Category Archives: Meditation

Meditation 102: Reactions

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Meditation Exercise 2:

Settling the mind.

Purpose:

To train the student to BE there letting the mind settle down. The idea is to get the student to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

Pre-requisites:

Complete the exercise in Chapter 4: Meditation 101: Posture

Study Chapter 5: Settling the Mind Down

Instructions:

Start as per the exercise in Chapter 4. Start by observing your breathing while also being aware of all the commotion going on in the mind.

Breathing acts as a stabilizing point as you face the commotion in the mind.

If you feel drowsy, simply experience the whole cycle of the body falling asleep and eventually waking up. Make sure your posture is stable enough so the body does not slump during sleep. When it wakes up, continue as before.

To fully perceive drowsiness, you must experience it without resisting.

At the beginning stages of meditation you run out all kinds of reactions. You do this by fully perceiving and experiencing them without avoiding, resisting, denying or suppressing.

Fully perceive and experience all reactions in meditation without interfering with them.

If there is an unexplained ache or pain in some body part, or there is intense emotion, or even convulsion, confront it patiently with mindfulness. Sooner or later the reaction will discharge and vanish.

A reaction, when confronted patiently, discharges and vanishes.

If you find your mind chattering, realize that there is missing information that is suppressed. Do not dive into the mind to find that information. Simply experience the stress that is causing the chatter. Let the mind relax and unwind, and let any suppressed information come up by itself.  

As the mind unwinds and lets the past suppressed painful information through, the mental chatter also subsides.

As suppression comes off the mind there are naturally going to be realizations. Do not force any realizations. You simply BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

Continue this exercise for at least 20 minute. You may continue for longer if it is going well.

If, all of a sudden, there is a big realization that makes you very happy, you may end the session immediately and enjoy your win.

You may repeat this exercise as often as you wish.

End of Exercise:

When major reactions are discharged, and you find that your mind stays stably settled even outside the exercise, then this exercise is passed.

NOTE: At any point you may return to a previous exercise if you feel that you need to complete it.

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Settling the Mind Down

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

As stated earlier, the first step in meditation is to stop interfering with the mind so that all turmoil may settle down into a quiet state. It is like stop stirring the water to let the mud settle down. This is an interesting step to carry out because it is amazingly difficult to not do anything that interferes with the mind.

When you sit down to meditate you become acutely aware of the turmoil going on in the mind. Some may not acknowledge it but confusion about something is always there. There is nothing to distract you from it unless you flat out deny it. In meditation, you are not supposed to avoid, resist, deny or suppress. You have to face that confusion head on. How do you face it?

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Breathing

To handle any confusion you first need a stable datum. That stable datum used in meditation is breathing.

You start by observing your breathing while also being aware of all the commotion going on in the mind. Breathing should be used as a stabilizing factor rather than a distraction. If attention gets lost during meditation, then you simply bring it back to your breathing and continue to observe the mind without interfering. The idea is to BE there and not do anything else but BE there. Breathing should stay natural during this process.

Breathing acts as a stabilizing point as you face the commotion in the mind.

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Reactions

As you stay aware of the confusion in the mind from the stable point of breathing, the commotion starts to settle down. But this settling down process is full of reactions, such as, tiredness, boredom, drowsiness, etc. How do you handle these reactions?

For example, suppose you start to feel drowsy. If you fight it then you’ll be interfering with the mind and stirring it up. All you can do is let that condition pass and run itself out. The body may fall asleep, but it would eventually wake up. You simply experience the whole cycle of falling asleep and waking up. Once this reaction is out of system, you will feel more alert than when you started the meditation.

To fully perceive drowsiness, you must experience it without resisting.

Some may feel that if you fall asleep you are not meditating. Well, at the first step of meditation you are settling the mind down. The real meditation starts on the second step (see Introduction to Meditation).

Part of settling the mind is running out all reactions. You do this by fully perceiving and experiencing the reactions without avoiding, resisting, denying or suppressing them.

Fully perceive and experience all reactions in meditation without interfering with them.

This is mindfulness in meditation. It applies to all reactions and not just to sleep.

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Mental Chatter

When your mind is chattering away, it is trying to put some information together. It cannot, however, do so because it is missing a part of that information. This information is, most likely, suppressed being painful, and the mind is not stable enough to face it.

