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Florian

The 'starting meditation' thread

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So, here is the starting meditation thread, presaged by Kit! ; )

"[Following your advice (see the right livelihood thread),] I started my meditation practice. Have you any additionally advice for me, how to meditate in the beginning? Its not that i haven't meditate in the past. And i have also read a lot of stuff about it, studied some zen writings, some handbooks from indian saints etc. Tolle too. But maybe you have a specific advice to begin with. Work with my breath? Feeling the breath? Or watching the thoughts indifferently? etc. How should i begin?

My second question: What should I do with tension in the body during meditation? I mean: If I want to sit upright, long spine, shoulders pressed down slightly, the head in line etc., knees to the ground, there is some serious effort involved. Sometimes I begin to sweat only from holding the posture and the concentration process. And with time I feel this effort more and more. Should I rather let every tension go (sacrificing a good posture, but maybe able to get deeper within - and in danger to sleep, haha) or is this effort okay at the moment and, in the course of my practice, I will come to a point, in which the posture becomes more and more effortless and my concentration so deep, that the outer effort of the body cannot affect my inner being anymore?"

These were my questions to Kit. He will answer it here. So may it be another source of learning for all of us.

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Keep it simple, especially in the beginning. From my experience, a newbie should train attention first, so watching (or, as Kit says, feeling) the breath is a good starting point; the breath is all that matters, everything else is a distraction. The attitude toward distractions is important, though: you should simply notice them and then return to the breath, don't fight them.

14 hours ago, Florian said:

Should I rather let every tension go (sacrificing a good posture, but maybe able to get deeper within - and in danger to sleep, haha) or is this effort okay at the moment and, in the course of my practice, I will come to a point, in which the posture becomes more and more effortless and my concentration so deep, that the outer effort of the body cannot affect my inner being anymore?

This, in my experience, is what will happen. You can also meditate sitting in a chair, without focusing much on your posture and, as a side practice, work on your restrictions so that you'll one day be able to sit effortlessly in a more apt fashion.

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This is a wonderful topic. It is what drew me to stretch therapy in the first place. Kit's stretching for meditation VOD is a fantastic resource for preparing the body for sitting. 

I'm looking forward to what comes out this thread.

I'll suggest two slim books by William Johnson that have really helped me, "the Posture of Meditation" and  "Breathing through the Whole body". WJ is a rolfer as well as a meditation teacher. His body oriented (somatic) approach has been a revelation to me. These books reinforce what Kit is talking about when he says that "breathing is the meditation" and that "sitting still is a fiction". These ideas are the themes of the second book, clearing tension that block the flow of breath through the whole body. (This idea resonates with cranial sacral therapy, bringing awareness to deepest pulsation of the life force). The first book, Posture of Meditation, is about the dynanmic alignment of the upright spine. This tuning process is the meditation. He encourages movement of the spine during sitting, starting with undulations ("like an unfolding fern") and gradually more subtle movements, what he calls shimmering. WJ suggests a relationship where tension in the body due to misalignment which in turn aggravates mental chatter. 

All his books are on Amazon. His website is http://www.embodiment.net/

 

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It's my round of questions, brace yourselves.

On 21/1/2017 at 10:28 PM, Kit_L said:

The Mahasi method suggested noting "rising" (of the abdomen) and "falling", but these suggestions do not connect experientially with some people. "In" and "out" may be better. But way more important than the concept is the suite of feelings themselves. When I teach lying meditation in a Buddhist monastery, I suggest, "Become aware of the movements in the body we call 'breathing'". When you search for these, you can find a rich field of sensations, and many will not be what you expect, perhaps.

I've always tried to point my attention in a very specific spot, that is where I can stronger feel my breath. However, given my (not so) recent issues with meditation, I decided to follow these instructions and follow the sensation of breathing. Question: isn't my focus too broad, this way? I find it harder not to get distracted.

