Tips to meditate like a boss!

The question comes up a lot, “How can I improve my practice?”. There are a few key points I bring up when I’m asked this question: 1 Make time, 2 Keep at It, 3 If you had a positive or negative meditation experience leave it in the past, 4 Always come back to that ‘Beginner’s Mind’

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At first adding a meditation practice can seem a bit daunting with all the demands placed on our daily lives, ‘me time’ is probably near the end for most of us. I can assure making that 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference. You can find spare time in many places. Gaming is fun and entertaining but if you’re an aggressive gamer (like myself) it can lead to more stress and frustration, you know because Mario won’t jump correctly. If you’re in the car rather than jammin to 2 Chains, or whatever the kids are into these days, find a good guided meditation or try a little   Vipassana  here’s a link to our piece on Vipassana.  A little head to toe scan of the body can be just the thing.  Vipassana and Mindfulness are so powerful due to their infinite mobility  Mindfulness and no BS pt. 1  that’s a link to our 1st of a 4 part series diving into that more thoroughly.  The point is to find those little over sights in time usage a boom you’re in business.  Persistence is another big key

108 Mala Bead Bohemian Tassel Necklace
Meditation Life 108 Mala Bead Bohemian Tassel Necklace

One of the most overlooked points on beginning a new habit, big secret here, is just do it!  Persistence is key in all things.  Some try to pull an over think of Buddhist philosophy saying “Oh well that’s just too much desire”.  Don’t bring that weak garbage into my dojo!  Don’t let meditation be the reason you exist but there is a huge divide between the level of desire that would incur bad Karma and a healthy desire of a regular practice.  The Buddha didn’t attain Enlightenment because he quit, he didn’t just say screw it when it got too hard.  He pressed on, he pushed through the knee pain, boredom, and, the monsters that live inside.  If his persistence paid off, why not our own?  You may not get that big E Enlightenment but you could always improve.  My next point on improving practice… leave past sessions behind you.

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One thing we all do when we have an intense experience, good or bad, is cling to it.  The experience you had was for you then.  At that point in time the conditions were right for that experience, now is not the time for yesterday’s biz.  Some of the things we dig up when we meditate can be scary, or make us over joyed and clinging to those things is just a waste of energy and effort.  You didn’t start your practice to have the same experience repeatedly did you?  Of course not the whole plan is to be that objective observer and watch these movie frame like experiences roll on frame by frame.  Both clinging to and aversion from things, ideas, or, experiences all serve to hold you back.  Drop that baggage and level up mane!  If a bad experiences comes up shed those tears and get back to the hustle, don’t sour today with yesterday BS.  I saved the best for last, keep the Beginner’s Mind!

The final, and probably most effective, pieces of advice I ever received was to keep the Beginner’s Mind.  This means don’t act like you carry a full cup of knowledge.  As we all know a container is most useful under 2 conditions 1 it’s empty and 2 it doesn’t have holes in it.  So if you pick up a book don’t be so quick to dismiss stuff as “Well he’s/she’s doing it wrong.”.  Just because it’s not your norm doesn’t make it wrong.  Same goes for a teacher in person if you come woth questions don’t try to teach the person you asked… you asked for a reason.  Keeping the mind free and unattached to a particular pattern may be just what you need to bust a rut, now or even in the future, as they arise all at once most times.  Adding tools to the tool box is a good way to view it, meditation is an abstract and diverse practice.  As such there is really no one way but there could always be a better way for you.  So keep that head on a swivel and don’t lock in on a method while downing others.

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Your practice as it continues to grow and change will look different from year to year, day to day, and, breath to breath.  Following these simple little pieces of advice will not take you to the promised land or shangri-la or whatever other goal you’ve set for your practice.  It will, however, make you flexible and well rounded as well as more able to accept the good stuff the the universe is dangling out there.  As always it’s your practice, OWN IT!

 

by J.Martin

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
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MEDITATION IN A NUTSHELL

So it’s 2018, by now you’ve heard of meditation and or mindfulness. If you haven’t take a look around, it’s in the news, social media, churches, and, even a few open-minded schools. You may ask yourself why, what benefits are there, how is it done? There are many styles and many more schools, each trying to push it’s favorite version as the the right one. So let’s dive into meditation and a little rundown on it. Let’s look into why people meditate.

Most meditators would answer the question of “Why meditate?” with a Morpheus style “Welcome to the desert of the real” type monologue. One only needs to glance at the world in which we live to see, war, poverty, hatred, violence, and on and on. We live in a world of fast paced information driven, full of disappointments, and a generally pervasive malice. Why it gotta be like that… Like most things stuff gets in a position of lameness due to good intentions and a series of compromises. Does meditation end all of these things, sadly, no. Meditation in no direct way could or would save the world, even if everyone started a meditation practice today. So if it doesn’t save the world, what the hell good is it, and why should I do it?

