Basic "Non-Expectation" Meditation

Week 2 Non-expectation meditation, pt.2 - Breathing, and using the breath as a focus. Selecting a visual focus from the
environment. Motivation and embracing the discipline of meditation.

Starting a meditation practice is one thing; persevering in that practice in that practice is quite another. Often we are attracted
to what we perceive are the benefits of spiritual practice but are so unaccustommed to sitting still and being intentional about
disciplining the mind, that we gratefully seize any excuse for distraction. Sometimes the ordinary habits of our lives take over
and we neglect our practice unintentionally, just because other things crowd in. Sometimes we feel as though we have failed
because there is no clear result for our efforts, and and become frustrated. Sometimes we simply become bored

Most, if not all, spiritual practitioners have faced these difficulties and therefore motivational teachings are a part of most meditation traditions.  Offered here are four classics - usually referred to as "the four reflections". These may, at first, seem trite and facile, but they are not answers, they are merely tools. At the final step, the only thing that is an "answer" is your own ability to control yourself and your life.

  1. "Precious Human Birth". This is an exercise in perspective and gratitude. Consider the sheer number of all the living beings in the universe (don't forget the bugs, and bacteria and viruses). Now, reflect on the tiny chance, given that number of being born human. Next of all the human births you might have had (9-10 Billion throughout all history so far), reflect on the supreme privilege of having the intelligence, the leisure and the availability of appropriate teaching to even engage in exploring your spirituality. Bring to mind how rare such an opportunity is, and claim the preciousness of your circumstances as a motivator to persevere.
  2. "The Law of Cause and Effect". Reflect on the history of everything that happens - that any given event is preceded by a series of unacountable events stretching back to the beginning of the universe. Consider the truth in the concepts "as you sow, so shall you reap", and "what goes around, comes around", and "Karma", and that these represent a process that will continue -- that as you behave, your actions will have repurcussions that will return to you. "Cause and effect" is neither good nor bad - it is simply the natural unfolding of consequences. Reflect that your actions will now have consequences in the future. Consider your aspirations for your liberations from this process, for the freedom to step beyond the process and with clarity understand the patterns around you. Let this be a motivation to continue disciplined practice so that you may realize awareness and freedom, not only for the sake of your liberation, but for the liberation of others. Also consider the repurcussions of your abandoning this practice, and whether you are willing to pay that price
  3. "Impermanence and Mortality". Many Christian monastics have traditionally kept a skull in their cells as a support for meditation, and many still are covered in a pall a the time of making life vows, to remind them of the ephemeral nature of Life and the ever-presence of Death. Buddhist monastics likewise sometimes utilize a corpse mediation. Reflect on the inevitability of change, *all* change, and the eventual finality of your own death. Allow this reflection to motivate you to remember what's important - the Material or the Spiritual?
  4. "Weariness with 'this world'". "You can't take it with you" and if you reflect on that - who wants to anyway? Consider how basically unsatisfactory worldly attainments can be - how your deepest longings have not been fulfilled by ambition and striving, by success or possessions or power (in Buddhist terms this is Samsara). Use this reflection to motivate you towards directing your energies towards cultivating those conditions of existance by which one may enjoy peace and wholeness and final liberation.

Focusing on the Breath.

In this practice, the sense of touch, rather than the vision or hearing is used as the focus or support for mediation. Focus your awareness at the front of your nostrils. Give relaxed attention on the inhale and on the exhale. Follow the non-expectation meditation rules for working skillfully with thoughts. Another technique is to count during the breathing as with the "four-fold breath" (again, breathing from the diaphram: inhale for a beat of four, hold for a beat of four, exhale for a beat of four, wait for a beat of four. This should be an easy continuous motion, with no jerking gasps, or straining).

Practice suggestions:

  1. Don't eat first. Lower blood sugar is better for this.
  2. Meditate at the same time each day and in the same place.
  3. Begining with a little ritual such as lighting a candle, burning insense, a simple prayer, and so forth, often helps.
  4. Five or ten minutes per day is more beneficial than one hour once a week.
  5. Be creative about times and places. Stop in a parking lot briefly and meditate in the car. Meditate for just one or two minutes in the bathroom if lack of privacy is an issue.