010, 9:56 am

Hi Rihards,

I’d suggest saving your money for something else. I don’t think it does any harm, but I seriously doubt that the benefits are any greater than from listening to relaxing music. Incidentally, meditation is something we do rather than something that is done to us. Even if holosync worked, it’s not providing you with any mental skills, while meditating trains your mind to work in more creative ways.

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Comment from Manuel
Time: June 5, 2010, 8:26 am

Hi

Bodhipaksa could you give some advice please:

When im meditating tears form in my eye. It is never both eyes only one right or left.
But i meditate as usual and i feel very good after it and the world seems more real.

Why do i cry ? (not really cry just tears)

Thanks

Manuel

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 5, 2010, 8:53 am

Hi Manuel,

How interesting!

The tear glands are under the control of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the autonomic nervous system involved in relaxation. So although the response you describe is unusual (I’ve never come across it before) it’s in a way a sign that the meditation is working. Im not sure if there’s anything you can do about it — but things change and it’s possible that this may stop happening at some point.

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Comment from Aimee
Time: June 7, 2010, 9:30 pm

Thank you for your informative articles! I have been on my own meditation journey and it has changed my life! Meditation has been an amazing experience in the healing of my body, mind and spirit. I love that you promote that anyone can do it! Love your site!

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Comment from Carlos
Time: August 30, 2010, 11:06 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

My admiration for your great job, I recently started to practice the Brahmaviharas, using your wonderful CDs. However, I am not sure if I’m doing them right. In the case of Karuna, I am not sure that, say when a friend is suffering because he lost his job, if all the time that he is in my mind I have to be aware of his suffering (economic pressures, decrease in self-esteem, etc) participating in his suffering or if in some point I have to start to develop feelings and emotions like in Lovingkindness of happiness, well being, maybe thinking that his situation is not for ever, that he is getting a job soon, that he is happy again. So, the question, I guess, is how long I keep the awareness of suffering while in that stage and if I should try to switch to a more joyful emotion by imaging situations of relief and comfort and happiness for him. (sorry for my english)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 1, 2010, 12:06 pm

Hi Carlos,

Your English is great!

The practices tend to bleed into one another, so that when we’re cultivating metta, for example, we’ll think of some suffering or some joy that the other person has, and we find we’re now cultivating compassion or empathetic joy. The intent in the cultivation of compassion is to wish the friend well while being aware that they experience suffering, letting our lovingkindness transform into compassion. We aim to do that throughout the practice. At the same time, an awareness that the other person won’t be suffering forever, and that they also have joys in their life, is quite appropriate. After all, we’re not just contemplating the other person’s suffering, we’re wishing him or her well. Wishing someone well inherently includes wishing that they no longer be suffering and so “maybe thinking that his situation is not for ever, that he is getting a job soon, that he is happy again” is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing in cultivating compassion.

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Comment from Carlos
Time: September 1, 2010, 10:49 pm

Bodhipaksa,

Thanks for your response, much more clear (I hope). My sensation was that I was spending in a, say, 5-minutes long stage, 1 minute being emphatic with the suffering, opening my feelings and emotions to it but then the other 4 minutes in “pure” metta cultivation, leaving behind or forgetting the suffering and just cultivating metta by wishing well, happiness and no suffering. I deduct that to better develop karuna, both states, the first minute and the other 4, should be ran in an unified way as the human experience is. In any case, it has been a great experience to connect with such kind of other people experiences, it certanly has had positive effects on me (patience, consideration)

Thanks again.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 1, 2010, 11:16 pm

You know, everything you’re doing is good :)

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Comment from Elizabeth
Time: November 12, 2010, 7:25 pm

I am nearing the end of my first year of meditation. For the last several months, I have been struggling with an overwhelming sense of the room spinning after I’ve been sitting for 20-30 minutes, and recently I’ve experienced a feeling of body parts being enlarged. I read your previous answer about samapattis and nimittas, and this sounds like what I’m experiencing. I’ve always felt that this sensation is something I need to get through to find a deeper level of meditation, but I get so nauseous from the spinning, that I can’t seem to arrive at a place where it either stops or I don’t notice it anymore. When it begins, I focus on a flame or my breathing, but I am unable to completely ignore it. After reading your post, I tried searching online for more information about this topic, but I wasn’t able to find anything helpful. Do you have any suggestions for how I can break through the samapatti?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 17, 2010, 9:50 am

Hi, Elizabeth.

