This is a very brief summary of the foundations of insight meditation practice and basic pointers as to how to practice.
Meditation is a practice of attention intended to take us out of our conditioned behavior. Free us from obsessive thinking and eventually transcend our humanity.
Pausing. meditation as well as any other form of spiritual practice begins with pausing and being in the present moment. So often we miss out on our present – living either in the past or the future. The challenge is stopping. First stop moving physically and then stopping the trance of thinking. Remember : Meditation is not what you think.
Posture. Remember that the connection between sitting cross legged and enlightenment has yet been proven so sit comfortably and just make sure that your back is upright and straight. That is just to keep you alert and avoid sloth or torpor.
How to Practice
- Relax Begin the sitting practice by taking a few deep breaths, soften your body and release tension.
- Set an intention – why do you sit for meditation? what really matters? Dedicate 1-2 minutes to setting your intention.
- Anchoring Place you attention on the rising and falling movement of the abdomens. This is your anchor, a place to return to whenever you catch yourself not in the present moment. The task is NOT to stay on the breath for as long as humanly possible, but rather to be mindful to whatever arises in the stream of consciousness – sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings, perceptions.
- Coming Back. Whenever you get lost in thoughts or feelings, memories or planning for the future just come back to the rising and falling movement of the breath in the abdomens
- Labeling. As much as you can try and softly label objects as they arrive: sound, thoughts, sensations, tension, pain etc. The mere act of labelling gets us out of being caught up in a though or a pain. We develop an observer this way – that part of us that knows. We will dedicate most of our next meeting to labeling.
- Radical Acceptance. Whatever it is – let it be. That is the real task – accepting what is, embracing what is even if what is is unpleasant or painful. Even if we want it to go away – just try and accept that we want it to go away and not succumb to actually pushing whatever it is away – at least as much as we can.
- Return to the Present Moment. Whenever you get lost just know that you are lost. It’s fine. It’s natural. If there is self criticism for being lost that’s fine too. Just know that it is there. Let it be. Let it go. Pause and get back to the rising and falling movement and start again in the present moment.
- Gratitude. When you end the practice spend a minute to express gratitude to one person or one situation in your life that brings you bliss and joy and beauty. If you can think of five is even better.
- Meditation Diary – it might be very beneficial for you to write down things that come up in each sitting. It helps us track down patterns of thinking and reaction.
How Long To Sit For: Try to dedicate 15-20 minutes a day to insight/ mindfulness practice. If you find it difficult to sit that long you can sit for shorter time – remember that what’s important is the pause itself. You can practice while waiting for a meeting, standing in line at the supermarket or while taking the bus to work. The river of sensation is always available to you. So is the breath and your thoughts. It is also beneficial to develop a mindfulness sign which will remind you to pause
Mindfulness of the Body. The emphasis during our first couple of weeks is on the sensations in the body. That includes the sensations of the breath. Mindfulness of the body is the first foundation of mindfulness so it’s beneficial to dedicate time to being mindful of the different sensations in the body. Thoughts will obviously come, feelings will arise, sloth, restlessness, boredom, greed, aversion. It’s natural. As much as you can place your awareness for the next week on the rising and falling of the breath in the abdomans.
Resistance. Remember that meditation is a practice that goes against our normal current of business and being in between things all the time. Therefore you might find it hard to initiate a stable practice. I assure you that with perseverance and time the practice will begin to have a positive effect on you and the day you will volitionally chose to sit will come.