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Meditation Question

edited May 2009 in Meditation
I have two questions about meditation:
1) Do you have to sit cross-legged? What is the purpose of that?
2) In meditation are you suppose to think about anything? Are you suppose to meditate about something? or are you suppose to quiet your mind?
Thanks SOOO much!
-Brad

Comments

  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    You don't have to sit cross-legged, but the idea is to provide as stable a base as you can so your muscles aren't working to hold you upright and you don't get tired sitting for long periods. Normally the best way to do that is cross-legged. If you can do the lotus posture (the soles of your feet placed on top of the opposite thigh), that's the most stable, but most Americans can't do that one. The half-lotus is more doable with only one foot up on your thigh and the other sort of in front of your legs. There is also the seiza position, which is kneeling, usually with a cushion or bench to give you more support.

    The best way to meditate is to just observe the workings of the mind. Don't think about anything in particular. The best way when you're starting is to focus on your breathing. You can count breaths to 10 and then start over or just focus on the breathing itself. That's just a way to keep your mind from running down its usual many paths. Even better is to just sit with no thinking, but that's difficult to do at first (and even not at first). If you find yourself drifting away, thinking about supper or playing basketball or what show is coming up on TV later or whatever, just bring your mind back to your breath. Every time you drift, bring your mind back. It's not called practice for nuttin'!

    Palzang
  • edited May 2009
    Ok thanks! Makes Sense!
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Here are sites for Zen Meditation Instructions if you are interested. There is a bit of a trick with meditation and that is you learn to do it quite naturally over time if you do it. (for example similar to learning how to ride a bike) :) Best wishes.
  • edited May 2009
    Thanks Abu!
  • edited May 2009
    Hi Brad,

    There's also a series of Buddhist meditation videos on You-tube.

    This is the first one in the series.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd7a9Ur2x0o


    Kind wishes,

    Dazzle
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Bradv93 wrote: »
    Thanks Abu!


    You're welcome, Brad ! :)
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Bradv93
    A Tibetan monk told me that the important thing about our meditation posture is to keep our back straight, so that the "winds" can move freely up and down the spine. Now, I don't know about "winds" from my own experience, and I haven't asked for elaboration, but this reminds me of a yogic meditation system that is said to move energy up and down the spine to speed up enlightenment.

    It is almost impossible to slouch when sitting in the lotus posture (which, ironically, is an almost impossible posture to get into!). And I suspect that the traditional lotus posture is to facilitate spinal energy/wind movement. Fortunately for us Westerners, all we have to do is to sit up straight!
  • GlowGlow Veteran
    edited May 2009
    FoibleFull wrote: »
    Bradv93
    A Tibetan monk told me that the important thing about our meditation posture is to keep our back straight, so that the "winds" can move freely up and down the spine. Now, I don't know about "winds" from my own experience, and I haven't asked for elaboration, but this reminds me of a yogic meditation system that is said to move energy up and down the spine to speed up enlightenment.

    It is almost impossible to slouch when sitting in the lotus posture (which, ironically, is an almost impossible posture to get into!). And I suspect that the traditional lotus posture is to facilitate spinal energy/wind movement. Fortunately for us Westerners, all we have to do is to sit up straight!
    Are you sure he didn't just mean "air"? One of the instructions I've come across for meditation has been to sit in such a way so that the flow of air (what the Tibetan monk may have been referring to as "winds") is not obstructed.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    No, the winds referred to are psychic winds, part of the winds and channels that make up the so-called "spiritual body". This is something that is dealt with in higher levels of tantric practice. Bringing the winds and channels into alignment and harmony is the main reason why tantric methods can be a much faster way to achieve liberation.

    Palzang
  • GlowGlow Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Interesting. I am more familiar with the Bengali Vajrayana tradition, and have never come across that particular teaching. I have, however, seen these pithy instructions for meditation in various places:

    Body like a mountain.
    Breath like the wind.
    Mind like the sky.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    What's the Bengali Vajrayana tradition?

    And as Dogen Zenji said, "Sit like a mountain." Good advice. Mountains don't think! Or at least I don't think so...

