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how to control the mind and create awareness of the present moment.

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  • I have a question. You mentioned that you do breath meditation, can you share something on your technique? Specifically, when a thought or something pulls your mind away from your breath or meditation object, what do you do next?
    – Desmon
    Aug 22, 2023 at 12:44
  • Can I suggest you make a slight change the next time thoughts distract you from your breath. I have added an additional notes section to my answer, please take a look.
    – Desmon
    Aug 23, 2023 at 5:12
  • There is very little info here. I suggest you put up another question and try to give a bit more details, like where was your mind before you felt this anxious quivering energy. Was it drifting somewhere for example. Try to be as accurate and detailed as possible about what was happening just before, while it was happening and afterwards. Details like your breath, body posture and where is your attention.
    – Desmon
    Aug 24, 2023 at 9:23
  • Why do you want to delete this question? You can't delete the question if the question is valid, on-topic AND it has already been answered.
    – ruben2020
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:08

5 Answers 5

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I can only share some insights as a fellow practitioner, please let me know if I have gotten anything wrong. I think you are letting your desire to be on top of things, events and relationships in your life gets to you. Through meditation, we can get insights into what happened in our life and see the mistakes that occurred due to our habitual ways of viewing, perceiving, thinking, feeling, speaking and acting. This results in a realization that we could have avoided these mistakes if only we could be more aware, alert, focus and so on.

Whether this is a desire to avoid sufferings, to be a better person or to achieve more success is beside the point. The important thing is we can either make use of this desire to goad us into doubling our effort or allow it to bash us up. We use it in the former by understanding that these feelings, emotions and thoughts too will eventually change but right now we can harness them for further progress (right view). Ultimately, our aim is to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and achieve long lasting happiness and well-being (right intention).

What pulls us away from awareness of the present moment is usually greed, aversion and ignoring. The ignoring part is when there are cues, hints and information in the environment (internal or external) that goes against our desires or we averse to. So, we push this information out of our consciousness by dimming our awareness and losing the present moment. This is usually habitual and requires constant watching and observations of our feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts/emotions) and consciousness in order to overcome i.e. right mindfulnesss. We must be willing to let go of these unskillful habits and prevent new unskillful ones from arising. Similarly, there are skillful habitual ways of feeling, perceiving, thinking and cognizing that helps support our present awareness such as a constant reflection of our state of mind e.g. level of consciousness, current emotions and feelings and so on. If these skillful habits are not present, we try to cultivate them, in short, this is right effort.

I think you get my drift by now. The genius of the Buddha is that he understood that for true progress in our mental and spiritual practice, we need to work on all the 8 factors of the Noble Eightfold path. Otherwise, our progress will begin to slow down and perhaps come to a standstill. It is tough grappling with all the 8 factors simultaneously. I think we can start with one of the factors we are most comfortable with as an entry point. Ajahn Chah, the famous forest monk, worked on right view and he said the rest of the factors just followed.

In our practice we must have ''right view'' (sammā-ditthi). If our view is right then everything else is right: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right recollection, right concentration - the Eightfold Path.

With Metta.


Additional notes:

During meditation, when you catch hold of yourself being pulled away by thoughts instead of just going back to your breath, pause for a moment. Try to take note of the desire or intent that prompted those thoughts. If you failed to identify it, never mind, just go back to your breath. If you do manage to identify the desire, try to see the allure or attraction behind it. Once, you see the attraction, the desire will usually weaken or fade away. If you failed to identify, it is OK as it will tend to stay at the back of your mind and attempt to pull or push you away from your breath with more thoughts. Just repeat the steps again when that happens. Sometimes, we fail to identify the true desire. You will know this because the same pattern or type of thoughts will appear again, just repeat the above steps.

The mind as @Andriy Volkov pointed out, is constantly hiding its intentions and desires in order to trick us. By doing the Vipassana technique above we are training our mind to be sensitive to the mental and emotional activities that is happening within. When we are not meditating or concentrating, these activities push and pull us away from the present moment without we realizing it. By training our mind to be sensitive to these activities, be quick to identify the intent/desire behind them and see the allure in the desire, we will grow dispassionate and the mind will quickly quieten down and settle back to the present moment.

To be honest, breath meditation is traditionally a Vipassana technique from my understanding. So, I am not sure what is happening. If you are comfortable with your practice, just ignore me. If not, perhaps you can ask another question with more details about your meditation technique in the forum. I believe there are experienced practitioners in the forum who will be willing to help spot any issue or give advice, if necessary. With Metta.

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There's no magic way to become aware. Awareness is something we practice intentionally, because we decided to.

Why are we not aware to begin with? Because we are naive. We think our mind is honest, we assume it's honestly telling us the truth about what's going on. We trust our mind and so we never question it, and most of the time we don't really pay attention.

Once we realize the mind is tricking us, the ego is tricking us to its advantage, then we become motivated to watch it, to pay attention, and to become aware.

Then it boils down to constantly paying attention, every second of every minute of every hour. Are we fooling ourselves, are we trying to rationalize our fears or our prejudices, are we defending our ego, are we pursuing a selfish agenda, - - versus being objective, authentic, truthful, open, and so on.

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So my real question is how can I create the awareness of the present moment totally and let go of the delusion that is keeping me from seeing things just as how they really are.

You're on the right track right there, realizing that you experience suffering and that there's something better waiting if you view things correctly. As long as you never forget that, and you work on that every moment, then you'll be heading in the right direction and not retrogressing. Everyone has different skill and potential, so there's no time table for success.

The real key, is developing strong samādhi (undistractible-lucidity). Training the mind to be super relaxed, super clear, with meditative practices that focus on deep calming (such as breath meditation, metta, etc.). Without that, you'll have a low ceiling, because the ordinary mind, without samādhi, will never see things truly clearly, just as muddy water is not clear until it's calm and settled.

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Awareness of the present moment is created practising the Noble Eightfold Path, which starts with:

  1. Right View: understanding sufferings are caused by craving, attachment & unwholesome thoughts; and understanding suffering ends when craving, attachment & the unwholesome end.

  2. Right Thought: distinguishing between wholesome & unwholesome thoughts in a way that generates the effort to give up unwholesome thoughts & to maintain skillful wholesome thoughts.

  3. Right Speech & Action: distinguishing between wholesome & unwholesome actions; so to understanding certain types of actions are wrong actions; so we can give up attachment to those past actions we did or others did in relation to us. Often people cling to other people who perform harmful actions towards them rather than learn to let go of people who performed harmful/unskilful/unloving actions towards them.

When the mind can purify itself of wrong views it can be abide in the clarity of the present moment.

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Awareness of the present moment is crucial.

most of us usually do not live in the present moment; we spend our time dwelling on the past or dreaming about the future. A day consists of 24 hours, which is common to all of us. But if someone lives in the present moment, they can feel as if they have much more time than others. Some people can’t even imagine how quickly time passes.

Living in the present moment is important to Buddhists. If we live in the present, it means we are aware of our every action, so we can measure it, control it, and utilize our time efficiently.

Meditation can help to relax our mind and body, making it easier to live in the present moment with a good awareness of our own actions and thoughts.

Specifically, the “Samatha” meditation technique is helpful for this.

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  • Yes, a willingness to be aware and be in the present moment is important. Being aware of the desires and aversions that pull and push us away from the present moment and their originations is the constant work we need to engage in.
    – Desmon
    Sep 23, 2023 at 16:45

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