Sunday, January 25, 2009

MPOW #1 - Developing Attention

In my post 100 Shiny Red Stars I announced that I am Introducing the Meditation of the Week:

Over the past year I have included meditation into my life in some form every day - sometimes through taijiquan, qigong, artwork, reiki, yoga, zazen, or simply mindful walking, driving, or breathing. I have been felt amazing developments through it. Going forward, I am starting a series on my blog the Mindfulness Practice Of the Week--MPoW. Each week I will write up a post on a meditation type or focus for myself and my readers to follow throughout the week. The comments are wide open for people to ask questions and share their experiences with the meditation. At the end of each week, I will summarize experiences that were shared with me, then start off each week with a fresh new contemplative focus.

Mindfulness Practice of the Week, Week 1
For this first installment, I've spent a lot of time contemplating what to use, whether it should be a traditional meditation from a spiritual tradition or whether it should be simply putting more attention into an everyday detail. Maybe an artistic endeavor, maybe something completely mundane. In the end, I chose a very foundational meditation, something quite traditional and very straight-forward. If you were to only learn one meditation, this would be it.

I take this "Developing Attention" exercise from the end of Chapter 3 in Happiness by Matthieu Ricard:
Sit quietly in your meditation posture and focus all your attention upon a chosen object. It can be an object in your room, your breath, or your own mind. Inevitably as you do this, your mind will wander. Each time it does, gently bring it back to the object of concentration, like a butterfly that returns again and again to the flower it feeds on. As you persevere, your concentration will become more clear and stable. If you feel sleepy, assume a straighter posture and life your gaze slightly upward to revive your awareness. Conversely, if your mind becomes agitated, relax your posture, direct your gaze slightly downward, and let any inner tension dissolve.
Cultivating attention and mindfulness in this way is a precious tool for all other kinds of meditation.
New to Meditation?
Posture - If you don't yet have "your meditation posture," chose something simple and comfortable to start out. I recommend either sitting cross-legged with a cushion under your butt if this is comfortable, or just sit in a chair with your feet planted squarely on the floor (legs not crossed) - shoes on or off. Either way, keep your spine erect to keep from dozing off and to align your vertebrae. Your eyelids should be gently open, eyes in a soft focus.

Duration - At the beginning calming your mind may be very difficult. You may choose to other spend 5 minutes a day on this at first, working your way up to a duration that is enjoyable and natural. Over time, you will be able to extend this for longer and longer. If you are new, it is unlikely that you will even get into the described meditation in 5 minutes. If this is the case, don't force yourself through discomfort, instead either try to relax into comfort with it, or take a pause and try again later in the day or tomorrow.

When - You may find this easiest to do first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh. It can help clear your mind for the day, and it will not so easily devolve into sleep - which is pretty far from meditation.

Comments Requested - share with me and others!
If you're new to meditation, please let me know how it goes.
If you're experienced at meditation, what works and what doesn't work?
For everyone, please share your experiences with this meditation. If a group of people are doing it and sharing, that will help others ride the wave.

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