All Things Meditation


Completely off the Topic of Tea

All Things Meditation

Postby tst » Jan 18th, '13, 14:16

Hey everyone,

After utilizing the search function here on teachat, I was unable to find a dedicated topic for meditation. I'm looking for methods of stress management and am curious to learn of others' experiences with meditation ... and also think a dedicated topic would be beneficial to this community as well.

I'm aware there are countless techniques and ways to meditate, with each one having a unique origin in history and culture. For those interested, please post your individual experiences with meditation. For those curious, please post your own questions for others to give their opinions.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby tst » Jan 18th, '13, 14:34

For me personally, I know next to nothing about meditation and am very curious to learn of others' techniques, approaches and methods that they have found beneficial and/or not helpful.

As I stated, I am looking for something to help me manage stress, so any experiences with that would be helpful for me.

Is there a certain time of day you feel is best to meditate? Do you incorporate tea with your meditation "sessions" (including cha qi)? Why or why not, and if so, how do you incorporate the two?

Are there any books or other resources that you would recommend?

Any other advice or information for someone newly starting out with meditation would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure I'll be posting additional questions as they come ... thanks.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby TIM » Jan 18th, '13, 19:04

Such a wonderful idea.... Where to begin?

http://www.themandarinstea.blogspot.com ... e.html?m=1

How I started. Enjoy ~ Toki
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby tst » Jan 18th, '13, 19:46

Thanks for contributing TIM ... was hoping you'd have something to add.

Now just hoping others contribute as well :D
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby AdamMY » Jan 18th, '13, 20:31

I have tried meditating stand alone a few times, though nearly everything I know about meditation I learned from a Zen Buddhism class I took during my Undergraduate studies. One thing I have found oddly rewarding, is sitting cross-legged while enjoying a tea, it often makes the tea seem that much more special. I do not know if its something about sitting cross-legged promotes focus that much better, or if it is something else.

But some of the most magical tea moments that have happened have been when I sat cross-legged, with my tea stuff ready, and turned on the kettle, and just sat quietly waiting for the kettle to boil. ( I have an electric hot plate, with a ceramic kettle, the thing takes awhile). It is usually a long enough time to meditate long enough to calm and center your mind and while its not complete silence, you can use the sound of the kettle to help you take your mind off of you.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby TIM » Jan 18th, '13, 21:37

tst wrote:Thanks for contributing TIM ... was hoping you'd have something to add.

Now just hoping others contribute as well :D


Thanks TST for creating this topic, I hope others could know about tea deeper thru mediation. At the core mediation in Tibetan means knowing.
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/201 ... n.html?m=1
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby Poohblah » Jan 19th, '13, 02:43

From what I understand, meditation has become a popular tool for psychiatrists recently, since psychologists have discovered that regular meditation can greatly increase happy, positive feelings while relieving stress, anxiety, depression, and other tensions. The point with this "Western" style of meditation is to simply focus on one task and when the mind wanders, calmly refocus and return attention to the task at hand. Tea is super helpful for this. I used to be pretty good at this kind of thing and I also practiced the same thing while going to yoga classes regularly, however in the past year or so, yoga hasn't fit into my schedule as nicely and I've been suffering more from anxiety and depression. I don't know if there's a causal connection, though my emotional and mental health certainly has taken a toll due to other things outside of yoga and tea.

As for Eastern styles of meditation, I can only recall some of the thigns I've learned from my undergrad classes. For instance, in Hinduism, I read the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. It's fascinating to learn where yoga comes from and what its core values are, as they are very different from what you will get out of a yoga class at Core Power or your local fitness center something like that. My yoga teacher followed a more Putanjali-esque approach to yoga than most Western teachers (he apparently learned yoga in an ashram in India) and one of the things he stressed was that yoga is not a series of poses but instead the practice of doing what's necessary at the present moment. His favorite example was to say that doing the dishes was a form of yoga. If I remember nothing else from my yoga classes I will remember this.

I know I'm deviating from the path a little here, but the point is that I believe that meditation is not simply sitting in silence... you can practice meditation while doing anything. To me, meditation is just calmly focusing the mind with a conscious effort on a single task, whether you are focusing on ceasing the ebb and flow of thoughts or playing a game of tennis or simply balancing your budget.

Of course, there is more to meditation than mental energy. Emotional energy and physical energy are important as well. I believe that proper meditation requires you to focus all of these things in a balanced way on a single task. But I think meditation begins with the mind and the other things will follow.

These are just my views on the topic of meditation and I think they should be taken with a grain of salt. No objective truths here
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby gingkoseto » Jan 21st, '13, 21:48

Some of the best meditation advice I've had is from Hilda Ryūmon Gutiérrez Baldoquín (I think she lives in SF, so probably not far away from you tst!)

