Showing posts from May, 2016

Zazen - just sit

When I started formal meditation practices (to see what was going on with various things I'd experienced over the years), I started with zen and zazen meditation. It was a good place to start because there are essentially no instructions other than "just sit". This prevents the mind from looking for things and focuses your attention on the present moment experience. So here's how to do it:

1. Take an upright sitting posture - assume the sitting position, relaxing but upright. This is very important as the body becomes the meditation practice.

2. Just sit. Pay attention to the rising and falling of the belly.

3. Keep sitting. The mind will wander off - bring it back to the rising and falling of the belly.

4. Allow the mind to calm itself through the body breathing.

5. Sit for as long as you can.

And that's it.

Stage 1 - breathing and body

Here's a simple introduction to meditation. This follows the initial stages of the anapanasati breathing meditation technique - the stages of anapanasati meditation can take you into very deep territory and we'll be following them on this short course. Let's begin:

1. Find somewhere quiet to sit. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing.

2. Notice breathing in.

3. Notice breathing out.

4. Place your awareness on breathing in and out. You might like to put your awareness on the belly or the area under the nose.

5. Now, resolve to follow one breath in and out.

6. Next, resolve to follow 10.

7. Keep doing this for around 15 minutes. The mind will wander off. This is normal. Bring it back gently to the breathing and start counting again.

8. After a while, imagine the breath going into the body. Imagine it filling the whole body as you breathe in, and then imagine the whole body relaxing as you breathe out.

9. Continue with this practice until your awareness fills th…

Mind shifting music


Stage 2 - pleasure and thoughts

This is the next sequence in a set of meditation instructions based around the anapanasati stages of breathing meditation. You can't really go wrong with this sequence. So then, let's assume you've completed stage 1 and we'll take it from there.

1. Establish a unified body and mind. This means that you are relaxed and that each breath is felt simultaneously by the body and the mind - there is nothing else going on.

2. Spend a few minutes breathing in and out of your relaxed, open awareness.

3. Relax a bit further and pleasure will start to arise out of the body. There may be rushes of energy, shaking, intense pleasure. You can cultivate this by feeling the pleasant energy of the in breath, and the relaxing sensations of the out breath.

4. It feels very nice, but it is quite energetic. Stick with it for a bit.

5. The pleasure will subside and a more gentle sweet, blissful state will present itself to you. Relax into it. Soak in it.

6. Now, as you breathe in and out you …

Stage 3 - heartmind and equanimity

This is the third stage in the meditation series on the stages of anapanasati breathing meditation - if you want to go deeper into meditation then this is how to do it. I'm assuming you know that it's best to sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Before we begin, it's perhaps wise to attempt to define the word mind in these instructions. Mind refers to the wider aspect of your mind that encompasses your heart and body, and not your mental processes.

1. Establish a unified body and mind as best you can (use the other stages to get here). There can be thoughts but you'll not be attached to them.

2. Soak in a unified state for about 15 minutes.

3. As you breathe in and out, notice the mind (the heart mind). Know that you recognise the mind as a greater part of yourself and that it is distinct from your thoughts.

4. As you breathe in and out, gladden the mind (the heart). Allow a faint smile to cross your lips and feel compassion towards yourself and every…

Stage 4 - wisdom and freedom

This is the final set of instructions for these meditation lessons based around the anapanasati stages of breathing meditation. These instructions are pointing to some profound ideas so you'll need to bear that in mind - it may take years to fully appreciate them. If it all sounds like gobbledygook, then go back to a previous lesson or try something else for a bit.

1. Establish some form of samadhi or very calm state of mind. Ideally, you want the body and mind unified and everything stable (not wandering off).

2. Spend 15 minutes kind of blossoming in this state.

3. Notice impermanence. You might use the sensations of breathing in your mind to become aware of this, or you might use sounds. Your brain activity is never still, you are constantly in a state of change. This happens at a deeply molecular level. Things are constantly coming and going. Everything is in flux. Rest in the middle of this flux. Know it as known experience of yourself.

4. Next. Feelings of pleasant and unpl…

Turning towards happiness

I attend a small meditation group and we have been reading a certain book that shall remain unnamed that, by and large, focuses on suffering and difficulty. I'm going to fast forward over my opinions but, for me personally, it gets a bit grim looking at the harder aspects of life all the time. Suffering is there, life is brutal, and it's good to know that there's no magic unicorn land waiting for us even if we can just do the right thing in the right way at the right time. Let's forget all that, let's file it under 'hard truths' and move on. (There is a way of working through suffering but we'll leave that for now).

So then, over to the other side. Happiness.

Happiness also exists. It comes and goes (you might have noticed), but it is definitely there. We get happy if we go for a massage and have a nice meal. We get happy if we think happy thoughts. AND, we get happy for no real reason other than we are simply wonderful. Let's have some of that.


Butternut squash soup

I'm getting into vegan food these days after feeling better on a dairy free diet. Here's a very simple pumpkin soup. I like to serve it with drops of Tabasco on top - this gives you a nice little zing at the beginning.

Ingredients - serves quite a lot of people
2x medium sized butternut squash, peeled and chopped up
2x onions, chopped up
2x celery sticks, chopped up
a good pinch of cumin
a good pinch of ground coriander
a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper
black pepper
about 1.5 litres of stock
extra virgin olive oil

1. Gently soften the onions and celery in olive oil.
2. Add the spices and the butternut squash and fry for a couple more minutes.
3. Add the stock - enough to just cover the squash. (It's up to you really depending on how thick you like it)
4. Simmer gently until the butternut squash is soft.
5. Use a hand blender to get everything blended.
6. Season to taste.

This is a very tasty soup.

Can I download myself into a computer?


There are people actively looking into this as a viable technique for preserving themselves and all their wonderful memories and experiences. The theory is that a human being is a set of information and, if you have a computer big enough, then you'll be able to take a copy of that information and - hey presto - you'll be in a computer. I already covered some of this in my rather depressing post "thought experiment regarding transferring myself into a computer" but let's not get bogged down in NoSelf. Let's focus on something different.

So, we are a brain with neurons. Let's imagine we take a copy of that brain and all the neural connections - surely that's us. Well, it was briefly. The brain is super plastic and changes all the time - that's why we are so brilliant at doing stuff. The brain never stops changing. Perhaps we might be satisfied with the snapshot of our brain but then, even if we did manage to do it, it would be just some kind of …