meditation

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness

“Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness. The still mind is by definition, pure.”

“Is this the end? Are we there yet? No. There remains the ego, the self, the known self, the impersonator of the Soul. He is the last actor to leave the stage. He lingers even for the very final hand clap of applause. What forces him off the stage? Silence, and retention of the breath.”

~ From the book, Light on Life, by B.K.S. Iyengar

“Absolute stillness and silence, as if one had landed on the Moon”

“On one occasion of my own practice, nearing deep samadhi, I happened to notice that the stage of my mind was quietly turning and a new scene was appearing. In this new scene no wandering thought popped up its head; there was absolute stillness and silence, as if one had landed on the Moon.”

~ Zen Training

Gratitude helps shut down distractions during meditation

I had to get away from it for a while, so I forgot how good the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas is. I tend to be more interested in the science behind mindfulness and meditation (as opposed to specific religions and their rituals), and as a result, from my own practice I can confirm the last sentence in this paragraph from that book. (See the attached image.)

Depending on the day, and especially the time of day, the first 5-10 minutes of any meditation session are the hardest for me, because it takes a while to get my mind to settle down. Since I learned this practice, I do settle down more quickly.

The benefits of mantra in meditation practice

As you progress in your meditation practice, the use of mantra(s) is a powerful way to stay focused all day.

I recall reading that Ram Dass said that even when he is speaking or listening to others, that in the background his mantra is always running in his head: “Ram ... Ram ... Ram.”

In the excellent book, Practicing the Jhanas, I throughout your day that you constantly remember to bring your attention back to the Anapana spot, a spot just under your nose.

The Soul Game

[This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m writing on meditation and mindfulness.]

As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — the Soul Game — the harder the levels become.

To help set some rules for the game, let’s say that it has fifty levels. The first time you play the game you’re born here on Earth in Level 1. Hopefully you score some points and move up, so maybe by the time it’s “game over” for your first lifetime, you’ve passed Level 9 and you’re playing on Level 10. Maybe you get a brief break in between lifetimes, but the next time you’re born you start right where you left off, at Level 10.

This brings me to a very important rule: Once you start playing the Soul Game, you’re strapped in for eternity. (That was clearly mentioned on page 52 of the End User License Agreement.) Once you’re in the game there are only two ways out:

Meditation: From Guilty -> I could do this forever

I’ve been listening to the song Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb lately, and it reminds me that when you first start meditating there can be a lot of guilt associated with attempting to meditate. Various thoughts include:

  • This is dumb
  • This is a waste of time
  • I’m not getting anywhere
  • I should be doing [fill-in-the-blank]

These thoughts can last a long time, until that one day that your meditation finds your groove, all of the “mind noise” goes away, and you think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

So today’s thought is one of persistence: If some part of you finds yourself wanting to meditate, there might just be some voice hidden deep in your mind wanting this. So vow to keep working at it until that one day when you find the sweet spot and then think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

You can’t learn to meditate in the middle of a crisis

Wednesday Zen:

One time an employee came into my office, closed my door, and said, “How are you so calm? I’m going nuts!” As I would learn, he had some stress from work, but even more from his personal life. I tried to help him slow down, breathe, and talk, but he was frantic and almost impossible to help.

The thing about meditation and stillness of mind is that you can’t just start it one day in the middle of a crisis, like when you feel a sudden twinge of chest pain or you’re laying in a hospital bed with a virus trying to suffocate your heart. By then it’s too late.

Notes from a retreat in 2006

Day 3: Yesterday I had way too much energy, but today’s mood is frustration, agitation, and impatience. Like this meeting tonight, I am not in the mood to be here. The part I hate is that I can’t be comfortable and happy with the people here. We’re all interested in the same thing (finally, people I can relate to!), and they’re all open and supportive. I hate that about myself.

Day 4: Arghh. I have way too much anger (rage!) right now. Everything here is so damn vague and the answers are #!$@ elusive. I just need to get out of this gathering and hit something. What am I really angry at? Where is this coming from?

Day 5: I would have left yesterday if it wasn’t for C stopping me at my car. I don’t know if she knew that she stopped me, but she did. Evening: Long talk with P. She spoke of giving fifteen years to her family, and while she doesn’t regret it, she expressed some remorse at giving up her career. But tonight she was dancing, and said I looked much happier.

Day 6: Last day. Long goodbyes with everyone, including C, I, F, J, N, and more. Asked N about something that happened last night at the rock, and she said I was very fortunate, it’s very rare. Leaving here is hard, it feels like graduating high school, knowing you’ll never see these people again who have been friends through all of this. I’m so grateful that C stopped me from leaving. Lots of tears all around.

(A few notes from a retreat I went on in 2006. I wrote a lot that week, and some of the notes get very personal, and it’s time to shred those, but I thought I’d share a few here.)

Morality, the first meditation training

I wrote a long time ago that compassion and forgiveness are important when you get into deep meditation states. As this paragraph from Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha suggests, they’re also helpful for beginning meditation states.

(As an example, a long time ago I went to a Zen center for a meditation retreat, and when I’d start meditating I’d think, “I wish I had done X when I was at home, it really bothers me that I didn’t do that. In fact, it’s driving me nuts.” I was eventually able to meditate, but whenever I lost my concentration, this was always the first thought that came up.