Coming Aug. 5th 2013
Coming Aug. 5th 2013
Register below, I will post updates as the date gets closer..
11 Reasons to Meditate Daily
1. Your life becomes significantly more clearer and calm
The hustle and bustle of everyday life is choking our minds of the peace we deserve! Our technology advancements shouldn’t suffocate our minds, it should allow us to achieve more peace. Meditation helps put those events in perspective for our daily tasks.
2. Your blood pressure is lowered
Science has proven it, meditation lowers the blood pressure, which in return is related to your stress levels and stress management. Much better than taking pills to lower your blood pressure!
3. People around you enjoy your company
Regular meditation leads to higher/positive energy that you are consistently tapping into. This effectively makes you very pleasant to be around, and people like that! People naturally gravitate to the people that make them feel good.
4. Your connection with God is strengthened
Spiritual awareness is strengthened with a daily meditation practice. You naturally become more aware of your surroundings, and higher awareness always leads to a deeper connection with God. The trees begin showing personalities, and the landscape takes on different meanings … all through a deeper awareness.
5. You achieve several hours of sleep in one 20 minute meditation session
Another scientific fact is that meditation is known to put you into a deeper state of rest than deep sleep. Deep sleep is associated with a delta brainwave. Deep meditation can drop you into that delta brainwave rapidly, achieving the effects in a shorter amount of time.
6. Problems that seemed very difficult suddenly have clear solutions
For every problem a solution exists. When your mind is clear and your in a state of peace, solutions appear. Being in a state of peace just naturally attracts solutions and pathways into your field of view.
7. Your productivity sky rockets because of your ability to have clear focus
If solutions to problems appear more frequently when meditating daily, then imagine what happens to your everyday tasks. Solutions to everyday life become more and more obvious. And you begin to take note of these subtle changes as your spiritual vision grows clearer and wider.
8. Your life expectancy increases
Science has shown that regular meditation will increase your life expectancy. It’s pretty obvious to see … less stress and more peace promotes healthy cells and healthy cells regenerate healthier cells. And likewise, stressed cells regenerate more stressed cells. So live longer by choosing more peace in your life.
9. You effectively reduce stress in your life
Speaking of stress, meditation has a profound effect on reducing stress in your body. Because meditation promotes peace and inner calm, stress dissolves dramatically from this meditative process. Again, science has proven it.
10. You can visualize powerfully when combined with positive affirmations and meditation
Meditation is powerful at clearing the mind and focusing on simple things … like breathing … or a flower. But, it can be used for so much more! To powerfully manifest your desires, you must get into a clear connection with the source of manifesting (God(YAHWEH)/Universe/Ethers). If your spirits are on high while you visualize then the communication channel for manifesting positive events in your life is strengthened.
While meditating I like to repeat affirmations, otherwise known as mantras, to help focus my energy into the positive. These statements can be as simple as “love” or “I am love, I am joy, I am peace”.
11. You feel fantastic throughout your day!
And finally, when you meditate on a regular basis, you just feel fantastic. Plain and simple. You feel good.
OXHERDING By Chögyam Trungpa
A well-known Zen representation of training of the mind.
The Search for the Bull
The inspiration for this first step, which is searching for the bull, is feeling that things are not wholesome, something is lacking. That feeling of loss produces pain. You are looking for whatever it is that will make the situation right. You discover that ego’s attempt to create an ideal environment is unsatisfactory.
Discovering the Footprints
By understanding the origin you find the possibility of transcending this pain. This is the perception of the Four Noble Truths. You see that pain results from the conflicts created by ego and discover the footprints of the bull, which are the heavy marks of ego in all play of events. You are inspired by unmistakable and logical conclusions rather than by blind faith. This corresponds to the Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana paths.
Perceiving the Bull
You are startled at perceiving the bull and then, because there is no longer any mystery, you wonder if it is really there; you perceive its insubstantial quality. When you begin to accept this perception of non-duality, you relax, because you no longer have to defend the existence of your ego. Then you can afford to be open and generous. You begin to see another way of dealing with your projections and that is joy in itself, the first spiritual level of the attainment of the Bodhisattva
Catching the Bull
Seeing a glimpse of the bull, you find that generosity and discipline are not enough in dealing with your projections, because you have yet to completely transcend aggression. You have to acknowledge the precision of skilful means and the simplicity of seeing things as they are, as connected to fully developed compassion. The subjugation of aggression cannot be exercised in a dualistic framework – complete commitment into the compassionate path of the Bodhisattva is required, which is the development of patience and energy.
