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Creating Space – Week 1

Week One – What is meditation and why do we meditate?

What is meditation?
The most general term for meditation in Tibetan is GOM, which is related to the word for getting used to something.
So as a working definition, we can say that meditation means ‘familiarizing our heart/mind with something positive,’ where ‘something positive’ means a state of being or an object that contributes to long-term stable happiness for ourselves and others.

{{{Creating Space}}}
Why do we meditate?
Many people start to meditate to gain the ability to relax, to become less stressed, to lower their blood pressure or to be able to concentrate better.
A further goal is getting to know ourselves better, making friends with ourselves.
The classic Buddhist goal is to use meditation to become a fully enlightened being – maybe a long shot for us!
In this tradition, meditation can help us become better human beings, calmer, happier and especially kinder and more loving, wiser, and more capable people.

How to start: Watch your mind – not like watching TV!
Check out the state of your mind. Is it peaceful or agitated, positive, negative or neutral?
While external objects and circumstances can contribute to our happiness, it is our minds that have the greatest influence.
Use a breathing practice or other technique to shift the mind to a neutral or positive state.

Four techniques
1. Counting breaths. Can do simply or as a four step method
2. Breathing in positive energy, breathing out all worries, concerns, irritations
3. Nine-round breathing to clear out stale air and energy
4. Focusing on sound

How long to do these practices?

As a preliminary to further meditation, do them until your mind is a bit settled. As relaxation and calming exercise, 5-10 minutes once or twice a day is helpful. You can also take mini-breaks at work or in any stressful situation and just focus your mind on your breath for a few minutes. Even three deep conscious breaths can help.

Preparation for meditation and posture will be covered in detail in the second week.

The two main kinds of meditation in the Tibetan tradition:

Just as there are many types of exercise, there are many types of meditation. The two main types are

1.Concentrated or stabilizing meditation. This means concentrating upon something without interruption. The object could be the breath, a state of mind such as a feeling or concept, or a visualized image.
Concentrated meditation is not easy, and should be done in short sessions. We will be talking primarily about concentrated meditation for the first two weeks.
2. Analytic or discursive meditation. This means creatively investigating an object or topic using information we have heard or read as well as our own thoughts, feelings and memories. When you get a direct understanding of the object of your meditation, use concentrated meditation to make it a part of you.

We will be doing the metta or friendliness meditation and some work with visualization and mantra in the last two weeks – these are analytic meditations.

Two important activities

Before any activity: Setting motivation – thinking about what you want to do and why you want to do it

After any activity: Dedicating – reviewing what you have done, acknowledging the positive energy created and dedicating it to a larger purpose
Suggested homework for beginners – two ten minute sessions of breathing practice a day

A Loving-Kindness Practice – use as a dedication or any time you need it (Do not skip the first stanza!)

May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.
May everyone be filled with loving-kindness.
May everyone be well.
May everyone be peaceful and at ease.
May everyone be happy.

Buddhism in a nutshell

Avoid what is harmful;
Practice what is skillful;
Cleanse your own mind of shadows:
This is the path of Dharma.

A simple dedication

Through the positive energy we have created, may all of us become kinder and more loving, wiser and more capable human beings.
Through the power of the good actions we have done, may we soon attain the totally enlightened state
So that we may liberate all beings everywhere from every kind of suffering.
Due to all the merits of the three times, accumulated by myself and others, may any being just by seeing, hearing, remembering, touching and talking to me be freed in that very second from all their sufferings and abide in the peerless happiness of full enlightenment forever.

Make it practical, down to earth, and relevant to your life!
“The key to making the methods of Dharma effective is always trying to see how the teachings fit in with your everyday life.” Lama Yeshe

Posted on Saturday, January 8th, 2011