Tag: meditate

Mediation Experiences – Cuatro

This is the fourth installment “Cuatro” in my series on my meditation experiences. The previous installments included:

Meditation Experiences – Uno where I covered some of the basics of meditation and how I began my own practice.

Meditation Experiences – Dos was targeted at a discussion on some of the benefits I have received from my practice.

Meditation Experiences – Tres is where I tried to make the case for having no expectations from your practice.

Ok enough about the past, but if you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so, as this has been a journey for me, and you get a better context for what I have experienced if you start at the beginning. During the time that I have written this, I have been meditating on a daily basis for about 3 months. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but my practice has also included studying Buddhism, which I have been doing for maybe around the last 10 years or so. So when I talk about my practice it is comprised of meditation and Buddhist studies.

All of human history has been turbulent, but we are living in a strange era with this pandemic and technological advances that have brought so much prosperity to the world and at the same time caused so many people to be displaced. If there was ever a time that we needed something to provide a lifeline or an anchor in our world the time is now.

As I went beyond just studying and dedicated myself to daily meditation, I feel that this might be an answer to living a meaningful life amidst all this craziness. In fact, it may be the only true way out of this situation. The Buddha spent years coming to the realization that suffering exists as a natural state for human beings and that there is an end to suffering. His prescription was developing a practice of meditation and following the Eightfold Path. You might be thinking this is bullshit, how can I benefit from studying an applied philosophy created 2,500 years ago. I would argue that Buddhism has survived so long because it was relevant in the past and is relevant today and will be relevant in the future. The basic premise of Buddhism that life is Dukkha (suffering), is as true today as it was yesterday.

As I have become consistent with my practice and specifically the meditation component of it I have found it to be the lifeline that I so badly needed. I won’t kid you there are times when I sit down on my cushion and have trouble tuning out the world around me, thoughts about my work, or other things become so prominent that I have trouble staying present. While some sessions seem better than others, all of the time spent meditating is a respite from the insane world we live in. This daily practice starts out as somewhat of a challenge, but as you persist it becomes a habit, and you will start to look forward to it. You become your practice, you become compassionate, and ultimately you become Buddha. Your practice will soon become the most important thing in your life because all good things result from it. You might just become a better spouse, parent, or friend. You might even start seeing the world as it really is and you will start seeing the good in people.

I will leave you with this somewhat funny quote from the Dalai Lama:

Namaste

 

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Meditation Experiences – Tres

Nice quote by Edgar Cayce

This is the third post on my meditation experiences. In Meditation Experiences – Uno, I spent some time discussing how I started meditating and the technique that works for me. In the post Meditation Experiences – Dos, the focus was on the benefits that I have received from my practice.

In this blog post, I will make the case that you should expect nothing from your practice. I know this seems contrary to all that we are taught during our life, which normally revolves around if I do something I should get some benefit from it, or in the opposite case maybe it detracts from my life in some way. For your practice to be pure and lasting you must not fill your head with expectations. The very fact that you expect something becomes an ego trip of sorts, where you say to yourself if I meditate then I will become enlightened or I will become calmer, or whatever you might expect from your practice. Before too long, you begin thinking you are superior to the rest of humanity because you have become more spiritual or by virtue of your discipline. I’m not saying that there won’t be benefits that come to you from your meditation practice, but I am asking that you leave the expectations at the door.

Here is the thing with expectations they will make your practice more difficult and may result in you quitting altogether. Let’s say that you expect your practice to make you calmer, more empathetic, or maybe more compassionate with the rest of the people on this planet. The next thing you know someone runs into your car and you start screaming profanities at the other driver, or thoughts of why does this shit always happen to me. Stop expecting your meditation practice to turn you into the Dali Lama and when you stop with all these expectations your practice just becomes something you do. Maybe your practice is actually part of a bigger picture on the road to becoming a more spiritual person who embraces Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. I would guess for many of us that meditate it has become just a part of our spiritual practice, and not a thing we do to satisfy some expectation of what we get from it or who we will become.

