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Balgore
07 Dec 10, 17:39
As I am new to Buddhism, I am also new to meditation.

I know many elements to meditation, but I do not understand their significance. Perhaps if someone could explain them to me, it would better help me understand what im actually trying to do, rather than just seemlingly 'randomly meditating'.

- Focus on Breathing seems to be a common element to most basic instructions on meditation. Why? Should all I be trying to do is focus 100% on my breathing? What will this accomplish? Will I "feel" anything or any sensations? And does enlightenment simply "happen" one day after years of random practicing?

- Posture seems to be another big element. Why is it so strict? Can one not meditate slouched over, or laying down? I find, in the few attempts I have made at meditation and focus on breathing so far, is that when I get to a certain point where my breathing really starts to slow down, I naturally slouch over to a more relaxed position. Should I fight this urge and force a straight back? Does 'flexing' your back musscles to sit straight up not break concentration?

- I have decided to commit to trying to meditate at least for 15 minutes every day. What should I be trying to accomplish as my first goals? How long will they take me to accomplish (should I be expecting results soon? in years?)? And please be as specific as possible when answering this questioning. Saying something simple like "focus on clearing your mind" or "just focus on breathing", perhaps will leave me confused as to what my 'goal' in doing it is, what im accomplishing, or what I should be expecting to feel or experience.

I have experimented with meditation in the past before I discovered Buddhism, and I felt then that I was just randomly following the outlined steps but without really knowing what i was doing or what the expect from it, and therefore I didnt really experience/accomplish anything. Sure, I was more calm for that moment, but once the meditation ended I felt back to the same mental state I was in previous to it. So perhaps some guidance or further information on this topic will actually help me get something out of it.

Thanks guys,

Aloka
07 Dec 10, 20:29
Hi Balgore and welcome,

I'm 'under the weather' with a flu/bronchitis bug at the moment - and I'm not a meditation teacher, but I will share a few thoughts relating to your questions.

Breath meditation is a method which can help eventually to reduce one's discursive thoughts, calm the mind and increase awareness.

I have no idea how enlightenment occurs because I'm not enlightened myself, however since its the eventual cessation of delusional mind states, then I don't think it just happens after "random" practising !

Regarding posture, it's ok to meditate in a straight-backed chair if you have physical difficulties on a cushion - or on ones back if one is physically disabled. It's usual to keep the back straight because slumping will interfere with the channels and affect breathing.

I think you might find this instruction useful from the highly respected teacher Ajahn Sumedho.

http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Venerable_Ajahn_Sumedho:_Instruction

As well as that I suggest you set a little time aside to watch the Buddhist meditation videos from Ajahn Jayasaro which are mentioned in the 'Beginners Questions' thread and in Study Links.


Kind wishes,

Dazzle

Balgore
07 Dec 10, 22:10
Thanks for your reply.

Today, being the second day since ive decided to begin meditating on a daily basis, I got a lot 'further' than I have at all my previous meditation attempts.

I came home from work a little bored, a little on edge, and a little kinesthetic. I decided to force myself to 15 minutes of meditation, despite how I previously felt 'unsuccessful' about it.

At first, I was very full of thoughts and minor distractions. As well, I was starting to get angry/frustated. I ALMOST gave up in frustration, but I stuck it through, trying to constantly drop the thoughts, ignore the emotion, and focus again on the breathing.

Sure enough, I actually became total relaxed and calm, losing all previous feelings of boredom/on-edge/frustration. I even want to say I almost felt my 'aura', or energy, specifically between my two thumbs when they slightly separated as I became relaxed.

Eventually, I decided to stop, content I had succeeded with today's meditation and calmed fully. I merely assumed just 15 minutes had passed, and sure enough 30 minutes had flown right by.

So perhaps in the past I just hadn't been trying for long enough, or been able to get past my busy thinking mind. But today I feel that I definitely got somewhere with it. And in regards to the sensation I felt between my thumbs... It very well could have been random tingling because I was relaxed, or tricks of my mind, but one thing ive learned today is that meditation can definitely relax me, regardless of my previous emotional state.

So I will definitely be looking into it more, and reading the link you have provided for me, and continue daily practices of meditation.



