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Is using Guided Meditation tapes sort of "cheating"?

Discussion in 'Mind, Body & Spirit' started by CatB, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Ok, maybe "cheating" is a silly word for it, but I have recently made a personal commitment to myself to live my daily life more mindfully, as well as begin a daily formal meditation practice.

    I know that focusing on the breath is a good way to begin formal meditation but then I also read somewhere that "mistaking a focus on the breath for meditation is like fixating on the quality of your hiking boots, and not really being awake of the natural world you are inhabiting"! (Tara Brach).

    So, that has left a newbie like me wondering, "then how the heck DO you meditate?????".

    I thought using some guided meditation might help, but I don't want to shortchange myself of the experience of learning how to do this in a way that will bring about the most personal growth, even if it is a bit of a struggle in the beginning.

    Does this make sense? could someone please share their thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Cat
     
  2. brozen

    brozen Member

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    Hi Cat,

    I used to have similar ideas to you on the use on CD's for meditation. But since becoming more experienced with it I have learned that there is no ONE way to meditate for best results.

    I would think of it this way. Whether you learn to ride with training wheels or not, in the end you will know how to ride. Any 'bad techniques' you may have picked up along the way will become realized and can be remedied with the more experience you gain.

    We are all different, and it may be so that we have methods that are better for us individually. Since we can't know what's best until we try it, we just have to try it!(But avoid switching methods without giving your chosen method a good couple months of practice.)

    My interpretation of that Tara Brach quote, is that focusing on your breath is the METHOD to meditation but it is not meditation in itself. She isn't saying that focus on breath can't lead to a meditative state. But a common problem with the method is that people will sit there just focusing very intently on their breath, thinking WHY ARENT I BUDDHA YET! lol. The best advice I have seen is to focus 'gently' on the breath, observe the breath, don't focus completely on it. This will make sense the more you practice.

    Always relax and enjoy your practice.
    Feel free to question anything I've said, I'm sure others will have some good opinions as well.

    Welcome to the community. PEACE
     
  3. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Thanks for the great reply, much appreciated. :)

    I would like to ask you this, though, regarding the statement you made about not "switching methods". If I do better when meditating twice per day, but in shorter time frames (like 10-15 minutes each), would there be any reason I should not or could not do 1 unguided and 1 guided?
     
  4. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

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    Hi catB,


    As a new meditator, sometimes it is good to get some clear instructions; there are a plethora of methods and reasons out there in cyberspace which can cause conflicting direction.

    I would suggest trying the free meditation course available from the owner of this forum.

    Project Meditation™ - Free meditation for everyone

    This is a very good start and one option that may suit you.

    As Brozen correctly points out focusing on the breath is a concentration method to reach a meditative state.
    Two smaller mediations of 10-15 minutes would be a perfect start. One guided and one not would also be a good option. That way you are using the guided meditation as a crutch to lean on, although there is nothing wrong with guided meditations.

    After a while try and find a more natural method that suits you and stick with it for a month or two, that way you can gauge suitability of that method. Meditation is a wonderful choice, but not a quick-fix, it takes time but the results are bountiful.

    The best tip I was ever given was to simply “turn up each day”

    Peace :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2011
  5. CatB

    CatB Member

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    I like that, thanks! It reminds me of how I approach fitness- everyone wants the "magic pill" but the only magic is in what happens when you are consistent.

    May I ask, how long have you been meditating? Did you ever use guided meditation as a way to "break in"?
     
  6. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

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    Hi CatB,
    I have been meditating for just less than 6 years, I have never used guided meditations as such, but I have listened to them while relaxing in the evening, more out of curiosity. :)

    I use the breath, it is a simple technique. In this form of meditation, I simply follow my breath. I use no mantra, no prayer word, just simply and quietly follow my breath.

    How it works for me –
    By simply sitting there noticing my breath, in, out, in, out. The only thing that matters in the beginning is following my breath. If something distracts me, I simply come back to my breath. When thoughts arise to the surface, I notice them, but I don’t reply to them, I just let them disperse and go back to my breath. As the thoughts diminish my mind will get quiet and still inside. My mind will begin to go to those deeper levels. It is here I can let my breath go and just be aware.

    Here I find a deep peace.

    Peace :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2011
  7. CatB

    CatB Member

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    How do you know or recognize when your mind goes to deeper levels? (Sorry if this seems like a ridiculous question).
     
  8. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

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    Hi CatB,

    A good question, which I’ll try and answer, but I fear there may be contradictions.

    Meditation involves finding a balance, a particular point at which your awareness is watching but you as the ego is not. During our day, we are probably only familiar with two states of mind, the busy stressed work mind and the lethargic rather dull sitting watching TV mind. We normally fluctuate between these two states throughout the day.

