Meditation in the Palm of your Hand

Meditation

Don’t Recall

Don’t Imagine

Don’t Think

Don’t Examine

Don’t Control

Rest

Meditation on Mind

Let us quickly do a very basic version on meditation of the mind. So far we have been doing meditation on breath. On the previous practice, your object was breath. In this following practice the object of meditation is your mind. Get back to your posture and bring your awareness in your body. Now simply observe the mind and its mental moments. The important thing to remember in this practice is not to engage with the thoughts. We constantly do commentary on each thoughts that arises. But here instead of commentary, you are simply a mere observer and just observing as the thoughts come and go without giving any attention. Just remain neutral. Make your mind like a spacious room with open windows so that the thoughts don’t get stuck. Try to stay in this experience for few minutes.

Come out of your meditation and slowly relax your focus. Tenzin Palmo once said to me, the problem is not our thoughts, the problem is that we identify with our thoughts. Try not giving any energy to it and you will slowly feel the spaciousness of the mind.

A meditator recalls her experience after few months of solitary retreat, ‘All this time while observing my mind I realized that all the thoughts that come to the mind are just sparks. But our untamed mind picks up the spark and flows with it’.

If you have been meditating for a while now and have been disciplined in your practice, you must have noticed the nature of thoughts. If you have very carefully observed it, the thoughts have no basis. As soon you try to stay in the thoughts, it disappears and another thought appears.

I was even surprised to observe some insignificant childhood moments which I have no memory of previously, surfaced during my meditational practice. It is incredible when you think of. In Buddhist term, it is called mental moments. They give a pretty good example of a projector. Projector being the mind and what it projects are the thoughts and the frames per second are the mental moments. These mental moments acts like frames per second.

6 pillars of advice by Tilopa

In the 10th Century AD, born in a wealthy family, Tilopa gave up his princely livelihood and adopted monastic life. Since then he got several initiations from other masters and achieved Buddhahood. Sine then he started teaching and appointed Naropa as his chief disciple to whom he gave the 6 Words of Advice. His words became the 6 pillars of meditation manual and is still the most important advice for any meditators.

  1. མི་མནོ་
  2. མི་བསམ་
  3. མི་སེམས་
  4. མི་དཔྱོད་
  5. མི་སྒོམ་
  6. རང་སར་བཞག་

Translation by  Ken McLeod

  1. Don’t recall; Let go of what has passed
  2. Don’t imagine; Let go of what may come
  3. Don’t think; Let go of what is happening now
  4. Don’t examine; Don’t try to figure anything out
  5. Don’t control; Don’t try to make anything happen
  6. Relax, right now, and rest

When one read these words over and over again, it feels like Tilopa silently examining our thoughts. In these 6 points, he basically highlighted the very nature of what we think all day long. Not a moment passes that we don’t think, and what we generally think all these moments? Once you start giving space to your mind, you will slowly start to ask, ‘what it is like to be in the present moment?’ You can reply, being in the present moment is so hard. But we experience being in present movies when we watch movie or when we listen to our favourite songs. Don’t we? Then we have the power to cultivate being present in this very moment fully aware.

Don’t recall; Let go of what has passed

When you were doing the meditation on mind, did you experience that your mind was simply started running away of what happened in the past?

Don’t recall; such a simple advice but the most difficult to deal with. From the morning we wake up to the time we go to bed, our 6 consciousness actively gathering all the mental moments and storing in our mind, both pleasant and unpleasant. This is call Mental Propensities. This is the seed of thoughts which gives rises to other thoughts. All this happens so fast every moment of our life that we are hardly aware.

Why we like the things we like and gets repulsed on things we do not like? Even scientists now claim that eye doesn’t see anything except Shapes and Colors. Once you slow down your mind and make it serviceable to investigate, you will see how naïve are we to get attracted and repulsed constantly. And all these stores in our mind and surfaces up to generate thoughts. So Tilopa is simply saying, what has passed has passed, don’t stay in that moment. You cannot be in the present moment if you are caught up in the past.

Don’t imagine; Let go of what may come

We know this mind too well and sometimes we label them ‘creative’. It is like a web of conceptualization constantly projecting on something that is yet to happen. We can’t even focus on the present moment but fully mastered in creating stories of the future.

Don’t Imagine; a simple way of saying don’t ponder in the future. Be right here at this very moment and nowhere else.  As soon we sit down to meditate for even 2 minutes, our mind starts pre-planning the entire day. It is like we sit for meditation to make our daily routine. My teacher often says this to me, ‘If you can’t sit and meditate for 2 minutes then you should scold yourself’. Just imagine how our mind tricks us, ‘Oh I can’t meditate because I have laundry to do and as soon you think of doing the laundry, you will postpone it for later’. Watching our own mind is like watching a circus.

Tilopa’s wise words are more relevant today even though it was written 1100 years ago. Just simply let go of what may come. Zen master Thich Naht Han says, people think walking in the water is a miracle, for me being in the present moment is a miracle.

