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Problems with meditation

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Lucinda, Sep 19, 2010.

  1. apples

    apples

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    You could try meditating in a slightly noisier environment--sit near a box fan or something--and try meditating by simply observing your reactions. You'll be able to observe yourself becoming aggravated, and you won't actually feel the irritation. After a while doing this, you should be able to resume your normal, preferred methods of meditation.
  2. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    Just wanted to do a quick update of a positive find... There is actually a Yoga Nidra class where I live. I happened upon the info on the internet (thanks insomnia) while looking for local practitioners of various things and found that the "senior's yoga center" actually has a once weekly meditation/yoga nidra class with a woman who apparently has been teaching it for some time. When I'm well enough, I look forward to going. This place, Tenderpaws, seems to have very non-traditional, non-striving classes and I'm grateful to have found something local that fits this bill. So, apparently it is around, just behind the scenes...
  3. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    That's excellent, Zoe.

    Recovery Soon - Just wanted to say thanks for mentioning How to be Sick by Toni Bernhard. I bought it after your recommendation and finished reading it a few weeks ago. It was excellent! I'd really recommend it to others interested in using Buddhist wisdom and practices to ease the suffering of ME.

    I was also comforted to read that Toni herself struggles with formal meditation, despite practicing for years before becoming sick. So she focuses on more informal practices. Reading this made me feel much better about my own struggles. I found I was beating myself up a bit for struggling so much with formal meditation, but after reading her book I realised I could just ease up on myself and do what practices I can do.

    At the moment I am only doing formal meditation when I feel able to (when I'm not too ill, and I know I'll get a break from noise). The rest of the time I am doing Toni's practices, or have started doing an informal meditation at night. I do get a quiet house at night but am usually too tired to concentrate. So after watching the BBC show 'The Big Silence' which explored Christian meditation, I decided to take on their idea of simply watching a candle flame. No more, no less. I don't try as hard to concentrate as I usually do with formal Buddhist meditation so I don't find it quite as hard when I am very ill. I just watch the flame, and practice allowing whatever is going on inside me, to just go on inside me. I find this a great alternative when I'm not up to more formal practice, and will simply do it for however long I feel able to (even if that's 5 mins).

    Hopefully, the more my health improves, the more I'll be able to bring formal meditation into my life. I don't want to force myself into it though when I just don't feel up to it and it's causing me distress. So I will mix informal and formal practice for now.
  4. svetoslav80

    svetoslav80 Senior Member

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    First of all I'm assuming you make samatha metitation (concentration) and that's why noise distracts you. This is normal. For me, meditation is more about accepting things. That's why I do more vipassana meditation, where every distraction and pain is an object of your meditation. So as apples said, when distraction (pain) occures, you just watch it and try to accept it's there and you cannot remove it. Watch the pain and your reaction to it. When you're able to watch the pain (in your case - irritation of noise) neutrally (without reacting to it), for a full breathe (inhale and exhale) , the pain will eventually diappear by itself and will be no more distraction. Later the pain will apear again , and you just make the same thing - accept and watch it. With this technique, after years of training, your mind will eventually get used to accept things easier.
  5. Gavman

    Gavman Senior Member

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    meditation has to be the hardest way to live an easier/healthier life. I love it.
    We're almost trained by having chronic fatigue to avoid most things due to the amount of stress it causes.
    The best way i've approached meditation is thoughts = continual pain, feeling the pain = acceptance of pain and loosening the pain.

    So when you hear noise. Notice that you hear it. Notice that your thoughts are trying to control you. And then let them go and feel whatever is getting triggered in your body, and let the thoughts come up. Remember theres no right and wrong of meditation. If you're on a train you can sit and listen to your breath or stare at the back of someones head. lol.

    The painful and bad feelings i get from chronic fatigue are so much quieter now that i've listened to them and spent time with them. I know its easy to say separate your thoughts and your feelings. Be gentle on yourself with your attempts at meditation.
  6. PokerPlayer

    PokerPlayer Guest

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    My experience with meditation - relaxes me in social situations, raises my crash threshold so I can be more active. The negatives? I get very bad depression and brain fog from meditation! Anybody else get this? If I meditate in the morning for 30 minutes I feel all relaxed and stuff, but by the afternoon I get the worst depression ever. I even get physical symptoms of my brain feeling inflamed and increased head pressure.