All she gives is simple advice, such as "three fives" - when you start out, try your best to have at least 5min a day, 5 days each week and after 5 weeks (or months?) you will be in good shape. Make it a rule, and leave your zabutan (? the sitting pillow thing?) on your way between bedroom and bathroom, so you won't ignore it :D

I feel what makes simple things work out wonders depend on: 1. you've decided that you really want to do it; 2. a good community that you could rely on.

I'm a weak-minded person, so I've found meditation community/group invaluable. I used to attend a bi-weekly gathering in my old work place. It was very casual but gave me a lot of positive influence. Now I'm trying to find a group near my new home.

As for time to do it... currently I do it mostly in the evening while realizing "I've yet to do it today..." But I would like to do it in the morning in the future, without the feeling of having to finish something before the deadline :P but I have yet to manage to get up early enough... :oops:
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby gingkoseto » Jan 21st, '13, 22:01

A book I like very much is Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It's not just a meditation book, but it has a small meditation kind of exercise at the end of each chapter. And the book is very well written too. I haven't found it yet after my last moving. But I kind of miss it, and feel it's a book that I could turn to the meditation exercise at the end of any chapter and immediately gives it a try. The exercises can also give you an idea which types of meditation are your favorite so that you could explore more into them.
It's a book that's said to be very good for self-critical people, which I'm not :mrgreen: But I still like it very much. Some of my middle-age, self-critical, workaholic over-achievers friends have found it very illuminating and relaxing :mrgreen:
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby tst » Jan 24th, '13, 18:29

Thank you all for your contributions.

Knowing next to nothing about meditation, I'm thinking I should begin by trying to calm myself and clear my mind before bed. I've been grinding my teeth in my sleep since I was young (I wear a night guard now), and occasionally/often wake up with a headache or frown-lines on my face from being tense in my sleep. I think clearing my mind and focusing on relaxing before bed could be beneficial for any subconscious stress I'm carrying with me to bed each night.

I just remembered back to the first day of my second degree over a year ago, an instructor briefly lectured on chakras, centering oneself, and breathing. He touched on a supposedly well-known breathing technique, which overcomes the body's sympathetic nervous activity (fight or flight) and promotes the body's parasympathetic nervous activity (calming and relaxing).

I looked back over my lecture notes ... for this technique, you attempt to breathe in a specific ration. You inhale through the nose for a specific amount of time, for 4 seconds for example. You hold the breath for a comfortable amount of time, then you exhale through the mouth for twice the amount of inhalation (in this case, 8 seconds). This 1:2 ratio of inhalation to exhalation supposedly helps calm and relax by promoting the parasympathetic response.

I'm going to set aside an amount of time each night before bed and try this breathing exercise ... I'll let you all know how it goes :D

Also wanted to share a blog post by Stephane regarding breathing, meditation, and clarity of mind. Maybe I'll try to incorporate this as well.

http://teamasters.blogspot.com/2011/09/ ... d-tea.html

Thanks again.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby bagua7 » Jan 27th, '13, 23:59

I would recommend incorporating some moving practice aside from sitting in order to further purify the mind and help you relax into your being.

Taijiquan, walking meditation according to the Vipassana method, various Qigong forms, etc. are very beneficial.

Tip: one you practice sitting meditation you can fix your attention in two specific points:

1. At the spot beneath the nostrils or on the upper lip, depending on where you can strongly feel the air coming in and out

2. The belly rising on the inhale and sinking on the exhale.

This specific technique will help you reach jhana (deeper meditative states), and develop concentration and midfulness.

Background information.

I hope this bit helps.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby PurplePotato » Feb 3rd, '13, 01:08

I have been a regular meditator for quite some time now. When I was in college a couple of years ago, I participated in a four month study abroad program focused specifically on Buddhism, located in Bodh Gaya, India (where the Buddha attained enlightenment). There I learned from masters Vipassana meditation, Soto and Rinzai Zen meditation, and Tibetan meditation. The normal schedule was one 1hr in the morning and 1hr at night of meditation each day, and I practiced Rinzai Zen while at a two week retreat, at its height practicing for 7hrs a day.

Currently, I practice Soto Zen regularly, and have recently incorporated qi gong into my regular practice. If anyone is interested, I can explain the specific method I currently practice, or any of the above methods for that matter.

Poohblah wrote:My yoga teacher followed a more Putanjali-esque approach to yoga than most Western teachers (he apparently learned yoga in an ashram in India) and one of the things he stressed was that yoga is not a series of poses but instead the practice of doing what's necessary at the present moment. His favorite example was to say that doing the dishes was a form of yoga. If I remember nothing else from my yoga classes I will remember this.

I know I'm deviating from the path a little here, but the point is that I believe that meditation is not simply sitting in silence... you can practice meditation while doing anything. To me, meditation is just calmly focusing the mind with a conscious effort on a single task, whether you are focusing on ceasing the ebb and flow of thoughts or playing a game of tennis or simply balancing your budget.


