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Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation - Dhamma Wheel

Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
freki
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Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby freki » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:38 am

I'm confused by Ajahn Brahmavamsa's description of the basic method of meditation, as it is described in his book "Mindfulness, Bliss And Beyond".

This is how I (not) understand it:
He distinguishes 7 stages which are build upon each other. Each stage is the foundation for the next one and should therefore be mastered before continuing.

Stage 1 is called "Present-Moment Awareness". The description: "giving up the past and the future", with many examples and explanation why thoughts about past and future are unnecessary or misleading, but not fruitful during meditation. Okay, I understand everything that is written, and I can agree with it, but how can I put this into practice?
I really tried hard to not think of the past and neither of the future. It doesn't work at all.

Stage 2 is the "Silent Present-Moment Awareness", which is stage 1 without any thoughts, the "truthful silence of the mind", no commentaries. Now this is even worse. Brahm gives lots of reasonable explanations why silence is better than noise. I wholeheartedly agree. My mind agrees, but just won't follow for longer than a few moments.

So how can I "give up", "let go" and reach these stages? What exactly can I do to not lose myself in present, past or commentaries?

Now what others do is to observe "something" to calm the mind (samatha). But observing the breath is stage 3, and silent present-moment awareness must be mastered before observing the breath. So obviously Brahm's system is not about "observe the breath to calm the mind", it's "calm the mind to observe the breath".

I'm confused. Did I miss something? Will this be explained in later chapters?

cheerio,
freki

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Guy
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby Guy » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:13 am

Hi Freki,

Welcome to the forum. :hello:

Don't expect the mind to all of a sudden come to a halt, it will swing back and forth from the past and future for a while. How long "a while" is depends on you, do you have a very active mind during the day? It might take seconds, minutes, days or months, but eventually your mind will get settled into the present moment for longer and longer periods. Even if your mind only settles down for a fleeting moment during a half hour meditation, that's great! Make the most of it, encourage your mind to value those moments.

Also make sure to keep a smile on your face, especially once you have arrived at the present moment. Smiling helps the mind to associate present moment awareness with happiness and it will WANT to go there, you won't have to force it. A lot of people, especially in the modern world, spend their whole lives being restless and compulsive, always feeling like they "have to do something" - this kind of compulsiveness can take a while to de-program. So be kind, be gentle and be patient with your mind.

As for silence, the mind might not stay silent for very long if you are new to meditation, that's normal. Sometimes as new meditators we can develop the wrong idea that thinking is "bad" and so we develop an aversion to it. This is too violent of an approach, you need to be peaceful and kind. There is nothing wrong with thinking, the trick is to learn to appreciate the gaps between the thoughts. The gaps between your thoughts might not be very long at first but they are definitely there. With mindfulness you will notice these gaps more and more and eventually what happens is these gaps get longer and longer. It might seem weird the first time your mind is silent for a whole minute, and you will inevitably start thinking again, this is natural. Again, it takes time, just keep gently bringing the mind back. Practice makes perfect.

So in summary - Be patient, be kind, be gentle, be peaceful, don't worry, no expectations.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

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mikenz66
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:28 am

Hi Freki,

Have you listened to some of Ajahn Brahm's guided meditations at http://bswa.org/ ?

See this page: http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/Guide ... ns.rss.php
and download a few of his Friday Guided Mediations. He varies the instructions a bit, but basically goes through the sequence with extra little hints. It's been a while since I listened to any, so I can't be too specific.

The Saturday Meditations go into more depth.

I don't really practise his technique much, but his instructions about getting into the present moment are very good. Problem is, I've kind of internalised them so it's hard to give you specific hints.

Metta
Mike

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kc2dpt
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:51 pm

In a word: practice.

Training the mind is like training an animal. The animal wants to run around and do it's thing. Patient repetition gradually transforms the animal into one that is obedient. Develop the habit of seeing what the mind is doing. If it's going to past or future, gently bring it back to the present. After a million times, maybe the mind will wander off less and come back to the present faster. :meditate:
- Peter


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Kare
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby Kare » Sun Jul 05, 2009 2:09 pm

For a moment, I thought this thread was about Johannes Brahms. Maybe meditating to his symphonies, I thougt ... :rolleye:
Mettāya,
Kåre

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:34 pm


freki
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby freki » Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:40 pm


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kc2dpt
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:13 pm

- Peter


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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby nathan » Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:27 am

I've spent many hours for many years meditating and I've tried out a lot of methods, at length, so I am willing to pass along what I've learned and you can take it or leave it, ok?

You are beginning and so this can be a very fortunate thing because you haven't learned any bad habits yet.

So here's my advice. It will sound very similar to Ajahn Brahm's advice but it will be even simpler and I'm not going to answer any fancy questions either.

The untrained mind just wanders around like an untrained dog. To train the mind you first of all have to put it on a leash and get it used to taking commands and instructions. This is yoking the mind or mind yoga. Making the mind fit for meditation.

It is important to select an object for your meditation and stick with it. It is important to stick with it because that is the basis for every other aspect of making progress and it continues to be more important than anything else. The way to consider this is that every time you change objects, for the first few years, you are basically starting over from scratch. I always recommend the breath and sometimes people don't like the breath and after a while they want to change to something else. It doesn't matter what object you select, you will soon enough be bored of it, frustrated by it, hating it, sick of it, etc.. So, we'll use the breath, Brahm likes it, I like it and eventually you will like it too or else you won't be meditating anymore like probably 99% of people who have started and then given up. Why do they give up? Imho, because they are wimps. Meditation is hard work, maybe some of the hardest work there is. To prove this you don't even need to meditate or have a meditation object. Just set a timer for one hour and sit down. Don't get up, don't do anything else, just sit there until the hour is over. Try it, you'll see that just this, sitting there, with no other objective whatsoever, is pretty hard to do. Probably won't be more than 20 minutes and you will have a hundred reasons why you would rather be doing something else.

