I haven't even tried Mindfulness properly and I am already facing huge trouble. I tried to practice mindfulness meditation because I have very poor memory and focus in studies. I tried to be mindful but when I tried to do so, it is interfering with subconscious activities like basic memory and understanding. These are stuff that is mostly done subconsciously but when I become mindful my thoughts are becoming extremely diverse and I am overthinking. Let's say a multiplication comes to my mind - 4x9=36. My mind is like "How is this happening? How is this memory forming? What is 4? What is 9? How am I remembering this specific multiplication when I am remembering so many things? How am I remembering the spelling of 'four'?" and thus my mind would try to decipher my memory. When my mind doesn't find any audio-visual reason for my meditation, these basic memories are fading?

I tried to use mindfulness while studying. When I read a sentence, my mind would automatically decipher the meaning. However, due to mindfulness, it is becoming way more complex as my mind is asking questions like "What is 'and'? What is 'is'? What is 'market'? What is 'regulation'? How do I remember the word 'regu' and 'lation'?" And so on. It is slowing me down heavily and I can't control it. If I try to focus on the present, as mindfulness would require, I cannot focus on what I am studying, as my focus is on words, not on understanding, since understanding requires me to imagine and use my intuition, which I can't when I am observing my thoughts. The entire process of learning, which was somehow automatic, is becoming tiresome with mindfulness. I cannot recall anything, as the process of recall is automatic (subconscious) and when I am observing the recalling process, I can't do it.

Mindfulness involves focusing on breathing, and I do it, but when I resume my daily life, I find myself often distracted, focused on breathing or my 'self' rather than the activities.

On top of it I found that executive dysfunction is a side effect of mindfulness, which is making me worried if I will become disabled by practicing mindfulness. The article says that Buddhist scriptures have recorded these negative effects (where?). Dalai Lama apparently said this is happening because people are not focusing on the 'end'. What is that supposed to mean? What should I do? My memory and focus is poor, so I tried to meditate, but when I do, I start overthinking and my automatic and subconscious processes becomes worse.

  • What definition of "mindfulness" are you using? It's important to the question but perhaps it varies, from one tradition to another.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 18 at 9:34
  • @ChrisW Definition? I don't know, maybe you can define it as Mindfulness is a meditation process where one sits and becomes aware of the present and awareness. It also involves being 'mindful' of any activity you are engaging in. I have checked websites, Sam Harris, Youtube, etc and they pretty much seem to say the same thing. Commented Feb 18 at 9:40
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    @ChrisW I have mentioned that in my comment. Look again please. Commented Feb 18 at 9:53
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    I actually do understand some Buddhist principles. I am not a westerner, but a Hindu, so I understand that there is suffering and that desires lead to suffering, but I am a layman. I need to work. I fear if I continue mindfulness, I might become disabled and not be able to clear my exams because of memory and concentration issues from mindfulness. I am not a monk that I can give up my life for meditation. But again, meditation is said to benefit laymen like me too. I am trying to find that benefit. Commented Feb 18 at 11:41
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    @Desmon I am trying to be 'aware' of my consciousness. And my consciousness include subconscious and automatic tasks like memory retrieval, comprehension of language, breathing, blinking, etc. When I am trying to be mindful, I don't know how can I 'not' be mindful of these subconscious activities. On the other hand, when I AM mindful of these subconscious activities, I am becoming confused as subconsciousness cannot work while being conscious Commented Feb 18 at 12:15

5 Answers 5


"It’s important to note that mindfulness doesn’t mean being fully present in the present moment. It means keeping something in mind. Right mindfulness means keeping in mind lessons from the past — either teachings you’ve learned from others, or lessons you’ve learned from your own experience — so that you can apply them skillfully, by also being alert, in shaping your present intentions."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Karma Q&A, A Study Guide" https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/KarmaQ&A/Section0005.html

  • Indeed, keeping the lessons of the past in mind arises from a desire not to repeat the same old mistakes. It's a desire not to suffer. A realization that it is only the now that we can influence and shape....not the past....and the future is to a large extent what we made of the present.
    – Desmon
    Commented Feb 22 at 9:46

I assumed your mindfulness practice was self-taught. That is fine, however, I think it is a good idea to have a framework when doing the practice. Below are some ideas/notions/principles that I find useful from my own experience.

