Best Guide to Meditation: This Is the Perfect Book If You Want to Reduce Stress, If You Already Meditate But Want to Learn New Techniques, or If

Overview

You've heard about meditation but don't know where to begin? Begin with this book!

-Want instant gratification? Go directly to chapter 2 and you will start meditating immediately!

-Your doctor says you can control stress with meditation. Your doctor is right! It also works on anxiety and hypertension.

-This book jump-starts the novice by making meditation instantly accessible, and shows intermediate and advance meditators how to deepen their practice.

-Busy, busy, busy? If you're looking for peace of mind, ...

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Overview

You've heard about meditation but don't know where to begin? Begin with this book!

-Want instant gratification? Go directly to chapter 2 and you will start meditating immediately!

-Your doctor says you can control stress with meditation. Your doctor is right! It also works on anxiety and hypertension.

-This book jump-starts the novice by making meditation instantly accessible, and shows intermediate and advance meditators how to deepen their practice.

-Busy, busy, busy? If you're looking for peace of mind, happiness, relaxation, and serenity, try meditation.

-It's simple, it's natural, and its results can be permanent

.

-Who meditates...aside from Deepak Chopra, the Dalai Lama, and The Beatles? Well, Goldie Hawn, Barbara De Angelis, Richard Gere, Oliver Stone, Andrew Weil, M.D., and Howard Stern, to name a few.

-Feeling muddleheaded, slightly out of it? Meditating gets you in touch with your emotions and teaches you how to go with the flow.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580630108
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Series: Best Guide Series
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 285,461
  • Product dimensions: 9.18 (w) x 7.36 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor N. Davich has studied for more than twenty-five years with several of the West's foremost meditation teachers. He has also been a business affairs attorney, creative consultant, and producer for Parmount Pictures, Fox Broadcasting, and Universal-TV. He resides in Venice, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


It's Easier
than You
Think


    Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (roshi means teacher or elder) was the Japanese Zen master instrumental in bringing Zen meditation to America in the 1960s. In his classic book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, he said: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few." The great traditions of meditation have welcomed beginners with open arms. Suzuki Roshi advised all his students, even the most advanced, always to keep their beginner's mind. For a true beginner, as you may be, this is a wonderful thing. Coming to meditation without preconceived notions, not locked into any particular idea of what is right or wrong, is like learning to play golf without any bad habits.


BEGINNER'S MIND,
GOAL-ORIENTED MIND


While it's good to approach meditation with an open mind, there's no need to beat yourself up for having some preconceptions. We're all human, and we rarely do anything without preconceptions. Beginner or not, if you are reading this book, you probably have some goal or expectation in mind of what meditation is like and what it will do for you. You may have read something on the cover that intrigued you, or heard something of meditation's benefits and rewards--from peace of mind to improved health to creative insights to spiritual development--that sounded intriguing, or made it worthwhile to give meditation a try.

    It's good to have goals and expectations, they'll help motivate you to give the suggested meditations in this book a try, and to clear aside the twenty minutes a day needed to sit and meditate. Before going farther it may even be helpful to review the rewards that first stirred your interest in meditation. The following are goals that people typically bring to meditation practice. Check off any that apply to you. Which do you hope to find through meditation?


Inner happiness and/or peace of mind.
Relief from high-blood pressure, stress, a heart
condition, asthma, or other medical condition.
A spiritual experience.
Self-discovery or greater self-knowledge.
A solution to a personal or professional dilemma.
Creative insights.
Healing from the stress and pain of traumatic life
events, such as death of a loved one, abuse, war,
accident, divorce.
Relief from anxiety, confusion, depression.
Aid in recovery from alcoholism, substance abuse, sex-addiction,
or other obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Boosted memory and intelligence.
Reduced or eliminated chronic physical pain.
Communion with God.
A better handle on your weight, temper, passivity,
anger, or other unbalanced areas of your life.


    Meditation can help you achieve these goals in a natural, simple, and permanent way.

