Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A month of meditation

Here's what I'm going to be doing over the next month in the spirit of meditation training. Generally I'll be following this typical meditation sequence every day:

- Scan through the body, relaxing muscles, breathing into tension
- Get the body relaxed and establish awareness of the whole body
- Breathe into the whole body - this is very refreshing
- Join the body, mind and breath together - this means I feel the breath and body in my mind - I'm not thinking about anything else
- Once I've reached this point I feel like I've cleaned out the rubbish and I can relax into the next bit
- If I'm still a bit jazzed, I'll do four elements or body parts for a few cycles
- Next I'll switch to mindfulness of breathing - watching the breath come in and go out again. Just a simple practice
- I'll maybe count my breaths just to ensure I'm not deluding myself  - 1 to 10 then back down again
- I'll do this until it is time to do something else

Also during this period I'll be doing a day long meditation retreat and maintain a regular practice with a sitting group. I'll also be working on everyday mindfulness of movement and changes to postures. I'll do mindfulness of vedana, mind states and acknowledge any other things that may come up/

After I've done all that, I'll tell you about jhanas before doing more detailed insight practice. Then when we get through all that you'll be telling me what to do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When meditation becomes training and a discipline

If you've been following what I've been doing this year, you'll know that I've restarted meditation practice from scratch and am working through all the various techiques that have brought some relief from the difficult thing that is me. So far I've been doing practices related to the body.

So, now we come to the point in our lives where we ask ourselves - is meditation just something I do to relax or is it something that I want to take seriously?

Ask yourself that question. Then ask yourself: does your life feel shit?

If it does then your mind is in the wrong place and you can benefit from meditation practice (or you can spend a few years doing therapy). Ultimately, you will find that the change only happens from within yourself and learning to meditate will show you how.

Anyway, let's say you've been doing some meditation for the last month or so. If I was a meditation teacher I'd now be telling you to keep sitting every day no matter what - meditation is a training and an art. It requires skill and practice to be able to see what is going on.

So this is what you must do: practice every day. Not every other day. Every single day. Even 10 minutes is enough to connect to the breath and allow the mind to relax a little bit.

If you're good with 10 minutes, move up to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes. Keeping adding time until you get to an hour or two. This is where you will learn what it is to meditate. You will realise mindfulness, knowing and calmness. You will know the difference between body and mind. You will experience the quieting of thoughts. This is what you must do to be able to move forward into the deeper aspects of the mind.

So I'll resume meditation instructions in a few weeks once I've done some proper sitting. None of that guided meditation stuff - just sit.

No short cuts. Give yourself a mind detox. Do it once and you'll never be the same again. You'll also know what I'm talking about which will be quite useful. I'm sure most of you don't....

Monday, February 20, 2017

Four elements meditation

In case you are wondering, I'm going through a progressive set of meditation instructions in a number of different posts that take you to the very essence of your own mind and being. I'm doing the exercises as I go along so it's kind of in real time. We've started with some body meditation and some ideas about mindfulness.

Now we move forward to start investigating the interface between mind, body and concepts (especially in relation to compactness which I will explain later). The launch pad for this type of  investigation is the four elements - earth, wind, fire and water - but let's not get hung about these labels. This meditation is derived from Buddhist meditation practices that were devised thousands of years ago when they hadn't discovered electricity and they hadn't figured out what a quark was - but they did have fire, earth, water and wind. In essence, this practice is nothing to with these elements - it's just a way of looking at experience that is different to the way we normally look at things. It's about seeing how the functioning of the body is an impersonal flow of information and how we project concepts on top of this flow.

It's highly useful because it helps with the discipline of mindfulness.

So:

- Begin by focusing on the breath. Breathe in and out.

- Establish the knowing faculty of the mind - you know something if you can label it. Know breathing in, breathing out, and the pause in between,

- Now, know pushing as you breathe in. Feel the breath pushing the rub cage apart and pressing against the diaphragm. This is the air in the atmosphere pushing into you.

- Next, know supporting. This is your muscles keeping your body together and in a certain posture.

- Know softness - the belly, your lips, relaxed muscles.

-  Know hardness - your teeth and bones. The hard floor. Feel them from within.