It does sound rather samapatti-like, and unusually intense. I wonder if the way to deal with it is to change what you’re doing in those first 20–30 minutes, so that the samapatti doesn’t arise. Of course I don’t really know what you’re doing, so it’s hard to offer much in the way of advice. Perhaps you could say more about what you generally do — talk me through your meditation, as it were?

In general, though, I’d wonder if you need to take your awareness into the body more, by doing more body-scanning at the start of the practice. I’d wonder if perhaps you ought to pay attention to the sensations in the lower half of the body (for example, by following the sensations of the breathing in the belly. And I’d wonder if you’re looking out for “nimitta-fodder” — a term I just invented to describe the pleasant sensations that start to arise in meditation (such as: tingling in the hands, a sense of flow and rhythm associated with the breath, a feeling of warmth in the heart, feelings of pleasure or happiness). I’m calling these nimitta-fodder because when we pay attention to them we end up slipping into jhana/dhyana, or a state of happiness and concentration.

Feel free to tell me if you think these suggestions are inappropriate, and also feel free to tell me more about what you actually do in meditation. It may be, in fact that anything you do differently will lead to a different outcome after those first 20–30 minutes.

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Comment from Jay
Time: January 5, 2011, 7:11 pm

I have been thinking about meditating recently due to many different reasons such as becoming more calm and relaxed and also purly to better myself… I have read comments above watched videos on youtube and so on but am unsure if its for me? And if it is for me whats the best way to start??? IF anyone could provide any feedback would be much appricated.
Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 7, 2011, 9:10 am

Hi, Jay.

Why are you waiting? I recommend starting with mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness meditation.

There’s a ton of information on this site, and if that’s not enough there are many CDs and downloads in our online store, or on Amazon. Just do it.

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Comment from Mona
Time: March 6, 2011, 10:14 pm

Hi, i face the same thing, every time i meditate i have tears and more tears. im not crying only tears. i have this for years now :-)

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Comment from Craig
Time: August 20, 2011, 12:03 pm

Having begun practicing mindfulness in the past year, I am finding it to be surprisingly beneficial and calming! But as a Christian, it seems that progress and benefit of mindfulness is so inwardly measured… as in “how do I feel”? It seems “better”, to me, somehow, to measure personal progress by the good I do in the world, not by how I feel inside. Certainly a calm healthy person probably has more capacity to be aware of the need of others, and perhaps more responsive, too but nothing in mindfuless draws attention to this important part of life. It’s more of a possible outcome, one that we’re simply “aware of”. What is your view of mindfulness and what I’m describing as it’s “inward” focus?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 21, 2011, 2:14 pm

Hi, Craig.

I have a number of thoughts in response. The first is that although mindfulness is often presented in a “deracinated” way, stripped of its Buddhist context, when you look at in in the Buddhist tradition it’s obvious that it’s just one practice amongst many. Mindfulness needs to be balanced with lovingkindness, and with ethical observance, and those two things are inherently focused on others.

The other thought that came to my mind is that you’re correct in thinking that a calm and centered person is better able to be aware of the needs of others. In fact it goes a bit further than that, because our responses to others take place internally. Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our inner states, and those states are conditioned by others. So when someone else is, for example, experiencing suffering, the mindful person is better able to notice the very existence of that suffering, because they pick up on the internal cues alerting them to the suffering. With less mindfulness we don’t necessarily even notice.

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Comment from Jazmin
Time: September 26, 2011, 3:13 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I would like to thank you for this website. I first came upon it over seven years ago; and I keep getting drawn back.

