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Starting on Meditation (With a Tibetan Buddhist Flavour)
When you read books about meditation, or often when meditation is presented by different groups or teachers, much of the emphasis falls on the techniques. We tend to be very interested in the 'technology" of meditation. However, by far the most important feature of meditation is not the technique, but the way of being, the spirit, which is called the 'posture," If you could compare it to liquid. As opposed to solid. a posture which is not so much physical, but more to do with spirit or attitude. It is important to recognise, that when you start on a meditation practice, you are entering a totally different dimension of reality.
Normally in life we put a great deal of effort into achieving things, and there is a lot of struggle involved, whereas meditation is just the opposite, it is a break from how we normally operate. Meditation is simply a question of being, of melting, like a piece of ice in the sun. It has nothing to do with whether or not you "know" anything about it, in fact, each time you practice meditation it should be fresh, as if it were
happening for the very first time. You just quietly sit, your body still, your speech silent, your mind at ease, and allow thoughts to come and go, without letting them play havoc on you.
If you need something to do, then watch the breathing. This is a very simple process. When you are breathing out, know that you are breathing out. When you breath in, know that you are breathing in, without supplying any kind of extra commentary or internalised mental gossip, but just identifying with the breath.
That very simple process of mindfulness processes your thoughts and emotions, and then, like an old skin being shed, something is peeled off and freed. Usually people tend to relax the body by concentrating on different parts. Real relaxation comes when you relax from within, for then everything else will ease itself out quite naturally.
When you begin to practice, you centre yourself, in touch with your 'inner spot," and just remain there. You dont need to focus on anything in particular to begin with. Just be spacious, and allow thoughts and emotions to settle. If you do so, then later, when you use a method such as watching the breath, your attention will more easily be on your breathing. There is no particular point on the breath on which you need to focus, it is simply the process of breathing. Twenty-five per cent of your attention is on the breath, and seventy-five per cent is relaxed. Try to actually identify with the breathing, rather than just watching it.
You may choose an object, like a pebble, for example, to focus upon. Sometimes you are taught to visualise a light on the forehead, or in the heart. Sometimes a sound or a mantra can be used. But at the beginning it is best to simply be spacious, like the sky. Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe. When you sit, let things settle and allow all your discordant self with its un genuineness and unnaturalness to dissolve, out of that rises your real being. You experience an aspect of yourself which is more genuine and more authentic-the 'real" you.
As you go deeper, you begin to discover and connect with your fundamental goodness. The whole point of meditation is to get used to the that aspect which you have forgotten. In Tibetan 'meditation" means "getting used to." Getting used to what? to your true nature, your Buddha nature. This is why, in the highest teaching of Buddhism, Dzogchen (Great Perfection), you are told to 'rest in the nature of mind." You just quietly sit and let all thoughts and concepts dissolve. It is like when the clouds dissolve or the mist evaporates, to reveal the clear sky and the sun shining down. When everything dissolves like this, you begin to experience your true nature, to 'live." Then you know it, and at that moment, you feel really good. It is unlike any other feeling of well being that you might have experienced. This is a real and genuine goodness, in which you feel a deep sense of peace, contentment and confidence about
yourself. It is good to meditate when you feel inspired. Early mornings can bring that inspiration, as the best moments of the mind are early in the day, when the mind is calmer and fresher (the time traditionally recommended is before dawn). It is more appropriate to sit when you are inspired, for not only is it easier then as you are in a better frame of mind for meditation, but you will also be more encouraged by the very practice that you do. This in turn will bring more confidence in the practice, and later on you will be able to practice when you are not inspired.