    The only explanation I can seem to think of is that meditation lowers cortisol. This is really good for our body, our body hates this elevated cortisol state. However, my brain desperately needs cortisol to battle the constant inflammation in it. So, when I lower cortisol I get a trade off of feeling better every way but mentally.

    This is really a horrible catch 22 and sucks because meditation has so many positives. I have been experiencing with meditaiton for a year now and keep a journal with all my important activities so I know meditation definitely causes horrible depression. The only possible solution I can think of to this is to push through the depression and see if it will go away. However, last summer I meditated an hour a day for 6 weeks and I definitely still felt the negatives.
  7. determined

    determined Senior Member

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    I'm sorry to hear about your negative reaction to meditation! I get a very predictable negative reaction too, but it is short-lived and I can deal with it.

    After meditation, my vision gets blurry. It only lasts about 5-10 minutes, so I just wait it out. I often wonder what would happen if I were to have an eye exam when this happens. I mentioned it to my eye doctor, but she had never heard of such a thing.

    We do have strange reactions to things!
  8. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    I've been practicing Vipassana meditation daily for twelve years nearly every day, and rather intensively for the past 4.

    I just got back from 2 weeks of MBSR teacher training and will be going into a silent 7 day retreat on Sunday.

    That said, it's hard to make global statements about how meditation will affect each individual person. On balance, there generally seems to be far more positive outcomes than negative, and the negative seem to be necessary aspects of an overall mental purification process that unfolds over time.

    To your specific situation, it's hard to know exactly what is going on with your feelings of depression. What is likely, is that things are churning up and working themselves out. Although it might seem difficult and pointless to experience such anguish on top of illness (insult to injury) it is very possible that buried feelings are now rising and healing from your consciousness. That is a good thing. This process over time makes you lighter and more able to deal with life in a balanced, open way.

    It is important to note that 1 year of practice is not that long a time- though it probably seems like ages. I would suggest you keep doing exactly what you're doing- practice and notice the patterns. Your journaling will help with this. You might see a shift in patterns over time.

    My hunch is that in the long term this reaction will change- and that you are undergoing a painful but necessary part of the psychic healing process.

    On a more CFS related note- I have personally found meditation to be the single best aid in handling symptoms. My ability to work with pain/discomfort is dramatically improved. Unpleasant is always unpleasant- but it's workable, and that's a huge difference.

    Additionally, meditation seems to boost my immune system (completely subjective assessment here) by about 20%. So overall, it's indispensable to me. And I haven't even mentioned the non-illness related emotional benefits.

    Remember that mindfulness is a powerful tool. It makes things happen- and they're not always pleasant. But it seems to lead the body/mind to it's own natural course of healing. Trust that as you experience difficulties, setbacks, and pain along the way.

    Good Luck!
  9. edwards.kevin41

    edwards.kevin41

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    The definition of meditation is to focus your mind towards something so hard that you dont get diverted even a bit. I suggest that you try meditating in the night or when there is no body at home. You can even try doing at the attic. You can also lessen up your meditating time and do it wherever you feel appropriate. Join Yoga Class for meditation.
  10. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    I'm not sure this is an accepted definition of meditation. It implies a rigidity and does not allow much room for the inevitable wandering of the mind that happens to everyone. This attitude generally creates frustration and a feeling of failure when the mind has wandered- when in fact that moment of noticing is itself a moment of mindfulness.

    There are many different forms of meditation- and each one has its own unique definition. Heightened Awareness is generally the common denominator for all forms. Getting diverted will happen. That does not mean you are not meditating.
  11. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    It's interesting to me that this thread has sort of come alive again when I'm in the process of trying to move again (and with more unforeseen problems too)!

    There are a lot of forms of meditation, and even lineages or modern incarnations of Buddhism, that are very goal-oriented or meant to speed something or other along. Meditation to me, (when I can see this clearly for myself, which comes and goes) is about surrender and trying to allow for the room for things to be exactly as they are. And being able to see, when you can, that you can't see or couldn't see how things are/were, and accepting that is how it is playing out. One remedy for frustration or feelings of failure around meditation can be another acceptance that you may have to go back to the expectations/ideas that you had about it the very first time you tried it.