I was wondering, do you still have those old music files of you demonstrating the chants for Asato Ma Sadgamaya, tutare, etc. (I saw the “Sacred Sounds” CD, but it appears all the chants are done by Sunada?)? They brought me so much peace and really helped me to learn how to meditate more effectively. I would love to be able to download them again!

Thank you so much for your help,

Jazmin

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Comment from Jazmin
Time: September 26, 2011, 3:47 am

Hello again, Bodhipaksa,

After writing my last comment, I explored the site more (it’s been awhile since I was here last), and I came upon your wonderful blog with the embedded music files.

Perhaps there is a Buddhist lesson in here somewhere for me? Something like, open my eyes and I’ll see what’s been in front of me the whole time? : )

I found all my old favorites — except for Asato Ma Sadgamaya. I will keep looking and reading. Thank you again, Bodhipaksa!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 26, 2011, 9:37 am

Hi, Jazmin.

Thanks for your kind words.

I’m glad you found most of what you were looking for. I’ve never chanted the “Asato Ma Sadgamaya” mantra, and it’s not on this site, so I think you’ve misremembered that part.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Candice
Time: October 9, 2011, 10:41 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

I have been meditating for a few months now. About a month ago during meditation, I was able to let thoughts pass without paying attention to them and began seeing pictures of different things (a blue bird fluttering, a tan creature that had multiple arms, myself in a career that I am actively working towards). Eventually, I felt tired and laid my head back. Once I gained awareness, my whole body felt as if it was vibrating and I heard a loud buzzing. I also felt paralyzed. There was this picture in my mind of a blue candle that was lit. After my initial panic, I was able to calm down and stayed in the moment for maybe 30 seconds. I was then able to open my eyes and move afterwards and the sensation and noise went away immediately.

I wanted to ask if you have heard of anyone having these experiences. I have not had that experience since due to anxiety but have been focusing on my breathing when I began to have anxiety symptoms. I continue to feel tingling, especially in my hands, and a numbing feeling in my feet.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 10, 2011, 12:43 pm

Hi, Candice.

It’s not uncommon to get dream-like and very vivid images in meditation. This is more common with relative beginners who are just beginning to experience the mind settling down. They’re not or any great significance in themselves, so I’d suggest that you don’t pay any special attention to them.

The sense of vibration/tingling in the body is also quite common. The technical term for it is piti (in Pali) or priti (in Sanskrit). This is more significant, although you need to learn to treat it as a normal occurrence and neither be afraid of it nor get excited about it. It’s something simply to be accepted.

It’s a good sign that piti is arising. It’s a sign that the mind’s beginning to calm and that the body is relaxing. You might want to read this article, which discusses piti in the context of deepening a meditation practice.

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Pingback from 4 Reasons To Stay Calm During Your Divorce. « Minnesota Family Law Blog
Time: February 23, 2012, 12:23 pm

[...] calm down, and don’t let pride or anger “mess” with you. (For a nice link on mediation head over [...]

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Comment from Jayashree
Time: March 23, 2012, 1:35 pm

Hi,

I started meditating a few months back to get rid of all the unwanted and negative feelings, to be more calm and less stressed. I usually sit down in the morning for 10-15 mins and focus on my breathing-though not every day atleast 4-5 days a week. Although I’m able to sit and focus on my breath for those few minutes, I don’t feel all that calm throughout the day. All these thoughts keep swirling in my head and I don’t feel peaceful. Am I doing something wrong? Why am I not able to feel the peace and joy throughout the day and get rid of all these unwanted thoughts?
Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2012, 1:02 pm

Hi, Jayashree.

There are a few comments I can make.

1. It would be unrealistic to think that 10–15 minutes of meditation a day for a few months is going to leave you with a totally serene mind throughout the day. I’m curious what results you expected.

Even if you did 40 to 50 minutes a day, you’d still find that you had a considerable amount of unwanted and b=negative feelings arising, although you’d start to notice that it was easier to let go of them sometimes, and that you sometimes felt more positive and calm than you usually do. I’m not suggesting that meditation is of no use! I’m just trying to point out that your expectations may be unrealistic.

