1- What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind that concentrates on a virtuous object and that is the main cause of mental peace. The practice of meditation is a method for acquainting our mind with virtue. Whenever we meditate, we are performing an action that causes us to experience inner peace in the future.
2- What are the benefits of meditation?
If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful and we shall experience a purer form of happiness. Eventually we shall be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we shall come to experience permanent inner peace, even in the most difficult circumstances.
3- How do I begin?
First we have to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practising a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position- it can be in the traditional cross-legged posture or on a chair. Most important is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sleepy.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing and become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of breathing meditation, we should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
There are many different objects of meditation (virtuous & neutral objects) The breath is a neutral object and we always begin with the breathing meditation.
4- Who are the meditation classes for and what can I expect at a class?
Our meditation classes are open for everybody. In each class there will be a brief prayer to help us create a good motivation, 2-3 guided meditations and a short talk on a meditation topic and a dedication at the end.
Cushions and chairs are provided for and you can choose whichever is most comfortable for you.
5- Do I need to be a Buddhist or vegetarian to practice meditation?
It’s a personal choice. It’s not a pre-requisite to practice meditation.
6- Is there a best time to practice meditation and how long for?
The best time is when we are not sleepy! While meditate helps relax us, it’s not meant to put us to sleep.
7- When I meditate, my mind seems to become busier not calmer!
When you first start to meditate, your mind will be very busy and you might even feel that the meditation is making it busier; but in reality you are just becoming more aware of how busy your mind actually is. By practising meditation patiently, you can gradually calm this busyness and discover true mental peace.
8- Sometimes I become drowsy during meditation, what should I do?
If this happens, first try to tighten your concentration a little. If this does not work, open your eyes slightly to let more light in, and if this too does not work, temporarily suspend the meditation, open your eyes and look around the room at shiny objects or sunlight. When your mind feels more alert, resume your meditation.
9- As soon as my mind finds the object of meditation, it loses it quickly. How to improve my concentration?
Training your mind to hold an object (such as the breath) in meditation is like a mother training her baby to hold a ball. At first when the mother hands the baby the ball, the baby will drop it. But if the mother perseveres, gradually the baby’s grip will get stronger and eventually the baby will be able to hold the ball tightly.
In the same way, when we first start to meditate, the mind quickly drops its object and thinks of something else instead. The key to successful meditation is to be aware whenever this happens and bring the object of meditation back to mind. Eventually through the force of familiarity, the mind will get a firm grip on it.
10- How do I know if I’m making any spiritual progress?
If we are becoming more peaceful, relaxed and happy, its an indication that we are making progress. However we should not push for results or force realisations but simply put joyful effort and learn to enjoy our practice. The results will naturally come when all the causes and conditions are gathered.
11- I’d like to deepen my spiritual progress, what do I do next?
You can join a study programme- Foundation Programme, where we systematically study the teachings of Buddha through a series of books that is taught by our Resident Teacher. Through study and discussions, it will help us gain great confidence in the practices and improve our wisdom.
Teacher Training Programme is for those who have experience in the Foundation Programme and would like to deepen their progress by training to become authentic Kadampa teachers.
Tips for successful meditation
- Meditate in a clean and quiet place that has positive associations for you and choose a seat that is comfortable- it can be a chair or cushion.
- Don’t rush straight into the meditation but spend a few moments to relax into a comfortable posture with your back straight but not tense
- Always begin by developing a positive wish to benefit yourself and others through your meditation
- During the meditation, try not to forget the object of meditation (what you should be concentrating on) and if you do forget, bring it back to mind straight away.
- Before you rise from meditation, mentally dedicate the positive energy you have created to benefiting yourself and others.
- Throughout the day, try to recall the experience of the meditation as often as you can and use it to guide everything you think, say and do.