7

I'm practising Vipassana meditation and I noticed that most of the time my mind thankfully doesn't wonder about things (past, future, judging).

But I notice that my attention is not really sharp. It's like my mind its in standby not really paying attention to anything in particular. I lost my attention of my breath, sensations, etc.. but not because of wondering.

What's is happening?. Could I get further information about this issue?

6

That sounds like the hindrance of "sloth-torpor". There are lots of ways to counter this.

The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Sloth

Six things are conducive to the abandonment of sloth and torpor:

  1. Knowing that overeating is a cause of it;
  2. Changing the bodily posture;
  3. Thinking of the perception of light;
  4. Staying in the open air;
  5. Noble friendship;
  6. Suitable conversation.

Mindfulness, investigation of reality and energy are factors that will help overcome sloth-torpor.

Also, don't lay down when you are meditating and experiencing sloth-torpor or you will probably fall asleep. If you need to, get up and practice walking meditation . . . or splash water on your face.

3
+50

When practicing Vipassana, there are three factors you will play with:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Concentration
  3. Introspection (or 'alertness' or 'vigilance' depending on the translation).

Laxity (sloth, torpor) and excitement are the main adverse conditions to the mind abiding on an object continuously. There are things you can do, before and in between meditation sessions, to prevent laxity from arising; and there are antidotes to apply, during the meditation session, when laxity arises. But first, you must study well enough so as to be able to identify the arising of laxity whenever it arises.


MEASURE OF LAXITY

Laxity is due to (1) the mind being overly withdrawn inward and (2) the mode of apprehension of the object being slack, loose. The occurrence of gross laxity results in a lack of clarity in your apprehension of the object.

While lethargy is characterized by confusion, heaviness, darkness, sleepiness... is of the type of an affliction... and occurs even outside the meditation session, laxity only occurs within meditation session, is not heaviness, but a lack of clarity. In the Middle-Length Lam Rim, Tsongkhapa writes:

Lethargy is said to be a heaviness, an unserviceability of the body and the mind that forms part of delusion. With laxity, the mode of apprehension of the mind holding its object is slack, and the object is not held clearly or tightly.

Once mindfulness is established (i.e. you are holding your object) and free from laxity, you will apprehend your object in such a manner that your mind will become clear with regard to it. Conversely Gross laxity causes a lack of clarity. Tsongkhapa writes:

In every meditative stabilization that is free from laxity, the clarity factor of the mind will definitely arise.


APPLYING ANTIDOTES

The obvious antidote consists in tightening the apprehension of the object. As a beginner, you have to train in this:

First, you have to put more emphasis on the introspection factor than mindfulness or concentration. The thing is to recognize any instance of (1) excitement, (2) scattering, or (3) laxity. Such recognition should be accompanied with joy (you shouldn't feel "I lost the object, I failed"). Tsongkhapa writes:

If you do not rely on introspection, your meditation will come under the influence of laxity and excitement.

Introspection is (1) a way to recognize faults and (2) to prolong an established concentration. Introspection is important in order to establish an interrupted concentration, but also in order to prolong it once it is established.

A mind that is lax has withdrawn inward too much and lost its mode of apprehending the object. For that reason it says in Stages of Meditation that you should:

  1. Tighten your mode of apprehending the object and sustain it
  2. Attend to a cause for the mind to move outward again, something joyful and virtuous.
  3. Attend to a sign of light, such as sunshine, and clear away the laxity.
  4. Not meditate on a disenchanting object, because disillusionment is a cause for the mind to withdraw inward.
  5. Remember that enthusiasm[...] will counteract laxity.

As a way to train in tightening / loosing the apprehension, it is advised to do sessions in which you try to hold onto your object tight for a while (making quiet an effort) and then you relax to effort without loosing the object. You repeat that throughout the whole session. In Stages of Meditation, Kamalashila writes:

You should eliminate laxity and hold the object tight.


