Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Types of Meditation: Find Your Meditation Personality

By S. Phillips

Start with some basic breathing awareness... 

Basic Breath Awareness                                                    
The most basic breathing practice is simple breath awareness. Come into a comfortable seated position - cross-legged, kneeling, or in a chair. It's important to have the spine straight, so that the lungs and torso have room to expand in all directions as you breathe. To lengthen the spine, consider sitting with a folded blanket just under the hips (cross-legged) or between the hips and heels (kneeling).
Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Begin by simply noticing each breath as it happens. As you inhale, notice that you are inhaling. As you exhale, notice that you are exhaling. Continue this noticing until you feel your awareness settling comfortably and reliably on the breath. You can then refine your awareness, by noticing more subtle aspects of the breath. Consider shifting your awareness to the following aspects of the breath:
·Notice the breath entering and exiting the body at the tip of your nose.
·Notice the breath move through the airway, from the nose to the mouth to the throat as you inhale, and from the throat to the mouth to the nose as you exhale.
·Notice the quality of your breath: Does it feel jagged or smooth? Does it feel rushed or slow? Does it feel shallow or deep?
·Notice the sound of your breath: Can you hear it? What does it sound like?
·Notice the length of each inhalation and exhalation. Are they even?  Is the breath slowing down or speeding up?
·Notice the belly moving with the breath. Place your hands on your belly and feel the belly expand and contract.
·Notice the rib cage moving with the breath. Place your hands on your rib cage and feel the ribs expand and contract.
·Notice the chest and upper back moving with the breath. Wrap your arms around your upper chest and shoulders, and feel the chest and upper back move with the breath.
·Notice the full dimensionality of your breath: radiate out, in all directions, with each breath.
Continue to notice whatever you notice - go deeper with this awareness practice and notice the subtleties of your own breath. With this practice, you are not trying to consciously control the breath. However, as you become more aware of the breath, you may find that the quality of your breath changes. Allow this to happen naturally, without strain or effort.  Suggested Practice Time: 5 minutes or longer.  Practice several times a day, if possible. This is a practice that can stand on its own, whenever you have the chance to practice it.

Metta--Loving Kindness Meditation

Practice the following meditation to open your heart and cultivate compassion. The meditation begins by cultivating compassion toward someone who is "easy" to feel kindness toward. It continues by challenging you to expand your ability to feel compassion for others in your life, and others in the world.

Choose a specific object of concentration for each part of the meditation (i.e. a family member, a friend, etc.) when a general category is listed. Repeat each line to yourself, silently, while focusing on the object of concentration. Do not repeat these lines mindlessly - try to create a genuine sense of goodwill, compassion, and kindness. 

May (an object of unconditional love - a pet, a child, etc.) be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May (someone who is suffering) be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May (someone who challenges me) be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May everyone in (my town) be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May everyone in (my country) be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May everyone in this world be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.
May I be safe – know peace – be healthy – be happy.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Jack Kornfield

Alternate forms of Metta:

May I/you/we be happy.
May I/you/we be filled with loving kindness
May I/you/we be safe from inner and outer harm.
May I/you/we be well.
May I/you/we be peaceful and at ease.

May I be free from danger.
My I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.

Send Metta in this order—

Mentor or someone who has been kind to you
Good Friend
Someone you have neutral feelings for (neither like or dislike)
Mildly annoying or mildly difficult person (place yourself next to this person, if this is helpful in sending kind thoughts)
Annoying or difficult person
All beings everywhere

Eknath Easwaran on Passage Meditation

The principle of meditation is simple: You are what you think. By meditating on words that embody your highest ideals, you drive them deep into your consciousness. There they take root and begin to create wonderful changes in your life – changes you have wanted to make, but have not known how to bring about.
When I talk about meditation, I am referring to a specific interior discipline which is found in every major religion, though called by different names. (Catholic writers, for example, speak of contemplation or interior prayer.) This interior discipline is not a relaxation technique. It requires strenuous effort. It does dissolve tension, but in general, especially at the beginning, meditation is work, and if you expect to find it easy going, you’ll be disappointed.
Meditation in this sense is not a disciplined reflection on a spiritual theme. Focused reflection can yield valuable insights, but for the vast majority of us, reflection is an activity on the surface level of the mind. To transform personality we need to go much, much deeper. We need a way to get eventually into the unconscious itself, where our deepest desires arise, and make changes there.
So what is meditation? It is the regular, systematic training of attention to turn inward and dwell continuously on a single focus within consciousness, until, after many years of daily practice, we become so absorbed in the object of our contemplation that while we are meditating, we forget ourselves completely. In that moment, when we are empty of ourselves, we are utterly full of what we are dwelling on. This is the central principle of meditation: we become what we meditate on. Here is a brief summary of the form of meditation I follow:
            Choose a time for meditation when you can sit for half an hour in uninterrupted quiet. Early morning is best, before the activities of the day begin. If you want to meditate more, add half an hour in the evening, but please do not meditate for longer periods without personal guidance from an experienced teacher. Select a place that is cool, clean, and quiet. Sit with your back and head erect, on the floor or on a straight-backed chair.
Close your eyes and begin to go slowly, in your mind, through the words of a simple, positive, inspirational passage from one of the world’s great spiritual traditions. (Remember, you become what you meditate on.) I recommend beginning with something that really resonates with you.
You will find it helpful to keep adding to your repertoire so that the passages you meditate on do not grow stale.
While you are meditating, do not follow any association of ideas or allow your mind to reflect on the meaning of the words. If you are giving your full attention to each word, the meaning cannot help sinking in.
When distractions come, do not resist them, but give more attention to the words of the passage. If your mind strays from the passage entirely, bring it back gently to the beginning and start again.
Resolve to have your meditation every day – however full your schedule, whatever interruptions threaten, whether you are sick or well.

