Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation Background

Sit : Love : Give

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Times and places to meditate

Times to meditate

There’s no one best time to meditate. Many people find it useful to get up a bit early and meditate before the pressures of the day mount up. They want to prepare for the day so that things go well. Other people like to meditate before going to bed in order to “unwind.” Both can work.

I’m far from being a “morning person,” but I prefer to meditate before breakfast. Maybe it’s not a good idea for us to limit ourselves with these labels — “morning person” and “evening person.” Even those of us with allergies to mornings can benefit from getting up a little early. The beneficial effects of twenty minutes of meditation before hitting the streets usually far outweighs the benefits of another few minutes in bed.

You might even want to experiment with meditating during the day. You could try shutting the office door, taking the phone off the hook, and catching ten to fifteen minutes of relaxing and stimulating meditation.

And there’s no reason why you can’t meditate more than once!

Choosing a Time

Probably the worst thing you can do is to tell yourself that you’ll just “fit it in” at some point. That point will probably never come. You need to decide when you’re going to meditate and stick to that time. If you plan your week, then plan your meditation into your week to make sure it happens. It’s too important to leave to chance.

Places

Although I’ve suggested that you can meditate anywhere, like the office, it can be good to have a particular place to meditate regularly, and to make that place a little special, meaningful, and beautiful. You can do this by having some pictures that remind you of why you want to meditate — whether religious imagery or natural imagery. You can have candles and incense. I find that the ritual of “lighting up” is quite soothing and grounding, especially if I do it with mindfulness, and in a spirit of reverence.

Comments

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Comment from mack himmelwright
Time: August 16, 2008, 6:28 am

when you say “lighting up” dont take it offensively when i assume your smoking marijuana. i find it to be very relaxing. Maybe a little more at one with myself. Im new at meditation but i would imagine it to be very helpful. Please correct me if Im wrong

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 16, 2008, 6:41 am

Hi Mack,

No, I was definitely talking about incense! I agree that marijuana can be relaxing (I sometimes used to smoke it in my youth) but I don’t find it helpful in developing clarity and mindfulness and it’s many, many years since I’ve partaken. People I know who have smoked marijuana for many years have found themselves to be in a state of chronic unclarity.

Incense on the other hand has an almost instant effect of bringing on a mood of reverence and clarity. This may well be a simple associative mental habit, but recent BBC article also suggests that frankincense has medicinal properties. Perhaps scent has psychoactive properties as well?

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from maryj
Time: March 21, 2012, 1:26 pm

Your “chronic unclarity” statement is not a fact. There are no real evidence to support the claim.

It does quite the opposite actually.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 21, 2012, 1:46 pm

The statement “people I know who have smoked marijuana for many years have found themselves to be in a state of chronic unclarity” is indeed a fact. It’s anecdotal, but factually correct.

I can’t of course provide evidence to support an anecdote, but there’s certainly research showing cognitive deficits in marijuana users, especially when they’ve started young. For example:

Medina’s Oct. 12 presentation, titled, “Neuroimaging Marijuana Use and its Effects on Cognitive Function,” suggests that chronic, heavy marijuana use during adolescence – a critical period of ongoing brain development – is associated with poorer performance on thinking tasks, including slower psychomotor speed and poorer complex attention, verbal memory and planning ability. Medina says that’s evident even after a month of stopping marijuana use. She says that while recent findings suggest partial recovery of verbal memory functioning within the first three weeks of adolescent abstinence from marijuana, complex attention skills continue to be affected.
“Not only are their thinking abilities worse, their brain activation to cognitive tasks is abnormal. The tasks are fairly easy, such as remembering the location of objects, and they may be able to complete the tasks, but what we see is that adolescent marijuana users are using more of their parietal and frontal cortices to complete the tasks. Their brain is working harder than it should,” Medina says.

And also:

The researchers found that habitual marijuana users made repeated errors despite feedback that they were wrong. Marijuana users also had more difficulty maintaining a set of rules, suggesting an inability to maintain focus. Those participants who began using marijuana before the age of 16 and those who used the most marijuana showed the greatest impairment.

