There are all these self-proclaimed meditation teachers that make a mixture of meditations, and keep it at a superficial level, promoting meditation as a way to feel happier, blissful, and less stressed. They usually teach bare attention, mindfulness and insight, in the wrong way.
You have to be careful because practicing meditation in this way is only going to lead you to get attached to peace, bliss, and happy feelings. Buddha, the greatest meditation teacher of all times, teaches us not to waste our time dwelling on the bliss and peace of a concentrated mind which is achieved through tranquility meditation, but to move forward to the analysis and uderstanding of reality with the practice of insight meditation or Vipassana.
Now, watch out! there’s another big misunderstanding in our present world. Lots of people are skipping the necessary practice of tranquility meditation to go directly into insight meditation. The problem is they are just practicing bare attention instead of vipassana or insight meditation. Why are they doing this? Mainly because they have bad meditation teachers.
Bare attention can be useful, sure, it’s better to be paying attention than being distracted. In the same way, the “be here now” instruction taught by all these new age teachers can help you be more present and less stressed. But mindfulness, is much more than that and vipassana is even more than bare attention as well.
First we need to have a good foundation on ethics, so, we need analitical meditations that help us work with anger, attachment, ignorance, pride and jealousy, and that help us cultivate compassion, loving-kindness, patience, etc. With these as a base we practice tranquility meditation to develop a concentrated peaceful mind but not just for 20 minutes a day!. Our goal is to achieve samadhi (highly focused attention), and then we don’t just hangout in that peaceful focused space but we continue to develop wisdom through our practice of insight meditation.
So, don’t follow those people who believe that bare attention is all there is to meditation. Study, reflect and then meditate wisely.
When you finish a course or meditation retreat, you find yourself with a great challenge, to give continuity to your meditation practice. During the retreat you had a schedule with a routine and group discipline, you did not have many distractions, there was no Internet, nor did you have to worry about making your food, work and other things. Everything was organized. But when you come out, you get involved with many activities, people, commitments, and very soon you find yourself distracted and not finding time for your meditation. As William James said, what you attend to becomes your reality. So, very soon your reality is different, your past habits return, they pull you back into putting the urgent tasks, your work, social commitments, housework, etc., before your meditation.
This is when you have to remind yourself every day what your priorities are, and this is easier if you dedicate 5 minutes in the morning to reflect on what is significant for your life, and how you can be of greater benefit in the world.
In order to cultivate discipline it is good to set times to do your meditation sessions every day at the same times. When you wake up as I mentioned, it is good to do a mediation session to help you start the day focused and with good motivation. After lunch make another session and before sleeping another.
They can last 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Ideally you want to progress until you can meditate one hour in the morning, one at noon and one at evening. Three hours of meditation a day have a great effect on your mind and you can progress in the practice of shamatha.
Do not worry if you feel you do not have time, if you dedicate 5 minutes, 3 times a day you will begin to feel better and little by little you will find the time to increase your sessions.
During these sessions, it is important that you see them not as a job, but as moments where you can completely relax from all your stress and worries, where you can enjoy the joy that comes from being in the present. This will not only make you feel good, but it will make you want to meditate more. Remember that meditation is not only to release stress, what we are cultivating is a balanced mind, which can be relaxed while developing a lot of concentration, attention, vividness, mindfulness and wisdom.
It is also important to try to be aware during the day of all our actions of body, speech and mind. This is where we apply the practice of mindfulness with discernment, choosing to act in an ethical way, restraining our impulses to offend, criticize, judge, etc. and instead practice patience, generosity, loving kindness, compassion and equanimity.
A practice we can do while interacting with people at work or on the street, is that of Tong Len (taking and giving) where with each inhalation we wish all beings (animals included) to be free of their suffering and with each exhalation we wish them to find genuine and lasting peace and happiness. When you do this practice with people you dislike, wish them to be free of their anger, pride, ignorance, envy, etc., and to develop wisdom, compassion, kindness, patience, and all the virtues you would like them to have. In this way, instead of creating negative karma, you are cultivating a loving and equanimous mind, which includes both friends, strangers and enemies.
Remember, every moment of your day can be transformed into a mental training practice.
I hope these tips help you practice meditation, if you have questions or comments leave them below.
Have you ever felt motivated to do a project that at the time seemed very significant, or get involved in a job or activity that would be of much benefit to others? But as you started to develop it, you started to face the obstacles that come with any type of business or project?. You realized that in order to do that, you had to fight tirelessly, to do things that were unpleasant and that required money and effort and that there was no guarantee of success, not even knowing if it would really benefit humanity.
