Week 2 – Meditation

One should realize that one does not meditate in order to go deeply into oneself and withdraw from the world …. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some exalted or higher state, since this simply produces something conditioned and artificial that will act as an obstruction to free flow of the mind… When performing meditation practice, one should develop the feeling of opening oneself out completely to the whole universe with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind… Meditation is not to develop trance like states; rather it is to sharpen perceptions, to see things as they are. Meditation at this level is relating with the conflicts of our life situations, like using a stone to sharpen a knife, the situation being the stone. Trungpa Rinpoche

Many aspects of spirituality are to do with letting go. Primarily of our perception of who and what we are. In order to let go we first become more aware. Aware of the body and breath, aware of movement and senses. We become aware of the mind, the thought processes and we become aware of the ego and image we present.

Chi Kung, by slowing down, helps us to become more aware. When we move our body we do so subconsciously. In Chi Kung the subconscious becomes conscious. We are aware of the movement from the way in which the ankles, knees and hips create the movement and the way the upper body extends the movement. In Chi Kung we try to make this movement smooth and efficient but more importantly we make it conscious. Once it is conscious we can change it. We also become conscious of the breath and later the feeling or quality in the movement and then the energy in the movement. Now the quality of meditation becomes apparent. We are aware but the mind is not involved in that awareness. We are just aware.

Meditation becomes the means by which we become aware of the mind. We start to focus and concentrate the mind and then we let go. We become aware of the mind. Meditation helps in two ways. Firstly it is the foundation of awareness. It helps the mind step back into a place of observation, into another place within the mind that observes. Secondly it allows us to become aware of how the thoughts arise and go away, how they have a natural life of their own which only continues while we pay attention.

Later meditation goes further and deeper, but for now it is the foundation of awareness.

What is meditation? It is becoming one with the soul; it is dropping your relation with the muscles and with human lmitations and remembering that you are a soul. When you begin to relate yourself to your soul, then you will be awareof more of your past experiences, and you will know that you have come down from the bosom of God.
In God lie all the memory and experiences of your life. In your inner contact the forgotten times and powers will come back into your consciousness. Meditation leads you to remember that you are not a mortal, but that you are one with God. During the daytime, when you are not meditating, you remember you are a mortal, but in meditation the reverse is true. Meditation means dropping the consciousness of the body, remembering who you are, and then coming back and ruling the soul.
 Paramahansa Yogananda

What is meditation like?
Meditation creates a state of mind. Once you are familiar with the state of mind then even by just coming into posture, or intending to be still, then the meditative state occurs. It is easy to think that obtaining a meditative state is hard and that it takes time and effort. Yet meditation is a natural state which is easily accessible. The difficulty is not one of achieving it but of recognising it and staying in it. How do we recognise it? How do we know when we have reached a meditative state of mind? It is a state of quiet alertness. It is as though the mind is observing itself.

Exercise 1
This is a simple exercise to help to feel what a meditative state of mind is like.
Just sit for a few moments and become aware of your thoughts. Now wait for the next thought to arise. It may be just a few seconds or much longer, but that time before the thought arises is meditative.

Present Moment Awareness
Meditation is a state of present moment awareness. When you were waiting for the thought to arise you were neither thinking about the past nor the future. Here is a moment of peacefulness without stress. The more we can extend the present moment alertness the less we are dealing with the internal stress. Stress is often made worse because we cannot let go. We are either worrying about what has happened or worrying about what will happen. We cannot change what has happened nor are we certain of what will happen but the guilt and the fear eat away at us. By meditating we are stopping the past and the future and just sitting for a while in the present moment away from fear and anxiety.

When we are waiting for the thought to arise we are alert as though ready and waiting. It is therefore possible to be alert not only to our thoughts but to whatever is going on around us. Meditation may initially be a withdrawn state, but it can be a state where we are active and participative with what is happening around us.

To start with this observation requires a lot of concentration, but as the state becomes familiar the mind will enter it more easily. There comes a time when you prepare for meditation and even though the mind is still busy with thoughts, you are aware of the meditative state forming like a quiet space behind the thoughts. It is as though there are two states at the same time, the thoughts and a background stillness. It is easy then just to slip into the stillness.

In the development of wisdom, one quality of mind above all others is the key to practice. This quality is mindfulness, attention or self recollection. The most direct way to understand our life situation, who we are and how our mind and body operate, is to observe with a mind that simply notices all events equally. This attitude of non-judgement, direct observation allows all events to occur in a natural way. By keeping the attention in the present moment, we can see more and more clearly the true characteristics of our mind and body process. Jack Kornfield

Introduction to Meditation
The aim of meditation is to bring the mind to stillness. This is usually achieved by focussing on a single object. There are many different forms of meditation all of which help you to still the mind. The form of meditation may focus on the breath, a candle, a complex shape (mandala), a insoluble problem, a sound (mantra) or a particular object. No technique is better or worse than any other. The meditation used on this course focuses on the chakras, or energy centres, in the body and is complementary to the Chi Kung exercises, because it increases awareness of the chakras and helps to develop the energy body.

