Before training how long do you usually meditate? What techniques can I personally try out? Thanks.
When I started meditating, I learned an awareness exercise. Many people try to meditate by forcing their mind blank, but the mind is the wrong tool for meditation. Awareness is the meditative faculty that needs to be strengthened like a muscle. Once you understand your awareness faculty, you can use it and move it around at will.
Start in a relaxed position and become aware of a particular body part, say the left knee. Don’t picture it in your mind, just become aware of it. Now, increase that awareness. After a short time, move this awareness to a different body part, say the back of your head. Become aware of it. This is not thinking about it or picturing it. Just be aware. Feel the energy within and around it. Increase this awareness. After a short time, become aware of your heart in the same manner. Increase the awareness. Let it expand outward, outside of the body to slowly encompass everything. The room, the neighborhood, the world, the universe, beyond.
The point of this is to learn your awareness faculty and strengthen it. It teaches you how to pick it up and move it around. Soon, you will be able to pick it up and put it down at will. When you are aware, you are in the now. Your mind is not telling stories of the past or future which don’t exist in the now. You are present.
I once read that you can meditate 20 times a day for just a minute and get more meditative time than trying to meditate for an hour while your head is chattering for 59 of those minutes. This is what I do most. Once you can enter into awareness of now at will, you can drop into meditation very quickly. When the head starts talking, it’s time to move on. I occasionally meditate for more time, but not usually more than 15 minutes. If my head starts thinking, I observe the thought, then become aware of my breathing to bring myself back into awareness of now.
Sometimes, I meditate merely to be present. Sometimes, I do what is called contemplative meditation. This is when I want clarity of an event or situation in my life, or an action, if any, to take. I take the issue into meditation without any stories about what is happening or what I should do. Sometimes while in meditation, a solution comes to me, sometimes not. Sometimes there is nothing that need be done at that time. Many things work themselves out without our action.
The whole point is to be present, in the now. That’s all that really exists. The past is merely a collection of memories of events and my stories about those events. The future is just a collection of memories of the past that I project about the future. It’s all just a bunch of electrons firing off in my head, in the now. Because now is all there is.
When in class or when a situation arises on the street, it is very important to be present, in the now, uncluttered by mind chatter. This is full focus.