What is meditation?
There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for and to change one’s state of mind. According to Buddhism this is the most important thing we can do, and Buddhism teaches that it is the only real antidote to the anxiety, hatred, discontentedness, sleepiness, and confusion that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a clear seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice one learns the patterns and habits of the mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With discipline and patience these calm and focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly tranquil and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed in the Buddhist tradition. All of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.
Every year thousands of people learn meditation with the Triratna Buddhist Community. We teach two basic meditations that were originally taught by the historical Buddha. These help develop the qualities of calmness and emotional postivity: the Mindfulness of Breathing and Loving-Kindness (Metta Bhavana) meditations.
The techniques of meditation are very simple. However, reading about them is no substitute for learning from an experienced and reliable teacher. A teacher will be able to offer you guidance in how to apply the technique and how to deal with difficulties. Perhaps most importantly, a teacher can offer the encouragement and inspiration of their own example.
At Triratna Centres meditation is taught by members of the Triratna Buddhist Order, who are experienced meditators. Classes and courses are open to everyone: you need not be interested in Buddhism. Motives for learning meditation vary. Some people want to improve their concentration for work, study, or sports; others are looking for calm and peace of mind. Then there are people trying to answer fundamental questions about life. With regular practice, meditation can help all of us to find what we are looking for. Meditation Courses are excellent contexts for learning. Meditation Retreats offer ideal conditions to take things further.
When you sit down to meditate you need to set up your meditation posture in a way that is relaxed but upright, usually sitting on a cushion and probably cross-legged. If this is not easy you can sit kneeling or else in a chair. Then you close your eyes, relax, and tune in to how you are feeling. It is important to be sensitive to your experience because this is what you work with in meditation. It is a good idea to take some time to sit quietly before starting a meditation, to slow down and relax. Some gentle stretching can also help.
There are lots of resources available to help you learn meditation – or to take your practice deeper.
For a comprehensive set of free audio and text resources on learning meditation, see free buddhist audio’s meditation pages.