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Mind Your Monkey!

The article that follows is a FAQ List on insight meditation...

1.) “What is meditation and how does one practice?”

Most Buddhists learn first to focus on their breathing. This is always good for beginners. Remember that the purpose of meditation is to teach you how to quickly and thoroughly focus your mind into concentration and how to achieve discipline of thought. It is not—I repeat, not—to empty your mind. (No one could do that anyway!)

When you begin meditating, don’t be concerned if your mind quickly steps away from counting your breaths and jumps about from this to that. What you’re experiencing is called Monkey Mind, and is just common brain chatter. Instead of trying to control or stop the monkey, just gently remind yourself to come back to counting your breaths or the other object of meditation you have selected…

A Wiccan I know uses gazing into the flame of a candle as her meditation object. Some Buddhists (as well as those of other faiths) chant. I usually begin with the breath, then when I feel my mind beginning to drift, I begin internally reciting the Metta Sutta (the Buddha’s words on compassion), being careful to really consider each line and not simply race through the mental recitation.

If you are a Christian, you may want to choose a Biblical passage to ponder for your meditation time. Some passage with meaning for you—long enough to remain interesting, but short enough to memorize in order to repeat it mentally many times.

2.) What is walking meditation?

Frankly, this entire concept sounded pointless to me at first, but after a short time, I actually discovered that I concentrate better while walking than sitting. A walking meditation practice I read in a book and have had some success with involves sending metta to each being you pass as you are walking outside. Literally, you think at them, “May you be peaceful and free from fear” as you go by. This is a wonderful practice, as it effectively keeps your attention focused on thoughts of well being as others pass your sphere of influence, rather than the judgments we humans are so prone to make.

3.) How long should one sit in meditation?

Most meditation teachers recommend an hour in the morning and an hour at night (excluding retreats.) But, don’t panic! I started with fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen at night, and gradually worked up to longer sessions. At first, you will probably find even fifteen minutes difficult. I have those days too, but most of the time now the longer I sit, the more centered I feel.

4.) Should I meditate alone or in a group?

In the beginning, I felt I might never be able to sit meditation in a group, but after a few years, I found it not only possible but quite joyful. There is simply an entirely different feel about sitting in a circle with my sangha, knowing that nearby are others wrestling with difficult emotions, just as I am.

5.) Should I listen to music while meditating?

I rarely do (and some Buddhist sects believe music is only a distraction to enlightenment). My monkey mind does tend to chatter about the music, and I find my mental discipline falters. However, I do sometimes use a CD of Zen meditation music, which was written to have a gentle, but uneven tempo—so my mind doesn’t get caught in the rhythmic flow quite so easily…

Normally, distracting sounds (a door slamming, a bird call) are to be mentally noted. For instance, you would say to yourself, “Noting, noting, sound, sound.” But you are careful not to respond to the sound or give it any special meaning above other sounds. This allows you to stay focused on experiencing the disciplining of your mind, instead of allowing what you think to direct you into harmful thoughts or actions.

All of this is considered right and proper discipline in meditation. So, for those just getting started, there’s only one thing you need to remember…mind your monkey!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks! My daughter does yoga and meditates and I've been mildly interested. Maybe I'll add it to my daily walk!
Apr. 27th, 2011 10:05 am (UTC)
Walking meditation
Just remember to walk slowly and mindfully--the slower the better! ;)
Apr. 12th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
That icon looks familiar....like from a greeting card I once gave you? AW
Apr. 27th, 2011 10:05 am (UTC)
Hehehe--wait til I get the one out with the monks on the roller coaster! :D
Apr. 12th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
I learned a lot from this. I'm always looking for ways to enhance my meditation, which I just do sort of intuitively, and this gives some wonderful alternative guidelines.
Apr. 27th, 2011 10:07 am (UTC)
I'm glad!
Just remember to go with what feels right in your meditation sessions and you'll be fine. :)
Jun. 8th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
oh i had seen this. I do much better with music than without. never give my mind silence or it will fill it
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )