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Yes I have meditated and I have searched the Internet this question before landing here, what I describe below is a mixture of what I have read of what one should do during meditation and what actually happens when I actually meditate.

Most of the articles I have found say that try to keep focus but here I want to ask is what do I focus upon ? My problems, my desires or just how do we keep focus without a subject to feed upon ? And while meditating I have found my thoughts wander away and keep reminding myself by repeating mentally "no I am meditating, no I am meditating". Is that the right method ? but the biggest question is when we say focus(in any other field apart from meditation) we understand it in general context as to improve our performance or invest ourselves more in that field but what does it mean in meditation, is it repeating a thought continuously in our head or something else ?

While some other articles say watch the thoughts as they occur , I mean okay I could watch the thoughts that occur during a meditation session but then doesn't that seem a little contradictory ? You are producing the thoughts and then you are seeing that occur so then actually we could guide our thoughts then, why does it then say stay and observe ?

I know above I have asked my questions in a hodgepodge manner so let me sum it up succinctly:

  • What are we supposed to think during meditation or we do not need to think at all ?

  • Generally do we set timers for meditation sessions or do we get an intuitive feel that I can't focus or meditate any more for today ?

  • 1
    There are very good answers to this question... so I'll just make a suggestion to consider these few things. How do you feel about the constant need to feed upon a subject? Contemplate on this for a while. Does it create a subtle kind suffering? How would it be to free yourself from this compulsion? What would that state be like? – Parag Dec 8 '15 at 12:38
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Most of the articles I have found say that try to keep focus but here I want to ask is what do I focus upon ?

My problems, my desires or just how do we keep focus without a subject to feed upon ?

And while meditating I have found my thoughts wander away and keep reminding myself by repeating mentally "no I am meditating, no I am meditating". Is that the right method ?

If you use any imagination, verbalisation, visualisation of any sort this is not the betitation what the Buddha taught us to do as you have to come out of any verbal fabrication. (Cūla Vedalla Sutta)

but the biggest question is when we say focus(in any other field apart from meditation) we understand it in general context as to improve our performance or invest ourselves more in that field but what does it mean in meditation, is it repeating a thought continuously in our head or something else ?

Mental repetition can create concentration but this is not the right type of concentration which will lead you to liberation though you can turn this type of contraction into the right type by developing awareness on the arising and passing of sensations pertaining to the absorption. This is a long winded road than the straight road where you develop the right concentration followed by wisdom.

While some other articles say watch the thoughts as they occur , I mean okay I could watch the thoughts that occur during a meditation session but then doesn't that seem a little contradictory ?

Any mental state (Citta) or content (Cetisaka) give arise to some feeling either pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. (Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma) Even thoughts are sensed or felt thought the mind sense door which re perceive and react resulting in these sensations. Hence what you can easily recognise is the sensations pertaining to the thoughts.

You are producing the thoughts and then you are seeing that occur so then actually we could guide our thoughts then, why does it then say stay and observe ?

You should anchor your mind on a chosen object so that your do not think hence creating metal fabrication. (Cūla Vedalla Sutta) But if your main drifts to thoughts or the past or fantasy 1st look at the thoughts in your body with full equanimity looking at their arising and passing. If you have any unpleasant feeling pay attention for a small duration until such sensation become neutral or pleasant, then continue with your chosen object. Ultimately you have to be equanimous to whatever sensation you experience realising its arising and passing nature. (Pahāna Sutta)

I know above I have asked my questions in a hodgepodge manner so let me sum it up succinctly:

What are we supposed to think during meditation or we do not need to think at all ?

Generally do we set timers for meditation sessions or do we get an intuitive feel that I can't focus or meditate any more for today ?

If you feel you cannot focus on meditation any more then what ever practice you are doing seems to be causing stress. This implies you are not practicing properly and natural progress of meditation you should experience more happiness, joy, zest, tranquility. ((Ekā,dasaka) Cetanā’karaṇīya Sutta, (Dasaka) Cetanā’karaṇīya Sutta). Maybes you should double check your practice.

6

There are many kinds of meditation, and as many ways of explaining them as there are people. After years of study and practice, here is a meditation I recommend. I call this "the coming to one's senses meditation" :)

Sit any way you want, as long as it's not too uncomfortable nor too comfortable as to put you to sleep. You can change your posture any way you want. Don't worry about it at all.

Bring your attention in front of you. Not literally "in front", but rather "to the room". It is the same kind of attention you need when you were busy for too long and neglected your room, and now you are finally coming back to the present and taking a good look at your room - and noticing the overall disorder. It's a similar feeling to awakening. "Hiii, present moment! Long time no see! I was waaaay too busy lately." Finally the Sinbad is back from yet another travel. This is why it's called "coming to one's senses".

Look at your body. Look at your hands. Feel them. If you are like most people, it's been long time since you gave attention to your basic being. Feel your entire body, as presence, as energy. It feels so good to finally stop running like a hamster in the wheel and come back to one's body and one's room. At the same time, you may have a feeling of anxiety. It feels like you are wasting time doing nothing. You've been running on for too long, and it became a habit. Feel that anxiety in your body. Drop it. It's okay to waste time. In fact, this is a precious way to use time, you are reconnecting with your basic being.

Don't worry about the clock. If you do do worry, put a timer for 15-20 minutes, and test it first - it will help you relax knowing you won't "waste" too much time ;) So in this case the purpose of the timer is the opposite of normal. You use the timer for its silence, not for its alarm. If you do trust yourself and don't worry about time - then you don't need a timer.

Come back to your senses. You've been driven for too long by all those goals and problems, now is time to gather your thoughts. It's a same feeling like you are on vacation, or actually it's like you added several days after vacation, to stay home and gather your thoughts. That's it! So you sit and you're like "pheew!" Finally. It's that state of mind when you can finally think "Alright, what should I do next?". You are reconnecting with your inner core and sending a silent SQL query to your guts: "give me the top 5 things I wanted to get to but never had time".