Taming the Bull
Once caught, the taming of the bull is achieved by the precision of meditative panoramic awareness and the sharp whip of transcendent knowledge. The Bodhisattva has accomplished the transcendent acts (paramitas) – not dwelling on anything.
Riding the Bull Home
There is no longer any question of search. The bull (mind) finally obeys the master and becomes creative activity. This is the breakthrough to the state of enlightenment – the Vajra-like samadhi of the Eleventh Bhumi. With the unfolding of the experience of Mahamudra, the luminosity and colour of the mandala become the music which leads the bull home.
The Bull Transcended
Even that joy and colour becomes irrelevant. The Mahamudra mandala of symbols and energies dissolves into Maha Ati through the total absence of the idea of experience. There is no more bull. The crazy wisdom has become more and more apparent and you totally abandon the ambition to manipulate.
Both Bull and Self Transcended
This is the absence of both striving and non-striving. It is the naked image of the primordial Buddha principle. This entrance into the Dharmakaya is the perfection of non-watching – there is no more criteria and the understanding of Maha Ati as the last stage is completely transcended.
Reaching the Source
Since there is already such space and openness and the total absence of fear, the play of the wisdoms is a natural process. The source of energy which need not be sought is there; it is that you are rich rather than being enriched by something else. Because there is basic warmth as well as basic space, the Buddha activity of compassion is alive and so all communication is creative. It is the source in the sense of being an inexhaustible treasury of Buddha activity. This is, then, the Sambhogakaya
In The World.
Nirmanakaya is the fully awakened state of being in the world. Its action is like the moon reflecting in a hundred bowls of water. The moon has no desire to reflect, but that is its nature. This state is dealing with the earth with ultimate simplicity, transcending following the example of anyone. It is the state of “total flop” or “old dog”. You destroy whatever needs to be destroyed, you subdue whatever needs to to subdued, and you care for whatever needs your care.
Meditation is a way to make the mind more stable and clear. From this point of view, meditation is not purely a Buddhist practice; it’s a practice that anyone can do. It doesn’t tie in with a particular spiritual tradition. If we want to undo confusion, we’re going to have to be responsible for learning what our own mind is and how it works, no matter what beliefs we hold.
The word for meditation in Sanskrit is “shamatha” in Sanskrit (Tibetan: shi-ne), which means “peacefully abiding.” Peacefully abiding describes the mind as it naturally is. The word “peace” tells the whole story. The human mind is by nature joyous, calm and very clear. In shamatha meditation we aren’t creating a peaceful state——we’re letting our mind be as it is to begin with. This doesn’t mean that we’re peacefully ignoring things. It means that the mind is able to be present, without constantly leaving.
In meditation, what we’re doing is looking at our experience and at the world intelligently. The Buddha said that this is how we learn to look at any situation and understand its truth. This is what a Buddha does—and we are all capable of being Buddhas, whether or not we are Buddhists. We all have the ability to realize our naturally peaceful minds where there is no confusion. We can use the natural clarity of our mind to focus on anything we want. But first we have to tame our minds through shamatha meditation.
Perhaps we associate meditation with spirituality because when we experience a moment of peacefully abiding, it seems so far-out. Our mind is no longer drifting, thinking about a million things. The sun comes up or a beautiful breeze comes along—and all of a sudden we feel the breeze and we are completely in tune. We think, “That’s a very spiritual experience! It’s a religious experience! At least worth a poem, or a letter home.” Yet all that’s happening is that for a moment we are in tune with our mind. Our mind is present and harmonious. Before, we were so busy and bewildered that we didn’t even notice the breeze. Our mind couldn’t even stay put long enough to watch the sun to come up, which takes two-and-a-half minutes. Now we can keep it in one place long enough to acknowledge and appreciate our surroundings. Now we are really here. In fact, this is ordinary.
This is the not just the point of being Buddhist, it’s the point of being human.
Meditation is based on the premise that the natural state of the mind is calm and clear. It provides a way to train our mind to settle into this state. Our first reason for meditating might be that we want some freedom from our agitated mind. We want to discover the basic goodness of our natural mind.
