Recently during tea time, the grandmaster was asked about meditation.
“How do I meditate? How should I direct my mind? What can I do to still my thoughts?”
The Grandmaster talking about Meditation.
These questions are natural when someone is practicing sitting meditation for the first time, or when someone is starting a meditation practice.
The grandmaster gave very simple and direct advice regarding Anapanasati meditation.
“Ana” refers to inhalation; “pana” refers to exhalation; and “sati” means focus. Anapanasati meditation is the original method of meditation as taught by the Buddha 2500 years ago. It is a core practice of Buddhism and mindfulness, and it is likewise a core practice of Sunmudo.
So, how can we focus on our breathing?
This is deceptively difficult. The brain, as a thinking organ, is very good at fulfilling its function. It commands and regulates the muscular and hormonal functions of the body; and also, it thinks. It thinks almost incessantly. Our days are filled with thoughts, ranging from simple daily concerns to deeper considerations of the meaning of life. We are forming and engaging with thoughts constantly.
So when we sit, these thoughts will not magically and effortlessly cease to flow. On the contrary, the brain is hard-wired to think, and we perpetuate our thinking habit during almost all of our waking hours. So when we sit down to meditate, it takes discipline, perseverance, and patience to create a mental space that is quiet and still.
Which leads us to the question: practically speaking, how does one cultivate internal stillness?
Cultivating a meditation practice leads to greater mental stillness.
The Grandmaster teaches us to use counting as a way to keep focused on our breathing. As you inhale, count 1 through 5, and when you exhale, count 6 through 10. Continue in this way for thirty minutes.
After you become adept at this practice, and can keep continuous focus on your counting, you can try to count each inhalation and exhalation together, such that when you inhale, you say to yourself “breathing in, 1″ and then when you exhale, you say “breathing out,1″. Count this way until 10. At 10, return back to 1, and repeat the cycle.
Thoughts will arise, and you may lose count. Some days, you may lose count more than others. Be kind to yourself. Meditate gently. Once you realize you have lost count, simply say to yourself “Now, I’m thinking.” Simply let your thoughts go, and then start your count again at 1.
The Grandmaster says that it takes about one month of focused meditation practice to create a strong foundation for Anapanasati meditation. He recommends beginners to sit for up to 30 minutes in the morning, preferably upon waking, and then again 30 minutes at night before sleeping. After a month, practitioners will find they can focus more comfortably upon their breathing, with fewer distractions.
At that point, you are ready to really follow and work with the teachings of the Anapanasati Sutta. Here is an online pdf translation of the sutta, and there are also several other versions available freely on the internet.