    Basically while in meditation, we aim to overcome these fluctuations by using techniques to shift our mind away from a state of unrest, but not so far that we fall asleep. In other words, we want to reach a point where we are feeling relaxed and yet fully aware. This is the point I mentioned.
    The paradox is that it doesn’t mean we stop thinking, or are in the much talked about bliss and all our worries have dropped away. We still have thoughts, ideas and emotions popping up. But at this point, we are no longer troubled by them. We are aware of their presence, but nothing more.

    By point I don’t mean an exact location or an exact state, it’s very difficult to explain. It’s not detachment, it more of an awareness of being. There is no body, no breath, but awareness knows that the body is there and the breath is there, but it does care because they are always there. Sorry if that’s confusing.

    The main reason why people give up is they fail to find this mental equilibrium during meditation, not understanding that we don’t have to find it, it already there, but is obscured by the mist of thoughts, worries and emotions.

    But if we can’t find it does this mean that we’re not meditating! No!
    You see, every meditation session moves you closer and closer to this point and is never done in vain, irrespective of how unrewarding it may seem. Even if you spend most of your meditation time trying to locate this point, pulling yourself back from interruption or dullness again and again to your chosen focus, which could be mantra or breath or anything else, I promise that it is not time wasted, the awareness that you’re off-track and bringing yourself back to your focus is a vital part of meditation. Sometimes, we will find it almost effortless to locate this point. At other times you’ll wonder whether you’re the same person that meditated yesterday. I promise when you do become familiar with this state of relaxed alertness, you will know, although it’s a different state for everyone, and there is no timeframe either.

    The basic mistake beginners make is pushing too HARD or TRYING to reach this state. The harder you force yourself to meditate, or the more you try to hold on to your relaxed awareness, the further you are pushing yourself away from it. To meditate is to stop trying and let go into a state of nothingness (as it is known). Remember it’s always there and always will be and requires you to stop looking to find it.

    I hope that hasn’t confused you too much, I have probably created more questions than I have answered; also please understand these are only my points of view.:)


    Peace :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2011
  9. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Karmoh-

    I cannot tell you what a beautiful, insightful reply this was...and very timely, given that my meditation session last night resembled something like what you described above. I chose to not use a guided meditation, instead just following my breath. At some point, when I thought I was focused enough, I "let the breath go", aware of it, but no longer letting it be the prime focal point.

    a few thoughts did occasionally peek in, but I saw them, acknowledged them, and then let them drift by, like clouds drifting over the sky. I went into the meditation with a horrible earache and while my ear hurts right now, the morning after, it is amazing to me how I was almost not even aware I had ears during that sitting time!

    I have meditated enough times to know that today's session may not be the same and may prove less "light and warm", but I also know that no sitting time is wasted time.

    Truly, I will be printing out the reply you wrote, as that really spoke to me. It is difficult for a Type A, high achiever like myself to not get the "desired or immediate" results from every sitting, but I know to expect that will only leave me more frustrated and further away from my goals of becoming a calm, peaceful, more aware being.

    Thank you again for all your kindness :)

    Cat
     
  10. peaceandkarma

    peaceandkarma Member

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    Meditation CDs and tapes are very useful and if they help you relax and meditate and work for you, then they are a good thing. Its all down to individual choice and what works best for you.
     
  11. meryem

    meryem Member

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    I agree with your point; it all depends upon what suits you. Pick the best option that matches your fancies. Some people find meditation easy with mantra while others with breathing etc. Like in this case OP finds it confusing with CD thing as it appears initially.
     
  12. 100877jamie

    100877jamie Member

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    Hi Karmoh, just wanted to say this has really given a beginner like me some excellent advice. I thank you for this:):)
     
  13. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Karmoh,

    Have you ever experimented with using Brain Wave Entrainment?
     
  14. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

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    Hi CatB,

    Yes I have, but only half-heartedly. When I started meditation 6 years ago, I went through stages. Buddhist styles, mantra etc. But the breath method I described to you worked the best. A couple of years back I came across entrainment by accident. Did some bad research and got caught by the hype and purchased an 8 week course, consisting of 8 entrainment tracks, one each week. This was going to change my life.....nothing happened. :mad:;)


    I then went back to my normal mediation practice. After a while the entrainment thing nagged at me to give it another go, I found a simple beats only, no music overlay. I did normal meditation in the morning and used this track at night when everyone had gone to bed, but after a few months my vanilla morning meditations were wonderful and the evening ones just didn’t interest me. So I flagged the entrainment and just went with what I felt was right.

