This section is dedicated to questions on Mindfulness Meditation from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can said it to this address: Send a Message
thankyou and take care,
QUESTION from Tanya: Stephen, this was a really good but scary meditation – Deconditioning Emotional Charge. Getting in touch with my emotions is really hard I found I had a hard time focusing on the memory, both pleasant and unpleasant. With the pleasant my mind wandered of to unpleasant And with the unpleasant memories my mind wanted to jump around the many. I was aware of feelings of fear but also resistance. It is as if there is a thick curtain that goes down as soon as I have to access my emotions. How do prefect the curtain from going down?
ANSWER: Hello Tanya, this is guided meditation no. 20 and is part of a complete system for developing and deepening Mindfulness meditation. Deconditioning emotional charge is quite advanced and it is reliant on you developing the initial foundation. Your attention keeps wandering all over the place and also towards pain because you have not trained your mental factors of investigation, mindfulness and concentration yet to a high enough level.
This means that when your Mindfulness collapses your awareness will become low and your mind will default to your ingrained habitual patterns - which is mental pain. Please start at my Mindfulness Meditation 1: Grounding Attention and then gradually progress through the meditations up to no. 20. If any particular meditation is difficult it means that you need to develop the earlier foundation more. You can also find a printable booklet with basic instructions on my website
QUESTION from Maria: Dear Stephen, Thank you very much for your comment back the other day. I would like to ask you a question. After first feeling deep relaxation for about the first 20 minutes, I then start feeling a lot of "noise" in my lower body and a need to move and change position really often as if I suddenly cannot fully relax and I feel a bit disappointing over myself. Have you heard of this before and do you know why this might happen? All the best, Maria
ANSWER: Hello Maria, I am sorry I didn't notice your question earlier. Please don't be disappointed with yourself, this is mental training, when your mind gets bored it will return to its old habits - trying to escape. The 'noise' in your body is not physical: it is mental.
Your body is a mirror of your mind, when the state of mind changes then the sensations within your body change to reflect the state of mind. This 'noise' in your body is the reflection of mental restlessness - it is your teacher - listen to what it is teaching you. Your inability to fully relax is mental - I suspect that you are putting in too much effort trying to relax. Effort is opposite to relaxing as it creates energy - this energy will manifest as either thoughts or physical restlessness.
During your meditation focus on lowering your mental effort while still maintaining full awareness of your experience. As the meditation progresses make sure that you allow your breathing to become more and more gentle - more and more natural. This is your training at this time, take care, Stephen
QUESTION from Gary: 1. When hearing a sound during a lesson, is this done while holding the feeling of the body’s heaviness and the sensation of touch?
2. In other words, how many senses can be held in awareness simultaneously?
3. I can hold the feeling of heaviness and touch throughout my body, but it seems much harder to do so will hearing a sound or experiencing sight. How does one know they are doing it correctly?
ANSWER:1. Yes, this is done by holding a general awareness of ‘heaviness’ and ‘touch’ in mind and allowing the sound to ‘come to you’ – not going out to it. In this way you can hear the sound without the ‘Sankara’ – Judgement and mental chatter and about it arising.
The best way to do this with sound is focus on the points of change within the sound – ‘Annicca’ , notice the ending of the individual segments of the sound – instead of focussing on the middle as most people do, focusing on the middle gives the illusion of permanence.
2. Awareness can be focussed in the same way that you focus the lens on a camera. A picture can contain many objects or be focussed in so that you can see detail at a microscopic level.
What you are holding awareness of is not a thing, it is your experience of the present ‘right now’. The present can be very big or very small. It can contain memories of the past, dreams of the future or the touch of the breeze on your skin. All of it is your experience of the present.
In this way you can focus on your experience of the present as a whole containing everything or you can focus on your experience of only one of the ‘six sense doors’.
3. It is not necessary to experience everything in great detail, you are not cultivating your object of awareness but clarifying your awareness of it.
When anchoring your attention within your body you do not need to go out to the sound but instead allow it to come to you. As Ajahn Chah said: “Just go into the room, put one chair in the centre. Take the seat in the centre of the room, open the doors and windows and see who comes in.”
QUESTION from Gary: 1. How does one free themselves from perception or interpretation when it is so automatic, so practiced after years of rumination? 2. Plus humans are negatively biased in evaluating their experiences which reinforces aversion.
ANSWER: 1. Your task is not to free yourself from perception but to realign your perception with reality. Your task is to change your ‘view’ through observing reality, this is the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path – this is what Vipassana – Mindfulness meditation is all about.
