I looked through the recommended reading and I didn't see one specifically for practicing meditation. Also, what book/English translation does he recommend for the teachings of the Buddha?
I’m not familiar with any good books(although i’m sure there are some) but the best way to learn is to get a good teacher. That way you can ask questions.
Try here for a list of places near you.
Vipassana is what the Buddha taught, the Theravādin are the probably the only Buddhist sect that practice this style exclusively but there are many non-Buddhist meditation groups that teach it as well.
Just try relaxing all parts of your mind at the same time, let it all turn off. At the same time, try to keep a sense of awareness, if for no other reason than to stay awake:)
... Just stop thinking.
I think those are very good suggestions, Armhouse. I’ve been doing something along these lines for many years. I don’t even know anymore if it’s beneficial, it’s so much a part of how I live.
My experience has been that the attitude ‘just stop thinking’ can lead to a lot of conflict, which churns up more and more thought. Everyone is different, but that was something I had to learn to deal with, and I didn’t learn on my own.
Now, on this trick of very relaxed, quiet awareness, there are various techniques. One is to turn the attention to sounds in the background.
Let’s say I’m sitting there in my comfortable chair with no distractions, and my attention gets caught up in some thought/story. I suddenly notice that’s what has happened, and then I can deliberately turn my attention to listening. There is the sound of a truck on the street, a leaf blower down the block, a blue jay, a dog barking. The attention can rest lightly on all that - lightly, not like grasping and fixation.
With a light touch the attention can flit here and there, thoughts come and go quickly, sensations come into attention and then fade - it all becomes very fluid. After awhile I came to prefer that fluidity, that varied awareness, in every aspect of my life…as opposed to being preoccupied with thoughts.
I’m reading a rather difficult book right now, about life before the ‘Cambrian explosion’ and instead of trying to concentrate, I can look up from the book and the ideas, rest my attention briefly in silence, then dip down into the paleontology of bacteria again. This way I’m continually refreshed.
Lucky me, I don’t have to take an exam on the biochemistry of fossils, but I think it could be a pretty good way to prepare for an exam: Touch and let go, touch and let go.
As an atheist ethically informed and inspired by the teachings of the Buddha and the Zen tradition, I would recommend ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ by Shunryu Suzuki. I appreciate its spartan take on zazen as well as its being broken into easily digestable bits.
“The Art of Mindful Living” by Thich Nhat Hanh
This is one of the best books I’ve read that provides very clear Zen meditation instructions:
Opening the Hand of Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (Paperback)
by Kosho Uchiyama
The first third of the book details the process of sitting, and explains what to do when your mind becomes lost in thought during meditation. It’s an inexpensive book, and available through Amazon.
There are various ways to meditate, and it is in a sense really no true way. It obviously helps though to learn from a technique already established but in a sense.
There are generally two main methods used, either one attempts to completely “unfocus” ones mind, or one will attempt do focus immensely deep on one thing.
The latter is a lot easier than the former if you have never practiced meditation before. Breathing focus is a great way to start. What you do is first you find a good calm place, it does not necessarily have to be completely empty from ambient sounds but you should avoid places where there are sudden disturbances.
Also finding a good position to sit is important because discomfort will also draw your attention. Make sure to keep a good posture, straight back, push your hip forward and place your hands in a good position in front of you, important thing about posture is to be able to breathe freely.
Now close your eyes and start breathing deeply, inhale trough your nose, and exhale trough your mouth. Breathe slowly, inhale, then try to hold the breath for a while before you exhale. The goal is to simply focus as deeply as you possibly can on this breathing pattern, as you practice you will get good enough at focusing on your breathing that you block out stray thoughts.
A helpful aid is to visualize the breathing pattern. Breathing along a box is a very good method, which sounds a bit abstract so I will explain it
Basically visualize a rectangle, two long sides, two sides that are about half as short as the long ones. When you breathe in, imagine breathing in along one of the long sides, as you slowly breathe in visualize your breath traveling along the side until you can’t inhale anymore and your breath is at the corner. Now visualize holding your breath along the short side, continue seeing your breath traveling along the short side of the rectangle as you are holding the air in. When you reach the other long side, start exhaling all along that side, to then hold again at the other short side before beginning again. Basically your breathing is traveling around the rectangle over and over again.
This is really helpful especially if you are new to meditating because it will help you center your mind.
How long you do this is really up to you. Try to aim for 15 minutes the first times and then extend it.
Now this is just one method of meditation but I’m explaining it since its a very useful one if you are new.
I have yet to find any spiritual meaning in my meditation, but feel it is beneficial nevertheless. It is highly rejuvenating.
I think it depends on the description of the word in a sense actually. To me,
It is highly rejuvenating.
This is actually a form of spiritual experience, or rather a faith detached spiritual experience. Of course its a sliding scale of experience but in my opinion the rejuvenation of meditating is definitely something that can be counted as a spiritual experience.
Of course the word is misleading due to it being hijacked by religion but in this situation I am not one of those who think we need to invent a new word, I think we should take the word back!