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-   -   How to meditate? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3215)

Ta Kung 01-07-2003 07:47 AM

How to meditate?
 
Hi!

I'll be honest. I'm not good att this meditating bit. Anyone feel like giving me a few pointers? All that happens to me is that I start to think about other stuff, my mind wandering away. As I understand it, that's not what one wants. Any good tips or links?

/Patrik

opherdonchin 01-07-2003 08:48 AM

Excellent question, Patrik.

Also, one without any easy answers. I think the basic idea is to realize that everyone's mind wanders and that this is where both the challenge and the beauty of meditating lies. The usual instruction is that every time you feel that your mind has wandered, to 'gently escort' back to paying attention to your breathing. For me, when I first started meditating and sometimes even today, this meant that over the course of 5 or 10 minutes of meditation, I was probably spending about 30 seconds total focused on my breath. The rest was mind wandering.

However, meditation is a skill that you learn with practice. You'd think that just sitting quietly and focusing on your breath would be something you just 'decide' to do and that's it. Instead, it turns out that daily practice will make it easier and easier for your mind to stay there. So, while the effort to bring your mind back to the breath is active (if gentle and lacking aggression), the improvement is a passive process.

In some ways, the benefits are passive, too. What you get out of it (in my experience and according to others I know) is a really nice sense of calm and centeredness. But, again, this grows slowly and over time. Don't expect miracles and maybe even put more energy into noticing how it DOES affect YOU than in looking for any particular benefits it is supposed to give.

In many areas of the U.S., it is possible to go for a weekend or week long meditation seminar. These can really jump start the process, I'm told, although I haven't tried anything like that. I'm really just an amateur do-it-when-I-feel-like-it meditator, and I bet there are people here with much more experience and insight than me.

MikeE 01-07-2003 09:51 AM

Sosa Sensei taught me a technique he gleaned from either Tohei Sensei or Takahashi Sensei:

While in seiza, rock from side to side concentrating on the movement. Try to be like an upside down pendulum. Each rock should get smaller and smaller until the rocking is contained in your mind.

It took me a while to get it. But, once I did, I found it was much easier to return to that "special place" where the rocking was in my mind. And time flies by.

Good luck!

achilleus 01-07-2003 10:11 AM

Excellent reply, Opher.

I try to remind myself that part of the "formation" process in meditation is the ability to recognise the distraction and to re-center. But never let this upset you - we will always have distractions.

The movement sugestion was good, too. depending on whether you are sitting on floor with - w/out pillow or on chair or walking meditation.

The use of a mantra (which can be anything) also helps focus your mind and breathing. Especially when starting out this helps you in the sense that you will know immediately when your mind has started to wander. But also, as you get more comfortable - or familiar with the process - the tangents this mantra takes you on will be useful, rather than distracting.

My default mantra has been: I am an olive tree growing in the house of G-d.

DA

Ta Kung 01-07-2003 02:25 PM

Thanks for the great answers people! I'll try to keep them all in mind. Anyone else got any pointers?

/Patrik

Judd 01-07-2003 02:41 PM

When breathing, to help me think about expanding and contracting infinitely, I think about that movie Stargate. You know when they walk through the gate and all the stars rush by as they're traveling through space? That's what I think of when expanding, and I think of the reverse when inhaling. It's kinda weird, but it helps me. :)

Creature_of_the_id 01-08-2003 04:54 AM

I think mediation is a very aiki process.

If you sit and think to yourself " I will not be distracted", then you will get distracted.

If you worry over your mind wandering, then it will wander.

the more you fight it the more it will resist you.

So, relax and think to yourself, I am going to experience sitting.

You sit, and no matter what happens, what thoughts come into your head, you are still sitting. Allow the thoughts to flow, it doesn't matter if they are their or not. the more you make it an issue the harder it is to get rid of them.

sit and experience sitting and everything that comes with it.

in letting go of the limitations you put on your meditative experience (i.e. no thoughts, must relax, must follow the rules you have on meditation), you allow the experience to just occur and those things that you wish to happen fall into place without any effort.

most of all... give it time and enjoy it :)

Bruce Baker 01-08-2003 05:32 AM

different levels of meditation
 
(The term moving is to be considered the physical act of movement, not the spiritual aspect of emotionally being moved.)