    Recovery Soon always says what I'm thinking or on my way to thinking far better than I can--and I'm okay with that :) Congrats on having access to the MBSR training! I would love someone to do an online MBSR class for PR (in my wildest dreams). I found one such as this elsewhere but the cost was prohibitive, around $800.

    Nice to be back here on this thread...
  12. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    Thanks - I think what you said about surrender was exactly right and very well said.

    $800 is extreme. I am considering teaching MBSR now or in the near future. And online is a good option I have not considered.
  13. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    I swear that when I next move, it will be to a place where there is an MBSR class, I really do. I wonder about the nature of it being what it is and how it would work online? I'm partial to the idea that there is a lot to be gained by sharing space and energy with others who have decided to undertake a learning experience together, and yet, there are many times where I have been too ill to drive to a class, let alone regularly. I agree that the $800 figure is extreme!

    To think I have been in search of a class for nearly 15 years is quite unbelievable! I guess I do have a star guiding me...?!
  14. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    I practiced Vipassana daily 45 mins. a day for 7 years completely on my own- purposely avoiding groups, etc. I just thought it was too weird. I was in the "Dharma Closet" as I called it.

    Then CFS struck and I rethought everything including radically opening up my practice to retreats, a local community, "Dharma friends" etc.

    Honestly, the support of other people has been irreplaceable.

    I feel that I have grown significantly more in the past 4 years of meditation than I did in the first 8.
  15. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    HU Song - Contemplation - Journey of Soul

    Hi PokerPlayer,

    I tried meditation many years ago, and discovered it didn't work particularly well for me. In short, I would get up feeling ready to go (pre-CFS), but would then remember to do my 20-minute meditation. Invariably, I would become very groggy, and go into sort of a stupor. Could then take hours for me to come out of it.

    I didn't do a great deal of Soul searching to try to figure out why something apparently so good was not working for me. I just realized it didn't, so I quit. I do remember feeling a bit disappointed at the time. However, I later read that meditation is generally better suited to the culture of India, where they live a more passive lifestyle than we do in the West. The Western culture is more oriented toward a more "active" kind of discipline.

    I eventually found a sort of mantra that was supposed to be helpful as an approach much different than meditation. This mantra is known as the HU, and can be used as a "spiritual exercise" or "contemplation" for spiritual upliftment.

    My best understanding is meditation, prayer, and contemplation are three different ways to gain certain spiritual benefits. I understand meditation as a way to calm and quiet the mind; prayer as a way to talk with God, or ask God for something; contemplation as more of a "listening" exercise.

    I've found the latter, in conjunction with singing the HU, to be more of an "enlivening" experience. It suits me well, whereas I never really resonated with meditation or prayer. I've been doing this type of spiritual exercise for 30 some years now, and have never looked back.

    If you're at all interested in the HU song, or the concept of contemplation or spiritual exercise, I would recommend a very easy to read introductory book called, The Call of Soul" ($9). It has a CD in the back which has several tracks on how anybody of any religion or spiritual orientation can get benefits from singing the HU. BTW, Hallelujah came from the ancient song of HU.

    I firmly believe we should try to find things of a spiritual nature that suits our own individuality, and not try to force ourselves into something that isn't necessarily compatible with who we are. We're all so different. Life offers us many different things to explore. For me, it felt good to break from some of my earlier religious training, and find something that works much better for me.

    Good luck in whichever direction you decide to go. Who knows, perhaps your difficulties with meditation may turn out to be a blessing.

    Best Regards, Wayne
  16. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    There are a couple points in this post that stuck out to me- and underscore some common misconceptions.

    One is that there were certain expectations about should have been happening. Seeing as how meditation is about fully connecting to whatever is actually happening, anything that pops up is what should have been happening- even unpleasantness, grogginess or pain.

    So to say that meditating is not working because you received a certain experience is not really accurate. Life is the curriculum. If you're present with what life has given you, it's working. If you have a notion about what is supposed to happen, or not happen- you have imposed an agenda, and are getting in the way of yourself and the process.

    Second, meditation is not culturally suited anyplace more than another. It is universal. If you have breath and body you're a perfect candidate for meditation.

    Finally- Meditation is not passive by any stretch. Connecting fully to your life is about as active as one can be. People misperceive meditation as passive because they hear that the goal is to "accept things as they are"- which means to not resist against what already is. However, this does not mean by any stretch to resign yourself to a dismal future. It means cultivating the capacity to see things as they are, accept whatever is here now- because it is already here now- and take wise action moving forward for the best welfare of yourself and others. Not really passive.