On 21/1/2017 at 10:28 PM, Kit_L said:

Call this step one. All of one's awareness ideally is on this suite of sensations. When I was beginning, I made a resolution (that continues to this day) to check my posture regularly (say every five or ten minutes) and make adjustments; for me, it requires a subtle lifting of the sternum, and a very slight bringing-in of the chin, horizontally. It may well be different for you. Call this a second awareness. Try to make any adjustments to your posture really slow—so slow, you can think, that if anyone were watching, they would not see any movement. If you can do this, the sensations back will be strengthened significantly.

I'm puzzled about this: I was taught one has to move only if strictly necessary because movement agitates the mind — my experience confirms this. I'm talking about conscious movement, of course: total stillness is fiction, I agree.

On 21/1/2017 at 10:28 PM, Kit_L said:

If pain is a distractions (I find myself smiling here; because for the vast majority of meditators pain is the overwhelming experience of their first retreat), what to do?

My main distraction is tension and it's much more unsettling than pain because I see the latter coming and going, while the former is always on. I feel it almost everywhere, but it's really strong on the left side of my face and left shoulder; it's so intense it's almost the only thing I can feel and sometimes it prevents me to lock my attention on the breath. Stretching beforehand helps a little bit, as does yoga nidra, but nothing seems to solve the problem.

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On 1/18/2017 at 6:57 AM, Florian said:

My second question: What should I do with tension in the body during meditation? I mean: If I want to sit upright, long spine, shoulders pressed down slightly, the head in line etc., knees to the ground, there is some serious effort involved. Sometimes I begin to sweat only from holding the posture and the concentration process. And with time I feel this effort more and more. Should I rather let every tension go (sacrificing a good posture, but maybe able to get deeper within - and in danger to sleep, haha) or is this effort okay at the moment and, in the course of my practice, I will come to a point, in which the posture becomes more and more effortless and my concentration so deep, that the outer effort of the body cannot affect my inner being anymore?"

Short answer: nothing. There should be no tension, or very little, when you sit.

Longer answer: the answer depends on your time frame. Let me clarify a few points raised in the question itself. You say, "shoulders pressed down slightly". No; the overall goal is no tension in the body, with an efficient posture that, in time, emerges from effortless alignment. I have demonstrated this on workshops and retreats many times: when I sit, all the muscles of my trunk and neck are soft—you can press your fingertips into the muscles, and little resistance can be felt. When I say, "soft", that's what I mean: the muscles, if poked, will be soft to touch. And as Olivia has teased out in the Muscle tension and flexibility thread, there is only a small relationship between these qualities. 

So, make zero effort while sitting, but direct some of your stretching efforts at other times into being able to create a lower-effort sitting posture. This is what the How to sit for meditation program focuses on; for most people, piriformis stops the pelvis being put into the perfect position (just enough anterior tilt; I will explain below), so that the whole body can be arranged above it, also without muscular effort. Piriformis (and other external rotators) resists tilting the pelvis forwards—which means that you have to use erector spinae and the paravertebrals to pull yourself into your idea of good posture. If you sit, then do a little tail tuck–untuck drill, you can feel that only the back and thoracic spine muscles mentioned can move the pelvis in this way. This effort becomes pain in little time. I have to say this again: P. needs to be so loose that the pelvis can be put into the required position against no resistance. This takes a long time for most people. How loose? Being able to put your face on your foot with little effort and a straight back is about the ROM that's needed. This will take years, for most people. And this is why I recommend a firm cushion, and of sufficient height, so that the pelvis can be positioned without effort. For most beginners, 4–6" in cushion height will be about right. Keep in mind you did not grow up on the floor, so acquiring the required ROM will take time.

And the knees: if your knees/thighs/calf muscles do not touch the floor, then put small hand towels or cushions under the outsides of them, so the body can let that tension go, too, by resting on the supports. In this restriction (which comes from hip flexors and some adductors: you can find out which ones by palpating your own inner leg once sitting), if the muscles mentioned do not allow the legs to rest on the floor, then the outside of the foot is exposed to a lateral force—in time, this results in foot numbness, knee pain, or both. Use props; in the school of yoga I studied in, this process was called building a nest. It is necessary in the beginning.

