Friday, January 15

Self Mastery with Meditation

I love to give advice. Browsing around here and there, I found myself suggesting to two people in difficult straits that they might take up a meditation practice. And then I thought that perhaps, as so often happens, there was a message for me in there as well.

So I decided to start a meditation practice again. It makes it easier that I've been sleeping well; I can drink my green tea in the morning and then sit with an alert mind. Sitting later in the day is a good influence on the evening, but too easy to miss.

While sitting is very simple, there are a few questions that come up.

How long to sit? I'm starting with 20 minutes; five minutes longer than I used to sit.

What about breathing? There's a great deal of information about how to approach breathing while sitting. I find that I have trouble breathing naturally. I suspect it's because my regular posture is not ideal, and I'm not used to breathing while sitting up straight. So I use a breathing exercise. I inhale for two beats, wait for two beats, exhale for two beats, wait for two beats. I use a four syllable mantra to note the beats, but you can just as easily count.

And what about thinking? The classic instruction is that when thoughts arise, the meditator will note "thinking" and let the thoughts go. Another instruction is to observe the thoughts without engaging in them, as a person might watch clouds pass by. I find a lot of thoughts arise and sometimes churn while I'm sitting. I let them go. I take the approach of not being engaged in thoughts, rather than banishing them. It's the same thing that I do when I realize that I'm analyzing fruitlessly, or when I need to stop thinking in order to sleep. If anything it seems that my brain is even more fertile and tricksy while I'm sitting, but I expect that will settle down a bit with time.

And how about the gear? Because, God knows, there's always gear. Well, as silly as it sounds, when it comes to meditation I think there are a few things worth using.

You will want a timer. I highly recommend the E tone "digital zen alarm clock." I think it's valuable to have a pleasant sound end the meditation, rather than an electronic alarm. It also makes an excellent alarm clock. Because these clocks are expensive, I waited years before finally buying one, but now that I have one I think it was absolutely worth it.

And seating? Everyone has their preferences. I have a meditation bench and zabuton cushion underneath, which I bought at a local bookstore. While zafu cushions seem to be more common, I think it feels more natural to sit on a meditation bench if you're not already used to a zafu cushion. Note that I've never ordered anything from the website I just linked to.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post and very clear instructions.