But, as the mind runs out the various reactions, as described in the previous section, it settles down and becomes more stable. It feels strong enough to let the painful information emerge out in the open.  This is the past suppression unwinding at last. This is nearing the end of the first stage of meditation.

As the mind unwinds and lets the past suppressed painful information through, the mental chatter also subsides.

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Summary

Meditation is the subject of confronting the painful contents of one’s mind and facing all confusions. Many good pointers on this subject may be found in the writings of Hubbard.

Hubbard based his philosophy of Scientology on Buddhism. He says 1.

Amazing reactions occur when conscious effort is made to do this. Dullness, perception trouble, fogginess, sleep and even pains, emotions and convulsions can occur when one knowingly sets out to BE THERE AND COMFORTABLY PERCEIVE with the various parts of a subject.

These reactions discharge and vanish as one perseveres (continues) and at last, sometimes soon, sometimes after a long while, one can be there and perceive the component.

A reaction, when confronted patiently, discharges and vanishes.

Hubbard goes on to warn in the same bulletin 1:

People have mental tricks they use to get around actual confronting—to be disinterested, to realize it’s not important, to be sort of half dead, etc.—but these discharge (run out) as well eventually and at last they can just be there and comfortably perceive.

We see this in people, who are running away from life, instead of living it. The same mindset shows up in meditation.

The solution is to practice mindfulness both in meditation and in life.

It is just letting the mud settle down. You may practice mindfulness even between the meditation sessions.

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1HCO Bulletin of 2 June 1971, Issue I, CONFRONTING

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Meditation 101: Posture

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Meditation Exercise 1:

Meditative posture

Purpose:

To train the student to BE there comfortably settled in a meditative posture. The idea is to get the student to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

Pre-requisite:

Study Chapter 3: Posture in Meditation

Instructions:

Find a quiet location to meditate, where you may be undisturbed for at least half an hour. Sit down in a posture per the reference above.

The meditative posture must stably maintain itself besides being natural and comfortable. It is important that the body be stably erect, and the mind alert in the mindfulness mode.

Use cushions as necessary. Prepare for a meditation session of at least twenty minutes. Set an alarm to indicate the end of session.

Adjust the posture till the body is comfortable. Take the time necessary to settle down. Once settled, keep the body immobile.

The first thing to observe is the natural process of breathing.

Look at breathing as it is naturally. Observe the impulses that make the breath to go in and out. Experience the long and short breaths as they are occurring by themselves.

Do not attempt to regulate the breathing.

When you start to meditate the body relaxes. This may give rise to minor physical reactions, such as, swallows, twitches, aches, etc.

Do not interfere with any reactions. Let them occur as they may.

Thoughts about daily activity and recent events may start to crowd the mind.

Do not avoid, resist, deny, or suppress any thoughts. Let them come and go as they may.

Meditation is being there, and seeing things as they are.

The idea is to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

Continue this exercise for 20 minutes. You may repeat this exercise as many times as you wish until you are fully satisfied with your meditative posture.

End of Exercise:

When you can BE there comfortably and PERCEIVE without your attention going to the posture, the exercise is passed.

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The Meaning of Enlightenment

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Buddha achieved enlightenment in a very short time once he started to practice mindfulness meditation.

The words the Buddha uttered involuntarily at this time are recorded variously in the Buddhist scriptures. According to the Kegon sutra, at the moment of enlightenment he spontaneously cried out 1“Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.”

The original word for enlightened is Bodhi, which means “awakened”. Zen Buddhism uses the word satori 2 to describe Buddha’s enlightenment as “Self-realization, opening the Mind’s eye, awakening to one’s True-nature and hence of the nature of all existence.” 

This provides a scientific definition of enlightenment as follows.

Enlightenment is the realization of the laws underlying our spiritual nature.

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The Spiritual Nature

Oxford dictionaries, however, define enlightenment as “The action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight, in particular (in Buddhism) that awareness which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth.” This definition imparts a sense of mystery.

Enlightenment is not some vague spiritual awareness of one’s identity linked to some mysterious cycle of rebirth. Instead, enlightenment is the understanding of the laws that underlie our spiritual nature. These laws determine wisdom and virtue. They also explain how our minds become inverted and deluded.

A human being, whether clever or stupid, male or female, ugly or beautiful, is capable of being awakened to the laws of spiritual nature. There is no perfection other than this state of being awakened. This is the enlightenment that Buddha sought and attained. 