    Also- The word spiritual has a lot of baggage IMO- given lots of new age garbage which has been passed off as spirituality. To the extent that life is sacred- whether praying in church- or taking out the trash- connecting to it is a sacred act. You might call that spiritual- but I prefer a less loaded term.
  17. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    My apologies to anybody who may have felt I was somehow denigrating meditation. I wasn't. My apologies to anybody who thought I was unnecessarily using loaded terms. My apologies to anybody who may have felt anything else in my above post was inaccurate or inappropriate. If it was, it was unintentional.

    I found that meditation did not work for me, and if I feel that assessment is accurate. My apologies if this offends or is disconcerting to anybody. I thought I would share my perspectives regarding meditation with another member who found it had effects that were not easy to accept or deal with. That's all.
  18. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    There's nothing to apologize for! Clearly, your intention was not to harm anyone or anything, and only to share your perspective. But there was a good opportunity to clarify common misperceptions about meditation that either:

    a) stop people from meditating in the first place, or

    b) setup false expectations from the get-go which predispose the practitioner to feelings of failure and frustration.

    * On a side note- You might examine what it actually means to say your meditation didn't "work." Generally, that is more a commentary on one's expectations about meditation than it is about one's experience of meditation.
  19. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    This idea of meditation 'working' or not is interesting. There are many many styles of meditation, probably because there are many styles of humans who want to experiment with this path. For me personally, meditation is witnessing. Once I learned to sit under all the chatter and watch it, I lost my reactivity, and with that, a lot of stress. Once I learned to stop paying attention to the chatter, I gained a whole new level of stress-relief. Now I rarely do formal meditation. I'm practicing applying this inner stillness to life in every moment. [Yes, you can start laughing now! Never said I'm successful!]

    Expectations about meditation? I think everybody has them. Enlightenment would be great, whatever it really is. Inner peace? Pretty cool. Lower stress - oh, yeah. Ability to stay calm and aware when my mom/siblings exploded all around me? Priceless.

    Madie
  20. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    Thanks. What you said is interesting. At first you mentioned watching the chatter as your practice, and then said when you stopped paying attention to the chatter you gained stress relief. My sense is that by stopping paying attention to chatter- you actually paid attention to it- but were less involved in it. It's really unrealistic for anyone to think the mind will ever stop chattering- That's what minds do! What is more realistic is beginning to see the pattern of mind unfolding in real time- which allows for the space to not react in habitual ways (which it sounds like you've been doing). Said differently, the process of thinking is more under investigation than the content of thinking. This insight clarifies the futility of believing, acting on, and engaging with compulsive thoughts, which are like impersonal, unreliable weather storms in the mind.

    And yes- over time- the chatter will tend to calm down. However, if one sets that up as an expectation- one is already doomed in some ways to failure- because the ultimate goal is not enlightenment (whatever that means)- it is Awakening- to life as it is unfolding right here and now. Sometimes life right here and now involves chatter and stress.

    The purpose of relaxation techniques are to relax- so it is very easy to quantify success or failure based on objective measures. Meditation on the other hand is not so dualistic. It's purpose is to simply connect. Or as you said- witness.

    You are very correct- everyone has expectations- myself included. But those expectations are part of the same mindstream that creates the stress and chatter. So creating an intention to drop the expectations, and witnessing inevitable expectations when they rise up- is the prefect way to deal with them.

    There are lots of frustrating paradoxes in meditation- that's one of them. If we don't have a goal what the hell are we doing this for? Yet, ironically, the only way to make progress is to commit to focusing right here and now without any expectations. Only in that way can we create enough space to allow something more transformative to happen. And that transformation may well be happening at a level beneath what your judging mind can notice in the short term.

    The best approach is to practice for practice sake. In this way it's an arduous discipline. The attitude we take cultivates the ground of our minds so that new qualities can blossom in their own time, independent of our timetables and desires.

    In this way I would agree that meditation is not for everyone. It takes a certain discipline to let go of striving and allow something to unfold without pushing the river so to speak.

    When we can manage to engage in this way- we might experience transformations over time that are well beyond what our narrow expectations could have ever foreseen.

    That's kind of the magic of the whole thing.

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