Basic Meditation Practices
After reading through these instructions, close your eyes and think in terms of creating an inner and outer stillness of mind and body. Set your intentions (this may mean to also set your timer) the idea is to know exactly what you are going to be doing with the meditation time that you have set aside and to know what your meditation object is before you even start your meditation practice.
Begin and end every meditation by taking three deep breathes and silently asking, where are my thoughts at…? how do I feel…?
Sit comfortably with a straight back. (One can sit upon a cushion on the floor or in a chair with the feet flat on the floor)
With closed eyes, mentally scan your body in order to relax and consciously remove any unnecessary muscle tension. Visualize each area of the body softening and relaxing, starting from the head moving slowly downward to the feet and then back up again, spend no less than ten minutes doing this exercise. This is a ligament meditation in of its self. Notice the mental and physical feelings that occur during this practice of scanning.
2) The meditation object
Bring your awareness to your meditation object; this is the area that you will be placing your concentration upon. We will be using the breath and an area on or within the body that you feel the breath most prominent or pleasant. (It is strongly suggested that you use the area between the tip of the nose and the upper lip). notice every detail of the breath, for example; examine the length of each breath, is it long or is it short?
3) The wandering mind
As the mind wanders off of your meditation object, know that this naturally happens and gently bring it back. Pretend it’s a game; you get one point each time you notice that your mind has wondered off your meditation object. (If you feel overly distracted it may help to count the breaths up to eight or ten and repeat; this gives one an added element to concentrate on). As you practice meditation you will realize that in actuality what you are doing is working on your ability to concentrate on your meditation object, the breath.
4) Single pointed concentration
In time you will notice that the job of concentrating on the meditation object (the breath) becomes easier and more enjoyable, this may not happen right away but it will happen. This controlled concentration will enable you to meditate for longer periods of time and with less discomfort. Eventually the hindrances (see below) will fall away being replaced by joy, happiness, applied and sustained thinking and controlled, single pointed concentration.
5) Insight (wisdom)
Eventually one will wish to incorporate insight in to their meditation practice; this is the Buddhist practice of applying an investigative wisdom to the meditation object. With a daily practice in meditation the mind will become much more manageable; we soon realize that our thoughts are more direct and understandable, fewer in number and more meaningful. At times it may seem as if there are more thoughts when we meditate but this only seems so because in meditation we are able to step back and take a clear look at all of the mental activity that is going on, this allows us to manage our thoughts, this is mindfulness.
for more information on insight meditation see Matt Flickstein's article at: http://www.soulfulliving.com/insightmeditation.htm
6) Working with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mental state that is free of judgment or decision. It is you, watching the process of the mind as opposed to dealing with the content or what is already in there. Mindfulness is non-conceptual; The thoughts that come up in meditation are a normal part of how we are,it is the mind being the mind and these are what we want to notice and acknowledge when we are doing mindfulness based meditations. When we allow these thoughts to take us away in the form of a story or thinking of the past or making plans for the future we are no longer meditating but are simply thinking, something that we do all day long.
7) The five hindrances
As mentioned, when we practice meditation there are thoughts and mental actives that seem to pull us away from our object of concentration and toward areas that our minds wonder toward, these are the things that “hinder” concentration and our meditation practice. The hindrances work in two different ways, one way is as mentioned, it is a wonderful way to judge our level of concentration if they are present we are not concentrated. Also, the hindrances can be used as a tool in mindfulness types of meditation by relating each hindrance or lack of it, with the thoughts that come up during our meditation.
· “Sensual desire” is the mind moving toward the pleasing objects that we encounter or encountered, through the senses of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch and pleasurable thoughts.
· “Aversion” can take the form of anger, despair, and undesirable sensual objects such as a barking dog; there may be times when we find the mind dwelling in negativity.
· “Sloth and torpor” may present its self in the form of a dullness or foggy mind; it may also be due to sleepiness or boredom.
· “Restlessness and worry” takes the form of recollecting the past and dwelling in the future and includes planning and figuring. Concerns for the future and mentally taking the responsibility for an others well being such as worrying about an others well being.
· “Doubt” may be present if we feel that we are not progressing in our practice, if we doubt the teachings about the practice or are wondering if we are using the correct meditation method.
Every disturbance in our practice can be identified by relating it to one of the five hindrances, when these hindrances are encountered we should become as skillful as possible in recognizing and discarding them, we then bring the mind back to our object of meditation. This will help in reducing the hindrances to concentration. (Notice the moments that you have no hindrances, when is this? Why is this?)
8) Working with the five hindrances
The best way to work with the hindrances for mindfulness practice is to first know them well and be very aware of them so that when a disturbance occurs we know without any hesitation which hindrance it is, in this way we can get back to the task of practicing concentrated meditation. The easiest way to use the hindrances in concentration practice is to simply place your attention on the breath and as soon as you realize that your mind has wondered, quickly bring your attention back to the breath and notice the dissolving of the hindrance. With practice these practices can be done at all hours of the day, this quickly increases our over all mindfulness and is a mark of an awakened being.
It takes consistent and daily practice to see results from a meditation practice; the results are a controlled and happy mind, well worth the effort.
Please feel free to correspond with any questions of comments you may have about these instructions to, firstname.lastname@example.org
Respectfully with Metta,
Article taken from: http://www.meditationlearningcenter.com/instructions.html