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 Tyler: I just need some advice. When meditating and concentrating on a particular thing like the whole breath or touch, i am focused on the particular thing but i still have lots of thoughts running through my head, its like i can't focus on it completely and my brains background noise still persists. How do you suggest i go by trying to stop this.
ANSWER:The majority of thinking is just the brain trying to burn excess energy, if there is too much mental energy from stimulation it will try to return back to balance to protect itself. In the same way that a light bulb consumes the energy we call electricity, the easiest way for the brain to consume excess energy is by burning it up as thoughts.
The greatest danger of this to the meditator is that we can find the thoughts interesting, this is because the majority of thoughts that are produced in this process are products of our past experience, in other words all about ourselves, thus they are enchanting and we can get lost in them.
Never try to stop the thinking during Mindfulness meditation, the effort of trying to stop it creates more energy and this in turn feeds the thinking, so the cycle continues. If the thinking is happening in the background and you are not getting lost within it, this is ok, just let it run. Hold bare attention on it, in the same way you can look at something with your eyes but see the surroundings in your peripheral vision, you can also be aware of your meditation object and notice the thinking in the background.
Treat this sort of thinking like you would an overactive child or puppy, if you give them your attention, or try to push them away they will just become more active, want more attention and return again and again. If you hold awareness of the child or puppy being there, without interacting with them, they will eventually tire and settle of their own accord. In this way be aware of the thinking, without being drawn into it, and the energy will start to lower, the thinking will slow down and eventually stop.
Not knowing your lifestyle I can not comment on where the excess of energy is coming from, but how you live your life, the ethics through which you interact with the world affect the mind, they will manifest in your formal meditation practice and visa, versa. This is where wisdom comes into play, through observing how we live and how it affects the peacefulness of our mind, we begin to understand the process of cause and effect. Also through observing thinking we come to realise that it is not ours, it is just something else to be aware of, that comes and goes of its own accord.
With this understanding your relationship to this type of energetic thinking will start to change, the identification of "this is my thoughts, they therefore are really, really important" will change, and your mind will naturally start to leave them alone. No longer being fed by your participation they will fade in their own time as long as you are not stirring them up during formal meditation or by the way you are living your life.
As long as you are aware that there is thinking present, then it is not a problem, just let it run, be mindful of it. The danger comes when you identify with the thought, when this happens you will forget that you are meditating and forget your object of meditation, instead caught up in the contents of the thought. This can be very subtle, sometimes thinking about meditating itself. When lost in the contents of the thought Mindfulness is no longer present and awareness starts to fade.
At some point your Mindfulness will return and you will realise "I have been off thinking", when this happens acknowledge that you have been lost in thought, turn your attention towards the thought and quietly label it
Notice the thought disappear and the change in 'flavour' from when the thought was present and not that it no longer there and then bring your attention back to your grounding meditation object.
QUESTION from Manoj: I am not able to sit straight, for 18 mins and if I lie. down start feeling pain in lower back after some time feel I should turn and lie on my stomach!!!! it's tough but I will try it everyday ty!!!
ANSWER:Hello Manoj, it is not necessary to sit or lie on the floor, Mindfulness Meditation is a training of the mind not the body. You can meditate sitting in a chair or laying on your bed, if you have an injury that requires you to move often you can keep the momentum of your meditation if you move Mindfully.
When you move, hold strong awareness of the movement, move slowly and intentionally mentally feeling the movement, in this way moving your body will have minimum impact on the deepening of your Mindfulness and Concentration
QUESTION from Christoph: Hello Stephen, while reading Satipatthana Vipassana @ accesstoinsight.org, I found the following statements:
“Seeing or hearing occurs only when due attention is given to their objects. If one does not pay heed to any sight or sound, one may pass the time without any moments of seeing or hearing taking place.”
“Lying in a cave. Because the mind comes into being depending on the mind-base and the other sense doors situated in the body, it is said that it rests in a cave.”