Similarly the shoulders: by all means pull them down a tiny bit (until you can feel the traps and levator scapulae being stretched, but then let that effort go too. Then the abdomen: for most people this is the hardest to let go tension from. On the retreats, we go around and physically palpate abdomens, if the students want that—everyone thinks they are relaxed, but there's always more to let go of. 

So (and this is the time frame aspect) in the sitting session itself, work for a few minutes to loosen the key structures to get as comfortable as you can for today, and then go through the process of constructing the meditation posture, and then let as much tension go as you can and still be sitting upright. In the longer time frame, work on getting the key parts loose enough so that you are supple/loose enough to be able to position the body in the recommended way without effort. Any effort will become pain if you sit long enough.

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12 hours ago, jaja said:

Question: isn't my focus too broad, this way? I find it harder not to get distracted.

In the beginning, don't "try hard not to get distracted" it is the effort that creates the tension, or which amplifies the tension already present. Relax as much as possible and experience the sensations of breathing, even if this means you get distracted more often—the task of meditation is to simply be aware of, or note, the distractions; then in the instant of being aware that you are distracted, smile internally and bring your awareness back to the sensations. Concentration (which is what people mean when they use expressions like "I find it harder not to get distracted") will strengthen by itself, over time, through the repeated action of noticing. This is how it works. Trying harder only increases tension; the next time you do this activity, take a moment to experience this.

12 hours ago, jaja said:

I was taught one has to move only if strictly necessary because movement agitates the mind

Context is everything in understanding any instruction: yes, restless movement will agitate the mind, as "restless" means no control over the movement. If, on the other hand, you follow my instruction which was (to save you re-reading the ling post above): "Try to make any adjustments to your posture really slow—so slow, you can think, that if anyone were watching, they would not see any movement" you will experience the antithesis of restless. The very act of moving so slowly in the correction that an observer would not notice the movement guarantees that your full awareness will be in the doing of it—presence in each instant is the long-term goal of the practise, and if you do manage to move this way, you will experience this presence powerfully.

12 hours ago, jaja said:

it's so intense it's almost the only thing I can feel and sometimes it prevents me to lock my attention on the breath.

Wonderful: consider making this your meditation object instead—it might be a better object because it is so clear. My colleague Patrick makes this point often on retreats: if there is some aspect of the experience that is really strong, then deliberately move your awareness to this—and see what happens. You might be surprised.

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On 31/1/2017 at 8:56 AM, Kit_L said:

Wonderful: consider making this your meditation object instead—it might be a better object because it is so clear. My colleague Patrick makes this point often on retreats: if there is some aspect of the experience that is really strong, then deliberately move your awareness to this—and see what happens. You might be surprised.

Tried this, although not enough times to report back some useful observations. It's odd because, since the tension is moving around all the face/neck area, to me it feels like I'm not practicing Samatha, but Vipassanā. Probably it's not useful to have these concepts in mind, at this point.

Quick question: what should I do with my tongue? Rest it on my palate has the effect of both make it easier to maintain a proper posture and slightly increase the tension I feel (and the desire to swallow).

@Patrick: Thank you for your comment! Much appreciated!

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Just a couple of points here:

When you are working with very strong - and therefore very clear - physical phenomena like the tension you are speaking of, it is important to check the energy behind your awareing. When you attend to an object, you are directing awareness to something; you are putting energy into making some particular phenomenal event the centre of your awareness rather than another phenomenal event. If you use too much energy to direct your awareness, if you push your awareness onto the phenomenal event, you can actually stir up the tension and make the sensations stronger and even more dominant. So be gentle in your awareing. It's like you keep your distance from the tension; watch it from afar without stirring it up. You are practising awareness-of-tension; don't get lost in the tension and forget the awareness.

Secondly, when you aware phenomena such as tension, yes they will move. This is natural. You are seeing the impermanence of the phenomena. Is this vipassanā rather than samatha? Both "vipassanā" and "samatha" are concepts. Your job as a practitioner is to clarify the raw data of the experience, not to describe the experience with a particular set of concepts. Don't start with the concept (e.g., "I am doing samatha") and project it on to the data (e.g., "Is this samatha? Should this be happening when I practise samatha?") Instead, start with the data (e.g. "Oh! It's moving! That's interesting.") and from there analyse what is happening (e.g., "Maybe this is what a vipassanā relationship looks like").

