COVID-19 and Tonglen

We now find ourselves in the midst of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. At the date of writing this blog post (as of 02:00 am CEST, 6 April 2020); there are over 1,211,214 confirmed cases around the world with 67,666 confirmed deaths in 209 countries, areas or territories with cases, according to WHO. There is tremendous suffering around the world as this outbreak wreaks havoc wherever it spreads.

During this time of great suffering around the world, the likes of which we have never seen before, it is essential for us to perform Tonglen meditation. Tonglen is a Tibetan word which means sending and taking. This practice originated in India and came to Tibet in the eleventh century. With the practice of Tonglen, we work directly with our habitual tendency to avoid suffering and attach ourselves to pleasure.

Using this powerful and highly effective practice, we learn to embrace our life experiences (specifically those that are unpleasant and hurtful) with more openness, compassion, inclusiveness, and understanding; rather than denial, aversion, and resistance. When we encounter fear, pain, hurt, anger, jealousy, loneliness, or suffering; be it our own or others, we breathe in with the desire to completely embrace this experience; to feel it, accept it, and own it, free of any resistance. We breathe out to ourselves and to others and offer comfort, loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being, healing and fulfillment.

In other words, Tonglen reverses our mind’s general habit pattern of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. During this process, we become liberated from our habit patterns around ego-centric and self-centered perspective of the world. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others. Tonglen awakens our compassion and introduces us to a far bigger view of reality.

Pema Chodron; an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, teaches this practice and has written extensively about it. She has stated that Tonglen practice offers us “the opportunity to work with compassion, kindness, gentleness and generosity,” especially in a time of suffering and confusion.

She has outlined four stages of this practice when it is done in a formal manner. I have listed them below and have modified the fourth stage of this practice specifically to use for the COVID-19 situation.

Stage 1. We rest our mind briefly, for a second or two, in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is used to open ourselves up to basic spaciousness and clarity.

Stage 2. We work with texture. We breathe in feelings of hot, dark, and heavy that are associated with a sense of claustrophobia and breathe out feelings of cool, bright, and light that are associated with a sense of freshness. We breathe in completely, through all the pores of our body and breathe out, radiate out, completely, through all the pores of our body. We do this until this process feels synchronized with our in-breaths and out-breaths.

Stage 3. We work with a personal situation, any painful situation that is real to us. Traditionally we begin by doing Tonglen for someone we care about and wish to help. However; if we are stuck, we can do the practice for the pain we are feeling and simultaneously for all those just like us who feel that kind of suffering. For instance, if we are feeling inadequate, we breathe that in for ourselves and all the others in the same boat, and we send out confidence and adequacy or relief in any form we wish.

Stage 4. Finally, we make the taking in and sending out practice bigger. This is where we include as many people as we can in our practice. We can include caregivers from all over the world who are taking care of COVID-19 patients. We breathe in their pain, anguish, fear, insecurity and breathe out comfort, healing, peace and calm to them. We can include COVID-19 patients from all over the world who are going through these difficult times. We breathe in their pain, anguish, insecurity, loneliness, fear of death, fear of their loved ones left behind and breathe out comfort, healing, friendship, peace and calm to them. Finally, we can include all people living on this beautiful planet irrespective of their race, gender, religion, sexual preferences and breathe in their pain, anguish, insecurity, loneliness, confusion, fear and breathe out comfort, healing, peace, calm, happiness and joy to them.

Tonglen can extend infinitely. As we do the practice, gradually over time our compassion will naturally expand, as Pema Chodron has mentioned repeatedly. I have been trying to do this practice as many times as possible. Many times, I am simply not able to make the emotional / spiritual / energetic connection due to the sheer enormity of the suffering but there are times when I am able to make that connection. I have realized that I need to try to do this practice as many times as possible during this period to have some effect on myself and on others around me. This is the least I can do under these circumstances. Performing this practice in times like these will impart to us a sense of our shared humanity and shared experiences.