    Meditation works at a deep, intuitive level and results in real, not superficial or cosmetic, changes. Meditation is not a form of wishing for something. When you meditate, you don't meditate to lose twenty pounds. You simply meditate.


"No thank you"


Using diet as an example, however, meditation could help you lose that twenty pounds. The more meditation you do, the more you get in touch with yourself naturally. You become more aware of what you are doing on a moment-by-moment basis. And that includes the moments when you are eating.

    One seemingly normal day, you've finished dinner and are ready for one of those fattening desserts you love. It is put in front of you. It looks great. You pick up your spoon. And then you do something you haven't done before: You really look at that dessert.

    What happens next surprises everyone, including you. You politely say, "No, thank you," and you pass on it.

    The next morning at breakfast, you find yourself really looking at the usual plate of sausage, waffles, and syrup in front of you. You are naturally--for the first time perhaps--totally aware that this is not something that someone who needs to lose weight eats for breakfast. Calmly, you push away the waffles and reach for the cereal.

    That's how it starts. No books, no starvation diets, no complex food balancing charts--just an increased awareness of what you are doing and a sense of being that much closer to your body's desire to be healthy. The result is real and lasting change. You're happier and healthier.


HOW SCIENCE SAYS
MEDITATION CAN HELP YOU


Meditation research increased dramatically during the past three decades, particularly in the United States. Since the early 1970s, more than a thousand laboratory studies of meditation have been reported in scientific journals, books, and graduate theses in the English language alone. These tests--involving EEGs, brain scans, blood and hormonal samplings, and a host of other cutting-edge scientific research methodologies--provided incontestable evidence of meditation's benefits. Detailed analysis showed meditation produced important cardiovascular, cortical, hormonal, and metabolic benefits, along with several positive behavioral effects and significant beneficial alterations of interior experience, perception, and self-image. These studies, says Michael Murphy, co-founder of California's famed Esalen Institute, are "gradually improving our scientific understanding of meditation in ways that complement the insights contained in the traditional contemplative literature." Everyone seemed to benefit from these improvements--regardless of gender, race, or the type of pain they suffer.


Psychological benefits


Hundreds of laboratory tests show that practicing meditating for as little as twenty minutes once a day promotes improved psychological well-being and mental performance. Among the other beneficial effects, meditation results in:

* improved mental health,
* greater emotional stability,
* outgoingness,
* independence,
* spontaneity,
* lessened anxiety and depression,
* reduced dependence on licit and illicit drugs,
* greater sense of and interest in the spiritual,
* more accurate judgment,
* creative thoughts,
* increased concentration,
* empathy, and
* improved memory and intelligence.


Physical benefits


Hundreds of other research studies indicate that mediating only twenty minutes a day improves health and can ameliorate the symptoms of even some serious illnesses. For instance, it:

* boosts energy,
* increases stamina,
* speeds recovery,
* lessens the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks, and
other allergic reactions,
* lowers blood pressure significantly,
* materially reduces stress and stress-related illnesses like
heart disease, hypertension, and insomnia,
* significantly alleviates present-moment and chronic physical
pain from arthritis, back injury, and most other causes,
* improves response time, motor skills, coordination, and
other physical responses.


WHAT IS MEDITATION?


Meditation may seem mysterious and difficult. But it's easier than you think. In fact, it's as easy as falling off a log, says Herbert Benson, M.D. Benson has successfully taught thousands to meditate in the laboratory. It may take a few tries to get the hang of meditation, Benson warns. But he promises that you'll soon notice its physical and mental benefits.

    Benson's research shows that four things are necessary to produce a state of deep meditation:

1. a quiet environment to eliminate distractions;

2. a comfortable posture that allows complete relaxation;

3. a few moments spent relaxing; and

4. a "mental device" (traditionally called a mantra or prayer) to help block the endless flow of thoughts generated by our waking mind.

    Begin by slowly relaxing all your muscles, Benson advises, starting at your feet and ending with your neck, head, and face. Then for the next ten to twenty minutes, while keeping the muscles relaxed, breath in and out easily and naturally, mentally saying "one" (or the mental device of your choice) with each breath.

