This is a guest post by Bernie Schreck from In the Footsteps of the Buddha
In this busy day and age, more and more people are turning to meditation and discovering the countless benefits it brings.
Meditation is a wonderful way to improve physical health, reduce stress, enhance your relationships, and bring more peace, happiness, and confidence into your life.
Above all else, meditation is the way to reconnect with your true self, the innermost essence of your mind.
Following is a simple guide – just the key points in eight simple steps – to help you get started with meditation.
Posture – Creating the Supportive Conditions for Meditation
The physical posture creates the supportive conditions that give rise to meditation.
The main point is to sit comfortably. Feel free to sit on a cushion or on a chair. Sit with your back straight, yet relaxed. Once you are settled on your seat, take a moment to connect with yourself. Breathe naturally. Allow yourself to feel your body and the movement of the breath within it.
Meditating with your eyes open is recommended. The reason? Keeping all your senses open creates less of a difference between meditation and your daily life.
If you are sensitive to disturbances from outside you can begin your meditation with your eyes closed, and open them when you feel settled. Let your eyes be relaxed, half-open, looking downward along the line of your nose. Allow your gaze to rest without focusing on anything in particular. Leave all your senses open and relaxed. Leave the seeing in the seeing, the hearing in the hearing, the feeling in the feeling, and so on.
3. The inner aspect of posture – establishing an attitude that helps you enter into meditation
Take a moment to remind yourself that the purpose of meditation is to bring you back to yourself – to reconnect with your true being which is goodness, wisdom, and compassion.
Meditation is not about getting, creating or attaining anything, but simply letting go of whatever prevents us from experiencing ourselves fully. It is about slipping out of the noose of our inner dialogue, habitual reactions, and all the ideas we have made up about ourselves.
If we think of our thoughts and emotions as the “real” us, they will control our life. Whereas, if we have confidence that our true nature is unstained by our confusion, we can look at ourselves and all our problems with more humor and spaciousness.
Meditation is also about experiencing our oneness with the world. The biggest obstacle to this is our self-centeredness.
To help us let go of self-centeredness, we generate the wish that our practice not only brings us back to our own true nature and fundamental goodness, but also enables us to help others reconnect with theirs. May it contribute to a deeper and more spiritual consciousness in the world, and bring lasting happiness and an end to all suffering.
The Actual Practice – Abiding in Pure Awareness of Nowness
Meditation is simply a way of being. It is not something we need to do, but simply letting our mind be present in nowness and abide in an open and natural way of being.
However, most of the time we can’t do that right away. First, we need to find our mind. Then we use a method to help it settle. Then whenever our mind feels open and relaxed, we let go of the method and abide in that natural state of mind.
5. Finding your mind
Begin your meditation by becoming aware of your mind and the flow of thoughts and emotions passing through it.
We are always aware: we see, we feel, we think, and so on. The difference in meditation is that we are not just aware of things, we also become aware that we are aware. We not only see, but we know we see. We not only hear, but we know we hear. We not only think, but we are aware of having thoughts.
6. Method: Watching the breath
We can use the breath as a support to enter into this deeper awareness.
Breathe naturally and simply be aware of the breath. “Know that you are breathing in when you are breathing in. Know that you are breathing out when you are breathing out.” Watching the breath is a skillful way to help the energy of our mind to settle.
7. Resting in a natural state of mind
Whenever your mind feels relaxed and open, you can let go of watching the breath and just abide in a natural pure awareness of nowness. Simply let yourself be present in the face of whatever thoughts, emotions, or perceptions arise. Whatever arises, let it come and go.
Whenever you notice you are distracted – “Oops, I was supposed to watching my breath” – come back to the breath or being present in nowness.
Don’t chastise yourself for becoming distracted. The secret of these “Oops” moments is that they’re actually are split-second experiences of pure awareness, which is your fundamental nature.
Alternate between focusing on the breath, when you feel distracted, and resting in pure awareness of nowness, when your mind is settled.
At the end of the session, conclude your practice with a moment of dedication.
A wonderful way to dedicate your practice is to wish that your efforts may not just bring freedom and happiness to yourself, but to all sentient beings. May it bring an end to all the suffering in the world.
This seals your practice and ensures that the positive results it has brought will never be lost.
This brief advice on meditation is based on teachings from Sogyal Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche. Meditation is a huge topic and a lifelong endeavor. There is so much more that could be, and really should be, said to explain it properly. These points can only attempt to give a very essential presentation of some of the main points. If you would like to learn more about meditation and the nature of mind, I recommend reading:
- The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
- The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness by Mingyur Rinpoche.
Or watching these brief videos on meditation:
- What meditation really is with Sogyal Rinpoche
- Guided Meditation: The Body, Space, and Awareness with Mingyur Rinpoche
I would love to hear if these tips help you and answer any questions you may have.
Bernie Schreck has studied and practiced in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for over twenty years and instructs introductory courses in Buddhism and meditation for Rigpa, the network of centers and groups under the guidance of his teacher Sogyal Rinpoche.
In his spare time, he shares reflections on Buddhist practice and way of life on his blog In the Footsteps of the Buddha.
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