Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Learning how to meditate.

Post 445 - Meditation is a holistic discipline by which the practitioner tries to get beyond the reflexive "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual goals — from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind. Henepola Gunaratana is a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk who came to study in the US in 1968 and has since earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in philosophy at American University. Writing in Mindfulness in Plain English, he provides the following insights about how to meditate. He says when you meditate, what you’re looking at is you, and what you see depends on how you look. Therefore the process of meditating is extremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator. He suggests the following attitudes as essential for success.

1. Don't expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment and don't get distracted by your expectations about results. And don't be anxious for achieving any particular result. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let it teach you what it wants you to learn. Awareness through meditation seeks to see reality exactly as it is and this requires a temporary suspension of all our preconceptions and ideas. So store your images, opinions and interpretations someplace out of the way for the time being. Otherwise you'll surely stumble over them.

2. Don't strain. Don't force anything or make exaggerated efforts. Meditation isn't aggressive. There's no violent striving. Just let your effort be relaxed and steady.

3. Don't rush. There's no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself in comfortably as though you have a whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience.

4. Don't cling to anything and don't reject anything. Let come whatever comes and accommodate yourself to that, whatever it is. If good mental images come, that's fine. If bad mental images come, that's fine too. Look on all of it as an equal experience and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don't fight that which you experience, just observe it all mindfully.

5. Let go and learn to flow with what comes up. Loosen up and relax.

6. Accept everything that comes up. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn't have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate. Don't condemn yourself for having human flaws and failings. Learn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times and about everything you experience.

7. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you're all you've got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

8. Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don't believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and because someone said it. See for yourself. That doesn’t mean that you should be cynical or irreverent. It means that you should be empirical. Subject all statements to the actual test of your experience and let the results be your guide to truth. Insight in meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what's real and to gain liberating insight to the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges on this desire to be awake to the truth.

9. View all problems as challenges. Look on negatives that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don't run from them, condemn yourself or bear your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in and investigate.

10. You don't need to figure everything out. In mediation, the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless attention. Habitual deliberation isn't necessary to eliminate those things that are holding you back. All that's necessary is a clear, non-conceptual perception of what they are and how they work. That alone is sufficient to dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don't think. See.

11. Don't dwell on contrasts. Certainly, differences exist between people, but dwelling on then is a dangerous process and can lead directly to egotism. Ordinary human thinking is full of greed, jealousy and pride. A man seeing another man on the street may immediately think, "He's better looking than I am." The instant result is envy or shame. A woman seeing another woman may think, "I'm prettier than she is." The instant result is pride. This sort of comparison is a mental habit that leads directly to ill-feeling of one kind or another - greed, envy, pride, jealousy, hatred. It's an unskillful mental state, but we do it all the time. We compare our looks with others, our success, our accomplishments, our wealth, our possessions, or our I.Q. and all these lead to the same place - alienation, barriers between people, and bad feeling.

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