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I have just started meditating and was wondering how much effort should I put into not getting distracted ? As I have noticed while practicing there are varying degrees of trying I can use the more I use the more focused I am but I also feel like my mind is working harder and kind of less relaxed .

Should I even be trying at all ? Because when I am not trying at all mostly the wave of thoughts easily sweep me away from the meditation.

Or is it like finding the balance between trying really hard and not trying ? If the last one is the case how can I find the balance ?

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Buddha compared it to holding a live bird: too hard you would kill it, too light it would fly away.

The following book is a collection of about 30 suttas in which the Buddha talks about Anapanasati:

Buddhawajana
Anapanasati

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I recalled a dharma talk by Ajahn Thanissaro Bhikku on Youtube. In it he compared mindfulness and meditation to a skill. And like anything else in life you need to practice to become good at that skill.

At the beginning your mind is full of its habitual mess of cravings, frustrations, anger, hate, distractions, torpor, conceit, because you never experience anything else you don't even realize its a problem. Maybe you dull your constant mental irritation with alcohol, media or computer games.

As you started to meditate you experience immediate withdrawal from the senses, you want to check your phone, play with computer, go watch tv. It's agonizing.

However as you push through the practice, and the mind begin to settle, things become clearer, your mind feels lighter, there are moments where you feel like your heart has opened up and great peace and joy occur and its wonderful. You even made some realizations about your life and habits. It's like a fog has lifted. And you become horribly aware of the bad things you do that keep you in a state of constant confusion, craving and anger. This is mindful concentration.

Unfortunately this happy state won't last, back into the world and you realize your personal annoyances and irritation is still with you, but meditation becomes your safe space to let go of the annoyances.

So you work hard to get better at this process. If your mind was a glass of cloudy muddy water before, meditation was letting it becomes settled and clear. What you need to do next is fish out the sediments, and you do this through the application of wisdom, for example using compassion to let go of hate, using generosity (Dana) to let go of greed. Awareness of impermanence and selflessness become your arsenal.

Of course meditation is only one branch of the Noble Eightfold Path - concentration. You need to follow up with the rest, with better wisdom and ethics which will allow you to have better concentration.

Keep practicing.

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I recently started doing meditation myself and I've had similar problems to you. You begin meditating and floods of thoughts pop through and you find yourself following them and it's really hard to get back to focusing on whatever the objective of your meditation is supposed to be.

The main piece of advice I can give you is to find something you can focus on consistently, I use my breathing for example. When your mind wonders it's OK to have the thought, but you should always acknowledge that you're beginning to flow away from your meditation and you should go back to the consistent object you are focusing on. You shouldn't be harsh on yourself during meditation, especially if you're new to doing it. Even the most trained mediators find themselves wondering sometimes, it's natural.

In regards to feeling like it's hard to meditate, it should be something you can relax into and not something to struggle to do. It seems like you're trying to avoid the thoughts altogether, but they are something you should acknowledge, follow if you believe it is important, and drift back to meditating once you have acknowledged that you are slipping.

When I did my first group practice meditation the ordained member who was leading the session gave some advice on how to maintain focus during the meditation, I find that advice was very useful for me and has helped me ease into meditation, I will roughly quote him below.

Focus on your breathing, focus on the different aspects of each breath. Is it coarse? Is it smooth? focus on how much you are breathing in, can you take a lot of air? is there only a little? these aspects can be ever changing, follow them and do not try to control them. If you flow away from your focus, acknowledge the thought, acknowledge your aspirations for meditation, and come back to your breath, is it coarse? is it smooth?

I unfortunately forgot the members name but I'm going back this week and will add it here.

I'm not sure if there are different methods of focus, I'm new to Buddhism in general, but this is the way that I started it and I hope it helps with your en-devours too.

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Get distracted, but be aware of distraction.

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Ajahn Chah gave this simile in Food for the Heart (chapter: steady practice; There is also an audio version online, read by Ajahn Amaro):

Suppose we went to buy some coconuts in the market, and while we were carrying them back someone asked: “What did you buy those coconuts for?”

“I bought them to eat.”

“Are you going to eat the shells as well?”

“No.”

“I don’t believe you. If you’re not going to eat the shells then why did you buy them also?”

Well what do you say? How are you going to answer their question? We practice with desire. If we didn’t have desire we wouldn’t practice. Practicing with desire is tanha. Contemplating in this way can give rise to wisdom, you know. For example, those coconuts: Are you going to eat the shells as well? Of course not. Then why do you take them? Because the time hasn’t yet come for you to throw them away. They’re useful for wrapping up the coconut in. If, after eating the coconut, you throw the shells away, there is no problem.

Also, this simile by the Buddha might help:

"Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?" "Yes, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?" "No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?" "No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned (lit: 'established') to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?" "Yes, lord."

"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune ('penetrate,' 'ferret out') the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme." -- AN 6.55

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Meditation is about effortlessness. If you are trying it implies effort which is not meditative. Making changes in your lifestyle like noncompetitiveness has to be part of practise. Just meditation technique alone will not give results. Also try some detox therapies especially herbal which brings about balance and thereby cool down your senses.

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