meditation  Jan 19, 2011
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Everyone seems to have a different idea of what meditation is. For some, it is clearing the mind of all thought, finding an empty state of mind. For others, it is focusing on achieving an emotion, such as finding a peaceful state of mind. For others still, it is focusing on a single object or thought, blocking out all other patterns, finding a singular state of mind. The unifying trait, however, is focus of thought. The most common approach of hardcore practitioners seems to be the third, focusing on one pattern. Have you ever tried doing this for an extended period of time? It's far more difficult than you might expect.

The problem I have is this. My mind wanders. The only way that I can remind myself to maintain focus, is to remind myself to maintain focus. And of course by doing so, I distract myself from the thing I attempt to meditate on. Regardless of what subject I choose, it's always connected to a large number of others things. Even something simple like a dot on the wall will remind me of paintings I've seen, imperfections on a piece of fruit, the hole on a retracted retractable pen, and so forth. These thoughts then immediately connect to other thoughts. The more I practice, the better I get at ignoring the flood of thoughts, but I've seen no benefit from it. I'm probably doing it wrong.

Update. Fascinating comments so far. @Q's comment reminded me of an Eastern approach that I learned from Alan Watts. The idea is not to control your thoughts but to release control, to simply to observe everything, to separate yourself from your thoughts and your environment. You are supposed to watch, listen to, and feel everything without making any sort of reaction. Not reacting is the hard part. You really realize how much you automatically judge everything that happens to you. Preventing yourself from making judgments allows you to better realize what you are what is outside of you. The intriguing part is that you will catch thoughts as they are entering your mind. Thoughts that you would have previously adopted as your own suddenly appear to be coming from an outside source. So instead of taking everything that is given to you and reacting to it in the way you usually do, now you are only allowed one reaction, to ask yourself, "Where did that come from?" To examine the source. It's a process of becoming more aware of right now. It is not living in the present, but becoming more aware of it, better realizing what exactly the present is, understanding what is happening around you. You find that you are so wrapped up in how you think things are, that you didn't realize how things actually are. It is observing everything without thinking. Usually when I try this I am thinking a little bit because I want to store the new information and remember what I learn. I usually fall out of this meditative state when I have an "oh, wow" moment that I want to think about even more. Regardless, this form of meditation has been the most beneficial for me because I actually learn from it.

Have you tried any sort of meditation? What has your experience been like?

-swb January 19th '11
43 comments on meditation Post New Comment...
Oh i thought this said mediation.
4 years ago by Samk6a #68230
I'm more eastern than the Japanese, and I'm not Asian.
5 years ago by Edwhad #55427
This sort of comic and blog-post are my favourite, :) Thanks!
5 years ago by FleckerMan #55145
Usually I use meditative relaxations techniques to help me fall asleep when my mind is jumping around from place to place. I've always had a lot of trouble focusing on meditating, but I've never really practiced. I think it's one of those things where, after a time, your mind becomes more accustomed to it and you are able to do it more often.
5 years ago by Chrysshart #54869
I once learned that you can actually train your focussing skills by trying to focus on something simple like an apple tree or a pen like u mentioned. The person who told me this explained he couldn't focus very well in the past and got very bad results at tests which tests these kinds of skills. After training his focus he achieved much better results than the average!
5 years ago by wodi #54645
I like to just let my thoughts wander, and not worry so much about maintaining focus. Focus is for when one is programming, or doing math problems. Oddly enough, I find that the thoughts come easiest when I take a long walk, so I'm fond of long walks. I also like to listen to classical music in a dark room. The purpose of it is to explore let the thoughts be fully experienced. Otherwise, they are the starts of thoughts, and they're sitting there at the edge of my mind poking at me, and I'm vaguely aware of them. They make me fidgety. They keep me from concentrating on other things because my thoughts keep going back to them, so it does me good to have them thought all the way through.
5 years ago by wobster109 #54553
The way you sit when you meditate should be sitting. My personal preference is meditating without a goal. I sit because sometimes that is what I should be doing. If you meditate with a goal or a focus, it is more difficult and more frustrating because you will fail and it will take far too long to reach your goal. If you feel the need to meditate, then meditating itself is the goal.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54466
What I do when I get those wandering thoughts is to simply acknowledge them in their presence and, since I acknowledged them, they fade away... I like meditation, though I'm far too fidgety for the sitting still stuff--I do tai chi while I meditate. As soon as I stopped trying to force my mind blank, I started to be able to feel it clear.