Meditation is never practiced in a vacuum. Certain other disciplines always accompany and support it, varying somewhat according to the needs of a particular culture or audience. I have found these seven disciplines to be enormously helpful in supporting the practice of meditation in the modern world.

Meditating on a memorized inspirational passage is the heart of the program called passage meditation. Seven supporting disciplines are used throughout the rest of the day, helping you go deeper for a lifetime of discovery.

Repetition of a Mantram
Slowing Down
One-Pointed Attention
Training the Senses
Putting Others First
Spiritual Fellowship

A mantra I really like is in sanskrit and a prayer for peace... I learned it when I was studying Sivananda yoga since I was 15 years old.!


Om Sarvesham Svasti Bhavatu
Sarvesham Shantir Bhavatu
Sarvesham Purnam Bhavatu
Sarvesham Mangalam Bhavatu

Om. May auspiciousness be unto all. May peace be unto all. May fullness be unto all. May prosperity be unto all.

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niramayaah
Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu
Maa Kaschid-Dukha-Bhag-Bhavet

Om. May all be happy. May all be free from disabilities. May all look to the good of others. May none suffer from sorrow.

Asato Maa Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya

Om. Lead me from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, from mortality to Immortality.

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnaat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamaadaaya
Purnamevaa Vashishyate
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Om. That is whole. This is whole. From the whole the whole becomes manifest. From the whole, when the whole--if negated--what remains is again the whole. Om. Peace, peace, peace.

If that is weird or you don't understand how to pronounce the words right away a simple prayer is good. You don't have to be religious or anything, it is called "The Universal Prayer" because no matter what you believe in it is good to put out there. Whether its God, mother Earth, or the universe listening... 

O adorable Lord of Mercy and Love 
Salutations and prostrations unto thee
Thou art omnipresent omnipotent and omniscient
thou art existence consiousness and bliss absolute
thou art the indweller of all beings

Grand us an understanding heart,
Equal vision balanced mind, 
Faith, Devotion and wisdom
Grant us inner spiritual strength 
To resist temptation and control the mind
Free us from egoism, lust, greed, hatred, anger and jealousy
Fill our hearts with divine virtues.

Let us behold thee in all these names and forms
Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms
LEt us ever remmeber Thee
Let us ever sing They glories
Let they name be ever on our lips
and let us abide in Thee forever and ever... 

just typing it brings joy to my heart! 

Red Light Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh, author of over 90 books on meditation and mindfulness, has several excellent suggestions for bringing our awareness back to the present moment. One practice is Red Light Meditation. Often we allow our lives to become so busy that we resent time wasted in traffic. Most people get angry or upset due to delays because being slowed down easily irritates them. But that reaction is a choice: we can choose to react another way. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we see each red light as an opportunity to do a mini-meditation. We can thank the light for turning red, for giving us a chance to check back in with our life, to notice our breath or sounds, our body or feelings. We can win back another precious taste of his moment, the only time we can actually be alive.

(Note—you can also use this time to notice your surroundings, send blessings to the people around you—those in cars, on buses, walking, on bikes, etc.--and to breath into the moment. Take time to thank the red light for allowing traffic to be controlled to prevent accidents. Be aware of plants, trees, people and other things of interest. Just remember to stay aware of the traffic light so you don’t zone out and miss the green light….)


Another practice is Telephone Meditation. When the phone rings, most people’s first instinct is to answer it right away. Perhaps there is some hidden fear that the caller will hang up if we don’t answer in the first two rings. Hanh points out that the other person really wants to talk to us, so we don’t need to rush. First, when the phone rings, we should pause, stop whatever we are doing, and just notice the phone. On the second ring, we should think about who the other person is and smile. On the third ring, we should think about ourselves talking with this person and again smile. On the fourth ring, we move toward the phone. Finally we pick up the phone and say “hello” with a smile.

