March 11, 2011

Watch: Meditation Instructions for Beginners

Pamela Gayle White and Khedrub Zangmo are wrapping up the first week of their Tricycle Retreat, Letting Go. You can follow that link to visit Week 1 of the retreat, which contains two videos and supplementary readings and the discussion with the teachers. (You'll have to be a Tricycle Community Supporting or Sustaining Member to join in the three weeks that follow.)

The second video, which contains 25 minutes of meditation instructions for beginners, has proved so popular that we're re-posting it here. Enjoy!

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Monty McKeever's picture

Hi mburgan,

The video seems to be working. Maybe it was down temporarily?


mburgan's picture

What happnened to the video? All I see is as black box,

stevenorthcounty's picture

Dear Gayle and Khedrub - I have been meditating for a number of years on and off. One thing I've struggled with is the incessant arising of thoughts, and frankly, it has bugged me - the thought arising that I'm just not doing this right and deluding myself often comes up. I found your instructions and example in the meditation video very helpful in just noticing these thoughts and gently letting them go. Thanks - Steve

Pamela Gayle White's picture

Dear Stephen, you are very welcome! These instructions have been passed down for centuries. The great meditation masters have spoken of the stages of training in meditation to be likened to a waterfall, a broad river and a limpid lake. That first phase is how we perceive our thoughts when we begin to sit (and 'begin' is a flexible concept here) - it's not that they weren't there in the first place; it's just that we didn't have the space to be aware of them. If we expect quiet mind, we are naturally discouraged. But the great news is that 'doing it right' simply means finally becoming aware of the thoughts and being willing to let them go. Our teachers recognize what an effort even this can be, and in our tradition they encourage us to commit to short (even very short) sessions of mindfulness until it becomes an easier, more natural process...
Best wishes for you and your practice, Pamela

Pamela Gayle White's picture

Greetings Kalsang Namdak! Thanks for your questions and your interest in meditation. In answer to your first question, it's great that you want to share this practice that is benefiting you with others! The first thing that pops into my mind is advice that Jigme Rinpoche (in France) often gives: let others see how practice is enhancing your life through your actions and behavior and they will naturally be curious about what has brought about the positive change. One commentary of the lojong maxim "Transform your approach while remaining natural" says that "practice must be very effective yet very discreet; it should ripen in your mindstream without being obvious to others." (cf Konchok Yenlak, the 5th Shamarpa)
Secondly, yes, we were very fortunate to have a friend's garden available for filming the first videos - the others were shot at the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path. There is no doubt that it is easier to meditate in a calm space - even the classic Tibetan meditation manuals recommend that beginners engage in intensive practice in an isolated and calm setting. But so many of us live in cities! And even the countryside can be surprisingly unquiet. So I say: kudos for sticking with it! Maybe you can find a moment in the day when your mind and/or the environment is not quite so busy. Maybe there's a space somewhere that inspires you, or a group that toughs it out together.
The good news is that once you can remain naturally aware of your breath and your mind in a busy city, you'll be able to meditate your way through any turmoil, and your practice will be a delight.
Warm wishes, Pamela

kalsangnamdak's picture

Thank you. I look forward to these experiences and results ahead.

kalsangnamdak's picture

Thank you very much for posting these basic meditation instructions. I have two questions:

1. I have been meditating for awhile along these lines of instruction and found it very useful, but how do I get my friends who are reluctant to try this meditation? I think it can really benefit them too, but they do not seem too open to it. Thanks for any advice on that.

2. Secondly, the space you have there in the video to meditate looks very nice and peaceful, and even with birds chirping and trees in the background. However, I live in a big crowded city, with lots of distractions, noises, and mostly concrete, cars and crowds of people. What do you recommend about dealing with that, for beginners? Where should I meditate, and when, etc.


Pamela Gayle White's picture

Greetings all - just got this question from Sharonalu posted on the discussion board for our Letting Go: the view and thought it might be good to post it here. She writes:
"Hello. I have just read the meditation instructions that are extra info from the teaching. Thank you for your effort. Can you by any chance comment on why the instructions encourage me to keep my eyes open. I have tried it, but don't know why this is the way I should do it.
Any comments would be appreciated. Thank you.."

Thanks for asking that question Sharonalu! Someone nearly always asks us that when we give meditation instructions. In fact, there are many different Buddhist meditation lineages in different countries and cultures. Different practitioners have found that certain methods work best for them, and pass those along to their students. Some sit with eyes closed, some with eyes open. Some breathe gently through the mouth, some through the nostrils. Some sit with right hand on left, some with left hand on right. Some meditate while walking, some don't.
In our tradition, we sit with our eyes open for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are not creating a barrier between what we perceive to be 'us in here' and the phenomenal world 'out there.' Our senses are open, we're allowing perception to happen, but we've decided to not cling to it, analyze it, or make a story out of it. We see things, hear things, smell things, etc., we acknowledge that and go back to the breath. We're learning to be permeable.
The second is that we are training in dissolving the separation between the state of meditation and the state of activity. Our eyes are usually open when we're active, and seasoned meditators are able to bring the same mindfulness to their activity that they bring to their practice. It's said to be easier to bridge that gap if we train with eyes open from the get-go.
Happy practice to you! Pamela