Meditation Now or Never
Hagen, best selling author of Buddhism Plain and Simple and Buddhism is Not What You Think, offers this wonderfully accessible primer on meditation, which cuts right to the heart of the practice, stripping away any cultural or religious jargon. This unique focus on meditation looks at it not simply as a spiritual technique, but as a way of living. It also deals with: a 360 degree treatment, from newcomers' most basic concerns to the difficulties that entangle experienced meditators; essential (and often surprising) guidance on topics that other books rarely or never address; and an answer to why things commonly viewed as meditation aren't meditation at all; plus simple practices to help avoid needlessly complicating meditation; and a clear description of where most of us get stuck in meditation - and how to get unstuck.
"In practicing meditation, we go nowhere other than right here where we now stand, where we now sit, where we now live and breathe. In meditation we return to where we already are - this shifting, ever-changing ever-present now. If you wish to take up meditation, it must be now or never." Steve Hagen.
"For the beginner, a lucid, no-frills introduction to Buddhist meditation. For the practitioner, a timely reminder of what meditation is all about." Stephen Batchelor.
"Clean and clear as a mountain strem. I wish I had found such a book when I began meditating." Stephen Levine.
Read an extract of this title
Our lives are lived in thirty-second sound bites. At this moment we are focused on one particular thing; the next moment we are on to something new. We try to stuff in more and more activities, and get more and more accomplished in each twenty-four-hour day. To do this we have created multitasking and the type A personality. We live with the burning sense that we have to get something done.
And yet, what have we accomplished? We can't innovate fast enough to keep up with our own innovative minds. We incessantly produce goods, and incessantly and insatiably consume them, yet we seem never to be satisfied, even as we update our possessions over and over again.
We are like a runner who is leaning too far forward and about to lose balance. Where are we going in such a hurry? Do we really need to be so frantic and driven?
How does this pertain to the practice of meditation? The best way to find out is to do this little experiment:
Find a quiet room free from distraction. In this room, sit still in a stable, upright posture. For a few minutes,just notice the sounds around you, the smells in the air. Notice the feel of the floor underfoot, the feel of your body in a chair or on a cushion or on the ground. Hold a general awareness of your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Then shift your gaze downward a few feet in front of you and let your eyes relax, keeping them half-open, half-closed.
Notice your breath as you inhale and exhale. Focus on this oscillation.Just follow your breath as it comes in and goes out.That's all-nothing more. Do this for a few minutes.
Afterward, review what you experienced. Did you notice your mind scampering about? Were you distracted? Was it hard to focus your attention on body, mind, and breath? Did you notice an urge to get up and do something?
If so, you're not alone. For most people, the first taste of meditation quickly reveals how we commonly live in a state of constant distraction. Our minds jabber away, flashing images and emotions as if we were fixed on a television set that was permanently switched on. Noises, colors, and personal dramas play out in mental commercials and soap operas all of our own making. We live tuned into ourselves, but tuned out from life.
In meditation we switch the television set off, step away from this busy, hectic mind, and taste the experience of this moment- not as we judge it or conmient on it or think about it, but as we
live it now.
Meditation doesn't only take place when you are seated in a formal meditation posture. It begins the moment you turn your attendon to what is taking place right here, right now. Thus we can bring awareness to any activity-whether we're at work, playing with our children, eating dinner, washing the dishes, or taking out the garbage.
Meditation begins now, right here. It can't begin someplace else or at some other time. To paraphrase the great Zen master Dogen, "If you want to practice awareness, then practice awareness without delay." If you wish to know a mind that is tranquil and clear, sane and peaceful, you must take it up now. If you wish to free yourself from the frantic television mind that runs our lives, begin with the intention to be present now.
Nobody can bring awareness to your life but you.
Meditation is not a self-help program-a way to better ourselves so we can get what we want. Nor is it a way to relax before jumping back into busyness. It's not something to do once in awhile, either, whenever you happen to feel like it.
Instead, meditation is a practice that saturates your life and in time can be brought into every activity It is the transformation of mind from bondage to freedom.
In practicing meditation, we go nowhere other than right here where we now stand, where we now sit, where we now live and breathe. In meditation we return to where we already are-this shifting, changing ever-present now.
If you wish to take up meditation, it must be now or never.