Meditation Training Outline
April 16, 2011
Lansing Buddhist Association in Perry, MI
9 – Noon on a rainy Saturday morning
Training was provided by a friendly instructor who came in from Ann Arbor, George Yeh (he belongs to the Chan Tradition of Master Sheng-yen.). His instruction was very clear. It was all about technique, nothing about philosophy or religious teachings. There were two others besides myself in the training.
Following are some of the comments and instructions from George. He started the session by saying “You may have learned other methods of meditation; forget about those for this instruction. There is no need to discuss differences now.”
- Wear loose clothing. Shirts or pants should not be constricting.
- Find a quiet place to meditate where you will not be bothered or rushed. You may want to set up a place in your home where you can go to each time.
- Best times of the day to meditate are early morning (pre-dawn) and at dusk as the day is winding down. (George said it is part of the tradition to refrain from meditating from noon to 1 PM, and from midnight to 1 AM.)
He spent a lot of time on posture during meditation.
(Materials for meditation include a floor mat, two medium sized bath towels and two meditation cushions; or chair, if that will be used.)
- The basic idea is to have a stable foundation to prevent aches and pains and other distractions during meditation. Adopt a posture with a three point foundation; for example, rear end and both knees as in a full or half lotus; or sitting in a chair with rear end and both feet as the points. It’s fine to use a chair; “this is training of the mind, not the body.”
- Keep the back straight. While sitting the lower back may have a slightly convex shape (curving slightly inward) in the area where the spine meets the hip area. Do not slump the shoulders inward.
- For non-chair meditation: Get a meditation mat--could be a yoga or exercise mat--for comfort and to keep from getting too cool when sitting on the floor. Also, have a couple of meditation pillows. Typical pillows are round (about 18” in diameter and about 4” high). Pillows should be filled with material like packing peanuts that will not sink in and change shape very much when sitting during meditation.
- Use both pillows if needed but not one on top of the other. Overlap them if needed so they will help you maintain a straight sitting position. Take time to adjust the pillows, once you get the knack of this it will be easy to set this up. Use one of the folded towels to help with this if needed. When sitting in a legs folded position, it may help to place a folded towel under each knee for support, comfort and to help maintain a 3-point foundation. You can place one of the unfolded towels across the lap to keep from getting cold.
- When seated, back straight, three point foundation, hold arms out forming a circle that is parallel to the ground; also form a small circle with the hands, fingers overlapping. Bring arms down so the hands rest in the lap, hands still forming a relaxed circle.
- Hold head straight, tuck chin in slightly so that it is not jutting out. Eyes looking straight ahead then look down at a 45 degree angle. Then close the eyes about 80% of the way (having the eyes slightly open helps maintain alertness – also helps keep one from falling asleep).
- Relax every part of your body from the top of the head to the feet. Think to yourself, in this order: “the top of my scalp is relaxed, my forehead is relaxed, my cheeks are relaxed, my mouth is relaxed, my shoulders, back…” and so on, all the way to the feet. Regarding the face--the mouth should be relaxed with lips coming together slightly, which will naturally form a slight smile.
- To slow thoughts, count the breaths. Do not try to alter the breathing, neither the speed nor how deep; let the breathing happen as it will. Count breaths on the exhale, paying attention to the breathing in, the end point, and the breathing out. After 10, start over. You could count in twos, or backwards, whatever helps to slow the thoughts and focus the mind on the breathing. After 20 minutes or half hour of meditation, tell yourself you are coming out of meditation and exit in reverse. (When starting meditation the process is: proper body posture, attention to breathing, awareness of thoughts, slowing thoughts. Coming out of meditation: speed of thoughts--awareness of thoughts—breathing--body posture.) After coming out of meditation rub hands together to get your fingers warm and gently rub your eyes; run your hands over the top of your head; massage your scalp, shoulders, legs, ankles, muscle along the shin bone (note an acupuncture point – put hand on knee cap with middle finger along shin bone; at the end of the middle finger is the acupuncture point in the muscle that runs parallel to the shin. Gently press on that point.)
- Carefully fold all towels, and put towels, pillows, mat and everything neatly in their place for next time. A neatly organized room helps focus the mind.
- Walking mediation- slow, normal or fast pace. Slow walk involves taking half steps; form small circle with hands, fingers overlapping, dominant hand on top, thumb of dominant hand tucked in the center. Hands held at waist. When walking pay attention to the steps, touching of the heel of the ground, ball of foot, toes, then other foot. Like with counting breaths the mind will begin to wander; bring it back by paying attention to the steps. The normal walking meditation involves a normal walking pace; arms at sides like normal. Like before, think about steps. Fast pace is not running; it’s between a fast walk and running. Arms moving freely at the side, attention to steps.
- Practice meditation every day.