After I got over the idea that my meditation practice should give me something I dropped all the expectations and it became a habit. What I mean by that it has become like eating, sleeping, breathing, yoga, or any other thing you regularly do. Once your practice becomes a habit, something you just do, you can quit thinking about what is it doing for me. Will you benefit from your meditation practice? Absolutely, but beyond what you might expect is a realization that your practice helps you develop the Buddha-nature that is buried deep within yourself. Maybe what I call Buddha-nature will for you be, Jesus Christ, God, or Mohammed.

This is one of my favorite quotes and I feel is very applicable to your meditation practice:

“I expect nothing and accept everything” Gary John Bishop

Take this to heart as it applies to your meditation practice and all will be well with you.

Namaste

 

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Meditation Experiences – Dos

In my prior post Meditation Experiences – Uno I wrote about how I started meditating and to some degree why I decided to try meditation. In this post, I would like to make a case for meditation, the benefits if you will at least from my own perspective. Some of you may have tried meditating in the past and found it difficult if not almost impossible to just sit and count breaths. You may have been so busy thinking about what you need to do, that the whole process was just painful and seemed very unproductive. Here is the problem, it takes time to create a habit of meditating and the first 5 or 10 sessions may seem difficult at first, but like any good habit, you will need to make the investment before seeing any returns. You may feel like nothing is happening here and I am still letting my monkey mind dominate my meditation session and then something begins to change and you start to both enjoy and benefit from the experience. Mind you it might have taken a month or longer to get to this point, but it does happen.

Why did this seemingly simple thing, just sitting and breathing suddenly become enjoyable? Here are a few benefits I have received from meditating:

  • Being Present – I began to understand that my monkey mind and drive to be always doing something that supported my goals was preventing me from just enjoying the process of meditating. I was so anxious that I was spending all of my time recalling the past and then at the same time thinking about what I needed to do in the future. So instead of looking at meditation as just another thing to check off my to-do list, I began looking forward to it because it helped me be in the present. In fact, I often tell myself while meditating “You are present” or “You are here”, this often helped to drown out the thinking about the future, which often dominates my thoughts. What I’m really saying here is you are fucking yourself over by thinking you need to be productive all the time. This was part of my problem, I was looking at meditation as a kind of goal or thing I had to do, instead of just appreciating how it was helping me live in the present moment.
  • Discover Your True Self – As I continue to meditate I have begun to realize that there are things more important than my job or who I thought I was. Meditation helps you get in touch with who you really are. This doesn’t happen immediately, but over time you begin to realize there is the actual you, not some role you play. Maybe it is your true self, you know the compassionate, introspective, and loving person you actually are. For me, meditation is helping to peel back the layers of responsibility and anxiety that dominates much of our lives as we spend our time trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
  • Calms the Mind – Meditation is one of the few things I have found that breaks the monkey mind pattern of thinking and calms the mind. When I finish a session I feel renewed and free if even only for a while. You might get a similar feeling from walking on a nice day when you are not bothered by cars or loud noises. While I love a good long walk and find it very relaxing it feels different than meditating. The aftereffect of meditation is more like a reset or rebooting of the mind to a state of calm and clarity.

I know that there are many other benefits that could be attributed to meditation, but for me, these are the ones I have noticed a couple months into the practice.

 

So is it worth it? 

My answer is a resounding Yes! 

 

Final Parting Shot

The mistake I made in the last year or so is that I would start out very consistent and then my practice would fizzle out. I simply did not put a high enough priority on it, missing many days, stopping and starting. Those benefits of being present, discovering yourself, and calming your mind come from daily practice. I’m not saying I never miss a day, but it has become pretty rare now, and if something prevents me from doing it at my regular time, I fit it in later in the day.

I would love to hear about the benefits you attribute to your own meditation practice, leave me a comment.

I hope to write another post soon as this wonderful journey continues.

