Tag Archives: Meditation

Balance of Justice

As with every other thing that has come up recently in need of evaluation, meditation, consideration, action, or writing I find everything I read this week is tending toward justice, balance, and how relationships fare within. The recuring theme has been one of the need and requirement for balance for there to be justice and the imposition of justice. News has stories on the topic. Public demonstrations demand justice and a more balanced approach to issues. One book talks about a created entity enforcing justice but failing to head the balance and the destruction it causes. Another focuses on a god that renders justice when no other justice is availible or done and that requires a balance in his judgments. Another talked briefly about the historical divine female justice. As I meditate and try to settle my mind and emotions to know what to speak and how to act in the strugles in my own life I find myself wanting justice. Balance has always been a prime goal in my life but I fear I have of late lost that balance and cannot clearly see what balance would be justice.
What is justice in a relationship? It justice what we want in a relationship? Without it accountability is questioned and trust is eroded when there is need for it. Balance becomes a critical part of the equation when you are talking personal level issues. But no portion of our life is lived in a vacume and each impacts not only each other but our emotions, thoughts, and ability to deal with the others. Stress with friends and stress at work make home life more difficult. Add in that home life may be seperate from the relationship issues and there is another layer of question. Can you evaluate the balance of justice when you are in the middle of the maelstrom?

I speak of living alone, far from any frineds and from my husband but in truth I rent a room sharing an apartment with four other women. I am never really alone. My space is a room that shares walls with my neighbors. My work is a desk open to all and with a camera on me at all times. My volunteer hours are spent across the window from the supervisor. I travel the city on a crowded bus. I meditate in a group. I write in a group. I swim on beached full of locals and tourists. I game in a group. I share my kitchen and every space I live in with strangers. The distance often feels greater because so many strangers are always so close to hand. No one close to me is close to me. If I returned today to Texas this would not improve however. I would have space but I would have no more close companions. Family is a distant thing without my mother and marriage is a strange uncertainty hovering above an ocean we have yet to cross.
When you give up everything in your life to move to a new and uncertain life you act on a choice to accept uncertainty and lonliness for at least a time. When you do so in a relationship but find yourself alone anyway it is a difference of gradiation. How many times do you let someone hurt you before you step away? Do you let them prove they can change if they make it clear they are opposed to people changing and don’t believe people can change? How do balance and justice affect the situation? When fear has stalked you for years it becomes the overriding sense of the world. Every action is tinged with the fear that it will be the one to cost you something critical from job or home to friend or husband. Sometimes you fight to protect those things even though they are already lost because you can’t accept the loss of another thing.

But by the same token has the fear colored your judgment of things so you cannot make a balanced judgment? Stess wears you down and damages your health. After a while you are tired, sore, sick, and afraid all the time and reaching out of it alone becomes a Herculean effort that becomes almost sisepheyan. Doing so alone, without even friends is something I would not wish on anyone. I am not the type to wish ill on others anyway as that is against my sense of balance and peace. I have for some years now striven to live in the balanced and clear understanding of Buddhism. Though I did not entirely give up my Child of the Trickster place it took some time to understand that the same balance is required for both. It is not contraditory to be a pacifist that will fight to protect what is right in the same way as it is not contraditory to stand with the chaotic trickster and be a voice of peace and balance from them. The trickster has always served the good of humanity and balance over the rules and other gods. Knowing yourself and touching the divine spirit it part of the path. But what of justice and depression?
The idea of depression on either path has always been a problem for me. For a long time it made me more depressed because I was sure it was wrong to be depressed and be on this path. But at some point in my meditations I realized that it just is. It isn’t right or wrong or something to do with me but it is just depression. Depression can be a physical thing that needs addressing. Which I have, admittidly not had checked. It can also be a response to stimuli and this will abate when the stimuli does. In truth both external and internal, they are both stimuli and can be addressed not as a personal flaw and internal identification but rather as a state that must be acknowledged and seen for what it actually is not for the excess impacts it causes.
So too, justice is not my choice and action. I have no control of those things. I can act with equinamity and balance and maintain justice in myself but I cannot control others and their impacts on the world. I can see their impact on me and what is my response but I cannot change their action. I can choose to exclude them from my sphere of influence and I can withdraw my trust from them but I cannot make them act as if my path is theirs. But can we have a relationship with those of a drastically different path? In some cases yes. and in others less so.

