Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Brief MEDITATION instructions

Eds., Wisdom Quarterly based on Ven. Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff)

Sati (American Buddhist Perspective)
Breath meditation is a useful technique for everyone. It is the kind of meditation the wandering ascetic Siddhartha Gautama was practicing just before he became "the Buddha" during his great enlightenment under the bodhi tree.

It is probably the most beneficial to the body, because the breath (prana, chi, energy) is more than the air coming in and out of the lungs and into the blood. It is what makes movement possible (see Buddhist physics about kalapas and cittas or practice Four Elements Meditation as taught by Burmese Theravada Meditation Master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw in particular to personally verify this curious statement).

This energy is what makes the body function well so that it can be healthy, which gives our intention or mind a way to handle dealing with pain that arises in the body from time to time.

The Buddha atop Borobudur temple, Indonesia, in a bell or stupa (Ryanchanatry/flickr).
Sit comfortably erect balancing the bodies weight so that it's comfortable. Straight does not mean stiff like a soldier. It means soft like a martial arts master, calm, smiling, completely relaxed and alert. Lean forward and back and side to side to find balance.

Close the eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath. Then completely let it go. Exhale and relax on each exhalation so as to calm down and sink into comfort and ease.

Doom: resentment, anger...
Silently say, "May I be well and happy, free from suffering." Just as one wishes this for others, it is best to wish it for oneself first. This may sound strange or selfish, but if we cannot wish ourselves happiness, how will we wish others to be as happy as we are? "Love yourself like you love your neighbor" one very famous rabbi said but stated it, "Love others as you love yourself." How much do we love ourselves?

Some people (ourselves included) need to constantly remind themselves that they deserve happiness: we all deserve it, yes even the "bad" people. May everyone be happy. Or be miserable and wish misery on everyone, but then there is no sense in meditating. There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way! If we fail to believe this, we will be unhappy and constantly find ways to punish ourselves.
Why's the Buddha so happy? (Khorsani/flickr)
And what will we do to others? That's right, the same thing. We will end up punishing others in subtle and even blatant ways. If we insist on doing so, it is better to choose to practice one of the punishing Abrahamic faiths and sexist-racist religions like Judaism, Islam, Christianity, or Scientology so popular in the West, child molestation thrown in four free. Go on. You'll have plenty of company. Join a angry cult:

(Documentary) "Life Inside a [Christian] Religious Cult" A "cult" is a spiritual or social team with deviant or novel beliefs and techniques. What is "novel" or "deviant" depends on the society one lives in. Religions are cults until and if they can become religions.
I meditate.
What is "true happiness," and where it can be found? Reflect. Can it be found in the past or future? The past is gone, the future has never been. Right here right now is the only place we can be happy (whether we're remembering the past or projecting into the future, happiness is only to be found wherever we are in the present moment).

But we have to know where to look. If we try to base our happiness on things that constantly change -- sights, sounds, physical sensations, people, things outside ourselves -- we're setting ourselves up for disappointment.

It's as if we are building ourselves a beautiful house on a cliff where there have repeatedly been landslides in the past. True happiness has to be looked for within. Meditation is like a treasure hunt -- a quest to find what is solid and unchanging. What is worthy of our efforts, something that even death cannot touch?
I found treasure (Moondoxy/flickr)
To get to our treasures, we might need a few tools. The first tool is doing what we just did: develop goodwill for and toward ourselves and extend that out to others second. It doesn't work to do it the other way around. Be happy and then being happy, help make others happy.

We can remind ourselves, "All living beings -- no matter who they are, no matter what they've done to me in the past -- may they also find true happiness." If we do not cultivate this thought and practice with loving-kindness, but instead carry grudges into our meditation, that is all we will be able to see when we look inside.
Only when we have cleared our minds of resentment, harming, wrath, vengeance, and negativity, and set all outside matters aside, are we actually ready to focus on the breath, the subtle breath beyond breathing, at the tip of the nose.