Do good and stay safe.

Namaste

 

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Meditation Experiences – Uno

This is my first (Uno) post regarding my recent meditation experiences. `It is not so much my intention to teach about meditation, but I am more interested in explaining my own journey. However, with that said there are a couple basics that you may want to consider such as the sitting position and the benefits of having some kind of seating cushion often referred to as a Zafu. There are a number of different sitting positions, but I would say most of the world uses either full lotus, half-lotus, or Burmese. These are pictured below:

Full Lotus

Note both feet are resting on the thighs, this takes a fair amount of flexibility and is not for everyone.

Half Lotus

In the half-lotus only one foot is on the thigh, this is easier than full lotus for most people.

Burmese

Another popular position and probably the easiest when first getting started.

When I started meditating I tried the full lotus position, but I’m not that flexible and was unable to get into the correct position, so I used the half-lotus position most of the time and even tried the Burmese position. One thing I like about the Burmese sitting position is that your knees are at the same level, where when sitting in half-lotus one is higher than the other. This comes in handy when you put your hands on your knees, you feel that your arms are completely balanced.

If you already meditate, you are probably saying stop you are boring me to death. Ok enough about sitting positions, just choose one that works best for you and get on with it.

Once I got serious about meditating, meaning doing it every day the question was for how long should I sit? I started out with sitting for 10 minutes, then 15, and now I am sitting 20 minutes at each session. With each successive increase in time came benefits as it seemed like the first 10 minutes or so was still a battle of fighting with my monkey mind, which was mostly focused on challenges at work. So while 10 minutes of meditation was better than nothing I didn’t really get a whole lot of benefit out of it, but when I moved to 15 and then 20 minutes things started to change. I’m speculating that I could probably get even more out of my practice if I extended the time to say 30 or 45 minutes, but I’m not there yet. Most of my meditation sessions occur fairly early in the morning after I have completed my yoga practice, which by itself takes about 30 minutes, so, all in all, I’m spending about 1 hour in the morning practicing yoga and meditation.

I have tried Zen (Zazen) meditation with your eyes open and the mudra hand position (see below). I did this for some time but was never really comfortable having my eyes open and eventually changed to meditating with my eyes closed, but I still use the mudra hand position from time to time.

When I started meditating about two months ago, I used the technique of counting breaths, which helped me drown out the monkey mind a bit, but I rarely do that now. Most of the time I will focus on just watching my breathing and trying to stay present.

If you are not currently meditating you might ask, why in the hell are you doing this? For me the answer was easy, I was very unhappy, experiencing a lot of anxiety and worry in my life, and I knew if I gave meditation a fair try I might be able to alleviate some of this angst. I will be honest I was fucking miserable and dreading each day and knew this was no way to live. In my next post, I will explain what meditation is doing for me and cover some of the benefits you can also expect during your own journey.

Namaste

 

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Yoga + Meditation = Mindfulness

Do you ever feel like a hamster running on a wheel in a cage? Of course, you do we all are running a fast as we can to do all the things required to make a living, take care of our families, and just survive on this earth. The problem is we are full of anxiety about getting shit done on time and in the end we are just plain tired out. Years ago I started doing yoga, primarily to help me function better physically and to cope with the demand of sitting all day to accomplish my work. Over time I found yoga practice provided much more than just improved flexibility, but also allowed me to relax and approach my day in a more calm state.

More recently I started meditating after my yoga session and I found the combination of the two provided an even higher level of awareness. At first, I found it difficult to meditate, but by performing my yoga practice first, it made it easier to sit for meditation. One of the reasons for doing the yoga first is that it made it easier to sit for meditation because I had stretched my back and hips, which just made the physical part of sitting much easier. The second reason was that the yoga relaxed me, and made it easy to move into an even deeper state of awareness as I began to meditate. When you put them together Yoga + Meditation you have this powerful combination that helps you become more mindful and ultimately jump off the hamster wheel.

