Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Todd Goldfarb at the We The Change blog.
Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area. The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.
Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.
The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term:
1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still.
2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.

3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.
4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
6) Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.
7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.
9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are is terrific for beginners.
10) Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!
11) Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.
12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.
13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.
14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.
15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.
16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.
17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!
18) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.
19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.
20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is
hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!
Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice, but can be very difficult in the beginning. Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level!
Read more about personal development from Todd Goldfarb on his blog, We The Change.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This was written by Adam Miller at Progressive Buddhism. It really makes sense and deserves a read....I hope you like it as much as I did...

I want to hew close to the bone of life. I want to press myself right up against the grain of its pulse. I want to
tongue life's live nerve.
s is fine-grained. It's going to require a shift in scale. I'm
going to have stop living life in chunks of weeks and months, even in
terms of hours and days. This is too far from the action, six st
eps too
removed. I'm going to have to live life at the scale of minutes and
seconds - at the scale of fractions of seconds if I'm able.

going to have
to practice. This is hard to do. I'm going to have bring
myself back - again, again, again - to that which i
s so common, so
ordinary, so insignificant as to flit by at life's own breakneck pace.
I'm going to have to practice a finely-grained humility that is so
modest as to r
egister whatever is given at however small a scale as
worth my attention.

The modesty of the scale is hard to swallow. I had bigger plans in mind for myself. I was going to be a contender.

A breath? Really? An itch in my big toe? Really? A breeze tickling the rim of my ear? A brush of a kiss from wife's chapped lip?

Why not? What was I hoping for?
the modesty of pressing your full attention into the pressure and
resistance of a single deep breath. The whole thing is right here,
presented in flagrante, on a manageable scale.

and despair? Cupped in ignorance (or mystery, if you'd prefer), the
whole drama unfolds with transparent subtlety on the scale of seconds.
Hours, days, years, are hard to get your head around. But seconds . . .
Here, the breath ebbs and flows. Hope is inhaled. You're getting what
you hoped for, you're getting what you hoped for, you're getting what
you hoped for . . . full. Despair is exhaled, exhaled, exhaled. Before
your lungs are empty you know you'll have to start again.

and despa
ir do what they do. They come and they go. They ebb and they
flow. They rise and they fall. See it on the scale of seconds. See
their most ordinary face. Hope and despair on the scale of hours and
days and years is just more of the same. But now you've seen what they
are. How they work. How they come and go.

Don't be done with either of them. Let them do what they do. Rest in
them. Rest in their push and pull, and something else will happen: a
great peace and compassion will arise. A tenderness and sensitivity
enabled by immense modesty will take hold.

on the drama of hope/despair/ignorance - a drama available in microcosm
in each moment - I can look with compassion on how the whole thing
plays out, on how the same drama repeats itself in m
y hours, weeks, and
years. I can look with compassion on my vanity, my weakness, my fear
and, without excusing or fleeing them, name them for what they are and
watch, then, as their grip loosens. They just are what they are:
ordinary. I don't need to worry. The worry, spacing me from life, is
what wrings the life out of life's passing.

Change scale. You're trying to work with an out-sized canvas. It feels like you can't manage a project on such a scale because you can't.

The meek shall inherit the earth.
Thank you from the Progressive Buddhism bloggers

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five Mindfulness Trainings

The 5 Mindfulness Trainings

Where did the Mindfulness Trainings come from? They had to come from somewhere. There are three major causes and conditions that permitted their emergence. The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha. In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s mindfulness trainings were renewed, in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments. So when we study and penetrate deeply into the mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha. At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened.

The First Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.