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> I start feeling warm and energized and just totally present. That’s when I can really “take in” the effects of meditation I guess. That’s where I experience bright colors, and “psychedelic” experiences, and all that fun stuff.
I don't know what tradition you are following, but in some traditions what you are describing sounds somewhat like one of the dullness traps. As described in The Mind Illuminated:
> The Seduction of Dullness
> Strong dullness can be a seductive trap. States of dullness lead to dream imagery, archetypal visions, pleasurable sensations, paranormal experiences like channeling, past-life recollections, and the overall feeling that something profound is occurring. If you anchor attention on the breath, you can sustain them for a long time without falling asleep. In certain traditions, these states are purposely cultivated. However, when it comes to cultivating attention and awareness, these states are only a hindrance. Remember that visionary experiences, brilliant insights, and any other seemingly profound encounters should all be avoided at this Stage [Stage Four, when you are free from both gross distractions and strong dullness. Dullness no longer leads to drowsiness, nor causes perception of the breath sensations to grow dim or take on hypnagogic distortions]
If those sorts of states are what you want, cool. Just be aware that dullness should be avoided if your intention is to strengthen awareness and keep the overall energy level of the mind high.
Why don't you just buy the book? It's like $16. Here, let me Amazon it for you.
The book will change your life. If you can't find $16 for the book - you likely wouldn't have the dedication to follow through anyway so you shouldn't bother getting it at all.
Consider the idea that you have both attention and awareness and they can both be active while you meditate. Your attention can be on the breath while maintaining peripheral awareness. Think of it like talking with a friend in a coffee shop or cocktail party. You can focus on them but you are still aware of the sounds, sights, and smells around you.
If you are sitting in meditation and you get distracted/shocked by a sound, it means your peripheral awareness was low and the sound pulled your attention. Most teachers will probably tell you to not use earplugs because developing awareness is a step in developing strong mindfulness. And, this helps you develop equanimity towards your present situation.
FWIW, QuietMind is built off the ideas presented in The Mind Illuminated- a pretty incredible manual on meditation I would highly recommend and can help you answer these types of questions.
This is a C+P of a response I made to a similar question:
>You have an emotion that you are calling anxiety (this works with any of them, though). When you first notice that emotion, acknowledge it. Even if it's days, months, or years afterwards. Label it. The more you consciously do this, the more you will unconsciously do it. It will become easier and easier to recognize Anxiety closer and closer to the triggering point. As you do, explore the physical manifestations of this Anxiety. Just because they're subjective and mean different things to different people: What I label as anxiety has a deep, throbbing pain feels just below heart. This could be very different for you, but the important thing is that you start to understand the body's reactions to the emotion, because they always precede their conscious counterparts. This skill will progress, and as it does, you'll be able to pick up on ever-more subtle manifestations that allow you to understand that anxiety is rising within you before it has the ability to take over completely.
>It's the same basic idea behind the breath meditation that we are practicing with TMI. In the first stages, you get distracted and can only notice it retrospectively. So you return to your breath with the intention of noticing it earlier and earlier. And over time it works until the Gross Distractions have become Subtle. In the same way, labeling and resolving to understand the manifestations of an emotion go from enveloping us and taking over our thought-stream and actions, to a more subtle understanding that the emotion is there, but we don't have to engage with it.
There are a few terms that I reference from The Mind Illuminated, but that's the only vocabulary I have to discuss these things. If you would like any further clarifications about any of it, though, please don't hesitate to ask
Also check out The Mind Illuminated ( /r/TheMindIlluminated ). It emphasizes finding joy in the practice and is supposedly more stabilizing than the dry insight Ingram used to advocate.
>I seek to help others through the Bodhisattva Vow to help others reach enlightenment
Indeed, and it is the Noble Way, but remember that the vow of the Bodhisattva is to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings. It is not a vow of altruism, so do not be led astray by your feelings of compassion.
I understand your concern, that in non-attachment we lose our desire to help others; but I promise that is not the case. Non-attachment precludes nothing, compassion and love still shine through. In fact, far more radiantly, they can shine, for without an attachment to how things are or how things should be, compassion and love can more fully pervade all action and all speech. When we act with a pure mind, that is how we can benefit the world.
Furthermore, full awakening is not a requirement either; stream-entry is not a lofty goal, and will be enough for the purpose you seek to fulfill. It does not require becoming a nun or a monk, and is attainable if you are diligent (it all is, in fact), and so, to that end, I recommend this book, for its contemporary language and ease of understanding. It helped me in my meditation practice, and perhaps it may help yours, too.