    Why do meditation? Why not just sit quietly and relax? Because simple relaxation doesn't produce the same mental and physical benefits as meditation. One joint Oxford University and University of London research project found meditation-like programs are far more effective at reducing stress than just relaxing.


Defining meditation


There are many definitions of meditation. The truth is, any attempt to define meditation with words falls short of truly explaining this practice.

    There is a famous Zen saying, "Zen is not the moon, but only a finger pointing at the moon." This means that the word is not the reality. In the words of Alfred Korzybski, "The map is not the territory."

    Just as looking at a map of Kansas is not the same as being in Kansas, reading definitions of meditation or books on meditation technique is not meditation. The only way to understand what meditation means is to meditate.

    One of the most famous and wisest books in the world is the Chinese Tao Te Ching, The Book of the Way. It is attributed to the eighth-century Chinese master Lao-tzu. Its subject is the Tao, the great flow of life and death.

    In one passage Lao-tzu says:


But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear,
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.


    Meditation, like the Tao, is beyond words. You can read about it forever and still come up scratching your head. But when you use it, meditation is an inexhaustible, continual source of energy, insight, and true wisdom.

    Awake as used by the Buddha does not simply mean alert. Awake means a new, more joyous, enriching, and happier way of being. As the powerful sun of clarity burns off our individual fog of delusion, we find ourselves in a new, bright, happier place where the sun always shines. Moreover, meditation helps us to connect to the universe in a whole new way.


A simple definition


Work with this definition as you begin your practice:

Meditation is the art of opening to each moment with calm awareness.

    You might want to place copies of this sentence wherever you post memos--over the kitchen sink, on your computer monitor, on your bathroom mirror, on the sun visor of your car, on your dining room placemat, on the refrigerator door.

    As you continue your meditation practice, you will come across many definitions of meditation. You may also come to formulate your own. Remember that whatever they are, and wherever they come from, definitions are merely words, and as such can only point at meditation. The only way to understand what meditation means is to meditate.


Quieting the mind


The meditative state is different from being high, asleep, or hypnotized. It is a unique physiological state. The writer and psychologist Lawrence LeShan, in How To Meditate, says that the singularity of the meditative state is connected with a dramatic reduction in the number of signals that our body and brain are called upon to process.

    Normally, our senses are bombarded with a wide variety of stimuli that urgently demand responses from the brain. They can be physical, such as hunger; mental, such as thinking; or emotional, such as fright. When too many messages are sent at once, the brain can overheat like an overloaded electrical system. The manifestations on a conscious level include being anxious, overwhelmed, confused, and stressed.

    In the meditative state, on the other hand, the meditator ideally brings total awareness, concentration, and attention to only one thing, such as the breath, which is called the object of awareness. This becomes an anchor in the sea of thoughts and feelings that we call consciousness. When focused on breath we let go of thoughts and sensations as we become aware of them and immediately return to the breath.

    By focusing the mind on just one object, the number of signals sent to our brain is greatly reduced, allowing the mind to settle down into a deeply relaxed, yet highly alert state.


THE ROOTS OF MEDITATION


Meditation is a tradition with roots in the major religions of the world. Meditation joins company with devotion and prayer to help humanity in its quest for connection with something greater than itself.

    All of the great traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism, developed, along with their devotional side, a wisdom, or meditative aspect.

    In Coming Home, Lex Hixon gives this analogy:


Imagine you are wandering through a vast cathedral. Countless stained-glass windows, radiant in the darkness, represent the modes of worship and ways of understanding that humanity has evolved throughout its history. Some windows picture Divine Presence through personal forms or attributes, and seekers worship before these windows with devotion. Other seekers, preferring the way of wisdom, contemplate stained-glass windows that present nothing personal, simply esoteric patterns evoking harmony and unity. Devotion and wisdom are alternate ways to Enlightenment. Some sacred traditions interweave both ways.