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Meditation can give you powers, what powers you ask, how about the power to kill a yak… with mind bullets!! Obviously that isn’t true, but you were buying it for a minute it’s okay to admit it. All joking aside meditation has many life changing benefits backed science. Meditators experience 50% less illness, this is due to the boost the immune system experiences thanks to the decreased stress levels. 30% of meditators experience decreased anxiety, and 65% stated an increase in the feeling of well being. Meditation has been proven to cause a reduction in the size of the amygdala which is the area of the brain that is active in the famed “fight or flight” response. With reduced amygdala also comes less fear based impulsive behavior. As a meditator. with 9 years at it, there are benefits which cannot be quantified. There arises a base level of joy, it’s weird and hard to explain but it is just a hanging positive vibe. Even though I have perfected 0 meditation practices, there is still this amazing amount of focus. Like having exercised a muscle the focus gets stronger in short order. You will notice an increase in your compassion and empathy towards others as well as towards yourself. Something about getting to know the way you tick helps you to understand the way everyone else ticks. And once you know that how mad can you really get a someone else, even if they screw up? So let’s get into the how of the thing.

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How does one meditate? I’m sure you envisioned some old guy, with a dope fu manchu, robes, and, a bald head. First off that’s profiling, and profiling is wrong… Just kidding things like that mental image come to mind when we think of meditation because that is the image we are fed by movies and it’s just not true. Yes there are sects of hermits that hide away in mountain cave and monasteries spending nearly every waking minute devoted to the practice of meditation. Most simplistically you can perform a serenity meditation (or as Buddhists, the O.G.s of meditation, call it Samatha for more check out the link). To do this style of meditation find a straight backed chair, one which you can sit with nice straight backed posture. The straighter your back the less fatigue you will feel. Or if you’d like to get even more traditional you can sit on the floor. If you choose to sit on the floor you’ll want to use a rolled up pillow or blankets to key your buns elevated above your knees, as for your legs any variation of cross legged posture you find comfortable will do. Play around with cushion configurations until you find the winner, everyone is different but if you’re willing you’ll find the winning combo. I prefer to take a bed pillow and roll it up, it sounds weird but it works for me. Once you’ve found a cozy little spot it’s time to get on the brain work. Your eyes can be open or half closed which ever you find more comfortable. Now breathe where do you feel your breath? Some answer under the nose, or the upper lip, still others find the rise and fall sensation of the diaphragm more noticeable, again it’s all about what works best for you. And… that’s it, set yourself a timer so you don’t stay too long, and just focus on that sensation in and out… in and out… or rise and fall lather, rinse, repeat. I know it sounds simple but the results are no less than profound. Let’s get mindful!

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Mindfulness is a little different from Serenity meditation in a few key ways but is no less profound in it’s effects. First, Mindfulness meditation has a few names. Mindfulness, Insight, or, Vipasana are all synonymous(for more on Vipassana check out the link). To practice mindfulness there really are no prerequisites. You merely need to pay attention to your senses and what arises you make a mental note. When you’re walking “left, right, etc”, when thinking “thinking”. The key is to keep the notes very vanilla and don’t attach to any one of them. The purpose is to build up a more objective point of view. For some this style is easier as it is more mobile and it can be taken any where. For others this method is too dry, it really comes down to you and your temperament and mental strengths. This article is just to pique your interests, and provide a little background knowledge

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Whether you seek to follow meditation to the point of Enlightenment or you just want to start a mental hygiene practice. Meditation has the ability to completely change your life for the better. It isn’t about morals or ethics but leads to a more moral and ethical individuals. You may catch some static from Christians stuck in the old way of things but you aren’t doing this for them. So stay strong, build that practice, and THRIVE!!

Remember it’s your practice own it!

By J.Martin

 

Mindfulness no BS Pt.4

Here we are up to The 4th Foundation of Mindfulness. Let’s recap a little. In the 1st Foundation we contemplated the body, how it felt and what was going on with it both generally and specifically Mindfulness and no BS pt. 1.

We then moved to the 2nd Foundation where we contemplated our feelings, and how in the Buddhist scheme of thinking feelings and emotions aren’t the same. We divided these feelings into 3 groups pleasant, painful, and, neutral, and traced them back to their sources Mindfulness and No BS pt. 2 .

Next, we set our sights to the 3rd Foundation of Mindfulness, we learned about using our mind to understand pur mind Mindfulness no BS pt. 3. Here we are at The 4th Foundation of Mindfulness, Contemplation of Dharmas.