Do protectors hover around?
Bring attention to the sensation of breathing right at the nostril. Breathe in long and let go relaxing, which means a long exhalation.
Stay with the spot just under the nose, the doorway where air comes in and out. There is no need bear down on it or press too heavily focusing and trying. This is the opposite of meditation. Meditation means allowing, accepting, being with. Let's be with what is but not involved with it. We can just watch it dispassionately. Let it go.

Let the breath be, and let's stay with it. The breath is allowed to flow naturally. All we do is simply keep track of it from beginning to end no matter how subtle it gets. If we are calm, it will get so subtle that we may think we are not breathing. We are. We need more attention (less distraction) to notice it.

Siddhartha had to endure boredom, anger, rage, lust, craving, delusion, confusion...
If Sidd could, I can! (Romila Barryman)
Sitting in this way with this practice means effortlessly building attention, patience, noticing, staying with it even if persistence and perseverance seem like the last things we feel capable of doing. We are doing it. The breath is. That is what is happening right here right now, so let's be with it.

If we experience an exquisite sensation, we naturally want to prolong it. What meditation will yield is a blissful enthusiasm (piti) and happiness (sukha, good feeling, soothing ease, the opposite of dukkha). So if the mind (attention) wanders off, simply bring it back. And bring it back again. And again. Rather than allowing discouragement, we develop persistence. Get up if need be.
Then sit down again. The mind may wander 60 times (in a minute), so we bring it back 61 times. It's not important that it wandered; it is important that we bring it back and keep it here. Show it that we mean business, and eventually it will listen to us. This is the tough part, the getting started, the reason we would be better off starting sooner. But now is when we do it, now is what we have, and now is when we will start feeling the benefits. Be here now. It's all there is.

When we sit without having to try, zen begins.
Once we ease and comfort with attending to the breath at the chosen spot, we can get used to keeping it there. It will stay right here under the nose, at the center of the nostril opening.

There is the sensation of motion created by the breath, which may get so subtle that it seems like a mere squiggle. The breath reflects the state of mind like a mirror. When the mind moves, the breath will immediately move, so quickly that our attention only notices a moment later. The mind is very swift.

Stay with the breath without deviating to distractions -- thoughts, noises, worries. If something arises, the mind is there to attend to that, too, then bring it back.

What will happen? Meditation will unfold. Be like a person full of confidence that just doing this, just attending to the breath will allow meditation to unfold -- access concentration, absorption, stillness, happiness.

Happiness will eventually engulf the body due to the Factors of Absorption and the falling away of defilements. The basis of successful meditation is virtue (sila) and having tried to meditate and develop oneself (paramis) before, so practicing the Five Precepts in life greatly helps meditation success. Residing in a quiet place with calm companions also helps. Not all locations and companions are suitable for success in meditation, but we will never know that until we meditate.

Meditating in a quiet group is often very helpful in the beginning (
When we focus or rest our attention on the breath just below the nose, our attention settles there comfortably. We let awareness spread from there to fill the entire body so that -- like a spider sitting in the middle of a web while sensitive to the entire web yet remaining at one spot -- we are present.

Keep awareness of the breath, and awareness will expand. Our tendency is to want to shrink attention to a single spot and think of the breath as coming in and out of the body, but this is gross breath. Our real object of meditation, which will reveal itself, is the subtle breath when the mind and body are calm and attention has grown so powerful that we are able to stick with it in conjunction with its subtlety.

Sound waves can help still the mind.
Let awareness simply stay right under the nose where the breath travels from the outside world into the inside-body. There is nowhere else we have to go, nothing else we have to "do," nothing to think about... Gently allow meditation (jhana, zen, ch'an, seon, dhyana) to happen.

Come out when the bell rings or after an hour. Getting to an hour may take some time, but it is doable and gets easier with time. The benefits are astounding, eventually leading (with the addition of insight-practices founded on a foundation of absorption) to enlightenment and the end-of-all-suffering the Buddha called nirvana.

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