Meditation is one of the most important aspects of Buddhism, if not the most important. Buddha always emphasized the importance of daily meditation and mastering its benefits. To meditate is to be mindful of your mind and body – to learn it, know it, and free it. I have been meditating and learning meditation for over a decade, ever since I first began my spiritual search and I still can’t call myself a master meditator, because meditation isn’t something you can learn and be “good” at in a matter of years – it takes a lifetime just to be able to taste half of its benefits!
Learning Anapanasati (mindful breathing) is a MUST if you want to be a master meditator and climb the ladder of Enlightenment. Anapanasati means to be mindful of the breath in the body; how it moves, how it feels, it’s length, speed, etc.
Meditation’s purpose isn’t to clear all thoughts in your mind (well, it is in later, advanced stages). There are thoughts in your mind all day; when you’re walking, driving, working, running, watching movies, showering – there are always thoughts in your mind, but you’re never aware of them. Why is it then when you’re meditating you recognize and get bombarded with all these thoughts? It’s because you’re being mindful! Because you’re aware! It’s because now that you’re sitting still and trying to be mindful, you’re aware and hear these thoughts.
So what are you supposed to do? Simple. Just be aware that the thoughts are there. Sit, relax, practice anapanasati, and be mindful. And when a thought arises, don’t force it away. Instead, be mindful that a thought has arisen, watch it, and just let it pass. Don’t engage in the thought, don’t be active with it. If the thought rises that you’re hungry, just be mindful that the thought is about hunger. Don’t engage in it with wondering what you’ll eat or what you’ll cook for dinner, no. Just know the thought is there, watch it, and let it go. Do this with every thought that rises. Be mindful of the thought, watch it, and let it go.
Eventually with practice (and I don’t mean hours, days, or weeks – it could take months or years) thoughts will cease, and you’ll be able to enter a state of calmness and peacefulness. The above exercise also applies when you do walking meditation. Actually, the above exercise applies all day, everyday! To always be mindful of your thoughts is important, because these thoughts can sometimes cause delusion, anxiety, doubt, and anger – and angry thoughts does count towards your Karma!
Once you’re able to be at peace during meditation, or even during your exercise, you can contemplate ideas and aspects of the Dharma. It’s during meditation that people realize Enlightenment when contemplating on things like the Five Skandhas (Aggregates) or on Emptiness. Or you can contemplate on simpler ideas, perhaps ways you’d teach or explain the Dharma to those who ask questions or are interested. It was during meditation that I was contemplating on how I would write this blog post, and during meditation that I contemplate on how I’ll need to explain things to friends who ask questions about my practice.
There are many ways to meditate, many techniques, and different reasons – but they all require and have the same basic rules of anapanasati and being mindful of your thoughts. It’s also important to be mindful of your body; your posture and sensual organs (also related to the Five Skandhas which I’ll post something about in the future).
Smile and be well!