    Thus, devotional prayer embraces meditation in the search of humankind to name that thing that has no name but goes by many. This is the ground of the great religious traditions, which the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita or the Song of God, describes as "that one-pointed concentration of the will which leads a man to absorption in God." God goes by many other names including: The Dharma, Christ Nature, Higher Power, Tao, Divine Presence, Godhead, Allah, Yahweh, Original Mind.

    Paralleling the many names for God are the varied practices of chanting, affirming, and meditating, all focused on a similar end. Thus, one might find a follower of the Jewish faith in Ohio meditating on Psalm 77:


I remember the deeds of God.
I remember Your wonders from days long ago.
I meditate on all Your work, Your actions....


    One might find a devotee of Buddhism in New York continuously chanting Om, or Zen Buddhist monks in California, in zazen (sitting meditation), watching their breath with pure attention and calm.

    These people all share mind talk, using meditation in the practice of their own particular religious faith.

    Many meditators combine their religious beliefs with meditation from another tradition, sometimes with synergistic results. Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls basketball team, was raised in the Pentecostal tradition. In Sacred Hoops, Jackson mentions that his discovery of Zen Buddhist meditation enhanced his Christian beliefs.

    However, religious beliefs are not a precondition for a valid, strong, meditation practice. Meditation can be religion-based or not.


The Dalai Lama
and the Gospels


Nowhere was the coming together of Eastern and Western religious traditions more evident than in September 1994, at the Tenth Annual John Main Seminar in England, when the World Community for Christian Meditation convened a four-day symposium. Religious leaders from around the world gathered to hear the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, give a discourse, from a Buddhist perspective, on the Sermon on the Mount, the Resurrection of Christ, and the Christian Gospels.

    In The Good Heart, a transcript of the seminar, the Dalai Lama explained how the two principal types of Tibetan meditation, one contemplative and the other focused, can be applied to Christian worship to yield a deep and powerful experience of compassion:


Let us take the example of meditation on love and compassion in the Christian context. In an analytical [thinking] aspect of that meditation, we would be thinking along specific lines, such as ... to truly love God one must demonstrate that love through the action of loving fellow human beings in a genuine way, loving one's neighbor .... This type of thought process is the analytical aspect of meditation on compassion.
    Once you feel totally convinced of the preciousness of and need for compassion and tolerance, you will experience a sense of being touched, a sense of being transformed from within. At this point, place your mind single-pointedly in that conviction. Thus, both types of (Tibetan) meditation are applied in one meditation session.


APPROACHING
MEDITATION PRACTICE


These days there is a tendency to plunge into new activities with a gung-ho, take-no-prisoners attitude. The result of our impatience often leads to frustration and finally abandonment of the activity as too hard or not worth it. That's why you should approach your practice gradually.

    At one time matchbook covers were a fertile ground for companies to advertise their wares. One such advertisement that appeared in the 1950s promoted a course in speedwriting, a simplified kind of shorthand. The ad read: "IF U CN RD THIS YOU CN LRN SPDWRTNG." Well, the same is true of meditation: IF U CN BRTHE, U CN MEDT8.

    Like speedwriting, meditation is a skill that requires effort and cannot be mastered overnight. At the same time, meditation is not complex, arcane, or beyond your comprehension. Meditation is not hard to learn and is accessible to everyone.

    In chapter 2: Jump Into Meditation. you'll be introduced to a simple, elegant, and effective way to meditate, based on an ever-present, simple yet powerful meditation tool--your own breath.


Start slowly


When you first start to meditate, be aware that what might be called your meditation muscles may be a bit weak. The same logic that says not to take your first nature walk up Mount Everest should tell you to be gentle, and not push or overwhelm yourself by over-meditating.

    In the beginning, a minute of meditation may seem as overwhelming as Mount Everest. This is natural and to be expected. Take it easy and be kind to yourself. Start out slowly and work your way up.

    When you first begin your practice, one ten-minute meditation a day is totally adequate. Start with this and build slowly, adding time in increments that won't overwhelm or frustrate you.