There is no need to meditate for a long time: just remain quietly until you are a little open and able to connect with your heart essence. That is the main point. After that, some integration, or meditation in action. Once your mindfulness has been awakened by your meditation, your mind is calm and your perception a little more coherent. Then, whatever you do, you are present, right there. As in the famous Zen master's saying: 'When I eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep." Whatever you do, you are fully present in the act. Even washing dishes, if it is done one-pointedly, can be very energising, freeing, cleansing. You are more peaceful, so you are more 'you." You assume the 'Universal You." One of the fundamental points of the spiritual journey is to persevere along the path. Though one's meditation may be good one day and not so good the next, like changes in scenery, essentially it is not the experiences, good or bad which count so much, but rather that when you persevere, the real practice rubs off on you and comes through both good and bad. Good and bad are simply apparitions, just as there may be good or bad weather, yet the sky is always unchanging. If you persevere and have that sky like attitude of spaciousness, without being perturbed by emotions and experiences, you will develop stability and the real profoundness of meditation will take effect. You will find that gradually and almost unnoticed, your attitude begins to change. You do not hold on to things as solidly as before, or grasp at them so strongly, and though crisis will still happen, you can handle them a bit better with more humour and ease. You will even be able to laugh at difficulties a little, since there is more space between you and them, and you are freer of yourself. Things become less solid, slightly ridiculous, and you become more light-hearted.
The first step in meditation is correct physical posture. We commonly describe this in terms of a sevenfold physical posture called the 'Seven Point Posture.' The position of one's body has a very direct and powerful effect on the state of one's mind.
There is a very strong connection between body and mind. At the subtle level, body consists of the outer and inner forms. The outer form is our physical body, and the inner forms are the channels and prana. It is said that if the body is straight or erect, the channels are straight; and if the channels are straight, then the wind-prana flows straight. When the channels and prana are straight, then mind becomes balanced, calm and clear. So having a correct and upright posture causes one's mind naturally to come to rest in a state of tranquillity or peace.
Preparation Of The Meditation Seat
First, one prepares a comfortable seat, consisting of a zabuton, flat meditation cushion or mat, and a small round or rectangular cushion or Zafu, to go under one's backside. The actual size, form and materials composing the cushions depend on what is comfortable for your particular body. The proper seat is extremely important. You might find it easier to sit in a normal chair. If so, only sit on the front two thirds of the seat. It will also help if you put a two inch block under the back legs. Another alternative is to use a Seiza or meditation bench.
1. Posture Of The Legs
The first posture discussed is the position of the legs. Either of two main postures are preferred. First, the most common posture, is sitting cross-legged with one foot just in front of the other, in what is called the 'bodhisattva's posture.' This posture is depicted in paintings of Tara and others. Second, the more demanding posture is called the 'vajra posture,' often referred to in the west as the 'lotus posture,' in which the feet are placed on the opposite thigh. This posture is depicted in paintings of The Buddha and others. So the first point is the legs. If you are sitting on a chair, make sure that your feet are not dangling. Put a foot block under your feet.
2. Posture Of The Eye Gaze
The second posture is the gaze of the eyes. The eyes are neither made to open wide, nor are they closed. Their lids are half-lowered, and the gaze is angled slightly downward in the direction of the tip of one's nose. The reason for this is that if one's eyes are wide open, and one is looking outward, then one's mind will tend to follow visual perception. On the other hand, if one's eyes are closed, one tends to become dull. This posture describes a happy medium between the two extremes of gaze. When your meditating on an object, make sure that it is a least arms lenth away or four feet aproximately.
3. Posture Of The Back
The third posture is the back, or spine. One sits upright and keeps the back straight, like an arrow. If your back is straight, your breath flows easier. If your sitting in a chair try not to lean against the back of the chair if you can.
4. Posture Of The Shoulders
The fourth posture is to keep the shoulders even and relaxed. One refrains from sitting with one shoulder higher than the other, holding the shoulders them at the same height. They should be loose, yet not drooping.
5. Posture Of The Head
The fifth posture is bending or slightly hooking the throat, which actually straightens the back of the neck, but not to an excessive degree. The chin is tucked in slightly. If you can imagine a string supporting you from your crown.
6. Posture Of The Mouth
The sixth posture is slightly opening one's mouth and leaving some space between one's upper and lower sets of teeth, enough that, if one had to, one could breath through the mouth. The mouth is not clamped shut. Don't, however breath through your mouth. This will only lead to dyness and lead towards coughing.
7. Posture Of The Tongue
The seventh posture is to place the tongue so that the tip or front of the tongue touches your palate, and the tip touches the back of your upper front teeth.
8. Posture Of The Hands
The placement of the hands is not part of the seven postures, but a few alternatives are taught. In the 'gesture of meditation,' one hand is placed palm upright on top of the other one, which is also palm upright. Alternately, the hands may be placed palm downward on the thighs, just above your knees. email@example.com