I was asked to do a blog on meditation. Yikes. The specific question had to do with what I find the most important points in developing a meditation practice. OK, but remember, this is just my reference frame. Hopefully it will help others.
I do not consider myself a “teacher,” I am an explorer of the Dharma and how people’s wisdom can help us fulfill who we are in the realm of being genuine. So at best I am a guide, explorer, and mentor who has been to places and am glad to share the journey. Although the places I have been will not be the exact place where you will travel.
Here it goes.
I think all the various meditation techniques and forms are fine. Don’t worry about sitting on a cushion in the formal mode of meditation. Lots of people don’t do sitting meditation or they do it in a chair. Or, you can lay down or walk. It will all work. Attention to posture is fine if your experience says it’s important. I try to keep in mind that there are so many people who cannot sit “formally” due to physical limitations. I am also aware that many people see no need to do any kind of formal meditative practice. For instance, many Buddhist followers have never meditated or no longer meditate.
I think it’s a primary focus to reconnect to the breathing cycle. Some people teach counting the breath etc. That’s fine, but personally I’m more concerned with paying attention to the entire breathing cycle. Those of you who do Yoga will understand immediately. The cycle consists of breathing in and breathing out. Feel that lung movement as you breath. Attend to the in and out. Notice that unless you hold your breath there is a smooth, and difficult to capture, moment between in and out breath. So, pay attention to breathing and relax the body no matter what form of mediation you are doing.
Why the breath cycle? Because it grounds us in the body. Awareness of the body grounds us in the proximity of this moment and the next. Brilliant! Those folks who have been sharing and guiding us in this for a few thousand years are brilliant. Awareness of breathing is a fine way to stay close to your current position in space and time.
When you are settled and breathing, calm deep breaths, you will notice the constant barrage of thoughts. Watching thoughts is like watching a play with lots of actors coming and going on a stage, coming and going, and coming and going. They all want a bit of attention on the center stage and feel that they are the most important thing on the stage. Notice that you are the one watching the actors. Then notice none of those actors are you the observer!
Ah Ha! You are not your thoughts, you are the one watching the thoughts. That’s the genuine self Observing!
Pay attention to that. All those characters are there by loan from your conditioning. THEY ARE NOT YOU. YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. YOU ARE GROUND WHERE THE THOUGHTS RISE AND THE OBSERVER OF RISING AND FALLING THOUGHTS. The thoughts are attempting to run your life. Should, would, could, maybe, perhaps, later, do this and that, I’m not good enough, I should do better, and maybe next time I will do better. These are all conditioned thoughts. They actually serve no useful purpose except to give ego center stage and, of course, make sure your unhappy with yourself. That’s how Conditioned personality survives and stays in the center of your world.
Now there’s lots of books and teachers and video’s and directions out there on the web. Lots of places for retreats and possibilities of finding guides. So you may want to peruse those. But I personally think the starting point has to be the experiential insight that reveals that we have been believing that our conditioned thoughts are who we are when in reality they are simply extracts from conditioning. That’s a belief that has been going on since our births and before. (Karma) We have been conditioned culturally and socially. If your journey doesn’t start with an awareness of conditioned mind then you will be reinforcing your conditioning and not the genuine self.
Constancy and Consistency.
It is so much more important to develop some sort of daily practice and stay committed to it than struggling with the amount of time each meditation session entails. Meditating daily for five minutes beats the hell out of meditating once a week for 45 minutes. Why? Because we are developing the meditative mind, It’s that ongoing perspective on life that we want to embed and express in the daily experience. Not just when in formal meditation or hanging out with like minded people. For what it’s worth I’ve seen lots of people attempting to sit for 45 minutes as a regular daily practice and they burn out and stop trying. Be compassionate with yourself. Do the doable. If you have never isolated and experiencing your own mind for 5 minutes then 45 may seem like an eternity.
There are no prizes or rewards for the Macho who think sitting all day is going to get them somewhere special. It won’t. Unless it’s just a way to ego boost. Not much of a “reward.”
The meditative mind may develop if you meditate once a week but that’s a long road to travel. Keep it simple and keep it doable. Every day practice a little. Once established you may add more time. I sit everyday and the time differs. It may be five minutes it may be ninety. It may be once or it may be three times. But it’s always every day. Consistency and Constancy.
I believe these areas to be crucial. If you establish a daily practice, notice you are not your thoughts, and keep your time to something doable you will be on your way. After that’s established you can explore any direction you are drawn towards.
I am working on a downloadable expanded PDF that will explain much of this in more detail. It will be made available to download from this site as soon as it is finished. Watch for it!
Let me know if I can be of assistance. Meditation practice means so much to me. I truly love sitting.
Bowing to you,
(Contact information is under Welcome on the opening header bar, firstname.lastname@example.org)