I’d suggest aiming for 20–30 minutes a day, every day, and to accept that changing your mental habits can be a long, slow process.

2. There’s also the question of what kind of meditation you’re doing. Focusing on the breathing is good for calmness, and it can help us let go of negative emotions, but lovingkindness meditation is excellent for improving the general tone of our emotional states. I’d suggest alternating mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness practice.

3. Meditation is not intended to be practiced in isolation. The day-to-day monitoring of our thoughts, emotions, and actions (in other words, the practice of ethics) is an essential support for our meditation practice. Mindfulness has to be taken into our daily lives. You may find some of the advice in our mindfulness in daily life section to be helpful.

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Comment from Rebecca
Time: April 20, 2012, 3:53 am

I have recently started meditation. I initially find it very uncomfortable because my mind is constantly whirring with thoughts. I gradually settle down physically and settle my anxious nature, but still find my mind is running from one thought to another. Sometimes in the 20 minutes I can’t even find 3 seconds where my attention can settle on my chosen meditation (e.g. mantra). Then I find my thoughts thinking about whether I am meditating correctly.

Am I meditating correctly? Is this a normal experience? I am also finding that my sleep has been quite disturbed since starting – although I do periodically suffer from sleep problems (so can’t be sure that meditation is responsible for this bout). Is it similar to muscular ache after going to the gym for the first time in a long time? Any help or comments on what to expect when you start meditation would be really helpful

Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 20, 2012, 9:54 am

Hi, Rebecca.

It’s normal to be very distracted, especially if you’re relatively new to meditation, although it does sound like you have more-than-average levels of thinking going on. I find myself wondering exactly what it is that you’re doing in meditation. It may be that you should try following some guided meditations, to help you learn some new mental habits, and also so that there are regular prompts to help you return to mindful awareness.

You might want to try this one, for example.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from ML
Time: May 22, 2012, 4:04 am

I’m writing about my boyfriend’s experience. I tried to introduce him to meditation and almost immediately his body started to go motionless, until he felt entirely paralyzed. He was able to lean back on the couch but couldn’t even move a finger for almost an hour, although he could talk to me. His eyes closed involuntarily, and he felt so heavy that he couldn’t move. He wouldn’t let me touch him to help because he felt that it would hurt, that he was almost crystalized in place. After he came out of it he felt light and calm. Is he a natural who easily goes into trance? It would be great to know your take on what this means. Normally he rejects any sort of energy work and is emotionally self-protective,so this was very surprising.

Thank you, ML

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 22, 2012, 9:24 am

I can only assume you accidentally hypnotized your boyfriend into becoming immobile. Although I’ve never personally heard of this happening, I assume it’s possible. I don’t think this has anything to do with meditation in itself.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 22, 2012, 9:37 am

I just talked to a hypnotist friend of mine, and he agrees that this is the most likely thing. He thought it probable that your boyfriend is unusually suggestible, and that he’d make a great hypnotherapy subject. So if he ever needs to quit smoking, it shouldn’t be hard :)

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Comment from Nicole
Time: June 2, 2012, 3:49 pm

I know I already asked another question on another part of the site, but I only just thought of these and felt they fit here better.

Is it normal to want to hold onto something during meditation? I was trying a visualization exercise from another site and realized I kept rubbing my fingers together throughout the session. I then picked up my favorite piece of jewelry (a wooden whale tail that has some sentimental value for me) and held onto that instead. It just felt more comfortable that way.

I’ve noticed that every meditation guide I’ve come across really emphasizes bodies of water, mountains, and green forests as visualizations during the exercises. Are these the only images that should (for lack of better term) be used during meditation? I picture desert scenes instead, which make me feel happy and peaceful. I don’t know if I could force myself to picture a more temperate climate.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 4, 2012, 7:48 am

Hi, Nicole.

I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to hold onto something during meditation. It strikes me as probably being one of the “hindrances” — possibly sense-desire where the mind is seeking pleasure, or “anxiety” where the mind is seeking security. It would be better to find a way to contact pleasure, or security, or comfort, or whatever it is you’re seeking directly in your own experience simply by being mindful and trustful of your experience, and through having lovingkindness for yourself.

