A qualified mediation session has five stages namely:
- Subsequent practice
Preparing our mind with positive energy… Please see previous lesson.
Contemplation (analytical meditation)
The purpose of contemplation is to bring to mind the object of placement meditation. This is a mental exercise where we think through arguments, reasons, or mentally try to find what we are planned to meditate on. This can simply be the act of finding and identifying a sound that you will ultimately place your mind on. This can take a split second or a few minutes.
When meditating on the sensation of the breath, the contemplation will be the process of recognising or finding the specific sensation of the breath touching the nose. This may take you a few seconds or it may even be almost instantaneous. Some meditations may take longer to contemplate and find the object but the more we do them the quicker we will find the object and be able to meditate on it.
The contemplations given in our examples are intended only as guidelines. We should supplement and enrich them with whatever reasons and examples we find helpful.
When through our contemplations the object appears clearly, we leave our contemplative meditation stage and concentrate on the object single-pointedly. This single-pointed concentration is the third part, the actual meditation. Placement meditation.
When we first start to meditate, our concentration is poor; we are easily distracted and often lose our object of meditation. Therefore, to begin with we shall probably need to alternate between contemplation and placement meditation many times in each session.
For example, if we are meditating on the breath we begin by searching and mentally seeking that feeling. When we identify the sensation we meditate on it single-pointedly and stop seeking but merely place our focus onto that sensation.
If the awareness of that sensation fades away, or if our mind wanders to another object, we should return to contemplation meditation to bring the sensation back to mind. When the sensation of the breath has been restored or the object has been found we once again leave the contemplation or seeking and place our minds on the object.
Both contemplation and placement serve to acquaint our mind with virtuous or neutral objects. The more familiar we become with these objects the closer we become to the objects the more peaceful our minds become. If we are meditating on love or compassion our minds will become closer and closer to what love or compassion is and experience it more and more directly.
By training in meditation, acting with moral discipline and transforming our intentions into those that incorporate all living beings, eventually we shall be able to maintain a peaceful mind, full of love and wisdom throughout our lives.
Dedication directs the positive energy produced by our meditation towards an end goal.
We should create a short dedication for ourselves to seal the meditation session every time we complete it. For example. I dedicate this practice to awakening my full potential. Simply saying that every time you achieve something positive seals your energy and focuses it towards a greater good.
It is important to remember that meditation practice is not confined to the actual meditation session, it should permeate our whole life. What we do in meditation should be carried with us and practiced in our day. If we can only meditate for 15 minutes a day, what use will that be if we do not remember (mindfulness) it throughout the day and watch (alertness) our actions carefully to ensure they are in line with our moral code.
We should not allow a gap to develop between our meditation and our daily life. It’s ultimately all one practice.
We can keep a watch over our mind at all times by applying mindfulness, alertness, and conscientiousness while transforming all our negative actions of body speech or mind during the day. This is a meditation in itself. Its a training in the mind to become closer and closer to virtue.
Deep experience of meditation is the result of practical training over a long period of time, both in and out of meditation, therefore we should practice steadily and gently, without being in a hurry to see results.
To summarize, our mind is like a field. Engaging in the preparatory practices is like preparing the field by removing obstacles caused by past negative actions, making it fertile with merit and watering it with a daily practice. Contemplation and meditation are like sowing good seeds, and dedication and subsequent practice are the methods for ripening our harvest of realizations.