Don’t think; Let go of what is happening now

This is very important advice. While starting, one struggles to hold the concentration and gets easily discouraged. As one slowly progress in the path of Calm Abiding, a pleasant sensation arises. Getting attached to the unpleasant feeling and pleasant feeling can cause a big hindrance towards meditational practice. Remind yourself constantly, you are NOT meditating to achieve something. There is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. You are simply observing the mind moments to know your own nature of the mind.

Don’t think; there is nothing to prove. Pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling, happiness, unhappiness, these are all part of the process. The only difference is, previously you were reacting to these feelings and now you are simply observing and not giving any energy to it.

Don’t examine; Don’t try to figure anything out

The first university in the world was Nalanda University, built in 1st century AD. One of the greatest Buddhist Scholars, Mathematicians, Logicians, Meditators, Scientists and Philosophers belonged to that university. It was the pinnacle of great modern science where nuclear Physics, Gravitational Theory, Sub Atomic theory were discussed and debated for 1200 years. The library was bigger than Oxford Library which stored 84,000 volumes of Buddhist texts. When Mughal came and destroyed Nalanda university, it is said the library burnt for 3 months.

One who started studying the Buddhist texts, can over intellectualize the process of meditation. Don’t examine; it is not an intellectualize game. Your job is to simply observe without trying to dissect every moment. Just observe moment to moment arising and falling. This is the very nature of impermanence. It integrates, abides and then disintegrates, this is the very nature, this is the reality.

Tilopa got his teaching from Arya Nagarjuna, who was the head of Nalanda University knows it too well. That is why he advised meditators on not getting caught up in examining each moment, instead simply observe the moment.

Don’t control; Don’t try to make anything happen

Sometimes we are caught up with the meditational manuals. Oh, I am suppose to feel the sensation in my nose, maybe I am not doing things right. Maybe I should breath harder to feel the sensation.

Don’t control; sensation is a sensation. Don’t try to control the sensation. Sometimes you can have a very pliant feeling and on other days your mind will be like the monkey mind. This is very normal. It is more difficult for people who are very goal oriented and need to be in control all the time. Let go of the control. Surrender!!!

Relax, right now, and rest.

What a joyous feeling when one gets to the stage where no effort is needed. Mind simply draws into deep concentration and stays in that experience without the need of any effort. Mind starts becoming spacious and starts observing each moment one by one. Such a physical and mental pliant. It says a meditator who are in a very advanced stage feels their body as light as a cotton and their mind as vast as clear blue sky.

 

Although 6 words, but achieving the 6 words will take time, maybe few months to few years and in Buddhist tradition it says several lifetimes. Like any practice, one needs to put joyous effort to the practice. Early stages are difficult but once some kind of stabilization is achieved then the progress will be much faster. Print out these 6 words and read them out loudly every time you sit for meditation. Not only in meditation but these word are practical even in our everyday life. You will be more focussed and concentrated

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

Overcome 5 Hindrances and 5 Faults of Meditation using this method

Buddha in Meditation
Credit – The Buddha (2010)

“Although the lantern is capable of providing illumination

but it cannot be useful in a stiff breeze

However, if one places it in a closed room

Its usefulness can then completely be manifested”

The term Meditation is sometimes vaguely used as a purpose to sit quietly without any thoughts. But have you ever questioned, what are thoughts? How thoughts come to our mind in everything we do in our lives? Thoughts cannot simply be generated on its own, it must have some origination. Our thoughts are widely influenced by our choice of lifestyle. Everything we do in our day to day life shapes our lifestyle. Meditation is simply not sitting in the cushion, it’s a Way of Life. And how you live your lifestyle will greatly impact your practice.

Common Problem when sitting in Meditative Equipoise

In the article How to Meditate, we sat for 5, 10 or 15 minutes trying to focus solely on the breath. If for all these time, you were solely focused on the sensation of the breath then you are exempted from reading any further, in fact you do not need any more reading. But poor souls like us whose attention span is less than few seconds, we need some homework to do.

Barely after few seconds of sitting, you will notice the mind starts wandering; I mean it has literally gone ‘thought shopping’. Bhikshuni Thupten Chodron says it very well, ‘We use meditation as a tool to prepare our grocery list’. You noticed that your mind is gone, you try hard bringing it back again to your breath but within seconds it is gone again. Harder you try, faster your mind flees. Its literally a baby monkey on a loose. All these are very common, it does not only happen to you, it happens to everyone when they are starting. So do not loose hope, do not think meditation is not for you. Like any skills, one needs to put lot of disciplined effort. Like a Musician or Olympic Athletes, who train themselves rigorously with strict discipline and perseverance, you also need to put the same joyous effort every day.

The irony is, our mind is the biggest enemy. It always like to trick us saying, ‘What meditation? You are so good in other things; you don’t need meditation. Go and browse Facebook, it is more interesting than sitting like a duck’. Simply do not listen to this cunning and deceptive mind.

