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Thread: A beginnerís dilemma with a chattering mind

  1. #1

    A beginnerís dilemma with a chattering mind

    Hello everyone,

    Finally I’m beginning to sit.


    But, at the same time I am finding out how difficult it is to quite the mind. It’s incredible how thoughts and images constantly come and go, just appearing out of nowhere. I tried to refocus on my breath, but a short time later my mind went right back to it’s never ending flow of thoughts and images. Thoughts seem to "pop up" and appear in no logical order whatsoever.

    I was just wondering if there any methods or techniques to try to control all of this mental chatter. Ive been trying to follow my breath and going back to it time and again. To a certain extent it does seem to work. Is this recommended or should I just let these thoughts come and go on their own?

    I watched the beginners videos, which are great and have answered many of my questions.

    It would be interesting to see how others have coped with the constant flow of thoughts when doing Zazen and the challenges it has presented.

    With kind regards to all.


    Gassho
    Mike
    Last edited by Takoda; 01-08-2013 at 11:44 PM.

  2. #2
    Hi!
    I would say for now just sit with the chatter, let it come, and not give it too much thought
    The constant flow of thought is what our minds do. Just let it come and do not give it much audience. It will settle down on its own...then start again

    I will say I have done breath counting at the very beginning to help, quiet things down for a few sits. For the first while you may find the mind chatter quiets some but then there will be other things to distract (sudden itchy this and that, achy joints, sleepiness you name it! Funny what our body-mind comes up with to try to get us up, moving and busy again!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Chatter will always be there.

    Let it come and go, don't cling to it. In time the chatter will still be there, but will take longer to come. At least that's my personal experience.

    Like Shohei says, sit with it.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  4. #4
    Hey Mike,

    Not much else to add here, Shohei and Kyonin have expressed it very well.

    Gassho
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the much needed advice Shohei, Kyonin and Michael!


    I guess "sitting with it" is the way to go!


    Gassho
    Mike

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Pay attention, be kind, nothing to control.
    Believe me, after 12 years of sitting, there is still chatter. No problem.
    MTness

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Shohei View Post
    Hi!
    I would say for now just sit with the chatter, let it come, and not give it too much thought
    The constant flow of thought is what our minds do. Just let it come and do not give it much audience. It will settle down on its own...then start again

    Gassho
    Shohei
    Good one!

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Chatter won t cease, being upset about it will.

    Gassho

    Taigu

    Thumbs up for the vey good imput of people here! Good one Shohei!
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Nindo View Post
    Pay attention, be kind, nothing to control.


    Very true...I guess that part of the problem is that we become obsessed with trying control the chatter in our minds.
    On the other hand by becoming mere observers of our thoughts without grasping, we can let them arise and disappear.

    Thank you Nindo.


    Gassho
    Mike

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Chatter won t cease, being upset about it will.

    Gassho

    Taigu

    Thumbs up for the vey good imput of people here! Good one Shohei!
    Thank you Taigu and Shohei and also to everyone else for the excelent advice.


    With kind regards

    Gassho
    Mike
    Last edited by Takoda; 01-09-2013 at 03:08 AM.

  11. #11
    Not much to add,
    only to be patient with yourself, your mind. I sometimes feel my mind and my 9 year old son are similar, talking all time.
    I love my son, I love my mind, its ok and as long as I not feed the chattering it eventually stops .... for a moment ;-)
    Gassho
    Myoku

  12. #12
    Senior Member Daisho's Avatar
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    Can't remember which book this advice was in but I follow it consistently: when sitting have no expectations. My mind can chatter away, or it can be silent with few distractions or anywhere in between and my sitting will always be perfect.
    Gassho,

    Daisho


    (Jack K.)

  13. #13
    Hi Mike!

    I agree with what has been said here.
    You should also drop thoughts of "good practice" vs. "bad practice". Sometimes it's stormy with lots of clouds, sometimes there is a lot of blue sky.
    That's the way it is.
    The most important thing for me is to don't care. Not just when monkey mind kept you busy, but also if you think afterwards it was kind of "very good this time" (i.e. lots of blue sky). Just practice to practice. And relax.
    Just do it regularly.


    I remember when I began with meditation I used a "trick":
    Actually wait for the next thought, expect it! As a suprise thoughts didn't come so often anymore. This was just a slightly different attitude, but very effective.
    But really, no tricks are really necessary. Just sit with what is (not).

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  14. #14
    For me the one message that changed everything (without changing anything) was when a friend said .."It's not about having an experience, but whatever experience is present, as such." Whatever state of being, physical, mental, emotional, I wake up with,... is what sits on the cushion, busy, calm, happy, crappy, snarly. Sitting that, as that.. alone. The present state, precisely as is, alone, is unconditioned peace in/as/of any condition. A busy mind as busy mind, a calm mind as calm mind. It took a long time to give up the peace project and just sit.