Therefore, you meditate until you directly perceive the laws underlying your spiritual nature.

When you practice meditation its immediate effect is to reduce the turbulence in your mind so you can become more aware. The following chapters guide you step by step on the path to enlightenment through mindfulness meditation.

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1Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, Chapter I, Lecture 1 “Theory and Practice of Zazen”
2 Ibid., Chapter X, Definition of satori

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Introduction to Meditation

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Twenty-six hundred years ago Buddha launched a grass-root movement of spiritual awakening, which was so successful that it civilized three-quarters of the world. The essence underlying his approach to meditation is the following two steps.

The first step is to stop interfering with the mind so that all the turmoil ultimately settles down into a quiet state. It is like stop stirring the water so that all the mud finally settles down at the bottom. This happens by itself. All you have to do is stop interfering.

The next step is to start cleaning up the confusions in a systematic manner so there is no turmoil. It is like carefully removing the settled mud, so that it does not get stirred up again. It is a very precise operation.

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Misconceptions

Wikipedia1 describes meditation as “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.” The problem here is that any such technique would definitely interfere with the mind and not let it settle down on its own.

Furthermore, when you look up meditation in a dictionary, it provides synonyms, such as, concentration, contemplation and reflection. The problem is these actions cannot be accomplished until the mind has settled down.

On the website Qura.com2 the following popular explanation is provided:

Mindfulness meditation is a period of time allocated purely to being mindful and still. You practice what you want to do daily in every moment – having focused attention, being aware of thoughts and feelings tugging at you, and train yourself to bring yourself back to your meditation over and over again.

This explanation is almost correct except for this part at the end: “and train yourself to bring yourself back to your meditation over and over again.” Do you force your attention away from these thoughts that are tugging at you, back to your “meditation”? How would you resolve those thoughts then?

It appears that the sequence of steps in meditation is muddled up in most people’s understanding.

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Mindfulness

The essence of the first step in meditation is mindfulness. Buddha describes mindfulness in Bahiya3 sutra as follows:

In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought.

We may express this description scientifically as follows.

Mindfulness is being there and seeing things as they are.

Practice of mindfulness means that you are simply looking without interfering with the mind. As you sit down in meditation various reactions occur, such as, tiredness, drowsiness, boredom, etc. What do you do when the body starts to fall asleep? Do you interfere?

The answer is, “No, you do not interfere.” If the body falls asleep, it would eventually wake up. You simply experience the whole cycle of falling asleep and waking up. Maybe the reaction of sleepiness simply needs to be run out. Once it is out of system, you will be more alert than before. It is just the mud settling down. You may practice mindfulness even between the meditation sessions to help it all settle down.

“Removing the mud” in the second step means resolving the confusions, doubts and perplexities. These anomalies come up by themselves after the turmoil has settled down. You continue with your practice of mindfulness as before. Only now you need a deeper understanding of non-interference. It means that you do not avoid, resist, deny or suppress the confused thoughts and emotions that are coming up. You look at them with full alertness and experience them fully.

The mind then starts to relax and unwind. Past experiences that have long been suppressed start to release. You may be surprised at the memories that come up. It is this past suppression that was not letting the mental turmoil resolve. As the suppression comes off, the thoughts crowding the mind start to resolve. A lot of emotion may also accompany this resolution, but it will all clear up once and for all.

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Summary

The path to enlightenment starts with establishing the discipline of mindfulness. We may define meditation as follows:

Meditation is the dedicated application of mindfulness to resolve the unsettling thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding one’s mind.

The whole idea in meditation is to BE there and not do anything else but BE there. This means that you do not focus your attention on some object, thought, or activity. You do not concentrate, contemplate or reflect. You are required only to be there and perceive. Let the mind do what it may. This is a subtle point, but understanding it makes all the difference in the world.

As you meditate, you start to see through the mind’s obfuscation. You begin to recognize the things that have been causing the confusion. You start to get realizations. This is how the fundamental discoveries by scientists and philosophers are made.

It is these realizations that ultimately lead you to enlightenment.

The next chapter explains what enlightenment is.

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See the Wikipedia article on Meditation.
See the question “What is mindfulness meditation? On Quora.com.
Udāna 1.10; Bāhiyasuttaṃ 10

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