In Buddhism it says there are 84000 mental obstacles. Yes, you read it right, 84000. And every obstacle have their individual antidotes to overcome. But there are some primary ones which we need to focus more closely. So what kind of hindrances arise while meditating and how to overcome it?

The 5 Hindrances of Meditation –

  1. Sensual Desires

We know this all too well, don’t we? Everything that we do in life is in pursuit of sensual desires. The beautiful flower we see, the food that we keep on thinking of, the pleasure of hearing praises, the hypnotizing smell of a perfume and the touch of gentleness. We are solely captivated by our 5 senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. Every single desire that we experience, arise from these 5 factors. And when things go wrong, the same 5 factors become the source of our suffering. Just take a moment and deeply think of it.

These sensory pleasure creates lot of hindrances when practicing meditation. That is why when someone goes for a retreat they are bounded by rules and regulations. When you sit for meditation, all you are thinking of this pleasure and that pleasure and the mind just runs away projecting the story of sensual pleasures.Then you must be thinking, if I don’t live for pleasure what is there to life to enjoy? It is not about removing the happiness of seeing something nice or eating good food. It is about not being attached to the nature of the goodness and badness. Because the innate nature of the object is Impermanent.

Antidote – So when your mind is scattered thinking of the good food, just contemplate on its impermanence. If I leave the food for 3 days outside, do I still want to eat it? How the food will taste like? The food wont be the same, so what am I desiring of. Or if I smell a perfume it feels so good, but if I keep on smelling it for an hour I will start throwing up on the same fragrance.

Think of the impermanence of the object and bring your mind again to breathing. After a while as soon as desire rises the mind will automatically think of the impermanence and get focused on the breath.

  1. Ill Will and Malice

Oh yes, we are also aware of this. Not only we are aware but we think of it with full visualization. We are so caught up thinking of all the things people did in the past and what they ‘might’ do in the future. Why she said this to me, I have not done anything wrong to her. Oh that person really said some nasty things to me, I need to find the right moment to teach a lesson that will straight him up. I did so much for my partner and in return all she did is cause me immense pain.

There is a full on ‘revenge’ movie going on in our head and as an executive director we are simply directing the movie with full cast of main actors and supporting characters (being a photographer sometimes I even think of right kind of lighting to give my thoughts more drama).

Antidote – Generate fortitude and cultivate love for that person. Just think, like me that person do not want to suffer and wants happiness. May the person get the happiness and free from suffering.

  1. Dullness and Drowsiness

Ah, meditation is so relaxing!!! I can sleep in meditation for hours and in fact I will call it a day and skip work. Our mind, it likes to wear mask to hide the demon behind. If there is no exciting thought going on (taking revenge and running for pleasure) then it will pretend to be dull. And this has nothing to do with sleepiness. Even if you get plenty of sleep you can still experience dullness. It becomes boring because nothing exciting is going on in the mind. Mind is habituated with excitement, planning all the time.

Antidote – Check your body posture, refer to the following article – Correct Posture .  Here a little opening of the eye is very helpful.

  1. Regret and Restlessness

Regret is something subtle and it stays at the back of our head. I should not have done something I did or I did something that shouldn’t have done. The memories from the past starts coming up and we regret about it. Also, anxiety drives us to restlessness. Our body becomes fidgety and wants to act on something immediately.

Antidote –My teacher always says this, ‘Be kind to yourself and then wisely kind to yourself. If you are not kind to yourself then how can you be kind to others. Also, living a good ethical life helps to live life without regrets’. So abstain yourself from stealing, killing, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxication which will lead you to do all the previous ones.

  1. Doubt

This doubt is more of a negative doubt rather than genuine doubt. Am I good enough? Am I meditating right? Why my eyes have to open? I meditate better with eyes closed. I should be doing something more useful in life rather than sitting and watching my breath. Various kinds of negative doubt proliferates and causes distraction to the meditation.

Antidote – Focus on the object of meditation and let go of all the doubts.

The 5 Faults of Meditation

1.Laziness

Usually there are 3 types Laziness specially when you are starting out.

  • General Laziness (Delaying) – This is laziness is more of delaying and put the practice off for later time. Turning off the alarm clock thinking that your sleep is more important or keep on procrastinating for some future dates.
  • Busy – Keeping yourselves extremely busy doing virtually nothing and not getting the right time for meditation.
  • Discouragement – ‘Meditation is too hard; I can’t do it. Its not for me’. One needs to confront the negative thoughts and not give any energy to it. The mind creates a lie about our self and the problem is we tend to believe in it.

Antidote – Start your day with proper motivation and remind yourself of why you want to do this meditation. Keep reading the benefits of doing the practice. Think of the positive space that you can create meditating even 20 minutes a day and the mental pliancy you can achieve after a while.

  1. Forgetting the meditational object

This happens when you forget the object of meditation and start day dreaming. If you are focused on your breath, after a while you completely loose track that you are suppose to focus on the sensation of the breath.

