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.
Here’s the experience of a guided mindful meditation presented graphically. Intriguing and surprisingly accurate. It’s presented at mindful.org as a quick way to learn meditation.
photo by JD Hancock (creative commons)
Piece at PsychCentral has some useful tips I thought I’d pass along. This is my favorite, but there are some that are equally useful!
Start meditating for short periods.
The best way to start a meditation practice is simply to start meditating. You’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. We often procrastinate until we find the perfect time. Don’t wait. Start immediately.
Find a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed. Close your eyes and begin following your breath. Focus your attention on the sensation of the air passing through the tip of your nose. Count your breaths one through five silently in your mind. When you get to five, simply start over again. When you get distracted, immediately bring your attention back to your breath, and continue counting. The counting helps you stay focused.
After a few minutes, stop counting and begin observing the entire breathing process mindfully. When you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
Start with about a 10-minute session, then work your way up to about 20 minutes or more. It may be a challenge to sit still in the beginning, but it will get easier as your mind settles down over time.
“Studies by Andrew Newberg and others have shown that long-term practice of meditation produces significant alterations in cerebral blood flow in parts of the brain related to attention, emotion, and some autonomic functions.”
― Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations
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.
“Sometimes, sitting there on the cushion failing to watch your breath, it can feel like you’re the only weirdo weird enough to be wasting your time in this way. But you’re not! There are generations of weirdos, monasteries full of them, and we have the benefit of their accumulated wisdom.”
― Jay Michaelson, Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment