Then it is best to not expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Do not become the “doer” of the practice, do not get obsessive about it, and do not force anything. Take your time and be patient. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Do not cling to any pleasurable experience
The right attitude towards the practice is to observe, to get to know all your states of mind. Your desires, your hopes and fears, your ambitions, your anger, your boredom, your doubts, your self-righteousness... Try to understand and experience how and why they arise, see all of them cease. And once you really know and understand them, you can let go of them. Letting go means to allow things to go, not to get rid of them, not to suppress, deny, reject or run away from them. You can allow them to go because you start to understand their nature, you know that they have arisen, and you will see them fading away of their own accord. Nothing stays in the mind forever, not the things we like, not the things we dislike.
- Taylor's squat
- Burmese style (lower legs one in front, not on top of each other)
- ¼ Lotus (one foot is resting on the opposite lower leg)
- ½ Lotus (one foot is resting on the opposite thigh)
- Full Lotus (both feet are resting on opposite thighs)
- Japanese sitting (on or between the heels)
- Kneeling bench (meditation chair)
- Mermaid posture (both legs to one side of the body)
- Chair (without leaning against the backrest)
|Burmese style||Half Lotus||Kneeling bench|
- Legs and feet
- Buttocks (use cushion, sit at the front edge, tilt the cushions forward towards the feet)
- Knees (below the hips and on the mat if possible)
- Back (straight, vertebrae like a staple of coins)
- Shoulders (relaxed and slightly rolled back)
- Arms and hands (hands rest on the knees or in the lap about two inches underneath the navel, palms facing up, wrists touching the thighs. Arms not too close to the body. Allow some space between elbows and body, this is more relaxed and cooler as well. There are no mudras in Theravada Buddhism). Experiment a little.
- Neck (straight and relaxed)
- Head (may slightly drop forward)
- Mouth closed, lips are gently touching each other, tongue slightly pressed against the upper palate and the tip against the back side of the front teeth
- Eyes (closed or slightly open, when open gazing along the nose at the floor)
- Breathing (abdomen and chest, long, deep and forced at the beginning but not too long at a time)
- Clothes (comfortable, not tight, no thick material, no restriction of blood flow or pressure on nerves, loosen belt)
The aim of concentration meditation is to keep the attention on this meditation object only (or as much as possible).
The breath is just one possible meditation object. It has several advantages, the main one may be its availability; we can use it any time anywhere without the need for extra preparations and this is why it is used frequently.
That’s it for the start – this is the basic technique, nothing more to do. We concentrate on our breathing, want to be mindful of it continually, breath after breath; the breath is our meditation object.
We start with being mindful of one breath, one in breath and then one out breath, and then of the next in breath and so on. In due course your concentration will grow and we may be able to increase the time we can focus on the breath. If the mind wanders away, we gently, without judging or condemning ourselves, without regarding us as hopeless meditators, will bring it back to the breath, again and again. Our aim is to notice quicker and quicker when we’ve lost our meditation object and then gently bring the mind back to the breath as soon as we notice that we’ve gone astray. [...]
During concentration meditation we’ve tried to focus on one object only, on our breathing, have tried to exclude everything else that we’ve become aware of, have treated everything else as distractions. In vipassana or insight meditation we now open up to everything that attracts our attention, that is happening in our body and mind. We don’t try to exclude other experiences anymore.
What we are looking for is to experience impermanence and we don’t have to go far to do so. We will look for impermanence in our body, feelings, perceptions, in our thinking and consciousness. [...]
So in vipassana meditation we stay with everything that attracts our attention for as long as this experience lasts
Wherever we pay attention to, we will see and experience impermanence and by doing this we will recognize the inherent unsatisfactory nature of everything we know. How can something be genuine fulfilling if it does not last, if we experience it only temporary before leaving us with a sense of lack or loss? Finally the mind will realize: Wherever I pay attention to, nothing stays, everything fades away. So why run after things, why put so much effort into chasing after pleasurable experiences or run away from disagreeable ones? They are impermanent anyway. Nothing is really worth chasing after, it makes no sense to cling to things or events because they will not last, they will fade away. The pleasure I get from them already carries its disintegration - our attachments begin to fade away, our problems will diminish accordingly.
Loving kindness meditation is done by focusing on a person or a group of persons, reflecting on their qualities and sending good will, sympathy and friendliness to them. In the
The favorite person to start with is you yourself because only when you are at peace with yourself will you be able to develop friendliness and loving kindness towards others. Then systematically sending loving kindness from one type of person to the other in the above given order will have the effect of breaking down barriers between yourself and the other four types of people.
There are countless variations of doing loving kindness meditation, no fixed forms or phrases, and of course, there are the traditional ways of practicing it as well. So what will be introduced here is just one way of doing it. For those with keen interest in this kind of meditation I recommend the already mentioned book by Sharon Salzberg: Loving Kindness. The revolutionary art of happiness. Shambala, Boston & London 1997.
In the beginning of this practice some people might have difficulties in developing the feeling of loving kindness, to experience the actual emotion of loving kindness. As a preliminary exercise try to imagine a young pet, a little dog or cat as it is playing in its clumsy ways or try to imagine a baby or little child as it is smiling back at you. Nobody would do any harm to these little beings, there is only care and well-wishing. The emotion that normally now arises in your mind is the feeling of loving kindness we are looking for.
Now imagine the kindly shining sun that radiates its energy, both rays of light and warmth towards all things, living or nonliving, to all human beings of all races and religions in all parts of the world without preference or prejudice. [30 to 60sec.]
Now imagine yourself as this lovely shining sun with all loving kindness as its energy and start radiating the loving kindness as the sun does with its rays of light and warmth. [30 to 60sec.]
To yourself (not easy for some)
Now bring up an image of yourself that you can recall best.
Try to see yourself smiling back at you. [30 to 60 sec.]
Now slowly repeat these words in your mind:
- May I be happy and well.
- May I be far away from troubles and dangers.
- May I live happily in peace.
Some common phrases used in loving kindness meditation: Choose whichever you find appropriate, invent your own phrases. Three or four phrases are enough, no need to use all of them any time.
- May ... be happy and well. ( ... = I or you or, he, she, they, we)
- May ... be safe and warm.
- May ... be far away from troubles and dangers.
- May ... not be parted from the good fortune ... have attained.
- May ... live (exist) happily in peace.
- May ... have mental happiness.
- May ... have bodily well-being.
- May ... be able to let go of anger, fear, worry and ignorance.
- May ... be open to life.
- May ... be free from all suffering.
Now bring up an image of one of your teachers or of a person you’ve learned from or of somebody who is or was benevolent to you. [30 to 60 sec.]
- May you ...
- May you ...
- May you ...
- This person is struggling for life as I do. (You will call the person by his/her name of course).
- This person makes mistakes as I do.
- He/she has to deal with his/her anger, fear uncertainties, wrong views as I have to.
- He/she tries to overcome greed, hatred, delusion as I try.
- By following his/her way of life as I’m following my way of life, he/she has given me another perspective of life to learn.
- He/she has shown me some of my weak points so that I can improve myself.
- May you ...
Bring your attention back to yourself. Feel your heart filled with loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy. Now extend your loving kindness to all human beings of all races and religions without prejudice.
Extend your loving kindness further to all animals, plants,... Then slowly repeat these words in your mind:
- May you ...
Other possible receivers of our loving kindness may be people with difficulties and/or suffering like victims of natural catastrophes or wars, people in jail or with diseases...
The complete text (11 A4 pages) can be downloaded as a pdf-file at:
Meditation techniques.pdf (449 kB)