If breath is your object of concentration, drawn you awareness to the manifold features of your breath (its warmth, its arising as one, its falling as another, its trajectory, and so forth) so as to (1) stimulate the mind (2) familiarize with your object and make it clearer to you. This exercise is called “expanding the object”. The Compendium of the Perfections states:

When there is sinking uplift the mind through the power of striving for special insight.


Other antidotes are: 1. Directin the mind outward 2. Rinsing your face with fresh water 3. Putting an end to the session and going for a walk


PREVENTIVE PRACTICES

What to do

  1. Taking refuge and generating motivation before meditation session
  2. Short sessions
  3. Emphasizing introspection
  4. Finding joy in applying introspection
  5. Studying the Dharma in between sessions

What not to do

  1. Dwell in a warm room
  2. Dwell in a dark room
  3. Meditate with your eyes completely closed
  4. Meditate with a full stomach

You need to do short sessions, because as a beginner, you have to strengthen the power of introspection. This take effort and easily lead to feel discontent. In relation to the length of the sessions, Tsongkhapa writes:

Moreover, if your sessions are long in the beginning, it is easy to fall under the power of laxity and excitement[50]. Since it is difficult to correct this state of mind once you have got used to it, you should do many short sessions.


In relation to studying the Dharma, Tsongkhapa writes:

In between sessions, you should also be concerned with the Dharma texts teaching that object and recall it again and again.

If you lack enthusiasm on the outset, you will be very prone to generate laxity. Thus, taking refuge in the beginning of the meditation session is useful. The purpose of doing is to generate a virtuous motivation, enthusiasm, dwelling on the reasons for practicing, give yourself a sense of direction so that you are not lost and that your practice really makes sense. That is usually uplifting. While setting motivation, it is customary to intend the application of the antidote (i.e. "Aware that laxity and excitement might arise during my meditation session, I will apply mindfulness to oppose excitement, and introspection to oppose both of them. I will tighten my mind to the object when I will notice it is lax. And so forth"). Tsongkhapa writes:

If you have a strong and constant awareness that sees the positive qualities of the Three Jewels, and so forth, it is quite easy to overcome laxity, for many valid sources say that its antidote is to uplift the mind by looking at positive qualities.

As a conclusion, I would advise you to emphasize the taking of refuge, generating motivation, intending to protect your mind from laxity and excitement from the beginning… emphasize the application of introspection as well… and emphasize the training in tightening/relaxing the apprehension.

2

I am new to this message board so please bare with me.

I too am a practitioner of Vipassana meditation and have had the same challenges. The thing to remember is when you notice your mind loosing attention to the object of focus, gently note to yourself that you have wondered off and bring the mind back to the breath. You may have to do this many times but remember to not get discouraged. It is natural for the mind to wonders and with practice, you can learn to bring it back. Also, you can shorten the time you meditate until you feel more comfortable with your progress.

I hope this helps.

1

Since your attention is not sharp perhaps you had Sloth and Torpor hence you should:

  • start with a large areas and narrow down to small areas gradually trying to see the arising and passing of phenomena
  • move your attention from object to object starting at a slow pace and increase pace as time to experience arising and passing of phenomena in a particular areas becomes less. In doing so your mind is always with a wholesome object and it also to stir up energy and increase alertness. As a result you will get Piti.

Sloth and torpor => large areas, effort directed towards see arising and passing of phenomena in an area, mental movements, mental chattering / contemplations, physical movement / walking meditation, light

Also in higher stages of Breath meditation you can experience Passadhi or equanimity which there is hardly any sensation and perhaps the breathing stops.

-1

We cannot come up with a logical answer to explain this occurrence without conducting a medical exam while this occurs.

But my theory is you are in such a deep meditation trance your heart beat has slowed down to the point your brain is not getting enough oxygen due to low blood circulation.

If you can master this without fainting you would not have to eat or drink for longer periods.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.