To do this requires us first to slow down and experience our mind as it is. In the process, we get to know how our mind works. We see that wherever the mind is abiding—in anger, in desire, in jealousy, or in peace—that is where we also are abiding. We begin to see that we have a choice in the matter: we do not have to act at the whim of every thought. We can abide peacefully. Meditation is a way to slow down and see how our mind works.
The untrained mind is like a wild horse. It runs away when we try to find it, shies when we try to approach it. If we find a way to ride it, it takes off with the bit in its teeth and finally throws us right into the mud. There is potential for communication and rapport between horse and rider, between mind and self, but the horse needs to be trained to be a willing participant in that relationship.
We train our minds with shamatha practice, the most simple form of sitting meditation. Shamatha is a Sanskrit word that means “peacefully abiding.” Like all types of meditation, it rests upon two basic principles, known in Tibetan as ngotro and gom. Ngotro refers to “being introduced” to the object of meditation, while gom is “becoming familiar.” In shamatha practice, we are introduced to and become familiar with the simple act of breathing. This is our object of concentration, the place we return to again and again when the mind has run off and we find ourselves clutching the horse’s neck, hoping we won’t end up too far from home.
The untrained mind is weak and inflexible. It lives in a zone of comfort. When the boundaries of that zone are challenged, it reacts by becoming more rigid. In contrast, the trained mind is strong, flexible, and workable. Because it can stretch beyond where it feels comfortable, it’s responsive—not reactive—to challenges. Through shamatha we can train our mind to be flexible and tuned in to what’s happening now. We can apply this workable mind in all aspects of our lives, including our livelihood, our relationships, and our spiritual path. So another reason to meditate is to develop a strong, supple mind that we can put to work.
The basic premise of shamatha meditation is “not too tight, not too loose.” This holds true in every aspect of the practice—finding the right environment, preparing our body and mind to meditate, holding our posture, noticing thoughts and emotions, and bringing our minds back to the breath. The instructions are very clear and we should follow them as precisely as possible. Gentleness is also necessary, or else meditation becomes a way in which we’re trying to measure up against a hopeless ideal. It’s important not to expect perfection or get hooked on the finer points of the instruction. The practice takes consistent effort, and it can also be joyful.
One of the simple things that we can do is to create a good environment for practice—a place that is comfortable, quiet, and clean. A corner of your room that feels uplifted and spacious and private is a good enough place. It’s unproductive to get caught up in chasing your idea of the perfect place to meditate. Some people from the city will go into the mountains to meditate in peace and find that the crickets and the birds won’t shut up!
Timing is also important. Decide on a regular time to practice each day and try to stick with it. A ten-minute period in the morning is a good place to begin. The more consistent you can be in keeping to the routine, the better.
Planning is another element. It’s better not to just sit down and hope for the best. If you plop down on your seat straight from the office or right after an argument, you may spend the whole session trying to slow down enough even to remember that you’re meditating. If you’re agitated, a slow walk might be in order. If you’re drowsy, a cool shower before beginning the session might help. It can be inspiring to read a little about meditation first as a reminder of why you’re practicing. Working with ourselves in ways like this is intelligent and honest and can create the proper mind and body for good practice. But remember, preparation is not meditation, it is just preparation.
Half of the challenge of meditation is simply getting to your seat. At the beginning of a session you may suddenly discover that you have more important things to do—housework or phonecalls to make or e-mails to write. One way to work with this kind of procrastination is to build a routine around preliminary stretching or walking before your session. This gives you a way to ease into it by softening your body and mind before you begin meditating. The more regularly you practice the better you’ll get at working with the strategies that the untrained mind cooks up to keep you from making it to your seat.
Our minds usually jump wildly from thought to thought. We replay the past; we fantasize about the future. In meditation we take an upright posture, place our mind on an object, and keep it there. In shamatha meditation, the object is the simple act of breathing. The breath represents being alive in the immediacy of the moment.
When you sit down, take a balanced, grounded posture to allow the energy in the centre of your body to move freely. If you’re on a cushion, sit with your legs loosely crossed. If you’re in a chair, keep your legs uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor. Imagine that a string attached to the top of your head is pulling you upright. Let your body settle around your erect spine. Place your hands on your thighs, in a place not so far forward that it begins to pull your shoulders down, nor so far back that the shoulders contract and pinch the spine. The fingers are close and relaxed—not spread out in a grip, as if you can’t let yourself go. Tuck your chin in and relax your jaw. The tongue is also relaxed, resting against your upper teeth. Your mouth is ever so slightly open. Your gaze is downward, with the eyelids almost half shut. The eyes aren’t looking; the eyes just see. It is the same with sound—we aren’t listening, but we do hear. In other words, we’re not focusing with our senses.
The basic technique is that we begin to notice our breath. The breath is what we’re using as the basis of our mindfulness technique; it brings us back to the moment, back to the present situation. The breath is something that is constant—otherwise it’s too late.
Using the breathing as the object of meditation is especially good for calming a busy mind. The steady flow of the breath soothes the mind and allows for steadiness and relaxation. This is ordinary breathing; nothing is exaggerated. One simple technique is to count the in-and out-cycles of breathing from one to twenty-one. We breathe in, and then out—one. In and then out—two. Place your mind on the breathing and count each cycle of breath. You can drop the counting when your mind is settled.
When your focus is wavering, check your posture. Bring yourself back to the upright position. Imagine the string pulling your spine up straight and relax your body around it. Slouching impairs your breathing, which directly affects the mind. If you slump, you’ll be struggling with your body at the same time that you’re trying to train your mind. What you want to be doing is the opposite: synchronizing your body and mind.
As you focus on the breath, you’ll notice that various thoughts and emotions arise. When this happens, acknowledge that you are thinking and return your focus to the breath. In focusing you are bringing yourself back to attention. You are centering yourself in your mind and placing that mind on the breath. You are slowly settling. You’re gradually slowing the mind. When you first begin to meditate, the movement of thoughts may feel like a rushing waterfall. But as you continue to apply the technique of recognizing thoughts and returning your focus to the breath, the torrent slows down to a river, then to a meandering stream, which eventually flows into a deep, calm ocean.
How we tame the mind is by using the technique of mindfulness. Quite simply, mindfulness is complete attention to detail. We are completely absorbed in the fabric of life, the fabric of the moment. We realize that our life is made of these moments and that we cannot deal with more than one moment at a time. Even though we have memories of the past and ideas about the future, it is the present situation that we are experiencing.
The practice of mindfulness is the practice of being alive. When we talk about the techniques of meditation, these are techniques of life. Meditation is not about something that is separate from us. We are not trying to get into some kind of higher state of mind. The present situation is completely available, spontaneous and unbiased, and that we can see it that way through the practice of mindfulness.
When we begin to meditate, the first thing we realize is how wild things are-how wild our mind is, how wild our life is. But once we begin to have the quality of being tamed, when we can sit with ourselves, we realize there’s a vast wealth of possibility that lies in front of us. Meditation is looking at our own backyard, you could say, looking at what we really have and discovering the richness that already exists. Discovering that richness is a moment-to-moment process, and as we continue to practice our awareness becomes sharper and sharper.
This mindfulness actually envelopes our whole life. It is the best way to appreciate our world, to appreciate the sacredness of everything. We add mindfulness and all of a sudden, the whole situation becomes alive. This practice soaks into everything that we do; there’s nothing left out. Mindfulness pervades sound and space. It is a complete experience.
For the movement of the mind to slow down like this takes long, consistent practice. A good practice is one that we keep doing ten minutes a day, year after year. Through ups and through downs, slowly we become familiar with the natural stability, strength, and clarity of the mind. It becomes natural to return to that place. We let go of our conceptual ideas about it. We can relax there and enjoy it. We begin to let this natural state of basic goodness infuse our entire life. Having a mind that is at peace with itself, a mind that is clear and joyous, is the basis of happiness and compassion.
Meditation practice predates Buddhism and all of the world religions. It has lasted through the centuries because it is direct, potent, and effective. If meditation becomes part of your life, please consider seeking further instruction from an experienced meditator. It might also be helpful to become part of a community of practitioners.
What is Mindfulness?
