Meditation Instruction

Practice Meditation Brings True Happiness

Thiền Tập Đem Lại Hạnh Phúc Đích Thực

(A Guided to Practice Meditation)

Thich Thanh Dieu Giacb4x6

Practicing meditation helps us release stress, anger, fear, anxieties, worries, resentment, and the other difficulties we face in our everyday lives.  This practice is especially important now, as we cope with economic hardship; wrestle with the desire to become rich; or enjoy the latest new product which we think will bring us happiness.

So often, we don’t even realize that those desires for material fulfillment are the source of our fears, worries, and stress.   But, if we are satisfied with what we have and we know how to live with “just enough,” then we will be able to control our desire and not let our mind run after the materialistic world.  How do we recognize these unnecessary wants?

First of all, practicing meditation can help us become aware of ourselves and our surroundings.  There are three types of meditation that can help us reduce our desire, all of which are necessary to release stress and fear so that we may find peace and happiness within ourselves and those around us.

What is meditation? Meditation allows us to look deeply into our inner self and to become aware of our mind, body, and surroundings through special breathing techniques.  While doing so, we may feel lighter, calmer, and clear-minded.  We can also apply these meditation practices to whatever we are doing at the present moment. An important component of this practice is the sitting posture; it is the action that helps us to focus on our breath easier.  There are three basic meditation practices that we can immediately apply in our daily lives to help us develop inner peace and true happiness.

Contemplation On Breathing

The first type of meditation practice is called Contemplation On Breathing.  This is the most basic form of meditation for beginners.  It is the foundation and the key to our practice and spiritual journey, because if our mind and body are not calm, then we will not be stable enough to absorb what we are reading, hearing, seeing and practicing.  Therefore, when we practice meditation we need to focus on breathing to give us a chance to recharge our inner energy and balance our mind and body.  We only need to practice 15 or 30 minutes a day to calm our mind and allow our body to relax by simply breathing in deeply and breathing out slowly.  When our mind/body is relaxed and at peace, our blood circulates and our body organs are activated.  As a result, our body generates heat, which in turn stimulates our brain to release beneficial biochemicals and hormones such as endorphins.  Endorphins are hormones that have the capacity to destroy bad body cells and reproduce good body cells.  More importantly, endorphins are capable of reducing body pain and making us feel energetic, youthful, clear-minded, optimistic, and content with the present moment.

We will begin by practicing Contemplation On Breathing meditation. Let’s start with the sitting posture, which will allow us to focus our breathing.  First, you should find a quiet and solemn place to meditate.  Use only half of a round cushion (about 3.5 inches high) in order to sit in one of the following postures:

  • a full-lotus posture (both leg-crossed – this is the most steady posture to focus on breathing)
  • a half-lotus posture (the right leg placed on the left thigh)
  • a Burmese sitting style (left leg inward and right leg outward – neither leg crossed).

Try each of the three postures and choose the one that feels most comfortable to you.  The most important thing is to adjust your posture in such a way that your knees touch the ground.  If your health does not allow you to sit on the floor, then you may want to sit on a chair but do not lean back against the chair because it will make you feel sleepy.  After you have chosen the posture that feels most comfortable, then begin to adjust your body:

  • your head and back should be straight,
  • your eyes and mouth closed gently,
  • the right palm face upward and placed on left palm, thumb tips touching, indicating mind and body are oneness,
  • and the wrist and forearm are rested on the legs directly level with the belly.

When you feel your head is lighter, your face is soft/gentle, and your body relaxed … steadily ease into and begin contemplation on your breathing.

When you are breathing in, be conscious that you are breathing fresh air into the nostrils, bring the air path down to the belly and silently count one, two, three, four …   Once the inhalation is complete and the air path has reached the belly, be conscious that the belly is rising, hold the breath for a moment then breathe out.  Allow the air path to flow under your bottom and over and up behind your back and throughout the body, then bring the air path to the top of your head, out to the nostrils and silently count one, two, three, four, five, six …

After the full air path has exited out the nostrils, be aware that your belly is falling and gradually you will feel your body warm up – especially your back.  When you are breathing out, you may want to visualize you are breathing out the negative energy if at any moment you feel angry or worried.  When you first practice meditation, you should use the technique of counting your breath to help you stay awake and become more aware of your breathing.   If any thoughts arise while you’re sitting, let them come and go naturally, and just focus on your breathing … in-deep-rising, out-slow-falling.  Once you are comfortable and become accustomed with sitting, you will feel clear-minded and at ease without having to use the counting technique to focus on your breath.

The meditation practice of Contemplation On Breathing is very simple and effective, yet it needs commitment and dedication.  You don’t have to sit for long hours – 15 or 30 minutes a day of practice is enough.  When you’re sitting, feel that you are sitting for enjoyment so that you won’t be bored and give up the practice.

Whatever ritual you practice, whether it is reciting Buddha’s Names, chanting sutras, prostration to the Buddha, etc. …  you need to be aware of your breathing so that you are calm and clear.  Once your mind is at peace, you will be able to absorb the sutra that you’re chanting and notice that your breath is in harmony with your recitation.

Besides practicing Contemplation On Breathing in the sitting posture, you should train yourself by applying the breathing exercise to whatever you are doing.  Whether you’re cooking, driving a car, cleaning, using the computer, reading, watching TV, listen to music, etc. … or when you are walking, standing, lying down, speaking, acting, you should be aware of the depth and pace of your in and out breath.  When you are aware of your breathing, you are mindful to your action, words, and thoughts. The resulting outcome will be that of compassion, caring, and understanding.  For that reason, others will listen and know that you are sharing peace and joy.  The more you practice meditation, the more youthful, energetic, clear-minded, and gentle you will be toward yourself and others.

Contemplation On Loving-Kindness

The second type of meditation is called Contemplation On Loving-Kindness. This form of meditation is the practice of visualizing someone (whether is someone we love, someone who made us suffer, someone we dislike, someone we have never met, and someone we feel neutral towards), or a place that we want to send positive energy and prayer.  This practice helps us cultivate compassion and reconcile feelings of anger and selfishness toward ourselves and others.  As the Buddha said, “The most foolish person in the world is the person who makes himself or herself suffer.”

When we are stressed, depressed, worried, fearful, angry or consumed with negative thoughts, then our body’s good cells are rapidly destroyed.  This is because these strong negative thoughts stimulate our brain to release toxic biochemicals and hormones, such as cortisol.  Cortisol is at the top of the list of stress hormones.  When our brain releases cortisol, we feel sluggish, angry, and have low self-esteem.  It can also lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, headache, memory problems, etc.

When you first begin to practice Contemplate On Loving-Kindness meditation, you should contemplate and send the positive energy to yourself first; you have to love and accept yourselves before you’re able to love and accept others.  Begin to sit in comfortable steady posture, and be aware of your breathing:  in-out, deep-slow and contemplate on such phrases:

  • “Breathing in, may I be at peace and happy; breathing out, may I be modest and have compassion toward others.
  • Breathing in, may I act as a responsible daughter (or son) toward my parents; breathing out, may my parents live healthy and long lives.
  • Breathing in, may I believe in myself and in the Three-Jewels; breathing out, may I be diligent in practicing Buddha’s teachings.
  • Breathing in, may I be able to recognize when unwholesome seeds (such as jealousy, prejudice, hatred, discrimination, fear, anger, despair, etc.) arise and be able to transform them into wholesome seeds; breathing out, may I recognize, acknowledge and feel joy toward other accomplishments, and the good deeds they are carrying (or have carried) out.
  • Breathing in, may I be patient and listen to what others have to say or share; breathing out, may I be full of understanding, loving-kindness, sweetness, and humor.
  • Breathing in, may I live mindfully; breathing out, may I create a happy atmosphere in my family …”

For those who hurt you or that you feel resentful towards, you may contemplate on phrases like this:

  • “Breathing in, I am aware that I feel angry and depressed; breathing out, I know that the energy of anger and depression will burn the good body cells in me.
  • Breathing in, I let go and forgive him/her (you may want to invite his or her name); breathing out, I realize everyone makes mistake.
  • Breathing in, may he/she be happy and have peace; breathing out, may he/she be supported and cared by many people.
  • Breathing in, may he/she meet the right teacher and be joined by good friends; breathing out, may he/she soon transform all difficulties and unwholesome actions, so that he/she develops compassion and understanding.
  • Breathing in, may he/she be modest and patient; breathing out, may he/she have the capacity to listen in order to bring happiness to others …”