5 years ago by Selkie #54459
The best way to meditate is not to try and think of nothing, or not to try and not think of something, but to simply not think. Take the Bleach approach. First, make a small black dot in your mind, stretch it and make it as dark and heavy as you can. Then, once you feel yourself start wandering, let it envelope you, or throw yourself in. Don't try to focus on yourself, though. Rather, focus on what you are not, what your thoughts are not, what your being is not. Proper breathing helps too. Start with shallow breaths, feel it in your nose and mouth, feel it down into your lungs, visualize it creeping into every inch of your body. Then feel it creep right further, beyond yourself. I am far from perfect on these techniques, but this is what works best for me. Hope it helps!
5 years ago by acce245 #54458
You try to reach a certain state of mind with meditation because you want to have a coherent picture of your reality to maintain your belief that you understand the world and are in charge of things. You are not. Sorry. This universe is the most sophisticated thing that you can ever face. But still, you may be able to focus on individual things and observe, just to soak up how they work, or realize how much they are detangled from the surrounding. But never try to understand the Whys, just play and accept What you see.
5 years ago by freemeson #54457
I dunno if this is the best I can get but I am almost always in a state of focus on one thing. I never try to do two things at once. Even while Focusing on one thing I can sometimes do what you mentioned and focus on everything. My mind is always focused on one thing. It actually helps create a type of emotional stability and allows you a more objective view of life. Seeing everything as imperfect and many things as the horrifying things they are isn't always a good thing. Many times I like to take off my glasses and see the world as one large flat dimension(I have horrible depth perception without my glasses) it allows me to ignore the darkness surrounding the ideals and thoughts of the human race. I do not study any specific religion or even Buddhism, I have come up with my own path through the need for it. My mind before I came into this state was messy and clogged, I was a mess and was extremely emotional about many things. Now I am almost always calm and have learned to detach myself from things. As in I no longer feel the need to call things "my own" this body is not mine it is simply a thing which was given to a consciousness, that consciousness is me. When this consciousness leaves then so shall this body leave. If this consciousness recognizable as me dissipates or rejoins some greater consciousness then we will be happy. I only use the terms for attachment anymore so not to confuse people. By the way everything is love, but everything is also hate and anger and malice everything is joy but everything is also destruction vile and chaos. So if you are everything and everything is you, you ain't got no problem with you using your stuff anyway right? But you also have to remember that parts of you aren't like other parts of you and should deal with yourself with caution. We should totally start referring to ourself as we. We believe that we will now. Also we are crazy, you don't have to tell us.
5 years ago by Corin #54453
The type of meditation which clears the mind is the closest you will get to focusing. Despite popular concepts, having the mind clear of thoughts (even if only for a few moments) will actually help you focus more. Try transcendental meditation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_Meditation which aims to clear the mind completely. It doesn't always work but to each his own, really. Concentrative meditation is, in my humble opinion, less effective because it just changes your focus. Not to mention that you get bored, mentally tired, eventually exhausted and angry that you couldn't beat your old record etc. There's none of that with TM. It actually makes me feel more energized.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54451
The most successful form of meditation that I've found thus far has been one designed for deeeeeep relaxation. Basically at the start you slowly start to will every single muscle in your body one small part at a time to relax, while thinking of nothing but that. Then once everything is completely relaxed you focus on thinking about nothing, but instead of trying to repress thoughts and will yourself to think of nothing you just don't think about anything. If a stray thought enters your mind you sorta treat it like a leaf in the breeze, you just let it blow through. When you do it right your limbs should actually go numb. Not uncomfortable "foot is asleep" numb but so relaxed that it almost feels like it's not there. I use it when I can't sleep with a fair amount of success. With practice you go from willing small parts of your body to relax to limbs and eventually you can instantly fall in to relaxation I'm told. I'm not that good at it yet but I did progress to relaxing whole limbs pretty fast. I think that meditation forms are all valid and the way that works best for you and what you're trying to accomplish is the best way. Keep trying different methods and you will find others that work for you I'm sure.