The feel of meditation


The following exercise (indicated by a gray rule) has been designed to help you get a taste of what meditation can be. But if you are like most beginners, you probably want to know what meditation will feel like for you mentally and physically before you begin. You may even have heard something that made it sound scary--though the truth is there is nothing scary about meditation, especially for first timers and beginners. In fact, there is no way to guarantee in advance what meditation will feel like for you--only that it will be a positive experience.

    One reason it's so hard to predict how meditation will affect you, is that meditation is as individual as you are. It feels different to different people. Sensations afterward range across a broad spectrum of reactions and feelings.

Among the reactions first timers report are:

* nothing at all (rare),
* peaceful and relaxed (very typical),
* quietly positive and energized (very typical),
* ecstatic and tingling (not as common, but not uncommon), and
* surging mental and/or physical energy that feels difficult to
control (extremely rare, easily dealt with).

    But, again, the feelings you are most likely to have at the end of the exercise below are peace, tranquility, relaxation, calm.

    In chapter 4 you'll find instructions for building a daily meditation schedule that you can use to move yourself along without turning yourself off.

    The following statements can help pinpoint your optimum ten minutes for beginning your practice:

* The quietest time of the day for me is _____________.
* I am least likely to be disturbed for ten minutes at _______ o'clock.
* The place where I have the fewest outside stimuli and demands made on me is _____________.


BEYOND WORDS


1. Set aside the next ten minutes. Find a comfortable, quiet place where you will feel safe and are not likely to be disturbed. Take the phone off the hook, take off your shoes. Begin to relax.
2. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Gently close your eyes but remain alert.
3. Tell yourself that you would like to begin to remember certain life experiences, those particular times when your senses were so deeply involved in an activity or event that:
* It seemed timeless. There was only the present moment.
* You felt unencumbered by the past memories and future anticipation.
* You were being instead of doing.
You may even call them peak experiences. Your experiences could be visual ones--that unforgettable sunset at Yosemite, the time a pod of dolphins skirted your fishing boat, your child's first step. Your experiences might have been auditory--that incredible performance by Pavarotti, the sound of wind on a downhill ski run at Sun Valley, your child's first word.
4. As your mind sifts, sorts, and categorizes these peak memories, one in particular will assert itself strongly. Focus on it. Now, holding that memory in your mind, begin to examine it closely, minutely. Let the memory resonate throughout your entire body and being. Can you sense the overall feeling of being present in that experience? Can you recall the timeless quality of just being in an event that you were not trying to control, shape, fiddle with, or judge?
5. Let yourself go and once again relive this timeless moment of presentness. Do not interfere with it. Do not edit it into something more than it was. Gently work with the moment--opening to it with calm awareness.

And when you have finished reliving the moment, gently stop and open your eyes. Take a pause to feel the experience of the body and mind.


    In the beginning, you will start with one meditation session each day. As you continue to practice, you can gradually extend that period and add a second sitting. Most meditators meditate twice a day, usually on arising and just before bed. Try to meditate at the same time every day. It's a positive habit and makes for a more consistent practice.

    At first, try to follow the guidelines in this book. But also be flexible and sensitive to your personal life and schedule. Meditation is a reflection of real life--everything changes. So if you start out meditating in the morning at the office but later find that it's more convenient during your lunch hour, feel free to make the adjustment.

    Most meditators meditate at home where they can exercise some degree of control over their immediate environment, but only you know the best time and place for you.

    Remember, your goal is to establish a daily meditation practice that will last for a lifetime. It is better to meditate a few minutes a day, every day, than an hour once a week.


Before you begin


When you sit down to meditate, you are most likely at the start of a busy day. You might be puzzling over the dream you woke with, or already checking the laundry list of must do's for the day ahead.

    If you immediately sit down to meditate with your mind going at high speed, it may not slow down until the end of the session, if at all. That's why it's good to take a minute or so before you begin to meditate to slow down.

