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I am currently in a state of being that I don't understand properly. My main concern is that even though I am able to bring about major changes in my mind in a relatively short amount of practice, I am nonetheless deeply unaware and unfocused in every day life.

For example, a lot of my time is wasted by me being in my head... Thinking unnecessarily situation, concepts, even Dhamma etc. but I end up not getting done much. Every morning with the intent of focusing on tasks, I end up doing just an hour or two hours work at best. Even other normal people are much more focused in their 9-5 jobs where they are working eight hours - and many of them don't even know about meditation etc.

Other examples -

  • the slightest discomfort makes me feel strongly averse and then suffer disproportionately.
  • small amounts of substances have drastic mental effects - alcohol, caffeine, marijuana etc.

I should mention some background info - I don't consume alcohol, weed etc. I am addicted to pornograhphy though. I am socially anxious, with slight aspergers and slight depression. Dhamma-wise, I am quite familiar with buddhism and more broadly, science-philosophy-spirituality.

Edit : To clarify, I want to know more about this state of mind and the corresponding defilements. Further, what are the root components of this state (like for example if someone has a habit of quarreling with people it is probably because s/he has lacking metta, excess anger and conceit) . Have you experienced something similar, and if yes, how did you overcome it?

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5 Answers 5

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Addictions of any kind are going to make everything more difficult. Pornography in particular involves very strong graphic imagery which is quite aggressive and violent a lot of the time. It's really not something you want your psyche to be absorbing whether you meditate or not. The imagery will replay itself in your mind which is very distracting.

Are you isolated and using porn as a substitute for human connection? This is very common nowadays in this digital age. Many people feel lonely and turn to their computer for solace. Using will power to stop can help but it doesn't resolve the underlying issues. I suggest becoming mindful of the moments when you feel the urge or temptation to watch. See if you can just sit with the feelings without reacting to them. Do they pass? Perhaps extend the time you sit each time. See what the underlying feelings are that you're perhaps trying to avoid. Is it loneliness, sadness? Sit with those feelings. Feel them in your body and treat yourself with compassion.

If you can't resist and you end up watching then try to be mindful while doing so. Addictions are a kind of mindless activity usually because that's what they are for, to make us forget how we are feeling etc. Just keep trying to be aware of what you're doing in the moment and be kind to yourself. Don't hate on yourself for doing it. I think eventually you will realise that it no longer serves you and you won't want to do it anymore.

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Buddhism explains there are five hindrances/obstacles to improved focus & awareness:

  1. sensual desire

  2. ill-will

  3. sloth & torpor (lack of energy)

  4. restlessness & remorse

  5. doubt

While Buddhism does not discourage laypeople from engaging in moderate sensual pleasures (which create moderate sensual desires), Buddhism does discourage laypeople from engaging in extreme sensual pleasures, which include alcohol, marijuana & pornography. 'Pornography' is essentially debauching oneself with prostitutes, which Snp 1.6 says is a "man's downfall". If we are interested in benefiting from Buddhism, it is ideal to avoid pornography (because it is not the development of kindness & compassion).

If you are interested in developing Buddhist practice and also have some social anxiety, it is ideal to take refuge in a Sangha. In other words, find and regularly visit a genuinely compassionate safe ethical Buddhist centre (that is not a cult). Associating socially with kind Buddhists or 'spiritual friends' can help reduce social anxiety.

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From what you describe, it sounds like you have not yet made a connection with the power of your intent. Also known as the power of your authentic being.

It seems to me the boat of your attention is drifting, subject to all kinds of winds, instead of having a heavy motor to persistently cut across currents and wind.

If I may guess, this is probably because deep down you have not truly committed to a certain set of values that give your life meaning and direction.

My recommendation is to use your social anxiety as a mirror for finding your true self. You need to meditate on your values and make (and then develop) an emotional connection with who you truly are, in your feelings. Then bring that connection to your social interactions and your work. That connection to your core will give you the power to concentrate, to finish what you started, and the power to be your real self with all kinds of people.

I have not seen this topic discussed in the Pali Canon or by the Theravadins, but in the Mahayana, especially Zen and Eastern Tibetan schools, this is a common theme taught by the live mentors.