Any feedback or thoughts in regards to the 'energy'/'aura' I felt between my thumbs? Real, or just tricks of my mind/physically relaxed body?

Aloka
07 Dec 10, 22:19
Any feedback or thoughts in regards to the 'energy'/'aura' I felt between my thumbs? Real, or just tricks of my mind/physically relaxed body?

Depends on the position of your hands I guess. I meditate with palms upwards and gently relaxed in my lap and one hand on top of the other.

I wouldn't pay too much attention to body sensations or experiences when meditating. They come and go, just keep your attention with the breath.

In general, its a good idea to seek instruction and feedback from an offline Buddhist meditation teacher.

Esho
08 Dec 10, 00:19
In general, its a good idea to seek instruction and feedback from an offline Buddhist meditation teacher.

Yes Adam... it is important to develop skillful means toward meditation with a teacher. Also there are different meditative techniques particular to some traditions. In my case I practice zazen where the posture being at the zafu, the chair of a bench, is a fundamental aspect for it. Also meditation done in group, at least at the beginning, is also very important because meditation is an experience so an experienced teacher can guide you through some pitfalls that usually happen at the beginning.

;D

londonerabroad
08 Dec 10, 05:24
What is important with meditation right from the outset is your motivation - why are you meditating? Is it to improve your concentration in order to function more efficiently or is it more spacious to include developing compassion for others - does it include the wish for enlightenment and if so for whose benefit.

Then the meditation should involve the least amount of effort possible - it should not be forced - in the beginning perhaps it's better to meditate when you feel inspired - a walk in nature is very good for this or if you are religious, a little devotional contemplation.

Then just let the meditation happen - let your body find the right posture - relax and just be aware of your breathing - aware of when you are breathing in and when you are breathing out. Let your thoughts and emotions come and go - simply watch them arising and disappearing again - be like butter, melting in the hot sun.

Body still, speech silent, mind spacious - this is the way to meditate. And just let it happen without getting caught up in anything that might come up - fresh and new each time without expectations.

Aloka
08 Dec 10, 07:44
What is important with meditation right from the outset is your motivation - why are you meditating? Is it to improve your concentration in order to function more efficiently or is it more spacious to include developing compassion for others - does it include the wish for enlightenment and if so for whose benefit.

I think its worth noting that whilst we may have altruistic motivation towards other sentient beings, we have to recognise the defilements within our own minds and skilfully work towards liberating ourselves from mental delusion first, before we can be of any real spiritual help to others. Otherwise it can possibly develop into an evangelical attitude and 'the blind leading the blind' whilst not being free of imperfections ourselves. It's not much good thinking "I want to be enlightened so I can 'save' others" and then getting into an angry confrontation with someone.

Better to be free from suffering oneself first(which is the result of enlightenment) and then be an example to others afterwards. One thing at a time.

Some general advice from a Vajrayana teacher:

"Reminding ourselves of how others suffer and mentally putting ourselves in their place, will help awaken our compassion and considerably extend its scope.
The next stage in the development of compassion is to work to liberate all beings from their suffering.
The starting point here is our own suffering, for unless we can confront and deal with those situations which give pain and discomfort to ourselves, we can acquire neither the confidence nor skill necessary to be of much use to others."
(Akong Rinpoche - excerpt typed from the book 'Taming the Tiger)

Its worth noting that in Theravada although there's emphasis on kindness and compassion towards others, there's no requirement for "saving all sentient beings". I was never quite sure when I was primarily a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, how other than having an imagined goal as a tool for the purpose of inspiration, everyone was realistically expected to actually do that anyway. Seems to me that if you believe that you can do that, then its a desire for endless becoming. Just a personal opinion however.

Anyway, so sorry, that's another subject altogether and I've gone completely off the topic of meditation now . Back to topic!

Hopefully Element will look in and be able to give you some reliable feedback because he's an established meditator with lots of offline experience.


:hands:

Element
08 Dec 10, 08:38
Focus on Breathing seems to be a common element to most basic instructions on meditation. Why? Should all I be trying to do is focus 100% on my breathing? What will this accomplish? Will I "feel" anything or any sensations? And does enlightenment simply "happen" one day after years of random practicing?

Hi Balgore

If you can focus 100% on your breathing then please do so.

Why?