ANSWER:Hi Chris, both the above quotes are referring to mature practice, the first Samatha (concentration) the second Vipassana (Mindfulness). There are two main traditions within Theravadin Buddhism – Ones who practice concentration for the Jhanas (mental absorptions) first, Vipassana (Insight / Mindfulness) second and those that cultivate Vipassana (Insight / Mindfulness) first without cultivating Jhana
When reading texts you need to be aware of what path they are taking otherwise it can be confusing. They are talking about Jhana here, mental absorption, when the mind is fully absorbed into the object of meditation, because awareness is no longer at the 5 sense doors, no knowing of any object that strikes these doors can exist.
This is concentration meditation not Mindfulness meditation, during Mindfulness practice we do not want the 5 sense doors to shut down as we are studying experience, not blocking it out.
QUESTION Continued: “It is said that the mind should be contemplated at each moment of its occurrence.” This sounds to me like a mind that is kind of sleeping and all or one of the six senses can wake it up.
ANSWER:We have to be careful in how we talk about ‘the mind’, ‘the mind’ is not a thing but a series of events. In the same way the ‘weather’ is not a thing but also a series of events, it is raining, sunny, windy, calm, dry, wet – these are all separate events that make up what we call ‘the weather’.
People get upset when ‘the weather’ is not the way they like it, too hot, too cold, but in reality ‘the weather’ is a lot of changing events, one conditioning the next, it is not something but a conditioned process.
‘The mind’ is also a series of events, it is not a thing, it is changing levels of awareness, various states of mind, thinking, judgements etc. Just like ‘the weather’ the qualities of mind change and flow in an out of existence.
Awareness of an object arises only when the object is present, when a sound strikes the ear and we are aware / conscious of it, awareness of that sound arises. When the sound ceases, awareness also ceases, in the same way when awareness ceases the awareness of the sound also ceases, they are dependant on each other to exist. The same applies for all the other sense doors.
The contemplation referred to is the observation of the arising and ceasing in each moment of the mind and its object.
QUESTION Continued: I also understood from the article that labelling should only be practiced when the mind knows an object and is awake.
ANSWER:It is not possible to label an object that the mind does not know, that you are not aware of. Label the dominant experience as it appears to you
QUESTION Continued: My question is: How do I know that the mind knows an object or is awake and that it is the right time to start labelling things ?
ANSWER:You know that the mind is knowing an object because it is present to you. If the object is not present to you then knowing of it does not exist.
The mind is not sleeping, it arises dependant on the contact. Consciousness is not a thing but a stream of consciousness, each consciousness conditions the next, arising and ceasing dependant on conditions.
The way you know what that the mind is aware of an object is through cultivating Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the factors of mind that knows that we are aware of an object. Without Mindfulness we are still are still aware of objects that strike the sense doors but we don't know that we are aware of them. This is delusion and the state which most people live through, this not knowing that we know is where habitual reactions manifest – no Mindfulness -
Label the dominant experience as it appears to you, where your attention sits
QUESTION Continued: If you take hearing for an example, depending on where you are, there can always be sound present which you hear. Same is valid with seeing as long as you do not close the eyes. From the statements above I understood that it is not necessary to acknowledge these kind of sounds, but only sound known by the mind.
ANSWER:It is not necessary to label everything that you are aware of, only label the dominant experience. Labels are used as a means of clarifying where the centre of our attention lies.
Even though you are experiencing many sounds, sights, smells etc the question is where is your attention actually sitting, what is at the centre of your attention – that is what you label. You are labelling to say “this is where my attention is sitting now”
QUESTION Continued: Another point: How do you know if a reaction is appropriate or just habitual. Example: If you feel that someone takes advantage of you and you have the urge to react e.g. to look for another job or to refuse to do something. How do you know, if that is just a habitual reaction that should be softened or that it is now time for prompt action. Sometimes I’m kind of paralyzed since it is hard for me to decide this.
ANSWER:Firstly if it is habitual you will react first and be aware of it second. Secondly during a habitual reaction you will feel like you have no choice
If you need to leave your job, relationship, or get away from danger then you can do that. The question you should always ask with Mindfulness is “Will reacting in this way lead to my harm or the harm of the other” if the answer is yes to either of these then it will lead to suffering. If the answer is no to both of these then it will lead to happiness, this will then give you the appropriate response.
Often we have to react or run away but the question is “What are you reacting through?” Is the response through fear and anger or kindness and compassion?
Two different responses with different results