This evening, and for the last few weeks I’ve been meeting up with a Meditation group that holds sessions in a martial arts studio on Magazine Street. It’s a small group of about 4 to 8 people of various ages and backgrounds. We usually start by meditating for a few minutes then we have some time carved out for discussion, then a longer meditation session of about 30 minutes. About the meditation itself, there are three kinds that I’ve been practicing and a quick rundown of what they’re about
- The first one involves just watching your breath. Not trying to change it by breathing deeply to relax or any of that stuff. If it’s shallow, you watch your shallow breath, if you have a stuffed nose and only have one functioning nostril, you watch your breath out of that one nostril. I like this way in that by just dealing with it the way it is, now the way you want it to be, the practice kinda preludes to bigger things in life and just dealing with them and seeing them as they are in reality. This is not the main meditation focus, although for many people it is, this kind is just practice to get your powers of concentration sharp enough to be able to focus on one thing with all of your attention for longer and longer periods of time without your focus being captured by monkey mind babble.
- The second kind is insight meditation or mindfulness meditation and it starts after you’ve watched your breath and centered long enough to be able to concentrate on your own experience while you sit there and meditate. It’s insight/mindfulness in that you pretty much just watch all the things your body and mind go through from a sort of objective point of view. If you have an itch you don’t scratch it, you just watch your body doing it’s thing. That includes various thoughts you have and emotions associated with those thoughts. The idea is that things happen around you all the time, but really the only thing you have control over is your own thoughts, emotions, and reactions. When you experience something unpleasant in life, it’s really your sensations that habitually arise due to your interpretation of the event that is causing you to suffer. You get more detached, and therefore experience less suffering (sufferings kind of a strong word in the west, maybe unpleasantness would be better) when you are able to look inwards and see all this running its course. Also, people have the habit of reacting with craving for pleasant feelings or experiences and reacting with aversion to unpleasant ones. By sitting, meditating and watching your body’s experience you learn to do this by starting off with small things, not giving in to that good feeling of mediation, staying neutral when your body aches from sitting too long, not scratching those random body itches that come up for no reason. Sounds like a bit of a stretch but that’s the idea.
- The third kind is called ‘Meta’ and is kind of a short meditation you can do at the end of a session. It’s basically just wishing positive things for people starting with yourself and people you care about and then extending that to people you are neutral about and then even to enemies and ultimately all people indiscriminately. Basically things like ‘may he/she be happy, may he/she find peace’ etc…
Anyways, because I’ll be moving to Thailand next year, I like that I’m learning a bit about Buddhism before I actually go. I’ve been enjoying learning about Southeast Asian culture and although it’s not a substitute for actually being there I’m glad to learn what I can beforehand.