I urge you to check out this practice from these amazing teachers below:

Tonglen practice from Pema Chodron

Tonglen practice from Tara Brach

Posted in COVID-19, Tonglen Tagged with:

Mindfulness of Thinking Process

In the blog category “Guided Meditations”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided meditation tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Meditations” page under “Resources” menu option where these meditation tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Within the broad domain of mindfulness, mindfulness of thinking process is a simple method in which we observe the process by which thinking happens in the mind. In a very simplistic way, it can be said that the thinking process occurs through mental images and mental sounds.

Mental images or mental pictures are experiences that, on most occasions, significantly resemble the experience of perceiving some objects but occur when the relevant objects are not actually present to the senses. Mental imagery can sometimes produce the same effects as would be produced by the behavior or experience imagined. In our thinking process, we can embed a lot of information within a few powerful mental images that can trigger many thoughts and emotions.

Mental sounds include verbal sounds in the form of monologue or dialogue. In other words; on many occasions, our thinking involves us talking in monologues or us talking with other people by way of dialogues. Mental sounds can also include non- verbal sounds. A prime example is that on many occasions, our thinking process is dominated by music.

In this meditation, we will observe the thinking process happening in our minds as a dynamic, ever changing flow. As thoughts flow by, we mentally note their underlying process. We note whether they arise as mental sounds in the form of monologues, dialogues or non-verbal sounds or whether they arise as mental images. We perform this noting very gently and try not to get involved in the story of the thoughts. When there are no thoughts, we gently bring your attention back to the breath.

The practice of Mindfulness of thinking process is complementary to the practice of Mental Noting. With Mental Noting, we broadly note the type of thoughts and assign categories like remembering, judging, planning, believing, worrying, fantasizing, etc. or some combination of them. With Thinking process, we note the process by which these thoughts arise. For example, during our practice of Mental Noting; say that we are reminded of a plan to get our car to a tire center to get its tires checked.  We note this thought and assign to it a planning category. From the perspective of thinking process, the planning thought may come about as we mentally talk to ourselves or with someone else about our taking our car to get the tires checked. The planning thought may come about as a mental image of a tire shop that we take our cars to or as a mental image of our car with flat tires.

With both these practices, it is wise to not over analyze our thoughts. We just need to quickly note them in a general way regarding their content or process as they arise, fall away and are replaced by other thoughts. It is also wise to not get involved in the story of the thoughts. The advantages of both these complementary practices is that they allow our thoughts to lose their grip on us, they lose their energies and fall away. We find some freedom even in the midst of raging thoughts that never seem to stop.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

From our good friends at iNLP Center, please check out their Mindfulness Certification Training for Individuals and Coaches. You will not be disappointed.

Posted in Guided Meditations Tagged with:

Loving Kindness Meditation for Oneself

In the blog category “Guided Meditations”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided meditation tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Meditations” page under “Resources” menu option where these meditation tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Loving kindness meditation is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. It is essentially about cultivating love. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards ourselves and others that is unconditional. It is a quality of the heart that simply wishes well to all beings without seeking anything back in return.

Loving kindness meditation for oneself is a very effective way to start befriending ourselves and treating ourselves with gentleness, care, kindness and love. It counteracts the voice of the harsh inner critic that we all have within us. From this place of self-compassion, we are likely to become less critical of ourselves when we make mistakes. The more loving and patient we are with our difficulties, the less lost we are in reactivity thereby leading to wiser choices and wiser actions. We are also likely to dissolve our past aversive experiences with other people and to let them go instead of letting them affect us in adverse ways.

It is very easy to perform loving kindness for our loved ones and benefactors but it is more difficult for us to practice it for our own selves. However, as with any other skills set, we can improve by performing this practice on a regular basis.

This guided meditation will help us practice loving kindness towards ourselves. We will focus our attention on ourselves knowing that we too deserve unconditional love, kindness and happiness just like all other living beings. The guided meditation will have some traditional phrases of loving kindness. In the short period of silence that follows each phrase, we will repeat it a few times and breathe in the qualities of warmth, kindness, compassion or love towards ourselves. We will do this with all our heart.

The idea is to start with a small flame of the intent behind each phrase. We will attend to it and nurture it. We will slowly get more fuel for the tender feeling that arises in our heart as we offer loving kindness to ourselves and allow it to expand and to gain momentum. It we notice that our minds have wondered off, we will gently bring it back to this practice.

This meditation track is available in the “Guided Meditation” page that can be accessed from the “References” menu option. Please feel free to either stream these exercises or click on the “Download” button to download the mp3 files to your computers or mobile devices.

May you be happy !!!
May you be peaceful !!!
May you live with ease !!!

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Meditations Tagged with:

Witness the Arising of the Sense of Self

In the blog category “Guided Reflections”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided reflection tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Reflections” page under “Resources” menu option where these tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Within Buddhist teachings, we human beings are described as a collection of five changing processes (often called aggregates of clinging): the processes of the physical body, of feelings, of perceptions, of mental formations and of the flow of consciousness that experiences them all. Our sense of self arises interdependently with this process of identification of sense objects with these aggregates. Even though this is a subtle process hidden from our awareness, we can observe the gathering of energies inside us or some form of contraction in our minds as the sense of self arises. The identification with our sense of self often results in clinging leading to suffering.

This reflection practice will help you experience the arising and passing away of the sense of self. You can prove to yourself that the self is not a monolithic constant experience but one that keeps on changing depending on the nature of our identification with our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. The fact that you can observe the sense of self arising and passing away could prove to you that there is something else beyond the sense of self that observes this phenomenon.

In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in phenomena. Since craving and aversion lie at the heart of suffering, and since there’s clinging to the sense of self, the teachings use the perception of not-self as a strategy to dismantle that clinging. Whenever you see yourself identifying with anything stressful and inconstant, you remind yourself that it’s not-self because it is impermanent and unsatisfactory. Therefore, it is not worth clinging to, not worth calling your “self”. This helps you let go of it. When you do this as a matter of practice and skill set, it can lead to long-term happiness.

A question will arise as to the veracity of this practice. Surely, we cannot let go of everything and totally dismantle the sense of self. We must live in this world and provide for our families. We must consider our “selves” as physically separate from our neighbors and colleagues. I think that ultimately, there needs to be a skillful dance between the sense of self and the sense of not-self. We need to let go wherever necessary and consider our sense of self as fluid and inconstant. We can use this reflection practice of witnessing the arising of the sense of self to let go of stressful and excessive clinging to bring about some measure of happiness. We can also use this practice to relate to the people living in our midst in a more compassionate manner.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you.

Posted in Guided Reflections Tagged with:

Guided Reflection on Impermanence

In the blog category “Guided Reflections”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided reflection tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Reflections” page under “Resources” menu option where these tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Impermanence, called anicca (Pāli) or anitya (Sanskrit) appears extensively in the Pali Canon as one of the essential doctrines of Buddhism. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence is inconstant. All temporal things, whether material or mental, are compounded objects in a continuous change of condition, subject to decline and destruction.

The concept of impermanence and continuous becoming is central to early Buddhist teachings. It is stated that not seeing impermanence is ignorance. Seeing impermanence is the doorway to liberation. The more often we see this passing away nature of mind states and emotions, the less driven we are by them. Direct insight – that is, seeing into their passing away – brings about the space to be with mind states and emotions without identification and without reaction.

In this Guided Reflection practice, we will use the natural inclinations of our minds to reflect and investigate on this principle.  We will settle our bodies in a comfortable position. We will keep the head, neck and back erect but not rigid. We will intentionally cultivate an attitude of patience, gentleness and kindness towards ourselves. After gently closing our eyes, we will tune in to feeling of the breath flowing in and out of the body. We will focus our attention and will follow the breath as it comes in and goes out. As and when our mind starts to wander off into thoughts, memories, emotions and judgements; we will bring to mind the principle of impermanence. The truth of impermanence is that in less than 100 years from now, all living beings involved in these mind objects (including ourselves) will cease to exist.

