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To Do or Not to Do !

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What is Meditation
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"If there is something you truly want to know, then you truly want to listen to your
own wisdom.
You know, meditation is learning how to listen with your own wisdom, so that you can
I think why meditation is amazingly important,
is that somehow our unconscious world is much bigger.
It is huge, universal, and we don't understand that one.
Meditation allows this world to be light and knowable, understandable.
That is why it is important.
Normally we are totally robbed by the egotistic, conventional mind,
not allowing the fundamental mind to be functioning.
That is why one should have confidence, truly... through experience,
one has confidence in one's spiritual journey."
By Lama Thubten Yeshe

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Mudra of Meditation

Lack of Self-Confidence
Other Delusions


I would strongly advise everyone to start with a

serious course in meditation in a centre, preferably at least with a few days in silence. This will
give you a genuine feeling of the effect that meditation can have on the mind. Many people try
to teach themselves meditation by reading books etc., but I think I have never met an
In General Buddhism
enthusiastic self-taught meditator. So a proper course, if possible with a qualified teacher is
In Tantra
In the Kalachakra Tantra invaluable. Furthermore, one should realise that continuity in meditation is considered
essential: better five minutes a day, every day, than two hours once a week. For example, five
Stories & Insights
minutes in the morning are likely to become longer over time, and becomes part of your
Stories from the Heart
everyday life. Many people discover it quickly becomes a more essential and helpful thing than
Quotes of Wisdom
a good breakfast of 'the first cup of coffee' in the morning. In the evening, it is a very good way
Zen Poems and Haiku
to stop the worries of the day and go to sleep in a comfortable state of mind. Ultimately,
Funny Stories
meditation can become a continuous state of mind.
Funny Quotes
Zen Fun

Before starting meditation, we need to take care of a few things:

- a quiet place (using music is nicely relaxing, but not really meditation), switching off the
The Dalai Lama
telephone may help.
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche
- make sure you are not too tired, early morning is generally said to be the best time.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
- sit comfortable; most people like a cushion under their behind, the room not too warm or cold
- wear loose, comfortable clothing, .
- try to create continuity in time and place to become habituated to the circumstances of
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The Body:
- keeping the back straight, in whichever posture you meditate is most essential.
- try to be comfortable and physically relaxed, but avoid moving too much.
- keep the head straight, slightly bent forward, keep the teeth slightly apart, the tip of the tongue
against the upper pallet.
- the eyes are best kept half-open (without really looking), but many beginners find that too

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distracting and close them.

