BUDDHIST MEDITATION : Meta and Mindfulness Meditation
History & Significance
Mindfulness Meditation is an adaptation from traditional Buddhist meditation practices, especially Vipassana, but also has strong influence from other lineages (Vietnamese Zen Buddhism from Thich Nhat Hanh). “Mindfulness” is the common western translation for the Buddhist term sati. Anapanasati, or the “mindfulness of breathing ”, is part of the Buddhist practice of Vipassana or insight meditation, and other Buddhist meditational practices, such as zazen (source Wikipedia).
Mindfulness Meditation was popularized in the West by John Kabat-Zinn. He created a program, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) , developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. This program was used in several hospitals and health clinic on the past decades.
How do I practice?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and to the emotions that arise in your body and mind.
For good practice, you should sit on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair, with straight and unsupported back. You should pay attention to the movement of your breath. When you breath in, be aware that you are breathing in. Notice the sensation, how it feels to breath. Similarly, when you breath out, be aware you are breathing out. Pay close attention to the movement of your breath. Do like this for the length of your meditation practice, constantly redirecting the attention to the breath. Or you can move on to be paying attention to the sensations, feelings and thoughts that arise in you.
The goal is not to add intentionally anything to our present moment experience, but to observe what we feel, what we are. To be aware of what is going on in our body, without losing ourselves in anything that arises.
This is the best trainer for your “monkey mind”. Your mind will get distracted into going along with sounds, sensations, feelings, memories and thoughts. Whenever that happens, gently recognize that you have been distracted, and bring the attention back to the breathing, to the present moment. There is a big difference between being “inside” the sensation or thought, and simply being aware of it`s presence.
Learn to enjoy your practice. After each meditation session, appreciate if you feel different your mind and body.
There is also the practice of mindfulness during our daily activities: while eating, walking, and most important, when talking. For “daily routine activities” meditation, the practice is to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening, and not living on an “auto-pilot”. If you are speaking, pay attention to what words you speak, and how you speak them. When someone is speaking to you, listen carefully, pay attention to what that person what to share with you. If you are waling, be aware of the moves of your body, your feet touching the ground, the sounds that you are hearing.
Your effort in seated practice supports your daily life mindfulness meditation practice and vice-versa. They are both equally important.
Read more about staying anchored in the present moment in The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
Psychology Today (more details on how to practice)
Palouse Mindfulness (MBSR free online course)
Do I need this meditation?
In my opinion, this is the most advisable way to get started with meditation. It is the type of meditation that became a habit in schools and hospitals. The “mindfulness movement”, as practiced nowadays in society is not pure Buddhism, but an adaptation of the practices due to their benefits in both physical and mental health. Practicing this meditation gives you a general wellbeing feeling.
If you are only look for the benefits of meditation for the physical and mental bodies, then this type of meditation if all that you need. Practicing it will bring many good things in your life.
If your focus is a deeper transformation and spiritual development, then mindfulness meditation may be just an initial step for you. This is a gateway for other meditational practices, like Vipassana or Zazen.
Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)
History & Significance
Metta is a Pali work that means kindness and good will. This practice comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially Theravada and Tibetan lineages. Also, there is a contemporary scientific field, “Compassion meditation” , that demonstrates the efficacy of Metta and other meditative practices.
There is a long list of benefits as a result of practicing these meditational practices. It includes: boosting the ability to empathize with others, development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards self. Also, you will increase your self-acceptance, experiencing a greater feeling of competence about life. This is a good practice for discovering your purpose in life.
How do I practice?
Sit down in a comfortable meditation position, with eyes closed. Start to visualize that you generate feelings of kindness, in your mind and in your heart. First, develop feelings of love and kindness toward yourself. Then, towards others and all beings on the Planet. Usually the progression of generating kindness is advised to be:
a close friend
a “neutral” person
a person you have/had a conflict with
all four of the above equally
gradually the entire Universe.
The goal of this meditation is to be able to visualize how you send happiness and well-being for all living beings. This practice may has a better result if you recite specific words or sentences that evoke the warm-hearted feeling, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love. Also you can try to imagine how another person feels in a certain situation, and wish them happiness and peace.
Therefore, the more you practice this type of meditation, the more joy you will experience.
In this article , Emma Seppala, Ph.D describes the 18 scientifically proven benefits of Loving Kindness meditation.
Metta Institute (Buddha’s word on metta)
Huffington Post article on the benefits of metta
Do I need this meditation?
If you feel that you have the tendency to be critic about yourself and about others, you should try this meditation and notice the obvious difference. It also helps in improving relationships, both social and romantic. Metta Meditation is beneficial both for selfless and self-centered people, and it will help you increase your general level of happiness. It will help you train your body to emit positive vibration instead of negative vibes.
On a medical side, it is recommended by Buddhist teachers, as an antidote to insomnia, nightmares or anger issues.
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