Borys Bradel's Blog

Buddhism and Meditation

Tags: meditation July 31, 2008    

Mindfulness in Plain English is an interesting book that is available online. The book is about how to meditate by focusing on the breath. The ending of the book is quite fascinating. The ending is pretty much the Buddhist world view, which is that everything changes, human existence is suffering, and there is no self.

What a wonderful outlook on life. My problem with that outlook is that if there is no self, then what happens does not matter, and there is no point meditating or believing in anything. Sure enough, after looking at The Four Noble Truths A Study Guide and Buddhism and Self, I've discovered that Buddhism does believe in a self, just not a physical self. There is, however, a separate, sort of maybe personal thing that kind of connects all stuff. The theory is vague at that point. The point is that there is some kind of self and that self wants happiness. That does not inspire confidence in me. However, the argument is quite reasonable up to that point.

How is happiness reached? By realizing that everything changes, human existence is suffering, and there is no self.

How is that realized? By experience, which can be achieved through meditation.

What if you don't believe the explanation about self that is not the self? Well, meditation is supposed to bring you to a state of bliss, which is an ultimate form of happiness for humans, the no self physical beings. In other words, the trip is well worth it, regardless.

Now that the reason for meditation is out of the way, the question that needs to be answered is how to meditate.

The primary tool is sitting meditation. Meditation should be performed when the body is in good condition (not tired, not hungry, not thirsty, etc.) and the location is tranquil. Sit motionless for at least some specified amount of time in a comfortable position with the spine straight, everything else relaxed, and the eyes closed. While sitting, concentrate on your breath and as it flows in and out of your nostrils.

The purpose is to become aware of thinking, which opens up awareness to the other six factors that affect our mind, perceiving, contact, mental formations, concentrating, awareness, and something called the life force, along with the interactions between them. The result will be the awareness of the Buddhist world view. Since the mind always needs something to think about, breathing, which is always present and simple, is ideal as that something.

This awareness is reached in five stages: making the mind pure, getting rid of sorrow, getting rid of pain, living properly by following the Buddhist righteous path, and attaining happiness by following that path. The study guide mentioned above has more information about that path. Meditation is the major part of the journey.

Great, concentrate on and be aware of the breath and reach eternal happiness. Unfortunately that is not easy because the mind wanders. The mind either stops thinking or goes to other thoughts.

There is little that can be done about not thinking other than try to catch yourself and start concentrating more.

Some strategies to avoid wandering are deep breathing, counting, and saying in and out. However, wandering can be useful to become aware of more than just breath. When the mind wanders to a different thought, that thought should be analyzed briefly. The analysis should consist of wordlessly identifying what that thought is, how strong it is, and how long it distracted you. The breath is then considered once again, since it is a reference point to go back to once these other thoughts are analyzed. The end result is that a person can concentrate and be aware of more.

Distractions come from the subconscious and a person is only aware of them once they reach the conscious level. Therefore the distraction is already quite strong and needs to be reduced. The benefit of being aware of the distraction is that the awareness makes the distraction separate from the person, thus reducing the strength. Initially the process will be difficult and will probably require words. However, later on, the process will allow a person to control their awareness and not let anything overpower them.

The awareness needs to occur at the pre-concept stage, because that is the only way to experience something as it is. Once a concept is found, there is a large amount of baggage that accompanies it. Therefore awareness of something must occur just as that something reaches the conscious. This requires paying careful attention. The process of quickly analyzing distractions helps in this regard.

Three points are important to keep in mind when doing sitting meditation:

Over time, both concentration, the ability to focus on one object, and awareness, noticing how things change, are improved. One cannot get too much stronger than the other.

Meditation can feel awkward and it is comforting to know that others have tread the same path. Therefore at the beginning of meditation, you should remind yourself of this fact before starting to meditate.

Finally, you should wish all living things well being, and you should remind yourself of this fact before starting to meditate as well.

After becoming comfortable with sitting meditation, meditation should be expanded to all parts of life. The first step is to walk as slowly as possible back and forth, while concentrating as much as possible on what is going on with the feet and legs. That is, meditate on the walking. The second step is to check your posture for a few seconds every few minutes. The third step is to perform simple activities at a reduced speed while meditating on them. After that, you're on your way to bliss and eternal happiness.

Copyright © 2008 Borys Bradel. All rights reserved. This post is only my possibly incorrect opinion.

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