- the shoulders should be relaxed and the hands can be put in one's lap
- the legs can be in the full lotus (which not may Westerners manage), but also simply crossed. In fact, other positions
like sitting on one's knees or on a bench are good as well. If these are too difficult, you can also use a chair. When
using a chair, try to use only the front half of the seat, not leaning against the back rest to avoid a bent back, and keep
the feet flat on the floor. Keeping the knees warm may help to avoid numbness of the legs.
- try belly-breathing; not breathing with the chest, but from the navel.
- always remember that the posture should enhance meditation, not be an obstacle!
The Mind:
- be relaxed but at the same time awake and attentive: find your balance!
- be a careful observer of your own mind and thoughts
The Session:
1. Try and set yourself a minimum time that you want to meditate and try to
stick to that as a minimum.
2. Motivation - to know what you are doing, most Buddhists will start with a
refuge prayer, generating bodhicitta (for example using the prayer of the
four immeasurables) and the seven-limb prayer (this contains the aspects
of respectfulness towards the teachers, making (mental) offerings,
admitting one's past mistakes, rejoicing in positive actions, asking the
teachers to remain, requesting them to teach and dedicating the practice
to full enlightenment).
3a. Calming and clearing the mind - often using a simple (but hard-to-do)
breathing meditation - see below.
3b. Optional for an analytical meditation: take specific object or technique
and stay with that - avoid excuses to change subject.
4. Conclusion and dedication - to make impression on the mind
In short: meditation is a method to transform ourselves into the person we would like to be; don't forget what you want to
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be like, therefore we need to set the motivation which gives perseverance in the practice. Keep relaxed, don't push
yourself and don't expect great experiences. A dedication at the end directs positive energy towards results.
The Tibetans advise the '6 Preparatory Practices' prior to the first traditional meditation session of the day:
1. Sweep and clean the room and arrange the altar.
2. Make offerings on the altar, e.g. light, food, incense, water bowls, etc..
3. Sit in a comfortable position and examine your mind. If there is much distraction, do some breathing meditation to
calm your mind. Then establish a good motivation. After that, take refuge and generate the altruistic intention by
reciting the appropriate prayers.
4. Visualise the merit field with the Gurus, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, etc. If this is too difficult, visualise Shakyamuni
Buddha alone and consider him the embodiment of all Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha.
5. Offer the seven limb prayer (sent previously) and the mandala, by reciting those prayers.
6. Make requests to the lineage gurus for inspiration by reciting the requesting prayers. It is also good to review the
entire graduated path to enlightenment by reciting for example, "Foundation of All Good Qualities". This helps you to
understand the purpose of the particular meditation that you will do in the overall scheme of training the mind in the
gradual path. It also plants the seed for you to obtain each realisation of the path.
Who better to teach meditation than His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
A large number of meditations can be found in the List of Sample Meditations.
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"Just as a writer only learns the spontaneous freedom of expression after years of often gruelling study, and
just as the simple grace of a dancer is achieved only with enormous, patient effort, so when you begin to
understand where meditation will lead you, you will approach it as the greatest endeavor of your life, one
that demands of you the deepest perseverance, enthusiasm, intelligence, and discipline."
Sogyal Rinpoche
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Physical pain is a common experience, especially when you are not yet used to the position. Instead of immediately
moving at the first note of discomfort, remain seated, do not move and study yourself and the pain. How does pain
really feel? Give yourself time to discover and explore the feeling. You can visualise your body as completely empty, or
feel remote from the body, as if you are observing yourself from outside. When the pain is very strong and comes every
session again, check your posture; experiment if you like to sit on a higher cushion or without, try different positions etc.
Also yoga exercises can help a lot. Take a physical brief break by standing up, but try to keep in the meditative state of
A note on numbness and 'falling asleep' of the legs
When Westerners first try to sit crossed legged for extended periods, usually we feel a prickling and later numbness in
the legs. When unfolding your legs after some time, you may feel considerable discomfort - maybe your legs don't even
want to support you for a few seconds. Don't worry about this: contrary to popular belief, this is not caused by a limited
blood supply to the legs, which could be very harmful. Instead, this is a sign that nerves have been squashed a while;
that is the reason for the prickling sensation; the nerve signals are coming through again. So numbness and 'sleeping'
legs are no problem. I have heard occasionally of people damaging their knees while pushing themselves too hard
(like can happen in intense Zen retreats) for much too long. If you really feel serious returning pains in the knees during
sitting, you may want to go for a different sitting position (if need be a chair) as it is possible to damage your knees if
you ignore body signals too much.
Sensual desire, attachment
A common disturbance is being drawn to someone or something; it is often not easy to forget about your lover or a
piece of chocolate once the thought has come up. But you can try some of the following: realising that these things are
so brief and come with problems attached. Fulfilling one desires is never enough, the next one will come. Looking at
the reality of the object: a body is really not much more than a bag of skin filled with bones, meat, blood etc.
Distraction, restlessness, worry
The best way is not to give it attention, notice it and don't get involved. If it persists, usually it helps to do a short period
of breathing meditation as described above. Check with yourself if you are maybe pushing too hard, if so, relax a bit.
You can remember that past and future don't exist, there is only the here and now. Restlessness from the past and
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worry for the future are illusions. Sometimes it helps to get the energy down from the head and to remember bellybreathing. You can also focus on an imagined black spot between the eyebrows. Persistent matters can be given a
very short attention and the promise to deal with it later. It may even help to have a pen and paper at hand to make a
very short note. However, make sure you don't start to write an essay - then it just becomes an escape from meditation.
If everything else fails, try an analytical meditation on the problem or situation that distracts.
Lethargy, drowsiness, sleepiness
Remember that death is certain, and this chance for meditation should not be missed. There is only the here and now,
past and future are imaginations. Check your motivation for meditating. You can concentrate on a visualised white light
between the eyebrows. Take a couple of deep breaths. If you are really tired, take a rest and continue later.
Despite of all these problems, do not let yourself get discouraged to easily; meditation is about habituation, so it may
take a while to get used to. Don't condemn yourself when a session did not go well, try to find the cause and avoid it
next time.
"Cultivating the mind is very much like cultivating a crop. A farmer must know the proper way to prepare the
soil, sow the seed, tend to the growth of the crop, and finally harvest it. If all these tasks are done properly,
the farmer will reap the best harvest that natures allows. If they're done improperly, an inferior harvest will be
produced, regardless of the farmer's hopes and anxieties.
Similarly, in terms of meditation it is crucial to be thoroughly versed in the proper method of our chosen
technique. While engaged in the practice, we must frequently check up to see whether we are
implementing the instructions we have heard and conceptually understood. Like a good crop, good
meditation cannot be forced, and requires cultivation over time."
B. Alan Wallace from Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up
Remember that we cannot avoid problems, but we can change our reaction to them. Be kind to yourself!
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On the List of Meditations page, you can find over 50 sample meditations.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advice on meditation
Have a look at the Frequently Asked Question page of the page, it is quite informative.
Practical Advice for Meditators from the Access to Insight website
The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest from the Access to Insight website
Just for fun:
It's time for the human race to enter the solar system.
Dan Quayle, U.S. Vice President
Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
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Last updated: June 7, 2002

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