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Importance of understanding the results of meditation

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  • Importance of understanding the results of meditation

    Hi Venerable

    My mother has been practising meditation for around five years, she has told me that she doesn't know if it makes her more mindful. She says during the act her various meditations(breath, body scan, walking) she is more aware of the present moment but that once she stops she doesn't know if anything really changes.

    This really trips me out, for when I meditate I notice a lot of changes and always become more mindful. I've heard no one else who has practiced as much as her state this. It must be said though that my mum lacks a lot of understanding around her mind, she is not a reflective
    person. I asked her some questions relating to all this and she told me that she is not sure whether she's ever noticed increases or decreases in mindfulness(whether after or during meditation or even not related to meditation). I asked her if her mind feels more clear after meditation and if there's less intrusive thoughts and she said she didn't know. She also told me that she never reflects on these things and that when she has tried once or twice before no answer arose and that it frustrated her.

    My theory is that she has so little experience with reflecting that the answers don't come easy, and because she doesn't have a conceptual understanding of what meditation does for her mind nor the ability to notice changes in the level of mindfulness, she is missing out on the inspiration that awareness can bring and the benefits the utilisation of that awareness can bring.

    It also might be worth noting that she says sloth and torpor is her most powerful hindrance. Though rarely falls asleep during meditation.

    She desires this understanding and so I suggested she ask herself before and after meditation what her mind/mindfulness is like.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts and any suggestions?

    with metta

  • #2
    Hi Dylan,

    The most important changes are not the short-term ones, like a temporary increase in mindfulness and some peace of mind, but instead the long-term changes. These include becoming a nicer person, being easier to live with, being better able to cope with stressful situations, etc. It can take a while for these things to start developing (every person is different, and of course it depends on how much we practice), but in the end everybody who practices wholeheartedly will experience these results. That is my personal conviction.

    However, if somebody wants big results, just meditation isn't enough. It is also very important, arguably more important, to live a moral life. To be virtuous and keep the precepts, to be generous and forgiving. If you would meditate but not live a virtuous life, that'd be like building a wall only to break it down afterwards, when you lie to somebody for example. And then you'd build another wall, but break that one down again when swearing angrily. You see, that way you'll never be able to build a house to live in.

    But if somebody has been meditating for five years, then whether you notice it or not, there will be good results. There will have to be good results, otherwise that person would not stick with it for so long. Therefore my advice would be to let her practice develop as it does by itself. So unless she asks you for advice, I'd just let her do her thing. Some people are more tended to develop steadily in the slow, almost unnoticeable way, while others may get instant results each meditation sitting yet may have much less progress in the long run. If I'd have to choose, I'd be the first type of person.

    I hope this helps you.

    With kindness,

    Sunyo

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    • #3
      Thank you for your reply Venerable

      I think I should have mentioned that it was my mum who requested I ask you this as she is confused about her practice and worried/thinks she is not cultivating mindfulness through meditation.

      She just read your reply and we discussed it. She has definitely become a more peaceful person in the past five years of meditating, that's easy for me to see and she also thinks it has helped. It's just that she would like her meditations to give her clarity/mindfulness and she feels that it doesn't. She says that instead during meditation she always becomes more sleepy(or falls asleep) and that after the meditation her mind is no less cloudy. She also told me to mention that even if she is not meditating she always feels tired to some extent.

      She's asked me to ask you what can be done about sloth and torpor as she believes this may be the reason she isn't noticing an increase in mindfulness after meditating?

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      • #4
        Hi Dylan!

        Sent her on a retreat! It sounds like your mom is low on energy, which happens to a lot of people. It is only understandable, because the world can be very demanding and a drain on our energy. It's not just the work we have to do, but also the general input on our senses: the conversations, the media, travelling, etcetera. A retreat (especially one with Ajahn Brahm who encourages people to sleep a lot in the first few days) is a great way to get some energy back. It makes people feel more energetic and brighter by the time it is over. So that is my number one advice.

        But aside from a retreat, if someone's energy is low in general then of course they'll often experience sleepiness in meditation. This is only natural! The best thing is not to fight this kind of sleepiness, because that is adding more strain on an already burdened mind. To allow such sleepiness just to be present and be accepting to it can be very healing. I've had times when I was very tired, and then with the right attitude managed to have very nice and mindful meditations still. Sure, the first 20 or 30 minutes or so may be dull, but if you don't interfere with the mind, it can get its energy back. That attitude is to be kind and gentle to whatever you are experiencing. Sleepiness - it's ok. Drowsiness - it's ok. Restlessness - it's ok. I find it quite amazing how well this can work at times.

        Another thing your mother can do may be to change the time she meditates. If she usually meditates in the evening (the time of day most people are most tired) then change it to the morning. If she usually meditates in the morning, than change it to the evening, or the afternoon, or midnight for that matter. (Some people are night owls.)

        Have a nice rest both of you!

        Sunyo

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        • #5
          Hi Venerable Sunyo

          Thanks a big bunch! From my mother and I

          She is thinking about going on a retreat

          May your day be juicy

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          • #6
            Hi Hi Dylan and mom!

            You are most welcome. There is another thing that just came up at one point:

            It may be interesting for your mother to try changing her meditation subject from time to time - if she doesn't already. Doing the same thing over and over can sometimes get a bit boring.

            There are many ways of meditating. I find loving kindness very effective when I feel sleepy. I'm sure you'll be able to find a few guided meditations and stuff online.

            With loving kindness,
            Sunyo
            Last edited by Bhikkhu Sunyo; 26th-May-2016, 09:19 AM.

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