Now, this moment is when there is departure between meditation and regular thinking-and-gathering-your-thoughts type of sitting. Normally, you get absorbed into the first of those 5 things, or maybe the second one - and go on creating new plans, and that's it, vacation is over. Instead, with meditation, you stay in that query mode, and let your guts keep on finding more and more things that you have been previously deferring. Remember those old stories about a student tasked with reciting prayers in a church all night long, while all kinds of horror creatures come up but the student should keep his cool? They are the echo of this meditation.

The trick is to stay fully present in the room, just like you were in the beginning. Maybe 65% of your CPU is staying in the room and feeling the presence of the body & the freshness of the current moment, 20% is running the deep query, and 15% is the control circuit ("you") aka mindfulness. The role of the control circuit is to gently restore the balance when it skews too much towards thinking. Meaning, when the query comes up with a result, your role is to take it, bring it fully into your present moment, and take one good look at it while keeping at arms length. Then gently dismiss it, while leaning fully on the visual awareness of your presence in the room and the feeling of aliveness of your body. Don't rush to do anything at this moment. Wait until your mind fully comes back to the room and the initial "gathering your thoughts / what should I do next" state is restored. This is the critical moment! Don't rush into the next cycle. Let yourself waste time! When you get present and stable enough, your body will automatically send the next query to your subconscious. Don't think about it at all, just come back to the initial state. That's it! -- Repeat like this until you feel super-awake. I call this process "thought laundry" or "mind washing machine". This is the vipassana element.

You don't have to obsess with the laundry cycle either. Sometimes you may feel like not waiting for query results at all, and focusing on your overall inner comfort instead. This is also a valid mode of "coming to one's senses meditation". Perhaps you feel like your body was crumbled and now you want to open it up. Perhaps you feel like your aura was burning with anxiety and now you would like to apply the metaphorical aloe of contentment. Sometimes you may feel like you want to uphold a kingly posture or stretch the face muscles or open the chest etc. As long as you don't go too far into the sport exercises, and your main activity remains sitting in the room, gathering your thoughts, and coming back to your senses -- all kinds of psychosomatic comfort motions are very valid. May be you'll realize you've been drowsy all this time and you want to make an effort to awaken your mind. All these are good. I call this "conditioning the mind". This is the samatha element.

The most important point is: it's not about doing anything. It is about coming back to your senses. Both conditioning the mind as well as coming up of the deferred thoughts are just aspects of coming back to your senses.

So as you see, in this version, it's not really thinking, nor is it no-thinking. It's not mindfulness of any one thing, but it's not no-mindfulness either. It's coming back to one's senses. If you do it right it should be quite enjoyable! Although every time you still need to overcome the tendency to continue worrying about the things that worried you that day or the previous day. Also, on some days you may have trouble doing this at all, if thoughts or emotions are too strong. In that case, don't need to force yourself. When you force it, your heart will start hating it - and then you won't do it at all. But if you're doing it right, it feels like finally finding time for your most precious friend. Over time you should be able to extend the sitting from 15-20 mins to maybe 40 mins. Maybe in the future you will want to sit for 2 hours, like the monks do. Maybe one time you will be encouraged to sit for entire weekend, with only snack and bathroom breaks - who knows.

But even if you only do it 15 minutes a day, you should feel much more stable and awaken throughout the day. It works like sleeping, just 10 times more efficient.

1

If you are practicing to liberate yourself from your own habits that cause suffering then you could practice seeing your experience as it is in the present moment, moment by moment.

You would intentionally focus your awareness on whatever aspect of your experience you are drawn to or whatever aspect of your experience that is the most appropriate to focus your awareness towards. Slowly you will begin to gain insights into how your mind and body works. This has the effect of unraveling the bad habits and reactions. When there are no more bad habits then you no longer suffer even when you are in pain because you no longer are reactive to the pain as it is just a feeling.

I recommend that you find a insight meditation method and stick to it. Also, if you can, find a qualified teacher because it is extremely difficult to be a successful meditator without a good teacher. I hope this helps 🙏

1

What are we supposed to think during meditation or we do not need to think at all ?

Is Thinking and Meditation are same or deference ?

Generally do we set timers for meditation sessions or do we get an intuitive feel that I can't focus or meditate any more for today?

Same as using or not using timers for sleep.

Buddhist meditation generally divide as chittha bawana(samatha) and pagna bawana(vipassana). Anapanasathi bavana can be practise as both ways.

"Awareness-release" (ceto-vimutti) is a state of mind released from passion. This can either be the temporary release found in concentration (as here) or the arahant's full release from passion. See AN 2.30. A modern explanation is given as "The coming to one's senses meditation" :)

  • "Is Thinking and Meditation are same or deference?" -- Could you try to avoid asking questions in a reply to a question? If the OP is asking a question, maybe it's because they don't know how or what to answer. Try to phrase your answer as informative statements instead of as questions. – ChrisW Dec 6 '15 at 10:23
  • @ChrisW Detailed answer is given by Andrei, so this is just brainstorm. added some details. – Shrawaka Dec 6 '15 at 10:33
  • Are Thinking and Meditation the same? Or, are they different? – ChrisW Dec 6 '15 at 10:38
  • @ChrisW Meditation start from thinking and develops awareness(sathi) and wisdom(sampajanya) ends with "Niroda" by realizing "vimukthi"(Vision). – Shrawaka Dec 6 '15 at 10:49
  • @Shrawaka I think ChrisW was pointing out an error in your grammar and word choice, not asking the actual question. – GreenAsJade Dec 6 '15 at 11:39

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