    Gassho, kojip
    大山

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    I agree Kojip....just sit Mike, without prejudice.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, ďIĒ. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Takoda View Post
    Very true...I guess that part of the problem is that we become obsessed with trying control the chatter in our minds.
    On the other hand by becoming mere observers of our thoughts without grasping, we can let them arise and disappear.
    Such wonderful Teachers in this thread, including you for yourself above. Good advice!

    I would just underline the difference between trying to have no thoughts or be free of "mental chatter" ... and simply not getting caught up and tangled in thoughts, stirring them up ... having thoughts and emotions, and learning to see through them in clarity at the same time.

    This talk in the Beginners Series was the best introduction I could come up with for our approach to thoughts and emotions in Zazen (although actually an ancient way of describing such in the Zen world) ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...28Part-VIII%29

    As to breath counting or following, I say this ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28Part-XI%29

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    For me the one message that changed everything (without changing anything) was when a friend said .."It's not about having an experience, but whatever experience is present, as such." Whatever state of being, physical, mental, emotional, I wake up with,... is what sits on the cushion, busy, calm, happy, crappy, snarly. Sitting that, as that.. alone. The present state, precisely as is, alone, is unconditioned peace in/as/of any condition. A busy mind as busy mind, a calm mind as calm mind. It took a long time to give up the peace project and just sit.

    Gassho, kojip
    So true Kojip - the 'peace project' really got in the way for me. Now. I'm content to sit with whatever comes up.

    Gassho

    Willow

  18. #18
    Great advice from everyone! After years of trying to quiet my mind & attain some "special" level of consciousness (& eventually giving up!), it was a relief & a revelation to just sit with & accept all that happens.

    _/\_
    Ade

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by adrianbkelly View Post
    Great advice from everyone! After years of trying to quiet my mind & attain some "special" level of consciousness (& eventually giving up!), it was a relief & a revelation to just sit with & accept all that happens.

    _/\_
    Ade
    Just sitting with and radically accepting all that happens ... not looking for change, letting what is ... not getting tangled in or stirring up what is ...

    ... changes everything. Counter-intuitive, but so. The result is a most "special" level of consciousness, for the "self's selfishnessness" is shown the exit.

    The less we try or need to get somewhere ... the more we get somewhere that can only be reached be dropping the hunt.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  20. #20
    My mind is still what they refer to in the Zen industry as "monkey mind" when I sit. Over time I've learned to abstract myself from the chattering by becoming more of a passive observer. Still chatty none the less!

    I tried to change it many times when I first started sitting, but spend anytime around Treeleaf and you'll learn that just sitting with what is, nothing to add, nothing to take away really is the goal of the goalless goal.

    Man. I love our Zen double speak.

    Just Sit!
    _/\_
    Jigetsu

  21. #21
    Learned much from this thread! Thank you all!

    Gassho
    Kia

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    This talk in the Beginners Series was the best introduction I could come up with for our approach to thoughts and emotions in Zazen (although actually an ancient way of describing such in the Zen world) ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...28Part-VIII%29

    As to breath counting or following, I say this ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28Part-XI%29

    Gassho, Jundo
    Thank you Jundo.

    I went back to the Beginners Series and read the suggested threads. It answered many of my questions concerning the practice of Zazen. I will definitely go back to them as I practice!

    Also, thanks to everyone for the great feedback and for sharing your personal experiences in this thread.

    Gassho,
    Mike
    Last edited by Takoda; 01-09-2013 at 11:12 PM.

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Mike,

    Don't always go looking for answers...there may not be any. That's when things can get tough when I'm sitting. You have to let go of wanting answers to find answers.

    Just sit. No, really, just sit. Yeah, I really mean it, go sit. I literally mean "just sit".

    Gassho,
    Dosho

    P.S. Just sit.
    Ordained Priest -In-Training & Shuso (Head Seat) for November - Ango 2014
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please take what I say with a grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma!

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho View Post
    Mike,

    Don't always go looking for answers...there may not be any. That's when things can get tough when I'm sitting. You have to let go of wanting answers to find answers.

    Just sit. No, really, just sit. Yeah, I really mean it, go sit. I literally mean "just sit".

    Gassho,
    Dosho

    P.S. Just sit.

    Gassho
    Mike

  25. #25
    Thanks for the practice. Stay with it.
    "Know that the practice of zazen is the complete path of buddha-dharma and nothing can be compared to it....it is not the practice of one or two buddhas but all the buddha ancestors practice this way."
    Dogen zenji in Bendowa






  26. #26
    Once I asked a teacher about my problems controlling my breathing while doing breath counting and the like. I felt like I was always tense, holding my breath, didn't feel quite right. I was reminded that, "you shouldn't try to breathe, just be breathed."

    Of course I am constantly forgetting this teaching and find myself trying to control things (especially that chattering mind!), but at least I remember it sometimes.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by jeff_u View Post
    Once I asked a teacher about my problems controlling my breathing while doing breath counting and the like. I felt like I was always tense, holding my breath, didn't feel quite right. I was reminded that, "you shouldn't try to breathe, just be breathed."

    Of course I am constantly forgetting this teaching and find myself trying to control things (especially that chattering mind!), but at least I remember it sometimes.
    That is very nice.