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On 2/11/2017 at 10:36 PM, jaja said:

Quick question: what should I do with my tongue? Rest it on my palate has the effect of both make it easier to maintain a proper posture and slightly increase the tension I feel (and the desire to swallow).

Do nothing; let it relax where it's most comfortable. Most meditators will swallow occasionally. The desire to swallow arises; you swallow. Simply be aware of this. Quoting my learned Elder Brother, "The central issue is: What's happening, now?" 

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This has been a very helpful thread for me and clarified a lot of things. The main issues for me during meditation seem to be the excessive need to swallow coupled with lots of tension in the forehead. This forehead tension seems to be quite random as some days it will be quite tense other days almost fully relaxed. Iv'e been experimenting with eyes closed and eyes open and found that eyes open seems to reduce the tension somewhat. Its almost like if I try to close my eyes during meditation it feels forced and creating unnecessary tension. What are peoples thoughts on eyes closed vs eyes open?

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As you have discovered, you have to try both and see what works. I have used both approaches extensively, at different times. 

Speaking generally, if you have the experience of heaviness ('sloth and torpor' in the literature), and you feel like you want to fall asleep, when you do start to fall sleep (you will feel your head tilting forward, then be gently jerked back by the stretch reflex), then open eyes will work well. Put simply, open eyes helps you stay awake and clear. Same if you cannot pull yourself back from constant day-dreaming when you sit. If you do open-eyes meditation be aware the possibility of visual hallucinations is a real one; if this happens, simply relax more.

If you are not troubled by these things, closed-eyes meditation may be able to let you go deeper. If you are a new meditator, try both and pick one and stay on that.

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Regarding closed vs. open eyes, it's a case of six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. Each modality has its pluses and minuses. Closed eyes eliminates external distraction, but the inner world of thought and fantasy can become more vivid and real. Open eyes grounds you more in the reality of the physical world and lessens the power of internal thought and fantasy, but opens you up to visual distraction. In my early years of meditation practice I found open eyes very useful because I had a particular tendency to stiffness-&-dullness (thīna-middha), the hindrance of mental dullness and physical tiredness. When tiredness begins to take over, you notice your eyelids closing, or your eyes rolling upward. This gives you an early warning, and you can reestablish your alertness. I also found that meditating with open eyes helped ground me, because I was in the habit of thinking endlessly.

If you want to experiment with open eyes, it is best to sit facing a blank wall or open floor - in any event, a surface that is as plain as possible. Have the eyes looking naturally down, but be careful to keep the spine and head erect. Then bring your awareness to your eyes, and relax your eyes. When you do so, you bring your awareness inwards towards your eyes rather than outwards towards what you are looking at. This is important. The eyes naturally scan their environment, looking for something of interest. When you meditate with open eyes, you are not interested in what you are seeing; you are only interested in the seeing itself. Every time you find yourself sending awareness out, to look at something, relax, return your awareness to your eyes, and relax them. Then return to your normal meditation object. Over time, you will either forget the world of sight, or you will simply receive the sights, without getting entangled in them.

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Hey there. The explanations were really helpful for me. But i did not want to write again, until i would have experienced something new, until i would have made some progress, created a new habit and so on. But now, before i can share my experience, i need to ask another question, in the light of these statements:

jaja said: "it's so intense it's almost the only thing i can feel and sometimes it prevents me to lock my attention on the breath". and Kit's answer: "wonderful: consider making this your meditation object instead - it might be a better object because it is so clear."

Well, i have a problem: tinnitus, since my childhood, don't know why. I don't 'hear' it usually in my everyday life. But when i meditate, in "silence", of course, there is no silence for me. It's very clear then. Following Kit's advice i thought, maybe i should concentrate on this sound instead of my breath. But when i concentrate myself on this sound, it gets more and more intense, very loud, and i am not sure if this is the right way. What do you think on this, my friends?

