OpenSit

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Photo by Moyan Brenn

Just a quick note — here’s a website devoted to meditators sharing their experiences and connecting. OpenSit.com

Here’s some text from their About page:

“This movement reflects a wider cultural change in our understanding of meditation. The practices and doctrines of hundreds of previously esoteric traditions are now available to us, and we are free to verify their practical aspects whilst taking apart the unhelpful myths, superstitions, dogmas and falsehoods that prevent the free discussion and dissemination of authentic meditation.

This shift towards transparency and honesty naturally emphasises practice over belief. Journalling your practice is a great way to reflect on your own journey, and sharing your notes is a great way to get support and feedback. OpenSit is firmly built around the practice journal, with an added social element so that you can follow other peoples journals.

The culture surrounding meditation is evolving. OpenSit is community exploring what modern meditation practice means to us, the ways we can support each other, and the effects of meditation itself, from equanimity, to energetics to enlightenment.”

23 Types of Meditation — and a Recommended Website

Just a heads up about a website I really recommend. I first came across it from a link to the 23 Types of Meditation posting from the excellent website Live and Dare: Meditation Blog and Non-Sectarian Spirituality. If you’ve ever been confused about all the different types of meditation, what distinguishes them from one another, or just what defines meditation at all — this is a terrific resource.

Author Giovanni Dienstmann methodically lays out the general types, religious groupings (Buddhist, Hindu, TM, Yoga, Self Inquiry, Chinese meditation, Christian meditation, guided meditations). If you don’t learn something after you’ve read this post, then you’re already an expert on meditation.

 

 

A Little More Lodro

After quite enjoying Rinzler’s Sit Like A Buddha, I wandered over to his website and discovered he has a nice little “TEACHINGS” page. There you’ll find links to periodicals. Here are the results from Sonima. There is also a section of guided meditations, and one of recorded talks, one entitled, “How to Stop Being A Jerk.”  Unsurprisingly, Rinzler’s tone keeps to his easy to digest, down-to-earth approach I found in his book.

Here are the TEACHINGS.

mind training

Would you do mind training if it helped you with the endless, pointless thinking? A Sakyong Mipham quote courtesy of meditationSHIFT, on their daily musings page, August 12 entry.

“Many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We try to be good to the people we love, but then we forget them and put ourselves first. And when we want to change our life, we dive into spiritual practice and expect quick results, only to lose focus after the honeymoon has worn off. We return to our state of bewilderment. We’re left feeling helpless and discouraged. It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our minds?”

Sit Like a Buddha

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photo by Phil Warren (creative commons)

I’ve been reading a charming little book by Lodro Rinzler, Sit Like a Buddha. When I say little, I do mean little. The text itself runs a scant 90 pages, but it is pithy. I haven’t finished it yet, but it strikes me as the kind of book you might re-read every now and then. In particular, I like the fact that it addresses some of the emotional obstacles to meditation. Worth a look.

The Mighty Avalanche of Hype (or Does Mindfulness Mean Anything?)

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Really nice, succinct piece on the hype surrounding mindfulness on the 13.7 Cosmos and Culture section of the NPR website. It covers:

  • The issue of hype
  • the issue of non-objectivity (author is a meditator)
  • the problem of definition (which definition of mindfulness?)
  • the two kinds of critics, 1 – concern about the validity of research (at this point it’s really worth reading the article — there are some great, thoughtful, critical quotes about the science and the way it’s portrayed in the media)
  • the two kinds of critics, 2 – concern about authenticity of practice (more great quotes! Just go read the article, already!) and how Buddhist meditation has become watered down into “tepid self help”.
  • The uneasy compromise – it may not help in the way or to the depth that one would prefer, but some people find great benefit to mindful practice. So why not?

Solid piece of thoughtful, informed writing.

How to Get Into Jhana (or A Date with Bliss, Deferred)

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For a while I used to listen to a guided meditation by Bodhipaksa. It was a good recording, and I imagine he knows a thing or two. At his website he has a post, “How to get into jhana”. Jhana, for those of you not completely immersed in the technical language of meditation in Buddhism — is a blissful state one can achieve during concentration meditation. The piece begins with a description of the usual difficulties we often encounter, then:

“But once in a while, like a blessing, come joy and ease. We find ourselves effortlessly able to stay with our experience. Our distractions are nowhere to be seen. The mind is calm, and we’re deeply happy. We feel alive and vital. This kind of experience is called jhāna (Sanskrit: dhyāna), and it arises when the five hindrances of ill will, sense desire, restlessness and anxiety, sloth and torpor, and doubt have been dispelled. The turbulent emotions that normally fill our consciousness are gone, and we find that the mind is naturally joyful and focused.”

After that Bodhipaksa outlines, in a rather straightforward and non-woo woo way, the steps and characteristics of attaining jhana. It all sounds so easy. But wonder about this part. How do you get past the hindrances? That part looks very tricky.

“This kind of experience is called jhāna (Sanskrit: dhyāna), and it arises when the five hindrances of ill will, sense desire, restlessness and anxiety, sloth and torpor, and doubt have been dispelled. The turbulent emotions that normally fill our consciousness are gone, and we find that the mind is naturally joyful and focused.”

Can you dispel your ill will, sense desire, restlessness and anxiety, sloth and torpor? Do you even want to? The whole endeavor is decidedly non-trivial.

Ajahn Brahm on Lovingkindness

Ajahn_Brahmavamso_MahatheraI’ve recently been dipping into Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook by Ajahn Brahm. As is typical of him, the treatment is mostly very down-to-earth and practical. (Another title: Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?) Mostly, because parts of it are quite religious and technical.

His advice regarding lovingkindness (or metta) meditation, which can be quite challenging for many Westerners, falls squarely in the practical category. I’ve mostly encountered this practice taught by focusing on three subjects:

  1. A person you care for.
  2. A person you are neutral towards.
  3. A person you have difficulty with.

Many meditators have such difficulty with focusing on a person they dislike or feel conflicted about that it derails the whole process. Brahm has a different, very practical, approach:

“In metta meditation you focus your attention on the feeling of loving kindness, developing that delightful emotion until it fills the whole mind. The way this is achieved can be compared to the way you light a campfire. You start with paper or anything else that is easy to light. Then you add kindling, small twigs, or strips of wood. When the kindling is on fire you add thicker pieces of wood, and after some time the thick logs. Once the fire is roaring and very hot, you can even put on wet or sappy logs and they are soon alight.

Metta can accurately be compared with a warm and radiant fire burning in your heart. You cannot expect to light the fire of loving-kindness by starting with a difficult object, no more than you can expect to light a campfire by striking a match under a thick log. So do not begin metta meditation by spreading metta to yourself or to an enemy. Instead begin by spreading loving-kindness to something that is easy to ignite with loving-kindness.”

Note that he regards one’s self as a difficult subject for loving-kindness meditation. This is particularly true for Westerners.

Ajahn Brahm’s website includes, among other things, a list of his books and his bio.