What Happens in My Mind during Meditation?

Created: Monday, 08 January 2018

Many beginners in meditation have the question as to what happens when others meditate. How are they different? If you have gone to school or talked with most average people, the topic doesn't come up as a conversation piece. For the most part, people think they are unique. What I do in my thinking process is linked to who I am, and nobody else is the same. If we were the same we would all have the same dispositions, the same language, culture and everything that goes with it. What we see is a broad spectrum in every day life when we go to the grocery store, school or even our Buddhist temple.

What happens in the minds of others however is almost exactly the same as everyone else. There is a constant internal dialogue where you constantly talk in imaginary (sometimes future or past) scenarios, to yourself and to others. This internal dialogue does not make a person crazy, it is what makes up consciousness. It is tied to our ego, or in other words what we feel is who we are.

In the temple during meditations sessions, the instruction is to focus on the breath. When a thought arrives we are to go back to the breath. However meditation is not to literally blank our minds out of existence for an extended period of time. This would make a persons mind literally unconscious if no thoughts appeared. It would also make a person under surgical anesthetic a master Buddhist meditation expert. That is obviously not the case. Even the vastly experienced Buddhist will have thoughts appear during their practice.

So what is the purpose of the exercise on breath meditation if not to blank our minds out? It is two fold. One, it is to see that you can't stop a thought. Thoughts come in from nowhere all the time. It is what you decide to do with it through awareness of it. Yes, meditation is awareness. Not lack of awareness!

If there is a thought then, what do we do with it? The skillful way to deal with them is to watch them. For example the thought might come in your mind that someone is visiting your house in an hour and that you need to clean your bathroom. The way to deal with this thought is to set your intention after the thought that you will sit for the remainder of your meditation (say 15 minutes) and not add to that thought. Your mind may want to ask if you have the cleaning chemicals, or sponge ready for when you get to work cleaning. When this happens, go back to your intention and focus again on your breath. Don't engage with the thoughts that arise.

Why do we avoid these thoughts? Ultimately we do this to deal with stray thoughts when they obstruct our practice. So during the practice of watching a monk give a Dharma talk, we can then more easily concentrate on the spoken teaching. We are also able to focus on our Dharma teachings in the form of books, internet text or Buddhist audio books. This is the purpose of breath meditation, it is to practice being aware of stray thoughts and learning to let them pass while we focus on our practices.

As we advance in our meditation, we then use these new powers of concentration to contemplate (as separate meditation sessions) the teachings we have read or listened to. This in turn leads to the ultimate goal of gaining insights to those teachings. The difference between learning and insight is the strength of the teaching on our consciousness as we conclude the teachings to be correct or solve problems related to them.


What Really Matters?

Created: Friday, 20 October 2017

Our Teachers' Father has Passed Away

Created: Wednesday, 04 October 2017

Our teacher Ven. Thay who came to Springfield from Vietnam has gone home to be with his family and fellow monks. His father Tan Nguyen passed away this past week and so Ven. Thay will be doing the proper 49-day Buddhist ceremony. This means he will be returning late November to early December.

David Ketchum gave a short reading on the Five Remembrances and on death from Ajahn Amaro which you can watch a video about here. He did so at our weekly Saturday meeting.

The Five Rememberances

  1. I am subject to aging. There is no way to avoid aging.
  2. I am subject to ill health. There is no way to avoid illness.
  3. I am going to die. There is no way to avoid death.
  4. Everyone and everything that I love will change, and I will be separated from them.
  5. My only true possessions are my actions, and I cannot escape their consequences.


In this sad time if anyone would like to help by donating to the temple for the funeral costs you can do so on our donation page here. If you would like to write a check, please make any donations out to Lieu Ha Boatner and drop your checks off at any donation box outside or inside the temple.

Ven. Thay asked that we include Tan Nguyen's name in the Special Merit Intentions each Saturday during our English speaking gatherings as well as the Vietnamese gatherings every Sunday.

Our Second English Speaking Gathering

Created: Sunday, 17 September 2017

This past Saturday our group met to meditate, chant and socialize for about two hours. We all discussed how to help our community grow as well as what procedures everyone liked and wanted for future gatherings. You can listen to the group practice two chants that are part of our guide book by clicking here.