I’d only generally advise someone to use the kind of visualization you’re talking about at the start of a meditation, in order to evoke a sense of expansiveness or stability, or something along those lines, or in order to deal with a specific hindrance that’s arisen. For example if someone was very restless they could use the evocative imagery of sitting like a mountain in order to feel more stable. If desert imagery works for you in that way, then feel free!

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Comment from Anil
Time: September 19, 2012, 8:43 am

I want to share one of my experience….about 1 year back I got a chance to visit Bodh Gaya (India) …. While i was sitting in front of Bodhi Tree. …I start praying to Buddha. ….at that time. …the Tears start coming from my eyes. ..& my whole face was covered with tears. …..and I feel that Lord Buddha is sitting in front of me that too live. …..That feeling is like. ..my spirit is washed with my tears. ……..
I really not able to imagine. ….how it happens. …..why it happens. …

Can u enlighten me on that with ur wisdom?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 19, 2012, 8:55 am

I don’t think I can really add anything to your moving experience, Anil. Shraddha can be a powerful experience, and I’m reminded of Pingiya’s statement in the Sutta Nipata that he is never separated from the Buddha.

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Comment from Anil
Time: September 19, 2012, 11:19 pm

Thanks Bodhipaksa ! for replying.

After this Wonderful experience ( Beyond words) …..I was looking for some course on Meditation ….recently i applied for VIPASANA Meditation Course run by Mr. S.N. Goenka in Himachal Pardesh ( India) ….and my participation conformed for the 10 days course starting from 1st of october, 2012. I am very hopeful about this course.
Will share my experiences soon after the course.

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Comment from Rebecca
Time: October 1, 2012, 5:59 am

What are your thoughts on Transcendental Meditation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 1, 2012, 8:23 am

Hi, Rebecca. We have a whole section on mantra meditation, and this includes some thoughts on TM.

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Comment from An
Time: October 26, 2012, 8:54 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,
I suffer from social anxiety and depression (for many years, take an antidepressant daily) and part of these disorders is panic and alot of physical symptoms,like shaking and trembling when nervous,lots of muscle tension etc. I have always been drawn to meditation and have done mindfullness with psychologisst and also done a proper mediation course with a triratna meditation group. My problem is like a few others have mentioned, that I find myself relaxing deeply in my meditation, and can feel alot of tension releasing but when i finish…I am very anxious and agitated and almost a little “high” at times, and this can last for days and worries me.(im usually a very flat person, and never overly happy etc) There are some are positive things in this state..I seem more open to people to a point, but the agitation is quite bad, and i feel quite depersonalised, and bad enough that I end up stopping mediatation all together, until I get drawn back to try it again, which I always do. I have spoken to seasoned meditator in the city I live ,and they suggested that I try and doing some grounding techniques when this happens, but it really is a state that I seem to get into.

I dont want to give up mediation, but I am scared that I could possibly lose it if I keep going…then of course I have searched the net and found the scary stories of mediation induced psychosis etc etc. and I worry.
Not that i have ever experienced psychosis.

This tension release thing feels quite huge and I realise we hold emotions etc in our body…but like I said..it is almost like Im gettting a whack of serotonin or something and then agitation after deeply meditating, then feeling very vuneralbe after.

I dont try and push my focus too much …I try and allow whatever comes up to just be there and gently focus on the breath. I just dont get it…I want to be able to relax my body without losing the plot.

Thank you in advance

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 6, 2012, 2:20 pm

Hi, An.

Apologies for the long delay in my replying. Life got a bit busy and the notification for your comment got buried in my email in box.

What you describe is very interesting. It’s not something I think I’ve experienced myself, except perhaps for times that I’ve become a bit “intoxicated” with feeling good after meditating and I’ve lost my sensitivity to others. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced depersonalization through meditation, and in fact my practice has involved something more like “repersonalization,” since in my youth I was afraid of being in touch with my emotions.

I say this just so that you can be aware of the limitations of my advice!

