A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Everyday benefits

Buddhism is a practical set of instructions on being the best we can be, in the here and now. It teaches us to concentrate on what we are doing this very moment. How many traffic accidents have you heard about, where one or both drivers have said, I only took my eyes off the road for a second. How many of us have stubbed our toes while walking, on an easily seen obstacle, if only we had been paying attention. Regardless of what we do, from walking to studying to driving, we are at our best when we concentrate on what we do. Learning to meditate teaches us to calm our minds.  A large number of Temples offer introductory course or retreats to teach meditation. These are better than reading as someone is there that can help guide you, however even reading and getting a basic understanding is a start. Buddha called our untrained mind, monkey mind. It swings from this branch to the next, then sometimes before grasping the next branch, is already jumping to one that has a piece of fruit we want. Meditation according to the method the Buddha taught was an adjustment of three things. We learn to start from the outside and work inwards. The first adjustment we make is to the body. There is no correct position. The full Lotus is a comfortable and easy to maintain position, after you have trained your muscles to achieve it. However if you are just starting out, or if you have health issues it is more important you are in a position you can maintain comfortably then to be in a full lotus. Sit in a comfortable chair, but make sure it is one that allows you to remain upright without extra effort, that Lazyboy recliner that you always have your nap in might not be the best choice. Next place your hands on your knees or between your legs with your left hand cupped upward, supporting your right hand. Now that your comfortable, gently close your eyes, with your head slight bent forward, to where it isn’t pulling in anyone direction. Don’t clench your jaw and allow your tongue to rest against the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth. Now imagine yourself as a tiny speck on the inside of the tip of your nose. You are the breathing inspector; observe your breath as your body draws it in. Notice the coolness of it, how dry it seems to be. Is there a pause before you exhale? Then the warmth and moistness of the air as you exhale. Is there a pause before you start to repeat the cycle? Continue to concentrate on your breath, and soon your mind will say I’m bored and come up with something it would rather do. Perhaps it might say, hey our favorite television show is about to start, or I could really go for a nice cup of tea or coffee, or perhaps something else. Drop the thought, don’t continue down that path, and rather bring your focus back to your breathing. Every time you mind wanders gently focus back on your breathing. From my experience and others I have talked to, don’t be surprised if at first you seem to be spending your time bringing your mind back to your breathing, only to have it jump to the next desire. Set aside even 15 or 20 minutes to start, and do it regularly every day. One day when you are done, you will suddenly realize you had a moment or two of silence during your meditation, congratulations you’re on your way. Don’t panic if the next day you’re back to monkey mind, or he returns the week after. Just keep at it, you will notice an improvement in length of calmness and the eventually ease at which you obtain it.

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