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How to still a restless mind during meditation?

Hi all!

So I’ve been meditating on and off for several years. Just by closing my eyes and not thinking about anything particularly, which is very relaxing.

Lately I’ve been looking into Buddhism, quite obsessively actually because I love reading about it and practicing it. Regarding the five hindrances, I get really stuck on restlessness. Sometimes I can focus on my breath for a minute perhaps, but mostly I get distracted and start thinking about other things a few breaths into it.

It’s frustrating, because I tell myself that I’m going to remain concentrated and then I’m off again on other thoughts a few seconds later.

Any thoughts on this for a beginner?

Thanks!

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Do you follow the five precepts strictly? What about sense restraint? If those things are not relatively stable, your mind will be spread out all over the place. That is why virtue is so important. It brings things together into a certain place in terms of your general lifestyle, i.e. the aggregate of virtue will give you the space to calm things even further. And that must be maintained always, not just when you choose to sit.

I hope that helps. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi and welcome.

I think you would like to take a look at the Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta (MN 10). What you are describing is part of the path… Briefly, you’ll attentively observe how the hindrances arise and pass by not clinging to them.

Sitting is not the only form of meditation. In the modern world, many of us sit all day anyhow, so it’s good to consider alternate postures for meditation. We really shouldn’t spend all day on our butts.

Walking meditation works great for restlessness. When walking, the senses are paced out literally with each step in a steady rhythm that naturally aligns with the breath. When walking, there is also a palpable sense of the passage of time: One sees what is ahead, what is here and what is past. When walking, it becomes easier to just watch without grasping. Indeed, when walking, one must be aware not to step on sharp stones. This is why walking barefoot is important.

AN5.29:1.1: “Mendicants, there are five benefits of walking meditation.
AN5.29:1.2: What five?
AN5.29:1.3: You get fit for traveling, fit for striving in meditation, and healthy. What’s eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted is properly digested. And immersion gained while walking lasts long.

As a person inclined towards restlessness, I’m much more content walking meditation. In general, struggling with restlessness is counterproductive. Please see quote of Ven. Sariputta’s summary about forceful suppression:

DN34:1.6.69: Right immersion with five knowledges.
DN34:1.6.70: The following knowledges arise for you personally: ‘This immersion is blissful now, and results in bliss in the future.’
DN34:1.6.71: ‘This immersion is noble and spiritual.’
DN34:1.6.72: ‘This immersion is not cultivated by sinners.’
DN34:1.6.73: ‘This immersion is peaceful and sublime and tranquil and unified, not held in place by forceful suppression.’
DN34:1.6.74: ‘I mindfully enter into and emerge from this immersion.’

Sitting is not the only form of meditation.

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Ajahn Brahm has two stages before “picking up” the meditation object which might be useful. They are described here

And welcome to the forum. Good to have you here. If you have any questions on the first two stages after reading the booklet you can PM me.

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You are familiar with buddhism? Then it is easy to look up things I will mention.

Restlessness is caused by attachment to the world. The past, the future, six sense pleasure, the body, friends, everything outside that will tempt us.

To counteract this, try doing brief contemplation before meditation session. 5 - 10 minutes.
The topic can be chosen from this list:
Death
Impermanence.
Truth of Suffering
Cycle of Samsara
Dissatisfaction of sense pleasure
2nd noble truth, Cause of Suffering.

The Anapanasati sutta states the breath is only a preliminary, and the next step is body awareness related to the influence of energy input afforded by air. Remember if we stop breathing for a few minutes there are consequences. From there the awareness of the body leads to the second tetrad, the induction of pleasant feeling, this being a fundamental of the path described in the next stage of Satipatthana. So the practitioner should begin developing knowledge of the Anapanasati sutta.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/breathmed.html

MN 20 describes a series of steps to take to calm distracting thoughts:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.020.than.html

Welcome to the forum!

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