You wrote, “they suggested that I try and doing some grounding techniques when this happens, but it really is a state that I seem to get into.” I’d be interested to know more about the grounding techniques that you’ve tried, and that (apparently) haven’t been very successful. Because I would probably recommend something similar, and there’s no point my suggesting exactly the same thing.

When you say “it really is a state that I seem to get into” I’d suggest bringing to mind the principle of conditionality. Things happen when the conditions for them to happen are present. So these states are things that are being cultivated. And it may be hard to find ways not to cultivate them, or to cultivate something different, but I’m absolutely confident that you can do this, and I’d just encourage you not to assume that these states are inevitable.

Do you cultivate compassion for the part of you that is experiencing fear, or that are in pain? I find that the most powerful practice I’ve ever done. Simply put: notice your fear, and notice that it involves suffering. Identify, as best you can, where this suffering is manifesting in the body. Accept it. It’s OK to suffer. And send it thoughts of lovingkindness in the usual way (“may you be well,” etc.). It’s a powerful practice, and I suspect it may be helpful to you.

Anyway, if you could say a bit more about those grounding techniques, I’ll see what comes to mind.

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Comment from Aurel
Time: January 31, 2013, 9:43 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,

First of all I would like to thank you for your advices and for sharing your experience with us. Secondly, I’ve come across a strange experiences in meditation in the last month, everytime I focus on my breathing in the nostrils area and let go of everything my body has a strange reaction, I feel like a kick within, my face is deforming and my head is moving and shaking.These reactions last only for a few seconds then everything it settles down for one minut then again body reactions and so on for 1 h.It is strange because it is not something that I can control and I am not supposed to control them since mindfulness means to be aware and to accept things as they are.
Are you familiar with this type of exeprience?What should I do?

Thank you

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 31, 2013, 11:18 am

Hi Aurel.

I am indeed familiar with that kind of experience. For perhaps two years I had a twitch in my back when I meditated or was doing any form of chanting. Sometimes it would happen when I was simply relaxing in bed. The twitching was very regular, and completely out of my control. It eventually passed of its own accord. I’ve known other people to have similar experiences. I just accepted it was happening, although sometimes it would disturb other people who were meditating with me.

I think this is a form of what traditional meditation texts call “pīti,” or rapture. There are forms of pīti that are more like tingling, or flowing energy, or even intense pleasure. This kind happens not to be pleasurable — at least not in my experience. But it also seems to be quite harmless, and probably even a sign that something positive is happening in your meditation practice. Pīti is one of the jhäna factors, and it begins to emerge as we become more relaxed.

So I think your instinct just to be aware and the accept the experience is the right one.

Just as an aside — and this may not apply to you — it turned out that I had a vertebra out of alignment, and I had the distinct sense that my body was trying to realign my spine. I now go to a chiropractor regularly to keep things straightened out. Now I wouldn’t like to generalize from that, but it would be interesting to see what happened if you got checked out by a chiropractor.

By the way, if you appreciate having somewhere to go where you can ask these kinds of questions, feel free to make a one-time donation, or even better a regular subscription, to support our work as part of our Sit : Love : Give project. I often spend hours each day responding to queries like yours.

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Comment from Aurel
Time: February 1, 2013, 11:37 am

Thank you for your answer Bodhipaksa!

I am familiar with the pali term “piti”, I know that this is also one of the seven factors of enlightenment but it is translated in english as joy or rapture, as you said. I really didn’t know that piti may be manifested also in this form.Thank you again for clarifying this matter.
I let you know about my alingment of vertebrae, you made me curious.

Metta
Aurel

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 1, 2013, 1:52 pm

It’s not one of the traditional forms of piti, and along with the other more minor forms of piti described in the literature, it’s not the full-on piti that one experiences in jhana, but it has the same quality of energy release taking place as the body relaxes that you find with the tingling and rushing forms of piti, so I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

One time on retreat, my back was giving me hell, and I’d been having a lot of this twitching. And then I had one meditation were something “let go” in that area of my back. There had been a spontaneous realignment of the vertebra because the muscles pulling it out of alignment had relaxed. And for many months afterwards I had huge amounts of blissful energy running through that same area of my back.

