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.
"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.
"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
"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?
"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).
Don't eat first. Lower blood sugar is better for this.
Meditate at the same time each day and in the same place.
Begining with a little ritual such as lighting a candle, burning insense,
a simple prayer, and so forth, often helps.
Five or ten minutes per day is more beneficial than one hour once a week.
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.