A Short Lesson in Vipassana Meditation to Help You Get Started
"Just Get Started and Worry About Being Perfect Later"
The meditative practice of watching thoughts is one of the best ways to get started at meditation practice, and at improving your behavior. In my book SOCRATES AND THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT, I told parents that they should teach this technique to their children if they want to give them tools for creating the best possible life ever. This is the basis of a life worth living, of attitude correction, of spiritual progress and changing your fortune. It all starts with knowing your own mind and then choosing (or altering) your behavior once you can see yourself. It's about cultivating awareness, and from there samadhi, and from there the Tao.
The practice of watching your thoughts as a 3rd person observer is like a hotel manager who just stands there watching the guests come and go in his hotel without himself participating in all the hustle and bustle and chatter. After a while, all the guests eventually depart the hotel and it becomes quiet without any effort on his part. All the manager does is stand there and watch without saying a word.
It's also like a mother who watches her children use up all their energy playing and running here and there, but who remains unruffled and unconcerned while the children eventually tire, lie down and fall asleep. The mental state of clarity she then achieves can be described as a quiet field of open mental peace and awareness.
Those are the analogies for the meditation practice of cessation-contemplation, but what are the actual steps of the practice?
Here are the basic instructions:
Sit in a relaxed and upright posture, with straight spine, open chest, hands resting naturally on the thighs. To take such a posture already expresses the genuine dignity of being human. To remain in that posture during the ups and downs of our thought and emotional processes expresses the fundamental confidence of trusting in unconditional goodness. The eyes are open [or closed] with soft gaze, slightly down, and we take the same attitude to the other senses-open but not fixed or harshly string to experience something. As we sit there, we allow our minds to identify with the outgoing breath, to go out with it, and then to return to be attentive to the posture as the breath comes in. As thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations begin to pop up, we note them and let them be as they are, not trying to push them away, or holding onto them and indulging them. We begin to become mindful of the precise details of our thought and perceptual processes and also aware of the relationship between them. A thought or feeling arises, and then it goes away. Where it arises from and whence it goes, who can say? But occasionally we might catch a glimpse of non-thought, of open mind. A glimpse can be tremendously refreshing. It is such a relief to realize that we can afford to let go of our conceptualizing process altogether. (The Craft of the Warrior, Robert Spencer, (Frog, Berkeley: California, 1993), pp.146-147)
When your mind empties through this practice of watching, your chi will begin to rise into your head and that stream of refreshing chi energy will silently pour into your brain to quiet your thoughts just as a stream of clear water that enters a muddy pond will soon clarify it as well. All you have to do to let it happen is just let go of your thoughts and rest your mind. Then it will happen all by itself.
That clear energy that also arises... due to your detaching from thoughts that frees or unleashes your vital energies from suppressed restraint... will also begin to clean the tissues of your skin and face, arms and legs. It will produce all sorts of rejuvenations that the sages of various religions have cataloged.
Don't wait several hundred years for science to prove this. Just get out and do this.
There are all sorts of meditation methods you can practice in the world, but they are all built around these two principles of watching (observation) thoughts to produce a mental realm of quiet called "stopping" (cessation). In time these two principles of cessation and contemplation converge into the spiritual principles of samadhi and prajna transcendental wisdom.
This is basically the meditation practice called vipassana.
In meditation you watch your thoughts - you "contemplate them" by observing them without pushing them or getting involved with them - and in time they will naturally die down so that your mind becomes clear and empty of thoughts. That's a purified mental state that's closer to "God" or your original nature because it is filled with less ego notions.
Stopping and watching are the basic practices inherent in most meditation methods, and all that what I want you to practice this week. There are no special secrets or tips. You just have to get started in watching your thoughts through a form of introspection that doesn't comment on what you observe.
Find a comfortable sitting position, cross your legs, put your hands on your lap, relax your body and then start watching your thoughts. If you can do that for at least 20 minutes a day, twice a day to get you started, that's great.
All you want to do this first week is to form the habit of getting started, so don't worry about doing it or not doing it right. After a few lessons you'll get it down pat. I'll send you 2-3 more lessons over the next few days on this BASIC TECHNIQUE just to help you get started, but be sure to download the free ebook that explains everything in detail. Please also send it off to friends who might benefit from it.
The download for this meditation book is as follows:
The big hurdle at spiritual cultivation is just getting you started in the first place and getting you to initiate the habit of meditation, so don't over-impose burdens on yourself initially that will make you want to stop meditating all together. The whole process of forming a new beneficial habit takes time, so find a comfortable position, adjust yourself, let go of your body and sensations, and just start watching your thoughts. Remember that THIS is real spiritual practice.
Going to Church, temple, mosques or attending ceremonies is fine for creating a bit of merit and stilling your thoughts for awhile, but that's about it. It ain't going to get you climbing up the spiritual ladder, unless you figure out how to cultivate samadhi through those activities. Your chance of doing so is near zero unless you already have samadhi. Every master of every tradition has pointed out that ceremonies and study are NOT the way to God, enlightenment, spiritual salvation, liberation or however they worded it, so remember that performing ceremonies and following religious codes of discipline is not THE WAY. It's just baby stuff, and the people with WISDOM realize that,but since those folks are in short supply you need this for the mass public.
Getting back to the main point, doubtless you'll have many questions on meditation as you practice, but hold your questions as they'll be covered in the next few lessons.
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