- Getting easily distracted is normal. Don't set a goal of never getting distracted: it's unrealistic and counterproductive. I've spent hundreds of hours meditating, and still get distracted (albeit more briefly). Instead, feel good when you notice you're distracted. The goal is to train yourself to notice and return to the sensation sooner, with positive feedback.
- Don't try to block out everything except what you're meditating on. That should be your main focus, but you should let yourself be aware of other things in the background.
The Mind Illuminated has some good practical advice in the early chapters. I can't vouch for the later chapters.
I've found this book (https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrati...), at least the earlier stages to be quite helpful in regaining control of my thoughts.
check out this book:
The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness https://www.amazon.com/dp/1501156985/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_Ec08CbJBWYWDS
i just started reading it, seems legit and exactly what you’re looking for.
I will second TMI (the book).
Edit: links to the books below
MIPE: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0861719069/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr= (can find old version online for free)
Check Culadasa’s book ”The Mind Illuminated”, has excellent advice regarding meditation. The author is a neuroscientist and a Buddhist lay practioner.
Yep, I was that way too. Didn't know how to gauge my meditation progress and didn't know what pitfalls to watch out for. One thing I did know was that I was motivated to make some deep changes in my life, and I knew intuitively that meditation could help. A friend suggested a book called The Mind Illuminated, so I spent $18 and started with Stage 1 in the book. Almost a year has passed, and I've been doing it daily since then. It was/is EXACTLY what I was looking for and needing. It gives you very detailed instructions for each of the 10 stages, and there's a sub-reddit forum just for it. You can ask questions on any of the stages and there are friendly people there to answer them. https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/
Might be just what you need as well. Check it out. Take care! :-)
You could give this a try: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrating-Mindfulness/dp/1501156985
As I understand it, focusing attention on a meditation object is a way of stabilizing the mind so that we can clearly observe both what attention is focused on as well as what's going on in awareness at the same time. It's similar to what happens with vision where if your eyes are moving around, peripheral vision is not clear. But if you focus your eyes on an object or fixed spot, you'll also be able to see what's around the spot of focus in peripheral vision. With practice, peripheral vision can become both broader and clearer. The same sort of thing can happen with attention and awareness.
This is a set of skills that develops over time with consistent practice. As stability of attention and depth of awareness develop, layers of the mind become accessible that we previously had no idea existed, including jhana, insight, and awakening.
My understanding is based on what I've read in The Mind Illuminated (subreddit r/TheMindIlluminated), which offers a progressive sequence of exercises and stages mapping the typical progress of a meditator as meditation practice develops.
I hope this is helpful and best wishes for your practice.
It might help to read some more detailed books about meditation so that you know more about what you're doing, what mistakes to try to recognize, and what milestones to expect.
I like The Mind Illuminated because it provides a lot of detailed information about what to expect and what to do about it.
I'd suggest looking at The Mind Illuminated. It describes the difference between awareness and attention as being very much like what I think you're saying about awareness and focus. (Except that I'd say the opposite of awareness is unconsciousness. :)
According to the TMI model, attention is a subset of awareness. Awareness contains all of our experience simultaneously (but not in great detail) while attention focuses on one aspect of experience at a time and shows it in higher resolution.
TMI describes ten stages of development we can progress through in developing the clarity and brightness of awareness and our ability to control attention and keep it focused where we want. So it does describe how to develop both awareness and attention, or focus.
It's really simple to start out:
1) Devote 10 minutes of each day to meditation time. Early morning is best, as your mind is fresh and not as distracted.
2) Find a quiet/non-distracting place to sit in a comfortable position. Legs crossed on the floor or in a chair are fine. You want to keep your back straight to help keep from falling asleep.
3) Focus on the sensation of your breath, wherever it is strongest. Typically this is the tip of the nose, or in the nostril, but chest can work as well.
Your mind will become distracted with work, worries, thoughts of food, etc. When this happens, congratulate yourself on noticing that it happened, and bring your attention back to your breath.
That's it! It blows my mind how developing concentration can have such a profound impact on your life.
Here are some good resources for those interested:
The book is called The Mind Illuminated, and is an absolutely fantastic book on meditation. Super cheap too: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrati...
The Mind Illuminated (a book) talks about the difference between attention and awareness in a very similar way.