It is very likely that consciously bringing to mind the fact that one day we will cease to exist will help our minds get unhooked from various thoughts and emotions. This may give us some degree of freedom, peace and understanding. If we find ourselves breaking free from the grip of mind objects, we should highlight the moment of transition because we are now able to change our perception at a deep level of our mind in order to free ourselves from suffering that comes along with the persistence of mind objects. If no mind objects arise, then we will keep our attention gently focused on our breath.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Reflections Tagged with:

On Letting Go (Revised)

In the blog category “Guided Reflections”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided reflection tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Reflections” page under “Resources” menu option where these tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

I posted my first guided reflection practice on letting go in March 2018. Since then I received some feedback from website users. Though they appreciated a novel way to perform mindfulness followed by reflection and investigation, they found the format of the practice to be very cumbersome.  There were too many stages and not enough time to stay focused on each stage. Some of them even lost track of the practice as they missed a phase in between and got confused during the track. I then decided to create a more free-flowing reflection practice in the same format as the rest of my guided meditation practices. This guided reflection track is the result of that effort.

In this format of reflection practice, we allow our eyes to gently close and tune in to feeling of the breath flowing in and out of the body. We focus our attention on the sensation of the breath moving past the nostrils or on the sensation of the breath moving into the belly lifting it during each in breath and receding gently on each out breath. We follow the breath as it comes in and goes out. As and when our attention drifts away from the breath, we observe and note the most dominant thoughts and emotions that have arisen. Behind these thoughts and emotions, we see if we are holding onto something. If we determine what it is that we are holding on to, we let go of it.

The goal of this practice is to experience some degree of freedom upon letting go of whatever it is that we are holding on to. Suffering and unhappiness result from craving and aversion. If we observe the thoughts and emotions underlying them, we realize that we are holding on to something. When we let go of whatever it is that we are holding on to, the thoughts and emotions pass away taking with them the cravings or aversions. This process occurs in real time as we continue to observe our breath and our attention drifts away from the breath precisely because of some craving or aversion that arises.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Reflections Tagged with:

The 10 Perfections – Generosity

In the blog category “Mindfulness Concepts,” I will elaborate on the many ideas, concepts and insights that form the basis of the amazing practice of mindfulness meditation.

In an earlier blog post, I talked about “The 10 Perfections.” These are the qualities of the heart that are eventually developed with the practice of mindfulness meditation.

In this blog post, I will talk about the first perfection, Generosity. All spiritual traditions place a lot of emphasis on the virtues of generosity. Within the Buddhist tradition, the dynamics of generosity have been laid out in such a way that that it inspires us to maintain our practice of mindfulness meditation.

Practicing mindfulness meditation can take us out of our perpetual obsession with our own selves thereby allowing us to be aware of others around us. This can naturally lead us to participate in acts of generosity to help others.

When the spirit of generosity is strong, a sense of gratitude emanating from it can fuel our practice. The act of generosity can lead to a calm, restful mind that can become mindful naturally. In order to participate in acts of generosity, we have to let go of whatever it is we want to give. It could be a material object, time or energy. Letting go is the reverse of holding or clinging. Holding on to something leads to a constricted, selfish mind whereas letting go of something can lead to a more expansive, spacious mind and heart. A more expansive, spacious mind and heart can transition into mindfulness meditation quite easily.

Acts of generosity can lead us to experience joy in our lives. Joy is an inner selfless quality that supports the path of mindfulness meditation. We realize that our private practice on a cushion is a generous act because it inspires us to make a difference in other people’s lives when we are out of it. An unusual aspect of generosity is that self-giving (giving up of ourselves) is a part of self-development. We develop ourselves by giving stuff away. Being selfless is a way of finding oneself. The giver often receives more than the receivers. Generosity therefore is a manifestation of mindfulness practice. It also provides the context and support for our practice.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite avenues for practicing generosity. With the advent of an interconnected, wired world comes new opportunities for us to make global impact. For more than 10 years now, I have been an evangelist of micro-lending and micro-finance industries. Microlending is the business practice of making small (often interest-free) financial loans to business-minded people from around the world who do not have access to the traditional avenues for raising capital. Kiva Microfunds (commonly known by its domain name, Kiva.org) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty”. I have been an active lender on this website for over 10 years now. So far (as of April 2019) , through lending and relending a modest sum of money, I have made a difference in the lives of over 250 families spread out in 65 countries. It gives me great joy to see my portfolio of loans and to see the small impact I have made in the lives of so many people from around the world.