5 years ago by Bronin #54444
I think gradual approach is the key. First, just try to focus on one broad topic. The next some times again. When you are good at it you can move to the next level. Think of things strongly connected. Practice again. Next level: think on one thing only. Final level: don't think. Also, it's a good idea to focus on your body. You can also touch/caress yourself. Feel the hair on your arms, feel your lips, feel the smothness of your skin. Stimulate yourself and concentrate on it. Erogenous zones too can be involved in this but whitout discipline you can end up masturbating. Masturbating is nice too but it's not the kind of meditation I am talking about right now. :)
5 years ago by quantumboy #54437
@swb I actually practice Tai Chi meditation, and found that I had trouble focusing on one thing especially in the beginning. The ability to connect even the smallest of details to a plethora of things is actually a rare gift that not many can do well! How this relates to meditation is it simply means you must go about it a different way. In Tai Chi, I eventually graduated to the point where I could consciously generate heat in specific location on my body: Specifically around the hand, the forearm, feet and chest. The way I coped with my mind wondering is to simply keep focus on things that are very closely related. For instance, continue to think of a flame in motion, circling your or your hands. The motion that you are focusing on gives you the sense of "mind-wondering" you might otherwise experience. And @quantumboy, just watching your text come up, I would disagree that you shouldn't think to a degree. You can "not think" for those who can, but an equally good alternative is to isolate those thoughts to a focusable area! Its kind of like dealing with mental ADD, you have to give your mind something to BE occupied with that eventually become so natural it becomes the equivalent of "not thinking" because your mind never leaves your focus area. Defining your area of focus is probably the fastest way of achieving a meditative state. Just like driving. Most people enter a meditative trance while driving, but their minds are still active, extremely active hopefully! What they do however, is focus only on driving, not just mussel memory, but simply the things you need to drive. Equally Masturbating is kind of like meditation, because your limiting your mind to a specific movement and possibly sight. So, long story short (too late) find a bubble a put your mind in it!
5 years ago by majorpun #54436
I don't think i'm actually capable of thinking nothing, everytime i've tried i've found myself sneakinly thinking of things while i'm trying to not think. I really have tried and I never seem to get any better. Sounds like you're a little better off than me though. Good luck.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54426
Masturbation. Constant, vigorous masturbation. In all seriousness, I used to meditate by sitting on my bed with my back against the wall and just focusing on breathing. Of course, I can't not concentrate on something, so it never worked for me. I can't meditate. So instead I play video games or go to the movies or hang out with friends, or solve old math problems or riddles. I can't not do stuff, and it sucks sometimes, even if it means I'm very good at solving problems and understanding both problem solving equations as well as pretty much anything I'm being taught.
5 years ago by keudo #54425
I don't think it's the traditional kind of meditation, but I use music--something simple and instrumental, I prefer drums--and then I visualize some place where I am totally and completely at peace. I won't tell you what it is because if you ever try it, I don't want you to visualize what I visualize; you have to find your own "happy place." Anyway, I go to my happy place and I just chill there for awhile in my head. After awhile, usually when the track is over (it's about a half hour long), I come out of it feeling a lot more relaxed.
5 years ago by lily #54424
I've tried meditation but the council won't ever shut the heck up about anything! ADHD doesn't help much either...
5 years ago by AngelBoy342 #54414
I can't say I've tried meditation, but I have tried to focus my thoughts quite a few times and failed miserably. I'm thinking maybe that _thinking_ about focusing one's thoughts actually makes one less able to focus the thoughts. It's weird. Of course, I usually like to just let my mind wander aimlessly, anyways. I find that much more satisfying, even if I don't reach some altered state of consciousness. There's my one cent. (like two cents but for poor people)
5 years ago by Q #54411
"This is why mediation is not a spectacle sport". LOL!
5 years ago by eelvex #54410
I enjoy being one with the title-text.
5 years ago by wsduvall #54408
"Monkey mind" is the term for when your mind wanders during meditation. This may be fixed with the aid of bricks dropped on one's cranium.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54406
Whenever I meditate, I loose my body my mind goes blank and it feels like I've lost my arms. I know they are still connected but it feels like there not connected to my arm sockets.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54405
I am one with the title-text... indeed...
5 years ago by arnabiarritz #54402
In school, didn't work out well.
5 years ago by Anonymous #54401
5 years ago by donaldcanswim #54399
I think that there are people in the world who are in eternal need for internal rest, these people probably benefit from yoga. Other people, like me, already have this rest inside and don't need it because they aren't in constant conflict with themselves. I tried it, but it just made me fall asleep. And the last groop of people does have internal turmoil but doesn't have the time,care,attention to do something about it .... they'd probably be better off with reading books than meditation. That's what I think at least peace out -Lord Firesnake
5 years ago by Anonymous #54398