You helped me. Great insights. If you haven't caught wind of it yet, I recommend checking out Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated. In my patchwork quilt of things that are working, this is the stitches. All the best on your journey.
I'm really sorry to hear that.
In addition to meditation practice, I would also suggest cultivating the right thoughts/mindset; Enjoying with family, and friends. I found this book really good: the mind illuminated
For those of you who have the old edition, the newer edition of the book has a foreword that can be read on the Amazon page.
The first few paragraphs of the Introduction was all it took to reel me in. To explain, I need to provide a little backstory:
There are tons of research papers highlighting exactly what the benefits of meditation are, ranging from stress reduction to mood regulation and more, many of them mentioned on page xiv. In fact, that was my initial motivation for starting a practice several years back, but rather quickly I became confused by the often contradictory instructions online and all the Pali and Sanskrit words everywhere. I ended up doing basic samatha practice, but my motivation waned at times because I didn't have any clue about training the mind. After a while, I settled into a state of strong dullness and had no clue that it wasn't what I was looking for. I remember wondering why I felt spaced out all the time after my sessions.
One of the reasons I no longer frequent the meditation subreddit is because with hindsight I recognize there is a lot of bad advice there from people who don't know any better. I'll share a rather humorous example: I recently read a thread where a guy was clearly experiencing dullness/drowsiness, and the only thing making him aware of this was the fact that his own flatulence startled him to wakefulness. Well, the top few responses were just jokes and everyone who answered him seriously gave bad advice because they didn't know any better.
I just remember thinking that if I didn't have TMI I would've been stuck in dullness forever, probably. I wouldn't have gotten out of it with the help of that sub. So you can imagine my feelings of relief to find this book, and to have my gut feeling be validated.
I think overall there are four key points in the Introduction:
Through meditation it is possible to train your mind and to ultimately achieve awakening.
There is (or, was) a strong need for a clear map of the process because with meditation's rise in popularity, fewer and fewer people are even aware of the potential for Awakening through meditation.
Both samatha and vipassana are necessary for Awakening.
"Brief episodes of samatha can occur long before you become an adept practitioner. Insight can happen at any time as well. This means a temporary convergence of samatha and vipassana is possible and can lead to Awakening at any stage."
I find that last point in particular to be a tremendously powerful idea- one that I've used to great success during my sits. I have a problem with being impulsive. Thanks to meditation it's much less of an issue, but I'm not able to always maintain the long-term view. Being able to remind myself before every sit that if there is sufficient cooperation among the sub-minds Awakening can happen at any moment - that's a very important concept for me. It makes it much easier to cultivate a joyful attitude.
I just finished this book, https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrating-Mindfulness-ebook/dp/B01INMZKAQ
I strongly recommend it!
I think what you're missing is personal transformation. So my answer is meditation. You don't have to buy into anyone's woo, it's applied neuroscience (and becoming more so, as scientists study advanced meditators).
A highly-regarded meditation manual is The Mind Illuminated by neuroscientist John Yates.
An interesting-looking book on the benefits of meditation, by scientists who've studied it for decades, is Altered Traits. I've just started reading it but their focus is on the things for which there's solid evidence.
Quoting Yates' book:
> When life is lived in a fully conscious way, with wisdom, we can eventually overcome all harmful emotions and behavior. We won't experience greed, even in the face of lack. Nor will we have ill will, even when confronted by aggression and hostility. When our speech and action comes from a place of wisdom and compassion, they will always produce better results than when driven by greed and anger.
> All this is possible because true happiness comes from within, which means we can always find joy, in both good times and bad.
If you're looking for a practice system that you can start with right away, The Mind Illuminated is probably the best one-stop guide for beginners available. The book teaches the meditative development of relaxation and joy. This type of practice, called samatha or calm abiding, is what you want for healing emotional disturbances in the mind. It's also a prerequisite for awakening.
The Awakening Body: Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life, by Reginald Ray, may be helpful for the specific issues you're dealing with. I have found the author's somatic[body awareness]-based meditation instructions very useful for processing negative mindstates in a healthy way.
For more advanced practice instructions and exercises pointing directly to awakening, I recommend Seeing That Frees by Rob Burbea and
Shift Into Freedom by Loch Kelly.
/r/streamentry is a solid community of practitioners meditating to reach Buddhist awakening. Not all of the advice and theory discussed there is accurate, and in general forum advice should be taken with a grain of salt, but it can be a useful sounding board.
Meditation really can be healing and transformative. If your depression and anger have roots in emotional trauma, I can also recommend some forms of therapy that are designed to resolve trauma and would mesh well with a meditation practice. Feel free to PM me.
