One young reader requested I address the meditation to reduce stress. I think it is important to address this issue at the beginning. Meditation is practiced in all religions, and more importantly is considered an integral part of Buddhist practice.
What is meditation ? and why do we need to do meditation?
What is meditation ? There are many definitions of meditation but to me simply put, meditation is concentration, focusing one thing at a time. Meditation is the opposite of distraction, forgetfulness.
Why do people practice meditation ? People often practice meditation to reduce or manage stress. Meditation was recognized as an excellent method in reducing stress.
Here are some statistics on harmful effects of stress that we need to reduce or eliminate in our daily life.
· Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
· Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
· Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
· The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions
One more important reason for doing meditation in Buddhism is development of wisdom. Unless we meditate to calm ourselves, we will not have wisdom to understand the truth which Buddha taught. Why is it ?
Human mind can be compared with a lake. On a windy, stormy day its surface is full of waves. If we stand at the edge of the lake and look down, we will not be able to see anything because of the turbulence of waves.
When the wind and the storm cease, the lake surface becomes calm, tranquil, undisturbed of waves, we can clearly see the pebble, the leaf, the frog at the bottom of the lake. These things were always there but we could not see them because of the turbulent waves. Similarly if we allow ourselves to calm down by doing meditation, the turbulent waves of thought will subside and gradually disappear. We can clearly see and understand things, which we did not understand before.
Buddha also compared human mind to a monkey. It jumps around all the time. Unless we can tame the money mind we will be stressful, worried, restless.
According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute or 69,984 thoughts per day. At one minute one thought: “ Oh my daughter goes home late tonight “ Another minute he thought: “ Oh, Joe made me angry this morning” or. “How do I come up with enough money to buy a new car “. These thoughts are random and endless. They are the turbulent waves that rob our energy, disturb our peace, make us distracted, worry, jittery … Unless we control them by practicing meditation we will always be easily nervous, upset, worried, unhappy …
When we are so distracted, we become forgetful. We forget where we park our car, where we put the car keys. We cannot even understand what our husband or wife says to us, how could we understand the deep truth Buddha teaches… In summary our life is a mess.
I hope I have convinced you the importance of meditation. But would you want to know the correct method to practice meditation ?
I will discuss briefly how-to-meditation in this email. In later emails I will go into detail meditation practice taught in Buddhism. It will take several sessions to cover this vast topic.
Generally there are many methods of meditation but the meditation counting the breath is the most basic and most popular. I will describe 2 methods of breathing meditation. They are easy to do and very important practice in Buddhism.
The preparation for a meditation session is as important as the meditation itself. The meditator should decide:
a/ An appropriate sitting position: He can sit on the floor with legs crossing: ( right foot on the left thigh and left foot on the right thigh ( Full Lotus position ), or right foot on the left thigh only, left foot remains under right thigh ( Half Lotus positon ). If a person cannot sit crossed legs on the floor because of stiffness, pain, he or she can sit on a chair.
b/ Back, neck: the meditator keeps his back, neck straight
c/ Eyes: Eyes are half open, looking down 6 feet in front of the leg. Some people close their eyes during meditation. I found it conducing to sleep and sleep is not meditation because we are not aware of things during the sleep. In meditation we are fully aware of everything.
d/ Hands: Both hands rest on thigh. Left hand on top of right hand, right thumb touches left thumb
e/ Duration: For the beginner, 5-10 minutes of daily meditation is sufficient. When he is more proficient, he can proceed to 30 minutes or 60 minutes per day.
e/ Methods of breathing:
1- Counting the breath ( So Tuc). The meditator will observes his breath and counts it. After one breath ( in and out ) he counts One, after the second breath in and out, he counts Two. He continues to count until 5, then counts back to One, Two … If he forgets the order of the breath, he will go back to count One, Two … Once he is able to count his breath from one to five without missing any breath for several weeks, he will proceed to count from One to Ten breath. By counting breath, the meditator is able to focus on doing one thing at a time, avoiding distraction, or having random thought. His mind becomes calmer, clearer. He is happier and has more wisdom.
2- Following the Breath ( Tuy Thuc). After becoming proficient in the previous method, the meditator will graduate to the second method which is following the breath. In this method he does not need to count his breath, but just follows it. When the breath goes in to the nose, he is aware of it. When the breath goes to the lung, he is aware of it. When he exhales he is aware of it. After a period of 10-15 minutes he becomes calmer, happier.
Hope you all practice meditation with good results. Email me if you have any question or difficulty
Until next time
Peace and Joy to all,
Dennis A Chu
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