Home' Nova National : September 2011 Contents continued from previous page
With analytical meditation we can
reflect on a series of meaningful objects.
One use of analytical meditation is
to develop a better understanding of
something. For example, suppose we
wish to investigate the mind of anger, and
understand if it is useful or not. Using
analytical meditation we can reflect on
cases where we have been very angry in
our own life, or where others have been
angry. We reflect on how anger felt in our
own experience – was it comfortable or
not? How does it affect our relationships
with others? If we know others who are
habitually angry – people in our workplace
perhaps – how do we and others see
them? Do we enjoy being with them when
they are angry, or not? Through this type
of meditation we gain a clearer under-
standing of what anger is and what its
consequences are. If anger arises in our
mind in future, we are less inclined to follow
it without thinking. We can stand back
and exercise more choice in responding
to the situation.
Another use of analytical meditation is
to help generate positive states of mind.
Suppose we wish to develop our qualities
of compassion for example. Buddhism
defines compassion as the mind wishing
to remove the suffering of others. We
can develop compassion using analytical
meditation by reflecting on a person we
are close to who has experienced, or is
experiencing, difficulties. Reflecting on
the person’s situation, how dear they are
to us, and their past kindness to us, it is
easy to develop a strong wish to remove
Using analytical meditation, over time
we can extend our compassion to wider
and wider groups of people and other
living beings. By practising like this, step
by step, we can develop the extraordinary
mind of great compassion – the wish that
every living being, without exception,
whether our dearest friend, worst enemy,
or complete stranger, be free of suffering.
If we can imagine what our day-to-day
experience would be like if we genuinely
felt this way about everybody we met –
fellow commuters on the freeway, work
colleagues, our neighbours and family
members – we start to understand how
meditation can transform our experience
How do I actually meditate?
Normally our mind is very agitated and
busy – some meditators have likened it to
a crazy monkey, leaping from tree to tree.
Our normal uncontrolled mind is always
leaping from one thought to the next
memories of pleasant or unpleasant
things that have happened in the past,
plans or imaginings about the future.
Many beginners say that until they tried
to meditate, they never realised how busy
the mind normally is.
So first we need to settle our mind
down. There are both physical and mental
preparations that can help.
Firstly we should find a quiet, clean
place to meditate. Cleaning the place
before we begin helps us feel more settled.
Next we adopt a physical posture that
will help our meditation. We can either sit
cross-legged on a cushion on the ground,
or in a chair. It is especially important
to keep our back as straight as we can,
while keeping our body comfortable.
Otherwise our meditation will turn into
sleep! Traditional meditation texts also
recommend that we keep our eyes half
closed if possible and that our head
should be slightly tilted forward. There are
other recommendations as well, but these
are the main points.
To meditate effectively it is important
to set a clear mental direction and
motivation at the outset. Why? Because,
as explained earlier, everything we do is
affected by the attitude we bring to it. It is
the same with meditation. We can meditate
with the thought that it will help us to
calm down right now, or adopt a broader
perspective – thinking that our meditation
is a step towards developing our mind
more generally – more calmness, more
clarity, more good heart and so on. The
most powerful motivation is the thought
that, through our meditation, we aim to
perfect all of our good qualities completely,
so we can bring the experience of lasting,
pure happiness to both ourselves and all
others. It may be difficult to generate a
heartfelt motivation like this at first, but
thinking this way whenever we meditate
creates a very positive habit that becomes
stronger over time.
With our motivation established, we
can turn to the actual meditation. Taking
single pointed meditation on the breath
as an example, we gently withdraw our
focus from the various types of sense
object – sights, sounds etc – and allow our
attention to settle naturally on our breath.
We breathe normally, with the mind merely
observing the process. Especially at the
beginning, our crazy monkey mind will
wander quite quickly to other thoughts.
We should watch out for the crazy monkey,
and when we find our attention has
wandered, put the monkey on the leash
and place our attention again on the breath.
It is important not to be discouraged or to
push too hard. We should gently restore
our attention to the breath, however
many times it takes. Just making some
effort to do this, even if our mind seems
distracted most of the time, is extremely
useful. As we become more experienced
we get better at identifying the obstacles
to stable concentration, such as agitation
or mental dullness, and more skilled at
dealing with them as they come up in our
It is important to be relaxed, patient
and persistent. We should not try to
meditate for too long as beginners, but if
we decide to meditate for say 20 minutes,
then we should see the meditation session
through to the end, even if we feel very
agitated or sleepy. To see the real benefits
of meditation we need to do it regularly –
ideally each day – for a period of time. If
possible, it helps to meditate at the same
time and place each day.
At the end of the session we should
again reflect on our motivation – the
reason we are meditating – and dedicate
the time and effort we have put into the
session to a positive purpose, such as
being able in future to benefit ourselves
and others perfectly.
Developing our mind
If we practise meditation sincerely and
persistently we will definitely begin to
notice changes in our experience – more
calmness, more clarity, more mental space.
As we look to our future and ask
ourselves, ‘How do I come closer to being
the person I would really like to be in
this life?,’ the answer is to train our mind
in greater calmness, clarity and open-
heartedness, by using meditation.
© NOVA SEPTEMBER 2011
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