By bringing the mind to stillness, we gradually become aware of a silent place within, where we feel at peace and whole. The use of meditation gives us greater awareness of ourselves, we feel more peaceful and whole.

Try to find a quiet place to meditate away from all distractions, turn off your telephone, ask family not to disturb you. Create a relaxing environment; low lighting, gentle music, candles, incense. Sit comfortably, on the floor, a cushion, a stool or on a chair. Use cushions to help you get comfortable with the back straight and the head drawn up. It is more important to be comfortable than to get into a specific position.

Focus on the object of your meditation, in this case the energy centres in the body. We are not trying to do anything, just observe and focus your mind. Meditation is very relaxing. Try to stay alert and focussed. It is best to meditate at a time of day when you are most alert and not tired. The mind will wander, but when it does simply return to the object of your focus. Keep drawing the mind back. With practice you will more easily enter a meditative state. This has great benefits for your health and well being.

The aim of meditation is to help you to know yourself better. You will become more aware of yourself and your own thought processes. In the stillness of the mind you will find a deep inner peacefulness and sense of being whole.

What is Meditation? – Meditation is:
A state of mind where the mind is alert and alive, aware of all the senses, but there are no thoughts. It is not that thoughts do not arise, but they do not stay e.g you may be sitting in meditation and hear the sound of an ambulance, the mind could start thinking “that is an ambulance” and start to wonder where the ambulance is going and go further into other thoughts connected to experiences of ambulances. In meditation we are aware of the sound of the ambulance, but we do not allow the train of thought to continue.

Easy. It is easy to get into a state of meditation but not so easy to maintain. We shouldn’t think that meditation takes years or even months of practice. We can touch a state of meditation very easily and even a short period of meditation is beneficial, aiding relaxation, increasing alertness and managing stress.

A state where we do not try. Try not to worry about whether you are doing it right, just set aside some time and have a go. The important thing with meditation is doing it not trying to learn it.

Like waiting for a thought to arise. Just sit for a few moments and become aware of your thoughts. Now wait for the next thought to arise. It may be just a few seconds or much longer, but that time before the thought arises is meditative.

– Meditation is not:
 By focus we mean bringing the mind onto a single object. Focus, or one-pointedness is a useful tool to help us to develop our meditation ability. By learning to focus on one thing we can stop many external thoughts arising and then we can let go of the point of focus.

Concentration. Concentration is keeping the mind focussed on an object for a period of time. Again it is a useful tool to aid the development of meditation but it isn’t meditation itself. In meditation the mind is relaxed so there is no effort with the mind. In concentration there is often an effort to try to keep going. Try to relax the mind.

Contemplation. Try not to use your meditation time to go through thoughts, issues and problems to get the mind organised or understand what to do. This can be very useful but it is not meditation. Try to separate time for contemplation and time for meditation. In particular do not use the time for dwelling on negative issues, churning them over and over and deepening the anger, frustration etc.

Sleeping. Meditation is very relaxing and it is very easy to fall asleep while meditating. Do not worry about it. When we relax the body is able to replenish itself more easily and sometimes what the body needs most is sleep. Try not to fall asleep every time you meditate but don’t worry if you do. Meditating in an upright position in a dining chair is more conducive to staying awake than in an armchair. To assist in keeping awake do the meditation at a time when you are naturally alert or do some energy exercise first.

Exercise – Posture Awareness
Whenever you have a few moments, at any time during the day, observe your posture. You might be sitting at a computer at work, eating a meal, standing waiting for the kettle to boil or even watching television. Notice how you are standing or sitting, observe how your body feels. Then come into a more upright and relaxed posture and observe how you feel. Just spend a few minutes alert to the feelings in your body and at the same time trying to relax any feelings of tension. You can continue with the activity you were involved with but in a more alert way.Try to repeat this on a regular basis, just when you remember. There is no need to do it a specific number of times. We are trying to increase our awareness and starting to apply our meditation in a practical way.

Easy meditation
This also works the other way round. When we are learning to meditate, we can use posture as a very simple meditation. It may only be for a few seconds, or minutes, but just by coming into posture, being more aware of the body, we are starting to be meditative. The awareness involved is in itself meditative and just by becoming aware of and adjusting our posture we are developing our meditative state of mind.

Exercise – Focus on the Tan Tien
Using the same meditation preparation as in week 1’s notes and start to observe the breath. This time though feel as though you are directing the breath with the mind. Focus your attention on the Tan Tien, the point just below the navel, and feel as though you are breathing into that point. This is a mental exercise i.e. we are not trying to do anything clever with the breath, just feel as though you are directing it mentally. It should feel as though the power within the breath is directed to the Tan Tien. Do this for a few minutes and then feel as though you are breathing warmth and light into the Tan Tien. It should feel as though the Tan Tien is getting warmer and brighter with every breath. Then as in last week’s exercise, just let go of the breath and just observe the Tan Tien. Just sit with it in awareness.