When we practice sending our energy and prayers to others, we gradually transform our suffering and reconcile with those with whom we feel resentful.  We have to realize that our well-being is the happiness of others, and others’ well-being is our happiness.  If our inner self is filled with positive energy, we will bring peace and happiness to others.  But if our inner self is filled with negative energy, we make others feel stressed, uncomfortable, disturbed, and want to avoid us.  When we understand the concept of interconnectedness and what inter-being means, we won’t want to cause sadness toward anyone, nor will we allow ourselves to be drawn into sadness.

We should also practice the meditation of Contemplation On Loving-Kindness when we watch, hear, or read unfortunate news such as natural disasters that cause death and destruction; acts of robbery or rape; the poverty and sickness that is widespread in undeveloped countries; acts of violence and abuse toward vulnerable women and innocent children, etc.

You may want to contemplate on the following phrases:

  • “Breathing in, may all the victims in disaster at ___(name the state, city and country the disaster is happening), if they are still living, may they soon receive support from many people; and if they have passed, may they be reborn into the peaceful realm. Breathing out, may the world be at peace and free from disaster, war and violence.
  • Breathing in, may no one harm anyone; breathing out, may everyone love and protect others just as their own flesh.
  • Breathing in, may the sickness soon be healed; breathing out, may everyone follow a proper diet, exercise regularly, and be light in body and spirit.
  • Breathing in, may everyone be full of warmth; breathing out, may everyone perform good deeds by practicing giving and caring to those in need.
  • Breathing in, may the children in the world receive good education and strong moral values; breathing out, may all the leaders, teachers and parents have compassion and understanding so that they can lead, guide, and teach others …”

These are a few general phrases on the Contemplation On Loving-Kindness meditation that you can instill your prayers and energy toward the victims or places where the unfortunate conditions are happening.  When we send our energy and prayers to ourselves and others, we develop compassion, understanding, and we learn to appreciate what we have and share with those in need by donation, support, or comfort.

Contemplation on Subjects or Issues

The third type of meditation is called Contemplation On Subjects Or Issues. Whenever we are looking for an answer or trying to solve a problem, we have to be calm and peaceful in order to look deep into the problem and find the cause of the problem.  For example, when we lack communication with others and they are not patient enough to listen to our needs, then we may want to apply Contemplation On Subjects Or Issues meditation to resolve problem.

You may want to utilize the following phrases:

  • “Breathing in, may I learn to speak in such a way that my ___ (mom, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother, friends …) is/are able to accept my words; breathing out, may my words and sharing bring benefit and happiness to others.
  • Breathing in, I want to understand what I said that made my ___(mom, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother, friends …) upset; breathing out, may I learn to speak and act in mindfulness and loving-kindness so that I can bring joy and happiness to my ___ (mom, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother, friends …).
  • Breathing in, I’m trying to find the answer to this math problem; breathing out, if I let go and relax I will find the solution.
  • Breathing in, I’m aware that I’m conducting an experiment (name the experiment that you are conducting); breathing out, may my experiment bring benefit to others and not cause damage to the environment.
  • Breathing in, may my works bring benefit to others; breathing out I need support from my family and others …”

If we practice the meditation of Contemplate On Subjects Or Issues, we learn to look deeply into ourselves and become aware of what is happening around us and inside of us.  This practice will help us not to overreact in fear or out of apprehension or stress when facing difficulties.  If we practice Contemplate On Subjects Or Issues meditation regularly, we will learn to accept, love, and embrace others with tolerance, patience and caring no matter what their conditions are.  As result, our relationships with others will improve.

And so we see these three types meditation: Contemplation On Breathing, on Loving-Kindness, or On Subjects Or Issues are very necessary in our daily lives.  These types of meditation practice will discipline our mind, fortify our inner-strength, and make us feel lighter and more energetic.  These spiritual qualities will help us accomplish anything we want to pursue in our lives.   If these practices are so helpful, why not apply them?

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