    Palzang
  • GlowGlow Veteran
    edited May 2009
    The Bengali Vajrayana/Tantra tradition is one of the schools of Indian Buddhism that the Tibetan tradition (and certain no longer extent schools of Indian Mahayana) is thought to have branched out of. It's still preserved today in some of the monasteries along the Chittagong hill tracts of present-day Bangladesh. (I've read somewhere that this is the region where Tantric Buddhism actually originated as well.). My first teacher was a practitioner of the Sangharaja Nikaya school of Bangladesh - it's closest to Theravada (which was actually just one of many Nikaya schools of early Buddhism before the development of Mahayana), but incorporates much of the early Tantric teachings (which, as my teacher explained it, sounded not too dissimilar to Vedic yoga).
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Interesting, thank you. I know I was very surprised to learn that the centers for some of the very earliest Theravadan schools were in - believe it or don't - Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a very Buddhist country in the day.

    Palzang
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Hey Glow,
    you might just be right about the word "winds" possibly referring to "air". After all, English IS this teacher's second language. At the same time though, I am not aware of any airway obstruction when I slouch. I suppose I could just ASK what he means by "winds". Would that be too simple?
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran
    edited May 2009
    I believe Palzang is correct about 'winds'. I've read quite a lot of Vajrayana information regarding winds and how they work. From what I've read, winds are not physical air flow in the body but spiritual winds, as Palzang pointed out. (You think I could type the word 'winds' a couple of more times in this post about 'winds'?) :D
  • LesCLesC Bermuda Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Palzang wrote: »
    Interesting, thank you. I know I was very surprised to learn that the centers for some of the very earliest Theravadan schools were in - believe it or don't - Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a very Buddhist country in the day.

    Palzang

    Would it be so today... I think we would not see the troubles that are there at the moment!
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    I know. It breaks my heart to see what is going on in Afghanistan and how the Taliban just refuses to go away. For some reason, I feel a very strong connection to Afghanistan and to see it raped by a bunch of extremist pigs is most upsetting.

    Palzang
  • GlowGlow Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Ah, k. Thanks for the clarification, Brigid!

    Re: Afghanistan - I agree. it is very sad to see what is going on there now. Human beings seem very good at creating their own Hell realms out of this earth.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Glow wrote: »
    Ah, k. Thanks for the clarification, Brigid!

    Re: Afghanistan - I agree. it is very sad to see what is going on there now. Human beings seem very good at creating their own Hell realms out of this earth.


    There ain't nowhere else to do it, Glow!
  • edited May 2009
    I hope this isn't too much of a digression -- because I have a bad head cold and chest infection, I have changed my style of meditating which follows that described by Palzang above in the thread to another way of meditating by paying attention to the abdomen or belly, observing the rising and falling as breath moves through the body. The kind of vipassana meditation I have heard described this way: http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=1465

    Previously I had tended to focus on the breath leaving my nostrils, very softly, a small area of focus and that worked well for me.

    But with the initial attention on the abdomen, it feels much more vulnerable and a little overwhelming, as if ripples of energy or warmth are flowing outward and upward, rather like being suffused with heat at a slow pulse. Not sensual but emotional energies, very tender and soft.

    I'm hesitant to ascribe much to this because of the fact that I'm unwell and therefore physically more vulnerable than usual. BUt does anyone else have experience of beginning with this kind of meditation and having something similar happen?

    Mary
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Dear Mary - Trust yourself. _/\_
  • edited May 2009
    Thanks Abu -- establishing a sitting practice in isolation is not easy and suppportive comments help.

    Mary
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited May 2009
    butterfly.jpg
  • edited May 2009
    Beautiful - and that delicacy and lightness of the buttrfly is an image that has come to me so often in working through difficulties in meditation.

    Mary
  • yuriythebestyuriythebest Veteran
    edited May 2009
    Palzang wrote: »
    I know. It breaks my heart to see what is going on in Afghanistan and how the Taliban just refuses to go away. For some reason, I feel a very strong connection to Afghanistan and to see it raped by a bunch of extremist pigs is most upsetting.

    Palzang


    yeah quite a thought actually. It's kinda weird trying to imagine a "tibetan afghanistam" but upon further contemplation I guess it would be very much like tibet itself- the country mainly consists of mountainous badlands so visually should be similar. Not that I call for buddhism to be reinstated in afghanistan- I would not want to offend any muslims or anything. Plus no one knows what course history would have taken if afghanistan was not converted to islam. The afghani province of China anyone....? :)
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited May 2009
    No, I don't think the Afghans would react well to trying to convert them back to Buddhism! Although interestingly I found out, much to my surprise, that the switch from Buddhism to Islam took place over centuries and was mainly peaceful. I just wish there was some way to help them.

    Palzang
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