Learn to Meditate
Hello, I’m glad you’ve chosen to have a look at this page. I hope my words will inspire you to begin (or to persevere with) your own meditation practice. If you are keen to just get on with it, I don’t mind if you skip my preamble and go straight to the resource links below.
I have practiced Buddhist meditation for over 20 years and I have had the great fortune to be guided by some wonderful teachers. When I began, in my early twenties, I had rather narrow, selfish motives but also a great determination to learn what is true and real in this life. I have experienced moments of great clarity and opening as well as periods of terrible mental suffering and remorse. There have been extreme highs and lows but not once have I regretted embarking on this journey. Anyone who knows me would agree that I have not reached some state of perfection (ha ha), but these days I do feel deeply peaceful, happy and resilient. I seem to have a lot of love and energy to share with those around me. Two years ago I began teaching meditation to others.
What is Meditation?
Meditation begins as a practice of relaxation and tranquility, but these states of calm well only be short-lived unless we look more carefully at the totality of our experience. In order to know real peace and freedom we must be prepared to acknowledge our the difficult emotions and thought that we habitually avoid. To do this requires courage, patience, humility and a deep faith in ourselves. In the beginning meditation feels like a totally personal, almost selfish activity. With consistent practice we find the tensions that exist between ourselves and others softens. Our innate wisdom and compassion emerges, bringing us into harmony with our world.
It may be helpful to think of meditation as “mind training”. By bringing attention to our present-moment experience, which includes our thoughts processes, we naturally let go of views, beliefs and habits that are not serving us well.
Meditation training usually begins by sitting quietly and observing the breath. Eventually however we learn to bring a quality of careful attention into all areas of life. In the beginning it feels like meditation is a “special” activity, something we do separately from our normal, every day life. Eventually meditation evolves to become an integral part of life itself, something we can engage with at any time or place.
To practice meditation does not require us to hold any particular religious or spiritual beliefs. Any beliefs we hold will not interfere with the practice. What we do need is an open and curious attitude, a sincere desire to investigate our experience of life.
Find a good teacher
Meditation is a very personal exploration for which there is no “correct” formula. We are all unique individuals and to a certain extent we must learn through our own experience. However we also need compassionate guidance from those who know the territory and who can see when we need prodding this way or that to keep on track. A good teacher can offer clarification when the inevitably questions arise. Without guidance we can get terribly lost, waste time, or simply give up.
Across all cultures and religions there are a vast range of meditation techniques and teaching styles. None of them are absolutely perfect and all of them have at least some merit. It is important to choose teachers you trust (not necessarily an easy thing to assess) and a practice that inspires and engages you.
My own journey has led me to have great faith in Vispassana or “Insight” meditation, which is one of the foundation practices taught in the Buddhist tradition. This method of meditation, as taught by the teachers and groups listed below, seems to suit many people in the modern Western world. It's not the only way, but I believe it's a good place to start. I am not trying to make you a Buddhist... I simply want you to be happy!
Insight Meditation or Vipassana
Insight Meditation or Vipassana, one of the central teachings of the Buddha, has continued as a living practice for the past 2500 years. At its heart is the practice of mindfulness, a practice that cultivates a clear, stable and non-judgmental awareness. While mindfulness practice is highly effective in helping bring calm and clarity to the pressures of daily life, it is also a spiritual path, which gradually dissolves the barriers toward the full development of wisdom and compassion.
Insight Meditation Links
If you live in New Zealand, look here to find a teacher or a group in your area: www.insightmeditation.org.nz
Look under “Communities” for a list of NZ groups.
If you click on “Newsletter” you can subscribe to the “Insight Aotearoa” monthly newsletter. Each monthly e-mail contains interesting and stimulating essays, talks, quotes and poems plus a current calendar of retreats and other events.
If you live outside New Zealand here's good place to start looking: www.insightmeditation.org