Was the book The Science of Enlightenment, by Shinzen Young? There are a couple of books on Amazon that could be called "The Science of Meditation", and I don't have copies of them, but if it was the book by Shinzen, notice that when he mentions the dark night, he's talking about particular meditation techniques that have to do with attending to impermanence and emptiness. He mentions it in Chapter 9, "The Power of Gone".
As other commenters have said, if you stick to concentration practices (stable attention on a single object), it's unlikely that you'll ever have an issue with the unpleasant mind states that can arise from more insight-oriented practice (i.e., vipassana, which involves noting each sensation as it arises, so the attention is jumping from from sensation to sensation, not staying stable on a single object of focus).
Another good book is The Mind Illuminated, by John Yates. It provides a progressive approach based on developing a solid foundation of concentration skill so that if you ever do get to the point of developing insight into impermanence and emptiness, the psychological impact will be cushioned by the depth of concentration skill and equanimity you will have already developed.
The bottom line is that you can feel comfortable about meditating to calm yourself as long as you do concentration type meditation and don't venture into "insight" practice (also called "noting" or "vipassana").
>I feel upset that I read that passage and also that I continued to self-sabotage and indulge in the fear by incessantly scrolling reddit.
Another possible perspective is that by reading The Science of Enlightenment and then following up by researching the dark night on reddit, you have informed yourself about a potential threat that you might have otherwise stumbled into inadvertently. Now that you have some awareness and knowledge about it, you know how to avoid it.
Be well and I hope your practice continues to serve you well.
Doing it on your own without a teacher isn't the best way to go since there are a lot of bad habits and cul-de-sacs that you can fall into. So if you're going to do it without an in-person teacher or group it's a good idea to have a clearly defined system and a way to be able to get feedback from a teacher. There are two that I'd recommend you research and see if they'd be a good fit for you.
The Mind Illuminated is a book that focuses on concentration-style meditation. If you want to do breath meditation and only want to focus on one style of meditation, this is a good choice. The book is very detailed but is set up so that you only have to read as far as your practice has progressed. There's a Reddit community (/r/TheMindIlluminated) where you can ask questions and get responses from other practitioners and teachers.
Unified Mindfulness is a system that's more focused on mindfulness-style meditation, but it has options for concentration styles along with a wide array of other meditation types. If you like being able to explore and choose different objects of meditation and different techniques, this would be a good fit. There's a less active Reddit community (/r/UnifiedMindfulness), a youtube channel with a lot of information, and a free online course that you can take.
I'm currently walking along this path and can recommend these books -
John Yates - The Mind Illuminated
Sam Harris - Waking Up
Owen Flanagan - The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized
I invite you to try meditation. This book could very well save your life:
It will help you to gain the awareness that the things you are placing so much importance on are not really all that important. It's never too late, my friend.
Here's where I would start......and end. :-)
Notice the difference between attention and awareness. Awareness includes everything you can hear, see, and feel. Attention is focused on one thing. To keep from getting distracted when thoughts arise, internal awareness has to get trained to the point that it notices thoughts as they begin to appear and keeps them in the background so the attention can stay focused on the meditation object. To do this, you have to hold and renew the intention over and over to stay with the meditation object and let thoughts come and go in the background of awareness. It takes a while.
Also, it's important to celebrate the moment when awareness reminds you that you've been wandering rather than beating up on your self for having wandered in the first place. If mind wandering is experienced as negative, your motivation to meditate will eventually run out. By celebrating the recovery, you shift away from negative reinforcement to positive reinforcement, your experience is more pleasant, and your motivation will be more likely to stay strong.
The Mind Illuminated explains this approach and provides step by step instruction on how to do it.
Do you know anything about the progress of insight (PoI)? If not, I would recommend reading the next pages of that link until you get to the end of the PoI. That will give you a brief overview of things, and then you can decide what you want to do.
If you want to continue progressing and getting supramundane insights, then the next thing to do is check out Mastering The Core Teachings of The Buddha, by Daniel Ingram. This is a must-read for anyone on this path, BUT it is well known that Ingram gets a bit "excited" and exaggerates things at times, so bear that in mind. Either way, once again, it is a must-read, at the very least, Chapter 30 - The Progress of Insight. Once you read this, you will have a much better idea of what everything is all about, and what to expect. Also bear in mind, this book is about Vipassana meditation, so if your practice is different, there will be some confusion at times, but you will still go through the majority of experiences in a similar way.
Another thing to do is check out some of the more "serious" subreddits: