The roots of this practice are found in early Buddhism, with focus on the teachings of Conditionality (Dependent Arising) and emphasis on learning and unlearning through experience and reflection. This orientation to meditation has evolved from my personal meditation practice, and past training and teaching in Recollective Awareness Meditation with Jason Siff. Due to a serious conflict within the recollective awareness community, I am no longer affiliated with him or the Skillful Meditation Project.
Why use Meditation and Reflection?
We believe that you can learn beneficial ways of meditating by seeing how your mind operates within meditation. This kind of “seeing” can be naturally developed through recollection and reflection, whether done in a journal or expressed verbally to an experienced teacher or peers. Over time when you practice this approach to meditation you will begin to trust your mind’s ability to discover ways of being skillful with meditation and life experiences. Much of the learning comes from your own recognition of what goes on in meditation, rather than from an authority, a tradition, or any dogmatic and rigid way of thinking about meditation.
Most likely you will have a goal in mind when you come to meditation practice. What is in your mind and heart matters deeply, and does not need to be separated out from your meditation practice. Our meditation instructions are simple and easy, and you can’t do them wrong. We cannot promise you any specific results from this approach but can say that the meditators we have worked with have found and exhibited the following:
- An independent, flexible meditation practice that can be done anywhere, anytime.
- Relief from reactivity by being able to tolerate and appreciate the range and complexity of difficult mental and physical states.
- The cultivation of a self-honest and safe inner environment where you can learn to meet whatever your mind comes up with.
- Peaceful, relaxed and stress-free states of mind which allow you to rest, take ease, and be less impulsive.
- The development of qualities such as awareness, kindness, patience, curiosity, friendliness and generosity.
- By articulating and describing your meditation sittings, you can learn to discern many experiences which are not often languaged in meditation or life.
- Becoming aware of your patterns and habits in meditation can facilitate personal insights into your behavior and relationships.
We offer assistance to you as a meditator by working with your reflections and journals of your meditation sittings. This opportunity is designed to give you a simple and effective way to enter into a meditation practice and/or to assist you in exploring your current meditation practice.
These basic meditation instructions can be helpful for beginning meditators. If you already have a meditation practice, you can try these instructions, or you can meditate in the ways that you are accustomed.
Behind the Instructions
- By sitting down to meditate you are showing a preference for the still, practicing restraint of action with an intention to meditate.
- Allowing your life to enter into the meditation sitting: thoughts, feelings, sleepiness, sensations allows your meditation practice into your life.
- Cultivating the conditions of being gentle, kind, and curious with your experience in meditation makes meditation more of a process, rather than doing it right or wrong.
- During the sitting if you get overwhelmed, you can take care for yourself. A few things you can try: distance yourself from your experience like a bird in a tree, focus on the touch of your body to the cushion or chair, find your breathing, or get up a walk around a little and then come back and sit down.
- You have the flexibility and permission to do any meditation practice you would like, so you get to make choices regarding practice.
- You may adjust your posture if you need to – it is not necessary to hold an uncomfortable position for long periods of time.
- Recollecting for a few minutes after the sitting either by writing down your experience or taking a few moments of silent reflection establishes a relationship with your practice and fosters insight into how your mind works.
The Meditation Teacher’s Role
The meditation teacher’s role is to assist you in becoming receptive to your meditation experience and to participate with you in its exploration. It is not to edit your journaling, give advice, judge your experience, assert direction or offer therapy. By listening to you talk about your experience, we are learning the particular language you use to describe inner states which often elude easy description. Support can be needed to help you go into unfamiliar territory, to question patterns and assumptions and to discover value in states which are often overlooked or disregarded. Modeling a type of gentle, curious, and flexible listening and inquiry helps you pick up ways of being around your own internal dialogues and narratives, while assisting you to continue this process on your own. We are not an authority on your experience. You may consider us as a friend and mentor with our knowledge base coming from our own study and training in this approach to meditation and our own meditation experience.
After the Meditation
We propose a light structure to journaling so that you go at your own pace. Your approach to journaling can influence your meditation sittings and there is room to be flexible and creative within this process. Journaling your meditation sittings will require some effort and you may need to make some changes in your schedule to have time available.
In this meditation approach when you allow your life (thoughts, emotions, sleepiness, sensations, moods…) into your sittings you may experience a variety of internal states which you may think are unusual or not appropriate in meditation. We assure you, whatever comes up while you sit has a place in your meditation. You cannot do it wrong.
Typical approaches to meditation do not emphasize looking back over the sitting and attempting to put experience into language and expression; at times to do this may feel awkward or difficult. To write something about your internal experience knowing another person will read it can bring on feelings of vulnerability, or being too exposed. In fact, there may be experiences which you do not want to record or share. Please keep in mind that you only need to send journal entries which you feel comfortable having me read, and speak within your own comfort level when we talk.
When the meditation sitting is over, take a moment to silently reflect back on the sitting and see what you can remember about it. It is quite natural to only be able to recall a few of the more prominent experiences (and intrusions) that occurred during the meditation sitting. You can record your sittings by using your own language; it does not require a special vocabulary. Be as honest as you can be trying not to interpret or censure your meditation experiences as you write. Just relate what happened as well as you can remember it. You do not need to record the sitting in order of which it happened, as often you will remember the more striking experiences and gradually recall some of the less memorable experiences as you are writing. All experiences, whether good or bad, remarkable or unremarkable, mundane or profound should be included. Along with your experience, please note some other details: date, time and length of sitting. You may also record experiences and understanding which occur outside of meditation, if you feel so inclined. If doing so, please use some way to note that these thoughts and experiences are outside of the sitting (highlight, or another font or italics).
Ways to Journal
Meditation students have found different ways of recording their sittings. You are free to adopt whatever method works for you or to find your own. You can also try different ways. If writing after the sitting is “getting in the way” or creating too much tension about recalling your sitting, know that you can drop the journaling and pick it up again when you are ready. It is not necessary to journal after every sitting.
Recently many students have noticed that if they get up and walk around a bit after the sitting, they can recall the meditation sitting more clearly. Others notice they want to draw, make diagrams or maps, and use more creative ways to reflect back over the meditation session. Ways of recording one’s experience in meditation are personal, and evolve and change over time.