Okay, life has sickness, aging, death and a load of pain in it, these are all inevitable. The suffering/dissatisfaction attached to these and the rest of the "negative" things in life we'd like to avoid( but have no control over what lot we get) can be dissolved, one can get very good at dissolving it, so good the brain stops producing it and experience takes on the form of relaxation. non-reactivity, and ever expansive awareness as its natural state resulting in a powerful consciousness and a deep sense of peace and well-being imbued into your entire experience.
This is made possible by the brain's neuroplasticity and it's cognitive feedback, the brain can learn and optimize itself to be more efficient, use less energy, and produce significantly less stress for this experience.
Now all of these changes happen on a progressive spectrum of time/experience, the greater the amount of this time/experience that is spent practicing the more deeply influenced the proceeding time/experience of ones life becomes by this.
You've tasted the very surface. One can get to complete and utter relaxation. A state of non-reactivity or equanimity in which one can observe experience impersonally and learn to see reality without the conceptual overlays of negativity, to be able to take life on as what it is rather than what our thoughts say what it is.
To get directly to this state one must learn to completely let go of all effort. On the progressive journey towards mastering concentration meditation one develops all of the mental skills necessary to be able to let go of all effort. More time spent in this stillness grants one compoundingly greater insights which allow jumps in ones progress, shifts in perspective that slowly show you how all of your internal reactions and conceptual overlays on experience were absolutely unnecessary, completely optional and the source of all your perceived problems/suffering.
It really doesn't take more than a few months to be able to get access(with proper guidance) to these states and start exercising them and increasing time being able to be spent in them in daily life. This is when life becomes meditation and it just does itself. The fast track to enlightenment. I've personally experienced virtually a complete loss of dissatisfaction with any part of experience and a deep lasting peace that began gradually and started expanding and solidifying into the permanent part of my experience it is now. There are still the products of my previous conditioning, bad habits and reactions that on occasion pull me in and fool me for a few minutes till I realize the silly mental prison I compulsively created. The clarity of perception allows much more efficient corrections as I become more aware of these habits and my brain will simply weed them out and continue relaxing into what it previously tensed up against. The process of learning and expanding is said to be endless. Life has become a smooth enjoyable ride in which I can delight in the ups and downs as my only job is to learn, adapt and most importantly relax.
The best guide around on developing concentration is "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa. It outlines the entire journey from beginning to complete mastery of concentration taking all the guesswork out. /r/streamentry is a community of people on their own journey to complete contentment with a growing number people that have achieved similar or greater results than me. The sidebar there is chockfull of info.
For a slightly longer and more detailed explanation of the path check out my other comment:
You can go as deep or as shallow as you want with this to get however much benefit you like, but it becomes an effortless passion as you reap more and more benefits.
Lastly no, don't set silence of the mind as a goal. That comes as a natural side-effect of getting better at letting go of effort. No effort means no reactivity. Your breath will guide you deeper and deeper into states of less effort. Make sure you have at least 20 good minutes in/beyond those deep relaxed states as thats when the really productive meditation happens. You'll get better and faster at getting to this stillness as well. Once you can engage it like a muscle for momentary bursts of stillness you can practice using it and expanding your time in it in waking life. A place holder for this is the attempt to relax and pacify the mind on the breath during difficult times, it's increasingly more helpful as you get better on the mat. Also as you suggested in your other comment, maintaining awareness of breathe/footsteps (active meditation), helps you learn to extend these abilities to your life by helping you remain calmer and less reactive. You can soon find it's effortless and automatic. If you can understand this you can see there is no difference on or off the mat, only how much stimuli there exists to pull is into reactivity, the habit of non-reactivity dissolves the difference as you can be internally still and speak interact and work anywhere your mind is.
Also this video and the following 2 parts may be helpful.
You asked for how to work on the real problem, this is the only problem which spawns everything else you see. Practice, patience and a radical confrontation and relaxation into every aspect of life is the only solution.
The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Mind Illuminated is all you need. Pure, unadulterated, effective meditation practices, extracted from the the busy hubbub that Buddhism as a religion can sometimes be.
I don't want to dissuade you from doing a meditation practice that resonates for you, but have you read "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa? It provides detailed instructions for reaching the higher stages of meditation and attaining Insight (including stream entry). Culadasa says that this is all doable while leading a normal, non-monastic life: maybe 1-2 hours of meditation per day, and occasional retreats lasting a week or so.
Here's an early version of the overview chapter, which describes the 10 stages of meditation. Note that the book itself goes into about 50x more detail!
Many people have succeeded with his methods while holding a normal job, etc. Check out r/themindilluminated and r/streamentry to learn more.
It is not online. [link]