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Some suggestions for developing a meditation practice
Submitted by Susan Piver on Tue, 3/8/2011, 8:20pm
Good morning! I am so happy to talk to you again about meditation practice as part of what I’m calling The Open Heart Project. It all began on March 5, 2011. This is the 3rd post and it contains some suggestions for establishing a daily practice.
Be reasonable. Set a very doable goal. Don’t say, for example, “for the rest of my life, I will meditate every single day for 30 minutes.” The first time you miss a day, you’ll feel terrible. Instead, establish something like this: “Starting tomorrow, I will meditate Monday through Friday, for 10 minutes. For two weeks.” Whatever you decide, stick with it, and at the end, reassess.
Be consistent. Consistency is more important than duration. 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week is better than 50 minutes, one day a week.Try to practice at the same time each day. You may need to experiment to determine that time. Most people like to practice in the morning, but if you’re a night owl, you may do better later in the day.
Straighten up. Posture is important, and not just because sitting up straight enables energy to flow properly within the body. We want to avoid pain. That said, it’s not at all unusual to be mildly uncomfortable in the first days or weeks of practice. It can take a while for your body to adjust to sitting in this way and in the meantime, your foot may fall asleep or you could feel a little achy in your joints. Don’t worry, these will pass. Of course, if the pain is more than mild, you need to pay attention to this! If you’re sitting on the floor, move to a chair. Make adjustments to your posture to avoid injury.
Connect. If you decide you want to make meditation a part of your life, that is fantastic. In this case, it is very important to establish a relationship with a meditation instructor, which just means someone who has been practicing for longer than you and who is connected to a lineage you resonate with. In my tradition, Shambhala Buddhism, you can go to aShambhala Center in your town and request such an instructor. It is free and we’ve all had the same training. It’s so good to have someone to talk to! You could also find support at a Zen or Vipassana center. The thing is to find someplace connected with lineage–no new age stuff. It is also recommended to practice with others from time to time. It’s great to practice at home alone, but it deepens your experience to sit with others.
Practice and study. Study and practice. They say that practice and study are like two wheels of a cart. With only one wheel, a cart just goes in circles. So while it’s very important to actually practice meditation, it’s as important to understand the underlying point of view. Most of us lean toward study or practice. So if you prefer “study” (i.e. learning about meditation), add some doing to the mix. If you prefer doing, add in some learning. It’s as simple as reading a few pages from a book about meditation before you sit. My suggestions:
Turning the Mind Into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham
Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior or Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron
Tomorrow: 3 Popular Misconceptions About Meditation Practice (including the most popular: “Meditation means stopping thought.” NO!!)
If you know people who might like to sign up for The Open Heart Project (which includes online meditation instruction and a daily (M-F) email about becoming a meditator on and off the cushion, they can do so here.
To close, here is the 10-minute practice from yesterday. Try to use it every day for a few days or a week and see how you feel.
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