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Meditation technique
December 20, 2010 9:15 PM   Subscribe

I am seeking advice on meditation technique. Up to this point, I have only been able to meditate through motion, ie running, yoga. I have never been able to meditate in the classic, sitting still sense, until now. I've got a start on it and want to develop this as much as possible.

This opportunity to meditate in stillness is provided by some recent, difficult, events in my life, with another one on the way. My meditation consists simply of focusing on the pain/tightness in my chest resulting from emotional distress of these events. I simply lie down and "be" with this feeling and after an hour or so, deep breaths and sighs come up, sometimes images. While the deep breaths and sighs feel good, I don't necessarily feel better after this is over.

So again, I am seeking advice, technical really, on how to fully get into this. I'm told that Sufi's see times like these in one's life as the opportunity. I am not a religious person at all, so reading the Quran is not what I'm looking for. Same for Rumi.
posted by allelopath to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try these guided meditations.
posted by sisquoc15 at 9:26 PM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bhante G's Mindfulness in Plain English is phenomenal.
Here is a PDF version. This book has changed my life. I'd recommend picking up a dead tree copy and reading it through at least once before attempting to apply any of his techniques, perhaps even read it twice.
It's clear, it's concise and for me it balances the Buddhism and "secular" practical meditation.
posted by piedmont at 10:04 PM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Lying down is really great to relax but meditation is traditionally done sitting up with a straight back. Try meditation on any of the chakras, especially the one in the middle of the forehead, meditation on sounds, on feeling of breath in air passages in the nose, on a yantra, on a candle light, on an idea, on attention itself, or on a mantra. A half-padmasana is really great for meditation, a padmasana is even better.
posted by rainy at 11:36 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What thoughts are going through your head while you do this? An hour is great, but being able to keep negative thoughts at bay for that long would be incredible unless you're either a prodigy at this or else have trained for years.

When I lived in a monastery for some months two years ago, I found it optimal to meditate in chunks of 15-20 minutes at a time. And the first meditation suggested to me turned out to be the best advice for me, even though it didn't sound like meditation to me at all: "relax."

It sounds like you already have this in mind, but it's hard to tell what's going through your mind while you're doing this. It could be that focusing on the pain and tightness reminds you of the emotional distress. Perhaps try relaxing both physically and emotionally.

At first you may find it impossible to allow yourself to forget the emotional pain, perhaps that it's somehow "cheating" to feel things are all right when deep down you "know" that they're not. Remind yourself that you're only doing this for a short stretch, and that it's okay to let go of the burden for a while. Above all, be gentle with yourself.
posted by akprasad at 11:56 PM on December 20, 2010


allelopath: "This opportunity to meditate in stillness is provided by some recent, difficult, events in my life, with another one on the way.

During some of the most challenging pieces in my life, I've done the same thing you have; it's like I just wasn't going to be able to walk through it all except for contemplative prayer / meditation. Or damn sure wasn't going to walk through it with grace. Not that I'm Mr. Graceful anyways, meditation or not, but it helped me balance.

My meditation consists simply of focusing on the pain/tightness in my chest resulting from emotional distress of these events. I simply lie down and "be" with this feeling and after an hour or so, deep breaths and sighs come up, sometimes images.

This is great. Sit with it. Nowhere to run, baby / nowhere to hide -- who sang that song? I think of that hook sometimes, when the only thing that's going to help is sitting in it. "Don't just do something; sit there."

While the deep breaths and sighs feel good, I don't necessarily feel better after this is over.

I'm not sure you're supposed to feel better. More balanced, almost certainly, but not necessarily right after sitting with it; I can come out of it really jangly and jumping inside. My experience has led me to understand -- for me -- that it doesn't matter how it feels when I sit, that what matters is that I sit.

There's times I show up on that yoga mat and just have no juice at all, or I'm injured maybe, and I've just got nothing left to give on the mat; well, okay. It is what it is. But I showed up. I show up, I unroll the mat, I do those Sun Salutations, I'm open to doing more, but what matters to me is that I unroll the mat and do those Sun Salutes. Then I've done my part. I think I *should* be doing more, or better, or whatever, and that's all just my ego, it's all a load of blather.

And I think it's the same with meditation; maybe I don't have energy, maybe it's all a confusing jumble of jive rolling around inside there, often I don't feel all peaceful and whatnot. Which doesn't mean that I'm *not* peaceful, just that I don't feel all peaceful and all. As with my yoga practice, it's best if/when I don't judge my experience of it but rather just show up. I used to think I needed to be calmed or uplifted or whatever else but that's all just vanity, maybe vain isn't the exact word but it's close I think.