Before discussing mindfulness meditation technique, it is important to understand the concept of “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is a state of present awareness. A relaxed state of mind, in which we are conscious of our experience, including sensations, thoughts and feelings, breathing, and surroundings, all with an attitude of non-resistance, peace and acceptance. This does not imply passivity or lack of emotion. Mindfulness engenders faith in the perfection of the moment, and allows each new experience to be felt fully, without the reactive, self-critical, controlling mind.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
As we go through life, most of us quickly lose the pure aliveness that is evident in the face of a healthy infant. The fascination and wonder that we may still dimly remember of early childhood, fades as we conform to the standards that we think the world expects of us. We learn to hide our feelings, first from others, and then from ourselves. We learn to hide our excitement and joy of simple pleasures. We’re bombarded with sensory overload and enticed by commercials and advertisements for things that promise to make us feel happy and fulfilled. And as we collect more and more, we need more and more. Soon we forget the simple innocence of life. Even the simple act of being aware of the breath, is gone. Anxiety takes over. We can no longer sit still. We don’t know what to do without some activity, some outward focus, or some drama to occupy our attention. If no other distractions are available, we numb ourselves with TV, or even with the newspaper. Why? To avoid the unknown. We tell ourselves that we’re just avoiding boredom. But just beneath the surface of boredom is agitation, restlessness, sadness, emptiness, fear — and joy. Maybe we read novels, or self-help books, and tell ourselves that we’re gaining wisdom, though we never seem to find the satisfaction we’re looking for. We’ve lost touch with what is real and eternal inside us. What was once our perfect place of peace within ourselves, has now become a mystery. A Pandora’s box. We’re afraid now to open ourselves up and look within, for fear that what has been stuffed down will overwhelm us, even drive us crazy.
And so we do not linger in the awareness of the inner Self. We may peak in, but then comes a thought, a worry, an impulse to do something else. A chore that must be done, a temptation that must be indulged or new desire that must be fulfilled. And we’re off and running again.
At the end of the day, we say “I wish there were more hours in the day. I never have a moment’s peace.”
Or we resign ourselves to an empty life. Numbing our emotions. Dulling our minds with whatever distraction or drug is at hand. Self-medicating our malaise by any means available. Completely unaware that a whole undiscovered world lives within us. Happiness then is nothing more than a concept defined by whatever beliefs we hold about success or failure.
Whether we are pleasure seekers, or spend our time numbing our painful feelings, the loss is the same. The Essential Self is lost from sight.
Anyone can learn this simple mindfulness meditation technique….
Mindfulness Meditation Technique
Sit. Relax the body. Relax the mind. Be as still as possible.
Sit comfortably, with the spine upright and supported and the head balanced naturally, looking forward with eyes closed gently. It’s ok to sit on a chair, or on the floor, on the knees or cross legged with support, such as a pillow. The body must become still and remain still for a period of time for the mind to start to calm down and deeper states of awareness to be experienced. With practice, prolonged stillness can be achieved without discomfort. Any mindfulness meditation technique will require some discipline and perseverance to get the results.
Do not attempt to control your thoughts. The more we try to control thoughts, the stronger they become. Observe the breath with passive awareness. Observe the thoughts, feelings and sensations with compassion and tolerance. Don’t engage your thoughts by judging or analyzing them. Let them arise and dissolve, like clouds drifting across a blue sky, noting what comes with passive curiosity, and return to the breath.
Let the breath be natural and gentle. Breathe through the nose, letting the belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Soften the belly. Let the chest rise last, filling up from the belly first, like a vessel filling with water.
The importance of attention to breath cannot be over-emphasized. It is the central key to any mindfulness meditation technique. So much suffering could be alleviated simply by placing mindful attention on the breath, focusing on the belly, or the area of the heart. Within the breath is the key to your greater Self. Emotion can reside in the body as chronic tension. The breath can undo this tension, and restore balance and peace to the mind. We forget the breath most of the time. Experiment throughout your day. See if you can count the number of times you remember to watch your breath. You may be surprised to realize how difficult it is to remember.
When we feel pain — physically or emotionally — we tend to react by tensing up. This tension causes the pain to be sustained longer. Sustained pain is what we call “suffering.”
The practice of non-resistance is another core principle of mindfulness meditation. Letting go with each breath. Sometimes I see beginning meditators making effort to relax and let go. They breathe out with great force, through pursed lips, as if getting ready to lift a heavy weight. This is not true letting go. True letting go is effortless. By Benjamin Schwarcz