Thursday, October 8, 2020

Easy Meditation

This article describes a form of meditation which is a bit simpler than what I have described on my web site. As with any type of meditation, before you begin to practice it you should be aware that there are some risks involved.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair the way you normally sit.

  2. Breathe in the way that is most comfortable and relaxing, it could be your natural way of breathing or breathing more slowly or deeply. What you find most comfortable might change from time to time so it's okay to change how you breath. Breathing in a relaxing way is an important part of the process because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to turn off the body's stress response.

    You can try meditating this way now if you like. There are a number of additional instructions below which you can read and add to your technique at your own pace.

  3. Try to keep your attention focused on your breathing. Focusing your attention on your nose or an area just below the navel works well. (I don't recommend focusing on the chest.)

  4. Try to relax as you do this. Notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation as you inhale and exhale.

  5. Your concentration should be wakeful and alert but not too intense, it should be relaxed. Like the difference between searching intently for a lost object vs looking at a beautiful sunset. One is stressful and unpleasant, the other is relaxing and pleasant.

  6. If you find it hard to concentrate, you can count breaths up to five or ten (or any number you like) and then start over at one, or say "in" and "out" as you inhale and exhale.

  7. In addition to the breath, notice what your senses are perceiving. Noticing what you see, hear, or feel with your sense of touch will help to deactivate the default mode network in your brain which will have the effect of reducing the intensity of unpleasant emotions and reduce mental chatter. Don't think too much about what you are sensing, just be aware.

    You don't have to be aware of everything at once. You can let your mind shift naturally, or stay focused on one sense, or intentionally shift your awareness, just don't forget about breathing in a relaxing way and noticing the pleasant feeling of relaxation.

    You can meditate with your eyes closed or open. If you want to try meditating with your eyes open, be aware of seeing, but without thinking too much about what you are seeing. You don't have to focus your attention on any particular spot or object you can just take in the scene in front of you as a whole.

    If you meditate with your eyes closed, you can try to be aware of the colors and shapes you see when your eye lids are closed.

  8. If unpleasant emotions arise, don't push them away, but also don't get carried away by them. Let yourself be fully conscious of the emotion, any physical sensations in your body associated with the emotions, and any thoughts that caused the emotion and then return to meditating. During this process, try not to judge yourself, other people, your thoughts or your emotions.

    If you experience a lot of unpleasant emotions coming up during meditation, it can cause your stress levels to rise. Try to be aware of this possibility and put extra effort into relaxing if you see it happening.

    You will have to workout for yourself how much of observing your emotions is right for you. Too much or too little can cause problems.

    If you are experiencing an unpleasant emotion during your meditation session, try not to focus on it, try to focus on your breathing, the pleasant feeling of relaxation, your sense perceptions. I don't mean you should try to suppress any thoughts or emotions just that for the meditation session the instructions are to focus on specific things and to not focus on other things. If you focus too much on an unpleasant emotion during meditation it can have the effect of reinforcing and increasing the emotion. If you find that happening, it might be better to stop meditating at that time and try again later or do relaxation exercises instead.

  9. After your meditation session is over try to keep your meditative mood. You can also meditate this way, with your eyes open, doing different activities in daily life, doing the dishes, taking a walk, etc. When walking, instead of counting breaths you can count steps per breath. And be aware of your surroundings - only meditate when and where it is safe to do so.

I also find it helps to prepare for meditation with relaxation exercises. Actually, relaxation exercises are like a form of meditation, you can just do them if you want.

If what you read below ever seems to be too complicated, confusing, or overwhelming, you can come back here to the first section and just follow this and enjoy relaxing meditation.

Why Meditate?

People sometimes wonder why anyone would meditate. One reason is that when you experience a state of consciousness during meditation that is clear and seems to be more natural and relaxed than ordinary consciousness, and it seems to dispel a kind of mental fog and strong emotions that are present during ordinary consciousness, and it seems that ordinary consciousness is confused and made turbulent by attachments and aversions, then you will want to spend your time meditating so that you can exist in clarity rather than confusion.