All these techniques of building mindfulness help us in our daily life. The more we practice, the easier it becomes to practice. As yogis, once our practice on the mat has ended, the real practice begins, bringing mindfulness to every minute of the day. We cannot be truly mindful every minute, but we can intend to be.

Adapted from YinSights, ‘The Buddhist View of the Mind’ by Bernie Clark

How To Use Relaxation to Cope with Stress: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
By Matthew Tull, PhD, About.com    Updated: February 05, 2009

Using relaxation exercises can be an effective way to reduce your stress and anxiety. One relaxation exercise called progressive muscle relaxation focuses on a person alternating between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body.
In this way, relaxation is viewed like a pendulum. More complete relaxation of your muscles can be obtained by first going to the other extreme (that is, by tensing your muscles). In addition, by tensing your muscles (a common symptom of anxiety) and immediately relaxing them, the symptom of muscle tension may become a signal to relax over time.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: At least 30 minutes
Here's How:
.        Sit in a comfortable chair and bring your attention to your left hand. Clench your left hand to make a fist. Pay attention to these feelings of tension. Then, let go of your fist, letting your hand rest against your side or the arm of the chair. Be aware of how different your hand feels in a state of relaxation as compared to tension. Then, make a fist with your left hand again, then relax it, continuing to pay attention to how your hand feels in states of tension and relaxation. Repeat this procedure with your right hand.
.        After you have finished tensing and relaxing your hands, bend both hands back at the wrists in order to tense the muscles in the back of your hand and in your forearms. As before, pay attention to what this muscle tension feels like. After you have tensed these muscles, relax them, also paying attention to what this state of relaxation feels like. Repeat.
.        Make a tight fist with both hands, and pull your hands toward your shoulders. This will bring tension to your biceps. Be aware of this tension and then relax, allowing your arms to drop loosely to your sides. Pay attention to how your arms now feel. Repeat.
.        Shrug your shoulders as high as you can. Pay attention to the tension as you do this. Hold it, then relax your shoulders. Let your shoulders drop. Notice how different this state of relaxation feels compared to when your shoulders were tense. Repeat.
.        Now, bring attention to your face. Wrinkle your forehead. Tense those muscles and hold this state. Notice the feelings of tension. Then, relax those muscles completely, being aware of these feelings of relaxation. Repeat.
.        Close your eyes as tightly as you can. You should feel tension all around your eyes. After holding this state, relax. Recognize differences in how relaxation feels as compared to tension. Repeat.
.        Clench your jaw, biting your teeth together. Hold this tension and then relax. Repeat.
.        To finish relaxing the muscles of your face, press your lips together as tightly as you can. You should feel tension all around your mouth. Examine how this tension feels. Now relax your lips, and in doing so, let go of that tension. Be aware of how this feels. Repeat.
.        Move your awareness down from your face to your neck. Put your head back and press the back of your head against the back of the chair you are sitting in. Feel the tension in your neck and then bring your head back to relax it. Repeat.
.        Now bring your head forward. Push your chin against the top of your chest. Feel the tension in the back of your neck. Hold it, then relax. Notice how different tension and relaxation feel. Repeat.
.        Direct your attention to your upper back. Arch your back, sticking out your chest and stomach. Notice the tension in your back. Recognize what that tension feels like. Then, let go of that tension, bringing about deep relaxation. Allow those muscles to become loose. Be aware of what that relaxation feels like. Repeat.
.        Take a deep breath. Breath in as much as you can. Fill your chest with air until you can feel tension throughout your chest. Hold it and then release. Repeat. Notice your muscles in your chest getting more and more relaxed.
.        Then, tense your stomach muscles. Notice how that tension feels and then relax those muscles, again paying attention to that state of relaxation and how different it feels from tension. Repeat.
.        Now move your awareness to your legs. Lift your legs up and stretch them out. Feel how tense the muscles in your thighs are. Then, let your legs drop, relaxing your thigh muscles. Pay attention to the different sensations of relaxation and tension. Repeat.
.        Tense both of your calf muscles. You can do this by pointing your toes upward. You should feel the pull of your calf muscles as they tense. Notice that feeling. Then, let them relax. Let your feet fall, bringing about relaxation in your calf muscles. Notice that feeling, too. Repeat.
.        You are now done tensing and relaxing all muscles in your body. Scan the different muscles groups covered, and bring attention to any lingering muscle tension. If you find any, bring relaxation to those muscle groups, continuing to notice how different your body feels in a state of relaxation.
.        Initially, until you become familiar with the exercise, it may be best to have someone read this exercise to you while you close your eyes and sit in a comfortable chair. Alternatively, if you would like to do it alone, you can record the exercise and play it back to yourself.
.        When you tense your muscles, you should hold that tension (as comfortably as you can) for around 5 to 10 seconds. Then, stay in the relaxed state for at least 10 seconds.
.        A very important piece of this exercise is bringing awareness to the feelings of tension and relaxation. Therefore, throughout the exercise, make sure you are paying attention to these feelings and noticing how different your muscles feel when you move from tension to relaxation.
.        Practice regularly. The more you practice, the more it will become a habit, and the quicker you will be able to bring about relaxation when you are tense.
.        Make sure you do at least two cycles of tension-relaxation for each muscle group.
.        Source: 
Goldfried, M.R., & Davison, G.C. (1994). Clinical behavior therapy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Mindful Eating Meditation

