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I began meditating a few months ago with the help of guided online meditations for a long time from different sources and read some articles on how to do Anapanasati while continuing my practice. After realising what the essence of the meditation practice is, I decided to practice it on my own with the help of online timers. What is bothering me is that, while other thoughts do arise and the point is to recognise the thoughts and bring the attention to the breath, while doing the meditation there is also an inner narrator in my head which comes in as any other thought would and it guides me as an instructor would in guided meditations, that too in great detail. The voice would often be in someone else's voice and at times on my own voice. I am not entirely sure if I am forcing this on me at times or it comes up effortlessly. And at times it adds up to my dissatisfaction and confuses me a lot.

What I want to know is, am I doing something wrong or is it perfectly normal for people like me who are new to meditation and started off with guided meditation as a starting point? If it is wrong, how to avoid this and continue my meditation sessions without hindrance? Should I be non-judgemental or non-reactive to it like any other sensation and visual/pictorial thoughts arising on mind while meditating, observing it, and bringing the attention to my breath be of help? I need help here because I don't think that at this rate, I can bring myself to have the level of concentration to be effortlessly aware of my breath to reach the next stages of meditation.


Edit: Apologies to everyone for the delay and maybe I wasn't verbose enough in my question. What I meant was that apart from auditory or visual distractions that come to some/most of us while meditating (eg; a song popping up in our brain, or some conversation which happened a while ago or a long time ago, some negative thought or remark by someone to us which made us sad/angry -- and most of which come without us putting an active effort to bring forth these thoughts, i.e. unwillingly and naturally), I experience the narration of voices of many people based on whose guided online courses, audio files, videos, I started doing meditation (eg; Gil Fronsdal, Sharon Salzberg, John Kabat Zinn, etc.). And often, they come when bodily sensations(distracting in nature -- kind of like a fidgety feeling) or mind wandering (of other forms) start taking the central stage for a brief period of time during Anapanasati, and sometimes without any kind of distractions.

I am not certain if this is happening with an active effortless conscious effort from me or whether this is some kind of distraction/mind wandering/cognitive auditory effect of its own coming from the Default Mode Network of my brain. For the record, I do have ADHD and my psychiatrist (of recent) thinks that it may be plausible that I might have BPAD, but he isn't sure as more tests are needed to conclude that. Maybe some of it is because of these ailments. I hope I was more clear now.

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What I want to know is, am I doing something wrong or is it perfectly normal for people like me who are new to meditation and started off with guided meditation as a starting point?

It might be normal?

Look at this comment, for example:

I still can hear Goenka's recorded voice in my head :)

It may even be normal in everyone, see e.g. Internal monologue.


Hearing the voice as a voice is distracting -- some people (perhaps with a weaker understanding of reality) find it alarming or confusing -- see e.g. Auditory hallucination.

My very limited experience is that you're warned that you shouldn't necessarily do something just because you hear a voice telling you to! That it isn't the Voice of God, or anything.


I need help here because I don't think that at this rate

I guess you'll find that it (i.e. narration) is subject to cessation (i.e. that it stops sometimes), and/or replaced by something else (e.g. by mindfulness of breathing).

Maybe it would be encouraging to think of those moments (of success) as a gain, a reward for practice, rather than thinking of other moments (of failure) as a hindrance which prevent practice.

Perhaps you're taught equanimity (that sounds like what you talk about in the question, e.g. "non-judgemental or non-reactive"); I think it may also be good to feel some enthusiasm for a success.

Also note that, according to the Anapanasati Sutta, equanimity is the result (i.e. not necessarily the means or the way).

I think it takes time (and practice) to learn new skills. Also for what it's worth I'm told that a little practice every day is the best way to create a new habit. For example, perhaps you couldn't learn to play a new musical instrument in a few months, nor learn to speak a new language -- maybe you shouldn't expect too large a change in too short a time. Even so, people do learn new skills if and when they keep practising. Stories like Banzo's sword warn against being in a hurry -- being in a hurry is kind of inimical to being "content with the practice".


Also (I don't know if this is relevant), rereading the title, I'd think of it as "the narration" not "the narrator", i.e. it's just a phenomenon, non-self.

  • You're right, the title should be narration as it is the phenomena which act as a hindrance. And I read the articles about internal narration and Auditory hallucination. This might very well be the case for me because I do have ADHD and my doc suspects that I may have BPAD as well, but more tests are needed for that. And it is true, people with ADHD work on basis of reward mechanism. I have read your answer but have to come to the realisation of the same with the help of finesse, practice and patience. – Janus Boffin Mar 24 '18 at 7:14
  • My friend had auditory hallucination sometimes. I don't, really, though I do have (appear to get lost in) trains of thought. I hope that a hallucination (which is 'just' a type of sensory perception) isn't confusing or disabling, or only for a moment at most, especially after you recognise it. – ChrisW Mar 24 '18 at 7:35
  • True, I just recognise it and most of the times it goes away. If it doesn't, I pay attention to the next thing which is more intense than the thought itself, like sounds coming from outside without forcing them to come to me. And then I return to the breath again. But the confusing thing is, the act to focus on the thoughts themselves which cause mind wandering come in form of instructions in the form voices of those from whose audio or video files I started learning meditation -- be it anapanasati or meditation on bodily sensations. – Janus Boffin Mar 24 '18 at 7:43
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    Not something I have personal experience with. From your description it sounds like there's an intermittent/temporary channel or mode, in which a thought appear to be voiced (out loud). When that mental/physical state activates, you seem to hear something, and when you "think" to return to breathing you "hear" that too because that channel or mode is still active, hasn't ceased yet. I think I'm sometimes more feely than thinky, and more touchy than seey and heary; so if I practice I remember the physical and emotional feeling of breathing, and of moments when narration is replaced by presence. – ChrisW Mar 24 '18 at 8:03
  • I'd keep that in mind because that struck a chord in me. Thank you! – Janus Boffin Mar 24 '18 at 8:54
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Inner talking is fairly standard with all practitioners. In your case it takes a form of instructions, in other cases it can be songs, arguments with imaginary adversaries, all sort of replayed conversations that had some emotional charges in them, or simply commenting on what one's currently doing.