So, for a routine, after getting up in the morning, spend 30 min. just paying attention to your breathing. Nothing else should be allowed to become the object of your attention. Pay attention to your breathing and only to your breathing. It's not at all important how you pay attention to it or where or why, just that you do. In the evening before going to sleep do the same for 30 min.. Also throughout the day, at every moment of opportunity, take note of breathing; every time you have to wait in line or wait for a traffic light or whatever. Every time the mind wanders away from paying attention to breathing as soon as you realize you drifted bring it back to paying total attention to breathing. Forget about past or future or sleepy or restless or anything else that comes up. When you realize that you are no longer aware of breathing just go back to it. As your mind steadies on being aware of breathing you can begin to examine breathing in more depth with more concentration and more precision. That's more than enough instruction for a year or two.

It probably seems like not enough instructions, but it is maybe too much already. Meditation is very different from other kinds of work. It will take a few years to really see why this is so. In the meantime, every time you have a question, drop it and return to paying attention to your breath, every time some strange experience arises and seizes your attention, drop it and return to paying attention to your breath. You are probably thinking, "But I have all these questions, and want to have all kinds of experiences, I don't want to do this kind of boring, endlessly repetitive work." I am saying, yes, I understand, but if you go off chasing all of that you will not ever get what you want from meditation - real results. I am saying do this basic, simple, repetitive exercise for a few years and then a few more years first.

Forget about making "progress" or "getting answers" or having experiences. First you need to have the skill to do all that and appreciate all of that. So do this for a few years, same way, all the time, not expecting anything at all to come of it. Without having the skill first, you will never get to any of that other stuff anyways.

You will discover, in due course, that this will get you there significantly faster than any other way. You can take my word for it or not.

all the best
take care
:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

rowyourboat
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:15 pm

I agree with nathan here
this is simply my take on ajhan brahms method: meditation masters often try to teach advanced methods that they themselves didnt follow as beginners. if your mind is already calm to some degree through meditation it becomes easy enough to do silence of the mind etc and this would be the best way forward as it would lead to greater clarity and calmness of mind. But for a beginner it would be better to have an object to anchor the mind to, which will help it stop getting swept away with thoughts. Everybody starts with the breath.

I might also add that doing 30 min of walking meditation is great way to settle the mind for the more harder mindfulness of breath. Walking meditation uses a grosser object -so is easier to follow at the start.

good luck! dont be in a hurry and you will be fine!

:anjali:
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

nathan
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby nathan » Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:37 pm

Absolutely. Walking while maintaining continual mindfulness of the breath is one of my favorite practices. I have had all day walks that were like compressing a week of retreat time into a day. Even an hour of this will be both excellent for overall fitness and also boost concentration significantly.
:thumbsup:
:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:11 pm

- Peter


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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby nathan » Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:24 pm

But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:36 pm

- Peter


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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:57 pm

- Peter


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Kare
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby Kare » Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:30 pm

Mettāya,
Kåre

nathan
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby nathan » Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:20 pm

It's clear to me that when studying the dhamma the mind that sees it as well becomes less restless. Being more intellectual usually stirs up the restlessness. It is best to keep meditation free of conceptualizing to develop that same freedom from restlessness to simply look. Then study can be matched to what that clear awareness of the body mind and senses is when it is free from all of the diversity. Later on meditation can adopt kinds of sophistication and complexity. Until the mindful attention is somewhat steady and wieldly it's difficult to compare dhamma study to what one can expect to find in the body and mind under the conditions.

I'm trying to offer an attitude of simplicity that can be effective for someone who is starting to meditate. A way out of the diversity of questions in the absence of experience. The posting appears to indicate that simplifying the effort so that they can begin to look and see better could be beneficial. That's all I'm trying to suggest. Build a foundation for practice. Nothing fancy. Walk before running. It's impossible to overdo that kind of effort, it satisfies all four ways of working with the path and still remains a simple technique. It's not really any different than the approach Ajahn Brahm is taking. A slightly different strategy.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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mikenz66
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:46 pm


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kc2dpt
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:28 pm

I think it's natural at the beginning to have lots of questions. I think the difficult part is coming to grips with the fact that having these questions answered right away is not necessary. In many cases it's not even helpful.
- Peter


rowyourboat
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:16 am

Hi Peter,

I'm sorry if my post offended you or anyone else here. I was just stating my observation- as I have a tendency to fall into this trap myself and have to hold back and be patient and let people develop at their own pace. This observation is also partly based on a conversation I had with Ajhan Brahm when I was giving him a lift in the middle of the night in London. He agreed that it can be difficult for a beginner to do the silence of the mind bit etc right at the start. Maybe he has altered his teaching or wanted to present it in a certain for the purposes of the book, or was too tired that day to discuss it further- I don't know. Incidentally we also discussed absorbing into specific jhana factors that day. But I am all for diversity of teachers as we can all learn from the output of different minds who are at a stage that they can lead us on a bit further. At the end of the day, in the absence of a buddha, it is a group effort.

with metta :smile:
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha


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