This is where we have the duty…, Nay honor, to dig into the more philosophical teachings that Buddhism brings to the world. Things like The 3 Characteristics of Existence, The 4 Noble Truths we discussed them beginning here The First Noble Truth, I see you talkin’ Dukha , The Eight-fold Path, Dependent Arising, The 5 Aggregates of Impermanence, 6 sense faculties, and why stop there. If you have a curiosity of any philosophical teachings this is the time to dig in. But don’t just read it immerse yourself, see what it is truly like. Buddhism, at it’s core encourages deeply penetrating (stop giggling) all possible avenues to truth.

Unlike some belief systems, faiths, religious traditions, etc. Buddhism does not accept dogmas. There exist no truths in all of the Dharma that are above a thorough look under the hood. This in my opinion is the most unique facet of the teachings. You take them, you test them out, if you like it you apply it, if you dont, you move on… Like a boss. There are no ‘no go’ areas of the teaching.

So to be a good Buddhist or a decent self actualized believer in anything, ask those questions, ponder those truths. The only thing forbidden is dogma. And as a slight aside, this is the most misunderstood idea by organized Buddhism as a whole. We are blessed with consciousness it’s up to us to use it! This is where you have an opportunity to really connect with ideas intellectually and metaphysically.

So no matter what you believe test the teachings and apply them, take them apart, smell the pieces… put them on your head. Really dig into them. Learn how they work and truly own your beliefs.

-Enjoy!

Mindfulness no BS pt. 3

We have now come to part 3 of the four foundations of Mindfulness. We have practiced mindfulness of the “Body” and the “Feelings”, now we take the process one step further. Now we will be headed onto Mindfulness of the “Mind”. Period. Full stop. You read that correctly we are going to use the instrument of consciousness to observe the instrument of consciousness.

The audience eye-rolling is so heavy right now my pc just turned over. So let’s take a minute to flesh this out. When you are thinking, you have an inner dialogue, you may even ask and answer your own questions, and on occasions you may get answers. All in an completely inner sense, because lets’s be honest if you didn’t you would most likely get carted off to a facility, with medications and coloring books. We all do it, and it is natural to do so. The point this illustrates is that, though you are thinking to generate this inner dialogue there is still yet another point of view at play here. A man behind the curtain (If you don’t get the Wizard of Oz reference… are you even trying?) if you will. This observer is closer to the “I” or “Self” entity that we identify as ourselves, and we will use this person to perform this next practice of Mindfulness.

The idea is to use the mind to observe the mind. Pretty straight forward and in the spirit of the meditation challenge in mental noting is the word of the day here. The only difference here is we’re noting the mind and it’s movements. If you’re mad think “Why am I mad?”, when you find the source for that anger find out what led to it, “Where did this come from?” . Think of it like watching a slide show… just let all the things pass in front of you, make that note and move to the next, as it comes, each thought in turn. The goal here is to eliminate the subject v. object situation that is usually the average course of thought. This approach to Mindfulness is so simple that it’s hard.
Things you may find here are “Wow my anger, sadness, happiness, etc. all come back to X”, its usually at this point I feel like a big old dummy for not seeing the elephant in the room. Once the thing is clearly outlined and identified the work of addressing it. Now where you go from there is entirely up to you. A good litmus test here is to ask yourself “Can I fix this situation?”. If the answer is “No”, then, work with Letting Go. If the answer is “Yes” then, get out there and do the thing! This is all part of learning how we tick, and really owning our practice. Enjoy!

Metta

Next up Metta! Before I get into this let me say you need to pat yourself on the back for attempting Vipasana. That one is hard so high fives to all who tried. Moving on lol

Metta, this one has less to do with posture and more to do with the mind. I prefer to start this up from a seated position similar to the Samatha or serenity meditation.

I found it easier to break it down in days because it just made more sense to me. However as always make it yours.

Session one:
Picture yourself happy, safe, and loved. Truly happy not because of acquiring stuff but more content. Stay there for the duration of this session. Now you may need to do this for a few sessions that’s okay it took me a while to really hold self happiness in my mind’s eye. Once you can do this at will move to the next step.

Session two: Since you have gathered the ability to picture yourself safe and content. Now think of someone you are truly neutral towards… And move this imagining on to them. And really invest in it. This neutral target can be a neighbor, coworker, acquaintance who in particular isn’t important so long as they don’t really arouse much in the way of extreme feelings. Once you have picked the recipient hang there for a few sessions again until it becomes more or less effortless. The next one will push you and hopefully expand a limit.

