Each meditation sit is an important event. Namgyal Rinpoche instructed his students to treat each sit as thus, by preparing yourself property before a sit.
And meditation should be considered an important event, because it requires a lot of effort. You would not put so much effort into something that is not important.
A part of what can be challenging about meditation is false expectations. Tarchin Hearn said:
We expect payback when we’re meditating. We’re waiting for results. Instead we should dedicate ourselves to giving all of our attentiveness.
Before you Meditate
Please note that the instruction below are brief summaries. For more information click any associated links, or read the book “Introduction to Meditation” by Namgyal Rinpoche
Consider what meditation is. It is good before you even consider meditating to understand what it is. Tarchin also said that the skill learned in meditation is “subtle”. We are just learning to be with everything that comes up. We are a flow of reality like waves in an ocean.
Sit frequently. Next, especially when you are just beginning, get acclimatized to meditation by sitting for short periods of times and frequently. For example, 10 minutes 6 times a week. It is a good idea to take one day off a week to keep the practice fresh.
Sit for set times. Namgyal Rinpoche also recommended that if you are to sit 10 minutes, that you determine to sit exactly 10 minutes, no less and no more. Do not let your preferences in the moment decide how long you sit, because that it not what meditation is for.
Set up your space. You can honour your meditation time by making sure that your meditation space is clean, comfortable, and calming. If possible, choose a quite space separate from other activities that is just for meditation. Have a shrine with fresh flowers, water, incense, candle, etc. Air out the space whenever possible.
Do some body work. Wake up your body for meditation by stretching and doing a few minutes of exercise before hand. Namgyal Rinpoche recommended shaking the limbs, imagining all the stiffness leaving the ends of your fingertips as you shake them. Take some deep breaths to clear any stale air. Scrunch up your face into different expression, stretching your jaw to wake up the face. Once you are sitting, you can also set yourself up for success by having a straight and relaxed posture.
Set an aspiration. Once you are on your cushion and before you sit, consider what you will explore, what your intention is for that sit. Namgyal Rinpoche said maybe this will be an issue you are tackling. A part of setting your aspiration can also be to read wholesome prayers such as is done in a puja.
After you Meditate
Review your sit. Your meditation bell/timer has gone off, and now you will do a short review of your sit. For a 50 minute sit review at the end another 5 min. For a 10 minute sit, maybe review just a minute or two. What are are reviewing is called the Foundations of Mindfulness. Ask yourself:
- What happened physically in my body during the sit. What did my body experience?
- What were my feelings during the sit? Determining whether they were pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral is all that is necessary. Avoid saying “bad” or “good”.
- What thoughts did you have during the sit? Did any images comes to mind, or familiar stories?
- What was your mental state during the sit? This is not about emotions, but the “texture” or “quality” of your mind during the sit. Was it dull, bright, vast, heavy, etc?
Ever session brings its breakthroughs, maybe not a major one, but something will happen. Look for these in your review, acknowledge even the little events. […] Collect all the material, register all the new data and you will start to see connections and links which get stronger as your review work improves […] Small details have a habit of building up to major crisis if left unattended, and you must catch these in the net of your review work. – Namgyal Rinpoche in “Body Speech and Mind”
Share the merit. Put your hands to your heart, together in prayer, clasped, or pressed to your chest, and say a prayer to dedicate the merit. Consider using this one, which is the closing prayer used at Clear Sky Meditation and Study Center:
May these wholesome and powerful activities eliminate negativity and ignorance and bring happiness and illumination for the uplifting of the world.