Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. Instructions for the most common insight meditation practices are provided below.
- Insight (Vipassana)
- Choiceless Awareness
- Walking Meditation
- Loving Kindness (Metta)
- Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of In & Out Breathing
- Instructions for a combined concentration/insight/loving kindness meditation
Concentration (Absorption) Practice
This practice is beneficial for quieting the mind as well as giving you the realization that you are not the mind.
Keep your posture straight (either on a cushion, bench, or chair)
Make a commitment not to move – except to straighten up the back. If you do have to move, do so with intention rather than automatically moving your body.
Your object of attention is the breath. Focus on the touch sensation of the breath going through your nostrils, placing your attention where the sensation is strongest (take deep breath and discover that spot). Usually this will be at the tip of the nostrils. Or you can use the rising and falling of the chest or abdomen.
Stay present with the breath at all times; experience the entire touch sensation of the in breath and out breath You can count at first to assist your concentration. Count one on the inbreath and one on the outbreath
When you are in-between breaths, keep your attention where the touch sensation is usually felt, waiting for the next breath to arise (there is still a sensation present)
Don’t follow your breath in or out of the body. It is the sensation caused by the breath that you are interested in; become completely absorbed in this sensation, this is meant to be a tactile experience.
Don’t control the length or the depth of your breath. Let the breath breathe itself
When your attention leaves the breath and moves to another object (to a sense experience, a feeling, a thought, and so forth), without focusing on the experience, gently but firmly go back to the touch sensation of the breath.
When your mind is sufficiently quiet, you may start the Insight (Vipassana) Practice:
Vipassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to experience the world in an entirely new way. You will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you and within you. It is a process of self-discovery, a participatory investigation in which you observe your own experiences while participating in them, and as they occur. The practice must be approached with this attitude.
From Mindfulness in Plain English (http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe1-4.html)
As your start the Insight Practice, experience the impermanence of the breath – from breath to breath and within each breath (as opposed to merely sinking into the breath)
Rest in the space between each breath
When your attention leaves the breath, which is your main object of attention, that is not a problem – at that point, experience the three characteristics of all phenomenon: impermanency (because it will away), unsatisfactoriness (because it will not last) and selflessness (because it is not you and you have not control over it) of your new object of attention, and then gently but firmly come back to breath when it falls away into emptiness. Repeat this process when your attention leaves the breath again.
This is a non-cognitive process of observation. If you try to think about it, you are just experience another thought which has the same 3 characteristics.
Choiceless Awareness Practice
Although Insight Meditation is a skillful way to recognize the nature of conditioned phenomena, it still requires effort, an intentional movement of our attention and does not allow us to rest in pure being. We want to allow our awareness to rest without grasping, resisting, identifying with or being distracted by anything that arises within the mind. We want to allow all events to “self-liberate,” to play themselves out and disappear without any form of intentional intervention or control. With Insight meditation we are constantly moving the mind back to the breath to use as an anchor and the main object of our awareness. If we are manipulating the mind in this way, no matter how skillful that process may be, we are unable to just allow the mind to rest in its natural state.
Begin by focusing on the breath until you feel centered and calm. Then let go of the breath as the main object of attention and remain choicelessly aware of whatever arises to consciousness. Since we are not grasping or resisting any of our experiences, we may see how they arise and dissolve with remarkable speed. This recognition will enable us to gain deeper insights into the impermanent and selfless nature of experience.
One of the impediments to Choiceless Awareness is day dreaming. We need to be careful to differentiate (be mindful of the difference) between being aware of what arises while being carried away by these experiences, with just watching the passing show without any identification or cognitive involvement.
Another more subtle impediment is the idea or belief that “you” are being choicelessly aware. Choiceless Awareness is happening, but not to you, by you or involved with a “you” (or self) in any manner.
If you find yourself being carried away or daydreaming, go back to insight or concentration practice for a while. When your feel centered, drop any primary object of attention such as the breath, and return to being choicelessly aware.
Rest in your natural presence. Disengage the mind from external sense objects, from bodily sensations and from cognitive experiences such as thoughts, images or emotions. Let your body remain in stillness and your awareness be open and friction free as space.
Avoid the temptation to focus on the past or future. Just remain at rest, non-interactive and non-judgmental. There is no need to grasp or resist anything. Let all phenomena arise, manifest and disappear. Let your awareness remain at rest even when the mind is in motion. There is no need to fix anything. All is well exactly as it is.
Recommended Practice: at least 20 minutes each day.
“Stand up slowly, continuing to pay attention to the breathing process While you are standing up, be aware of the changes in your physical sensations and perceptions. Notice that every part of the body has to cooperate in order for you to stand up. While standing, continue to pay attention to your breathing.