So again, I am seeking advice, technical really, on how to fully get into this."

It seems to me that you *are* fully into this. What you're describing is what I experience when I'm in it deeply, and committed to it. And I'm not saying to not read whatever falls into your hands, and damn sure there is a benefit to meditating with others, I don't know why that is so -- or maybe it isn't so, but it is for me, for sure. So maybe be open to sitting with others. And there are books, one in particular was very, very helpful to me, but it's from a very, very Jesus-y perspective, and if you're like me you'll end up having to separate the wheat from the chaff, drop Jesus onto the floor but put the techniques described in the book into your pockets and take them with you. The book is Open Mind Open Heart by Thomas Keating, a Catholic priest who went to India to see why everyone else was going to India, and he was open to learning there, and he *did* learn there, but then, being a very Catholic sort of Catholic, he just had to paint Jesus all over it. And there are of course upwards of four hundred ninety seven million books on meditation, and probably you'll gain lots from some of them, just that Open Mind Open Heart really helped me, is all, as I was somewhat Jesus-y myself at the time it was put in my hands. But I've given Jesus some rest here, set him off the cart as it were, and the book is still helpful, two chapters in particular which really are about nuts and bolts techniques and methods, etc and etc.

It sounds to me you're doing really well, the proof is in the fact that you're doing well in the face of very difficult life situations.

I wish you peace.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:06 AM on December 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


With meditation I've found it doesn't truthfully help when I do it trying to feel better or fix a pain in my body. By trying to make my body into something that it isn't being right at this moment, I'm ignoring the fact of whatever I've been living that has brought me to be in that way. When I accept my body, feeling any pain, boredom, numbness, excess stimulation or even happiness and joy that there is, it makes me aware of how i'm truthfully living. If i'm not feeling good then I havent been living right, if I am feeling good, then I'll try and see how i can live to support that.

Try to look at meditation as a way to reconnect to the deepest part of you through becoming present with whatever you are doing. When you are just sitting, feel yourself sitting - how your posture is, any tightness in your body, any sensations - notice them but accept that they don't have to change and you don't need to try to fix them. Then just focus on the breath coming in gently at the tip of the nose for a while, feel the coolness of it as it comes in - for now you can just breath out normally, but everytime you breath in really take control of the breath to bring it in gently so you can feel that coolness - its a great point for the mind to focus on and become fascinated with. Once you have established control over the inbreath well, you do the same with the out breath, exhale it gently and feel the warmth at the base of your nose and focus on that as well as the cool in breath when you inhale. Doing this you are now coming back to yourself as you are in that moment, you are back in control of your body, so now release the physical body on every outbreath to become the same gentle quality you have made the breath. After youve established that quality for a while, really just mark for yourself the way you feel - how is it compared to how you live normally. You now have that quality as a point you can check back in with as you get on with your life to see how well you're staying present with yourself - its not always easy but its the best thing I've been able to do for myself. A group called Universal Medicine in Australia teaches this type of meditation through courses and presentations, there are audios available as well - I highly recommend them if youre interested
posted by parryb at 12:55 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have summarized my 1000's hours meditation work in the following three short blog posts pretty much to try and provide an answer to questions like yours:

Theory and practice of meditation I

Theory and practice of meditation II


Theory and practice of meditation III


(If anybody has any questions about the information in those posts, please feel free to send me a me-mail.)
posted by bukvich at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks for your replies. Some of my own replies below …

>>Lying down is really great to relax but meditation is traditionally done sitting up with a straight back
I'm actually not lying down flat, but propped up at 45 degrees. Regardless, I've done enough yoga to know that I should do what feels right, not what the book says, so I'm doing this until something else feels better.

>>What thoughts are going through your head while you do this?
>>An hour is great, but being able to keep negative thoughts at bay for that long
I'm not trying to keep negative thoughts at bay. If anything, I'm going deeper into them.

>>I'm not sure you're supposed to feel better.
Yeah, you're right.

>>I wish you peace.
Thank you

>>Try to look at meditation as a way to reconnect to the deepest part of you through becoming present with whatever you are doing
Yes, I don't know what I'm doing, but maybe this is what I unconsciously was hoping for.

>>I have summarized my 1000's hours meditation work
I will read these, thanks.
posted by allelopath at 5:56 PM on December 21, 2010


One more:

Theory and practice of meditation IV
posted by bukvich at 4:38 AM on January 29, 2011


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