Antidote – Bring your awareness using mindfulness. Time to time introspect to check if you are still on the object of meditation and if the mind is scattered then bring it back to the object of meditation.

  1. Excitement and laxity

There are 2 levels of Excitement and Laxity

  • Gross excitement where the mind is running towards a sensual object like someone is day dreaming.

Antidote – Meditate on Impermanence.

  • Subtle Excitement – Mind is on the object, but on the surface is mind is running towards thoughts.

Antidote – Loosen the focus a little bit as if not holding too tight.

  • Gross Laxity – The object is not clear.

Antidote – Tighten the object of meditation.

  • Subtle Laxity – The object is clear but there is no intensity towards the object. Breath in nectar and breath out smoke.

Antidote –  Brighten the object of meditation.

  1. Non application of Antidotes

In meditation, all these faults will arise and it is common for even a long time meditator. However, the danger lies if one does not apply the antidotes. Failing to applying the antidotes is like meditating on the faults and never getting any positive results. So be mindful and know when to apply the antidotes depending on the error.

  1. Over applying the Antidotes

This is the exact opposite of non application of meditation. This happens when someone is over applying and the mind is always scanning for errors. This results in stiffness of the mind and not being able to rest in its relaxed natural state. Try maintaining equanimity.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

Breath In Mindfully and Breath Out Mindfully using 7 steps

Breath In Breath out
Dhankar Monastery

Like a fisherman who catches a fish by the hook of a string

Similarly, catch your mind by the hook of your breath

Inhale and Exhale, Breath IN and Breath OUT

Now you are in meditative equipoise and concentrating on your breath. Breath in and then Breath out all the way to liberation and you are completely blissed out after few minutes. Now you are imagining yourself to be a Himalayan yogi up in the peak, bare chest at extreme cold and doing sky walking. And the next moment you are buying the upcoming model of Tesla and with full visualization rejoicing the moment. What about the Monk who sold his Ferrari, maybe you are telling yourself, I will be the yogi who will sell my Tesla.

You are supposing to be meditating on your breath but within seconds you are meditating on your day dream.

Word of Caution

Consider my writing only as a guideline or a structure and NOT a meditational manual. I cannot put more emphasis on the danger of practicing meditation off Youtube and articles. If done wrongly, you might face some serious long term consequences that can even make your mind completely DULL or non functional. Most of the translation of classical texts are done by experts, and even with that it has been reviewed over and over again by several masters. It is so precise that even “A” and “The” can make a whole lot of difference on the meaning.

So how do someone practice in the best possible way?

Best is if you can find some very good meditational retreat center around your area. And if not, instead of spending a week vacationing in Mexico, try going to some meditational centres. Below are some listings which are quite popular –

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

http://www.rootinstitute.ngo

http://kopanmonastery.com

http://www.panditarama.net

http://www.panditarama-lumbini.info/index.html

Also, check who will be leading the retreat. You definitely want someone who is a qualified teacher. Also check the structure of the retreat. Lots of new age meditation centers are coming along proclaiming to have the key to success. Not too long ago I also saw an ad of Love Making Meditation. Seriously? Be wisely careful of what you sought. Also try staying away from any ‘Tantra’ sort of meditation. Tantric practice is extremely secretive and is done only after attaining certain stage and is done in front of Guru after taking initiation. But West took this exotic word and made it sound like sexual awakening of chakras. Be very careful!!!

If going for a retreat is difficult then I would suggest taking a very good online course from a very experienced teacher who at the same time can be interactive. So that if you have any questions, the teacher can be there to answer you. I found the following course to be extremely useful for someone who is starting out and needs a solid direction.

https://shop.fpmt.org/Meditation-101–Online-_p_2332.html

https://imagineclarity.com/en/

Once you have a very good direction then you can venture out in more deep topics by reading authentic meditational manual.

How to Practice?

Following is the meditational manual that I have received for my practice. Different lineage will have different sets of practice so please do not consider this to be the only method. Try practicing the methods that you are officially trained in and not alter too much. For beginners, it can be good to practice on one lineage and see how that is helping. At the end, meditation has to help, what good will it be if it doesn’t help right?

7 steps of meditation

1. 7-point meditation posture

The detail can be found in the article “7 points posture” . A quick review on the posture –

  • Sit either in Vajra position/Half Lotus/Crossed Legged or on a chair
  • Back should be completely straight like stacks of coin
  • Place the right hand on the left hand with thumbs touching and loosely placed on the lap 2 inch below the navel
  • Eyes should be slightly open, enough to let the lights in
  •  Jaw should be relaxed
  • Tongue should be touching the upper pallet to prevent accumulation of saliva
  • Head should be centred and slightly tucked in, not too high or not too low
2. Set your Motivation

Like we discussed on the importance of proper motivation in the following article “Setting up Motivation“, remember the kindness of all being who are contributing to the wellness of our life. Imagine your both parents sitting on each side beside you, friends and families behind you and all the neutral people in front of you. Also,  all the sentient being who are indispensable part of our lives.  May all be happy and free of suffering.

3. Ground and Centre Yourself

Feel the base of where you are sitting and holding the weight of your body. It can be your buttock or the legs. Feel the stability of the ground. Feel the spine, which is straight like coins stacked on top of each other. Bring your awareness inside your body by feeling the posture. Fully grounded and centered.

4. 9 round breathing meditation

This breathing meditation is based on the subtle energy which is also known as wind energy. It says the Mind rides on the Wind Energy, so in order to make the mind more serviceable one needs to stabilize the wind energy.  This technique is some what synonymous to practices like Chi and Prana Yoga.

So what to visualize and how to visualize?

Imagine a radiant light tube (central channel) from the middle of your eyebrow, moving up to the head and then all the way down below your navel. This radiant tube is 1 inch in diameter and flows parallel to your spine. Now imagine, 2 more radiant tubes, smaller in radius flowing from your nose, up to the head and down below the navel on each side of the central channel. Below the navel, all the tubes join each other.

1st Set – Take the right index finger and block the left nostril. Deeply breath in through the right nostril. Imagine that the air you breathing in, going down through the right channel. Now with the same index finger, block the right nostrils and breath out through the left channel. Imagine the air you breathing out, going up the left channel and out through your left nostril.

2nd Set – This will be exactly the same but on the opposite side. With the left index finger block the right nostrils. In comes the breath through left nostril, down through the left channel and out goes the breath through right channel while blocking the left nostril.

3rd Set – Now breath in through both nostrils. Imagine that your breath is simultaneously going in through the the left and right channels. And while breathing out, the wind is going up through the central channel all the way to your head and out through the middle of the eyebrows.

With every breath you inhale and exhale, relax on your thoughts. Let the thought of past and future go and be present at this very moment. We keep on wondering on the events of the past and ponder what will happen, but never present right here, right now in our own domain.

5. Scanning the Body

We will do a very basic scanning of the body to bring mindfulness within our inner sphere.

Put your mindfulness on the lower part of the body where you are in contact with the ground. It can be your buttocks or legs or soles of your feet. Feel the weight of your body in that area and bring your concentration on this sensation.

Slowly, start scanning your legs, one by one, slow but attentive. Feel the sensation of your thighs, the touch of your feet on the thigh, the knees, lower legs, the ankle, the feet and the toes. Be absolutely mindful. Slowly come up your legs and move your attention upwards through your body. Be a keen observant on any sensations, pleasure or pain, feel or touch, without getting attached to any of it. Keep moving upwards through your body to your shoulder, neck and then face. Notice the movement of your breath. Do not miss any part of the body while scanning. Slowly move upwards and rest on the crown of your head and be in this moment for a while. Now with the same mindfulness, start coming down from the back of your head, spine and all the way to your cushion.

Stay in this experience of knowing your body for a while.

6. Counting the Breaths

Before starting let us quickly go through the function of concentration, mindfulness and introspection. Mindfulness is when you are holding the object of concentration and introspection is the little part of the mind that scans if your mind is still on the object. So basically, you are focused on the object and at the same time scanning to make sure that you are still mindful.

Sometimes we simply sit on meditation putting the focus on Inhale and Exhale. Nothing wrong, but if we do not have a proper set of focus, slowly the concentration will become weak. So it is important to spend few minutes on determining what to meditate on.

Lots of people meditate on different objects. You can concentrate on rise and fall of your abdomen while breathing, but since it is a bigger object, the concentration is gross. Although, concentrating on the abdomen will help you to relax a lot. When you breath, there is a subtle sensation in the opening of the nostril. You can put your mindfulness in this part which is much subtle. Or you can have your mind focused on the area between nostrils and upper lips. Or you can imagine a little white dot made of light in between the nostrils and upper lips. Experiment with it and see which suits you better.

Now focus on the opening on the nostrils. Once your concentration gets stronger, you will start noticing different sensation of your breath. For the first time, you are fully present within you and every discovery will bring certain curiosity (however, one has to maintain equanimity without being attached or frustrated). You will start noticing the nature of the breath according to the mental state. In a relaxed state, the breath is deeper and with agitation breath is shallow.

Keep your focus on the sensation and after breathing out, you count 1. Then you breath in and breath out, count 2. Likewise, do a round of 21. Take 5 seconds of break at the beginning when you are starting out, and then do another cycle of 21. It is always better to do short session than long, what matters is the quality and not the quantity. So maybe, keep the session for 3 cycles of 21 with a break of 5 seconds in between. If the mind goes astray, using the introspection bring your mindfulness on your breath once again.

7. Dedication

Even if you have meditated for 5 minutes, but still the merit gathered is immense. Dedication of the merit accumulated through the practice is equally important as the motivation before starting the meditation. You can simply remain in the meditative posture and send out the altruistic love to everyone around you. Send out the powerful energy back in the world to all the sentient being wishing them to be truly happy.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

Setting up a Positive Motivation before Meditation

Monk show positive motivation towards a dog
"Watch your thoughts, they become words
 Watch your words, they become actions
 Watch your actions, they become habits
 Watch your habits, they become character
 Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny"

Motivation Motivation Motivation

In Buddhism, the value of motivation can not be underestimated. Motivation is considered to be the single most important factor before doing any kind of activity.

