Practical Advice

In times like these, well-intended advice seems to be everywhere. Really, it can be too much. So what I’m about to share is very narrow. A few practical tips on meditation recently fell into my inbox and they are so appealing, I just had to pass them on.

The tips appeared in a short 2008 Tricycle magazine article, and they come from Sayadaw U Tejaniya, Buddhist monk, teacher, and author of Don’t Look Down on the Defilements. Tejaniya has written several books and many of them are available for free download in multiple languages and also in audio. I just downloaded one to see what it is like and I encourage you to look at his book list and see if there’s something that might appeal to you.

Here’s the advice he offered in the Tricycle article, slightly condensed by me for a busy College audience. When meditating…

  1. Settle your body, and your mind, into a comfortable position.
  2. Patiently watch your experience unfold.
  3. There is nothing to control, nothing to achieve. Experience what is happening.
  4. If you choose an “object of attention” (breath, sound, touch, etc.) to focus on, the choice is not so important. Choose something, if you like. Then give it your attention.
  5. Accept that some experiences may be good and others not so much. This can’t be avoided.
  6. Thinking is part of experience. Recognize and acknowledge the thinking that occurs.
  7. Attend to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future will arise. When you observe these, notice them as thoughts that are occurring now and return your attention to the present moment.

Reed College bonus tip: Meditators do not get graded. There are no report cards. So, if you are just starting out on this journey, let go of your concerns and expectations as best you can and set your bar LOW. You might fantasize about monks sitting in caves devoting almost every waking hour to silent meditation in order to pierce the mysteries of existence, but that is mostly a Hollywood fantasy. “Attending to the present moment” is something that you can do almost anywhere, any time, and even a little quiet time snatched from an otherwise busy life will produce benefits that you can appreciate.

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