A focused and mindful approach to generosity over a period of time can accrue to make a huge impact. That impact can fuel our practice.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions and experiences wherever appropriate after receiving your permission to do so. Thank you!!!

Posted in Mindfulness Concepts Tagged with:

The 10 Perfections – Manifesting the Power of Mindfulness Meditation in our Lives

In the blog category “Mindfulness Concepts”, I will elaborate on the many ideas, concepts and insights that form the basis of the amazing practice of mindfulness meditation.

Last year, I was asked a question on the goal of mindfulness practice. The person who asked me that question was familiar with the classic practices of mindfulness of breath, body scan, etc. and was also familiar with the health benefits that accrued from them. I did give him some answers but after our conversation ended, I realized that they were not complete. That incident has prompted me to blog about “The 10 Perfections”. These are the qualities of the heart that are eventually developed with this practice. They provide the context, support and expression of the growth that happens in us as we engage in this practice. In other words, they are the manifestations of the power of mindfulness practice in our lives.

An amazing aspect of ‘10 Perfections’ is that as they grow within us, they manifest and give an expression of our practice. However, they also end up becoming a foundation and support for our practice. In other words, these qualities strengthen our practice that in turn, strengthen these qualities. So, this becomes a strong cycle of growth and manifestation that leads us to even deeper experiences of these practices when we perform them on our meditation cushions. In fact, if we get stuck in our practice, it may make sense for us to stop it for some time and instead consciously engage in developing these perfections by taking skillful actions in our lives outside of our cushions. When we eventually come back to our cushions, these qualities will give us strength and inspiration for the work that happens on it.

The qualities of the heart that comprise ’10 Perfections’ are as listed below:

Generosity

Virtue

Renunciation

Wisdom

Energy (or Strength)

Patience

Truth

Determination

Loving Kindness

Equanimity

One of my new year resolutions for 2019 is to consciously develop these qualities, one by one. As part of this effort; I will blog about them, my feeble but conscious efforts to develop them and the results that get generated. I hope this series of posts will inspire you to engage in similar pursuits in your lives in your unique and ingenious ways.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions and experiences wherever appropriate after receiving your permission to do so. Thank you!!!

Posted in Mindfulness Concepts Tagged with:

Calming the Breath and the Body (Long Version)

In the blog category “Guided Meditations”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided meditation tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Meditations” page under “Resources” menu option where these meditation tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

A few months ago, I received a request from a regular website visitor asking me if I could provide a longer version of the guided meditation entitled “Calming the breath and the body”. I realized that it would be very beneficial to create a longer version of this track.

A very helpful application of mindfulness of breath meditation is to induce relaxation in the body. While breathing, our exhalations relax the body whereas inhalations energize the body. During exhalations when we gently and consciously relax different parts of the body, we amplify the relaxation experience.

The original version of “Calming the breath and the body” meditation track guided us to relax different parts of the body as we exhaled. The mindfulness of breath practice would anchor our minds and would keep it focused on the relaxation process. We would just need to lie down comfortably and bring our attention to the breath. As we exhaled, we would feel the relaxing effect of the breath as it left the body and relaxed it, part by part as guided in the meditation track. We would begin at the top of the body and going down till we reached the feet. The longer version of the original guided meditation track simply has a longer period of silence prior to each body part being called out.

Within our normal breathing cycle, a “long breath” is the relatively long space between the end of an exhalation and start of the next inhalation. While performing this exercise, we start to relax the body part at the start of exhalation and continue till the “long breath” portion is completed. It is very important to note that the breath should not be manipulated in any way. We should work with the breath as it comes in and goes out on its own.

Finally, we should perform this meditation/relaxation technique in a safe area where we will not be disturbed nor will we disturb others. We should not do this while driving or while operating heavy machinery.

I can think of three situations where this practice will help us immensely:

  • When we are unable to sleep at night and find ourselves plagued by all kinds of thoughts
  • When we wake up in the middle of the night and are not able to go back to sleep again
  • In the middle of a busy day at home, when we feel the need to take a break to refresh and recharge ourselves.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website Content Feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Meditations Tagged with:

Background Music in Guided Meditations

In the blog category “Website Content Feedback”, I will publish my answers to questions posed to me by users who use the website resources as well as their suggestions and feedback. I will be delighted to publish their experiences as well as testimonials wherever appropriate. 

