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Meditation in daily life

  1. Introduction
  2. Formal med­i­ta­tion
    2.1  Time of the day
    2.2  Suitable place
    2.3  Group support
    2.4  Short term retreats
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  3. Daily activities
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    3.1  Mindfulness
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    3.2  Food for the mind
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    3.3  Friends, family members, colleagues
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  4. One activity at a time
  5. Changes in attitude
Buddha-Dipa Buddha sculpture at Dipabhavan med­i­ta­tion centre, Koh Samui

1. Introduction

The Dalai Lama wrote in his book A­wak­en­ing the Mind, Light­en­ing the Heart, p. 72-73: “To make our spir­i­tu­al prac­tice stable and enduring, we must train con­sis­tent­ly. A fair- weather prac­ti­tion­er has little hope of a­chiev­ing his or her goal. It is extremely im­por­tant to prac­tice the teachings day after day, month after month, year after year. [...] During the (med­i­ta­tion) ses­sion we are actually re­fu­el­ing or re­charging our energy to be able to prac­tice after the ses­sion.
Therefore the more we are able to mould the mind during the session, the better we will be able to face dif­fi­culties after­wards.”

This under­lines the im­por­tance of stick­ing to a regular formal med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. It is even more im­por­tant to carry these skills into our daily ac­tiv­ities. The fol­low­ing will give some hints about how to start and continue your med­i­ta­tion prac­tice outside of a med­i­ta­tion center.

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2. Formal med­i­ta­tion

2.1 Time of the day

Set up a certain time of the day for your formal prac­tice. The best time, in my opinion the only time with some chance of suc­cess, is the early morn­ing. If nec­es­sary get up half an hour earlier and make it the first thing you do after your bath­room rituals. Many may find the early morning to be very condu­cive for medita­tion and it might be easier to avoid dis­trac­tions, eg by other family mem­bers or external noise.

The second best time is the evening, before going to bed. But it is more dif­fi­cult to stick to a regular evening med­i­ta­tion than an early morning med­i­ta­tion. The evening is the time for all kinds of activi­ties and social events. Visiting friends, meeting others for dinner, going to the cinema or some­where else is quite often ac­com­pa­nied by the use of alcohol or other kinds of drugs. Alcohol and med­i­ta­tion do not mix. Other drugs are even worse. Even with­out, you will probably be tired – maybe too tired.

The third best time is when you come home from work and before you start your leisure activi­ties. But during this time
demands on you by other family mem­bers or the nec­es­sary duties like shop­ping, pre­paring meals and cleaning may be quite heavy. Addi­tionally you may be tired or quite ex­haust­ed by your job.

Try to use the early morning, sitting every day for 30 minutes at least. If you have more time to spend, fine. You may want to sit for a longer period or have a second sitting at another time of the day. You will not reach deep stages of con­cen­tra­tion with only 30 min­utes of med­i­ta­tion daily, but half an hour to calm the mind, to reflect on what is hap­pen­ing in your life, will help you to accept life as it is. The need to ma­nip­ulate rela­tion­ships, sit­u­ations or the en­vi­ron­ment accord­ing to your likes and dis­likes will lessen. You will become more content and balanced, more valuable to our­selves and others.

It is nice and beneficial to end sittings with a few minutes of loving kind­ness med­i­ta­tion or even devote a whole ses­sion every now and then to this kind of prac­tice.

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2.2 Suitable place

Set up a certain place for your prac­tice, a place you ex­clu­sive­ly reserve for formal sitt­ing med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. This may be a spare room or just a corner; you may dec­o­rate it with flow­ers, a picture, a sculpture or what­ever.
It should not be a fancy place, but a spot where you want to be, free of dis­trac­tions, a place to calm down, to relax, to look inside.

2.3 Group support

Try to find a group of fellow med­i­tators. Nowadays you will find in many towns in the West groups who come together for spir­i­tu­al de­vel­op­ment regularly, maybe once or twice a week. It has not necessarily to be a Bud­dhist group, as long as they sit quietly and medi­tate. Look in the news­papers, in magazines or on the internet. The group support and the group energy will help you to stick to the formal practice.

As the need for spir­i­tu­ality grows, there are all kinds of esoteric offers avail­able. Many are hon­est; some just aim to make money. Choose care­fully your group or teacher.
Ask the teacher where and how long he or she has studied and why; and how long she or he has been teaching – find out for your­self whether the teacher is ap­pro­pri­ate for you, do not believe just because the teacher is famous, or because others have told you. A rec­om­men­da­tion by the Ven­er­able U. Vima­lar­amsi, a med­i­ta­tion teacher, says: “The way to select a good teacher is by observing if their stu­dents are kind, pleasant, friendly and supportive.” Of course the teacher should also show the same qualities. If there is no med­i­ta­tion group in your vicinity, you could start one to attract like- minded people.

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2.4 Short-term retreats

Try to do a short-term retreat with friends or alone at home from time to time. Maybe you can reserve a week­end ded­i­cated to medi­tation and to silence. If a whole weekend is too much, just have a day of silence every now and then. If you have the time, do a 10-day retreat maybe once a year to recharge your spir­i­tu­al bat­tery, to get more settled in the prac­tice. Meanwhile there are med­i­ta­tion centers nearly eve­rywhere in the West with some excellent teachers; many of them have prac­tised for years as nuns or monks in India or South East Asia. [...]