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As I said above, when you are working with some phenomenon that is strong, and that draws your awareness to it, you have to be careful about the quality of awareness and the energy behind it. If the energy behind the awareness is too strong, then you will feed the phenomenon and it will get stronger. 

This is commonly seen with tinnitus. Sometimes when you make tinnitus your meditation object, the tinnitus gets worse. Sometimes it stays the same. Sometimes it fades. Different people have different responses at different times. Or the same person has different responses at different times. It may be that if tinnitus has been a problem over a long time, the mind has developed a deeply ingrained aversion towards it, and you cannot help but bring some aversion to the awareing of it. (Notice I am using "aware" as a verb - "to aware.") You may not even be aware of the aversion, and only notice it after some time as you realise you are getting agitated. But in any event, if you make x a meditation object, and if this object then grows more intense and becomes problematic, then the best thing may be to not use it as an object at all. Maybe at some later date it will be OK. But for the time being, drop it. Just ignore it.

So the advice to aware whatever is predominate in your experience is excellent general advice, but you have to balance this  with your particular experience of actually putting it into practice. Does it work? And by "work" here, I mean: does it allow for the cultivation of a felt continuity of awareness, along with a growing sense of calm and collectedness? Sometimes you may find a felt continuity of awareness, but body and/or mind are becoming agitated rather than more calm. In this case, you are developing mindfulness (indicated by the presence of the felt continuity of awareness) but you are not developing concentration (indicated by the absence of calm and collectedness). So, drop that object and try another, one that will give you both mindfulness and concentration. Keep monitoring the state of mind that is doing the meditation practice, as well as the meditation object. Both sides of the equation play a vital role.

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I am linking to Patrick's site here; the link takes you to a page of recordings. Anyone interested in this thread will find gold here.

The first 12 recordings are all the dharma talks from our recent co-presentation at Bandar Utama Buddhist Society (BUBS) in Kuala Lumpur, presented by Patrick Kearney.

The next four recordings are lying meditations, recorded live at BUBS over the same period, by me.

The last six recordings are an experiment: they are the full instructions for the morning exercise sessions, with a focus on the first satipatthana, in particular. Here, we use the body and its sensations as the focus of the moving/still practise, and at the same time, the students' attention is directed to become aware of how the mind is relating to the many sensations produced by the practise.

The seventh dharma talk, 07 The four satipaṭṭhānas, is the most relevant here, though all are connected, and if you are new to this, begin at the first talk!

http://dharmasalon.net/Audio/bubs_dec2016/bubs_dec2016.html

I will link to this excellent resource in other places here, too. I will be putting all the lying meditations from our joint presentations at Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary 2016 up soon, too. I am extremely grateful to Patrick for connecting us to this resource.

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I'm interested in thoughts regarding the different benefits of cushion seated meditation compared with kneeling postures. I alternate and for me they present different benefits and challenges. Its easier to elongate and relax my spine when kneeling on a seiza bench, plus there's less tension over all but the inevitable discomfort is mostly from legs numbness pins and needles. Sitting is peaceful but hip joint aches (different from muscle tension I think) are the ultimate time inhibitor.

I don't want to fall into an ego trap of chasing the "perfect" posture. I always begin my practice with stretches derived from ST for meditation, boxing the compass, tailors pose and advanced pirifomis are essential.

thanks.

Looking forward to seeing the FB photo album of the Deep Well Being Retreat.

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@MarkTN: we did not take images of the DWB workshop—just a room full of people doing nothing! 

Re. sitting and kneeling: in my experience, far and away the most important aspect of your sitting is the quality of awareness that you bring to the activity. The Buddha spoke of the "four postures of meditation" (lying, sitting, moving, and standing) and in his day, that would have covered all possible activities)—so I assume the directions for the First Satipatthana (foundation of mindfullness, in the Satipatthana Sutra) are that they be followed at all times one is in any of these postures. Accordingly, the idea of being present all the time (or as much of it as you can!) arises, and the concept of yoga in daily life. In the Buddhist world (in Theravada, anyway) practitioners are called 'yogis' even if they do no yoga. 

