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Notes for the Meditation Beginner

 

By George A. Boyd ©1995

Excerpted from Light on Meditation

The beginner in meditation needs to understand what is "inside" and what is "outside,"and how to cognize the internal stimuli of meditation. A typical beginner's self-exploration program may comprise the following:

External Environment (Sensory Field)

  1. Focus attention on the sensation of sight. Give full attention to each object.

  2. Focus attention on the sensation of sound. Listen intently to the actual sounds in the environment without naming them.

  3. When eating, focus attention on the sensation of taste. Taste the food as it is, without labeling it "good", "bad", "salty", "bitter", etc.

  4. Go into a field of fragrant wildflowers and focus attention on the smells. Alternately, you may sample the aromas of essential oils in a boutique or health food store. [Use oil-based fragrances only, not alcohol-based perfumes for this exercise]. Pay attention to the experience of smell, the feelings created in your body, the impressions that arise in your mind.

  5. Feel the sensations arising from the sense of touch, and other deep sensations from the body. Paying attention to sensations arising in this fashion [from within the body] in the present time constitutes the first practice of Vipassana.

Internal Environment (Body Awareness)

  1. Focus attention on the skin, muscles, tendons, joints and bones.

  2. Focus attention on the internal organs: bladder, large intestine, small intestine, kidneys, spleen, stomach, liver, gall bladder, heart, lungs.

  3. Focus attention on the glands: gonads or ovaries, adrenals, pancreas, thymus, thyroid, pituitary, pineal.

  4. Focus attention on the peripheral nerves, spinal cord, medulla oblongata, thalamus, cerebral cortex.

  5. Focus attention on the whole body sitting, breathing. Focusing attention on the fontanel, sense the whole body as a unitary organism.

Aside from the concept of "inside" and "outside", there is also the idea of "conscious" and "unconscious". Typical practices to make this concept real to the meditator include:

Differentiating conscious from unconscious (exercises)

  1. Scan the body starting with the feet and so on up to the head with the eyes closed. Notice if any area of the body is "dark" and which are "light."

  2. Once light and dark areas are cognized, a second practice is to move the attention from the light area to the dark, and notice what arises from the dark space. Then, move your attention back to the light space again.

  3. Once you can do this readily, sustain your attention in a dark space you select for a period of about five minutes. Notice muscular tension, heat, pain, swelling, emotional irritation or discomfort, and memories that may arise from the dark space. Then, move your attention back to the light space again.

  4. Again move your attention into the dark space and notice what sensations are arising in your body in the present time. Different sensations, feelings, memories will arise at different locations, and pass through awareness in the present time. You will note each of them as they arise, and pass on to the next. This Vipassana practice of watching the stream of consciousness within your body enhances the faculty of mindfulness. [Mindfulness is the ability to be inwardly aware of your present time experience.]

  5. Practicing mindfulness, sustain your experience in the dark area until you feel a physical and emotional release. You will feel this as a letting go of tension in the muscles and a letting go of an emotional burden, often expressed as a sigh. These releases are fundamental units of psychological process work. [If you are in therapy, learning this basic meditation will help you focus on and work through your issues].

Meditation must begin in the Conscious mind, as that is the field of the mind readily accessible to each person. It is through the Conscious mind that material from other strata of the mind must be ultimately utilized in the waking state. Therefore the meditation beginner may proceed from this basic ground state of the mind into progressively deeper explorations.

 

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