You questioned whether your motivation behind this project was not in some way also dominated by some self-centered desire, to get recognition, or money, or some kind of personal benefit. You met people who opposed or discouraged you, telling you that it was not worth investing your time, or that it was not a good idea nor a useful project.
Little by little you felt more and more discouraged, less motivated, and finally decided that it was not worth putting more time and energy into that project. You finally quited. And you started to wonder what’s really worthwhile?
I have been there, and the only thing I have found worthwhile is to watch my mind closely, to see how thoughts arise that crystallize into motivations, motivations that produce emotions that feed the energy that leads to action. Be aware, what is your motivation behind each action?. And when you discover that it’s a self-centered motivation, ask yourself if it’s really worthwhile.
Reflecting on our actions, becoming aware of our motivations, emotions and thoughts, is what really is worth, only in this way we begin to know ourselves, to become better people, more attentive, kind, generous and patient, and when we are dedicated to this observation and transformation we can begin to act wisely, effortlessly and selflessly. Action happens in a natural way. And when there is no necessary action, the stillness of our body, whether in the sitting position or in the supine posture, allows us to continue to observe our mind, in the present, releasing the clinging to the past and to the future.
What is it really worthwhile for you?
Our motivation is what determines whether our meditation practice is a superficial patch to relieve some stress and relax us, or if it is a deeper practice that can lead us to completely free ourselves from dissatisfaction, pain, fear and discover genuine happiness. Moreover, our motivation may be so great that it leads us to practice meditation not only for our own benefit but also for that of others.
I recommend reading the article where I talk about how to structure your meditation session. Thus, when we sit down to meditate we spend the first 1 to 5 minutes of our practice reflecting on the motivation for which we meditate, trying to be honest with ourselves. We reflect on how important it is to train our minds to change habits, to cultivate attention and concentration and to free ourselves from mental afflictions. Think of the benefits of training your mind in attention and wisdom and cultivating emotional and mental balance. Think that your formal sessions are equivalent to going to the gym but in this case what you are training is the mind. And reflect on the positive effects of practicing daily. Thus we are motivated to practice properly.
Reflect on how valuable it is to have health, free time and desire to train your mind, and appreciate every moment in which you can sit and meditate, because you don’t know when disease, old age and death will come. Determine to take advantage of every moment, living in the present with a calm and attentive mind, cultivating a good heart and developing your wisdom.
At the end of our meditation, we commit to continue to be attentive to the motivations that move us to think, speak and act in a certain way. As we become more aware of why we do everything we do, we will realize what the motivations behind our actions are, and gradually we will realize that when we have selfish and self-centered motivations, we will be generating problems and suffering for ourselves and others. So little by little our main motivation will be to make ourselves and others happy.
Do not let your days go by while you are only doing what is urgent or what others expect of you.
Start by defining what you would like to achieve and receive from the world.
Then reflect on how you would use these things or qualities to become the best version of yourself. What kind of person would you like to be? What qualities and talents would you like to develop?
Now reflect on how this new version of yourself could help others and how it could impact the world for good.
Define the direction you want to give your life and start walking in that direction today.
Do not let anything distract you, stop doing what is not important, stop checking your email every 5 minutes and reading all the gossip on Facebook.
Use every minute to transform your mind into a happy, peaceful mind and to help other beings.
Take the time to walk in the nature while you reflect on whether you are going in the right direction or you have deviated and it is time to return to the path.
Do this meditation on loving-kindness for yourself
Our mind constantly pursues all kinds of desires, from the moment we wake up until we go to bed we compulsively pursue what we believe will bring us pleasure, well-being or happiness, and we try to avoid pain, discomfort and suffering.
The problem is that we want to achieve many things but we do not have the time to do all of them. At the end of the day we end up with a feeling that we have not progressed enough.
The first thing to ask ourselves is what is our motivation, why do you want to get what you are after? It all comes down to wanting more pleasure, recognition, success, stability, security, control or being loved and respected.
Now try to think if the achievement of your goals will benefit other beings. How would you feel if you succeeded in one of these goals, where you not only benefit yourself, but also those around you? A selfish motivation will bring you a brief pleasure while an altruistic motivation will bring you great lasting satisfaction.
To achieve any goal, you need effort and dedication, but above all a FOCUSED MIND and a CLEAR MOTIVATION.
- Start by focusing on only 1 to 3 goals, which are really meaningful and complement each other.
- Determine yourself to let go of all those little goals that only distract you and focus only on your main goal.
- Practice mental training in attention to develop a focused and clear mind.
Do you find it easy to focus your mind?
I am interested in knowing if you have practiced some technique to improve your attention and concentration. How long have you practiced? Do you have any advice for someone just beginning? Do you have any advice to share? Or any questions about the methods I share here?
Please leave a comment. Your experience could really benefit someone else.