Introduction into “Traditional” techniques
As we said earlier, there are people from all over the world, from every timeline in history, from various cultures and backgrounds who have been practicing meditation in some form or the other. Although there are these variations in the technique, setting, posture, etc. the thing that remains the same for most is the result of contemplation and focused awareness to the moment. There are so many “schools” of meditation out there. We are going to keep it simple and talk about the more well-known and commonly practiced today. As you will notice, however, many of these techniques share some commonality.
This course is designed to progress you towards becoming an everyday practitioner of meditation. Each week we will assign a practical exercise for you to learn and build upon each week. Each exercise will include a set of instructions for you to follow. Each week will challenge you and will have you spend at least a week doing daily practice with each type of meditation before moving on to the next. The first-week exercise will go for 2 weeks to ensure a basic understanding.
- Zen Meditation (Zazen)
This form of meditation is a common practice of Zen Buddhist. It is a seated meditation where the goal is to achieve true peace, in the form of just sitting, giving the mind nothing to hold on to. Thoughts, images, stimulation, etc. are all to pass without judgment and interference. Posture for Zazen can be done in a few different ways from seated to kneeling.
- Seated posture 1: Folded legs and hands (lotus or half-lotus), and an erect but settled spine.
- Seated Posture 2: Folded legs, and erect, but settled spine, with eyes, partially closed and hands folded together into a simple mudra over the belly.
- Kneeling Posture: Use a small bench or cushion to maintain an erect, but settled spine, with hands resting on top of your thighs, or in the mudra position over your belly.
The core focus of Zazen, however, is not in the breathing, but more in the act of sitting. It is a meditation focusing on the mindfulness of the exercise of sitting. In this, the mind is freed from focusing on more complex tasks. When performing Zazen it is recommended to begin with the most comfortable position you can, let your eyes rest in front of you on no particular point, breathe fully without restraint or stress, and focus on the act of sitting. This meditation is great for those who spend too much time in the past/future, as it teaches you to be purely in the moment as you progress with practice.
- Daoist/Taoist Meditation
Daoism, also spelled “Taoism”, is a Chinese philosophy/religion that includes traditional meditation practices such as concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. Much of these practices have been used in other related traditions too, notably Daoyin and Tai Chi. Daoyin, a set of exercises of cultivating “chi” that served as a precursor to the practice of Qigong. Tai chi, a martial art practiced for the purpose of cultivating inner health and strength as well as outer and inner defense. The biggest take away from this type of meditation is the cultivation, circulation, and charging of Energy. Most people tout the health benefits of this school and the longevity that its practitioners claim.
- Vedic and Yogic Meditations
When many people think of meditation they think of someone sitting and intoning a mantra of some form. This type of meditation comes from the Vedic and Yogic Traditions. By focusing the mind on a single intoned word or combination of words or sounds we both focus ourselves into alignment with the intent of those words as well as hone our mind and being in a single direction. Depending on the tradition the mantra may be spoken, or simply thought, and focus on breathing control may be added. These vast arrays of meditative practices cover a lot of different purposes from healing to emotional wellness or even relieving past life karma.
- Atama Vichara:
Meant to be an investigation into the self, this meditation stems from the Indian texts but has been made most popular by the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi. The focus of this meditation is to ask the question “Who am I” with the knowing intent to reject any verbal, emotional, or even visual responses that come to mind. The act of rejecting these definitions of “I” helps one shift their focus toward the underlying truth of the greater self within the infinite.This is an excellent meditation for finding “the true self within” and removing those constructs we have come to use to define ourselves. In this act of meditation, it is important to ask “where do the thoughts and ideas come from” not in seeking an answer, but as a tool to building a connection to the true self underneath them.
- Vipassana Meditation:
Vipassana meditation is all about focus on breath and breathing while identifying what comes to mind. It translates literally as “to see things as they really are” and is a traditional Buddhist meditation. When a thought, image, emotion, or other focus comes to mind in this meditation, you are to contemplate its meaning, identify what it means to you, and then refocus on the breathing. In this way, one learns to see things as they are by investigating them, but by not allowing one’s self to dwell on them. This awareness and investigation into the thought, but then leaving it after noted to focus again on breath trains awareness to be decisive, investigative, but not to build up emotion and connection to that which is being observed. Many people in thinking of meditation practices are thinking of Vipassana in the sense of “letting go” or “seeing things as they are and accepting them.” Aspects of Vipassana can be found in other meditations also, but this method focuses solely on this purpose.
For this exercise we’ll be using Seated Posture 2: Folded legs, and erect, but settled spine, with eyes partially closed and hands folded together into a simple mudra over the belly. Alternatively, a normal sitting posture (straight back chair, or using a wall or other sturdy surface to sit up against) will suffice. The important thing is to keep your spine erect but relaxed. Remember to choose a distraction-free environment, as well as to set a timer that does not make noise (no ticking timers) so that you neither focus on Zazen too long or too little. The timer helps remove the conscious need to see how long we have been sitting as well. … Continue readingMeditation week 1-Exercises
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