This new-found mindfulness allows you to approach each day with a positive mindset no longer filled with anxiety and worry. You now have an opportunity to look at your work more realistically. As you increase your level of mindfulness you begin putting your work and obligations in perspective and they no longer torment you. The increased awareness of the world allows you to look at your work as just one aspect of your life, in effect it becomes less important than your peace of mind.

Change your paradigm and make the investment of an hour or so every morning. Make this a priority and this investment will pay tremendous dividends that will enrich all aspects of your life.

 

Yoga + Meditation = Mindfulness

Namaste

 

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Only one imperative

Why is it so difficult to just be yourself? I think there are two impediments to being you:

  1. We don’t know ourselves. We have spent so much time playing a role whether that be in your family or at work, we have completely lost touch who we really are.
  2. The second impediment is that society, in general, wants to categorize us by race, gender, ethnicity, profession, political party, and wealth just to name a few.

Impediment #1

We don’t know ourselves – If you are like me, you spend countless hours agonizing over what you do for a living, which means you become a role that you play for the majority of your waking hours. You become so focused on excelling at this role that your whole identity becomes wrapped up in it. Now if this role is aligned or a by-product of who you really are then you have hit the jackpot, but sadly for most of us, this just isn’t true. Instead of figuring out who we really are we just assume the role and spend the rest of our life living our life in that paradigm. Instead of pursuing our dreams we just assume the role of Doctor, Nurse, Data Scientist, Software Developer, Uber Driver, Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, or whatever. Most of our life is then spent living up to the expectations needed to fulfill that role.  It’s fucking madness and we do it day after day until we die. At some point, we realize this and become unhappy with these roles and begin looking inside ourselves for an answer.

Impediment #2

Society – In the United States, we like to think we are all born equal, with inalienable rights, to life, liberty, and happiness. Nice sentiment, but it’s mostly bullshit. Our society like the societies in most countries tries to categorize us by political affiliations like left or right, black or white, male or female, rich or poor, and so on. As people, we begin associating our identity to these groupings. I can say I am a Democrat or a Republican and as such, I believe this or that. You don’t even have to think about it just assume some group identity and you are set for life, and most people don’t think about it. Once you have been categorized you are more easily controlled and can be marketed to. Yes, you become a target audience for whatever propaganda the government or a corporation wishes to sell you. You might think I sound like some paranoid anarchist at this point, but hear me out. Look at your Instagram feed for a moment, notice how the advertisements are targeted at you based on your browsing history or Google searches. You, my friend, are a target market and Facebook or Google have already categorized you as someone who needs to see these particular ads.

The Door

What if there was a door that you could open that would help you find your true self and start living a life free from assumed roles and identities. The door is your own rational mind, your freedom of choice if you will. To begin exercising this freedom of choice you need to stop doing a few things:

  • Stop thinking of yourself as only a role – Yes, you may play roles, but don’t let those roles overtake a huge amount of your conscious mind. You are not a role, but you may perform a function related to a role, just remember you are not a fucking role.
  • Stop being categorized – People will try to categorize you as liberal or conservative, but don’t fall for that trap. Use rational judgment when it comes to any issue versus groupthink. I know it’s easier to just follow the herd and adopt their ideology, but if you make that choice you are abandoning yourself for the group. I don’t label myself as liberal or conservative and can still exist in this world. The more you affiliate yourself with these groups the less independent you become.

For me, you can’t just stop living as a role or allowing yourself to be affiliated with society’s categorization of you. If you don’t take action you will be pulled back into the Vortex or at the very least spend the rest of your life rebelling against it, and neither of those fates will help you know yourself. Finding yourself then requires you to start doing some things:

  • Spend time by yourself – Finding yourself often means that you need to be alone. This might mean you take long walks, practice yoga, read books, or try meditating. This time you spend with yourself allows you to think and also isolates you from outside influences. I started both meditating and doing yoga in the morning before work and it has had a profound influence on how I see the world, for you it might be just taking a nice long walk, listening to music, running, or whatever you can do by yourself.
  • Value your time – You can’t really become introspective and think for yourself if you spend countless hours watching YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu. The same thing applies to scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Let’s say you work 8 hours a day or more, then you spend the next 8 hours watching cable news, or one of the other forms of media I just mentioned. Each of these forms of media seeks to influence the way you think, and you know dam will that it does. You won’t learn anything about yourself watching all this shit, it will only detract from your goal of being yourself.