- Know heaviness. Feel gravity pulling you down. Feel the heaviness in your body.

- Know lightness. There's always some space in the body that is light and wispy.

- Know roughness. Clothes against your skin.

- Know smoothness. This would be silk on your skin, or a polished nail, or a smooth tooth.

- Know hot - warmth in the belly, the out breath on the lip.

- Know cold - fingertips, toes, the in breath on the lip

- Know flowing - the liquid mucus in the mouth, the blood in your body

- The last one is a bit tricky. Know cohesion. This is basically the fluid (water) that is everywhere in your body keeping it juicy and pliable.

And that's it. Keep cycling through the list and take a mental note of each characteristic. Do it as you move around. Notice how these things come and go, and shift about. Notice how external events influence these features of your bodily experience.

If you want to go a bit further, ask yourself something like: what is heat? How do I know heat? What sensations make me think heat is happening? How am I constructing the heat experience?

This is where we are ultimately headed but before we go there, we'll explore bliss and jhanas. It's an interesting but useful diversion.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Investigate the mind and know you are doing it


The mind has lots of faculties and one of the most interesting of these is its ability to investigate phenomena and see what is going on. People who are new to meditation have something called beginners mind which is a natural curiosity driven by the novelty of what they are doing. Old lags like me, tend to need a bit of effort to regain interest in something they've seen a thousand times before but once we get going the pleasure of seeing stuff soon lights things up.

Anyway, that's not really what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to say is: investigation is a key mental faculty in meditation. You don't have to believe me, I'm just planting a seed in your mind for later on so that when you realise you are investigating phenomena you'll say something like: 'sheesh kebab, this is investigation and that blogger dude was right - it really is a thing'.

Then you might say, "I'm investigating and I know I'm investigating. This is what knowing is like!"

Once you realise the difference between having an experience and knowing an experience in your mind you'll start writing your own blog just to tell everyone how exciting it is because it is HUGE!

You're welcome. It's also worth noting that investigation follows mindfulness like night follows day, so just keep paying attention. Notice the difference between mindfulness and investigation if you can.

Once you've recognised these two mental factors you'll be set up nicely for the rest of your meditating life.


Thursday, February 02, 2017

The pleasure of breathing in and out

Who would have thought?

You know how it goes:

- notice the energy rush as you breathe in - nice isn't it
- notice the release as you breathe out - lovely

Now rinse and repeat. Like a massage.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Yes, I'm mindful

Are you mindful?

If not, use the body to establish some sort of awareness.

Keep at it until stuff comes and goes. Now, here's where it gets useful. We train ourselves to notice that nothing (absolutely nothing) lasts - then we rest in that place behind the coming and going of experience. No problems in that space. Find this experience.

Once you've got this nailed down tight (maintain it for 10 minutes or so), we are ready to get molecular on our minds.and experiences. Then we can start to express the truth through the twinkle in our eyes and the complete lack of regard for all the nonsense that people call life.

We know it's already happened. Calm down already. Find the space.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Navigating the mind through meditation

Meditation is a skill that is learned over time but it's a skill where training and doing happen at the same time - i.e. we are learning on the job. As we allow the hindrances (distracting mind states) to drop away, we find ourselves meditating but unable to direct our meditation - we rely on intuition and short, felt experiences to direct us (occassionally guided by words). One such felt experience is the idea that we are resting inside a bubble beneath the surface of activity. We sit in our bubble and observe mental experience coming and going. We are at rest, simply being aware of what is going on. Interestingly, if we try to solidify our bubble by directing thought at it (look at me in the bubble), then it pops. It's a case of being in the bubble and not getting involved. This is the training.

One interesting thing to do once we are in this still, observing state is to notice what takes us away from this state. Perhaps it is a thought, a sensory experience, part of the breath cycle, or some other urge or moment of excitement. We watch ourselves get lost and come back again. Away and home. Perhaps nothing takes us away and then we might find an invitation to go deeper into stillness ... Perhaps even this makes our bubble burst.

In short:

- establish the observer behind experience.
- while here, we use felt experience to guide us.
- allow the mind to invite you deeper places of stillness