I have never meditated before. I really want to get into meditation to explore the benefits, especially trying to understanding who I am and how my mind affects my perception of reality (looking for spiritual growth etc).

So, for the past week I have spent an hour a day, what I understand as meditating, on my own in a quiet room. From my very first session onward, my mind has simply been completely blank during meditation (after allowing 1 minute to adjust to such a state). I don't experience any form of brain chatter (I hardly ever do), I sit easily for an hour with only a handful of thoughts occurring to me, although I feel completely focussed, awake, present and aware. I don't force a blank mind, it simply goes quiet when I focus on breathing (perhaps due to my inability to multitask). In short, I simply feel I get no benefit from this, other than experiencing some sort of longish-lasting blissful state (but I thought there is more to it).

From my limited understanding, I understand that the ideal meditation state is getting your mind as still as possible, then simply observe (non-judgmentally) any thoughts passing by, realising it's all conceive by the mind and learning from what you witness as a kind of 'outside observer'.

Since I don't observe much, I feel I don't learn anything at all.

Can anyone perhaps please shed some light on my situation and tell me what benefit I can get from meditation when I find my mind is already completely blank and I have no thoughts during meditation sessions.


Just to give you some background context in the event that it might help ... I have immense focus and no ability whatsoever to multitask. e.g. I literally have to stop a conversation when I plug a plug into a wall socket. On the other end, I can easily sit still and concentrate for hours and hours. In general, my mind is overflowing with ideas whenever I want it, but I simply find that my mind goes offline when I meditate and I don't find it helpful in my deeper spiritual search.

  • Thanks to everyone who contributed to my question... much appreciated!! – z0mbi3 Oct 12 at 21:59

11 Answers 11

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As others have said, meditation isn't just about a still mind, because a still mind is being found in order to be a step towards something. It''s not an end in itself (or at most it's only part of the desired end, not the whole of it).

So congratulations,you have found stillness easy, and you're doing well, but don't mistakenly imagine that this means you've "accomplished" meditation, in its deeper sense. Now to use that state.

There are two aspects to this - look carefully at what you already do, then put it in context to understand what next.

As a first question, I have to ask you to consider how sure you are, that you have accomplished what you believe you have done. I "get" the monofocus point, but having a still mind, seemingly empty and without thoughts, doesn't necessarily mean an inward watching mind,and doesn't necessarily mean you're seeing what's there. Be careful in assuming it is.

Perhaps you are taking "no thoughts" too literally. In meditation, you are watching for/remaining aware of everything. That's one reason stillness matters - the ability to notice what passes within, and move beyond mind, is immediately limited by "noise to signal" - the chatter, distraction and instability of the observing one.

In this context, one wants to stay alert, and watch and become aware of (but not reactive to) anything that arises.

A rich and important source of things, is ones immediate reactions and "involuntary" behaviours. Your eyes blink, the heart pulses, you catch the edge of a thought "how long have I been sitting" in the moment it arises, there is a sound outside and for a brief moment you feel yourself move as you react to it and decide what it means. And "yes you do" - if you didn't, you wouldn't react to a fire alarm or scream of a loved one, any more than a car driving or foot on the stairs, because you wouldn't perceive the sound or the difference between them. Literally, anything that causes the edge of a thought, or internal change of any kind, one is seeking a state of awareness of it.

A good one here is a body sensation like an itch, or ache. Do you ever scratch, ache, or move when sitting? I do. Notice that these are just sensations, the thought to scratch or move arises separately. You can see these arise separately. As these are common and observable, these are really good ways to check what you are doing when sitting. For example, when sitting, I notice that what I think of as an itch, is actually an irritating burning sensation, that arises, ripples a bit, intensifies, an instinct to move a hand arises, a thought to do so occurs to make that happen, and if I watch it a while, the itch gradually moves, then vanishes. And I can watch all those play out, and stay detached from it. Even if I do scratch, I just let my body and mind do what they will, and observe, like any other observation. This might help.

But then there is the question, "why"? What does this achieve, why meditate anyway? The aim of meditation is not just to sit untouched and have a still mind. It is more about becoming aware of how thoughts (in all ways) arise in your own mind, and developing detachment and awareness of them in daily life.

There is a saying, I forget by whom, to the effect that in the tiny fraction of a second between the raw sensation, and the reaction - that is where free will and freedom reside. In a way, that is a good description of meditation's real goal. So a still mind isn't the final aim, it's a prerequisite needed to make observation, and then more refined observation, of those split seconds, possible and more automatic. It's also to prolong the space between the two (and allow freedom and detachment into that space where judgement and reaction usually occur).