From motivation arises the intention and if motivation is not pure, then intention is also tainted. Two people offering money to a poor might look like doing such a noble work. However, for one the offering is to actually help without expecting anything in return and for the other person it can be simply boasting his image of being someone awesome to have a great social status. HH Dalai Lama, always mentions, even he himself checks his motivation all the time before sitting in his throne so that there is no pride on having the title of His Holiness. Another importance of having a strong motivation before each session is to slowly put positive imprints in our mental moments so that it slowly becomes our action.

So let us close our eyes and settle our mind first. Take a minute or so to make the mind as light as a feather and once our mind is settled let us start the session generating a positive motivation and reflecting on why you are meditating.

Why are you Meditating?

Lot of people wants to meditate because it might seem cool and gives a holistic view of that person. One might meditate to calm the external chaos and bring more peace in their life. One might meditate to know the nature of their own mind and one might meditate to develop an omniscient mind of a Buddha. Whatever the reason of your mediation, start from where you are and then extend yourself from there.

Our Existence

How did we get here? We certainly cannot have certainly born out of nowhere. A mother knows very well, the joy of carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months. In these 9 months, she takes the deepest care for the well being of the baby. Every move she makes, every breath she takes is for the unborn baby. When we born, we are nothing but a flesh of meat, totally helpless. Without the parent’s care, we wouldn’t even survive a day. But slowly as we grow older, the memory of our caring parents slowly gets faded and we claim to be self sufficient. We pride ourselves to be ‘self-made’. But without them there is no we. They live among us, within us and in us.

Reflect deeply on this thought. Bring a memory from your childhood where your parents were giving you all the affection. Now think of an incidence where you have behaved rudely towards them. As a baby, we have caused so much trouble to them, gave so many sleepless nights. So isn’t it naive that we claim our spot of ‘self-dependent’? If possible, generate a very strong love and affection towards your parents and show a full gratitude of their compassion.

Our Surroundings

As our parents contributed to our existence, so is every sentient being around us. We think only our friends and families contribute to our happiness. But, the food that we eat, the cloths that we wear, the house that we sleep in, the job that we do; it is all because of the kindness of others whom we consider neutral (the people whom we do not know). One thing for sure, our well being is totally dependent on others. Some might think, the farmer who is cultivating the rice is not thinking of our well being, they are simply doing it for their own livelihood. But think deeply, no matter how much money we have, we cannot even manage a bowl of rice. We are even dependent on the bees and butterflies, beings and non-beings who helps with the pollination and millions of micro organism that helps us through the life cycle.

So from this simple analogy we can see that our food depend on others, our job depend on others, our entertainment depend on others and our happiness depend on others; from the moment we wake up, we are in the mercy of others. So it will be little selfish only to develop a positive attitude for our own well being, instead we can extend this attitude for the benefit of everyone around us.

Visualisation

Now being in the  meditational equipose visualise that you are sitting in the centre with your both parents on each side. Now extend your visualisation, imagine all your friends and families sitting behind you followed by all the neutral people whom you do not know, sitting in front of you. Also imagine, all the other sentient being from animals to insects to be in the surroundings of your meditational sphere and generate a strong motivation for the benefit of all beings.

Include all and leave no one in your motivation !!!

 

 

 

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

7 Points Meditation Posture

In the article ‘how to live a meaningful life‘ we discussed the benefits of meditation in order to bring transformation in life.  There are several types of meditation and it depends on individual which is beneficial for them. My experience comes from Tibetan Buddhism, so most of the discussion will be based on it. However, there is no distinction on which one is right or wrong. If someone have practiced in certain kind and that suits the best, it will be highly advisable to carry on that practice.

2 Types of Meditation

  • Single pointed meditation (Samatha) – As the name suggests, the meditator chooses a single object and keep his/her concentration focussed on the chosen object (mostly breath)
  • Analytical meditation (Vipassana, not to be confused with SN Goenka Vipassana) – Using single pointed the meditator now shifts his/her focus to a particular topic for deep analysis. Throughout the meditation, one is in deep observation without losing focus on the topic

Before starting to meditate it’s important for the mediator to consider the following points –

  • Choose a time where mind is fresh and it is always better to start early in the morning
  • Choose a calm and quiet place with no external sounds
  • A place with very less distraction around so that the energy can flow
  • Wear comfortable cloths so that it doesn’t cause hindrance on sitting for an extended period of time

So let us begin with the basic preliminary of our posture that can be conducive to our practice. Although meditation is all about mind but if body is too rigid and uncomfortable then the mind will become distracted. So the objective for a good posture is that the body can be comfortable and the mind can simply concentrate on meditation. There are 7 points to have a good meditation posture. And we will go through each point from bottom to the top.

