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

 

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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!

Mindfulness and no BS pt. 1

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Mindfulness, it has become a huge buzzword. For some it brings to mind images of granola, scents of poorly masked body odor, and the vision of a life lived with palms pressed harshly together. No one discusses it in a no nonsense or no BS way.

Mindfulness meditation according to the Buddha’s Teaching consisted of 4 foundations. The 4 being Contemplation on the Body, Contemplation on Feelings, Contemplation on Mind, and finally Contemplation on Dharmas. These are in essence 4 modes of Mindfulness. It ain’t the only way but again we’re talking foundations. Contemplation on the Body, first stop on the mindfulness train.

Simply stated Contemplation on the Body can be as simple or as advanced as you can handle. It all depends on how deep into the rabbit hole you’d like to go. My personal favorite is The Scan Method.

Starting from your toes bring your awareness to your toes, don’t just think of them, actually feel them. Scan the same way moving up your shins, and knees. Notice how they feel, what does clothing on them feel like, where exactly do your clothes contact them? Move on to the knees, thighs, pelvis, waste. If you are sitting, how does the weight of your body resting on them feel? Up to your stomach and lower back, take a deep belly breathe what sensations do you notice then? Continue this scan as intensely as you are able. Aim to go deeper, more slowly, more thoroughly each round. It’s about truly experiencing the Body and it’s modes of operation. The great thing is you can do this at the Doctor’s office, while driving, really during anything. So next time your on a long drive give it a try… just don’t close your eyes please.

Next month we’ll discuss Mindfulness of Feelings, who knows you may learn a thing

-TUB

Meditation: A crude overview

Let’s talk meditation. Some folks are rocking some serious misconceptions about it. There are many types and styles with endless variations in between whether you count breaths while passing beads through your fingers, imagine yourself in a serene place, or focus on each moment of experience to it’s very edges; just know there is no right or wrong, the goal is a healthy introspective view. Rather than break down all the individual styles that there are in the world, which would most likely occupy the rest of this current lifetime, we will discuss the 2 main styles that are in use in Buddhism, Samadhi and Vippassana.

Samadhi, this is the stereotypical image of a bald man sitting cross-legged and possibly hovering with laser beams coming from his head or something similar. Many think the Buddha himself “invented” this kind of meditation. While he did use it frequently he by no means invented it. Samadhi (sitting quietly with your bare awareness) has been practiced going as far back to the Indus River Valley people, well before the time of the Buddha. He did teach it, use it, master it, and advocate it’s usage. The practice of Samadhi is awesome in it’s deceptive simplicity, and it can be used by those in really any religion or school secularly or theistically. Samadhi is conducted generally in a seated position, it can be in a straight back chair or on the floor. You can have your eyes closed or half opened. The goal here is not to just close your eyes and space out, quite the contrary in fact, we want to focus on the breath. The breathing here is done through the nose, and the focus is on the physical sensation of the breath, either on the rise and fall of the chest, or on the feeling of the breath touching the upper lip just under the nose. Sounds simple enough if you haven’t attempted it. For those of you who have in it is quite the endeavor. Now when the mind begins to wander, and it always does, we must bring our mind back to the object of meditation, in this case the breath. A really good analogy is that of striking a bell. We initially apply our mind to the object of meditation, like striking a bell, then we hang out there as long as possible, the reverberations of the bell. Our goal is to stay in the reverberations as long as possible, without of course losing our jobs.

In the opposing corner wearing the dark brown robes… we have Vippassana.

Vippassana meditation, sometimes known as Insight meditation, is a bit tougher for some. This involves conducting ones normal activities while intensely focusing on the thoughts and sensations that arise along the way. Here we are fully engrossing ourselves in the present moment, how it feels, how it smells, tastes etc. When thoughts arise we trace the line of thoughts this one leading to that, which led to that and so on. None of the sensations or thoughts are to be clung to of course. Here we merely label them mentally and move on. So if you have a paper to write how does the pen feel in your hand? How does the paper smell? What does the environment sound like? Using all your senses experience all of the moment one moment at a time, then let it go like a boss! This style of meditation has been credited as an invention of the Buddha’s and in some schools of thought is the only path leading to Enlightenment. I’m not sure I agree with that, but that’s a blog post for another day.

This is a rough guide and may have told you some things you already knew. Just a rough overview to spark some interest.

My goal here is to mostly whet your appetite for the meditative arts. Take this a a small starting point and read up, and most importantly practice. You’ll be surprised at what you find. It’s your practice, own it!

-TUB