Dare to Meditate
Welcome to our 10-step introduction to meditation.
We recommend that you go through steps 1-10 in order, but you can set your own pace, and repeat each step as many times as you want before you move on to the next one.
Regardless of who we are, the main purpose of our life is to be happy.
In this video, the Tibetan meditation teacher Sogyal Rinpoche offers advice on how to find inner peace and contentment, and explains why meditation has such an important role to play.
Inner peace and contentment
All of us share the same wish, and the same right, to seek happiness and avoid suffering.
We spend nearly all our time and energy trying to find happiness, peace and satisfaction.
But do we ever stop to ask ourselves where the real source of happiness and well-being lies? Is it in the ever-changing conditions of the outside world, or within our own mind?
Our society offers an endless array of seductive messages that advertise happiness in money, possessions, fame and good looks.
The trouble is that none of them seems to lead to lasting happiness.
At the same time, we only need to look around us to see how prevalent anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness have become, as well as how our constant hunger for more and more things is threatening the very survival of our planet.
Outer or inner wealth?
If we look closely, we can see that there are two kinds of happiness: one that is based more on physical comfort, and another that comes from a deeper, mental contentment.
Many of us spend so much effort trying to accumulate and maintain material or ‘outer wealth’.
This leaves us very little opportunity to cultivate ’inner wealth’, qualities such as compassion and patience.
But if we have this deeper, inner peace and contentment—this inner wealth—then even when we go through suffering, our minds can still be happy.
This explains how some people can have every material advantage, and still remain dissatisfied and discontent; and others are always satisfied and content, even when faced with the most difficult circumstances.
What do we really need?
Of course, basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, health and education are crucial for all of us to live healthy and happy lives.
Beyond these, however, we need to ask ourselves honestly: how many things really deserve our precious time and energy?
There is a saying that ‘Only the foolish go looking for happiness outside of themselves’—because when we do that, then we have no control.
The wise and learned, the saying continues, know that happiness and the causes of happiness are all present within us.
You could say that the principal characteristic of genuine happiness is inner peace and contentment.
If you have contentment and inner peace as your basis, your mind will be relaxed and at ease.
If your mind is relaxed and at ease, then no matter what difficulties or crises you encounter, you will not be disturbed. Your basic sense of well-being will not be undermined.
As a result, you will be able to carry on your everyday life, your work and your responsibilities more efficiently, and you will have the wisdom to discern what to do and what not to do.
Your life will become happier, and when difficulties arise, you will even be able to turn them to your advantage.
So, for our own inner peace and stability, taking care of our mind and heart is crucial.
Once our mind is more at peace, then both inner and outer harmony will automatically follow.
That is why we meditate.
As the Tibetan teacher Mingyur Rinpoche explains, when you meditate, you are giving your mind a job—and gradually, as the mind becomes more and more familiar with its job, a natural and powerful transformation occurs.
Now it’s time to try meditation for yourself.
To get used to the experience of being in the present moment, begin by sitting for five minutes.
Just sit comfortably, your body still, breathing naturally.
Let your thoughts come and go, without trying to hold on to them or follow after them.
Try not to have too much hope or expectation about what you might experience or achieve.
You can start now...
Five minutes a day
Give this a try for a few days, with one five-minute session each day.
Then, as you get more used to meditation, you can gradually increase the length of each session, or sit more than once each day.
If you find it useful, after a session you can note down what you have found easy or challenging, plus any insights you have about your meditation practice.
When people begin to meditate, they often say that their thoughts are running riot, and have become wilder than ever before.
This is a good sign.
Far from meaning that your thoughts have become wilder, it shows that you have become quieter, and you are finally aware of just how noisy your thoughts have always been.
It’s said that at the beginning, thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall.
Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge.
Then they become like a great river, slowly winding its way down to the sea.
Finally, the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled by only the occasional ripple or wave.
The fifth stage is that of perfect stability, which is described as an oil lamp not blown by the wind, resting bright and clear, unmoved by anything.
So meditation is a gradual process.
If you want to ask any questions, or share your experiences and insights, you can visit our forum at any time
Now move on to step 4: getting to know your mind
In this next video, Sogyal Rinpoche explains what Buddha taught... in just six words.
Why is it so important to work with and understand our own mind?