It is as if you realized you were dreaming and you wanted to wake up, or someone had the TV playing too loudly and you wanted to turn it down, you wouldn't need will power, it would be natural to do it.

To find this state try to notice what it is like after a meditation session when your mind is quiet (how does your mind feel?) and other times in daily life when your mind is turbulent (how does your mind feel then?). Which do you prefer? Which is a better quality of existence? Can you just sit with this clarity?

Being Lucid

Michael Singer, in his book The Untethered Soul, uses the phenomenon of lucid dreaming to explain how to develop a sense of detachment to unpleasant thoughts, emotions, and impulses.

He says that in a regular dream you think it is real, but in a lucid dream you know you are dreaming.

To be lucid with respect to your own mind means to be aware of the activity in your mind as if you were an observer, not a participant like when you are watching a movie and become so drawn in to it that you forget where you are and react as if the movie was real. To be lucid with respect to the activity of your mind, is to observe your thoughts emotions and impulses but not to get drawn into them so that they take over you mind and you forget you are observing them and start reacting to them.

There are various ways to cultivate lucidity. While you are meditating and observing your breath, notice when thoughts, emotions, and impulses arise, and observe them but try not to get drawn into them. If you find you do get lost in thoughts and emotions, just go back to meditating and being an observer while you remain aware of the thoughts and emotions. They should gradually fade. Notice if the thoughts and emotions were unpleasant that they are less so when you are an observer rather than a participant. This is because being an observer deactivates the default network in the brain.

In daily life, if you try to focus your attention on what you are doing while you are doing it, that should help to keep you from being drawn into your thoughts etc. Another technique you can use while meditating or in daily life is to notice what comes to your senses as well as any activity in your mind. And just as you do when meditating, try to maintain the perspective of an observer, don't get drawn into your thoughts. If unpleasant thoughts or emotions arise, try to go back to just observing while being aware of them and notice them fading.

Awakening

Awakening is the process of letting go of attachment to self.

In this context, "self" means anything we consider "me" or "mine". It could be the body, the mind, our thoughts, emotions, and impulses, our social status, our possessions, people we care about, and groups of people we care about or belong to, etc.

Attachment to self results in a lot of emotional pain when something that is "me" or "mine" is threatened.

One way to let go of attachment to self involves learning to stay both lucid and also physically and mentally relaxed. Relaxation and lucidity work together. Lucidity helps you to develop a sense of detachment from your unpleasant thoughts, emotions, and impulses and from unpleasnt physical sensations. Relaxation turns off the body's stress response. You can cultivate both relaxation and lucidity at the same time by being relaxed and breathing in a relaxed way while you observe the activity of the mind and or sense perceptions in meditation and in daily life.

Awakening doesn't entirely eliminate unpleasant emotions, you still feel emotions, but it creates a sense of detachment that diminishes their unpleasant quality and keeps them from taking over your mind. Traditionally, the process of awakening is described as occurring in stages, and very few people ever perfect it - so if you are interested in awakening, you should have realistic expectations.

If you want to try to stay physically and mentally relaxed when you are not meditating, try to notice if you are tense during the day and try to relax your mind and body. Relaxation exercises can help you learn how to do this. Also try to move in a relaxed way anytime you are active. And it will also help, while you are learning, if you can avoid things that make you tense or upset.

When you notice unpleasant emotions arising, don't try to push them away. Allow yourself to feel emotions, you don't have to like them but try to accept them rather than resist them, and also try to stay physically and mentally relaxed. It is the resistance, the rejection of what is, that causes a lot of mental anguish. (It will help you learn to notice when emotions arise if you also try to notice the physical sensations in your body that accompany emotions.)

Relaxation is not entirely mental. It is physical too. Relaxation is something you do with the mind that affects the body. The effect on the body in turn affects the mind. It is an indirect way of influencing emotions.

In addition to reducing emotional pain, letting go of attachment to self diminishes your sense of duality, the sense of the separation between self and other.


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