Simple Buddhist Meditation
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Buddhism encourages smriti (Pali: sati), mindfulness, that is, developing a widening consciousness of what is within and outside you -- seated in a special posture, or going about your life. This form of meditation is referred to on the seventh level of the Eightfold Path.
From the earliest Buddhism, shamatha and vipashyana are foundational: Shamatha is development of tranquillity and calm abiding, or peacefulness. It assists further development. Vipashyana is intuitively based clear understanding. When some measure of tranquillity and clear-headedness are developed, you can next engage in other forms of meditation that develop focus, or concentration.
A well focused and trained mind enters subtler, delightful mental states in time. The time it takes, varies. Such states are called dhyanas (Pali: jhanas), or absorption levels. Samádhi is a collective term for at least some of them. Buddha refers to the dhyanas and samadhi in the eighth step of the eightfold path, and again toward his death. Dhyana is rendered as Jhana in Pali, Ch'an in Chinese, and Zen in Japanese, and in these cultures dhyana has come to stand for meditation at large.
❖ In Buddhism, proper meditation skills need to be developed.
The disciple Ananda once asked Buddha if there was one particular quality one should cultivate that would best bring one to full awakening. Be mindful of breathing, Buddha answered quite extensively:
Sit down, fold your legs crosswise, keep your body erect, and set mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, breathe in; mindful breathe out. . . . Breathe in, sensitive to the entire body, and breathe out sensitive to the entire body. Breathe and calm the bodily processes, sensitive to rapture, to pleasure, to mental processes, and to calming of mental processes. Breathe, sensitive to the mind, satisfying the mind, steadying the mind, releasing the mind. (cf. Samyutta Nikaya 54.13.)
The quotation speaks of stages of progress at breathing meditation.
One meditation form is just this: watching one's breath for some time. Sit as erect as you can, without undue strain, on a chair, a pillow, or kneeling for daily sittings. Meditation (watchful attention) is also practiced while standing, slowly walking, lying on a blanket and on an air mattress - even in a reclining chair (the last two may be recommended for those who sun-tan while they train their powers to observe things.)
The hands may be placed loosely, palms up, one on top of the other, and with the thumbs lightly touching. Or lay them flat on your thighs, or any other way that you find comfortable.
Keep your head upright, or sweetly and cosily pillowed if meditating in a reclining chair. The eyes may be closed or open in various techniques. A very pleasant posture where the spine is not bent very much, and the neck and head are not bent either, should work well. You may have to adjust a little -
Beginners can be instructed to count their breath, on the out-breath, up to ten, and then go back and count from one again, on and on in a series. Avoid getting stuck in non-essentials. And when you lose track, go back to counting from one. Your breath should not be forced or artificially controlled in any way as you breathe naturally and count. After some weeks you may forego the counting and try to simply follow your breath. Concentrate on the inflow and outflow, preferably aware of the whole process of breathing. You do not have to imagine anything in pure awareness training.
When you find yourself distracted by sounds around and thoughts within, mentally and calmly take notice of the distractions without getting attached to any of them, and without getting involved with them. While sitting or reclining in meditation, just let them glide away, as you resume focusing on the breath as gently as you can.
It can give additional help to gaze in standardised ways according to some methods.
You can scratch when you itch and wiggle when you get uncomfortable, without being jerky. Later, you may enter deeper states without being bored, and in deepening meditation you may react with more indifference to distractions, but hardly all of them. A quiet place is fit.
Another method: By quiet mindfulness just let impressions glide by.
Meditate for from about thirty minutes to three hours a day, at regular intervals - that could be best. Find your level - the level where you get the most from your efforts in a day. Getting frustrated and competitive will hardly help in the right way. Refrain from looking forward to enlightenment, for any concepts of it serves to restrict your mental gliding beyond concepts, even of Nirvana, and may thereby hamper the process of contemplation. If you have great and worthwhile thoughts you can jot them down after the session, if you make a mental note to do it while you get them. Or jot them down as soon as you get them, if you are so inclined. It is entirely up to you. The first approach is fit for those who learn to take mental notes on what to do after rising from meditation. The second approach may hamper and delay progress in meditation process. Both ways are sound, though. And if you find yourself filled with swelling feelings - relax and just resume the attentiveness training.
❖ Awareness of the breath may be developed. There are many methods for it. Compare the hamsa method.
Traditionally, five enlisted hindrances to mental diving (including focus-training) are:
Menial methods and lack of proficiency (skills) should be added to the list. Lack of evidence may hinder some practitioners too. Being dumbfounded is not good either.
Among the factors that may help development and happiness are superior methods; keen, observant performance, circumspect, solid and regular training; meticulous efforts without strain; and adjusting beautifully to one's level and competence at any given time - By such means the tables are set for up to splendid training.
It generally helps to deepen one's meditation and integrate regular meditation in a rewarding lifestyle.
❖ We may train many skills in communicating adequately - and develop meditation to relax in deeper and deeper meditation, and reap appreciativeness.
Compare: "Buddhist Meditation" by Dr. C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University.
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