So, now you have a still and aware mind when sitting. But when you stop sitting, what then? The aim is to keep within this state in everyday life. The concept of "walking meditation", where you walk, or move, while staying within that state, sounds like a place you could go next.

  • Thank you Stilez. This is an excellent response! Highly inspiring with so much to digest and yet such clear steps and explanations on making progress. Thank you sincerely for your message! – z0mbi3 Oct 11 at 19:36
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    One thing to add - you'll notice I haven't mentioned anything about becoming aware of who "I" am/am not, or an end to suffering/duality, or any other more spiritual goals. That's mainly because of my sense about your question and where it's coming from, but also because these are arising realisations/questions/conclusions/states that (may/may not) arise within a meditative state, rather than aspects to be 'forced' in order to reach a meditative state. Demanding they appear rather than developing a meditative insight, is a good way to just get stuck in the same ego traps instead :) – Stilez Oct 13 at 2:12
  • Thanks again Stilez, makes perfect sense what you said. I've certainly learned in the past few days that meditation requires patience and that insights will come when I'm ready. I am just super excited about all the discoveries lying ahead of me in the years to come! Thanks for pointing me into the right direction. – z0mbi3 Oct 13 at 15:56

Mumonkan - Case 4: The Western Barbarian With No Beard

The Case:

Wakuan said, "Why has the Western Barbarian no beard?"

Mumon's Comment:

Study should be real study, enlightenment should be real enlightenment. You should once meet this barbarian directly to be really intimate with him. But saying you are really intimate with him already divides you into two.

Mumon's Verse:

Don't discuss your dream
Before a fool.
Barbarian with no beard
Obscures the clarity.

When I first started out, I had a very similar experience with meditation as you. It was never really difficult for me to sit. I mean, seriously - butt, cushion, breath, calm. It's not that hard, right?? I'm sure you've figured it out by now, but for most people, it's not so easy. For them, that place of calm that you experienced so quickly can be years away. For these folks, a chattering mind and fidgeting body are obstacles that will take all sorts of sitting and sweat to unseat. Believe it or not, though, these people are at an advantage. To practice Buddhism isn't to sit well and have blissful experiences on the cushion. On the contrary, to practice Buddhism is to work through our bullshit and burn through our karmic obstacles. And it takes one hell of a hot fire to do that. If we were to liken Buddhist practice to a forge we have to stoke, then those who struggle with sitting are blessed with a huge, nearby wood pile of problems and difficulties that they can quickly burn up. They come out of the gate burning like stars. And it's that blazing inner fire their struggles have helped establish that make it that much easier for them to incinerate their deeper, psychological obstacles. People like us, well, we have to go searching much deeper in the forest in order to find enough wood to keep our practice fueled.

Which brings us to the question of what you should do now. How do you fuel the fire of your practice? The first thing I'd ask is whether your practice is going as well as you think it is. When you sit, do you remain completely motionless the entire time? If not, start there. Next, if an hour is so easy, why not try an hour and a half? I actually find that my meditation sessions don't really start to take off until after the first hour. Longer sitting can lead to better sitting. The same goes for frequency. Are you sitting everyday? If not, why not? If you are, why not try sitting twice a day? And even if you've got all that going, when was the last time you meditated 10 hours a day for a week long retreat?

So now that we've got that out of the way, onto beards and barbarians. Remember how I mentioned that Buddhist practice isn't about sitting well and being blissful? This is key. Real practice is when you meet the western barbarian face to face and are really intimate with him. You are the Western Barbarian. When was the last time you really took a look at your beard in the mirror? Once an adept has establish a good sitting practice, the rest of their days are spent examining that beard - those mental hangups and karmic obstacles - through a variety of insight practices. These can come in the form of Vipassana, Zen koans, sutra study, keeping the precepts, etc. etc. etc. These are the true forges of enlightenment.