I received a question from a person who listened to “Mental Noting” guided meditation and its accompanying blog post on my website.  She found it very helpful. However, she wished there were simple sounds or music in the background to “hold” the meditation together to create continuity. She asked me why I did not have any background music in any of my meditations. 

There are definitely some benefits associated with having background music within guided meditations. In fact, some articles have begun to appear in the journals of National Institutes of Health about the development and usage of Mindfulness-Based Music Therapy (MBMT) program used for women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer in hospital settings. This program, used within the broader framework of music therapy in Oncology, promises great potential for recovering patients. The researchers who have published these articles believe that the role of music and mindfulness in theoretical frameworks within cancer-specific models should be explored. 

On my website, however, the main purpose of “Mental Noting” (and other mindfulness meditations) is to observe non-judgmentally whatever arises in the mind without influencing the mind in any way. Having some background music will influence the mind and it could result in a somewhat artificially induced experience. We must create continuity in these meditations with our own natural powers of concentration. During our practice of meditation, each time we bring our wandering mind back to the object of meditation, we are strengthening our power of concentration that will result in us providing continuity to the practice. 

To conclude, there are advantages of having background music within guided meditations but it all depends on their context and  purpose. 

Posted in Website Content Feedback Tagged with:

On Letting Go of Desires

In the blog category “Website Content Feedback”, I will publish my answers to questions posed to me by users who use the website resources as well as their suggestions and feedback. I will be delighted to publish their experiences as well as testimonials wherever appropriate.

An online user who used my guided reflection practice called “On Letting Go” posed the following question: Why would we want to let go of all desires? Surely some of them are positive and we don’t want to be free of them.

We do have positive desires. However, the problem arises when we start to obsess about it, plan for it endlessly and then do not enjoy it when it comes true. My experience has been that when we let go of our desires, our core desires do not really go away. We just become free of its grasping nature. We are then free to pursue them out of our own free will rather than getting ensnared by them.

The guided reflection practice “On Letting Go” allows us to see the sheer turbulence that unfulfilled desires can create in our minds. We then have a choice to work with them in a skillful manner. We can have those desires, work towards achieving them but not lose a ton of energy in the process. Yet another insight that can arise in our minds is that most desires can never be satisfied, in the sense that as soon as we fulfill a desire, other desires immediately fill the space and we must start all over again.

This reflection practice does not deal just with our unfilled desires. It allows us to come face to face with our experience of suffering. Suffering can arise from anything we desire that we do not have or anything that we do have but do not want. It can take the form of any emotion or feeling like sadness, anger, jealousy, etc. In most instances, we suffer because we hold on to something. It could be our ego, our point of view or extensions of our ego. The reflection practice allows us to investigate whatever it is that we are holding on to and then gives us a chance to let go. It is very likely that letting go will end the experience of suffering that arose when we were trying to be mindful of our breath.

Posted in Website Content Feedback Tagged with:

Guided Reflection: On Letting Go

In the blog category “Guided Reflections”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided reflection tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Reflections” page under “Resources” menu option where these tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Suffering in the form of unhappiness, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, frustration, pride, arrogance, fear and worry are all derived from craving and aversion. Without craving and aversion; there is no unhappiness, there is no suffering. If we contemplate cravings for desires as well as aversions and listen to the thoughts and emotions underlying them, we realize that we are holding on to something. We suffer because we hold on to something. It could be our ego or any extensions of it. When we let go of whatever it is that we are holding on to, the thoughts and emotions pass away taking with them the desires for cravings or aversions. We can then immediately notice a difference in our entire being as we come out of the grip of cravings or aversions. We then come to the realization that the origins of suffering itself can be laid aside and let go of.