You are not a role, you are not some category, you are a unique individual that deserves to pursue things that interest you. Think for yourself, make decisions in your best interest. Do something today that will help you understand who you really are.

Namaste


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The way

I’m paraphrasing here, but from the book UNFU*K Yourself by Gary Bishop, he says something like “Only You Can Save Yourself”. So when I say let your practice be your salvation, it means your practice, not someone else, but you must become your own salvation. Your practice and I mean meditation and studies are the means that will lead you to find yourself.

The only way to reveal the true you, the you that is buried deep inside is through your practice. Without daily practice you continually let yourself become some manifestation of your environment and you move further away from who you really are. Either you direct your mind or the world around you will do it for you. I think this quote from the Buddha illustrates my point about why your practice is so important.

For a Buddhist, there is only the way, and the way is to practice.

Namaste

 

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Until the next page is turned

Your life is like a book where you turn a page every day as you awaken. Each page is to be savored because you may not finish the book and it would be in your best interest to enjoy each page that you read. Waiting until the book is finished to be grateful would be a shame and a waste of your time.

Each day you turn another page and you have another opportunity to be alive, to enjoy the time you have on this earth. Should you choose to spend your time complaining and wishing for something more you will have wasted that day. Your life unfolds minute to minute, enjoy the journey wherever it takes you. Remember you can’t go back and say I wish I would have gone in this direction or that direction. You are where you are for a reason because this is where your path has led you.

A couple years ago I started writing in a journal three to five things I am grateful for every morning. It has become a ritual over time, that is followed by some yoga and meditation. Starting each day feeling grateful for what you have will allow you to serve others, instead of having feelings of resentment, anger, or another ego manifestation.

Today I am grateful for?

  1. My family who may not be perfect, but are always my top priority
  2. My work that provides challenges and financial rewards
  3. My writing, which is a therapy for me and hopefully benefits others
  4. My yoga and meditation practices that make me feel good and calm my mind
  5. Waking up today and having another opportunity to enjoy each moment as it unfolds

 

Being grateful has many benefits including:

  • When you are grateful for what you have feelings of entitlement and envy melt away
  • When you are grateful for the people in your life you will treat them better and be less critical of their behavior
  • When you are grateful for your dwelling and having food to eat you will crave less and feel more satisfied
  • When you are grateful for what you have you will have a tendency to serve or give back in appreciation versus expecting something
  • When you are grateful you will feel better and be more positive

Of course, I could go on and on, but you get the point by now that a grateful practice has too many benefits to not incorporate into your daily routine.

Namaste

 

If you would like to support this blog, check out the awesome selection of eBooks at:

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Music for meditation

Old zen saying

I used to be somewhat of a purest when it came to meditation preferring that it be done in silence or at my house something close to that. I also tried guided meditation, but that drove me kind of crazy and I decided it was just too prescriptive and didn’t allow my thoughts to flow as I was just listening to whoever was speaking.

Now if silence or guided meditation works for you then who am I to say that you shouldn’t just stick with what works. More recently I’ve found some pretty good meditation music from Yellow Brick Cinema that seems to allow my thoughts to come and go without distracting me. You will have to find the music that works for you, but there are so many choices available and it might just take sampling a few before you find exactly what works for your. I eventually built up a pretty good YouTube playlist. Here is the link to the playlist:

My Meditation Playlist

Give it a try and let me know if you found meditating with any of these music videos helpful.

Namaste