  1. The aim of the practice is to reduce stress and suffering.
  2. Feelings and emotions can stir up thoughts. Similarly, thoughts can stir up feelings and emotions. Sometimes, thoughts feed into feelings and emotions which in turn generate even more thoughts. Which in turn generate even more emotions and the circle spiral.
  3. Behind feelings, emotions and thoughts are usually intentions and desires. In mindfulness practice, it is important to trace back and identify the intention/desire behind the proliferation of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
  4. In accordance with the law of karma, skillful intentions lead to skillful outcomes. Likewise, unskillfull intentions brings unskillful outcomes. So, if the intention behind the proliferating thoughts, feelings and emotions are unskillful, we will suffer. I believe you had a taste of it and I believe your proliferating thoughts is not merely curiosity or interest. You’ll need to dig deeper. Once, you uncover the hidden intention, the mind naturally quietens down.
  5. What we attend to, gives it energy. So, in mindfulness practice, we should not attend to (pay attention to) people, objects or activities that increases stress and suffering. We should discern skillful attention versus unskillful attention in the practice. For example, when an image of someone whom malign us in the past appears in our mind, negative feelings and thoughts may appear. Attending to these feelings and thoughts further generate more negative feelings and thoughts. Similarly, pride in one’s ability can trigger feelings and thoughts like I am better than or they don’t recognise my ability and so on.
  6. Conversely, we can attend to qualities that are lacking in us to stir up energy and motivation. For example, we are weak in certain subject, sport or area. We could attend to the pride within; if the others can do it, so can I.

The above becomes clearer when we do the practice using the framework under the four noble truths. Recognizing our state of mind as stressful (suffering) and admitting that stress (suffering) exists (1st truth) allow us to investigate the cause behind. Recognizing that the stress or distress arises from an unskillful intention (2nd truth) brings the mind peace and clarity (3rd truth). Repeating this repertoire (4th truth) helps us to progress in our practice.

Until we are comfortable with investigating our inner mental objects and states, I suggest not trying to dissect what is the self. I think it is also a good idea to review concepts in Buddhist mindfulness for more advanced practice.

With Metta.


Mindfulness is interfering with my subconscious and automatic activities and slowing me down in my daily life.

I'm not sure what you mean by "mindfulness meditation".

One description I've heard of it sometimes is that it involves "noting" thoughts. There are various descriptions of that by different people, one of them is here:

Noting directs thinking into a simple, rudimentary form, rather than letting it wander off into distraction.

Maybe it's not a suitable technique to use "in my daily life". When for example I am driving, then I want to be distracted by that activity, perhaps ideally I'd like to be aware of nothing but that activity.

Mindfulness involves focusing on breathing, and I do it, but when I resume my daily life, I find myself often distracted, focused on breathing or my 'self' rather than the activities.

I'm not sure that's so. Another way I've read it described is that, when you're not focussed on or thinking about anything else, then breathing is the only activity which remains, of which you can be conscious.

Maybe the goal isn't to focus on breathing but to let go of other thoughts, let them diminish.

Dalai Lama apparently said this is happening because people are not focusing on the 'end'.

In that video he says that people need to start with book-learning, and to know the goal of meditation.

What is that supposed to mean?

The Dalai Lama studied Buddhism full-time, all his life -- see this answer for example.

To my slight understanding, the "goal" is to end "suffering". There's a "three-fold" training and a lay-person normally concentrates more on "virtuous" activity than on "mindful" meditation.

Perhaps you should review your activity -- does this cause suffering (should I stop), is it skilful (should I do more)?

My memory and focus is poor, so I tried to meditate

Maybe you get better at what you practice. If you want to study then practice studying.

Maybe meditation does interfere with other activities. Maybe if you try it should be instead of harmful or useless activities -- instead of watching television for example, or something like that -- and not "while studying".


I think you should start with loving-kindness meditation first and go up from there. It won't interfere much but your nightmares (spoiler: it will lessen them).



Art Of Living – S.N. Goenka & William Hart

This book available free from Archive.org and https://archive.org/details/art-of-living-1

After reading this book a person should be ready for a 10 day Vipassana retreat: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index, and https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/courses/search.

