Introduction to Meditation

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Dharma Self-Study Guide


Vipassana, or insight meditation, is a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. The practice fosters development of clarity and non-judgmental mindfulness.

We suggest following this material in order, beginning with Getting Started With Meditation, then the basic Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

Getting Started with Meditation

Meditation Instructions

If you are new to meditation, you might want to listen to these brief instructions on sitting, walking, and mindfulness meditation before beginning the dharma talks below.

Gil introduces you to the practice of mindfulness. This practice has value not only for meditation times but also for daily life. Mindfulness uses our capacity to be aware, which leads to clear seeing. Developing this awareness becomes a constant part of our lives.

Gil builds on your experience from Part 1. He explores the capacity to reflect and what it means to monitor the mind ‐ the ability to be present for our experience without needing to judge the experience. We learn to watch and to develop our capacity to be calm.

The lovingkindness, or metta, practice allows us to shape our minds and to create the conditions for happiness. We can learn to cultivate the quality of good-heartedness by developing the intention for someone else’s happiness.

Overview and Metta to Self

Metta to Benefactor and Friend

Metta to Neutral Person

Metta to Difficult Person

Guided Meditation on Forgiveness

To continue with your practice, join an upcoming Introduction to Meditation class or visit the Saturday Sitting Group for a chance to discuss the practices and to learn from others. Join our membership list to receive email announcements about upcoming classes and events.

Basic Buddhist Teaching

The Four Noble Truths

In this core Buddhist teaching we learn that there is suffering in the world, there are causes for this suffering, there is the cessation of suffering, and there is a path to the cessation of suffering. These three teachers each offer their perspective and understanding of this core teaching.

Joseph Goldstein

Particular attention is paid to the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena, the unsatisfactory nature of sense pleasure, and attachment to feelings, views, and self as the cause of suffering. Joseph also introduces the Buddhist concept of annata, selflessness.

Sally Clough Armstrong

Does getting what we want bring us happiness? Sally discusses the Four Noble Truths not as a philosophy, but as a practical approach to freedom.

Carol Wilson

Carol explores the Four Noble Truths as a basic context/description of life, suffering, and freedom that serves to support and inform all our various methods of practice.

Understanding the Four Noble Truths are an indispensable foundation for freedom. To begin, one must fully understand the nature of suffering.

Suffering is driven by craving - for sense pleasure, for existence. We must turn toward our suffering and learn to be present for it.

Cessation comes from the letting go of craving. Liberation is achieved through non-clinging/non-craving. What is it to let go? What is my role in clinging? How can we experience the mind free of craving?

The Buddha understood that we can experience the cessation of suffering. He prescribed a path of letting go, of engaging with the day-to-day work of creating the path.

The Noble Eightfold Path

As expressed in the fourth noble truth, the Buddha provided us with a path to the cessation of suffering. That path is illuminated in the teachings on the Noble Eightfold Path. Each “fold” builds upon the previous one. The first two ‐ Right View and Intention ‐ aim us toward the development of wisdom and understanding. The next three ‐ Right Speech, Action and Livelihood ‐ provide a framework for ethical conduct, a means to build harmonious relationships with others and the world. The final three ‐ Right Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration ‐ instruct us on our mental development and meditation practices.

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