I recommend that you use both positions, as you are, and remind yourself at various times, "What's happening now?" as my learned colleague Patrick likes to remind students. This way a widened awareness can affect all aspects of daily life, rather than being a practise one engages in when sitting.

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I want to share my latest experiences here. Most of the time, I did my meditation lying. Not as regularly as I should, but the habit is there and I will strengthen it.

Essentially, I was experiencing two things. Two times I was feeling something between being asleep and being awake. I had the strong feeling, that my consciousness is "rising" deeper or higher, it was really this rising or falling sensation within. But then immediately there was a strong sensation of fear too, of loosing the connection to my body. Then I had a moment of courage, I tried to overcome this fear, to let it happen. I don't know how to describe it, it was a bit like at the peak moment, if you can't endure the sensation. It felt like dying and therefore I was like forcing myself to go back to the body and to open the eyes, like in a fight of gaining my consciousness back. Actually I can't say if I was just dreaming or if I was loosing my consciousness or something else. In the past I experienced something similar when I actually stopped breathing while asleep; then I needed to fight myself back into consciousness just like described above. But that was just sleep and there was not this experience of "rising" I felt while meditating this way.

But the last few months there was no experience like this. Instead it is like: just everytime I do the lying meditation, at some point I fall to sleep and everytime I have a nightmare, with some desires or fears manifesting themselves. Parallel I experimented with sleeping on my back too (normally I sleep on the side). I wanted to form a habit of sleeping on my back, to avoid uncessary pressure on my shoulders etc. (sleeping on a hard surface). Its the same here: I have a nightmare, at some point I awake, than I change my position to the side and then I sleep 'normal' (but not as deep as I should, as I believe). So the nightmares are just there while sleeping on my back. This position feels a bit "vulnerable" too. If I lay on my back, I feel immediately the impulse to cross my feet on each other or to cross my hands over my body as If I wanted to protect myself from something.

I thank you for your ongoing thoughts on the topic. I still hope that it will help others too.

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Are you doing your lying meditation using one of the recordings from my site, or without any recorded guide? If you are new or newish to this practise, I suggest you go over to the site, try a few, and then stick with one you like for a while. Following the instructions with enough effort to stay awake will mean that there will be no nightmares.

At some level in your system, though, there is a deep awareness of the vulnerability of lying in the position you describe; we do not know its origins in your instance; nor do we need to. If you want to explore this, I encourage you to.  As soon as you become aware of the onset of what we call a "nightmare", let yourself relax (any nightmare is accompanied by tension). Try to summon enough awareness to remind yourself that this is not real; it is a thought form (one which causes the body to tighten up; change your breathing, etc.). The root is fear. If you are in a safe place, remind yourself of that, relax more, and let the nightmare manifest. 

At its deepest, the root cause of the fear is that the egoic mind does not want to be seen, or to be uncovered. This is why the experience "felt like dying": this, precisely, is the little death before Death that Zen speaks of. You are dying, to the limited perspective of the mind; in Reality, you are opening to a much larger perspective. Many traditions speak of this, including Christianity; it's sometimes called the "dark night of the soul'. Eckhart Tolle is eloquent on this:

https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

Hang in there, and keep practising.

 

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During the past week and a bit, I finally got around to using @Kit_L's Govinda Valley Lying Relaxation scripts.  I've had them on my phone for ages, but never got around to using them.

I have just returned from Lombok, Indonesia, having spent almost two weeks there; partly for a holiday, but mostly to participate in a trail race that I've obsessed over for the past couple of years.

The first couple of days of my travels were very stressful.  Chose my location poorly (hard to do from afar for such a technology-poor environment), found that my intended accommodation was unable to house me, despite having booked and paid.  Anxiety levels were high, as I found alternative accommodation, and started to reorganise myself.

I used the first of the lying meditations in the hope of levelling and calming myself a little.  It was a most successful exercise.  Despite still being in the midst of regathering myself, I was able to relax very deeply, and was vastly less anxious.

I continued to use the meditations more or less once a day leading up to the race, to help me relax, keep calm and hopefully improve my sleep.  The latter is a chronic problem - while I cannot infer causation, the meditations certainly seemed to correlate with improved sleep.  I'm hoping that a continued meditation practise will see similar improvements in long-term sleep habits.

