Supporting Information (2) Stillness / Meditation
How to practice Stillness : (which is another name for Meditation)
Practice once a day
In the morning
For ten minutes each time
Six days a week.
After 2 months or so, go to:
Twice a day, (morning and evening)
Seven days a week
In the first six months you do not need to do Meditation more than this, this practice is not about duration or endurance; it is a quality, not a quantity thing. Later, when you have consolidated your practice, you can plan longer more intensive sessions if you feel the need. Walk first, run later. When you are ready to do more (or less) then your practice itself will show you what to do. Meditation may not be about endurance but it is about persistence – you are wasting your time if you do not practice regularly.
Unless you are a yoga adept, a dancer or naturally bendy, do not sit cross-legged. Posture is very important but you do not need to force your body into an uncomfortable position.
Find an ordinary dining room chair, sit and then see if you knees are slightly lower than your hips – that is, your thighs will point downwards just a bit. Use cushions to adjust your sitting height.
Do not lean back; your back must be unsupported.
Put your hands on your knees, then draw them back until your arms and shoulders feel comfortable. (If your hands are too close to your body then your lower back will get tense; too far forward and you will eventually slump).
Do not try to block out or ignore any background sounds. If the phone rings, just ignore it, don’t disconnect it. If an intrusion is so great that you practice, then try again later. If the intrusion is not so great, then work on ignoring it. You ignore it by focussing on the technique.
Close your eyes. Keep them lightly closed throughout. Open them as soon as the session ends. Do not give into temptation and linger in the Meditation. It is very important to end cleanly and completely. Use a timer that does not sound too harsh.
Standing is also good, providing you get the posture just right, (see the diagrams at the end)
Correct posture is vital to Meditation practice. The following is no exaggeration: unless you can find and maintain the right posture you are wasting your time.
Have you ever sat in a cinema and been stirred by some powerful music and strong emotional scene? Felt shivers run up and/or down your back? Felt something similar when you sneezed? Ever scratched and felt a flood of some sensation in a different part of your body? If it is cold then shivering (semi-involuntary muscle spasms creating mild exertion, hence warmth), shivering makes sense. But why shiver in a cinema because you are emotionally moved? And what is an orgasm?
These sensations cannot be explained fully here, other than to say that they are a form of energy. It is very very important that these sensations are not blocked. Meditation will not work if these sensations are blocked. Your practice is quite likely to generate some or all of these sensations at some time. They should always be ignored completely in every respect save one – make small adjustments to your posture so the sensations can dissipate freely. Let them come, let them go. These small adjustments can have a very big impact. These adjustments are more than just changing you position, they involve an approach whereby you “allow” your body to find the correct posture : (and this “allowing” is the opposite of force, where you might force your body to change position, thus creating more tension and more blockage). One of the insights that will come from prolonged Stillness/Meditation is that much of the tension in our bodies is caused by our unconscious holding of particular postures. As we release that holding, as we “allow” that holding to decrease, the internal energy will flow more freely. This “allowing” is a very subtle thing but very much worth pursuing and it comes from small gentle adjustments to you posture ; (see diagrams below).
The better your sitting posture the smaller the adjustment you need to make. An experienced meditator looks like they are carved out of stone – in fact, they regularly adjust their posture, just imperceptibly. Beginners need to adjust their neck and shoulders a lot. Don’t wriggle, just adjust. (see the diagrams at the end)
Correct breathing is also very important to Meditation practice. There are no special techniques or procedures – in my experience, controlling the breath can be harmful in the long term. Nonetheless, attention must be paid to how you breathe during Meditation.
Try and breathe in and out through your nose only.
Lightly place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, so the tip of your tongue just touches the back of your top teeth. (If you have a cold, breathe through your mouth but keep your tongue in this position.)
Never force the breath in or out, rather, ‘allow’ the breath to come and go. This is a very fine distinction that can take years to fully appreciate.
Breathing is important because it is the focus for your attention whilst practising Meditation. If you concentrate on something intensely, you will probably block-out much of what is going on around you. If someone is reading with great attention, you can probably go right up and stand next to them and they will not notice. Then again, a soldier on ‘point duty’, slowly walking through the jungle, expecting an attack at any time, will be aware of every leaf and every sound. Attention can vary. If we characterise these two types as ‘inner’ (the reader) and ‘outer’ (the soldier on point) Meditation is not one at the expense of the other. It is both. Even though it is both, the attention for beginners has to be focussed somewhere. Focussing on breathing is best. This is what you should be aiming for:
Without controlling the breath in any way,
watch it like a hawk, yet simultaneously,
be aware of everything. . . . . .
This dual focus is quite difficult but is a significant step forward when you can do it. You will know when you can do it because, without trying, the two forms of attention become one. When this happens, you will know it . . . . .
The tricky bit
No one really knows what a mind is. From the point of view of Meditation practice, this does not matter. A famous Zen master once said, when a student asked what to do about his mind:
“Completely ignore your mind”
This is very good advice but very difficult to do. For most beginners, it is not possible to ignore their own mind. For a beginner to ignore their own mind might seem that they are not doing something but actually they are “doing something”, they are attempting something. They are attempting an act of ignoring. And who is doing the ignoring? Their own mind. Fortunately there is a way out of this potential loop.
Rather than ignore your mind during Meditation practice, just watch it. (Watching in this context will always mean “with eyes shut, being continuously aware of . . . “).
This is hardest thing to deal with both during and after Meditation, so it gets a section on its own. This applies to the whole of Praxis but is often most noticeable around Meditation practice.
Mostly, meditation is about some kind of spiritual attainment, whatever definition of spiritual is being used. No matter what the definition used, there is a common theme to most practices. Wanting something. Yet desiring some spiritual outcome can also be an obstacle to progress. There is a powerful contradiction at work here, or at least, an apparent contradiction. Wanting to achieve some future state where you will not want anything is confusing. Wanting to ‘not want’ something causes a problem, it is like wanting to loose weight by eating too much food.
It is best to try and honestly make all your wanting as clear to yourself as possible. You may have very grand ambitions, you might want to be a Buddha, or an angel or some transcendent master. Why not? You may simply want peace of mind. Everyone holds some image of where they want to go however hazy it may be. It is not the having of such desires that matters, it is what we do with them that counts.
This is what meditation is really about:
It might make you feel good, might make
you feel peaceful and will certainly improve
your health if done correctly but it is really
about becoming more aware.
If you can make your desire as clear and as honest as possible then you can address the next question. How much do you want it?
This is an important question to ask yourself. You might want to become free of all suffering and pain – but how much time would you devote to the task? We live in a market where material values reign – how much would you pay for real peace of mind? If you are not prepared to give away all your money and devote every minute of every day to getting what you want, then how much do you really want it? This is a minefield but there is an important aspect to this as far as Meditation is concerned: try to balance your expectations in proportion to your effort.
this is a page from a meditation guide that is quite good : http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/
there is more on posture and “allowing” here :
Return to index