Ten tips for priming an effortless meditation

woman meditating Meditation teacher and life-coach Srimati offers a ten-stage guide to getting the most out of your meditation practice.

1. Decide what you are doing

Before you start meditating, be clear how long you will sit for and what kind of meditation practice you will do. Have a silent watch or clock within sight so you can open your eyes and peek at the time if you need to. You may notice that you soon don’t need a clock. Before long you will instinctively ‘feel’ that the time you’ve allocated is up and it’s time to come out of meditation.

2. Choose your time

It makes a big difference if you can stick to the same time to meditate every day (or every other day or every week – whatever routine you establish). If you pick your time and stick to it you don’t have to keep re-making the decision to meditate and figuring out when. It just becomes part of your day or week.

First thing in the morning is great. It’s well worth getting up half an hour earlier to give yourself this start to the day. Some people prefer last thing at night when everything is over. Or perhaps your best time is when you get home from taking the kids to school. Or maybe after getting home from work and just before dinner.

Whatever time you pick, have a satisfied tummy – neither hungry nor overfull. Choose your time and make it part of your daily or weekly routine.

3. Find your quiet spot

Find a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed. Be in a room on your own (unless others are meditating with you). Unplug your phone and switch off your mobile. Be out of earshot of TV or radio. Let others know to leave you in peace.

It’s nice to set the scene for yourself. Perhaps face a garden window or a vase of flowers or an inspiring picture. Burn some incense or essential oils. Make this your special meditation spot. You will find that this place will start to have a peaceful atmosphere, a meditation ‘vibe’.

4. Be comfortable

Find a chair where you can sit comfortably in an alert, upright position. A dining room chair is good, or an easy chair. You can also prop yourself up at the head of a bed. Undo any tight clothing, buttons or zips.

Wherever you are sitting, support your back with cushions so that your spine is reasonably straight and your head and neck is free. If you are on a dining room chair you can put a cushion under your feet. If you are in an easy chair you can see if you prefer having your legs folded up cross-legged. If so, make sure your knees are supported with cushions if needed.

Some people like to sit on a pile of cushions on the floor, or a meditation stool. If so, put a blanket down first as a mat, then your cushions or stool on top. Two or three firm cushions are about right. At the right height your back is not bowing or arching but relatively straight.

You can straddle the cushions like a horse, or sit with your legs folded in front of you cross-legged. Support your knees by tucking extra cushions under them if they don’t reach the ground so you can relax at the hips.

However you sit, you should have a strong base – a tripod of your backside and your two knees. Have your hands resting in your lap. Tying a shawl or scarf at your tummy gives a little shelf to rest your hands on if you like.

There’s always the option to lie down on a bed or the floor if you think you’d be most comfortable like this. The only draw back is that you may find yourself feeling sleepier than if you were sitting upright. None the less, the number one priority is that you are comfortable. So if lying down is right for you, that’s fine.

If you get stiff or pins and needles while you are meditating, gently and slowly move and re-position yourself and carry on. However, the idea is to find out how to sit completely comfortably for an extended period of time without having to move, so keep playing with your posture until you get it just right.

When you are settled, close your eyes lightly, or have them slightly open if you are very sleepy or disoriented.

5. Let the weight drop down

Take several big, long, deep, deliberate, audible breaths. As you breathe out, let your weight drop down through the sitting bones – down, down, down through your seat and the floor into the ground.

Even as we let our weight drop down, we are also aware of an invisible force supporting us upright. It’s as though we have a taut string attached the crown of our head, reminding us of our natural poise and alertness. The more we relax and drop down, the more we feel effortlessly supple and upright.

6. Relax and soften

Relaxing further, roll your shoulders a few times each way. Then move your head gently from side to side. Make some wild faces to release your face muscles (nobody’s looking!). Let your jaw hang slightly slack and your tongue be free.

You can use your hands to gently massage your jaw, cheeks and forehead. Carry on over the scalp and down the back of your neck. Give your shoulders a bit of a squeeze then stroke down your arms to your fingers.

Continue down the body with your hands, squeezing or stroking all the way down to your toes. You can hang over your toes for a while. Keep breathing easily and slowly uncurl. Finally, shake out your hands and finish with a nice stretch. Come back to a relaxed, upright sitting posture again.

Take a few more strong breaths. Let your tummy be soft. Check your jaw is still slack and that the tongue is free.

