Meditation Basics

What is meditation?

Since ancient times every form of religion or spiritual practice has disciplines of meditation or contemplation. It can also be developed in a secular way. Meditation can use silence, sound, stillness, or motion. Meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more aware, more present in the here and now, both of our inner workings and what’s happening around us and in our daily life.

What isn’t meditation?

• It’s not a religion but it can enhance your own faith or be practiced in an entirely secular way.
• It doesn’t require having a certain personality type or background.
• It doesn’t require a huge amount of time every day
• It doesn’t eliminate negative emotions and rough times from your life.
• It’s not meant to stop you from thinking or to only have positive thoughts.
• It doesn’t mean you have to withdraw from the “real” world or not have opinions, passions, or fun.
• It’s not navel-gazing, indulgent, or self-centered.

What are the basic types of meditation?

Mindfulness (sati) Meditation is currently very popular and is especially used for stress relief and effectiveness in our lives and workplace. Mindfulness needs to be developed and is required in order to practice concentration and insight meditation. Mindfulness should be worked on in our daily lives as well and we suggest a set of Five Skillful Efforts (scroll down) to practice.

Concentration (samatha) Meditation or tranquility meditation quiets the mind and makes it more focused. The most popular type is meditation on the breath, but there are many forms of concentration meditation.

Insight (vipassana) Meditation is an investigative meditation that requires clear awareness of what is happening as it happens.

Loving-kindness (metta) Meditation softens the mind, making it more gentle and wieldy, as well as protects it. It can be developed as a form of concentration meditation but has it’s own “tone.”

Why meditate?

• Develop a calmer, less distracted mind
• Spot assumptions
• Stop limiting yourself
• Re-prioritize what’s important
• Become a friend to yourself in any situation
• Become more tolerant and kinder to others
• Create a portable safety resource
• Waste less time trying to control the uncontrollable
• Access hidden qualities and integrity
• Access more energy
• Develop a happy mind.

What’s the right attitude?

1. Don’t expect anything
2. Don’t strain
3. Don’t rush
4. Let go
5. Accept every thing that arises
7. Be gentle with  yourself
8. Investigate yourself
9. View all problems as challenges
10. Don’t ponder
11. Don’t dwell upon contrasts.

References:  Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana; Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg

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FIVE SKILLFUL EFFORTS

Developing and living a meditative life is not only about going into a darkened room and sitting on a mat. If we choose, it can infer a holistic mindset and lifestyle that can make radical changes in our self, our community, and the world — a meditative culture. Practicing in our daily life can include a simple set of five skillful efforts to bring mindfulness to our actions, speech, and mind throughout the day. In fact some people enter toward meditation by first practicing these skillful mindfulness efforts for a while! We can even practice one specific effort more intensely than the others if we feel we want to develop a certain quality.

1 . Respect for Life
Practice restraint. Undertake not to kill, support killing, or to do harm to myself or others.
Positive reinforcement. Cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views.
The practice. Develop love and compassion for myself and others.
Elaboration. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, practice in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
Acceptance. To keep peace of mind, peace in community, and a sense of humor and personal well-being, I try to gently accept and not compare where I am and where others are, but make effort to change.

2 . Generosity
Practice restraint. Undertake not to take what has not been given and not to possess anything that should belong to others.
Positive reinforcement. Instead, I will try to my ability to share my time, energy, and
resources with those in need.
The practice. Generosity in our thoughts, speech, and action.
Elaboration. Knowing real happiness depends on mental attitude and not external conditions, attempt to live content if not happily simply by remembering that all my basic needs are met or knowing that adverse situations and mindstates can change with effort. Understand that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can also bring even more pain and stress and the potential to unrightfully take, we try to balance our ambition with generosity.
Acceptance. To keep peace of mind, peace in community, and a sense of humor and personal well-being, I try to gently accept and not compare where I am and where others are, but make effort to change.

3. Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Practice restraint. Attempt not to lie, chatter, or gossip.
Positive reinforcement. Instead, develop harmonious connections, restore communication, and reconcile.
The practice. Practice mindfulness and tranquility meditation, especially on the breath.
Elaboration. Practice in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Commit to speaking truthfully first and then extend this to using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. Determine when anger is rising and try not to speak until calm. Determine not to spread news that isn’t certain and not to use words that can cause divisiveness.
Acceptance. To keep peace of mind, peace in community, and a sense of humor and personal well-being, I try to gently accept and not compare where I am and where others are, but make effort to change.

4. Honest Love
Practice restraint. Not causing harm to oneself or others in the area of sexual activity.
Positive reinforcement. Instead, cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society.
The practice. Meditation on love, compassion, appreciative joy, inclusiveness.
Elaboration. Knowing that lust is not love, try to engage in sexual relations with honesty and mutual acceptance with deep listening. Do what able to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Commit to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and to practice honest love.
Acceptance. To keep peace of mind, peace in community, and a sense of humor and personal well-being, I try to gently accept and not compare where I am and where others are, but make effort to change.

5. Nourishing, Medicinal Consumption
Practice restraint. Practice restraint in consuming intoxicants, as well from putting toxins and poisons into our body and minds.
Positive reinforcement. Instead, commit to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, my friends, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.
The practice. Mindfulness-and-awareness in consumption.
Elaboration. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind, but the practice can
extend to the toxins that we intake through what we see, taste, touch, feel, hear, and perceive with distaste. Practice consuming in moderation and purpose for the well-being of self and the planet. Determine not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing self in consumption.
Acceptance. To keep peace of mind, peace in community, and a sense of humor and personal well-being, I try to gently accept and not compare where I am and where others are, but make effort to change.

Reference: The Five Mindfulness Trainings by Thich Nhat Hanh

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