Session four thousand three hundred eight:
Just kidding but if it takes that long let it because this step will require some serious personal power. Picture yourself safe, happy, and loved and when you get those feelings good and genuine… move them to a person you dislike. You read that correctly. Someone who upsets you or irritates you. And just focus it on them for as long as it feels therapeutic. The idea is to lessen the animosity felt towards them.

I know this one doesn’t seem as earth shattering as Samatha or Vipasana (at least on the surface). It will rock your world in it’s own way if you let it.

Enjoy!

What do I need to meditate

Some people ask the question “What do I need to meditate?” I tell them to get a pen and paper then I tell them the following: You will need a photo of Bee Arthur in a full lotus pose, 75 sticks of Nag Champa incense, and a hogs head of Greek yogurt… and put the pen and paper down!

You need nothing other than you’re undivided attention. I mean the goal is to address inside circumstances not align things outside. That would be antithetical to why you came here.

That being said, there are some things you may find helpful…in the minimalist sense. If you plan on sitting on the floor you may want something to sit on. Generally speaking it’s best to keep the hips at a level higher than the knees. This will help prevent back pain. You can get creative folded towels or blankets I find work great but don’t be afraid to experiment to find the right height and firmness. The longer you do this the more critical it will become.

If you are unable to sit on the floor due to chronic pain or flexibility issues no biggie. Find yourself a straight-backed chair. The biggest reason to be a stickler for posture is your comfort and longevity, not to mention it keeps you from falling asleep. As you progress that becomes a real danger. You set yourself up for some serious Samadhi, wisdom ass biz, and BAM! It’s tomorrow

Another thing you may want to look into is a timer of some sort. Again nothing fancy is necessary. Some folk use Insight Timer which has a free version available in your app store. I chose to go as low tech as possible with an app called Meditation Assistant for me it works. But if frills are what you are into shop around some will offer community-based assistance, guided meditations, and maybe even a lecture or two you can listen to. The timer will become more necessary the longer you meditate. Just like kids learn to walk further and further before falling on their butt you’ll do the same with meditation. Before you know it hours could pass when you’re in the zone and no one wants to be late to work and explain that one to the boss. Sorry I was attempting to achieve Enlightenment so ease up… I know my rights!

A few other things that may interest you are for your study of the meditative arts are: incense, candles, guided meditation services, a fancier meditation seat, binaural beats generators, music, all of them are helpful but not necessary. There are some purists who may bust your chops for using music or guided meditations, but quite frankly they can pack sand. This is about you getting right with you.

Hopefully this will help you prioritize what you need to get your practice on and what to expect as you go.

For further resources and how-tos

Samatha explained

Vipassana explained

Vipassana

Here goes round 2 Vipasana

So we spent the last week sharpening our focus through on the breath sensation now we’ll take that same focus and apply to all incoming sense data. How, you ask? Enter mental noting.

For this form of meditation we simply make a mental note of all the incoming sense experience. If you are thinking simply mentally note “thinking”, if you are walking simply note “walking”. At first keep your examination of the experience at a surface level. Then as you get better at it the notes will be more in depth. For example when walking begin to note “Left, right, left”. Do this for tasting, touching, hearing, smelling, and seeing keeping all mental notes in your inner dialogue.

As you do this the plan is to concentrate on the experience from the grossest to the most subtle. Or from most obvious zooming into the minute details. Do this with all your actions throughout the day. This is a very mobile practice for some it will feel clunky for others it will feel like a smooth transition, just stay with it.

The plan with this form of meditation is to take the mind off of autopilot and really experience all that is occurring. I can tell you from my personal experience this will have an odd effect of making how you feel the passing of time slow down. You will experience more in 10 seconds than you would in 10 minutes normally.

An important note when dealing with the “thinking” part; take care not to get sucked into the thoughts themselves. Simply note “thinking” then allow that to pass. The idea is to develop an objective level of observation. Don’t embellish the thought and don’t down play it. Simply let it pass. As for touch sensation keep the notations simple “This is a (pleasant, painful, or neutral) sensation” again the goal is to become an objective observer in this moment by moment examination of the senses.

You may start to realize that you have never really given weight to experience in this way. It isn’t every day you think “My car’s steering wheel feels pleasant against my hand”, or “Wow, I have never really experienced my time at work” it’s all part of the plan

I can assure this is a very difficult style of meditation to master as this practice doesn’t end when we leave the meditation cushion, rather it follows and flows throughout all waking moments.

The invention of this style of meditation is credited to the Buddha. This is how he meditated and this was how he taught others to meditate. According to the Theravada school of Buddhism it is, scripturally speaking, the only way to attain true Enlightenment.

Look at you getting your meditative swole on!