I want to point out how spot on I think this is, but also that one has to be careful. It is all too easy to think "Oh, I'm doing my dishes with focus, I'm meditating!" when you are really doing nothing of the sort. However, many practices done during meditation can be practiced while doing other tasks, such as Stephane mentioned in attempting to count to ten while brewing tea.

Ultimately, I think the most important thing in any meditation practice is making sure that ones practice is regular, much more so than the method. If you can set up a schedule for daily practice that you can be sure to follow, even if you can only find 5 minutes a day, then that is a wonderful place to start. And if you can find someone else to meditate with, then that will make things a lot easier. We could even try to have a virtual community of sorts, if people were interested, but I have no idea how successful such a thing might be.

To answer specific questions:
tst wrote:Is there a certain time of day you feel is best to meditate?


Whenever you can make time. If it's the same time each day, thats even better.

tst wrote:Do you incorporate tea with your meditation "sessions" (including cha qi)? Why or why not, and if so, how do you incorporate the two?


Sometimes. I feel my meditation improves my gong-fu and vise versa, and I will often preform gong-fu in lotus posture and slow things down even more than usual. And sometimes I'll just drink a cup of western style brewed tea very slowly, putting down the cup between sips and really trying to stay focused on the experience. Generally, the highest quality teas I have will get the "meditative treatment" and all of the teas I have with notable cha-qi are ones I would consider highest quality.

tst wrote:Are there any books or other resources that you would recommend?


This depends on what you are looking for, and I've read many (maybe too many!). A good starting primer that comes to mind is 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle. It goes much deeper into things than just stress management, but most meditation books will. And I'll say that for every minute you spend reading about meditation, you probably should have spent at least two minutes meditating first, even if you have no idea what you are doing.

Well, even with all of my experience, this is just my two cents - and it may not even be worth one :P. I hope it's helpful, and please let me know if you have any more questions.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby Poohblah » Feb 3rd, '13, 02:26

Welcome to the forum PurplePotato! Thank you very very much for sharing your experiences. I found your post to be very enlightening (pardon the pun).

And I'm sure this is a candidate for best first post, even if it's only tangentially related to tea. :)
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby tst » Feb 4th, '13, 00:04

I agree Pooh, excellent and most helpful first post ... thank you PurplePotato. I appreciate all the points you've addressed and for you sharing your experience. I'll look into the book by Eckhart Tolle as well.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but I definitely would appreciate it if you could explain the specific method you practice currently, as well as the details of all of the other methods you have any knowledge about.

Thanks again.
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Re: All Things Meditation

Postby PurplePotato » Feb 5th, '13, 10:52

Glad to be helpful. I’ll start by explaining the Soto Zen method that I use, which is currently my main practice, and get to some of the others later. I should preface by saying that many people will practice Soto differently, this is just one method that I learned and currently practice. This practice is commonly called Zazen, or Shikantaza (just sitting).

Ideally, you will be sitting cross legged on the floor with a cushion under your butt. A firm pillow or a rolled up towel can make great cushions, just use whatever is most comfortable to you. Ideally, your legs will be crossed in lotus position (ankles on top of thighs), but half lotus (one ankle on top), or just normal cross legged is fine too. The goal is to create a triangle of support, the points of the triangle being each knee and your butt on the cushion; this prevents fidgeting. If you cannot sit on the floor comfortably, then sit in a chair, with legs shoulder width apart and feet fully planted on the ground.

The meditation involves three points:

1. Straight Back: You want your back to be fully straight, but not ramrod straight (the equivalent of locking your knees). An easy way to achieve this is to imagine that a string connected to the top back of your head is attached to a balloon that is holding you up. A foolproof method is to have someone else hold something long and straight (like a meter stick) up to your back that you can form to. If your back hurts, then there are two likely causes: either your back is not straight, or your back is straight but you are not used to having it that way, and this is making unused muscles sore. In either case, Shifting your weight forward or backward on the cushion may help, as well as doing stretches before and after sitting; back bends and twists are good, and you may want to do some neck rolls.

2. Mudra: Take your right hand and make a c, and place the knuckles of your four fingers lightly on top of your legs. Then make a c with you left hand and place your four fingers of this hand on top of your right hand, so the the middle knuckles of your fingers line up. Then lightly touch your thumbs together, as though you were holding a piece of paper between them. Your hands should form an oval. Your elbows should be slightly away from you body, so that an egg could fit under each of your armpits.

3. Eyes: Let your gaze fall to a point a couple of feet in front of you on the floor, and keep your eyes unfocused.

Here is a decent picture, which includes a forth option for your legs:

Image

During the meditation, you simply keep the three points in check.

Note: In this meditation there is no goal, and there is no ‘good sit’ or ‘bad sit.’ You simply keep the three points, that is all.

Let me know if you have any questions, but if you don’t get it, you can still just sit anyways, there is no right or wrong in this technique.
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