I finally replaced my copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism by Gary Gach. It's really quite excellent. My original copy was borrowed some years ago and never made its way home and I've definitely missed it. As it happens I was wandering around in Barnes and Noble yesterday and so I picked up a copy. This morning I looked through the chapter on meditation and decided to share with you some points at the very end labeled, "The Least You Need to Know":
* Meditation's like that center referred to when people speak of being centered. A grounding. Integral to wisdom and conscious conduct, it's a key to continual practice.I'm always so glad when I find examples in the published works that emphasize the fact that we're not trying to exert control over our minds when we're meditating. One of the most challenging aspects of teaching meditation is that people often simply don't believe me on this issue. I'm amazed at the number of people who come to class convinced that they are only meditating if they force their minds into a certain rigidity. That, of course, is not meditation at all but its opposite because it is a form of grasping and judgmentalism toward the mind. Remember: rest the mind, rest the mind. Meditation is meant to settle the mind and help us relax.
* Posture matters. The body isn't something to be escaped.
* Breath is a natural interface between body and mind, always available to us to work with. Conscious or mindful breathing means being aware of your breathing. Nothing else.
* You're not trying to control your breath, or your mind. Just be aware. Stopping and just being aware can calm your breath - and your mind.
*Quieting the mind doesn't mean turning into a stone statue. Trying to banish thoughts and control your mind only creates more thoughts and restless mind. Simple awareness can clear mental clutter and sharpen your mind.
* More than mere stretching, walking meditation is a powerful practice.
* Take a friendly attitude toward your mind. Everyone encounters difficulties. Learn from others' wisdom about common hurdles in meditation.