Q & A from the Thursday Night Meditation Group
Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 09:36AM
Dennis Young
Hi  Everyone

Great session last week. Thanks to everyone who participated.

People were telling me afterwards that they enjoyed the meditation so much they didn't want to come out! It's always good to hear that. Meditation should be enjoyable. If it isn't, there's something lacking in your technique. Be sure to let me know if you're having difficulty and I'll help you get back on track.

This week I thought I'd do a little Q & A. Here are the two questions I get asked most:

Q. I've been practicing Vipassana Meditation (breath-awareness) for some time now. Can I combine this with the Mantra Meditation that I'm learning from you?

The traditional Mantra Meditation we've been studying and practicing is a natural technique. It makes use of the natural tendency of the mind to seek well-being and release suffering, and it does it in a way that is completely effortless and natural -- no struggle, just simple innocence. This approach to meditation supports and enhances any other form of spiritual or self-development practice, the same way it supports and uplifts every aspect of the practitioner's daily life.

The two practices in question, Vipassana and Mantra, have a common foundation. Both are based on a "centering practice," meaning they both follow a "1. focus -> 2. distraction happens -> 3. gently refocus" loop.

Centering practice, that is, picking a focal point and then returning to it after being distracted is the preliminary "root" practice of all meditation. In Vipassana one uses the breath or "present moment" as the focal point; in Mantra we use a feeling/concept called mantra as the focal point.

Here's where the two approaches differ more significantly:

Vipassana and MBSR are flat or "horizontal" techniques, meaning one attempts to stay focused on the conscious, "present moment," surface level of mind with the aim of developing a state of non-judgmental awareness. Some people add an attitude of compassion or loving kindness towards self and others as well.

Mantra Meditation begins at the same conscious level of mind, but instead of staying there and developing a sense of emotional detachment, proper Mantra practice allows the attention to go deeper, beyond conscious mind, awakening and aligning subtler dimensions of known, felt and intentional experience. Mantra is a "vertical" or depth technique, aimed at bringing about full integration of body, mind, heart and intention, arriving at wholeness, unity of the total person.

The two approaches, the first derived from Buddhist practice and the latter, part of Classical Yoga practice are both called meditation. Both are based on centering practice, but each has different aims and different effects.

The scientific research on both approaches bears this out as well.

They are not incompatible. You can do both -- just not at the same time. Most people prefer mantra once they've tried it. It's easier to do and more enjoyable, and in the long run I believe it produces better results.

Q. What can I do to get more from my practice and how can I maintain a regular practice? It's hard to find time to meditate every day, and my experiences aren't always good.

1. Get ongoing instruction from a qualified and experienced instructor, whatever approach you choose. I can't emphasize this enough. It's true in physical yoga practice and it's true in meditation. No one can learn proper technique from a book or website, and no one can learn to meditate properly in one session. Learn proper technique (non-forcing; acceptance; non-comparison; self-referencing and non-clinging or surrender) and check with your instructor to be sure you're doing it right.

2. Participate in group meditation sessions. There's nothing like the support of the group experience to strengthen and clarify your meditation. That's where the magic happens. Group practice is the rising tide that floats all boats.

3. Be regular in your meditation. Meditate at least once a day, every day, sitting for at least 20 minutes. What works best for most people is choosing a meditation time before some other event you do every day: before you shower, or before breakfast, lunch or dinner. Commit to doing this for at least a month before trying to evaluate results.

Your experiences will vary from day to day. This is normal, but at the first sight of struggle or discomfort, or if you find yourself confused, check with your teacher.

Meditation, done correctly, should be easy, something you look forward to doing. If it isn't, you're probably trying to force things. If you have good technique, the experience should be steady and comfortable, just like in asana practice.

If a teacher tells you to "feel the pain and do it anyway -- sit until the discomfort doesn't bother you anymore," find another teacher.

And always remember: we evaluate our practice not just by the experience we're having while we're doing it, but more importantly, by the experience we're having during the day.

I look forward to seeingyou at our Thursday Night Meditation, every Thursday for the next month or so, at 7:30pm311 Washington Street, Westwood. After that we'll be moving to a new format, enrolling a multi-session closed group. We'll still do open sessions from time to time, but less frequently.

And good news! We just got a new shipment of additional Backjack seats so there should be plenty of comfortable seating for everyone.

You can, if you wish, reserve your seat for this Thursday by booking in advance with Firefly on Mind/Body. That will make check-in easy and quick.

Thanks and hope to see you soon!

Much love, Dennis

Dennis Young
Article originally appeared on Counseling - Coaching (http://www.dennisyoung.com/).
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