Sit. . .

The Buddha taught that the way to free the mind from suffering is through gaining insight into what truly is. One of the tools the Buddha taught for gaining insight is mindfulness, the ability to be fully aware in each moment. You can develop mindfulness through the practice of vipassana meditation.

Why Meditate?

Here are just a few of the benefits of a meditation practice:

  • Obtain quiet or inner peace
  • Have a respite from the pace of daily life
  • Collect and unify the mind
  • Clear the mind of emotional turmoil
  • Feel and experience the truth of “the way things are” for yourself
  • Learn loving-kindness and compassion for yourself and for others
  • Understand and learn how to practice forgiveness

How to Meditate

Mindfulness meditation begins with learning to concentrate your attention on an object, typically the breath, which enables you to notice how your mind is reacting to what it is experiencing.

  1. Start by sitting in a chair or on a zafu (meditation cushion) in a quiet space with your eyes closed.
  2. Direct your attention to the breath as it touches the body in a single spot, such as the tip of the nose, or focus on the rise and fall of the chest or the movement of the belly as the breath passes in and out.
  3. Stay with the experience of the breath as best you’re able using one of these techniques: counting, noticing the speed, making mental notes using labels such as “in” and “out” or “rising” and “falling,” or coupling a word with each breath.
  4. At first you won’t be able to keep your attention on the breath, because your mind will become distracted by thoughts, emotions, and sensations. When it wanders, gently direct it back to the breath. The breath becomes the anchor to which you return in order to stabilize and focus your attention. 

Now you are ready to examine your mental processes. You will quickly notice that the mind is almost always thinking and that much of this thinking is based on the past or future in the form of remembering, planning, fantasizing, and rehearsing. Observe each of these. Are they pleasant or unpleasant? What happens to them as you turn your attention on them? Do they stop or intensify? Or do you get lost in them and lose your mindfulness? What underlies your constant planning? Is it anxiety? When you bring up a fear or worry over and over again, is it really unpleasant or does it induce a kind of reassurance? What happens if you stop? Is the constant worrying really a false reassurance? Does it actually induce a habit of anxiety? Remember to feel your mental processes from within them—the fuzziness and excitement of fantasy, the heaviness of worry and fretting, and the speed of planning. Notice what it is and how it then changes.

Finally, you are ready to experience the Buddha’s insights as they manifest in your life—the life you have been examining until now, which includes your body sensations, emotions, mind states, and mental processes and the pleasantness and unpleasantness that accompanies each of them. With the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, you see how each moment constantly changes and that most of what you take personally is actually impersonal and is not about you. For instance, in our earlier example, the person at the office who upset you was not really focused on you, but was reacting to her own inner turmoil, and you just happened to receive the eruption. You also notice which mind states lead to suffering and which don’t, and you begin to live more wisely.

Peace and Love, Jim

#meditation #thedailybuddha

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