Now, I just have to "find the time" to continue, back at home.  I was travelling on my own, so I didn't have all of life's other work and family responsibilities vying for my time.

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17 hours ago, pogo69 said:

The latter is a chronic problem - while I cannot infer causation, the meditations certainly seemed to correlate with improved sleep.  I'm hoping that a continued meditation practise will see similar improvements in long-term sleep habits.

I was going to write, "sleep quality is guaranteed to improve with continuing use of the meditation recordings"—then I asked myself, "what do we mean by sleep quality?" I feel this is a good question! There are many causes of what everyone calls "bad" or "poor" sleep, and extended use of phones/laptops in bed, or during the many hours leading to bet time is just one example. In general, most people in the current era experience their lives as stressful.

I have a different relation to sleep than most, it seems from conversations with others: if I am partially lucid during long periods during the night, I do not regard this as 'bad sleep', though many might. The reason is that my body is completely relaxed and often deeply asleep, while the mind is awake, simply experiencing what is happening around me. Other times I will fall deeply asleep, mind and body, and awaken refreshed. For me, both are "excellent sleep quality".

The reason I am happy to be awake (on the occasions this happens by itself) is that, because my body is completely relaxed, I am not worrying about anything, nor is my mind running around the same tack, repeatedly—this is many people's experience of sleep. 

Anxiety/worry is identical with muscular tension. One of the great virtues of the lying meditations I have recorded is that you will become aware of where this tension is, and learn to let it go. Doing a lying relaxation practise regularly (and just before sleep is best, if good sleep is your intention) is, in my experience, simply the best way to improve sleep habits. 

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Brief meditation update.

I've been typically sporadic with my lying meditation practise.  Did the first Govinda Valley guided meditation again the night before last, but that is one of a very small handful of dedicated sessions since early May.

What I have found, however, is that I am able to use what I've learned via the guided sessions, in my trail running training.

Backstory: I've had a pretty awful stretch of results with my trail running for the past 12 months.  After a very pleasing result from a 3-day event last April, I followed up with a DNS (did not start) last November, due to an injury only 6 weeks before the event (ligament injury that I tried to train around and rehab but did not come good in time).  I then had a DNF (did not finish) in May just gone.  If I'm being completely honest (and compassionate) with myself, my finishing the event in May was always a long shot, but the cumulative effect is that I'm not feeling great about running, nor my "A" race results for the past year.  There is a lot tied up in that - not just the perception of "failure", but also the time, effort, and money that I sink into it, being away from family etc.

Back to now: Every time I "get back in training", it takes 2-3 weeks to get going again.  I always take at least a couple of weeks off running after an "A" race, and this time it was a full 6 weeks off, with only MTBing to keep the legs, lungs and heart going.  I'm closing in on the 3rd week back, and the running is still really not feeling great.  Exacerbating that is all of the negative thoughts invading my mind.  Again, it is much bigger than just the running.  Lots of stuff kicking around, and none of it particularly helpful.  This has turned "frolicking in the forest" from one of my favourite things, into something I'm forcing myself to do, in the hope that the spark will come back.

The point (yes there is a point... finally): Mindful meditation.  I've been using some of the ideas from the guided meditation sessions, to practise mindfulness while I'm running.  Focusing in turn, on; all the sounds; all the sights; all the tactile feelings.  The thoughts still enter my head as I'm running - it is impossible to spend 3 hrs inside your own head without having some kind of internal monologue.  But by practising the meditation techniques, I am able to become aware of the thought, acknowledge it, and set it aside by refocusing on the selected practise.

My running hasn't miraculously transformed back into carefree frolicking (yet).  But it has certainly become a great deal more pleasant than it had been.

As always seems to be the case, I am not finding a lot of time to dedicate to either meditation or mobility,  But I'm keen to explore the myriad ways that I can make them more a part of my every day.

Some of the ideas, like holding and releasing tension, are not a particularly good fit for running.  But I could certainly be practising that while I am sitting here at my desk, at work.

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