INTRODUCTION Suppose you had the opportunity to free yourself of all worldly responsibilities for ten days, with a quiet, secluded place in which to live, protected from disturbances. In this place the basic physical requirements of room and board would be provided for you, and helpers would be on hand to see that you were reasonably comfortable. In return you would be expected only to avoid contact with others and, apart from essential activities, to spend all your waking hours with eyes closed, keeping your mind on a chosen object of attention. Would you accept the offer? Suppose you had simply heard that such an opportunity existed, and that people like yourself were not only willing but eager to spend their free time in this way. How would you describe their activity? Navel-gazing, you might say, or contemplation; escapism or spiritual retreat; self-intoxication or self-searching; introversion or introspection. Whether the connotation is negative or positive, the common impression of meditation is that it is a withdrawal from the world. Of course there are techniques that function in this way. But meditation need not be an escape. It can also be a means to encounter the world in order to understand it and ourselves. Every human being is conditioned to assume that the real world is outside, that the way to live life is by contact with an external reality, by seeking input, physical and mental, from without. Most of us have never considered severing outward contacts in order to see what happens inside. The idea of doing so probably sounds like choosing to spend hours staring at the test pattern on a television screen. We would rather explore the far side of the moon or the bottom of the ocean than the hidden depths within ourselves. But in fact the universe exists for each of us only when we experience it with body and mind. It is never elsewhere, it is always here and now. By exploring the here-and-now of ourselves we can explore the world. Unless we investigate the world within we can never know reality — we will only know our beliefs about it, or our intellectual conceptions of it.

Mindfulness in Plain English – Bhante-Gunaratana

Another useful book is Mindfulness-in-Plain-English https://archive.org/details/mindfulness-in-plain-english-bhante-gunaratana

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Venerable Henepola Gunaratana was ordained at the age of 12 as a Buddhist monk at a small temple in Malandeniya Village in Kurunegala District in Sri Lanka. His preceptor was Venerable Kiribatkumbure Sonuttara Mahathera. At the age of 20 he was given higher ordination in Kandy in 1947. He received his education from Vidyalankara College and Buddhist Missionary College in Colombo. subsequently he traveled to India for five years of missionary work for the Mahabodhi Society, serving the Harijana (untouchable) people in sanchi, Delhi, and Bombay. Later he spent ten years as a missionary in Malaysia, serving as religious advisor to the Sasana Abhivurdhiwardhana Society, Buddhist Missionary Society and the Buddhist Youth Federation of Malaysia. He has been a teacher in Kishon Dial School and Temple Road Girls’ School and Principal of the Buddhist Institute of Kuala Lumppur. At the invitation of the Sasana Sevaka Society, Venerable Gunaratana came to the United States in 1968 to serve as Hon. General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, D.C. In 1980 he was appointed President of the Society. During his years at the Vihara, he has taught courses in Buddhism, conducted meditation retreats and lectured widely throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He has also pursued his scholarly interests by earning a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The American University. He taught courses on Buddhism at The American University, Georgetown University and University of Maryland. His books and articles have been published in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and_ the US.a. Since 1973 he has been Buddhist chaplain at The American University, counseling students interested in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. He is now president of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, about 100 miles from Washington, D.C. teaching meditation and conducting meditation retreats

One of the Monks that contributed to this book, (and taught this person meditation), is Bhikkhu Sona who is the Abbot of this forest monastery: https://birken.ca/about/

It is highly recommended to have good teachers when learning Dhamma and Meditation.

There are some very talented Monks who answer questions on this site.

  • Thank you for answering. It is normal by the way to also quote from what you reference, perhaps a paragraph which answers the specific question.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 20 at 6:09
  • Thank you for your advice @ChrisW, I have added some quotes from these books, however, the full text of these books is available free from Archive.Org, at the click of the mouse on the attached links. Commented Feb 20 at 12:10
  • Neither of the quotes answer the question, do they.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 20 at 13:14
  • @ChrisW: The OP seems to be having problems with Mindfulness meditation. The proper way to improve meditation is to have a good teacher. Self-taught is generally not as useful. That is one reason the Buddha created the Sangha. The quotations given are meant to introduce and subject matter of the books, Vipassana and Mindfullness. It is believed that these books and a ten day meditation will answer the OP's need. It is not understood how a person can self teach themselves Buddhism. Where would they start? Commented Feb 21 at 1:44

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