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Comment from Jack
Time: February 4, 2013, 4:38 am

Hi, i have trouble during meditation.

Focus on my breath is becoming really hard because on my heartbeat that keep distracting me, so the whole experience is frustrating. How can I overcome this situation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 4, 2013, 10:00 am

Hi, Jack.

This kind of problem arises because of thinking that the aim is to notice the breathing and nothing but the breathing. If you change that notion, then you can happily notice both your heartbeat and your breathing. Just relax your attention and notice both sets of sensations. Watch them perform a dance with each other…

If you appreciate having a place to go where you can ask questions about meditation, please feel free to give back by making a single donation or recurring contribution through our Sit : Love : Give program.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Jay
Time: February 10, 2013, 7:55 pm

For someone who is experienced in meditation, as I am, what is a good length of time (if there is one) to meditate? I’ve been involved with a non-Buddhist group whose members (unfortunately) pride themselves on being able to meditate for hours (a minimum of three, but sometimes much longer). Even after 23 years, I still struggle to keep at it for more than a hour or two. (They recommend three hours at least twice a week, in addition to an hour during the other mornings and evenings). If I experience a good one-hour meditation, should I feel satisfied that I did that and be done with it, or should I make efforts to have longer sessions? I often feel the one hour was a good effort.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 10, 2013, 8:44 pm

My goodness. Being able to do an hour is fantastic. Not many people are able to set aside that amount of time for meditation, even if they could potentially do so (and many, especially those with children, could not). I think you should rejoice in the hour of meditation that you do.

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Comment from Jay
Time: February 10, 2013, 9:30 pm

Thank you, Bodhipaksa.

Your replay will give me much comfort in my future efforts. My life is a bit of a mystery. I’ve been given a lifelong dilemma that has not left me in my adult years. As a result, I have very little in material things (career, family, money), but enjoy and abundant spiritual life. I am the exact opposite of miserable. I am happy, even though I am bound by a life of solitude. The meditations have been nice. They are a gift from somewhere, from somebody. I knew little about it when I started this path, but then it took hold of my throughout my 30s and 40s. It came into my life at the exact time that I needed it. It is the exact timing that it had come into my life that leads me to conclude there is definitely someone “watching over” me. This life is no accident. I’d still like to meditate deeper and for somewhat longer times than I practice now, but reading your response has helped me to put everything into perspective: I am on the right course. Thank you, again.

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Comment from Shenzao
Time: September 16, 2013, 1:45 am

Bodhipaksa,

I have read every comment word for word beneath this article, and I have come to the conclusion that meditation has quite a bit of substantial evidence for being effective. I can corroborate this with my own experiences, but that would distract from the information I seek. I know it works, and though I could set aside my curiosity, I would rather sate it for my sake, and for the sake of the many others who will weed through the mountain of comments on this page and perhaps others. Additionally, I have many friends of very mathematically rigorous minds who frequently voice things to the effect of “I would consider meditation if I knew exactly what it would do to me physiologically speaking,” or “If I understood the neuro-chemistry behind meditation, I would be willing to undertake it. To me, such an act is akin to medication for the mind, and as such is altering.” While I’m not necessarily trying to persuade them to join me, I would at least like to provide them a fulfilling answer to their questions. Such would set many minds at ease. That said, I’ll get right to it.

Why and how does meditation work, at the most intricate level that you can explain it?

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Comment from lee
Time: December 5, 2013, 4:58 am

I have been going meditagion class for the last 2 years at my local kadampa centre, however over the last month ive progressed with my meditation doing twice daily in my flat, but on a couple of occassions it has felt like there is something in my flat, i am vedy aware and can hear n feel the presence of something while meditating, it is scaring me, i dont want go give up meditating as im getting lots of rewards through it, but this sense of something been there scares me, ??

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 11, 2013, 1:09 pm

Hi, Lee. This is just your anxiety finding odd noises to construct a story out of. Just notice the presence of anxiety and continue with the practice.

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