Because the real source of happiness and well-being lies within our mind, and not in the unpredictable and ever-changing conditions of the outside world.
Our restless and impatient minds are quick to make endless judgments and concepts about everything in terms of what we like, what we don’t like, and what we don’t really care about at all.
We think, “I like this,” and feel attachment or desire for it, or we think, “I don’t like that,” and we experience aversion, pain or fear towards it.
We crave things we don’t have, fear losing what we do have, and get depressed at having lost other things. As our minds get tighter and tighter, we feel increasing excitement or pain, and find ourselves caught in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction.
In the end, we spend half of our life chasing after what we like and want, and the other half of our life running away from what we don’t want to encounter. This is what the Buddha called dukkha—suffering.
The teachings of the Buddha are based on straightforward logic and reasoning. If we want to end suffering, we need to eliminate the causes of suffering. Likewise, if we want happiness, we need to cultivate its causes.
These teachings were not given for the sake of being profound, but as a way to help us understand what actually happens to us, and how we can change it.
The Buddha explained that anxiety, fears and suffering come from minds that are overpowered by delusion and distraction.
But if we can tame the mind, then nothing can frighten us, because all fear comes from a mind that is untamed.
To put it simply, in order to tame our mind we need to understand what the mind is and investigate how it works.
Mind is the most important factor
Investigating the mind doesn’t mean we need to make drastic changes to the way we live. It means recognizing how our mind is the most important factor in all the activities of our everyday life, and how it is ultimately responsible for everything we experience.
In order to have mastery over our own lives and be able to help others effectively, we need to understand the reality of our mind and the nature of all our thoughts, emotions and mental attitudes.
Most people think of the mind as being thoughts and emotions, but these are actually just the appearance of the mind, not the true nature of the mind itself.
So, we have these two main aspects of the mind:
—the appearance of mind,
—and the nature of mind.
We spend most of our lives lost in the appearance of mind, without any understanding of the nature of mind itself. We are always looking for our true selves outside of ourselves, in our thoughts and emotions.
So, we are constantly looking in the wrong direction—as if we were facing the west and looking for the sunrise. Or, as the famous saying goes, leaving our elephant at home and looking for its footprints in the forest.
We give so much importance to these appearances, the projections of mind. Whatever thoughts or emotions rise, we let them sweep us away and off into a spiral of stories and illusions, which we take so seriously, we end up not only believing, but becoming as well.
Our potential for transformation
It is not the appearances themselves that are the problem—it is how the mind perceives them, grasps at them, and tries to solidify them as if they were real.
Therefore, in the Buddhist teachings, the main advice for this life is to purify our projections of the mind and realize the nature of mind.
The good news is that this is possible. As the Dalai Lama has pointed out: “A great Tibetan teacher of mind training once remarked that one of the mind’s most marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed.”
Through the practice of meditation, we can tame our mind by becoming more and more familiar with the essence of mind.
When we conquer our own minds, we become master of our perceptions. When we transform our perceptions, then even appearances will begin to change.
Ultimately, through taming our mind, we can arrive at the profound purity of the nature of mind, that great peace which the Buddha spoke of at the moment of his enlightenment over 2,500 years ago in India, beneath the Bodhi tree in what is now known as Bodhgaya.
If you want to ask any questions, or share your experiences and insights, you can visit our forum at any time
Now move on tostep 5: meditation posture
When we meditate, we need to sit properly.
As you watch this video, try out the posture for yourself, and then spend a few minutes sitting in meditation.
If you want to watch the video more than once, go ahead.
Two simple and effective methods that you can use when you meditate are watching the breath and focusing on an object.
As you watch these two videos, give each method a try. Take your time, and watch them as many times as you like.
So how can we actually transform the mind through meditation?
Well, it doesn’t work if you try to force it. Instead, the most effective way to train your mind is by making friends with your mind.
Just as you can’t expect to make friends with someone by arguing with them, you can’t make friends with your mind by struggling against your thoughts and emotions, suppressing them, or trying to make them go away.
But it also doesn’t work to surrender to your mind, by following it blindly and believing whatever it tells you.
The best way to make friends with your mind is to know what your mind loves.
What the conceptual mind loves more than anything is having something to do. It loves being very active all the time.