7 Points Meditation Posture

 

  1. Legs –

Most of us have seen image of meditators in Vajra position which is also called full lotus position. This is considered the most stable posture for meditation since it locks the leg and make the back totally straight. However, this position is also the hardest to achieve with left foot on the right thigh and right foot on left thigh with sole facing upwards. Although difficult but with little practice one can slowly achieve this position.

If this is too challenging for someone then one can try the half lotus position where one leg is on the ground and the other leg is on top of the thigh.

Note – (If sitting on the floor it is much advisable to use a firm cushion to raise the buttock up higher than the knees. This can greatly help in preventing numbing the legs)

If someone have difficulty in sitting crossed leg, then one can use Japanese bench with legs folded back. Japanese bench is low in height where the legs can be folded backwards under the bench.

And if someone have medical conditions and is unable to sit on the bench or on the floor then they can choose to sit in a chair without leaning back on the chair and with sole of the feet completely touching the ground.

  1. Back –

After experiment which sitting posture that works more conducive to you, the most important thing to keep in mind is to have a complete straight back. Just imagine your vertebrate of your spinal chord stacked straight as a pile of coin without having ay chance of caving. All our energy flows through our back from the feet to the head so if back is not straight we will eventually create a blockage and it will become a hindrance to our practice.

  1. Arms –

Then coming to the arms and hands. Loosely place the right hand on the palm of the left hand with palms upwards and the thumbs lightly touching each other. The hands rest effortlessly on the thighs, 2-3 inches below your navel. In Buddhist tradition the right hand symbolized method and left hand symbolizes wisdom, so the compassion is acting with wisdom. Shoulders should be relaxed and slightly back and arms should have a V shape allowing space between arms and the body.

  1. Eyes –

We often have seen people meditating with eyes closed, however it is highly advisable to meditate with eyes open. At the beginning it can be quite challenging with our eye consciousness still very strong but slowly with habitual pattern it wouldn’t have much distraction. It is also better to have a free space in front of your eyes with no movement of any object. Once you are fully trained, you can meditate with your eyes open even at the busiest junction. So at the beginning let your eyes be slightly open, enough for the light to come in. This will prevent you from falling asleep during meditation. Lightly gaze on the floor at 45 deg angle without engaging on any object in particular.

  1. Jaw

Jaw should be relaxed without any flexing. Bring the jaw to its natural position.

  1. Mouth

Generally with the mouth closed, we let our tongue hanging. But if you do meditation for a longer period of time, saliva will start accumulating. This cause a much needed distraction for your practice since you need to swallow excess saliva every time. To prevent this, gently allow your tongue to touch the upper palette behind the teeth. Also, do not clutch your teeth against each other, rather allow a gap between the upper and lower sets of the teeth.

  1. Head –

Head should be centered neither leaning left nor right and just inclining forward so that the gaze is naturally towards the floor. If the chin is too high, then you can start having mental excitement and if you hold your chin too low then you will start having mental dullness or sleepiness. So there is a balance to be struck.

 

Now since we have covered the 7 points meditation posture, we can finally begin our meditation practice.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

How to live a meaningful life through Meditation

Dalai Lama Quotation
Sitting quietly in isolation with the unruly chattering mind is not spending time with one’s true self
~Tich Naht Hanh

 

This part is call ‘Being Honest with yourself’

Close your eyes for a moment and take a very deep look into yourself. Look further into your daily activities from the beginning of the morning till you go to bed. Where are you in your life? What have you done so far in your life? Now the biggest question you have to ask yourself, are you happy? Now the second important question you need to ask, are you ‘truly’ happy?

In our daily life, we are consumed by our daily affairs. We like to be busy, we indeed like to be very busy. By the end of the day we are completely depleted with our busyness. But ask yourself, what is that I am so busy in life? Am I busy with myself or with everything else other than myself?

More often than not, we are actually very uncomfortable sitting quietly with our own self. We constantly need distractions either our phone or our friends. And to avoid this uncomfortable confrontation with our mind, we fill our lives with mindless schedules. We think by undertaking more and more activities our sense of dissatisfaction will just fade away. But even after that, we still feel deep sense of shallowness within ourselves.

MATERIALISM VS SPIRITUALISM

What exactly is this materialism? In a lay man’s term, if someone looks for happiness in consumer products is often refer as a materialistic person. This is a very surface level definition in spiritual term. Materialism comes from the word ‘matter’ which by definition in science world is the synthesis of physical properties with an aggregates of solid or fluid. Then by definition, even this human body is also a matter. Spiritualism is someone who who looks beyond all matter, someone who looks beyond physical properties into the inner world.

MATERIALISTIC VIEWS

From a very early age we are taught to label things. We get to label what we like and what we do not like, we want to possess what we think will give us happiness and we discard of what we think is no longer a mean to contribute to our wanting. We save every penny from our first salary to buy the car/house we always dreamt of, thinking that will bring us the sense of pleasure. But within few years, we start seeking pleasure in selling it to refill the pleasure with another one. We are not happy having everything and we are also not happy on having nothing. So, ‘complete’ happiness should not come from external world but rather from inside of us.

