Thursday, March 8, 2018

How to meditate when you can't "meditate" (2)

Dhr. Seven, Ananda M., Jen B. (Meditation Initiative); Ashley Wells (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly

1. Breathe
Let the breath help. Breathwork (pranayama, "breath control") is a great preliminary or preparatory practice.

"Doing" is not meditation, but it can indirectly bring about meditation. It can clear the mind, cause bliss, awaken the pineal gland/third eye to produce DMT and/or endorphins. HOW?
  • Inhale long and hold the breath. The mind suddenly stops. Exhale. Do it again. Hold it longer. While holding, there is no thinking. It is like applying the brakes on the Monkey Mind. Do three times, which gives a respite, then resume attention to normal breathing (anapanasati).
  • Breathe in to the count of 4, breathe out to the count of 6. Breathe in to the count of 5, breathe out to the count of 8. (Whatever the count, keep the approximate ratio between inhalations and exhalations). Do this pattern for a few minutes until calm overcomes you. (When excited we unconsciously hyperventilate shallow breaths and stay stressed out. This techniques calms the body, which in turn calms the mind).
  • If nothing is working, let's get heavy duty: bellow-breathing. Breathe in through the nose in a huff (with a sniffing nose), exhale through the mouth in a huff (with a ha noise). One-second in, immediately followed by one-second out (whole cycle takes two seconds). Use the belly like a bellows. Go faster. Keep this up until the endorphins flow or exhaustion sets in.
  • An excess of nervous energy can be worked off with yoga postures or soothing mindfulness of walking.
(Don't overdo it). We're just making an effort to calm body-and-mind. After one to three minutes, take a long, deep inhalation and completely let go. Bellow-breathing is like a fiery cleanse, expelling old stale air, flooding the body with rejuvenating oxygen and prana. Now relax. Bring full attention back to the nostril area as the body resumes natural breathing.
If worse comes to worse, pick up this popular book and read instead. How To Meditate...
2. Soothe the mind
If directly working with the mind is more appealing than working directly with the body, here's something to DO. Utilize a mantra ("thought instrument").
  • Group meditation is where we learn what to try.
  • Chant. Utter an extended "ohm" (om, aum) on each exhalation. Let each utterance grow longer. Repeat until the mind is calm.
  • Breathe in "bu," breathe out "dho." Repeat budho in sync with the natural breath until the mind is calm.
  • Turn the mantra "Om mani padme hum" into a japa (the repetition of a sacred sound). Repeat until the mind is calm.

Here's a BONUS from the Monroe Institute: a guided visualization to induce meditation
3. Binaural Beats

If doing is to much to do (taking too much effort), do this to yourself. Put on some headphones, and just listen.

Utilize binaural beats (acoustic phenomenon). When two different tones -- one in each ear -- are played, they combine in the brain to create an acoustic beat. It is not heard by the ears but by the brain making sense of the two frequencies.

Frequencies are measured in hertz (Hz). They combine to produce an otherwise inaudible but perceptible thing. The sound does the work to bring the mind into a coherent state, which is calm, concentration, and samadhi. We recommend binaural products by the Monroe Institute. There are many free neural oscillations on YouTube of varying quality that may induce calm and clarity:
4. Preparatory Practices

There are preliminary and preparatory practices that come down to us from the time of the Buddha and the first enlightened disciples (monastic "elders," theras and theris) to get one set for meditation to sprout and blossom into its fullness.
  • Find peace and quiet (withdrawal into temporary solitude).
  • Noise is the enemy of undistracted-attention (unflappable concentration), so if solitude is impossible, at least find silence. Put in some earplugs. Resort to the closet. Rest in the bathroom with a warm tub in the dark or by unscented candle.
  • Cultivate boundless loving-kindness (metta), which breaks down the barriers to meditation.
  • Recollection of the Buddha's qualities
  • Choose one of those qualities, such as arahan, and repeatedly recite or reflect on it.
  • Consult an expert teacher to learn the practical way of doing these things that in print remain theoretical.
  • The Dharma Meditation Initiative has two new handbooks being read on Thursday nights in Los Angeles. Come practice. It's free.
Dharma Meditation Initiative/
These things help meditation happen when just sitting (dzogchen) there isn't cutting it. It is like making the soil ready for cultivation (in the kammaṭṭhāna or "field of work") by adding amendments.

Make sure virtue (sila), which is the basis of everything else in Buddhism, is in place because this is the foundation of coherence, calm, collectedness, concentration (samadhi) of mind's power to "meditate."

After absorption ("meditation"), emerge, and take up insight-meditation practices to realize enlightenment in this very life.

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