This page is a Thought-in-Process.
I began this website as much to organise my own experiences of meditation as to make a website that others might read.
The scope of meditation here is ‘secular’ evidence-based plus Buddhist. These two overlap because the meditation that has been studied came from the meeting of westerners and Buddhists.
I think this overlap is also a legacy of The Buddha’s very organised and almost scientific approach to understanding the way we add suffering to experience. He focused on where he felt he’d understood something robust. He deliberately avoided speculations about religion or metaphysics in his teaching.
“I teach one thing and one thing only – suffering and the end of suffering” – The Buddha
My own practice started with the book The Mindful Way Through Depression, by Mark Williams and others. Then I attended some meditation groups in the Plum Village and Western Insight traditions. The latter is influenced by different traditions and therefore different interpretations of practice and the dharma. So my own practice and reading covers different levels of meditation which I try to fuse into something coherent.
Wanting to speak to the aspects of meditation that I encounter, it’s hard to pick one. I’m thinking of how I can make one website speak to it all. I could just focus on beginning meditation, but the buddha-dharma has so much unexpected power and beauty that I just can’t leave it aside.
I’m currently splitting the types of meditation practitioners into Beginners, Movers & Shakers.
Establishing. Noticing there’s a difference between practicing and not practising – the mind feels different.
Mindfulness as a static hub, with satellite qualities (such as ‘kindness’) that are often conflated with mindfulness. Practitioners of secular mindfulness and the plum village tradition.
Focused around problem solving, or living a better life, in a real world – although some cracks appear, such as “I am not my thoughts” from the mindfulness of breath meditations or “I am not my emotions” from the body scan.
Developed qualities are named in English, to better get started with what’s familiar.
Beginners to Movers
“First get some peace, then take up your theme.” (something that Rob Burbea said that The Buddha said, in one of Rob’s dharma talks).
The established practice from the beginner phase offers a sense of something you can pivot around. You can perceive the quality of mindfulness as a strength in the mind. So maybe it’s essential that the meditator has gained some awareness of their mind when being mindful, and not just aware of the breath etc. This is why I recommend the 8 week MBCT/MBSR courses – they are the most reliable at getting the student to a certain point in practice, from where they can explore on their own.
Movers. The static establishment changes to be a collection of vectors. Meditators are on the move.
Practicing with purpose. Direction. It’s not just about being, there is something to be done. “Done is what had to be done” – a phrase that used to be uttered by those that believed they had become enlightened.
A path – will be more effective than localised cures. (“Cultivate the qualities that meditation offers, and let them do the healing.”)
Movement. Practices as vectors rather than fixed points. Cultivated qualities of mind starting to overlap and intertwine. Mindfulness changes role from being the centre of a hub of meditations to more like a carrier wave for these practices and qualities. It has direction – we’re going this way, not that way.
There are many, different possibilities for practice and this creates a network of practices and qualities which need to be taken up and made sense of.
Switching from English to Pali for certain key practices. At this level, it’s time to leave what’s familiar and be more precise. This lets us develop the qualities so that they work together and get us moving in a particular direction.
Movers to Shakers
After moving along the path for some time, it becomes clear that things are not as they seem(ed).
Jack Kornfield’s quote in the introduction to Seeing That Frees that there is no ground to stand on.
I like to say that ‘things are real, but not the way we thought they were’.