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Comment from M
Time: June 7, 2012, 9:41 am

With regards to marijuana: isn’t the point of meditation the slowing down of the mind? Are cognitive deficits necessarily relevant? There was one point in which mj, along with a tryptamine, induced in me what I think was my real first meditative experience: I had never in my life felt so much in the present and felt this singular eternity, and I was ‘becoming nature’, in a way, with the sound of seagulls being heavenly soothing (I had barely even noticed them before then). It’s the main reason I’m trying meditation, although obviously the latter requires more effort.

Also, as to what concerns time… I do not schedule my week as mentioned above, and I’m trying to meditate at random times (usually at night due to noise in the day), attempting to increase the frequency as I go along. Is that any good to strengthen the experience itself, or is doing it at the same time every day more useful for the mind to get used to?

PS. does one usually feel any ‘transition’ in ten minutes or so? By that I’m thinking something similar to hypnagogia – falling asleep, as I assume the mind can ‘fall’ into meditation too. People generally talk of the beneficial experience as an afterthought, or the physiological changes that meditation induces, but rarely about the subjective transition.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 7, 2012, 12:27 pm

There are many points to meditation. Slowing down the mind is one, and learning to pay focused attention is another.

I know many people who got into meditation and Buddhism because initial drug experiences had opened their eyes to other ways of being, but they’ve all found that they had to give up drugs in order to be able to practice. As you say, meditation is “work.” (It does get easier!) The work that we do in meditation does help us to rewire the brain. It takes time and effort, and in the long run I don’t think there are any shortcuts.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by a “transition.” There certainly can be changes that come about in our experience during a ten minute sit. You could end up feeling more relaxed and calmer. But it’s much more likely to be a gradual change than a sudden one. Is that what you meant?

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Comment from M
Time: June 7, 2012, 1:20 pm

I assume it is gradual, although still with a threshold? You know the moment you’re in between sleep – you’re still able to think, but if you continue on with the same breathing rhythm that you’ve been doing for the past few minutes and don’t make any sudden movement you’ll end up falling asleep.

Something happens in meditation that is especially crucial to letting time pass by quickly (like in sleep), right? So far, I’m really only experienced with sleeping (!) but I noticed that one falls asleep quicker if the mind is focused on the breathing (or anything interesting, apparently) – just as in meditation, so I figured there must be a transition sort of phase just like in sleep.

By the way, are you interested in altered states generally?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 7, 2012, 1:34 pm

There are certain threshold points, but they’re crossed gradually. For example various states of mind called the hindrances die way, leaving the mind clear and calm, but this is very much gradual. And then at a certain point all thinking can cease, although that’s gradual too — there are longer and longer periods of inner quiet for a while, and then the thoughts just don’t come back. It’s hard, if not impossible, so identify clear “phase changes.”

“Altered states generally” is a big category! I’d have to say no. I’m mainly interested in meditative states, and other forms of altered states are only of interest to me inasmuch as they shed light on meditation experiences.

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Comment from Sean
Time: August 18, 2012, 5:54 pm

Everything has its purpose. MJ has medical benefits and should be used for those reasons. Meditation has is benefits, and should be used for its true purposes. Mixing the two can cause problems and confusion on the road to awakening.

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Comment from Jim
Time: March 23, 2014, 9:07 am

What do you say about meditating in public places?
I enjoy a usually quiet and peasceful train ride to and from work, but I remember a caution about meditating in public places.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2014, 10:06 am

Hi, Jim.

I love meditating in public places. There are just a couple of things to bear in mind. 1. If you have the expectation that you’re going to become very narrowly focused on internal sensations, like the breathing, as might happen in a quiet meditation room, then you’re probably going to be very frustrated. What we need to do is to practice a more open form of awareness where the sounds around us are part of the meditation practice. 2. You might be disturbed! Even if you’re sitting with your eyes closed it’s possible that someone might come up and talk to you. Again, if you have an expectation that meditation is a “do not disturb” activity, as it generally is when you’re meditating in a dedicated meditation room, then you might be shocked and angered by someone coming up and talking to you. So you have to accept that people around you are not going to know what you’re doing, and are unlikely to regard what you’re doing as being special, in the way they might if they saw you sitting on a zafu in front of a Buddhist altar. So accept any disturbances with as much grace as possible.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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