It was with a sense of excitement and trepidation that I set out to the How to Meditate day held by the Milton Keynes Meditation Association.
The day was held at Simpson Village Hall and put on by the lovely members of the Buddhist group of Milton Keynes. I had a really friendly and wonderful welcome and it almost felt like a coming home for me, as I used to attend the Tuesday night sessions held by the group. However, and often as life goes, my schedule and commitments became such that I could no longer go.
There was a mixture of experienced meditators and new meditators in the group. The two main meditations as taught by the group were explored and practised in detail. They were the Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation and the Metta Bhavana.
The mindfulness of breathing meditation is most similar to the breathing anchor meditation as taught on the eight week Breathworks course and I would describe the Metta Bhavana meditation as being most similar to the Open Heart meditation, or the Connection meditation.
If you would like to listen to these particular meditations, please visit: https://soundcloud.com/hachetteaudiouk/sets/mindfulness-meditation/s-chcYB
Mindfulness of Breathing
The mindfulness of breathing meditation was taught in four stages and it was explained that this meditation is taught as a means of increasing self-awareness, knowing exactly what is going on for us at this moment in time and in this process developing wisdom.
Here is a breakdown of the stages:
1st Stage: Breathing naturally, count after each out breath 1, then after the next out-breath 2, the next out-breath 3 and so on, up to 10.
Then when you reach 10, start the process of counting again from 1, up to 10.
When your attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did several times today, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from 1.
2nd Stage: Instead of counting on the out-breath, during this stage you count on each in-breath. As with stage one you count the in-breaths from 1, to 10.
When you attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from one. The noticing that your mind has wandered from the intended focus of your meditation, in this case the counting of your breath, is in itself an act of mindfulness and it absolutely a sign that you are doing it right!
3rd stage: In this stage you drop the counting and attend to the sensations of breathing.
For me this would most vivid in my tummy and at the nostrils. At this stage I also felt more physically relaxed in my body and mentally calmer.
4th stage: In this stage you shift your attention to the point where the air enters and leaves the body.
For me this was noticing the cool air entering my nostrils on the in-breath.
Metta is an attitude of well-wishing, loving kindness and friendliness.
Metta Bhavana was described as a balancing meditation to the mindfulness of breathing, in the mindfulness of breathing we are working on ourselves and in the Metta Bhavana we are working on developing an attitude of loving kindness, first towards ourselves and then spreading these feelings out towards other people in our world. Like the mindfulness of breathing, the Metta Bhavana meditation is practised in stages.
1st stage: Self.
Contact and develop an attitude of loving-kindness in relation to yourself.
2nd stage: Friend.
Extend this attitude of loving-kindness towards someone you like, or appreciate.
3rd stage: Neutral person.
Now extend your well-wishing and loving kindness towards a ‘neutral’ person, preferably someone who you have contact with, but for who you have no particular feelings of like, or dislike.
For me this is the Cashier who often serves me in Sainsburys.
4th stage: Person you are currently having difficulties with.
Include in your loving-kindness a person who you dislike, or currently have difficulty with. Preferably not someone who you loathe as this may overwhelm your metta.
5th stage: Everyone.
In this final stage of the meditation we were encouraged to imagine ourselves, our friend, the neutral person and the person we are having difficulty with, all together. Then spreading metta equally between all four people.
Then gradually extending the well-wishing to include all beings, those in the same street, those in the same town and all those in England and beyond.
Group of people holding heart cards in raised hands
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this day if you are looking for an introduction to mindfulness meditation and a friendly group in which to practice.
Until next time,