So that should keep you busy for a couple of decades. Have fun!!!! :-D

  • Thanks tripple-0! That was a pleasant read and great advice. I guess you've pointed out my first blindspot .. my assumption that more of the same input would simply result in more of the same outcome. I didn't expect longer or more frequent meditation would result in much more depth but I'm now looking forward to give it a go. I'll look up the more advanced terminology that you've mentioned towards the end and I also trust that it will lead me onto new paths of discovery. Thanks again, much appreciated! – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 18:57
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    My pleasure! And just remember, insight practice (and really all practice) should take place under the direction of a teacher. We have a really nasty way mistaking our own delusions for wisdom. It helps to have someone to point out our idiocy. – 000 Oct 10 at 19:02
  • Then it begs the question .. How do you find a good teacher? I wouldn't necessarily simply take the first one I come across, yet I have no way to tell how capable they are of the task at hand. – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 19:07
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    Google is your friend! ;-) Seriously, start local. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Just because someone isn't internationally renowned doesn't mean they aren't capable of teaching well. Researching lineage also helps. At least in Zen, only those who are authorized to teach by their teacher can actually lead a group. There are similar lineages within other traditions (esp. Tibetan). And even if you can't find a teacher, at least find a group to sit with. There is nothing like sitting with a group of people...and you might be able to find a teacher through them. – 000 Oct 10 at 19:48
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    Great news - thanks. I'm excited about what I've learned from you today - it's much appreciated! – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 21:39

Buddhist meditation is unique among meditation types in that it is firmly rooted in Buddha's key realization: the so-called Noble Truths. All other meditations are set within different frameworks, aiming at their respective goals. Some meditations aim at a blank mind, other meditations aim at experience of unity with All. Buddhist meditation aims at the goal of Buddhism, variously known as Nirvana, Enlightenment, Liberation etc. or more properly as "the cessation of suffering".

In order to understand this goal, one needs to understand the framework in which this goal is defined - the Noble Truths. Then you can understand Buddhist meditation as the way of achieving the goal.

The Noble Truths are centered around what they declare to be The Key Problem of sentient existence: the experience of psychological suffering, or the painful feeling of this is wrong and I can't fix it (as opposed to Peace, defined as everything is right). Following from there, the Noble Truths identify the Mechanism behind the problem, the Solution, and the Way to implement the solution.

The mechanism behind "suffering" (I will call it that for simplicity, although now you know that it refers specifically to the subjective experience of "painful wrongness") is identified as craving for one's current experience to be different than what it is now. This craving takes a million forms, some of the instances having to do with invalid desires or unrealistic expectations, and other instances having to do with the way we interpret and evaluate our experience. Anyhow, it all comes from our definitions of the world and of ourselves and from the rules by which we delineate and evaluate phenomena.

The Solution then is to figure out ways to reduce and completely eliminate all mismatch between one's interpretation of the current moment-by-moment experience and one's idea of what that experience should be. As a rule of thumb, this means eliminating all sources of conflict, both external conflict with society, and internal conflict within one's mind. This is accomplished, first by fixing one's life to eliminate all major sources of disharmony, and second through identifying and eliminating all kinds of psychological hangups. The first part is Buddhist ethics. The second part is Buddhist meditation.

The Buddhist path in general and the path of meditation in particular is a gradual implementation of the Buddhist principle of "elimination of the causes of psychological suffering". It starts with coarse and obvious sources of trouble, and proceed to progressively finer items. In the course of doing this, the practitioner keeps getting an increasingly better understanding of one's own mind and the way it shapes one's experience of peace or suffering, until at one moment, this understanding culminates in a breakthrough. This breakthrough has to do with the most fundamental assumptions underlying our experience, and enables complete elimination of even the slightest experience of suffering, regardless of external circumstances.

So when you meditate, your goal is not a blank state of mind. Your goal is to examine your experience in terms of suffering and the causes of suffering, first and foremost your own internal psychological causes, and then, through trial and error, to discover practical ways to stop the experience of suffering and create the experience of harmony and peace. As I said above, it all comes from our definitions of the world and of ourselves and from the rules by which we delineate and evaluate phenomena.

Our subjective reality, with its ups and downs, is an interpretation we make. The question is, how to be free from the ups and downs inherent to an interpretation. This is what you need to figure out and implement, first in meditation, and then in real life. Good luck!

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    Thanks Andrei for the great explanation. Much appreciated! – z0mbi3 Oct 12 at 22:16

You're certainly right in that one of the goals of mediation is to quiet your mind. Congratulations on achieving that! As others have mentioned, this isn't an easy feat (even if you stumble onto it by not being able to focus on more than one thing very well).

The question then becomes if your mind is completely quiet, devoid of thoughts, feelings, and whims, what are you? Are you your thoughts? Or are you the thing or being that is able to silence your thoughts? Another benefit of mediation is simply realizing that you are NOT your passing thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are only temporary. You are the being that is able to quiet your thoughts, and, as such, you are the being that observes your thoughts.

