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
. I hope it's helpful, and please let me know if you have any more questions.