In fact, if the conceptual mind doesn’t have something to keep it busy, then it can create a lot of trouble.
So in the beginning, you need to start by giving your conceptual mind a job—and that job is meditation.
If your mind is actively engaged in meditation practice, then it’s a win-win situation. Your conceptual mind is happy because it is busy, and you are happy because you are now in charge of your own mind.
And, you are no longer dominated by your mind, simply believing whatever your thoughts and emotions tell you.
You become free of your endless fixation on thoughts and emotions, and free of your conceptual mind.
In these videos, Sogyal Rinpoche reminds us that meditation is really very simple, and Mingyur Rinpoche gives some important advice for beginners.
Here’s a recap of some of the key things to keep in mind when you start a meditation session.
• Back straight
• Hands on knees or in your lap
• Shoulders spread
• Chin slightly lowered
• Mouth slightly open
• Eyes open, gazing slightly downward
Sit comfortably—body still, breathing naturally, mind at peace
Let thoughts and emotions come and go, without trying to hold on to them
There’s no need for running commentary or analysis
Rest your attention lightly on the outbreath, or the object you’re looking at
When distracted, simply come back to the breath or the object
Relax—don’t be too tense, and don’t judge yourself
• mindful of the breath or object
• aware of whether you’re distracted
• and stay open and spacious.
How long for?
We recommend that you meditate for at least 15 minutes each day.
Of course, if you want to sit for longer, or more than once a day, that’s absolutely fine.
The main thing is to find a routine that works for you.
When practising meditation, all you need to do is let go and relax.
Just rest, open, in the present moment, simply allowing whatever arises to rise.
Whatever thoughts, emotions or sensations come up, you don’t have to block them. But neither do you have to follow them. Simply allow yourself to be aware of them.
When you remain in this awareness, then you realize that you are much bigger than your thoughts, emotions and perceptions.
You don’t have to be afraid of your thoughts any more. Thoughts are not you. Emotions are not you. You become free of them, as you discover the confidence of your true nature.
So, do not follow after thoughts and emotions, but merely be aware of everything that passes through your awareness, as it is.
What we are doing is resting our mind in its natural awareness, completely unaffected by whatever arises.
In these videos, the Tibetan teachers Mingyur Rinpoche and Khandro Rinpoche talk about some of the misunderstandings that we can have about meditation.
Now that you’re familiar with the basic meditation posture, as well as the methods of watching the breath and focusing on an object, here’s a simple guided meditation that you can follow.
You can listen to this as many times as you want, and if you find it helpful, you can use it as part of your daily meditation practice.
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|Watching the Breath
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|Watching an Object
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To download the file right click (control click on a Mac) the green arrows
In our final video, Sogyal Rinpoche explains how we can integrate meditation into our everyday lives?
You can integrate your meditation while you are walking, or eating, or caring for others, whatever the situation.
Meditation is so much easier than most people think—because as long as you are aware of what is going on and you are able to remain in the state of non-distraction, then whatever you experience is actually meditation.
For example, as you walk down the street, you can bring your attention to your surroundings. Look at the people you pass, the buildings, the cars, the flowers or trees.
Don’t indulge in judgmental commentaries about whoever or whatever you see, but simply allow your mind to be purely aware of the objects that you encounter.
When you bring pure awareness to your activities like this, then distraction and worry will gradually disappear and your mind will settle and become more calm and peaceful.
So when you finally do arrive at your destination, you’ll be in a much more relaxed and open frame of mind to deal with whatever comes next.
Stability and confidence
Another benefit of simply observing your perceptions in this way is that you will find yourself getting far less emotionally involved in what you perceive.
Also, whatever you are doing, cultivating the mindfulness and awareness of meditation practice will help you to be more efficient and accomplish more, with less effort and less stress.
And the simplicity, spaciousness, humour and courage you can find through meditation will help you to avoid being overwhelmed by work or burning out.
It will also bring you a certain stability, a certain confidence, with which you can face life and the complexity of the world with carefree dignity, with composure, ease and humour.
Congratulations, you've completed our 10-step guide!
We would love to receive your feedback on the course and hear about your experiences:
- Has meditation changed your way of being?
- Did your meditation practice help you in challenging situations?
- Do you have any other questions about meditation, or how to proceed from here?