Now, while breathing in, lift the heel of one foot, and while breathing out, rest that foot on its toes. Next, while breathing in, lift the entire foot and move it forward and while breathing out, slowely lower it and press it against the floor. Again while breathing in, lift the heel of the other foot, and while breathing out, rest it on its toes. While breathing in, lift that entire foot and carry it forward, and while breathing out, lower it and press it against the floor.
When you walk in this mindful way, paying attention to your breathing, you begin to see how every part of the body from the head to the toes is changing, cooperating, functioning together in the process of walking. For instance, you see that the physical actions that make up walking begin with mental intentions. You see the intention to lift the foot, the intention, to move it forward, and the intention to lower it and touch the floor. Simultaneous with these intentions, actions are taking place: Intention and action happen together so quickly that there is no time to see the interval between and act and the thinking behind it. “ Bhante G. Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness p.203
Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation
The Practice of Loving-Kindness or Metta Practice is simple to understand. It is often challenging to practice because as we give Loving Kindness to those whom we harbor ill-will, strong aversions may arise.
To prepare for a Loving Kindness meditation, first relax the mind through a concentration practice of observing the sensation of the breath on the nostrils while breathing in and breathing out.
Then make an intention to come from your heart and to be as open as possible. Make an intention to offer joy and happiness to yourself and others by repeating a series of phrases. Start with yourself and then move to a loved one. Shift to neutral person (someone whom you have no positive or negative feelings about). Then shift to someone with whom you feel ill-will. Finally gradually expand your loving-kindness to all beings. You can start with a small geographic area and expand to the universe.
There are many phrases that you can use or you can create a set of your own, all with the intention of wishing happiness and peacefulness to yourself and others.
Some examples with blanks to fill in for whom you are offering loving-kindness:
May ______ be happy and peaceful.
May ______ be safe and protected.
May ______ be filled with contentment.
May ______ be free from suffering.
May _____ be well, happy and peaceful.
May no harm come to _____.
May no problems come to _____.
May_____ always meet with success.
May _____have patience, courage, understanding and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems and failures in life.
May I be free from anger and ill will.
May I be free from fears and anxieties.
May I be free from suffering and pain.
May I be free from ignorance and desires.
May I be happy and peaceful.
May I be harmonious.
May I be liberated from greed, hatred, and delusion.
May I realize the deeper peace within.
May all beings be free from (repeat as above).
May I accept other beings as they are in this moment.
May I accept this moment just as it is.
May I accept myself as I am in this moment.
The Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of In-&-Out Breathing
The 16 subjects for full awareness can be divided into seven categories.
Following the Breath in Daily Life
- “Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.”
- “Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.”
Awareness of the Body
- “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.”
Realizing the Unity of Body and Mind
- “Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.”
Nourishing Ourselves with Joy and Happiness
- “Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.”
- “Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.”
- “Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.”
- “Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.”
Caring for and Liberating the Mind
- “Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.”
- “Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.”
- “Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.”
- “Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.”
Looking Deeply in Order to Shed Light on the True Nature of All Dharmas
- “Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.”
- “Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.”
- “Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.”
- “Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.”
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Breathe, You Are Alive: The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing Parallax Press.
Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html)
Instructions for a combined concentration/insight/loving kindness meditation
pdf version: Meditation Instructions Concentration Clarity Equanimity Loving Kindness
Time: about 30 minutes
Sit quietly on a cushion or chair, erect but not stiff. eyes closed, hands resting on thighs or folded.
Know that you can move if you do so with intention.
Choose the inbreath and outbreath as the objects of attention (either the sensation of the breath on the nostrils or the rising and falling of the chest or abdomen.
Count the inbreaths and outbreaths (“inbreath 1, outbreath 1, etc) up to ten and back down to 1. Do this for 2-3 cycles. Do not control the breath either by making it faster or slower, deeper or shallower.
Then do the following 3 meditations shifting to the next when it feels right. The words in parentheses for each meditation can be used as a short cut.
- “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” (In, Out)
- “Breathing in, my breath goes deep. Breathing out, my breath goes slow.” (Deep, Slow)
- “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.” (Aware of my body, Calming my body)
The breath will normally get deeper, slower and become almost imperceptible. It is then time to shift to insight meditation.
Observe the arising phenomena thoughts, memories, perceptions, sensations) and experience the three characteristics of all that arises in the mind: impermanence (rising and falling away), the inability for each to provide any lasting satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and the selfless nature (not a part of you and not controlled by you.
Rest in the silence. Observe the peacefulness and joy that arises from non-attachment to the arising phenomena.
Silently give metta to all being with the following phrases or ones that you create
“May all beings be happy and peaceful”
“May all beings be safe and protected”
“May all beings be filled with contentment”
“May all beings be free from suffering (dissatisfaction, unease, discontent, etc.)
“May all beings have the patience, courage, understanding and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems and failures in life. May all beings always rise above them with morality, integrity, forgiveness, compassion, mindfulness and wisdom.”