7. Drop into the breath.

Notice how you are breathing now, however it wants to come and go. Feel how it is to be breathing, how you feel inside yourself, the rhythm of the breath as it comes and goes. Let yourself be filled with breath. It’s as though your whole body is breathing, expanding and contracting with every in and out breath. Feel your breath right down to your toes, to the tips of your fingers, to the roots of your hair.

8. Give your head a rest

As you’re breathing, you may be aware of questions and preoccupations rippling around in your mind. It probably feels like its going on in your head. However, invite your thinking mind to rest for a little while. It’s not needed for few minutes.

Soften your eyes, let your eyes go soft and dewy (even though your eyes are closed you can do that) and let the brain itself feel slack in your head. Just feel the breath going in and out the body. Breathe in and out and let all those thought particles fall through the breath like dust particles falling through the air in a sunny room. Let them all fall to the ground.

9. Feel into your heart

Breathing into the body, notice how you are physically feeling around your heart area in your chest. Can you feel if it is tight or relaxed? Can you feel if your heart feels nice, or if it feels pain, or somewhere in between? Can you feel if your heart feels far away or if it feels very vivid and acute and present?

And whatever it is or isn’t, just noticing it as you breathe. Feeling the texture and the tone of our heart. You might be aware that there is a kind of atmosphere – an emotional atmosphere around your heart. You might not have a name for it, but you can feel its ambiance, its flavor. Perhaps you can even sense its color – the color of your emotional heart right now.

Breathe this emotional atmosphere, this ‘heartness’ into the whole of yourself. Let it circulate with the breath.

10. Being with all that you are

Continue to breathe with all that you are – all that you think, all that you feel, all that you sense and all that you know. Gather yourself into the breath and let yourself drop into the vastness of your total being. Getting into this zone is a meditation in itself and you need do nothing more. However you are now ready for a further focused meditation if that is what you have chosen. Enjoy.

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Faith and discipline

tree growing in rockLong-time meditation practitioner and teacher Vajradaka gives practical suggestions about how we can rekindle faith in our meditation practice.

Many people struggle to keep up a regular meditation practice, even when they really want to. Here are a few practical guidelines.

Most of those who have difficulties are not disciplined enough in the way they work in meditation, and a measured amount of discipline each day can make the process easier and more enjoyable. For example, you can set yourself the task of shortening the time it takes you to notice when your mind wanders off. At the start of each practice form an intention to catch yourself as soon as possible each time your mind wanders.

If you consciously decide to do this every day for a week, a positive inclination to acting in this way will develop. Your skill in noticing your attention wandering will increase and your concentration will benefit. Taking on a task like this is within your ability and if it succeeds it will increase your confidence, interest and engagement. It will make the practice feel more your own.

 Take time outside formal meditation to consider whether you’re recognizing the hindrances accurately  

In the following week you could take on another task for each meditation practice. This time have the general intention to recognize accurately the hindrances underlying your distraction. To call this ‘wandering off’ is not really enough. At this point it is worth mentioning that there is an important relationship between knowledge and discipline. It is helpful, for example, to be familiar with the traditional list of five hindrances — the varieties of distraction — and their antidotes. This kind of knowledge comes partly from reading and being taught by others, and partly from learning through your own experience. For instance, on the basis of knowing the symptoms of ‘restlessness and anxiety’ you can differentiate them from ‘sense desire’. Taking time outside formal meditation to consider whether you’re recognizing the hindrances accurately can be useful. Correct recognition of hindrances allows you to be more effective in countering them.

The next week you might take on building up and applying knowledge of which antidotes are effective in dealing with those hindrances you have recognized. For example, reflecting on the implications of sense desire can create a strong feeling of revulsion to that kind of distraction, (although it can also sometimes exacerbate restlessness and anxiety).

I suggest that you take on the practice of noticing distractions quickly, recognizing hindrances accurately, and applying antidotes effectively, in three-week cycles over three months.

A good habit to establish if you meditate within a busy schedule is to give yourself at least five minutes at the end of the meditation, before plunging into something different. During meditation, if you get even slightly concentrated, there is not much sensory input. You enter into the mind’s own experience of itself. If after meditating you suddenly listen to the news on the radio or even start to plan your day in a determined way, that original subtle experience of concentration will be jarred. Over time an inner rebellion to being put through such jarring can develop. The result may be that you feel resistant to meditating, without knowing why.

Discipline arises from faith — the confidence that if you apply yourself to your meditation it will work. And discipline strengthens our faith. When we engage intelligently with our meditation practice we experience tangible results and gain greater confidence in our ability to work with the mind.

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Eleven steps to inner clarity

diamondHow well can our views and convictions withstand the spotlight of awareness? Dhammavijaya show us how we can scrutinize our beliefs, and outlines the benefits of increased clarity.

What is a belief? Where do our beliefs come from? Are beliefs important and if so, why? Are all beliefs of equal value? If not, why not? How can we tell if our beliefs reflect the way things really are?

When I have put these questions to people in Buddhist centers recently the discussion they have provoked has been remarkably lively. Perhaps it is refreshing to be asked about our beliefs because so often we are simply told what to believe. This started early in life when, in order to survive, we needed to be accepted by those who were telling us how the world was. But we may have had to win that acceptance at the expense of a deeper sense of the truth. A further threat to the survival of our individuality comes as we begin to drive a wedge between the head and the heart.

Often we profess to believe one thing while placing our real trust in something else. Telling ourselves we hold a certain belief while deep down believing another creates a split within us. We open up a distance between the act of trusting – which is what believing is all about and our thoughts about what we trust.

What we believe determines the way our life turns out. If our beliefs are contradictory, unthought-out and untrue then our lives will be full of contradictions, directionless and hollow. Becoming clearer about what we really believe can pave the way to turning our lives around. I have found the following exercises useful in uncovering what we truly believe and fostering a greater authenticity.


List as many topics that you can think of about which you hold beliefs. It is good to include here all the big life and death questions. A typical such list could include: the Meaning of Life, Death, Sex, Money, Friendship, Myself, Other People, Morality, the Emotions, Intuition, Love, Thinking, the Family, Spiritual Community …


Select from this list a smaller selection of beliefs you would like to understand better. Your list now, for example, might be reduced to: Money, Death, Friendship, Morality, Sex, Intuition, Emotions.


Take some time to think of and to write out all the beliefs you have under each of these headings. Be governed by honesty and a reluctance to censor yourself. It doesn’t matter here if your beliefs seem daft or contradictory. We are only trying to uncover what we really do believe. Here are some examples of beliefs uncovered in this way:

Actions have consequences. Everyone wants to be happy and to avoid suffering. In this they are just like us. Basic principles are more important than the gray areas. You can’t legislate for the gray areas — it’s a matter of conscience. You have to take responsibility for your actions. Morality often amounts to a choice of evils.

You should be careful of expressing emotions as they might hurt people. It is scary to express emotions. You should always have your emotions out in the open. If you ‘wear your heart on your sleeve for the daws to peck at’, they will. You should express the positive emotions. You should not give vent to the negative emotions. These should be confessed and left behind.


Under each heading assess whether your beliefs represent a clear and consistent set or whether they are confused and contradictory. Write down your thoughts and conclusions.


Ask yourself where each belief comes from. Try to remember from whom you first heard it. If you thought of it yourself, note this also. Next to each belief write down the names of the people you got your beliefs from. Note any patterns you see emerging as to where your beliefs come from. What do you make of this? Consider afresh your response to each belief. Is it really true? Note comprehensively any reflections to emerge from this process.


In meditation, arriving at an experience of as much calm and absorption as you can, bring one of your beliefs to mind. Drop it in lightly, in the manner of a leaf falling upon a still pool of water. Consider your intuitive response to this belief. Does it give rise to a sense of freedom and expansiveness? Or do you feel stifled, constricted and held back by this belief? Make a note of your responses.

Repeat the exercise with other beliefs.


How do you know if your responses to Exercise Six provide reliable information as to the validity of your beliefs? Write down your thoughts about this question.


Think about each belief. Does it make logical sense? Is it borne out in your actual experience? What are the consequences of your holding it? What happens in the lives of other people who believe it?


Assess your discoveries from the above exercises. Derive from your assessment beliefs that you feel are more appropriate to your new understanding.


Endeavor to live your life on the basis of these beliefs. Consider the consequences.


Repeat the process indefinitely.

In doing these exercises myself I made a number of discoveries. Firstly it was evident that the topics about which my beliefs were most confused and contradictory tied in with those areas of my life that can be messy. I found that my beliefs about more philosophical topics, say morality and intuition, tended to be quite clear and consistent. By contrast, more ‘homely’ topics concerning emotional and physical matters tended to evince beliefs that were more contradictory. This pointed to the desirability of clarifying my beliefs about those more intimate matters that are for me closer to the bone.

Deriving the sources of my beliefs was valuable in that it brought to mind the people whose beliefs have influenced my own. I could see that I had inherited a cluster of beliefs which, while le consistent, presented a somewhat dismal outlook on life that was neither accurate nor helpful. One such cluster, for example, under the heading of ‘self-esteem’ seemed to hold that this was a quality almost impossible to develop. Seeing these beliefs before me on the page made it seem easier to tear them up.

Assessing my intuitive response to beliefs yielded the most interesting results. While I might assent intellectually to a belief, sometimes I discovered that my heart wanted nothing to do with it. Did this mean that my heart was wiser than my head or vice-versa? The gulf between the different levels of belief was most apparent here. I found I couldn’t bridge the gulf by negating either the rational or the intuitive response; however, wrestling with the discrepancy could, I realized, give rise to a subtler and stronger belief that could gain the confidence of both head and heart.

The belief that ‘practicing within a single tradition promotes spiritual depth’ may, for example. meet with intellectual assent, yet the intuition may feel confined and hindered by it. The ensuing struggle could produce the more refined and stronger belief that, say: ‘Allegiance to one tradition promotes depth, but a fear of learning anything new from others may hinder it.’

It may appear threatening to examine what we truly believe, but I have found it has made me stronger, clearer and more confident. Only when we have made our beliefs conscious can we consider whether they are true. When we have seen for ourselves their truth or falsity we can base our lives on those that convince us in our depths.

Dhammavijaya Dhammavijaya discovered the Dharma in 1987 and has been inspired by it ever since.

Dhammavijaya was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order in 1989. He formerly worked in a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in Croydon, and as a teacher of meditation and Buddhism at both the Croydon Buddhist Centre and in Mexico City.

He now teaches at the Croydon Buddhist Centre, to the south of London.

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Meditation helps folks disengage, see clearly, release stress, improve health (Go Memphis, Tennessee)

B. Blair Dedrick, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: “You can’t see anything in a cascading river,” said the Memphis, Tenn., teacher of insight meditation. “But when the water gets to a lake, you can see the sky clearly.”

To see clearly is the point of meditation. It can be a path to better health or spiritual enlightenment, or simply a way to stay attentive to the present.

“When you are thinking, you are always in the past or the future, never in the moment,” Greer said. “When you slow down your mind, you return to where life is most real — where you are living.”

Insight meditation is not a clearing of the mind as much as the ability to have thoughts, acknowledge them and let them go, said Greer, a retired University of Memphis professor.

Mark Muesse decided to try meditation almost 20 years ago to help ease stress. The Rhodes College professor of religion stayed with it because it was successful.

“I’m one of those people who likes to control things.” Muesse said. “Meditation teaches you the more you try to control, the more you suffer. The more you relinquish control, the happier you will be.”

For Daniel Lamontagne and his students, the issue is health.

Lamontagne is the head of Healing Meditation, a business in Memphis that teaches meditation designed to help with everything from improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels to ending alcohol and drug use.

“Good health is a combination of mind, body and spirit,” Lamontagne said. “Meditation is just another aspect of good health.”

Various scientific studies have found that meditation lowers blood pressure, chemical levels associated with stress and the risk for heart disease.

“It’s like a preventative.” Lamontagne said. “Eating well helps, exercise helps and alleviating stress and fear helps.”

When Candia Ludy and her husband were sent on a three-year tour to the African nation of Tanzania in 1981 by Catholic Relief Services, the country was suffering from a severe food and water shortage, its factories were closing, its roads were in disrepair.

“It was a stressful time,” Ludy said. “Probably the worst time in Tanzanian history.”

She took along two books by Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and another by a Zen teacher, used them, and has been meditating ever since.

“I’m sure not stopping.” she said. “It’s my life.”

Buddhism teaches that there are many paths to the same end. Ludy said, “You have to find out what works for you.”
Ludy likens this type of meditation to a gentle form of therapy.

“If you put attention, loving attention, on a problem, it will start to melt away,” she said. “Meditation is a very organic, very natural way to make life sweeter.”

Original article no longer available

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