As a meditation teacher and artist, I’m involved in several
projects. My strategy is to meditate in between projects.
When you meditate, your mind rests from conceptual thinking. In that moment goals don’t matter, you find peace and happiness in the present.
After your meditation, focus on the project you feel more excited about. When you finish it or when you feel you can’t do anymore of that, allow yourself to go into Savasana posture, that is laying on your back with your arms to the sides and a little pillow on your head, you can also adopt the traditional sitting posture. Then do a Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation, 24 min is good, but it can be shorter, longer would be excellent.
After your session, repeat the process. Try to mantain a continuity on your mindfulness so you can enter easily into a state of flow in your next activity.
In the context of the Shamatha practice of Settling the Mind if any emotion, for example, anger arises during a meditation session you can become aware of its arising but it’s different than watching a thought, it’s more like your whole experience is suddenly tainted by the emotion, if you then sit still and watch it, you can also become aware of its dissolution.
In the context of the practices of the Applications of Mindfulness and Vipashyana, you can apply inquiry and ask, where is anger located? Where do I feel it, in my belly, in my head, etc? Does it has color, shape, etc? And investigate. By doing this you can gain insight into its empty nature. Also by directing your attention to the emotion instead of the referent which are the thoughts that feed it, in other words, by not following the thoughts that give rise to anger, then the emotion will start dissolving.
When practicing in the context of Ethical Conduct while engaged in activities an interactions with other people, there are several antidotes that can be applied such as not talking, taking space, practicing patience, etc., there are many suggestions from Santideva and other great masters.
When practicing in the context of Dzogchen, you recognize anger as a manifestation of mirrorlike wisdom of primordial consciousness and it self liberates.
The important thing is to practice something, sometimes you will be able to see it arise and without any grasping it will be self-liberated, other times you will be completely dominated but you will still have time to apply an antidote and avoiding letting it transform into hurtful words and actions.
On other occasions you will find yourself regretting what you did or said, but you will still be able to apply a practice of purification.
As the Masters say, using the analogy of a forest catching fire, if you see a sparkle you might be able to stop it by quickly stepping on it, but if the fire is spreading in the forest, you will need to apply stronger measures.
That’s why it’s so important to train in the cushion and be aware of our mental state at all times in between sessions.
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.