How does this apply in everyday life? Through practicing meditation and becoming aware of your thoughts as temporary, you're able to regulate your own emotions better. You don't become so quickly consumed in the "emotions of the moment." I'm sure you know people like this, who are guided completely and totally by their current emotions and current thoughts, not having realized that they are TEMPORARY. You're able to think more critically about yourself. You gain an introspective ability and start taking apart every single thought you have.

In short, meditation teaches you to quiet your mind and in doing so also teaches you MINDFULNESS.

  • Thank you, I appreciate your great input. I love your 2nd paragraph and the questions it raise. I actually do get moved easily by immediate emotions, which is why I was hoping my thoughts and emotions would surface during meditation so that I can observe and learn from them but that is not happening (perhaps not yet). It sounds like I should just keep doing what I do, patiently, and see where the path eventually leads me to. Thanks again! – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 21:48

You could notice how your breath moves in and out through the nostrils. This can be done to a very fine degree even isolating individual characteristics contained within one portion of the in-breath or out-breath. There will be more gross observations happening with bodily phenomenon like the rising and falling of the abdomen and the residual echoes this produces in other parts of the body.

The other day while meditating my attention shifted to my hearing as the sound of a crow (I think) was croaking. I discerned this with more depth thus: sound - ear - interpretation - feeling. I was able to get a very sharp sense of what was happening beneath the cognizance of the sound and could focus purely on just the raw sensation that the sound seemed to produce. As the crow was croaking there was a kind of sine wave in a localized part the head in the form of a sensation. This wave-form married perfectly with the amplitude of the croaking crow.

Your focus is one that many would envy. It can be fine-tuned to observe the most subtle physiological changes. I found myself in your position with having a tremendous focus when I began Buddhist meditation two years ago.

I would encourage that you develop a good structural spiritual framework before advancing to deep levels quite simply because insight and other odd experiences came to me with quite some force. Even my Sangha were uncertain about how to support me but eventually, I found a small group of individuals who were practising at very deep levels who give me some guidance.

Read many suttas and connect with a sangha group.

  • Thank you Suchness, your input is much appreciated. I think I have a better understand now of what you mean by noticing my breath. Perhaps I was indeed not focused on its entirety. I envy your sound experience and the comprehension of how it traversed your entire being. I will be open to such experiences now and I'll look into your guidance/group advice. Thank you once again for your contribution to my search. – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 18:45

Since i didn't feel such, i don't know what exactly your feeling is. But i have heard that people who are meditating expressing their experience by these words blankness, lightness, emptiness, weightless etc. And for those experiences the teachers advice not to focus on it or do not meditate again and again for feel that experience. Even the Lord Buddha also said not to stuck there on that lightness or emptiness, because it is kind of a craving and it is distracting.

  • Thanks for sharing that. So what I understand from your message is that it's not an ideal state to be in. Do you have suggestions how I can shift my focus to something else? I posted an answer that I copied from someone's response on a similar question. Does that perhaps sound like a valid option to you? – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 17:13
  • For me it's valid but hard :-). mind is tricky, actually that's best way manage the situation, for example if you're doing meditation on focusing on breath, and then you're settle in that state and focusing only in the experience not the breath, that is how mind trick you to not to advance on meditation. – PL_Pathum Oct 10 at 17:22
  • But you know that you are misdirected, this is not my suggestion it's advice from my teacher's. "Focus back on the breath again if you're feel lightness or weightless or something similar experience, do not focus and savor that feelings". Hope you could understand. :-) – PL_Pathum Oct 10 at 17:25
  • Thank you, I'll give it a go. – z0mbi3 Oct 10 at 17:27

Meditation is a deeply personal word, so you get to decide what it means to you. I can impose my own personal opinions and offer suggestions in that direction.

The Japanese Zen Buddhists have a term, mushin(無心). Translating the characters literally, we get "no mind," which is where the blank slate imagery comes from. For many people, it is very hard to have such a blank slate. It can take years to attain it. If you already have it from your nature, then it may be useful to explore the full phrase. Mushin is the shortened form of the full phrase "mushin no shin" (無心の心). Again, literally translating the characters we get "mind without mind." No surprise that phrase sounds rather paradoxical. These are Zen Buddhists who came up with it.

If I may offer just the interpretation of one person, I see the concept of potential being a reasonable resolution of the paradox. If you have a mind that is blank at the moment, but at any point in time could generate a thought without warning, that is a powerful thing. And if you don't necessarily have to know where that thought came from within your mind, so much the better. That would mean every point in your mind is ready to spawn a thought should it be the best thing to do.