1. The mind can find calmness & the body can find relaxation.
2. The mind can increase its clarity & sharpness.

You will certainly feel sensations. In fact, your mind will learn to get in touch with its emotions within the physical body (but on a deep & non-thinking level). You will also naturally learn to calm or dissolve any stressful emotions or sensations.

Focusing 100% on breathing is the formal path to enlightenment. If the mind can become clear & stable, then insight or wisdom can arise.

If we choose this method, then we must place our trust 100% in the method.


- Posture seems to be another big element. Why is it so strict? Can one not meditate slouched over, or laying down? I find, in the few attempts I have made at meditation and focus on breathing so far, is that when I get to a certain point where my breathing really starts to slow down, I naturally slouch over to a more relaxed position. Should I fight this urge and force a straight back? Does 'flexing' your back musscles to sit straight up not break concentration?

It is difficult to maintain and sharpen awareness when lying down. It is OK to slouch, as long as your mind remains in touch with the breathing. If this is done, the breathing will generally lengthen and your posture will naturally straighten by itself.


I have decided to commit to trying to meditate at least for 15 minutes every day. What should I be trying to accomplish as my first goals? How long will they take me to accomplish (should I be expecting results soon? in years?)? And please be as specific as possible when answering this questioning. Saying something simple like "focus on clearing your mind" or "just focus on breathing", perhaps will leave me confused as to what my 'goal' in doing it is, what im accomplishing, or what I should be expecting to feel or experience.

15 minutes is not a long time so just focusing on breathing is a suitable goal. Why just focus on breathing? So you can develop a mind that is not distracted and so you can develop & feel calmness & peace of mind.

15 minutes is enough time for the mind to feel some tranquility & refreshment.

You can try some counting exercises (via mental noting), such is counting '1' on the in-breath and '1' on the out-breath; then '2' on the next in-breath and '2' on the next out-breath; up to ten.

You can also place your hands gently on some sensitive places, such as one hand on your belly & the other on your chest, to help you mind get in touch with the sensation & movement of the in & out breath.

In short, the goal of meditation is to develop mindfulness (non-distraction), tranquility (inner peaceful feelings) & insight.

Kind regards

Element

;D

fletcher
08 Dec 10, 12:15
Hi Blagore
Here's a video I have found very useful.
KInd regards
Gary

Introduction to Zen Meditation: The Still Point (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9b4FbGlVSE&feature=player_embedded#)

Balgore
08 Dec 10, 15:42
Thank you all for the great feedback, and additional sources of information.

I think I have much stronger understanding of what im doing now, instead of just confusingly trying to 'meditate' without knowing what I was doing.

londonerabroad
08 Dec 10, 16:20
ESSENTIAL ADVICE ON MEDITATION
excerpts from Teachings by Sogyal Rinpoche

"When you read books about meditation, or often when meditation is presented by different groups, much of the emphasis falls on the techniques. In the West, people tend to be very interested in the "technology" of meditation. However, by far the most important feature of meditation is not technique, but the way of being, the spirit, which is callled the "posture", a posture which is not so much physical, but more to do with spirit or attitude."

Continued :http://www.bodhicitta.net/ESSENTIAL%20ADVICE%20ON%20MEDITATION.htm

Aloka
08 Dec 10, 16:32
Hi LondonerAbroad,

Regarding your Sogyal Rinpoche quote posted above...it was far too long and so I have shortened it and provided the link to the remainder. Can I draw your attention to the Forum and Personal Messaging Guidelines in the Code of Conduct section:

"Please avoid posting quotes in the forums unless they are relevant to a discussion and have personal input added. Sources of the quotes and links should always be provided."

If you want to refer to a long quote its better to post a few sentences and then just give a link to the rest of the material.
Some personal input is always appreciated too, even if its just something like: "I found these instructions useful for my own meditation practice and thought you might find them helpful too." rather than just posting a lengthy quote you found somewhere onto the end of a thread.

Thanks very much for your cooperation ;D

Dazz

Aloka
08 Dec 10, 16:34
Thank you all for the great feedback, and additional sources of information.

I think I have much stronger understanding of what im doing now, instead of just confusingly trying to 'meditate' without knowing what I was doing.


Glad we could be of some help to you, Balgore. :hands: