What is meditation

What is meditation?

Meditation is sitting quietly
while paying attention to your experience,
allowing it to be just as it is.
Cassandra Vieten

How to meditate?

There are many techniques for calming, focusing, and developing deep understanding in the mind so that we can allow this attention to happen.

Good instructions are at VipassanaDhura

Samatha and Vipassana

In the Forest Tradition at Khao Tham Center, we practice

  • Samatha — calm abiding, in steadying, unifying, and concentrating the mind, easily, without forcing anything.
  • Vipassanā — “insight”, in seeing, exploring, and discerning our mental “formations”, uncritically, accepting them whatever they are.

In one method, the meditator is encouraged to practice Samatha first, to get a good habit going of calming the mind, before moving on to Vipassana, in which one starts to actually watch what is going on in the mind, and practice letting it all go.

Some meditators may find the two experiences so intertwined, that they cannot find the calmness in the mind without practicing letting go of what the mind is doing.

In the Pāli canon, the Buddha never mentions independent samatha and vipassana meditation practices; instead, samatha and vipassana are two “qualities of mind” to be developed through meditation itself. …
Calm is the peaceful happiness born of meditation;
Insight is the clear understanding born of the same meditation.
‘Meditation” at Wikipedia

What is Samatha meditation?

Samatha is a quality of mind which is developed in tandem with vipassana (“insight”) by calming the mind (citta) and its ‘formations’ (saṅkhāra). This is done by practicing single-pointed meditation, most commonly through mindfulness of breathing (ānāpānasati). Samatha is common to many Buddhist traditions.

More at Wikipedia

What is Vipassana meditation?

Vipassanā is a Pali word meaning “clear-seeing” or “seeing deeply”. It is often translated as “insight”.
Vipassana meditation has to do with looking deeply into the mind and body to discern the various processes unfolding in each moment that fabricate the virtual world of our experience.
Andrew Olendzki
So Vipassanā meditation is also called insight meditation — think “insight into the true nature of reality.”
So that word “insight” is used, not in the sense of struggling to analyse and understand the complex details of something, but of simply relaxing and seeing things as they really are.
In the Theravada tradition which we follow, we see the elements of how things really are: impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), lacking self (anattā), and empty of inherent existence (śūnyatā).

What is Ana pana sati?

One method of vipassana, the one we practice, is called ānāpānasati. It is so simple — you just do this:
ana = “breathe in”
pana = “breathe out”
sati = “be in the present”, “pay attention”
And then do it again. And again … that’s all!

Why do we want to meditate?

  • If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort (dukkha), and so we will experience true happiness, which is equanimity (upekkhā).
    But if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.
  • If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay in this state all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
  • Usually we find it difficult to control our mind. It seems as if our mind is like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. Or we often call it “monkey mind” — jumping here and jumping there. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy.
  • However life is by its nature impermanent — things will always change. We cannot have everything we want, we will inevitably be separated from friends, possessions, places that we currently enjoy. So in the end, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us all kinds of dukkha — from momentary discomfort to great pain.
    And it all comes down to our attachment to our “self”, which does not get what we want, or loses something that we like.
  • By training in meditation, we come to an inner space of peace and clarity, which enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances.
    Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that jumps around between the extremes of excitement and despondency.
  • If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as “liberation” or “nirvana”. Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.
Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment — the key to all inner transformation. Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing [at the same time]. Conscious breathing stops your mind.
Eckhart Tolle

If it is so easy, why do we need a retreat?

Because of that ?monkey mind? It turns out that it’s easy to have lots of fun with it, but it can be much harder to tame. It almost seems like it does not want to be tamed — it is so attached to its way of doing things!

Just as when we are learning a sport or a language, it is very helpful to start off with “immersion” in intensive sessions. It is easier to focus when we are sitting with others who are on the same path. And we can practice and ask questions with teachers and others who are working on the same things.

All parts of the Khao Tham Retreat — the retreat schedule, the rules and regulations, and the different practices — as well as Vipassana Meditation itself — were worked out over 2,600 years ago by the Buddha and by many masters after him, to help us learn how to tame our monkey mind and to find true peace.

More about meditation

Experience Beyond Thinking: a practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation, by Diana St. Ruth
At Buddhismnow.com
Buddhist Meditation is Relaxing with the Truth, by Pema Chödrön
“It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves as we are, that meditation becomes a transformative process. The pith instruction is, Stay. . . stay. . . just stay.”
Web: article at LionsRoar.com
Also available: from our server as PDF on usb drive after retreat
Articles about meditation from all traditions.
At Buddhismnow.com
The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation by S.N. Goenka
At Dhamma.org
Beyond meditation: “there is the formal sitting and walking practice, and [then] through these ten avenues (ten paramis) there is also the cultivation and manifestation of what is of value. I mention the ten paramis, but we are going to talk about only one of them — renunciation (nekkhamma).”
Renunciation and Simplicity by Corrado Pensa
At Buddhismnow.com
Also available: from our server as PDF on usb drive after retreat