There are many levels of meditation, and some of them are as simple as relaxing, taking a few breaths, and letting your thoughts go where they may, until you settle in a calm place that resolves the thoughts, or at least puts them away so you can relax.




Moving meditation, such as becoming deeply involved in an activity that takes up you entire attention, or diverts your attention so the conscious mind can rest while the subconscious mind wrestles with turmoil, problems that unsettle you, are just as effective as sitting and keying on static meditation techniques.

Don't get caught up with meditation being only the deep mantra eyes closed picture most people have when they hear meditation.

Many of the key training techniques of Aikido are a form of moving meditation. How many times have you been told to leave your problems at the door when you train so that you can relax? A perfect example of moving meditation.

Just because you are not chanting or sitting in seiza doesn't mean you can't use meditation in other forms and other ways to rest, relax, and regain balance.

Ta Kung 01-08-2003 05:50 AM

I've come up with yet another question in this matter: Do you prefer to sit in seiza or with your legs crossed (lotus)? When I sit in seiza, my feet fall asleep after a while. And when I sit in lotus, my knees starts to ache. Am I getting old, or am I just too fragile for meditation? :)

I guess my question is this; is it better to sit then to lay down? Does it matter which you choose? You always see people meditating in lotus or seiza, but maybe it's just because "it's the way everyone else does it"?

/Patrik

Creature_of_the_id 01-08-2003 07:01 AM

I think most of all you have to be comfortable. the way in which you have your legs and arms is unimportant (in my view of mediation).

If you are lying down, remember to occasionally open your eyes when meditating or you will just fall asleep :)

Ghost Fox 01-08-2003 07:06 AM

Quote:

Patrik Eng (Ta Kung) wrote:
I guess my question is this; is it better to sit then to lay down? Does it matter which you choose? You always see people meditating in lotus or seiza, but maybe it's just because "it's the way everyone else does it"?

/Patrik

I usually prefer a half-lotus position with my righ leg tucked under the root chakra (perinium). I think in terms of meditation most teachers preferences are full lotus, half lotus, seiza, chair, laying down. The most important things being posture and comfort.

Like Kev said most teachers don't recommend laying down for new students because they tend to fall asleep.

My 2 cents.

opherdonchin 01-08-2003 07:43 AM

I like seiza because it's so familiar and it keeps my back straight.

Whatever position you choose, it will become uncomfortable if you stay in it for long enough. This is usually considered a 'distraction' much like the wandering mind. That is, you my find it useful, whenever you notice that your mind has moved over to the discomfort, to simply gently escort it back to the breathing (or whatever). This will, of course, be difficult. On the other hand, it was also difficult to stop the mind from wandering. Meditation can be a challenging experience if you want it to be.

I really liked Kev Price's comments about just sitting.

Ta Kung 01-08-2003 10:02 AM

Quote:

Meditation can be a challenging experience if you want it to be
I agree. And it is also a challenging experience even if you don't want it to be... :D

I gather from the excelent advice you all have posted, that the main thing is focus on breathing and beeing comfortable. Is this the beginning step, or only one type of meditation? Master Yoda said "meditate over this I will". (:D)And I've heard of people "meditating over zen koans" aswell. -But then ones mind must wander alot, right? Different types of meditation?

/Patrik

achilleus 01-08-2003 12:36 PM

Quote:

Patrik Eng (Ta Kung) wrote:
I've come up with yet another question in this matter: Do you prefer to sit in seiza or with your legs crossed (lotus)?

I guess my question is this; is it better to sit then to lay down? Does it matter which you choose? You always see people meditating in lotus or seiza, but maybe it's just because "it's the way everyone else does it"?

