How to Meditate: Sam Harris

From time to time, I like to pass on any interesting articles on the topic of meditation. As I’ve written many times before, meditation is a very useful adjunct to psychotherapy – and like psychotherapy is a practice that has the potential to improve quality of life. (I would not recommend it as replacement for psychotherapy – that would be just as silly as recommending psychotherapy to someone interested in meditation.)

I’m not that familiar with Mr. Harris, but he’s written a number of books with intriguing titles and I was immediately struck by his clear, straightforward, pragmatic and informed meditation instructions. He strikes a very nice balance of both committed and skeptical, one many writers on the topic should be envious of.

Here’s the link to his article, How to Meditate. Definitely worth a click.

And here’s a brief excerpt in which he compares learning to meditate with learning to walk a tightrope:

As every meditator soon discovers, such distraction is the normal condition of our minds: Most of us fall from the wire every second, toppling headlong—whether gliding happily in reverie, or plunging into fear, anger, self-hatred and other negative states of mind. Meditation is a technique for breaking this spell, if only for a few moments. The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.

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Posture

Here’s a little thing on posture from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s from his book Mindfulness for Beginners. The full excerpt (if there is such a thing) called “Getting Started with Formal Practice” addresses a number of other topics (what to do with your eyes, sleepiness, protect this time).

The carriage of your body during formal practice is important. It helps if you adopt a posture that embodies wakefulness, even or especially if you feel sleepy. That probably means not practicing lying down, although lying down can be a wonderful way to cultivate mindfulness and wakefulness as we do in various body scans and lying-down meditations. If you set your intention at the beginning of a period of practice to “fall awake” instead of “falling asleep,” then it is fine to experiment with practicing lying down.

Aside from the fact that you can also meditate formally when standing still or while walking, a posture that embodies wakefulness usually suggests sitting, and sitting in such a way that the back is straight but relaxed, with the shoulders and arms hanging off the rib cage, the head erect, and the chin slightly tucked. You can sit either on a straight-backed chair or on a cushion on the floor. As best you can, sit in a posture that naturally and easily embodies dignity and presence for you.