Sunday, December 23, 2007

Just Sitting

Why Meditate?
There are many reasons why you might want to meditate – to calm down, to help cope with stress, increase focus or performance, curiosity, to help on a spiritual path, to experience bliss or to gain enlightenment. All of these are good and valid reasons, and meditation has helped individuals develop in these ways for many thousands of years.

Above all, though, meditation is personal. It is about you learning more about You. It is about learning how your mind works, and how you can work with it. While we cannot predict exactly how a good meditation practice will change you, we can promise that you will be the better for it.

Expect Nothing.
That said, the best way to approach meditation is to expect nothing. That may seem strange, but one of the largest hindrances to growth in meditation is trying to grasp at some result. This is a difficult thing for all of us, but probably the first thing we have to learn is to let go of our goals and just experience meditation. No attachment to results, just a commitment to and a curiosity for the practice.

How Do I Know If I’m Doing It Right?
Despite the fact that there have been thousands of books written on meditation, there is no one ‘right’ way to meditate. The basic rule is, if you’re doing it, you’re doing it right. Now, we can definitely learn from the great teachers of the past, and we will refer to many of them, but that doesn’t mean that there is a simple formula for you. One of the reasons we like to join together to meditate is to discuss and share experiences, so that we can experiment and learn from each other.

Sometimes you will find meditation difficult. You won’t be able to concentrate, or you will find a practice difficult, or you will grow despondent that it ‘really isn’t worth it’. Often times of difficulty are the times when most progress is being made, which is why a commitment to the practice (rather than to specific results) is so important.

Experiment.
Treat this as a journey where you have a lot of freedom to explore. Enter into meditation as an exciting thing to do for its own sake. We will cover several different approaches to meditation – find out which one suits you. Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t work out – just treat it as another learning experience.

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few" - Shunryu Suzuki

Practice: Just Sitting.
There is a lot of ‘theory’ behind meditation, but in reality the only important part is the practice. We will start with ‘Just Sitting’. Aim to practice this for about 15-20 minutes at first, building up to about 30 minutes.

Sit as comfortably as you can, on a cushion or on a chair. Don’t slouch, but sit upright, with your back, neck and head straight and in alignment so that gravity supports your head. Keep you shoulder-blades back, and rest your hands gently on your lap or legs. Relax, keep breathing normally, and gently close your eyes (many traditions meditate with eyes open, but it is often easier to close them when beginning). Now, expecting nothing, just become very aware of all of the feelings in your body – discomforts, aches, warmth, cool, textures, tingling. Just be aware, observe. Now become aware of all of the sounds going on around you – the furnace, traffic, people breathing. Now become aware of the thoughts going on in your head. When a thought arises, acknowledge it and let it go. Start to notice the frequency of thoughts, and how they begin to slow down, and the gaps between the thoughts. Begin to experience the centered stillness as your thoughts no longer crowd you. Remain in that stillness – when another thought arises, just let it go.
Chris.

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