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MEDITATION PRACTICE

Spiritual practices for calming and focusing the mind, as practiced in Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and other meditative traditions.  Concentration, contemplation, vipassana, mindfulness, zazen, koan, dhyana, zhine and other meditation practices.  Information about the meditative versus the psychological view of self.

View meditation SPECIAL REPORTS and related LEARNING TOOLS.

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GENERAL    

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

Meditation is a logical, systematic process of focusing, calming and understanding the movement of the mind.  As such, meditation does not require belief in any particular religion—nor does it preclude any such beliefs.  The Buddhist, the Christian and the atheist can each practice meditation with equal success. 

In virtually all meditative paths, two distinct phases or stages of meditation practice are recognized: concentration and contemplation (as described in the subsequent sections).  Some of the issues addressed by these two phases are as follows:

  • calming of the unconscious or automatic movements of the mind, which reduces anxiety and stress

  • increased focus and cognitive structuring

  • more efficient realization of goals, projects and ambitions

  • better understanding of one's personality structure and unconscious ego defenses

  • increased empathy and compassion for others

  • refined awareness of physical senses, emotions and thoughts

  • enhanced awareness of the dream state, which ultimately leads to fully lucid dreaming

  • enhanced awareness of the sleep state, which ultimately leads to sunyata, or direct, non-dual experience of the clear light

  • heightened transpersonal consciousness and extrasensory perception

  • deeper understanding of spiritual, metaphysical and psychological paths

  • experiences of oneness, effortless perfection and other profound mystical states    

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PROVISIONAL GOALS

It should be mentioned that each of the above are essentially provisional goals.  By this, we mean that the ultimate goal of meditation is simply a realization of The Self—which is a perfectly spontaneous, uninhibited manifestation our ordinary, daily selvesthe REAL YOU AND ME.  At such a stage in development, formal meditation practice becomes unnecessary as simply being from moment to moment, remaining natural and present in whatever circumstances our lives may bring upon us, becomes our spontaneous meditation.

 

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CONCENTRATION

FOCUSING THE MIND

Newcomers to most spiritual paths are encouraged to begin practice with concentration meditation.  In concentration practice, the meditator chooses a simple object of focus and trains his or her mind to attend to it without distraction.  At first, the mind wanders from this object again and again.  Later, the mind grows calm enough to remain focused on this single object throughout daily life, even in physically and emotionally stressful situations.   

Vipassana, zhine and dhyana are three of the many traditional schools of concentration meditation.  Generally, concentration practice progresses in stages, gradually proceeding from a highly energetic, somewhat artificial concentration to a very relaxed, "automatic" state of focus.  At whichever stage of concentration we may find ourselves, we work with a particular object of focus.  Some of the most common objects of focus are:

  • the breath (used in the vipassana tradition)

  • a mantra such as OM, RAM or HUM 

  • a visual focus such as a spot on a wall or floor, etc. (often called dhyana)

View meditation SPECIAL REPORT.

As our practice progresses, we begin to choose more and more complex or abstract objects of focus, eventually preparing us for the practice of contemplation.

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CONTEMPLATION

As our concentration stabilizes and deepens, our minds becoming increasingly calm and steady, we naturally begin to experience states of contemplation.  Contemplation isn't exactly a practice in the same way as is concentration.  Rather, it is a state of spontaneous presence, an experience of natural attentiveness and awareness.  As such, rather than describing what contemplation is, it is easier to say what it isn't.  Contemplation, or mindfulness, is not a formal, structured practice which can be separated from the other aspects of our ordinary, daily lives.  It is a state of naturalness and freedom which requires, in the teachings of Dzogchen, a recognition of the "natural mind."

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THE NATURAL MIND

This is a state of being innate to each of us, the realization of which is one of the primary goals of the entire path of mindfulness.  After we realize this unique and effortless state, we learn to integrate it with various thoughts, feelings, behaviors and situations.  We learn to maintain a state of presence or contemplation when engaging a variety of acts, ranging from the so-called positive to the so-called negative.  In so doing, we learn to participate in our daily lives fully, without rejecting, judging or otherwise fearfully grasping at a single aspect of our internal or external experience.

 

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SELF OR NO-SELF?

One of the most unique aspects of the meditative path is the way in which it tends to redirect our subjective experience of the self.  Prior to the experiential turning inward that meditation facilitates, most of us perceive the self from a rather automatic, primarily psychological perspective.  We perceive ourselves, that is to say, as a kind of fixed personality interacting with its more fluid, surrounding environment.  It is as if we are the camera man filming the various scenes of our daily lives, only we are also emotionally involved in these scenes. 

Contrary to many misconceptions regarding the meditative journey, the point of meditation practice is neither to further engage or disengage from these scenes so much as it is to allow us to simply put down the camera.  We learn to free ourselves of this fixed subjective center, that is to say, so that we can merge with our environment in a less defensive, less contrived and restrictive sort of way.  Such is the No-Self of the various meditative disciplines—not a negating of the ordinary experience of self, but an enhancement of it, a larger and more dynamic experience of the totality of our daily lives. 

 

self versus SELF

Through meditation, we learn to let go of the restricted, individual self, with all its compulsive habits of feeling, thinking and doing, so that we can open up to the reality of The Self.  This is the true meaning of oneness, individuality and personal freedom.  This is the ultimate goal of all spiritual paths and practices.

 

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