General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How can I improve my meditation?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25547 points ) June 3rd, 2011

I’ve meditated for many years, but it’s mostly been through guided visualization. I’d like to branch out into other forms of the practice and wonder what other jellies do.

If you meditate, what form does it take? Can you describe it in a way that others can give it a try?

[Please note this is a General Section question to keep it on topic and away from debates of whether meditation has value.]

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10 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Insight meditation (Vipassana). Search for Gunaratana’s “Mindfulness in Plain English” (free as PDF), but worth the purchase.
Also, Gil Frondal at Audiodharma.org has great podasts and intro classes.

on iphone so i feel I can’t explain it now.

nikipedia's avatar

I do vipassana. The goal is to rest your attention gently on your breath. Some people do this just by noticing the breath going in and out, and some people count breaths. I like to count sets of ten, or sometimes shorter ones if I’m having trouble with it.

One thing that has helped me a lot is joining a meditation group. Everyone gets together and sits for 30 minutes, then we talk for an hour. It helps.

marinelife's avatar

I like circular breathing as a meditation. Here is a description.

Coloma's avatar

Don’t even try. Thats just more ego wanting to control outcome. lol

I’m doing home hospice are of my kitty right now and have witnessed getting waay too lost in mind stuff, sooo, instead of trying to force any return to centerdness, today I simply opted to sit on the couch on my deck with Marley in stillness for about an hour.

Just focusing on the sounds of the forest and lovingly touching Marley.

Don’t force, simply be. :-)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@tom_g : I am reading Gunaratana’s book online now, and it is already very helpful. Thank you.

tom_g's avatar

Great to hear, @hawaii_jake.
Here’s that free intro class audio I mentioned: link

thorninmud's avatar

@Coloma does have a point—one of the most important landmarks in any meditative practice is when the meditator is finally able to let go of concerns about technique and how good or poor one’s meditation is. Those concerns are the work of the discriminating, measuring aspect of the mind. That aspect has its place, but it works at cross-purposes to the meditation since meditation engages the non-discriminating, accepting aspect of mind. Far more important than any technique is the amount of heart one puts into the work, whatever form that work might take.

I’ve found it very helpful in my own practice to learn more about the nature of attention, considering that most forms of meditation are exercises in using attention in various ways. There are two broad categories of attention: “focused attention” and “open monitoring”. Both are useful, and the various meditative practices will aim to develop one or the other of these modes.

‘Focused attention’ zeroes in on a specific point of focus to the exclusion of other things competing for the attention. This is an effortful, will-driven task, because the brain has to actively suppress the competing stimuli. This suppression mechanism has its limits. Eventually, it gives out from sheer fatigue, and the focus is lost. This mode can be strengthened through exercise, which is what breath-centered practices aim to do.

“Open monitoring” is a throwing open of the doors of attention—pure receptivity. In this mode, nothing is excluded from the attention, but neither is anything allowed to ensnare the attention. Stimuli just flow freely through the field of attention without reaction (grasping or aversion). This is, ideally, an effortless form of attention, since nothing is suppressed. In practice, though, we find that we’re constantly and habitually reacting to this or that thing in our field of attention and allowing the attention to get hung up in those reactions. Some meditative practices, like Zen shikantaza, develop the ability to not react.

We need both of these modes. Most meditative traditions have forms of meditation that develop both. And most recognize that, in the end, these two modes are not as different as they look. Either one, pursued to its full extent, leads to the other. That is the meaning of “one thing is all, all things are one”.

rOs's avatar

I’ve found that my mode of meditation has some difficult to explain qualia.. Sometimes my meditation is just like what @Coloma said – Just be. Other times (and this may not be meditation), it is more like a symphony light show. I don’t feel like I’m thinking – more like I’m witnessing the show.

For example:
My thought processes eventually melt into what starts as a buzzing darkness…
slowly, this becomes a chaos of colors
The colors begin to dance together into images floating in and out of space
Glimpses of meaning
Great swirls of emotion and intention
The ceiling opens up above me and a beam of energy fires from my being into the cosmos and becomes part of One
The event climaxes when the entire illusion of “self” collapses
Into the infinite vortex I evaporate
Total surrender to the constant rippling of the universe

I’m not sure if its this way for everyone, but it always starts with mind/body awareness.

Coloma's avatar

@rOs

Yes, being the witness.
I like Eckhart Tolles visual of seeing yourself as watching a mouse hole, the thoughts are the mouse, ‘you’ presence, consciousness, are the witness. :-)

You can not think if you are in pure witnessing mode.

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