Our Top Ten Tunes

purple flower

Remember that annoying tune you couldn’t get out of your head? It might have been some inane advertising jingle, or a pop hit from the 80s you thought you’d outgrown long ago. Even if the tune was a little loftier, there are only so many times we want to hear the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s 9th before we get tired of it!

Sometimes our thoughts can be just like those tunes – they get caught on some repetitive loop which can range from being slightly irritating to becoming so obsessive they seriously interfere with our lives. Continue reading “Our Top Ten Tunes” »

Dignity

Kangaroo paw

Do you know a person who embodies both dignity and humility? It could be someone you’ve met, or a well-known public figure, or even a historical or fictional person. They carry themselves well, don’t often look harried or put upon, but are also warm and approachable. If you can’t think of a particular person, perhaps imagine someone. Get a sense of what spending time in their company might be like. Is it relaxing being around them? Do you feel like you can let your guard down a little, and perhaps feel more at ease about who you are?

The meditation posture, where we sit with our back upright but relaxed, our eyes closed or half-open with a soft gaze, and our shoulders at ease but not slumped forward, is a posture of centeredness, strength, and dignity. Continue reading “Dignity” »

The two wings of a bird

Birds in tree.jpg2

‘My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.’

HH the Dalai Lama

Meditation is sometimes described as the two wings of a bird – one wing is insight, and the other compassion. Another way of describing insight is to think of it as greater clarity, having more awareness of what is going on in our lives rather than living in avoidance or fantasy. This is developed by staying with body sensations, thoughts and feelings during meditation, having an attitude of openness and acceptance to our experience, and thereby gaining deeper insights into our inner life and though patterns. Compassion is then about approaching ‘life as it is’ with kindness rather than judgemental harshness.

In our meditation practice, we often tend to lean towards one or the other – insight or compassion. Some of us might be rigorous in our meditation and sit very still and solidly, but we could be impatient with those who are restless and fidgety. Other people give up easily at the first signs of struggle, not wanting to put themselves through the discipline required. Yet both wings are equally important for the bird to fly. Continue reading “The two wings of a bird” »

A good meditation

Path

‘A good meditation is one you have done.’

Shinzen Young

Even though meditation is now practised in all kinds of settings, from schools to hospitals to large corporations, it’s still often surrounded by a sense of the arcane. Someone who meditates might be seen as very ‘Zen’, engaged in some mysterious pursuit which evokes images of distant mountain caves; hermit monks who speak in strange riddles; spirits floating by on clouds, reaching nirvana and bliss.  Because of these esoteric associations, it’s not easy to settle into meditation without some expectation that the next half hour should be calm, special, infused with joy. We would like to reach a state beyond the hum-drum ordinariness of our daily existence, perhaps become enlightened, or at the very least break through into some profound insight. If all goes according to plan, we will rise from our meditation cushions transformed, our every action from here on will be composed and mindful, and all our annoying neurosis will have once and for all been laid to rest. Continue reading “A good meditation” »