This section is dedicated to questions on Mindfulness Meditation from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can ask it here: Contact Stephen
thankyou and take care,
Mahasi Labelling Method
QUESTION from Dream: That's a very interesting technique. Thanks for sharing, Sir! So now I wonder: when to come back to the primary meditation object (rising/falling) ? I mean, If we go "thinking thinking", or "dreaming dreaming", we could stay dreaming, no? So there must be some desire to return to the primary object of attention? Or it doesn't matter if we keep 'getting distrated', as long as we follow them like this with labeling? Very interesting method. I will try this tonight, thank you! Also: what is the exact name of this method?
ANSWER:Hi Dream, very good questions
The primary object of meditation, the rising and falling movement of the abdomen is your 'home base', this has a few purposes
1. To build up concentration
2. To sharpen our mindfulness through tuning into the changing sensations
3. To allow us to 'know' when our attention has moved
4. To give us an object to cultivate our attention on when we have no secondary object.
"When to come back to the primary meditation object (rising/falling)?" - When the secondary object no longer attracts your attention.
"If we go "thinking thinking", or "dreaming dreaming", we could stay dreaming, no?" - No, we cannot be lost in the dream and label it at the same time. The very act of noticing that you were lost in the dream is mindfulness and in that moment you are free from its grip.
“Or it doesn't matter if we keep 'getting distracted', as long as we follow them like this with labelling?” - If you turn your attention towards the distraction and label it using the experience of it as your object of meditation it then ceases to be a distraction.
“Also: what is the exact name of this method?” - Mahasi Sayadaw Satipatthana Vipassana
Answers in detail.
When our attention moves from the primary object of meditation it is being drawn away by the relationship we have with the secondary object (distraction). In this case the secondary object my be that your mind has wandered off thinking. At first you will not know that your attention has wandered off and will be totally lost within the content of the thought, it will become your reality..At some stage, depending on the strength of your Mindfulness that has been cultivated, you will realise that you have been lost in thought.
This realising is Mindfulness. The moment you realise that you have been lost you label "thinking, thinking". This will separate you from the experience so that you can observe it. Do not place any interest in the 'content' of the thought, instead focus on your relationship to it, what does the thinking 'feel' like. Every thought is powered by an emotional charge, what is driving your thinking, your dreaming?
If you notice that your were judging then label it "judging, judging", wanting label it "wanting, wanting", planning label it "planning, planning, angry label it "angry, angry". When you focus on experience of thinking or dreaming itself, rather then the never ending story of what the thought / dream was about, then the thinking will usually dissolve because it no longer is being fed by the energy of your participation. When it dissolves then notice what it 'feels' like to be free from thought.
It is at this point, when the relationship to the secondary object, or the object itself has dissolved, and nothing else is drawing your attention, that you return to the primary object of meditation. With practice the mind will automatically return to the primary object when the secondary object is no longer drawing your attention.
thankyou for watching the video
When to Use Labels?
QUESTION from Dream: Thank you very much for this wonderful and in-depth answer to my questions! I'm starting to understand it a bit better. I tried a session. It was good :)
What I noticed is: many times I am in the "rising, falling, rising, falling", just focussing on the breath. (am trained in this, been meditating for years like this, counting and stuff) So I'm at "rising, falling" and then I hear in the distance a car drive by, BUT I'm not distracted by it. I keep very focused on the rising falling. The car, I hear in the background but it doesn't grab my attention at all. Is this OK? Or should i be "hearing hearing" in any case? I just kept 'rising and falling' and stayed focused on the breath. Is not being distracted by the 'distractions' fine too in Vipassana?
Thanks for all your wonderful work, Maestro! You are a true Sensei!!
ANSWER:- In the beginning if the distraction does not pull your attention away from the primary object then it is just enough to ‘know’ it with bare awareness. You do not need to label every experience; just the ones that you wish to clarify. It is only necessary to label when your attention moves.
- Once your practice deepens then you will start to notice that for you to hear the sound, your mind had to move, it was just so fast that you didn’t notice. Your attention was jumping between the ‘rising and falling’ movements and the sound. This will only become clear once the concentration and mindfulness have developed to a deeper level.
- Something else to consider. How did you know it was a car?
Didn’t you have your eyes closed? There is a whole process of contact and perception plus proliferation to be explored in just the hearing of the sound. Vispassana is a wisdom practice; the wisdom arises through observing and understanding what is really going on. In your hearing of the sound there was a process of the sound striking your ear drum – contact between the two – pleasant or unpleasant feeling tone –liking or disliking of that feeling – desire to move towards or away from that – interpretation of the sound being a car – the story about the sound being a car not dragging your attention away etc. There is a full process going on.
In reality you cannot know the car – just the sound and your interpretation of it, the car itself cannot be experienced.thankyou for your intelligent questions,
Falling Asleep Meditating?
QUESTION from Dream: Lately, I've been falling asleep in meditation (while sitting) by going so deep that I actually lose consciousness. Is that bad? Anyway I feel very refreshed and recharged and inspired when i "come back" It feels like connecting to the Source.
ANSWER: Hi Dream, meditation is a balancing act of too much and too little effort.If we put in too much effort we will become mentally restless, too little effort and we will fall into a sleep like state or drift asleep. The deeper the practice develops to the finer the balance of the energy becomes, it is like walking on a tight rope with a balancing pole, as the concentration increases the rope we are walking on becomes thinner and its harder to balance. The ends of balancing pole is effort and no effort, the middle of the pole is Mindfulness, Mindfulness knows what each end of the pole is doing.
In your practice you are becoming more concentrated but you are not putting enough effort in being aware of your meditation object, your energy levels then are dropping too low, your awareness of the object then becomes dull and you slip into a sleep like state with little awareness of anything. Yes you will feel refreshed when you come out of this state and if you chose to it will not harm you to go there for a rest, it is better then sleep. But it is a dead end and will stop your meditation practice from deepening and also from you reaching more meaningful experiences and depths of understanding.
What you need to do is put more effort in being mindful of your meditation object and the balance of energy, keep it clearly in the centre of your attention, in this way you will polish your awareness, create more energy and your clarity will increase.
Stress & Meditation
QUESTION from Blinkin: Thank you so much for this video. I've been under stress nobody should ever have to experience...I used to meditate and it helped me. I don't know why I stopped meditating. Maybe it's because it is work. It really is! But it's such good work. I really enjoyed this video...I want so much to heal...I need discipline to do this. This video helps me to remember that there is so much hope to get better. =).
ANSWER: I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing stress, it isn't a very nice experience and I am confident that if you give yourself the space through regular meditation practice that you can be free of it.
Stress arises in a mind that hasn't been exercised regularly in Mindfulness. This is the ability to know what we are experiencing in each moment, if Mindfulness is weak then it leads to the lowering of awareness causing mental confusion and obsessive thinking. Meditation is an exercise of the mind and like any other exercise if it is made part of our regular routine it increases our mental health and makes us feel happier.
Don't take the feelings of stress to be a bad thing, rather it is positive because it gives you the motivation to meditate regularly, life gives us motivation in this way. Often with any exercise if we do it long enough we can feel good all the time and forget what it felt like when we weren't doing it. Of course once we stop we start to lose our fitness again and then before we know it start experiencing the pain that comes from mental ill health.
It makes me so happy to know that you have started practicing again, make it a part of your everyday life, stay present in everything that you do and you will maintain the practice and experience the benefits.