    It wasn’t until last year that I found this site and the wonderful people. I have been tempted to try Lifeflow but things are going so well with my normal meditations I loath to change. :)



    But from what I have learnt from the genuine people on this site, I have no doubt that Lifeflow works.


    Peace :)
     
  15. Bryan555

    Bryan555 Member

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    Hi Cat B. Always nice to "chat" with you.

    One point about breath, if I could add something that might help. My meditation method is very similar Karmoh's: no mantra, just concentration on breath...and, in my case, a visual focus on the so-called "third eye" area.

    What I have discovered is that, as I get deeper into meditation, my breath changes "texture" or "viscosity", quite notably. It goes from being quite coarse, to a much "finer" and "lighter" texture: kind of like the difference between coarse sand and fine sand.

    I have always called the finer version "breath energy", and I really love when it arrives. Like most things in meditation, it is not something that can be sought. It just "shows up", like a very welcome visitor.

    Recently, through research on "mudras", I have discovered that my "breath energy" is probably what many refer to as "prana". But I don't think names are really important, or actually very interesting. "Breath energy" works fine for me.

    I just wanted to alert you to this. Because, if you are going to follow the path of concentration on breath, you are also very probably going to receive a very pleasant surprise visit from my highly-refined friend.

    Keep posting. Your journey is very interesting.:)
     
  16. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Bryan-

    first off, what a wonderful description for your change of breath! I think I have experienced something quite close to this, but only a few times, when using BWE.

    More importantly, thank you for your kind words and post. As Karmoh and yourself have both mentioned here and in previous posts, I need to fully absorb the fact that this state cannot be "sought after". this is a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around, since I am a typical Type A, who is aggressive, tightly-wound, persistent, reactive and worst of all, impatient! I am wanting something different for myself, a less reactive life, and beyond that, a spiritual peace that I long for.

    It is clear to me that meditation can bring about some amazing life changes, as long as you don't go looking for them, expecting them or wanting them too much :) Hard to absorb that, especially for a newbie and personality A like myself. But I have been lurking on this forum long enough and received such warm replies from people like you and Karmoh and others that to give up before I have only begun feels like truly cheating myself.

    So thank you for this observation, the kind replies, and I look forward to conversing with you more and more as questions and observations arise in this lifelong journey I have embarked on :)

    Cat
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  17. Bryan555

    Bryan555 Member

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    Hi Cat B...

    In this case, I think your own words have said it best: You should definitely NOT give up, and you certainly WOULD be cheating yourself.

    You are very clearly giving yourself (your "Self") great advice. So it would be a good idea to take it. :cool:

    Stay in touch...
     
  18. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

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    Hi Bryan & CatB,

    Earlier I mentioned the Buddhist influence in my early practice. One particular Thai Forest Monk, who incidentally is English and is the Abbot of a Western Australian Monastery, His name is Ajahn Brahmavamso; he wrote a wonderful book on meditation called Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond. Prior to that he wrote articles and transcribed his talks, still does. He also posts some wonderful videos on You Tube.

    BuddhistSocietyWA's Channel - YouTube

    Bryan, when you mentioned your stages of meditation especially "breath energy" it reminded me of the book above and this article

    Ajahn Brahm -Cultivate Tranquility, Harvest Insight

    Ajahn Brahm, likes to call his version the beautiful breath.

    Peace :)
     
  19. Bryan555

    Bryan555 Member

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    Thank you, Karmoh...

    I'm kind of speechless. I do meditation in a vaccuum -- (for better or worse, I guess) -- and really have little concept of "theory". Without this website, I would never have heard of mudras or pranas, etc. And now, you basically just hand me an exact description of the experience I was trying to describe.

    It is precisely as the monk wrote: "It changes from a coarse, ordinary breath, to a very smooth and peaceful "beautiful breath." The mind recognizes this beautiful breath and delights in it. The mind experiences a deepening of contentment. It is happy just to be there watching this beautiful breath. The mind does not need to be forced. It stays with the beautiful breath by itself."

    Yes, exactly. That is what happens, and how my mind reacts. But now that I know it's a signpost, of a sort, it is somewhat disorienting. We all know that we are, figuratively, on the "path" of meditation. But it's surprising to find that you are, quite literally, at a precise point on that path. And then to be handed a roadmap to the future: to be told which steps still await.

    It's a lot to digest. In the meantime, please know how grateful I am for you passing this along. I have read it once, and will read it several times again. It is very, very helpful to me.

    Wow :D
     
  20. CatB

    CatB Member

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    Karmoh-

    This book you mentioned, Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond, do you think that might be a good match for someone new to this all, like myself? I love reading and am always looking for ways to read about the things I am most interested in (like meditation!).

    I will also check out those videos...thank you kindly for posting the link :)
     

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