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Beginners Practice Questions

WheelWheel Scotland New

Hey Everyone!

Over the past week or two, I have been exploring buhddism and am gently working out whether the philosophy is for me. Alongside my research I have been practicing meditation every single day, and I had some questions about my current routine.

Generally, I will meditate twice in a day, once in the morning and once in the evening - normally for between ten to twenty minutes at at time. To do this I am using the app called 'Insight Timer' which you guys may have heard of. I started out listening to guided meditations exclusively but now I am trying to meditate solo using the included timer. My questions are as follows -

  1. Is there an optimum time period to be aiming for, or is it down to personal preference?

  2. Is there a particular technique I should be sticking to, or is learning from various guided meditations and then applying to my solo meditation ideal?

  3. When meditating using a timer, is ambient sounds like water running okay or should I aim as best I can for total silence? What about interval timers?

Thank you everyone for your help, and I am looking forward to being part of this wonderful community.

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I don't think there is an optimum time... I usually meditate once daily in the morning, and it can take anything from twenty minutes to several hours. It depends how much time you have available.

    Usually the standard vipassanā technique is a good one to do regularly. I find guided meditations to interfere a bit with what the body-mind wants to address this meditation.

    I think ambient sounds are a personal choice, and interval timers like bells too are sometimes useful, but sometimes an irritant. Try them out and see how you feel?

    It's great you're trying meditation before you decide on Buddhism as a path. Totally apart from Buddhism, meditation has a lot of benefits for the mind and body.

    Wheel
  • WheelWheel Scotland New

    @Kerome said:
    I don't think there is an optimum time... I usually meditate once daily in the morning, and it can take anything from twenty minutes to several hours. It depends how much time you have available.

    Usually the standard vipassanā technique is a good one to do regularly. I find guided meditations to interfere a bit with what the body-mind wants to address this meditation.

    I think ambient sounds are a personal choice, and interval timers like bells too are sometimes useful, but sometimes an irritant. Try them out and see how you feel?

    It's great you're trying meditation before you decide on Buddhism as a path. Totally apart from Buddhism, meditation has a lot of benefits for the mind and body.

    Thank you Kerome! Your encouragement and advice is much appreciated, and it has cleared up a lot of my questions. Do you know of any particular online resource that would be useful in learning the vipassana technique afforementioned? :)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Vipassāna can shortly be described thus:

    Find a comfortable position, preferably with the back straight. Concentrate your awareness on the breath, specifically on the rising and falling of the hara, a spot several inches below the navel. Watch the mind, as this wanders off return the attention to the hara. Slowly let the mind clear and come to rest.

    There is a longer article on Lions Roar on how to practice vipassāna, here:

    https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-vipassana-insight-meditation/

    DhammaDragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think the answer to all of them is do what works for you :) I started meditation with just a few minutes and increased it from there, because a few minutes was all i could manage when 3 minutes felt like it surely was an hour! There are a million ways to meditate, none of them is more right than the other. And if sounds help, then go for it. But, I do think it is good to practice both. For me though I go to retreats and did not want to rely on music/sounds when I knew neither would be available in those retreats or in my sangha's weekly meditation so I didn't want to come to rely on them. I frequently meditation with the windows open though, and we have a lot of noisy birds and such outside, so it's the same effect anyhow lol. There are no rules to meditation. The idea is just to learn what way works best for you to sit and let your mind be without attaching to what it is up to. Then things start to calm in time, and there is more space for insight within that being.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Wheel said:
    1. Is there an optimum time period to be aiming for, or is it down to personal preference?

    Hello B)
    For me it is about 40 minutes. Your time will arise, change and become less of an issue, once you start to find your regular practice.

    1. Is there a particular technique I should be sticking to, or is learning from various guided meditations and then applying to my solo meditation ideal?

    Both.
    Initially concentration and just the effort and discipline of sitting is quite an achievement.

    1. When meditating using a timer, is ambient sounds like water running okay or should I aim as best I can for total silence?

    Depends. Running water or chanting can be calming. For some sound generated, mantra is the whole of their healing practice. Personally I associate listening to led meditations or ambient/nature sounds as additional calming practices ...

    What about interval timers?

    They are a good idea initially. It provides a set achievement ... However [spoiler alert] Buddhist meditation is NOT about achievement. Strange but true. However that takes a lot of time and experience to assimilate and understand in a goal orientated being (that be us). The Insight Timer and community - I use the community but find the whole set up and timing too fiddly at present. I just meditate and finish and certainly do not require validation.

    Sit Well.

    http://cundi.weebly.com/meditation.html

    BunksDhammaDragonHozan
  • WheelWheel Scotland New

    Thank you so much @lobster, that is much appreciated. I had never actually considered interval timers in that way before so it was really eye-opening for me!

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    Hi, @Wheel!
    I find the Anapanasati and Satipatthana sutras provide the most helpful description on meditation available.
    For more information, Thich Nhat Hanh explains them in his book "Awakening of the Heart."

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html

    Many of us use the Insight Timer app here.
    To me, meditation consists in simply sitting comfortably breathing in, breathing out and beginning again for as long as it feels right.
    Half an hour in the morning and evening are my favourite moments, with deep breathing intervals interspersed here and there to clear my mind.
    I find guided meditations too distracting and not really conducive to the state of introspection I seek in my meditation.
    Perfect silence is not a requisite, so I incorporate any background noise into my meditation.
    I have learned to find peace and mindfulness in the midst of the madding crowd.

    Hozan
  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    @Wheel. I strongly recommend "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" by Nyanaponika Thera. I believe timers may well lead to a stunted awareness. They only establish a dependency which eventually must be overcome imo.

    mosquito
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited May 6

    FWIW -- After we had been embroiled in a sex scandal at the Zen center we both attended, a buddy of mine and I quit the center and took to meeting each other once a week for an hour or so of meditation and then a Thai or Chinese meal at some local restaurant. It made for a nice evening.

    But one evening after sitting I asked my friend, "Did you ever notice that whether it's a lousy sitting (full of interruptions, inability to focus, confusion or whatever) or a good sitting (sharply focused, easy and complete), still -- whether good or bad -- still there is something inescapably good about sitting?" He thought a minute and then said simply, "Yup." And since both of us knew there was no way to quantify or describe that goodness adequately -- that praise and blame were just so much hot air -- we dropped the subject and went out for supper.

    If you think it's good, that doesn't cover what happens. If you think it's bad, that doesn't cover it either.

    Bon appétit!

    Bunkslobster
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