So the question rises, how to develop this inner peace?

THE TERM MEDITATION

The term meditation in Tibetan is call GOM which means ‘Familiarisation’. So how familiar are we with our own space and what we want to become familiar of? Recall doing any action that you have done during the day. It can be an act of generosity or it can be an act of anger towards another person. This ‘action’ is so quick that we are not familiar with its arising. But action itself has no power. For an action to happen it must rise from a thought. But we are totally unaware of this thought, whether positive or negative, and quickly jump to action. This is where meditation allows us to become familiar of our thoughts. With meditation we can start getting familiar with our ideas, thoughts, perceptions, emotions.

With continuous practice, we train our mind on our thoughts and instead of acting we begin to watch our thoughts first. When was the last time when you were getting angry and in the middle stopped and told yourself, wait a second, what I am angry of?

Most of the problem that we face in our lives is that we are swept away with our thoughts and emotions as if they are out of control. We do not have a general grasping in channelling our thoughts for our own well being. We are completely oblivious to what is happening around us and within us.

Myth around Meditation

Myth # 1- Meditation helps us to have no thoughts

When we think of meditation we immediately jump to conclusion that it means sitting without any thoughts. But we know all very well from our daily experience that we cannot create a vacuum in our mind. Thoughts will always be there. Within mediation we have to let the thoughts arise and dissolve by themselves in mindfulness.  Meditation is about ‘Knowing’. It will help us knowing our thoughts as soon it arrives. So with meditation, one cultivates the awareness on recognizing the thoughts as soon it arises and learns not to give any energy to it. So it is very important to throw away the notion of this misconception, because if we base our practice on this then we will give it up after few sessions.

Myth # 2 – Meditation is relaxation

There is indeed a relaxation element to it but meditation is not about relaxation, in contrary its being alert. Relaxation can give short term bliss but long term dullness or laziness whereas constant meditational practice will bring long term and lasting happiness.

Is Meditation for me?

There is this scene in the movie Eat, Pray and Love where Julia Roberts closed her eyes for the first time and thought to have meditated on an hour only to realize it has been not even a minute. For the very first time closing the eyes without thoughts can be more daunting than the interview of your dream job. We are known to have this monkey mind who is always busy chattering. So it becomes a paradoxical moment of self doubt. But like anything in life, where one accomplishes through gradual training, meditation also falls in that training. It needs determination, perseverance and joyousness. The greatest obstacle we face is, this is the way it is, this is how it will continue, we cannot make much change to our thoughts. However, we are desperately try to make   changes to our outside world from better jobs to better health but unfortunately a complete ignorance grasps us when it comes to our mind training.

But most importantly, one should apply for skilful means. Like a baby who is learning to take the first steps, instead of running they go for few steps, similarly, instead of aiming to meditate for hours one should instead focus on few minutes.

How Meditation can benefit us?

What is the point on reading so much if mediation does not benefit us, right?

Scientists have recently concluded that neuroplasticity of our brain can be changed. This demonstrates that the human qualities can be certainly cultivated through mind training which is something people could not have thought in the past. So what exactly it means by changing the plasticity of the brain neurons? Few decades ago it was concluded that we born with fixed neurons until death. Only recently scientists re-visited their conclusion stating that brain has the ability to continually change structure and function. And with that it is very possible to cultivate positive seed through continuous practice of familiarization.

As a starter lets say, your attention span will be vastly improved, the concentration on the focussed object will be much stronger than before. 20 minutes a day for 2 months also shows reduction of stress, anxiety, strengthens the immune system and brings positive emotion.

Mediation helps us in tying the monkey mind, disciplining them and slowly liberating them. If we observe carefully, within the space of our thoughts, first emotion rises, which leads to moods and behaviours, and finally habits and character than leads to final action. But our mind is like a fish entangled in a fishing net, more and more it gets agitated to get free more it gets entangled in further thoughts.

Types of Meditation

How to even start. What is that I will meditate upon? Although there are various types of meditation from beginners to advanced, we should start with the vey basic considering we are all very novice to this.

There are hundreds of meditational techniques from beginner’s to advanced level where one can have focus on one object for days if not months without even moving.

My practice comes from Tibetan Buddhist tradition and that is what I will be putting more emphasis on. I will not claim this is the only technique; everyone has different requirements and one has to choose that suits them the best. In Tibetan practice there are 2 types; Single pointed concentration (Samadhi in Sanskrit) and Analytical meditation. Single pointed focuses on concentration to bring intense clarity and with this clarity one investigates on various topics in analytical meditation. And not necessarily one has to do meditation only sitting in a corner of a room but can highly integrate in every moment of our life with mindfulness.

This is a brief introduction of what meditation is and the way I want to work is slowly building a foundation. So that we have the base to build up ourselves instead getting scattered in a clueless ocean.

 

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer