What is meditation?
Meditation is the process of focusing the mind for a period of time. Throughout our days our mind can become cluttered with so many thoughts and passing emotions. How refreshing would it be if we could actually learn to harness the power of the focused intention into something that works for us rather than allowing our minds to wander aimlessly wherever it may during our days? How wonderful will it be to understand the inner workings of our minds and have control over our thoughts and feelings? How helpful would it be to be able to see through the pretense and fog that surrounds experience into the heart of truth without being a slave to our whirlwind of emotions? This is all possible through the process of consistent meditation practice.
Different types of meditation.
Meditation can be practiced in different forms and through different traditions around the world though it is generally associated with the traditions of Asia.
- 1) Centering Meditation (Zazen) is the process of focusing on the breath as a means of allowing one’s self to center.
- 2) Insight Meditation (Vippashana) is the process of watching the mind in a meditative state through observation of thoughts for a deeper understanding of how the mind works.
- 3) Visualization Meditation is the process of putting something in the mind and allowing the mind to respond to it. Typically from Asian Tradition this involves hero or mythological figures who represent ideals and energies far greater than self.
- 4) Mantra Meditation is the process of calming the mind by focusing on a sound or specific sounds. Typically these sounds are primitive utterances that have no real meaning but vibrate within the mind at frequencies that create higher states of consciousness. The word “Om” is an example of a mantra that is often recited.
- 5) Integrated Spirit Meditation (Mikkyo) characterizes the Japanese and Tibetan esoteric Buddhist Traditions and involves the “Sanmitsu” (three secrets) three part blending of a physical posturing, a verbalization, and a visualization as a means to identify with and relate to self as highest truth.
- 6) Contemplation is the process of thinking deeply or reflecting on a specific topic or question.
This practice will explore the basic breathing/centering process that is the foundation for meditation.
Finding a practice.
The most important key to meditation practice is to do it, consistently, over a long period of time. Your mind exists as a culmination of all the experiences you’ve had up to this point in your life, retraining it will be a difficult but exciting process that won’t happen overnight.
Creating a sacred space.
You should find one place in which you do your meditation practice daily. It doesn’t matter where this but it should be a simple, uncluttered space with good air circulation and uninterrupted privacy free from phone calls and noise. It’s important that you clean, dust, and vacuum this space at least once per week. You may enjoy lighting a candle and/or a stick of incense to help you get into a meditative state but this is not necessary. You may also enjoy having a simple wall hanging that represents more of what you want to be. Meditation cushions are available commercially for floor sitting but a pillow or a chair will work just fine. A bowl of salt in the room will help to dispel any negativity.
Beginning your practice.
This practice is known as “Susoku-Kan” in Japanese.
Sit down in your chair or on your cushion. Light candle or incense if you desire. It’s a good idea not to blow out the incense but rather to shake in the air or fan it out with your hand.
Take a deep breath hold it. Allow your back to straighten and settle in. Then let the breath go.
Take a moment to appreciate the significance of this time for yourself, free from the pressures and distractions of daily life.
Set the timer for however long you wish to practice…it’s a good idea to start with 10 minutes and work up from there.
Allow your eyes to close gently and begin to notice your breathing.
Follow three cycles of breath just feeling the breath go in and out.
Begin to count the out breaths 1 through 10. Breath in, out…1, in…out…2…etc. When a thought or distraction creeps into your mind, notice it, and let it go. Then start counting again from 1. If you get all the way to 10, (10 breath cycles) without distraction, then start again. There is no goal of getting to 10…it’s simply to sit and be.
Continue this practice until the timer sounds.
Take a moment of gratitude to appreciate the time you just spent with yourself before you transition back into your daily life.
Gently put out the candle or incense by fanning rather than blowing. (if you chose to use them)
That’s all there is to it. This practice is profound in its simplicity. Later, there are plenty of other practices to do if you enjoy this type of training and you may find yourself sitting without counting breaths after a time. This is fine. Be sure to observe the changes in your life rather than watching the practice itself for results.
My best wishes for the most positive of experiences as you venture inward. Ganbatte Kudasai. (“Do your best” in Japanese).