This guided reflection practice will help us get a taste of freedom when we experience the end of cravings or aversions. This practice comprises of five stages. In the first stage, we relax the body and cultivate an attitude of patience, gentleness and kindness towards ourselves. In the second stage, we practice mindfulness of breath meditation for about 5 minutes. In the third stage, we observe and note the most dominant thoughts and emotions that cause us to suffer while we attempt to be mindful of our breath. For this reflection practice, suffering is anything that distracts us from practicing mindfulness of breath meditation and cause our mind to wander off from time to time. Suffering can arise from anything we desire that we do not have or anything that we do have but do not want. It can take the form of any emotion or feeling like sadness, anger, jealousy, etc. Suffering arises because we hold on to something. In the fourth stage, we look into whatever it is that we are holding on to. In the fifth and final stage, we let go of whatever it is that we are holding on to and notice the difference in our entire being. Letting go is as easy as opening our clenched fists.

There is no need to remember the order of these stages. We follow the guided reflection practice as it takes us from one stage to the next.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

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Meditation vs Reflection

In the blog category “Guided Reflections”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided reflection tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Reflections” page under “Resources” menu option where these tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

There is a difference between practice of meditation and practice of reflection within the domain of mindfulness. Meditation practice helps us to develop concentration and calmness, so that we can break through into a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. Reflection practice gives us insight into our own thoughts. It allows us to understand how we operate and gives us insight into our strengths and weaknesses. It helps us analyze ourselves and others. When we reflect on ourselves or our lives, we get to know ourselves better.

Meditation, on the other hand, rewires our brain so that some neural connections wither away, while new connections are created. We see ourselves and others from a clearer perspective. Our overall anxiety is reduced, and our capacity to empathize is strengthened. Rather than taking everything personally, we become more balanced and rational.

The purpose of reflection practice is not to gratify our hopes or dispel our fears. By contemplating and reflecting on our life’s circumstances, we are expressing our confidence that it is worthy to consider decent, skillful ways to conduct our lives.

But how do we practice reflection? If we are asked to reflect on the nature of impermanence, for example, what exactly are we supposed to do? We can relax and think of impermanence, but very soon we might be bombarded by a network of thoughts that would easily overwhelm the one reflecting thought in our mind, thereby making the effort futile. At least, that was my own experience whenever I would sit to do a reflection practice.

Guided Meditations are like training wheels for the practice of meditation. In a similar way, Guided Reflections act like training wheels for the practice of reflection. For my own use, I created a few guided reflection practices as voice memos on my cell phone. Realizing how beneficial these were to me, I have chosen to publish them on the website beginning in March 2018 and will create a library of them in due course of time.

I strongly believe that we need the practices of reflection as well as meditation to transform our lives and to live with ease. We can never have enough of them.

Guided Reflection practice, as I envision it, can have two different paths. In the first path, we start by practicing the classical mindfulness of breath meditation for a few minutes. During this time, we observe and note the most dominant thoughts and emotions that cause distraction while we attempt to keep our attention on our breath. We then reflect on these thoughts and emotions and try to deal with them in a direct way as they invariably deal with our pre-occupations and incomplete  experiences.

In the second path, we again start by practicing the classical mindfulness of breath meditation for a few minutes. If this stills our mind so that it has become like a calm lake, we drop in wholesome thoughts and then patiently wait for our minds to absorb them and to create different perspectives of them, all of which are directly applicable to our lives.

The Guided Reflection practices will encompass both these paths. The accompanying blog post for each practice will explain the path in detail. I hope that you find the collection of Guided Reflection practices as useful and beneficial as the collection of Guided Meditation practices on my website.

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Reflections Tagged with:

Taking the Best Medicine Mindfully

In the blog category “Mindfulness Meditation techniques”, I will list various techniques that will help practitioners of this form of meditation. Over a period of years, I have compiled a variety of such techniques and formed a virtual toolkit from which I draw upon on a regular basis.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician often referred to as the “Father of Western Medicine” once stated that “Walking is the best medicine”. I am going to present a beautiful technique that utilizes “short breaths” to practice mindfulness of breath meditation while walking.

