SAMATHA MEDITATION

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The Unusual Buddha

What you need to know and none of what you don’t

Definition:  Samatha meditation is the name of a style of meditation that focuses on the breath.  Some call it annapannsati which literally translates to breath awareness.  This is considered one of the simpler practices but is not uncommon all the way to the top of some meditation ladder.

 

Purpose: To focus the mind and still the mental chatter through the breath sensation.

 

Practice:

  1. Find a comfortable somewhat quiet place to practice. Silence is not necessary and is honestly a crutch down the road.  There’s no need to find an abandoned building or a cliff.  Practice can be done inside or out.  Remember, take into account the conditions and dress accordingly.  Heat, cold, wind, etc. can all become huge distractions, and this isn’t an exercise in putting one’s self in pain.
  2. Decide to sit, walk, or, laydown. The choice itself comes down to preference, in the beginning most find it easier to sit.  If sitting is your preference then you’ll have to decide whether a chair or good old floor sitting is best for you.

-For chair sitting look for a straight back sturdy unit placed away from breakable objects.  It is possible to fall asleep and actually likely at first.

Traditional sitting find a decent location with adequate floor space and bring something to sit on.  What you bring to sit on comes down to yet again preference.  Things you can use: couch cushions, folded blankets, standard bed pillows for low budget options and zafus, zabutons, or any other manner of commercially available seats.  My advice… try many configurations and see what is most comfortable.  Should you decide to get a fancy seat find a way to try it first if at all possible, some of these seats are quite expensive and they aren’t 100% necessary.  The main idea with any seating configuration is to end up with your hips slightly elevated above your knees, this will help fend off back pain.  Use all arrangements as allowed by personal preference and comfort.

walking, if you prefer to walk try to find an area where you can pace or a small circular track. Too much external stimulation makes breath focus more difficult.  So again quite but not desolate.

laying down most find this most suited to helping you fall asleep.  If you’re outside bring something to lay on, ground critters are real.  The idea is to make the circumstances favorable for focusing your mind to the task at hand, which in this style is the sensation of breathing itself

  1. The mind. Take a few moments at the beginning of the practice and breath. Feel each breathe, one by one.  Feel it rise and fall.  Where is the breathing sensation most notable to you?  Some would answer under the nose or lip area others prefer to note the rise and fall of the abdomen.  Once you have found the place of greatest breath awareness, that is your object of meditation.  Your mind will eventually fall away from the object, once you see it, acknowledge it, and, bring it back gently again and again.  Don’t judge how long you stay just keep coming back.
  2. Timing.  Set some sort of timer unless you are in a position where you won’t have to worry about how long you take.  Enjoy that, most don’t have that luxury.  Nothing crazy is necessary just some sort of gentle nudge.  You may also want to set an additional backup alarm as it is pretty common to nod off from time to time.  Perform your chosen configuration once daily 5-7  a week working your way up from 5 minutes a session, more if you can, and just watch the transformation

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