QUESTION: Hello David,
I've been meditating on and off for many years. I've rarely attended formal classes though.
Recently my new mind distractions are scenes playing out in my mind. I used to have a lot of interfering thoughts in the early days but they only come occasionally now. They were usually comments or questions in my mind, no moving images.
Do you think this is progress or does it have some other meaning?
My meditation is normally sitting in silence and focusing on my breath for 20 minutes daily.
ANSWER: Lisa, Thank you for your question.
Although I'm here mostly to introduce people to transcending, a very special form of meditation, I'll give your question a try.
What causes thoughts during meditation, including scenes from memory, comments to self, questions, moving images, and all the rest?
One thing: stress stored in the nervous system.
The way this works is that a weak nervous system is easily overloaded by experiences in life. Each incident of overload generates a stress, which is a dysfunction (malfunction) in a specific area of functioning of the nervous system. (An in-depth explanation is at www.nsrusa.org/about-stress.php .)
For example, a small child is almost hit by a car. The incident causes no physical damage, but creates a dysfunction in the nervous system which creates repeated incidents of fear throughout part or all of the child's subsequent lifetime.
This is the way stress gets started, and once started, it invites more by restricting the functioning of the nervous system. As adults in a very stressed world, most of us barely function in life. We are easily overwhelmed by stories and events that trigger (resonate with) our stresses. Peace and happiness eludes us; suffering and misery always catch up with us.
The experiences you report are typical examples of how stresses can release during meditation. Due to the quieter functioning of the mind and the deep rest enjoyed by the body, the nervous system has an opportunity to dissolve stresses, old, new, or both.
While the process of stress release is a bit hit-or-miss with the practice of breathing awareness, it can happen, and your experiences are proof.
Faster, more efficient progress in releasing stress requires some other practice, such as transcending. The reason is that breathing awareness only causes a small amount of rest: the distance between the concrete level of the waking state and the more subtle level attainable during breathing awareness. But since breathing itself is concrete (occurring on the level of the body, which is not very subtle), this difference in mental activity level is small. A small difference in activity means a small depth of rest and hence a small release of stress.
For full functioning in life, all stress must be released.
I hope this brief answer has helped. Please feel free to submit follow up questions, if needed.
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QUESTION: Thanks for replying David.
I was interested in TM many years ago but it was too expensive for me at the time and classes were far from where I lived. I looked again today and it's the same as before which is a shame.
Are there other types of meditation available that would produce similar results?
Why do you think that there are so many recommendations for people to focus on the breath when meditating?
Yes, Transcendental Meditation is very expensive. One reason is that you must have a teacher and a center to visit. The teacher's training costs money, and so does the center.
This is why the NSR project decided to create an inexpensive version of transcending that anyone can learn in their own home without a teacher for a very low course fee.
We frequently get email thanking us for providing a more acceptable alternative to TM.
You can find out about NSR meditation at www.nsrusa.org or www.natural-stress-relief.com. The first organization distributes the NSR course in hard copy, the second as a computer download edition.
I'm not sure why breathing awareness gets so much publicity. It may be because the teaching is usually free. Or it may have to do with the historical visits of certain yogis from India to the United States throughout the early part of the twentieth century, yogis who knew nothing of the effective process of transcending.
However, our research indicates that transcending has certain effects and benefits that go well beyond those of breathing awareness. For example, almost every person who has attended a week or more of a Vipassana meditation retreat and later goes on to learn NSR reports to us that NSR provides the results they had looked for but did not find in their Vipassana retreat. In fact, they usually report that the retreat was difficult and gave them headaches. This is the opposite of the pleasant and effortless experience one has when practicing transcending.
The reason for this is simple: NSR provides the basic practice taught by the Shankaracharya tradition of India, perhaps the most pure tradition of subjective knowledge (yoga) in existence today.
NSR is based on the thinking process, which everyone can easily observe. But instead of remaining in thinking through effort, focus, or concentration, transcending influences the thinking process itself to become quieter, less concrete, and more abstract. This causes the body to experience quickly a deep experience of rest, which allows the nervous system to dissolve and release the stresses and strains that have been stored in it.
The process of becoming stressed has caused the nervous system to lose functionality. With a lower-functioning nervous system, we find life more overwhelming, more miserable or filled with suffering, and more filled with problems and limitations (more information about stress and stress release is available at www.nsrusa.org/about-stress.php).
But all of these restrictions begin to drop away as soon as we experience our first taste of transcendental consciousness through the simple and natural process of transcending. Peace and happiness come instantly as transcending produces deep rest in the body and fewer and quieter thoughts in the mind. It becomes possible for us to see and live the expanded consciousness which is our own true nature when stresses and thoughts are no longer distracting us.
If you decide to learn NSR, I'm sure you will find what you've been looking for all of your life: peace, happiness, harmony, satisfaction, achievement, natural balance, and effortlessness.
Natural Stress Relief/USA
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QUESTION: I'm not alone then regarding the cost!
I've just bought the download version of the NSR.
So I'm going to stop the breathing meditation and look forward to transcending instead. I've been wanting to change for a while but didn't know what to do.
Thanks for all your help David.
You have made a very intelligent decision, and I wish you the best in your life.
For best results, allow a week or two between stopping breathing awareness and learning NSR. That way, by providing time for letting go of the habit of being aware of the breathing, you will have the best chance of learning NSR innocently and correctly.
In the unlikely event of having problems learning NSR due to breathing awareness, please make use of our free support services.
Natural Stress Relief/USA