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  • There is no "true self". That's more of a new age concept.
    – Sati
    Feb 3 at 0:30
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    It's a Zen concept, too. Have you met a traditional lineage Zen master?
    – Andriy Volkov
    Feb 3 at 1:17
  • I find the phrase also in e.g. an English-language translation of a Zen koan.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 3 at 8:11
  • Thank you, I think this is the answer I was looking for. Can you give me any sources where I can find such stuff? I am familiar to Theravada but complete noob when it comes to Zen Feb 3 at 12:12
  • I'm sorry, reading about it is not going to be enough. You'll have to step out into the unknown and find a local Zen master.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Feb 3 at 15:21
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I'm not exactly one to give advice, but you have to remain passionate regarding your moral standing, especially in this time of goal-oriented ruthlessness. Not to stir a panic, but morality is a pillar of Buddhism. Time may seem long, and you might think I'll get around to fixing those bad habits eventually, but I'm too stressed with all my stuff right now, you probably never will get around and as time passes the habit becomes normalized and disillusionment with reality as a consequence. The worst thing you can do is brush it under the rug or let someone tell you it doesn't matter, because human beings don't like dealing with failure - being a loser is like a sin in today's world, but honestly I'd rather be a loser then have a guilty conscience. So you should clean up your act without resorting to excuses like I'm afflicted or whatever.

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  • Thank you, I have been suspevting this too. Good to have it reaffirmed here. Feb 18 at 17:49
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I am assuming you are asking on ways to improve your mental wellbeing because you are dissatisfied with the state of your mind.

It is about balance. The Buddha taught about the Middle Way and the importance of keeping a fine balance. I believe you had a taste of the drawbacks from letting the mind do as it pleases i.e. the lack of focus, the listlessness and irritability. But the unspoken part about keeping to the middle is that one must have a heightened awareness so that we know when we are going to extremes. It is like riding a bicycle. Lean too much to the left or right and we fall off the bicycle.

Similarly, the Buddha advised Venerable Sona on the right tension in order to succeed in both playing the lute or in making progress in the spiritual practice. At the centre of this practice is what we are attending to. When riding a bicycle, we attend to and is aware of the tilt of our body. Using the forward momentum and the tilting of our body to maintain our balance. When plucking the strings of a musical instrument, we attend to and is aware of the sound made and adjust the tension according.

When striving for a healthy and balanced mind, we attend to and is aware of all the parts of our mind. If one had seen the animated movie, Inside Out, one will realise that the mind is made up of many voices. There is the addictive part of our mind that is always asking for more and is never satisfied. Even after watching porno for hours, when the other parts of the mind complained about tiredness (eye strain), boredom and information overload yet the addictive part still urge for more. Then, there's the realistic part of the mind that complained that it is merely acting and not real. But its voice is drowned out. Often, the part of the mind that shouts the loudest get our attention instead. Unfortunately, it is not the one that produces the best future outcomes. Many a time, the best future outcome is when all parts of our mind are actively involved in charting the course.

So don't just listen to the part of our mind that shouts the loudest or out of sheer habit. Experiment to see if there is a difference. Ignore the addictive part e.g. abstain from porno for a couple of days or a week. Is there a difference to the mind?

If we find ourselves spending too much time inside our head, are there other voices that is complaining about boredom and wanting to venture outside? Experiment, spend half a day outside be it in a busy street/mall or a quiet park. Whilst outside, don't let ourselves stay inside our heads. Observe the people around us, the young and the old, the good-looking and the ordinary, the happy and the sad. Examine the trees in the park, each has its own story to tell. In fact, the world is ever eager to tell us its stories if we are willing to give it our full attention. It can be way more interesting than the same old monologues inside our heads.

One mistake, I made, in my younger days was to objectify happiness. When we objectify happiness, we begin to see others as mere tools to achieve our happiness. We get upset when those tools don't behave as we wanted. The state of our mind is separate from the world. Realising this is a necessary first step away from the constant danger of being caught and swept away by the world.

Lastly, do not underestimate the neuroplasticity of our brains. I read of accounts of people who suffered from dyslexia and how through great efforts and perseverance, they learned to read, write and become successful. If the mental condition is not too severe, all the more we have a chance to overcome it. It's precisely the challenges in life that makes it worth the struggle. If everything is handed on a plate, what meaning is our life, what worth is it?

With Metta.

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    Thanks for a great answer! Feb 2 at 1:48
  • Pause every now and then for a moment, listen to the less vocal voices in the mind....what are they saying? If we do that we'll see a crossroad appears, a chance to change course. But if we just speed ahead at a hundred miles an hour, it's just going to be one way.
    – Desmon
    Feb 3 at 3:20

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