All teachers I worked with always said I must learn to stop that talking.

At the end of the day, it takes a level of integration and control over one's mental faculties when you can directly feel where this talking is coming from and can let go of it, in the same kind of way as you relax a muscle.

Until you reach that level of insight and control, you can try several tricks:

  • reading meaningless mantras, out loud or in your head
  • holding your tongue and lips in a fixed position, e.g. tongue up against the roof of your mouth, lips closed
  • switching and holding your attention onto external auditory environment (background noises)
  • rolling your eyes and/or engaging your peripheral vision
  • humming

At some point you will reach a level of integration when the talking will be very easy to stop. Until then just try to see how inner talking is (usually) connected with some sort of inner neurosis and see if you can relax that. Meanwhile you can try using the tricks above to stop it when it gets too annoying.

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I am sensing there are still a lot of "wild thoughts" going on in your mind. May I know if you have already been a frequent or on-going abiding with the '5 precepts'? If not, what you are doing it's almost like running on a treadmill instead.

Hope this clears up some of your confusion.

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I'm going to redirect the conversation because there isn't anything you need to do about things that arise in Ānāpānasati. I'm going to instead look at the question within the question about how to experience quiet and stillness. And mostly the answer is wash, rinse, and repeat (as they say in shampoo commercials). It's kind of a matter of expertise, but contrary to what may believe, it is highly individual. It is developing a skill. In other words, so get to quiet and stillness, you have to just be still, quietly breathe, and gently be aware of it happening. FOR ME (I'm not saying it's exactly like this for you) I follow the breath down into a quiet place, e.g. as I do this I feel the mind transform and the breath transform. Since I really believe the breath is a vehicle for transformation, I just let go and follow it there. Yes, sometimes a song is stuck in my head. Or maybe i feel itchy all over. Doesn't matter, I just do what I do anyway.

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It is so normal at the beginning of learning a certain meditation, that there is a big Mental Noise. Nothing to worry. The particularity of this Anapanasati is to explore, explore our liberation, relaxation, breathing.... - one meditation at a time.

Eventhough, I learned a lot from my Inner Teacher, the best teacher for Anapanasati to follow to begin, is Bikkhu Buddhadasa, I find. https://www.suanmokkh.org/retreat_talks -
There is also many retreats with videos + transcripts. He teaches a very simple way to Dhamma - Buddhism - Anapanasati has also many free ebooks.

Buddha said: He was liberated or enlighted by and during the practice of Anapanasati. He also formulated the analysis of the Dependant Originagion, he even made a song with it. He also said ' Who sees de Dhamma sees the Buddha, and who sees the Buddha sees the Dhamma.'

We have to develop our practice of : Mindfullness WITH breathing - in the relaxation, letting the breathing follow in the background, like a metronome. We have to concentrate on RELAXING all and each part of the body and mind... and letting go, and stay with the experiencing of the breathing. Don't listen to the chatterbox, but feel each breath, and feel relaxation, as you follow each step. Reposition and breath deeply between each step.

It is so important... So Important, to practice ONE type of meditation at the same time, following ONE teacher, and doing the Sila or 5 precepts in the best practice we can and forgiving us when we don't. This meditation is the way to center us and refocus all our 4 levels ( body - mental & emotions - Mind - and Dhamma ) in harmony.

Recently I try to find an other approach to Anapanasati teaching. I got so desappointed with that teacher... & I could not meditate at all for almost 1 month, having too big headaches. Until I returned to the teaching of Buddhadasa. One teacher that does the job, is what it takes, to progress.

So before each practice, I establish a golden light shield around my meditation area - I ground myself with a nice chat with Earth - and feel the presence of my own Spirit - Buddha - & ask them all to protect my meditation - and teach me what I need to explore at that moment & I Trust that it is so.

Hindrances are normal, in fact they often are the subject I will have to explore for liberating their attachement, in the last 4 steps of Dhamma of same meditation.

When they arise: - Recognize them - Let it go or Release it - Relaxe the brain and the body - Reposition yourself - Smile and return before their start and continue along... In some meditations I can have a few dozens of them, my experience then is to reach the end of my meditation, I call that ' Right Effort..'

About the voices: If you ground yourself properly in the start of your meditation, the voices will be True Teachers, among which will be your own Spirit or own Buddha. How to recognize if they are aggregates or other 4th dimension disturbers, is where you hear that in the head - Does it comes from the left: Not good - From the right: your guides - Center: your own Spirit or Buddha Teacher. Watch not to imagine or cheat. The therapists are not our right teacher, you will find all or any explanations that are for you - in your inner listening, mostly in meditation. As you learn the inner listening it will follow you in every area of your life, by developping it, and that's the true Truth for you.

The healing and libaration I experience from each meditation is beyond what I was expecting. No other meditation has this power of balancing - focusing - healing - empowering - liberating.... And procure a true liberation from any attachment.

We do not become virtuose by doing things all over the place and following so many teachers, or methods... But following one proper and sound progression path. If not, most probably we will give up soon any interest in that unmanageable circus.

Anapanasati is the only meditation that I find Fun to practice with all its discoveries.

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