    Follow this checklist:

* Take your sitting posture. Become very still.
* Rock back and forth gently. Feel your body in your posture.
* Say to yourself, "For the next _____ minutes, I will be doing my
meditation practice. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no
place to be. No one I have to be."
* Begin your meditation period.


After you meditate


You will usually feel more relaxed, calmer, and have a greater sense of well-being at the conclusion of your meditation period; to leap out of your chair or up from your cushion could be a jarring experience. It is important to your well-being to take several minutes after you finish meditating to adjust back to your activities.

    Taking one or two minutes for transitioning after the conclusion of your session gives you interest on your investment. Here's a finishing checklist:

* Sit still and quietly survey your body and mind. Does anything feel different from before you started? Better or worse? Positive or negative?
* Realize that you have done something good for yourself by meditating. No matter what you may think happened, it was positive.
* Tell yourself that you are going to take the benefits of mindfulness with you wherever you go from here.
* Slowly rub your knees and elbows, bringing fresh circulation to those areas.
* Mindfully, rise from your meditation posture. Be aware of the whole body as it moves from a sitting to an upright position.

"Each day human life contains joy and anger, pain and pleasure, darkness and light, growth and decay. Each moment is etched with nature's grand design--do not try to deny or oppose the cosmic order of things."

Morihei Ueshiba
founder of the Japanese martial art Aikido
The Art of Peace


CHAPTER RECAP


* Meditation is simple and easy.
* Always keep your mind open.
* Meditation produces scientifically proven physical and mental benefits.
* The only way to understand meditation is to meditate.
* Meditation stems from the great religious traditions of the world.
* Meditation produces a physiological state of deep relaxation coupled with a
wakeful and highly alert mental attitude.
* Twenty minutes once a day is all it takes to benefit from meditation.
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Table of Contents

Part 2. The Varieties of Meditation Practice
Forewordxv
Your Guided Tour of Meditationxvii
Introductionxix
Part 1: The First Steps23
1. It's Easier than You Think25
Beginner's Mind
Meditation and Science
What is Meditation?
The Roots of Meditation
Approaching Meditation Practice
2. Jump into Meditation43
Start Meditation Now
The Power of Breathing
Understanding the Breath
Focus: The Object of Meditation
3. Bridging the Barriers to Meditation59
Doubt
Misconceptions
Pitfalls
Avoiding the Pitfalls
4. Developing Your Meditation Practice73
Meditation Posture
What to Sit on
How to Sit
Sitting Positions
Space and Time to Meditate
Am I Doing it Right?
105
Many traditions
Mantra
Visualization
5. Eastern Meditation Traditions115
Hinduism
Yoga
Kundalini
Buddhism
Zen
Insight
Tibetan
6. Western Meditation Traditions143
Meditative Prayer
Gnostic Meditation
Jewish Meditation
The Kabbalah
Christian Meditation
The Prayter of Jesus
Walking Meditation
Gregorian Chant
Canonical Hours
Islamic Meditation
Sufism
7. Meditation among Traditional Peoples175
African Meditation
Native American Meditation
8. Contemporary Meditation Traditions187
Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
Visualization of the Positive
Transcendental Meditation
Edgar Cayce
The Goddess and Women's Spirituality
Trying Different Techniques
Part 3. The Meditative Life219
9. Meditation in Action221
Being Present
Karma Yoga
The Work Day
Recreation and Sports
Sleep
10. Meditative Home237
Mindful Chores
Mindful Eating
Watching Your Words
Children
Intimate Relations
11. Pain to Ecstasy255
Happiness as a Goal
Reducing Stress
Reducing Pain
Patience
The Way to Happiness
Your Summation
12. Lovingkindness and Compassion273
The Goal of Lovingkindness
Tonglen
Approaches to Lovingkindness
Appendix. Deepening Your Practice293
Teachers
Cult or Consciousness Raising?
Meditation Retreats
Finding the Right Meditation Retreat for You
Getting Your Feet Wet
Etiquette
Costs
Glossary315
Resource Section325
Index341
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