Patrik

Patrick:

If you develop a routine like waking early for meditation or going to a zen session with a group you may find yourself in the same position each time, depending on where you are. If you are really practicing and meditate wherever you find yourself you may find yourself in different positions. I like them all. In seiza - or burmese - a small round pillow is customary to sit on between your feet. this relieves some of the pressure on your knees. When using a chair be sure not to sit all the way back into it, rather, at the edge. Waliking meditation is good alone or with others. try to pace yourself to your breathing. In all cases I was instructed never to close my eyes. In any case I think getting comfortable is far easier than other issues. Breathing for example. I am surprised each time I notice someone breathing incorrectly - that is, in the opposite direction of our diaphragm. A zen monk I know wrote a book on prayer and the smal chapters were the ones on postures and the long chapters were on breathing.

Try them all.

DA

achilleus 01-08-2003 12:50 PM

Quote:

Patrik Eng (Ta Kung) wrote:
I gather from the excelent advice you all have posted, that the main thing is focus on breathing and beeing comfortable. Is this the beginning step, or only one type of meditation? Master Yoda said "meditate over this I will". (:D)And I've heard of people "meditating over zen koans" aswell. -But then ones mind must wander alot, right? Different types of meditation?

/Patrik

Different - yes. And most very similar.

My own experience is in both Christian centering prayer (meditation) and zazen.

These are technically identical endeavors. The only variation would be that centering prayer is necessarily directed to G-d along the scriptural and living traditions of the Church. Zazen as a form of zen buddhism need not be. In these two styles what we have all been discussing heretofore are initial, techinical stepping stones. As you proceed it gets both more difficult and easier. My friend I mentioned in the preceeding post described a particular 8 hour zazen session in which he was simply drowned in a torrent of old emotions. So overcome he just broke down in tears. This was after decades of daily observance. I am sure there are many stories of similar experiences from other people.

Other forms I know less about. Many of them fall into what I see as a kind of Hallmark Card variety of "feel good" passe temps, like watered down Tai Chi. I think you can practice some attributes of meditation: breathing, being focused, etc. in a more freeform style. But I also believe there is more to be gained from a traditional form in which specific results are worked toward.

In the words of Thomas Merton, "With prayer, look to the Orient - after all, they have been at it longer."

:circle:

DA

Lyle Bogin 01-09-2003 10:48 AM

"With prayer, look to the Orient - after all, they have been at it longer."

Hmmmm...not so sure about that.

gasman 01-10-2003 09:41 AM

i prefer to have my eyes half open and look down at a point on the floor just in front of me. i find that closing my eyes makes my mind wander more.

i usually sit in half lotus, with a pillow to lift my bee-hind slightly.

the important thing is to sit still for the duration. if the mind wanders, its no big deal. it happens anyways, just "un-wander" the mind again. i think that the wandering is supposed to be there, my wanderings are usually the processing of daily events and questions that needs resolving. after some practice, the wanderings diminish.

doing bows before meditations also helps, IMO.

or if i am playing the didge, the didge takes care of everything for me: posture, breath and focus.

and as it has been said above: best thing is to find a group to sit with.

achilleus 01-10-2003 11:49 AM

Quote:

Lyle Bogin wrote:
"With prayer, look to the Orient - after all, they have been at it longer."

Hmmmm...not so sure about that.

I'm not sure what you're not sure about. This was mostly a quote from Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk of the 20th century who was instrumental in introducing Oriental spiritual traditions through the Catholic Church to mainstream America in the 50'-60's. In fact, he died tragically by electrocution in a hotel in China I believe (or Japan) while on a visit and exchange. Sorry I don't have the source handy - you can question my memory, but I don't see any reason to contradict what Merton said. Many of the practices of Christianity are very similar and even have Oriental roots. Don't forget that for most of history most of the Christian Church was Oriental. Also that as an emergant tradition out of Judaism it shares those traditions. There is rather conclusive evidence that the cultural exchanges between India and the Middle East included religion through the gymnosophists and other aescetics. One Indian ritual is amazingly similar to the observance of Passover.

DA

achilleus 01-10-2003 11:54 AM

As a better example here is a quote of Merton addressing much of what many of us have been saying about meditation (prayer):

"Let there always be quiet, dark churches in which people can

take refuge....Houses of God filled with his silent presence. There, even when they do not know how to pray, at least they

can be still and breathe easily."

DA


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