Week 1 - Meditation Instructions and Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

In his talk last week Jack said that the essence of meditation practice is to awaken to things as they are rather than through the lens of how we do or don’t want them to be.  The word “dharma” refers to the truth of the way things are as well as to the teachings of the Buddha. 

He talked briefly about the various types of meditation and the importance of picking a practice and sticking with it. Rather than separating us from society, Vipassana (insight meditation) brings us into a wiser relationship with the world around us and the people in our lives.  The practice helps us learn to be with difficulty (such as restlessness, worry, fear, pain, etc.) and to see the transient and impersonal nature of it. 

This series examines the four foundations of mindfulness:  the breath, the body, the heart (emotions/moods) and the mind, and how to apply these in our daily lives.  

He then guided a meditation focusing primarily on the breath.

Here are the questions and practices for this week.  Please feel free to comment about your practice or pose any questions you have to the community on the blog.  Like the example he gave of learning to play the piano, you will get out of this practice exactly what you put into it.

Questions

1. Are you aware of how grasping pleasant experiences and aversion to unpleasant causes suffering in your life?  What are some of the situations in your life that cause you suffering?
    
2. In response to the concern he mentions that “meditation might fragment us or take us away from society,” for those of you who have had an ongoing meditation practice how has it changed your interaction with or perception of the world?

3. Jack sets some lofty goals for meditation, he says pretty much that we can change the world through awareness and love.  Does this seem feasible to you?  What is your goal in practicing or learning to practice?

4. During your meditation, with discomfort of any kind, pain, an itch, anxiety, racing thoughts, were you able to stay with it, to notice the resistance and just be with it?  What was that like? 


Practices

1. Make a commitment to sit daily for a set amount of time.  Set a timer.  When you first sit, set an intention to be with whatever comes, with friendly curiosity and receptivity.  Begin your meditation by bringing as much relaxation as you can while still remaining alert and upright.  Sometimes bringing a little smile to your lips will bring a softness and openness to your meditation.  

2. When unpleasant sensations come and aversion or resistance are strong, note your aversion to it and make that your object of meditation until it passes.  

3. If it works for you, practice “noting,” for instance when your mind wanders mentally note “thinking,” and then come back to your breath.  The wandering mind is not the problem, it’s the attitude that judges the wandering mind that’s the problem.  

Bonus Practice

4. Set a meditation timer to chime randomly during the day or place some stickers of some kind in strategic places around your house, in your car, office - to remind yourself to take some mindful breaths and try to be present for whatever it is you’re doing.  We don’t sit to become better meditators but to be more mindful and awake in our lives.