To that end, I may recommend something many teachers of meditation recommend: observe the world from where you sit. Alan Watts recommended starting a meditation by striving to reach out and observe the faintest detail as you can. But he carefully made sure not to tell you what particular detail to look for. He didn't specify a sound, or a particular sight. He didn't' even specify that what you would observe would come from the five senses. He simply said to try to observe it.

The world is not blank. It's full of activity at every moment. If you observe the world while you are still, you must have movement in your stillness. And that is a very interesting paradox indeed.

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    If there is not enough activity surrounding you to bring you closer to the verge of having a thought at any moment, another option to consider would be a walking meditation. This brings activity into the body, which is closer to the mind. This also increases the likelihood that you might run into someone. If you can connect with them instantly with compassion without breaking out of your meditation for a moment, then I am a mere altar boy preaching to the priest, for I consider that to be a great challenge indeed. – Cort Ammon Oct 11 at 0:54
  • The walking meditation sounds really like a great plan! I'll certainly give that a go. I guess meditation in nature would also trigger thoughts through sounds. Thanks for your input! I appreciate it very much. – z0mbi3 Oct 11 at 19:14

Can anyone perhaps please shed some light on my situation and tell me what benefit I can get from meditation when I find my mind is already completely blank and I have no thoughts during meditation sessions.

What then made you finish the session and yet even thinking about benefits?

Sure, if there is an indifferent feeling (neither pleasant not painful), there is only that, but does it last, is it real? Is it satisfactory or not? Can one call it "my meditation", "a refuge", "under my controll"? Maybe inspect this for your self and try to get it under control with what ever creativity.

Mindfulness Defined might be useful to cross over what already observed ("in this, not-judging-way I stay without any understanding")

  • Thanks Samana. Your questions really caught my attention: "What then made you finish the session" ... I am going to plan a big meditation session over the weekend without any time limit and see how that works for me. Thanks again! – z0mbi3 Oct 11 at 19:18

In Buddhism, there are two types of meditations. They are, Samatha and Vipassana. There are many sub techniques in each type. Samatha meditations focus on the "tranquility" of the mind where Vipassana meditations focus on the "insight" ie: a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. Path to Nirvana often starts with Samatha meditation where you can calm your mind and then practice Vipassana meditation to get a clear understanding of function of the mind.

Since you have no trouble with calming your mind, I would suggest that instead of doing Samatha meditation techniques like mindfulness of breath, you can explore more on Vipassana meditation techniques. You can start with Satipatthana Sutta, which is the Buddha's teaching that Vipassana is based on and get advice from a good meditation practitioner and share your experience.

What exactly differentiates Vipassana from Samatha meditation?

  • Thanks Pasanbsb. I'll look up Satipatthana Sutta. – z0mbi3 Oct 12 at 21:58

I like to approach to your question like this. I assume you are not a Buddhist(which is totally ok). In Buddhism there are two main types of meditations as Samatha and Vipassana.

Samatha is mainly contributing towards on concentrating your mind. In this there are different types of meditating methods such as Anapana sathiya (Focus on breathing in and out) which is a very famous one and there are other methods too(Better try to find these by referencing thripitaka). Samatha meditations will lead you to jhana(firts,second,third etc.).

Then vipassana is mainly focus on understanding the truth. For this its better to have samatha practised well.
Strongly I suggest you to prefer Thripitaka where real teaching of Lord Buddha can be found. (If not there are sometimes you might lead into a dead end)

Mean while you try for it better try to learn Buddhism which will help you to solve problems occur. Since you can sit in one posture for an hour(which is the hardest part for beginners) start with samatha medition method you prefer to try. Do it daily. Make it a high priority. You will get results. Remember explore Buddhism and good luck

  • Thanks Joe for adding some new concepts to explore, I'll certainly look into Thripitaka and the others. – z0mbi3 Oct 12 at 21:56

I do not think there are any benefits of a completely blanking the mind. I think this state is very similar to the mental state of a newly born child or animal like a buffalo.

  • Thanks SarathW, then again on the other side .. this is probably the fastest developing period for an infant ;-) – z0mbi3 Oct 12 at 21:54
  • Agree. But we should be aware of the capacity of the person and what you feed the brain. For instance, a buffalo will not be able to attain Nibbana. – SarathW Oct 13 at 7:02

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