Within our normal breathing cycle, a “long breath” is the relatively long space between an exhalation and the next inhalation. On the other hand, a “short breath” is the relatively short space between an inhalation and subsequent exhalation. Long breaths, and by extension, exhalations, promote relaxation of the body. Short breaths, and by extension, inhalations, energize the body. This meditation technique involves counting breaths and placing the counts on short breaths while walking. It is very important to note that the breath should not be manipulated in any way. You should work with the breath as it comes in and goes out on its own.

There is a twist in the way breaths are counted. Instead of counting the breaths in a neat sequence, they need to be counted in a pattern as displayed below.

1          2          3          4          5

1          2          3          4          5          6

1          2          3          4          5          6          7

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8

1          2          3          4          5          6          7

1          2          3          4          5          6

1          2          3          4          5

The pattern starts from top to bottom and from left to right. Depending on your pace of walk and pace of your breath, you may spend anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes to complete one round of counting, i.e. from 1 .. 5 to 1 .. 10 and back to 1 .. 5. The more relaxed you are, the more difficult it might become due to the increased time lag between each breath. At the same time, it is important to stay as relaxed as possible and let the breath come in and go out on its own.

It is also important to do the count at each short breath in the pattern displayed above. If you miss a count during a short breath, then start all over again. Also, you should count only once and move down the pattern during each short breath.

This meditation technique involves both mindfulness and concentration in an even and delicate balance. If you are good at this exercise, then try doing two rounds one after the other. In other words, do one round from 1 .. 5 to 1 .. 10, back to 1 .. 5; and then repeat this cycle all over again.

Finally, please perform this technique in a safe area where you will not be disturbed while walking nor will you disturb others.

Good luck and have fun!!!

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you!!!

 

 

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Cultivating Loving Kindness for Loved Ones and Benefactors

In the blog category “Guided Meditations”, I will provide detailed explanations for all the guided meditation tracks that I will place in the Resources section of this website. These blog posts will be hyperlinked from the “Guided Meditations” page under “Resources” menu option where these meditation tracks in mp3 format will be placed for streaming or for downloading.

Loving-kindness meditation is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. It is essentially about cultivating love. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others that is unconditional. It is a quality of the heart that simply wishes well to all beings without seeking anything back in return.

Loving kindness has great expansive power. It is all inclusive. When developed, it makes no distinction between beings. It has the capacity to embrace all beings. It also has the power to dissolve our past aversive experiences with other people. All our aversive experiences will not fall away the first time we practice loving kindness meditation. Rather, cultivating and purifying the quality of the heart allows it to flower more and more spontaneously in our lives. The more loving and patient we are with our difficulties, the less lost we are in reactivity thereby leading to wiser choices and wiser actions. As our choices and actions become wiser; they in turn lead to more happiness, more loving kindness and greater freedom thereby creating a great spiral upwards.

The easiest way to practice and cultivate loving kindness meditation is to direct it towards our loved ones and benefactors. This guided meditation serves exactly that purpose. We sit comfortably, relax the body and settle into our posture. We then call to mind someone we love, someone who has helped us, someone for whom a sense of care, love and goodwill naturally arises in our heart. It can be our partner, our parents, our children, our grandchildren or even pets.  We get an image of them and say their names to ourselves. We get a feeling of their presence, and offer the phrases of loving kindness to them, wishing for them what we wish for ourselves.

We then bring to our minds all the people whom we have ever loved and cared for in any role or capacity. We call to mind all the people who have ever helped us; all the people for whom a sense of care, love and goodwill naturally arises in our heart. We need not name all of them. We just get an image and feeing of their presence. We then offer phrases of loving kindness to them, wishing for all of them what we wish for ourselves.

This meditation track is available in the “Guided Meditation” page that can be accessed from the “References” menu option. Please feel free to either stream these exercises or click on the “Download” button to download the mp3 files to your computers or mobile devices.

May you be happy !!!
May you be peaceful !!!
May you live with ease !!!

If you would like to share your experience, ask questions or provide helpful suggestions on this or any other blog post, then please fill out the contact form below. In a blog category entitled “Website content feedback” I will publish my answers to your questions as well as your suggestions wherever appropriate. I will be also delighted to publish your experience, if you would like me to do so. Thank you !!!

Posted in Guided Meditations Tagged with:

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