    Don't try to sit, just be sat ... just be sitting ... just sit being ... Just-Sitbeing.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  28. #28
    Senior Member bayamo's Avatar
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    Jundo made a blog post some time back that helped me with this. I can't remember the title but it had to do with clouds, that someone mentioned previously. Just let the thoughts, like clouds, just drift through.
    Oh, yeah. If I didn't have inner peace, I'd go completely psycho on all you guys all the time.
    Carl Carlson

  29. #29
    Hello,

    it is important to not mistake the method for idealised and mostly imaginary results. Our method is Zazen (actually a non-method ultimately....but let's not get carried away), the result is being aware, awake and present with whatever arises. "Whatever" includes the chattering mind.

    The word "practise" includes the recurring fact of making mistakes.

    Just stick with it.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Hello,

    it is important to not mistake the method for idealised and mostly imaginary results. Our method is Zazen (actually a non-method ultimately....but let's not get carried away), the result is being aware, awake and present with whatever arises. "Whatever" includes the chattering mind.

    The word "practise" includes the recurring fact of making mistakes.

    Just stick with it.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Gassho Hans! I find that my chattering mind is also a gift. It helps me think through problems and solve things.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    I find that my chattering mind is also a gift. It helps me think through problems and solve things.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    For sure, to be a human being ... with a brain, emotions, passions ... is a great gift. Life! To be thinking, feeling and Alive!

    Our way is to just not be a prisoner of all that, not let it run to destructive excess or harmful extremes ... and to also see right through to the Clear Source of All.

    But as we sit, not clinging to our chattering mind ... not stirring up the thoughts, not grabbing and clinging as they come, not getting tangled in emotions ... the chattering mind not so "chattery" ... a certain Clarity manifests, Silent Illumination, behind, between and shining right through & as the translucent thoughts 'themselfs'. As the Blue Sky and its clouds, always one even when many, always present when only the sky alone, always present even when not seen.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-25-2013 at 02:40 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    For sure, to be a human being ... with a brain, emotions, passions ... is a great gift. Life! To be thinking, feeling and Alive!

    Our way is to just not be a prisoner of all that, not let it run to destructive excess or harmful extremes ... and to also see right through to the Clear Source of All.

    But as we sit, not clinging to our chattering mind ... not stirring up the thoughts, not grabbing and clinging as they come, not getting tangled in emotions ... the chattering mind not so "chattery" ... a certain Clarity manifests, Silent Illumination, behind, between and shining right through & as the translucent thoughts 'themselfs'. As the Blue Sky and its clouds, always one even when many, always present when only the sky alone, always present even when not seen.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    Nicely said Jundo, thank you.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-25-2013 at 02:40 AM.
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    For sure, to be a human being ... with a brain, emotions, passions ... is a great gift. Life! To be thinking, feeling and Alive!

    Our way is to just not be a prisoner of all that, not let it run to destructive excess or harmful extremes ... and to also see right through to the Clear Source of All.

    But as we sit, not clinging to our chattering mind ... not stirring up the thoughts, not grabbing and clinging as they come, not getting tangled in emotions ... the chattering mind not so "chattery" ... a certain Clarity manifests, Silent Illumination, behind, between and shining right through & as the translucent thoughts 'themselfs'. As the Blue Sky and its clouds, always one even when many, always present when only the sky alone, always present even when not seen.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    Thank you. Sometimes my chattering mind is also a prison... a lot of times. But it doesn't have to be either as you say. From my perspective, I have to have faith in this process because I'm relatively new to it. What I mean is faith that it's ok to just sit; sometimes, I realize I'm not good at "just" doing anything. I always have an agenda, and I bring that agenda to sitting. I often catch myself sitting to serve a purpose of getting some peace from that chattering mind. Not to state the obvious, but this Sangha is great because it constantly reminds me that I shouldn't be trying to get anything from this practice. Just sit. Just sit.

    And I need that reminder. After I listen to a talk here, I'm like oh I've got it. Then 5 minutes later I'm back to my old tricks of greed, anger and ignorance.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    I always have an agenda, and I bring that agenda to sitting. I often catch myself sitting to serve a purpose of getting some peace from that chattering mind. Not to state the obvious, but this Sangha is great because it constantly reminds me that I shouldn't be trying to get anything from this practice. Just sit. Just sit.
    Having an agenda is fine and necessary for most of life. Today, I have an appointment across town, to pick up my daughter from school, to answer some emails, to do 90 minutes on the exercise bike tonight etc. etc. This is a vibrant part of life, getting things done. Even monks in the monastery have a constant busy schedule of places to go, things to do, people to see. It is LIFE!

    Yet, isn't it also good to learn how to do one darn thing without a goal or "agenda"? If you cannot allow yourself 15 minutes each day to taste "agendaless living", then one may be prisoner of having an agenda. The goalless, agendaless is also LIFE!

    And perhaps, one may also come to taste more and more the "busy day agenda" and the "timeless agendaless" as one, even though one side may sometimes be a bit more seen than the other.

    Now ... gotta run!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

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