If you’re planning on attending our Mindfulness Meditation practice sessions on Monday and Wednesday mornings (7:45am in Room FH 5607), please read this. It’s important because we initially have only 15 minutes set aside for our practice each day and want to maximize actual meditation time. We won’t talk about the practice or the principles behind it at these sessions. Clarify all your doubts here in the comments section of this or other blog articles.
Now here are some general rules.
Before the sitting
- Please be on time. If you’re late and the door is shut, please don’t enter the room until the session is finished.
- Don’t ask questions before, during or after the session. Ask here on this site, and get your doubts clarified before you attend.
- If you must, use the restroom before arriving. Do not leave the room for any reason during the session. In case there is a critical need to leave, do so as quietly as possible without distracting anyone else. Do not re-enter the room until the session is finished that day.
- As soon as you enter the room make sure to do the following within the first minute:
- Switch off your phones, or switch them to airplane mode. If necessary, leave your phones at the front desk by me.
- Settle in your chosen seat asap.
- Put the lid down on all laptops near you. Some laptops may have been left switched on and with the lid up by a previous class.
- Choose a posture (described below) and commit to it for the next 10 minutes.
- Maintain absolute silence. No talking with anyone else until the session is over. No eye-contact, glances or gestures either.
During the sitting
- I will dim the lights in the room. We will meditate with our eyes closed. Don’t open your eyes until you hear the gong at the end of the session.
- Don’t go out of your way to stifle a sneeze or contain a cough, but if at all possible, simply observe the evolving sensation of a sneeze or cough without voluntarily giving in “to the satisfaction of a completed sneeze.” Observe the sensations as they fade out by themselves.
- Breathe normally through your nose. Don’t try to hold your breath or otherwise control it. Don’t breathe unnaturally deeply. Simply observe the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Try to feel the air as it glides over your upper lip in and out of your nose. This will not be possible during the first several sittings, but you will eventually be pleasantly surprised at what you’re able to sense and observe as you gradually master the ability to silence your mind.
- Don’t feel anxious or stressed about losing focus on your breath. If anything, you should be surprised if your mind doesn’t wander during these initial sittings. Every time you catch yourself, without disappointment or anger, simply and gently bring your attention back to your breath and continue.
- Ignore and don’t be distracted by closed eye visuals. Sometimes these take the form of flashing or pulsating lights, strobes, and sometimes you may see patterning or steady lights. These will eventually fade as you continue to quiet your mind.
- Don’t fidget or adjust your posture under any circumstances. If your legs go to sleep, butt becomes numb, or if you can’t feel your hands, just trust that nothing bad is going to come of it in the 10 or 15 minutes of your sitting. Just let them be and continue to focus on your breath.
- Don’t count your breaths, nor the number of times your mind wanders and has to be re-centered. Trust the technique and that it will improve over time without conscious monitoring. If it takes over a year for you to make progress, so be it – what’s the hurry?
- Above all, don’t give up, thinking “this isn’t for me” or “I can’t do it.” Don’t feel disappointed that you’re regressing if you aren’t able to focus one day when you were able to focus just fine the previous day.
What to expect
- After several sittings when your mind has been calmed enough, you’ll start becoming aware of minor sensations on and around your mouth/nose. These may come in various forms, most commonly as an itch, a tickle, minor twitches, a feeling as though some part of your skin is being pricked by a sharp instrument, as if the tip of a feather is being drawn over the surface of your skin, as if an insect is crawling over it, etc. Or you may just feel goose bumps, a diffused tingling sensation or sensations of heat and cold.
- You won’t know if these are real or whether you’re imagining them, but it doesn’t matter. Know that these sensations are real experiences, and rest assured that they are benign and so, most importantly – don’t react to them. Don’t scratch that itch or massage that tingle. Instead just observe them calmly and watch them fade away only to be replaced by other sensations elsewhere. This is how you sharpen your mind to look past its many filters and perceive subtle sensations that normally escape the attention of your everyday consciousness. This is how you train your mind to be aware and in the moment. Towards the end of the quarter we’ll use the skills we build here to enjoy a small serving of our favorite snacks, and you’ll see what a difference your practice has made.
After the session
- When the session is over, 3 gongs will sound. You may open your eyes at this time, relax and get into the right frame of mind for your subject lecture. Doors will open to let other students in.
- Remember the 3 P’s: Patience, Perseverance and Practice – These not only help with programming and proofs, but also with meditation, although that doesn’t start with a p 🙂
Choosing a posture
If this were a longer sitting of, say, an hour or more, I would suggest you pick a comfortable posture and commit to it until the end. No matter how comfortable your posture is, you will reach a point during the hour when it becomes uncomfortable, then mildly irritating, painful and utterly painful. Strangely, it is valuable to progress through these stages as we learn to objectively observe the pain sensation and dissociate our personal identities from it. Sticking to the chosen posture with resolve, a practice called adhiṭṭhāna, builds strong determination and prepares the mind for greater and greater levels of objectification, culminating in a dissolution of personality itself, resulting in an overwhelming feeling of peace, compassion and unity with all beings. While that may be an ultimate goal, hoping to achieve it during our baby sittings in class would be an ambitious undertaking. Still, to give you a taste of something you can try and practice on your own, I recommend that you pick a slightly uncomfortable (but not dangerous or harmful) posture and stick with it for the entire sitting. The idea behind this is that since we don’t have an entire hour, we’d like for the discomfort to kick in earlier than later, thus giving you an opportunity to objectively observe this benign discomfort without reacting to it.
One suggestion is to sit up straight, with both feet planted firmly on the ground, making sure not to lean back on your chair. Keep your back upright and spine as straight as possible. Don’t slouch during these short sittings.
That’s it for now. Feel free to ask any questions now.
See you at 7:45am in FH5607 on Wednesday, 18 Jan, 2017 (Since Monday 1/16 is a holiday).