WHAT IS MEDITATION AND HOW? by Ajahn Sarayut
Meditation is a practice of training and cultivating the mind to gain concentration, mindfulness, awareness clarity, peace, and emotional positivity. When one practices with one’s effort, discipline and patience these calm and focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly tranquil and energized states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Meditation can be used in many ways. We can meditate for calmness, insight, happiness, healing, coping with stress and depression. We also use it to develop loving kindness, compassion, and peace. Ultimately, in Buddhist path it is the way to attain spiritual enlightenment that leads one free from dissatisfaction in life.
Mindfulness Meditation is the way to train the mind to be mindful and concentrated with the object when we are fully present and alive. In short it is the art of being in the moment.It gives us the mental space to be happy and peaceful. Every mindful moment is a moment of meditation where we can focus our attention. It is this focus which helps to clear and quiet our minds when we can pay close attention to whatever we have in front of us. We can apply this focus to everything: waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, working, studying, talking, shopping, walking, and going to sleep.
In Mindfulness Meditation, there are two qualities of the mind which is one needs to develop and cultivate:
1. Concentration is the ability of mind to stay focus on the object without moving away from it in moment.
2. Mindfulness is the ability of mind to be aware, to know, to identify the object or condition (of concentration) in the present moment.
There are more than 40 meditative methods described in Buddhism but I would like to concentrate on the mindfulness meditation of breathing. The heart of Buddhism for the past 2,600 years is mindfulness where we are acutely aware and present in our lives. Our in breath and out breath are always available so we can meditate anywhere and anytime as we breathe in and out every moment and entire our lives. Breathing is the definition of being alive. Many people are hardly aware of this and rarely think about breathing until we’re drowning or suffocating when breathing becomes really important.
The formal practice of mindfulness meditation occurs in four main postures: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. (Once one understands this practice in a formal way it can be used at anywhere and anytime in any posture).
A beginning meditator will find it easier to develop mental concentration only if there is silence. Even if you cannot find complete silence, you should choose a quiet place where you will enjoy privacy. For people who have a back problem sitting on a chair or couch is acceptable. As I guide you through this series of sitting practice please follow me:
-Keep your eyes closed gently in order to reduce any distraction from seeing.
-Allow yourself to breathe in and out long until you find the rhythm of your own breathing.
-Be aware of your breathing and its sensation from the nostril, throat, chest, ribs, abdomen, and throughout your body. If you are mindful and aware of these sensations, you will be able to feel your body sensations of expansion and contraction while the air moves in and out of the body.
-While your eyes are closed your other senses are still awake and alive.
-The heart of mindfulness practice is being in the present moment. If you find yourself in the middle of hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking (anything), take a moment to acknowledge it because it is part of your present moment. Then, bring the attention back to your mindful breathing again.
-Here we add techniques of making mental note to strengthen your focus on your breath and breathing sensations. These techniques will help you maintain your attention. When you find your breathing rhythm then scan your body sensations from the nostrils, throat, chest, and abdomen. You will probably feel the sensation more clearly in the abdomen while you are breathing in and out. I want you to fix your attention to this spot. When you breathe in you are aware of the rising sensation of your abdomen and then make a soft mental note to yourself “Rising.” For your out breath you are also aware of the falling sensation of the abdomen and make a soft mental note “Falling.” Keep observing and making the mental note of these two sensations as long as you remain sitting if there is nothing distracting your attention from the breathing.
Our minds are very busy and helping them learn to be quiet is a very important skill. If you have a puppy and you want the puppy to sit still you hold her and say sit. If you let go she runs around the room. You coax her back and hold her gently and say sit as you push her little bottom down. You let go and she runs around the room again. You don’t get angry with her ? that?s the way puppies are. Well, minds are very busy and one can lose concentration very easily. We don’t get angry, that’s the way brains are. We simply bring our minds back to our breath over and over again as often as we need to do it.
If the thought catches your attention at anytime you know or realize it make a soft mental note “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking” for a few moments then bring your attention or focus back to your Rising and Falling of your abdomen.
During your sitting try to keep your body as still as possible. If you have to move, do it with mindful movement and do not forget to make a mental note “Moving, Moving, Moving” while you are moving yourself.
When you can, maintain mindfulness and follow these instructions. Your body and mind will gradually become concentrated. Finally peaceful and happy moments are the result of your effort.
May you become mindful, may you find peace and happiness in life.
Abbot of Wat Buddhametta