The problem is that we are deluded. We have an inability to see reality, to see things as they really are because we have been trained in and have been training through reaction a faulty perception of experience.
Observing your experience of the world and your relationship to it will alter your perception thereby altering the world in which you live.
2. Human beings are not negatively biased they are just living in delusion. In the deluded state they are constantly reacting to ‘Vedena’ the pleasant or unpleasant feeling tone / flavour that permeates all experience. The delusion tells them that the pleasantness and unpleasantness is in things – such as we say “She is pretty, he is handsome” in reality they aren't, everything in the world is neutral – the attractiveness and unattractiveness are within our our heads – we are reacting to an illusion.
Our mind sorts the world into dangerous and safe, this is base level survival. It does this by overlaying a pleasant or unpleasant feeling tone / flavour over every experience as part of the process of perception. It applies an unpleasant feeling tone if the experience is judged as dangerous and a pleasant feeling tone / flavour if it is judged as safe. Once applied this feeling tone is automatically attached to anything that arises at the Six Sense Doors that has previously been experienced. Every time we react to pleasantness or unpleasantness it increases it saying “safe, safe, safe” “danger, danger, danger” – thus is the arising of addiction and aversion.
Through delusion is the experience contains a pleasant feeling tone / flavour we say “I like that”.
If it contains an unpleasant feeling tone / flavour we say “I don’t like that”.
In this way we sort the world and react to it through delusion, thus creating the insanity that we can see in the history of man.
QUESTION from Gary: Regarding your comment, “Learning the skill of breaking this process will help your develop understanding about anger, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, etc. and of how to break this process.” This seems to be the universal remedy to suffering, which is fantastic. How far along or what skill level in one’s practice is needed to break this process?
ANSWER: The mental factors of Investigation, Mindfulness and concentration need to be developed to the level that you can perceive and separate ’Vedena’ – the pleasant or unpleasant feeling tone / flavour from the ‘sensate quality’ of the experience. Then by using the “Softening Into Skill’'”, the feeling tone can be deconditioned through non-reaction so that the experience returns to neutral. Any reaction towards the feeling tone of wanting more of it or wanting it to go away is what reinforces the cycle.
The time needed to learn the skill depends of the depth of the delusion, when I am working with people my first step is to break through the delusion, once they can see through it the deconditioning process happens quite fast. My task is to point towards what is real and what is the dream, like a child waking up screaming from a nightmare, people come to me screaming from illusionary pain.
QUESTION from Gary: My goal is to improve my practice so that I can carry mindful awareness into my daily life. Any suggestions on how to do so when it seems my mindfulness on the cushion is quite different than that of daily life?
ANSWER: Page 19 to 21 of my guide “How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation in Your Daily Life” tells you everything you need to know to do this. Start with holding the feeling of your feet touching the ground throughout the day in mind as a general awareness – this is your anchor point and will develop your Mindfulness and concentration. You will forget it, when you notice that you have forgotten then come back, that is all.
Also, what is so different from sitting on a cushion meditating and daily life? Aren’t you just experiencing one thing at a time? Focus on your relationship to each experience rather then the experience itself and posture is irrelevant.
If you are doing a concentration practice for mental absorption – ‘Jhana’, then it is different, you can only do this sitting till for long periods of time. But if you are doing a Vipassana - Mindfulness practice then your task in both seated meditation and in any other posture is to remember your primary object of meditation and observe any movement of your attention and your relationship to it.
The Buddha says in the Satipatthana Sutta – Walking, Standing, Siting, Lying Down and Everything in Between – people choose to forget that. You can see this on Insight Timer – my least popular guided meditation – that is few people try it, is no.27 Changing Postures. Why?
Because most people have an idea in their head that meditation is about sitting cross legged on a cushion experiencing pleasure.
This also is just a manifestation of delusion – they are chasing after the pleasant feeling tone / flavour within their meditation practice – so are stuck.
QUESTION from Candice: I find it difficult to not control my breathing during meditation, how do I learn to do this?
ANSWER: Try this exercise to learn to not control your breathing.
1. Breath in gently then breathe out slowly
2. Do not breathe in again but relax and wait - (Do not hold you breath)
3. Wait and relax and the breath will come in naturally
4. Gently 'mentally feel' the breathing as if from a distance. The breathing will now be light, smooth, beautiful
5. Notice any tightening that appears within the breathing - this is you trying to control it - relax the control
6. If your breathing tightens then repeat this process to develop your skill