The Ultimate Meditation Course

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Welcome to Module 4


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Lesson 1

❏  Read Calming the mind of the book 'Meditation for Transformation'

❏  Meditation Exercise#1

❏  Meditation #1

Lesson 2

❏  Read Beginners mind & prayerful mind of the book 'Meditation for Transformation'

❏  Meditation Exercise#2

❏  Meditation #2

❏  Meditation #3

Lesson 1

Calming the mind

meditation study

One of the most challenging aspects of meditation is dealing with our mind and learning to become calm of mind. Let's get to the truth about our thoughts and the mind in meditation.

Time: 13 minutes

Meditation #1

meditation buddha

We will start this meditation with a mind dump followed by a deep reaching meditation.

25 minutes

Lesson 2

Beginners mind & prayerful mind

meditation study

Everyone can improve their meditation practice greatly, no matter what stage of learning meditation they are at, by capturing one of two states of mind.

  • The beginners mind
  • A prayerful mind

15 minutes

Meditation #2

meditation buddha

A journey into trusting that prayerful place inside each one of us. One does not need to belief in God to benefit of the power pray.

30 min

Meditation #3

meditation buddha

Ian

 min

Teachings Transcripts

Calming the mind

Meditation is NOT “a way of making your mind quiet”.

It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there,

buried under the 50,000 thoughts that the average person has each day.


One of the most challenging aspects of meditation is dealing with our mind and learning to become calm of mind.
In our years of facilitating meditations we have come to realise that people have many concepts regarding not having thoughts during meditation. It is almost as if we think that we have failed in meditation when there was a thought or our mind was racing or we had a difficult time calming it down.

In fact, it does not really matter whether there are thoughts or not during meditation. What matters is our focus combined with the sincerity of our endeavours, and our state of openness and receptivity.
We can all recognise and connect to this place of receptivity within.

The following meditation guidance describes this receptivity:

“Listen while you are meditating. It is a listening beyond the senses of the body. It is like listening to the sound of silence.
Your mind will not hear it; your ears will not hear it. It is a listening that is beyond these limitations. It is a state of reception.
Carry this state of reception into your meditations; and as this listening takes over, your usual difficulties will subside.
Many think that there is no reception while the mind is still functioning. This is not true. Your mind and its unlimited illusions may still go on, but this does not stop your reception. It is an endeavour in a separate area.”

It feels so good to be in this place of openness, because we know we are so very close to finding answers, truth and connection to the Source. It is when we live from this place of reception that it feels like we are “in the flow”.
The challenge is, firstly, how we get into this flow and secondly, how we can live our day-to-day lives in this flow.

Although it is not necessary to stop the mind, having a relatively calm mind as we enter meditation will help in finding depth and in recognising this receptive place within. As it is very beneficial when starting your meditation for your mind to be relatively calm and empty, the following technique called “the mind dump”, helps with emptying the mind to a sufficient level of calmness. This helps to prepare one for meditation. We use this exercise on a regular basis, and have done so for many years. It is like our best friend in helping to manage our mind.

The mind dump
This is an exercise you can do before or during the start of your meditation. It will assist you to empty your mind and clear yourself from surface feelings so you become clear, calm and open – a great consciousness – to start your journey of going within. You can also use the mind dump whenever you need to empty your mind to wind down. It is a great thing to do just before going to sleep.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Write down anything going on in your mind that occurs as more than just a passing thought.
  2. Write it down short and to the point, and close your eyes again. 
  3. Take notice of all that is going on in your mind. Try not to think about any of it, but if there are things going on in your mind that are distracting you too much, then write these down in only a few words. 
  4. It can be anything from trying to remember where you put your keys to a major confusion about something. 
  5. The key is that as you write down the thought, you let it go. You can tell yourself; “I have got it, it is written down and I do not have to try to remember it. I can go back to it after meditation if I need to.”
  6. Don’t try to empty everything out; just remove the top layer of disturbances – to clear a path within so you can focus within.
  7. If feelings come up, you can give them space and move them by screaming into a towel or letting tears flow. It is OK. Then calm down, close your eyes and focus.
  8. Once you feel your mind is relatively empty and calm, you can start your meditation or whatever it is you are preparing for.

When thoughts during meditation still persist
If we find ourselves very busy in the mind during meditation – meaning the thinking part of our mind is running wild (the opposite of a calm mind) – there is something very simple that you can do which is to focus on something other than your train of thought.
In India, the mahout, an elephant trainer, trains the elephant from babyhood to hold a wooden stick in its trunk to keep it from picking up fruits from the marketplace stalls, as it passes through the market.
Similarly, give your mind something to focus on so you can keep going within.
For instance you could focus on:

  1. Your breath. This may be the feeling of the breath moving in and out of your lower belly.
  2. Something in front of you, like a dot on the wall.
  3. The very reason why you’re sitting down and meditating in the first place.

We personally do number 3, every time we meditate. Focusing our selves on the desire in our hearts to why we want to meditate, helps us to get in touch with a very deep longing. A longing for Home, a hunger for truth, a passion to be free, a desire to be with God.
As this focus takes over, all the challenges created by our mind subside and most of the time they completely disappear.
The key is to concentrate more on our point of focus rather than the thoughts which are distracting us in our mind.

Calm mind at the end of a meditation
It is important not to judge your practice in any way i.e. “that was a good session” or “that was a bad session.”
Any meditation session you do is a “good” meditation session. You engaged with yourself and learned more about your current state of being, which leads to further movement. It is important to treat yourself with unconditional acceptance of your experience. This sets the stage for a calm mind.
Much of the movement into healing and freedom often happens unnoticed. The fact that you spent time meditating is a success in itself. Remember that!

Know yourself: What do your demons look like?
You can reap great benefits from identifying the demons of your mind. What is the thought habit that distracts you from succeeding in staying focused, and keeps you from going deeper within?
This Zen story beautifully illustrates four challenges of demons in our minds that distracts us in meditation:

Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out.
The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.”
The second monk said, “Aren’t we not supposed to talk?”
The third monk said, “Why must you two break the silence?”
The fourth monk laughed and said, “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak.”
Each monk broke the silence for a different reason, illustrating common challenges in the mind that can distract you from your focus.

Unlike the first monk, we should endeavour in each moment not to be distracted by our thoughts or what is happening around us. Unlike the second monk, we should endeavour in each moment not to be overly distracted by our illusory thoughts about following rules and trying to do it right. And unlike the third monk, we should endeavour to be equipoised and not let emotional states (anger, sadness, and joy) in each moment distort our view of what is happening around us.
Finally, unlike the fourth monk, we should mindfully notice our ego states and endeavour in each moment not to let them cloud our intentions.



Summary

  • Meditation is NOT a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.
  • It does not really matter whether there are thoughts or not. Our focus in meditation and the state of receptivity are endeavours in a separate area.
  • It is very beneficial when starting your meditation for your mind to be relatively calm and empty.
  • The mind dump can help you achieve a relatively empty and calm mind.
  • If we find ourselves very busy in the mind during meditation, we can focus on something other than our train of thought.
  • It is important to have unconditional acceptance of your experience. This sets the stage for a calm mind.



MEDITATION EXERCISE-1

For the next week, every time before you start to meditate and every time before you go to sleep do this pre-meditation exercise.

  • Prepare a pad and pen.
  • Write down all things that are in your mind, in the way the mind dump describes.
  • Keep going until your mind is somewhat empty or calm.
  • Now focus your attention on your heart. Let yourself feel and see what is most important to you in your heart.
  • Let this feeling and focus in your heart take you into your meditation or sleep.


Go back to: Calming the Mind

Beginners mind & prayerful mind


“In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.”

Many people ask, How can I meditate better? How can I go further, deeper and receive more benefit from my meditations? Everyone can improve their meditation practice greatly, no matter what stage of learning meditation they are at, by capturing one of two states of mind.

  • The beginners mind
  • A prayerful mind

Shoshin, the beginners mind
The beginners mind is referred to in Zen Buddhism as Shoshin. A lot of emphasis is being put on this teaching of the beginners mind and for a most important reason. 
The beginner mindset is a mind that is open. It is free from preconceived ideas, concepts and beliefs. Think of a child that is discovering something for the first time. There is an innocence and the child is completely in the moment, entirely wrapped up in discovery. Everything else around the child disappears. That is a great description of the beginner’s mind.
When information or an experience is coming to you and you’re thinking: ‘Oh, I know this already’ - what happens is you become instantly less open to new information coming in.
You stop yourself from learning something new, or learning something more deeply and more profoundly. Knowledge from the past prevents us from seeing things anew, afresh, as they always are.

The tricky part is that this dynamic often happens to the best of us as it is easily hidden from our awareness.
I think we have all met a person who is an expert at meditation; they have learned so much about it and practiced for so long but seem to be rigid in their ideas about their practice being ‘the only way to meditate’ or ‘the best way to meditate’. "You have to come to my group as it is "IT".

At the beginning, learning to meditate is such a beautiful journey. It is so exciting, so many new experiences come and places inside of you are uncovered that you did not even know were in there. So many discoveries are unfolding because the person is naturally in the beginner mindset.
Then, as a person starts to become an ‘expert’ in the field of meditation and forgets to ask themselves now and then how to meditate better, the mind becomes less open and the phrase “I know how to meditate” becomes an obstacle. 
So as a long standing meditator, it is of even more importance to focus and pay attention to your mind and adopt a beginner mindset.

Practicing the beginner mindset
Here are some suggestions on what you can do to put these words into action.

  • Whenever you have thoughts like ‘I know that already!’... stop yourself and do everything you can to stay open.
  • At the beginning of each meditation check yourself to see if you are open. Let go of any expectations about your meditation. Be open to whatever comes.
  • Listen to the inner whispers on what to do, feel, or experience in meditation even if they might not fit the way you are meditating, or what you feel like doing.
  • Sometimes visit other meditation groups and be open and learn.
  • Try out different meditation practices. It is important to be open to learn ing as many types of meditation as we can. There is no “one-fits-all“ practice.
  • If your teacher or mentor is telling you that their way of teaching or the meditation practice he is guiding you in is the best, think again. Check out other ways of going within.
  • Talk with friends about your meditation practice and experiences - ask questions and then listen; be open; notice when your mind wants to say "Oh, I know that already!".
  • Stay open because the answers to how to meditate better keep changing as you keep changing.

A prayerful mind
A mind focused in prayer is the key to the question ‘How to meditate better’.
A prayerful mind is a mind that is focused on seeking assistance, initially a request to be guided from within, and ultimately, prayerfulness to the Source, to everything that is truth, to higher love, to the all that is, to the divine. This is the opposite to a mind focused on illusions such as untruths, lies, negative thoughts, judgements, hateful thoughts, etc.

Pointers about having a prayerful mind:

  • You do not have to believe in God to practice a prayerful mind.
  • A prayerful mind does not need be embodied in words; it can be a feeling.
  • It does not require the reciting of a famous prayer.

Prayer is often a controversial topic in spiritual life because of its identification with religious dogma.
Often it has been done as an empty ritual. It’s associated with rote worship, ignorance, and the misconception that to pray means that one is less worthy or has less value.
Despite this negative association, true, deep, sincere, and heartfelt prayer is one of the most powerful and moving spiritual undertakings a person can carry out in meditation. Sometimes it is less of a discipline and more of a pleasure.

If you are going to pray in meditation, do so because it comes from your heart. It is not necessary to say the prayers you may have been taught, but to which you feel little or no connection.
Your prayer may be of a religious nature or it may not; it may have words or it may not; whatever it is, make your prayer authentic. Make your prayers real and appropriate to your day and what you are facing and feeling at the time of your meditation. Sometimes your prayers will be very specific, sometimes very general.

Prayer is such a beautiful state. There are so many pages that could be written about prayer, but in the end, prayer is something you will choose to do or not do in meditation, based on your desire and openness for inner assistance.
Meditation itself is a form of prayer, even for an agnostic or atheist. The reason is because meditation is a quest, a search for more. In most cases, meditation is an unspoken acknowledgement that the seeker wants to connect in some way to a power greater than themselves.

Meditation is an asking that is done with the whole being and not specific to any one idea of God or any belief about God or the Universe. Meditation itself is the spiritual practice of asking for more, otherwise people would not make the effort to look inward. Looking is asking.
Even people who use meditation to try and detach from all desires, are in a state of wanting more.
When you meditate, you are asking for more of something regardless of what type of meditation you practice.
Meditation is therefore time when you are enveloped in asking and searching. This is a fact that calls for some measure of humility.

If a person goes within to ask for more, and then thinks that they already know what the answer to what wanting more will look like, the person is lacking some important humility.

The truth about a prayerful mind is that it works. A light version of this is changing your negative thoughts into positive ones or having judgmental thoughts change in your mind to ones of understanding and compassion, as everyone has a hard day sometimes.
The power of this state of mind increases as you:

  • Find that heartfelt prayer that is yours and only yours, deep in your heart and soul.
  • Become more sincere and honest.
  • Let your prayer be very specific.
  • Let the feeling and emotions of your spiritual longing be side by side with your prayer, either in feelings or in words.
  • If there are words, try speaking the prayer out loud; it changes the way you feel your prayer.
  • Let there be a feeling of gratitude as you pray.

Most people have experienced a very natural form of prayer during times in which they’ve felt the most anguish, times in which people have felt extreme anxiety or torment about something. This situation can bring about a very real and natural form of prayer. Certainly it is not the prayer of religions, but it is actually a time in life when we feel deeply about something, and when we have an openness and an intense desire to receive help.

These things are at the core of true prayer.

The vulnerability and openness that often come during times of anguish help us receive some kind of insight, comfort, or clarity that helps relieve our torment and anxiety. When you come across difficulties in your life or in meditation, the following is one of the most basic of all teachings:

“Your most powerful and most immediate tool is prayer”



SUMMARY

  • Everyone can improve their meditation by capturing one of two states of mind; the beginner mindset & the prayerful mind.
  • A beginners mind is a mind that is open. At the beginning of each meditation check yourself and see if you are open. Let go of any expectations about your meditation. Be open to whatever comes.
  • Stay open because the answers to how to meditate better keep changing as you keep changing.
  • A prayerful mind is a mind that is focused on the divine and everything that is truth and from the higher love, the Source. This is the opposite to a mind focused on illusions such as untruths, lies, negative thoughts, judgements, hateful thoughts etc.
  • You do not have to believe in God to practice a prayerful mind.
  • Your most powerful and most immediate tool is prayer



MEDITATION EXERCISE 2

For each of your meditations this week, practice the following:

  1. Approach your meditations like a beginner. You have not ever taken this journey ever before, so hold it as your first meditation.
  2. Let go of any expectations you might have for your meditation. This includes desiring a great experience we have had in a previous meditation.
  3. Find a heartfelt prayer that is yours and only yours, deep in your heart and soul. Let this focus guide into your meditation.
  4. Find a way to do something different as you are meditating. Do not do the thing you know works for you. Move a different way, try something different, and learn and grow.