HOME > WHAT IS MEDITATION?  
OUTLINE

1. Types of Meditation
2. Elements of Vipassana
Concentration
Open Awareness
Active Inquiry
3. Meditation Posture


1. WHAT TYPE OF MEDITATION DO WE TEACH?

There are many styles and types of meditation. They can be classified on a continuum
of concentration and open awareness. At one extreme are forms of meditation in which
attention is one-pointedly focused on something, such as a visualization or a sound.
At the other extreme are forms of meditation in which the mind is wide open and there is
no specific object of concentration. Most forms of meditation fall somewhere between these
two extremes. Generally, a meditator begins by learning a degree of concentration and then
gradually begins to relax into open awareness.
Our group classes emphasize Vipassana, which involves a balance between concentration
and open awareness. We also teach Metta, which is a meditation on loving-kindness, and
the Body Scan, which is an exercise taught at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
Stress Reduction Clinic.

2. VIPASSANA

As we teach Vipassana, it combines two elements, concentration and open-awareness.

Concentration:


For beginners the focus initially is on concentration, in order to ground and stabilize
the attention. Concentration involves narrowing the focus of attention and maintaining
it on an object. The object can be a sound, a mental image, an external object, or
a physical sensation.

The most common object of concentration is the breath. There are several advantages
to concentrating on the breath:

Open Awareness: 

     Once a certain degree of concentration has been established, the individual can experience open awareness without becoming completely carried away by thoughts, fantasies, and emotions.  The individual is grounded enough to begin to observe what presents itself to consciousness, without becoming lost in it.   This is the first step toward attaining greater self-knowledge.

    The individual learns not to manipulate or overreact to what arises in the mind and
body.  The individual learns not to struggle against him or herself, or hate parts of self,  but to befriend oneself and work skillfully with one's various tendencies.





3. DOES MEDITATION REQUIRE A CERTAIN POSTURE?

      No doubt you associate meditation with sitting cross legged on the floor.
Although this is a classic meditation position it is not a requirement to meditate.

    The most important thing in learning meditation is to sit upright.  This can be done in a chair.  The reason for sitting upright is because we want to be relaxed AND awake.  Although the seasoned student may be able to meditate in a variety of postures, for most of us it is difficult to lie down and stay awake (unless you have severe insomnia).  Therefore, sitting upright is a support to developing relaxed and balanced awareness.

      In the sitting on the floor position the legs are spread open at the pelvis, and the arms are held at the sides, opening up the chest.  This physical position of openness
can subtly reinforce a mental attitude of openness.  However, the mental attitude is the most important.  It is very possible to sit in a chair and maintain an attitude of openess.

    Sitting on the floor promotes a sense grounding.  Your body is in contact with the earth (or the foor, if you are inside).  Your feet are pulled into the center of your body
(your pelvis and lower abdomen) and your hands are also held at the center of your body.  All of these gestures promote a sense of grounding, self-containment and balance.  However, again, what is most important is the mental attitude.  This attitude can be held while sitting in a chair.

For information on devices to assist in sitting well, click on the link below





    There is much more to be learned and explained, but that will be covered in class.
Remember, however, that ultimately meditation is very simple.  You sit, and you observe yourself.  All the explanation may make it seem complicated, but imagine if you are trying to explain to someone how to ride a bicycle: keep the handlebar straight, sit on the seat, push the pedals, don't lean to the right or left, etc.  It could sound extremely complicated and intimidating.  You might think, "I could never do that."  But the actual act of riding a bicycle is very simple, once learned.

    Hope to see you in class.


   


 

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON MEDITATION:



Meditation is a method to train the mind and open the heart.
Individuals with different motivations and character types, who are at various stages
of their life quest, can use meditation for a variety of purposes, from simple relaxation,
to developing concentration, to seeing the truth of their interdependence with all things.
Meditation can be used within the context of a specific religious belief, if that is the
propensity of the individual. Or it can be adopted without any specific religious
orientation.
Meditation supports the development of a good heart and an authentic and truthful life.
Therefore, it supports the development of an inner quality of kindness, but does not
encourage the superficial adoption of a false "niceness." It does not prescribe any
commandments to choose a particular lifestyle around diet, sexuality, politics, etc.
Meditation does not mean having to give up television, swear off junk food, lose weight,
or quit smoking, even though those actions may be desirable for other reasons.
It does not encourage nor discourage tattoos, piercings, coloring your hair, or
any of a myriad of signifiers. It doesn't encourage mindless conformity nor mindless
non-conformity It is not something just for young people or older people. It goes much
deeper than this.
Meditation does encourage individuals to be conscious of their choices and to honor
the intention to "do no harm," recognizing the limitations of the human situation.




Vipassana
Vipassanâ (Pâli) or vipaúyanâ (विपश्यना) in (Sanskrit) means "insight" and is often referred to by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as simply "insight meditation". While it is a type of Buddhist meditation as taught by the Buddha, it is essentially non-sectarian in character and has universal application. One need not convert to Buddhism to practice vipassanâ meditation. While the meditation practices themselves vary from school to school, the underlying principle is the investigation of phenomena as they manifest in the four Foundations of Mindfulness highlighted in the Satipatthana sutta; namely: Kaya - Body (or breath), Vedana feeling, Citta - Mind, and Dhamma - Mind objects. These phenomena differ from the Khandas — aggregates — because the Citta factor is not connected to any aggregate, as it is the basic mood of the Mind-Body aggregate, while the Dhamma encompasses all mind objects, i.e., the VinnanaSanna and Sankhara aggregates, and also all mind objects that are not a fruit of kamma such as, for example, the Four Noble Truths.
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