Pick out one of the objects on the plate (with tongs) and hold it in the palm of your hand. Perhaps you've seen one of these objects, or done this exercise before...perhaps even so this will be a totally new experience.

Think about where the food object came from and the kindness and hard work of the people who grew or produced it.

Take a few seconds to notice your preconceived ideas of what it may taste like. Take a deep breath and let go of those thoughts. Observe it as though you’ve never seen this food object before.

Look at the object, noticing everything about it: color, texture, temperature-looking at all sides if you are willing, maybe even holding it up to the light and seeing if there are any changes in your perspective or seeing if it has an aroma. No need to change anything about your response, simply observing…

Notice what happens inside of your mouth as you contemplate eating this object...paying attention to the tongue, cheeks, throat...any part of your digestive system...your breathing and the thoughts in your mind...any excitement or resistances? Ideas that it will be pleasant, unpleasant, or are you feeling neutral?

As you bring the object to your mouth, notice the feelings of the muscles in your arm. Lightly touch the food against your lips. Do you notice any change in your mouth? A bit more saliva maybe...

Now, placing it on your tongue, seeing what happens: what does it feel like, where is it in your mouth, does the tongue want to move it...let it reside there even before chewing it [typically someone has already swallowed it-you can either provide another piece or let them participate as is-KC].

Then, as you chew noticing where it goes--front of the mouth, sides, in the cheek pockets...bringing your awareness to any changes, bursts of flavors as you swallow...whether you can feel it or taste it as it moves down your throat…

Become aware of the absence of the grape, of the taste and the aroma…Do you feel like another bite of the object for the taste?

 What happens after it's gone? Is the tongue moving around? or not...any saliva...any longing for more...or not? Simply noticing any feelings which arise-enjoyment, aversion, or anything else...noticing how you are in this very moment  without judgment, without having to do anything at all...

We usually eat on automatic pilot! …We are thinking about the day without paying much attention the way we eat or what we eat. And, very often, even why we are eating!

When you start eating your meals mindfully you will start noticing the different tastes and also become more aware of your body’s signals. Often you will eat less but enjoy your food more…

Any Mindful Meditation practice will have the same benefits. Try Mindful Walking as a focusing, mind-control and awareness technique… You might see your world in a different light!!

“Mindful Eating” is a well-known and very effective tool for treating eating disorders and encouraging general healthy, conscious eating habits. Any exercise that focuses the mind on a specific activity can be classed as a meditation.

Eating a meal together is a meditative practice. We should try to offer our presence for every meal. As we serve our food we can already begin practicing. Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence.

Note—I use cashews, raisins, Hershey kisses, Goldfish crackers, etc for this meditation.

Alternative Practices of Mindful Eating—

Switch Hands
The mere act of switching hands from your dominant hand to the hand you use less often can transform the feel of a meal. Having to work harder to handle utensils can bring a whole new awareness to a meal, and lessen the tendency to eat mindlessly. Each bite is noticed and, if you remember to do it, savored more.

Ringing Bells
Bring focus to eating by sounding a bell several times during the meditation. The bell would be a signal to stop chewing or drinking, breathe in and out three times, bringing awareness to tastes and smells and to the presence of others also enjoying their food (or to those who do not have enough to eat.)

Erich Schiffman’s ‘In/Out’ Meditation technique, a Zen-like technique--

Key points:
  • Watch yourself become still. Be comfortable in your posture.
  • Station your awareness at the nostrils.
  • Breath normally.
  • Think/Say to yourself-- ‘In’ on the inhale and ‘Out’ on the exhale.
  • Report the news (which is simply ‘In, Out’.)
  • When your mind gets caught up in a ‘thought tendril’, take your awareness back to the sensations at the nose and of your breath.
  • Continue with ‘In’/’Out’ and report the news.
  • Don’t concentrate too hard.
  • This is a ‘new now’…
  • Practice for at least 5 minutes.

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