Posts in Dharma
How to Start a Daily Meditation Practice
IMG_0046.jpg

Starting a daily meditation practice may seem easy at first for some people, but it took me four years before making it happen every day for at least a month! I thought I would share what I have learned from Tibetan Buddhism as well as my own experience on how to get this train moving everyday! So without further adieu, here are some relevant causes and conditions that helped me create and maintain a daily meditation practice.  

Help someone else who wants to meditate daily: Use the 4 karmic steps: 1. State what you want. 2. Find someone else who wants the same thing. 3. Make a plan to meet with them weekly. 4. Rejoice as you fall asleep.  If this is too much to meet weekly, start by just finding a buddy and announce to each other out loud and in person or over text: your plan to have a realistic goal: i.e. “I will meditate every day for 7 days in a row”. Then check in with each other: “I meditated for 24 minutes today how about you!?” It’s like a workout buddy, but the benefits will last many more life times than a summer in your bathing suit bod.

 

Find a Teacher. If you wanted to learn how to play a guitar would you not find someone else who knows how? Here is a list of 10 qualities of a teacher. You can also find more information from this Lam Rim retreat: “How to Find a Teacher You Can Trust”. Use your discernment with anything you learn from someone else. If you have doubts, then meditate on it! It’s better to prove things for yourself, on your cushion than accept on blind faith! Help other people find a teacher as well. That is an amazing and beautiful thing to do.

 

Picture1

 

Set up a space. Start with setting down a cushion (traditional cushions are filled with buckwheat), or lighting a candle, or setting up an altar. Create a space that will remind you every time you see it that something sacred is meant to happen there. Maybe you don’t sit but once a week but every time you step over that area it will remind you and the karma of habit will eventually kick in.

 

Practice. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. get your bum on the cushion! 

 

tumblr_n017siknmN1qh59n0o3_500

 

If you don’t have a meditation cushion, sit on a pillow on your bed, or in a chair. Get your spine straight and meditate on something you learned from your teacher.

 

It is ideal to meditate first thing in the morning before checking your phone or talking to anyone. Maybe shower or brush your teeth and go straight for the cushion. Make it a routine just the way brushing your teeth in the morning is.

 

Be patient with yourself. If you miss your morning meditation, do it on the subway or find time at night or even in the bathroom, or over a cup of coffee. At any moment you can be meditating on something virtuous. Try to lead up to an hour a day eventually.

 

Rejoice anytime you meditate. Associate joy and gratitude with that meditation cushion. If you miss a day just rejoice that you even noticed you missed a day! That is good you are even thinking about meditation! The fact that you are even reading this article is profoundly rare. As rare and special as the turtle, who only surfaces every 100 years, poking its nose through a moving ring in the ocean.

 

Picture2

 

Develop Renunciation and the Wish. Renunciation is a desire to get out of the same old cyclic habits that keep us in the realm of suffering. Renounce old age, sickness, birth and death or maybe you renounce a cycle as simple as the same old argument you keep having with your significant other, boss, or family. The Wish is the Wish for your own Enlightenment for the sake of all beings (See class 2 ACI course 10 for benefits of The Wish for Enlightenment). Meditating on these ideas are are great motivators to keep a consistent practice.

 

Practice Death Meditation If you were going to die today, would you not meditate even for just 5 minutes on this possibility, to think about what you would take up during your day or let go of ? Even just meditating on the fact that we cannot know when death will arrive helps us find joy and make the most of the day. When you wake up still alive and rejoice in this fact, you will eventually realize how this precious human life, has the perfect amount of suffering and happiness so that we seek out wisdom.  You can find many different 5 minute death meditations in this recent Lam Rim Retreat, the Unsurpassable Life with Geshe Michael Roach.

 

*If you are serious about being a Buddhist, Take Refuge vows after studying them with a qualified teacher. I started my regular, daily, morning, meditation practice right after I took refuge vows.

 

Picture3

 

Jacquelyn Autrey is a student of Hector Marcel and Geshe Michael Roach; a yoga and meditation teacher at The Three Jewels, New York City,; a freelance writer; and an art consultant.

STOP pretending START living
STOP-Pretending.001.jpeg

Being alive, feeling truly, fully alive, as though your life depended on it, is the result of a healthy meditation practice. In fact, after developing the habit, this vividness of being becomes the side-effect which lingers with you, eventually becoming your default state of being. That’s if you don’t get all caught up in trying to meditate! So it would be correct to say you can’t meditate if you’re trying to meditate, or to quote Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try.” But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves… 

I first discovered meditation in 1996, in fact it actually discovered me! But that’s a story for another time. At any rate, I was in my late 20’s living a dream life in the most famous city in the world, New York City! I had a career in high fashion, there were celebrities, models, art, parties and the rest. My life was on the brink of my first major implosion. Everything I was trying to do was producing the opposite result. My career became my jail, my dreams became a painful reminder of what I was NOT and friendships triggered feelings of isolation. My self-image was as dark and all pervasive on the inside as it was a shiny pretend facade that I polished on the outside. There was something creeping into the world I had created that threatened to demolish its foundations and I didn’t want to see it. The cracks were obvious to those around me but I couldn't hear my friends concerned voices and to admit any of it would be like smashing the floodgates open, and that would just be inviting the thing I feared most.

It was at this time that I found myself walking into The Three Jewels, a Tibetan Buddhist bookstore and Tea House in the Lower East Side – it was their opening day. I really don’t know what it was that moved me to walk in, but I did and it was an impulse that I’d be grateful for for the rest of my life. They offered FREE or by Donation meditation classes and I jumped right in, ready to treat the symptoms – imagining that once I meditated I’d be “cured” of the pressure building. And “cured” I was, but not in the way I imagined. 

I learned to sit and on the first sit, the young monk said: “if you think your mind is “yours”, if you think you have control of your mind, then let’s focus your mind on your breath for 10 rounds of inhales and exhales without letting your mind move onto anything else but your breath.” Sounds easy right?

I thought this was stupid! The monk was stupid, maybe this was a bad idea, why were people so stupid? But I couldn’t get up and walk out. I was sitting at the front of this stupid class, with a whole bunch of other stupid people who were wasting time counting their breaths! How could this possibly help anyone! I had real work to do! Since I was stuck sitting there I decided I could show them up. I would out-perform all the other breathers. So I started focusing my awareness on the sensation of air moving into my body through my nostrils. 

It was surprisingly invigorating. I was re-discovering the pure sensation of breath for the very first time. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten how air fills our lungs and oxygenates our bodies, this most basic, natural exchange between the world and me. I had been doing this since I was a child. I imagined my childhood lungs filled with air. I remembered being a child – I could see myself playing outside, feeling the air on my face, my friends around me laughing and joyfully playing football cards in the sun. Then, out of the blue, a voice interferes with my experience. “If You find yourself wondering from the sensation of the breath, just gently bring your attention back to your breath again.” I hadn’t lasted more than one inhale. I don’t know how long I was lost in my wondering thoughts. I tried again, and then again. I left the Three Jewels that day “cured,” of being lost in the symptoms. In its place an infinitely more powerful thought arose, “if I do not control my mind…then what does?” This question burnt in my mind enough to keep me returning to The Three Jewels day after day, learning the basics of an active meditation practice.  The practice put a stop to pretending. Twenty Years later, I sit on a cushion at The NEW Three Jewels, teaching all kinds of New Yorkers not to try to meditate, because an authentic, congruent and meaningful life really does depend on it.

Author: Hector Marcel is an accomplished  change management professional and Buddhist teacher based out of New York City.