remembering that enlightenment is a moment to moment thing and not a permenant state of being helps. I am not striving to be in the perfect state, I am balancing myself in this moment. I am aware of now and of life and am striving to reach the state of peace and calm acceptance I remember from what feels like a great distance. It is the point I have for reference at this time. It seems like so long ago I moved off my path and lost that balance but that I still know the feeling tells me it is not out of reach. But also it tells me that depression is a moment to moment thing as well. I do not need to be confused by the drastically different feelings or thoughts that come across me because all things are moment to moment. We do not live in tomorow or yesterday, in this evening or morning but we live in now. If I can accept that at this moment tears threaten to spill and accept in another moment that rage consumes me then I can accept those moments I am at peace just the same. Why does it seem harder to accept the reality of those moments and allow them to be without analysis and disruption? Is there something in all of us that rejects that or is it the fear and depression? I think it is a lot of things wrapped into our ego trying to maintain control however destructive the path it pushes us onto.
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Connection

It seems every time I write lately what I write about comes up in what I read the next day and what I read about comes up in the talks at meditation. Not the topic and action that I start on, the deeper parts.
Today I wrote about a moment that changed everything. The story meandered through the past and the memories of my husband and moments of impact.

It ended with a thought about his calm acceptance of what everyone sees as my sudden decisions. I was trying at one point to explain how they aren’t really sudden even if they are. After leaving the Lanai to catch the bus home I went back to reading.

The chapter I read was The Third Thing. It talks about this very topic. That when you are torn between two things you need a third thing. Two things is not a choice. But a third will come and balance things out, offering the way forward. It appears sudden but it is the culmination of the process that the two things created.

my first meditation session with this group they talked about dealing with intense emotions and sadness. I cried on the way there and going to sleep for several nights before.
The next time we talked about what is and the whole talk meshed into what I read the days before. I had been reading Writing Down the Bones. The idea of using writing meditation as a path to not following the thoughts and emotions when sitting meshed interestingly into the talk about sitting.
The last thing I read before one session was that a well that dashes about cannot draw water. We cannot do happiness, it flows through us in our stillness. I was a few minutes late and sat in stillness with the group. She talked about ending suffering and sharing love. We talked about enlightenment being a moment to moment thing not a permanent state. The balance of mind, and the four keys. She talked about the calm acceptance of what comes that you feel in enlightenment.
Saturday we sat on the ridge through the day. I was at a crossroads in my mind and emotional state. I had one of those two choices that need a third way. I didn’t realize that is what I needed. But in stillness I found a moment of peace and acceptance of what is. it didn’t change the situation but it let me see what is and reach a new possibility.

I went to the meditation Sunday lonely and sad but more at peace. Leaving , when she hurried over, obviously she had somewhere to be she was putting off, to give me a flower it struck a light in me. I’m not alone even if I have no close connection here. We are all one and connected. It is enough.

I don’t know what now but I do know I will be here for it.

Just writing

Chill air from the AC feels like it is cooling my bones in my bare arms. The odd wavering drone of the long flat ceiling mounted unit above my head can be felt in my head where the pressure from the back of my neck is trying to produce a migraine. The first thing I do on arrival is reach
up and lift the vent to direct more of the air away from my desk. I didn’t move to Hawaii to be cold. Pulling on my hoodie the soft fuzzy interior brushes my arms lightly with a silky softness that doesn’t really match the heavy grey exterior. Staying on track when writing has been a challenge so I have started using the Shut Up and Write group as a place to do writing exercises and practice just writing or specific skills in writing. Some of them I post here, some of them I don’t. My primary goal write now is to write, and when that isn’t happening, to draw. I practice tones, descriptions, PoV, and styles. I practice topics, timing, speed, focus, freeform, and themes.
I get the exercises from writing magazines, talking to writers, reading books about writing or comments from writers, a few came from online. Some are hugely helpful, some just keep me writing. I am once again
building a collection of scenes and moments, thoughts and characters, lines and stories that are swirling in the back of my head trying to become a coherent story. Like Sir Pratchett talked about it is still like standing on a mountain looking across a valley and seeing only the highest peaks as you slowly lower the clouds and reveal more and more spots until the whole valley is cleared and coherent. I have a sense of it but it isn’t clear to my coherent mind yet.
The light in this room is adequate but dimmer than it seems. When you enter from good light you see the off tinted dingy feeling light that lends the old white walls a greater age than they have. Highlights in grey and tan increase this rather than combat the sense of tired efficiency. A quiet competence fills the space but radios and videos play here and there, competing for attention from a group that each has different interest and taste. A mix of rushed immediacy, detail specific, and relaxed tolerance pervades the workspace with a tension born of loose structure blending with OCD details. A need for a constant inflow of cash means an urgency touches everything and errors are a risk so the tolerance may be natural but it is pressed back out of necessity.
Doing more, being more places, being around more people, seeing more things – all of this feeds my writing. When I hide in a hole and see no one I can’t write. Writing for me is visceral in a way that requires experience and sensation. The feel of the sun as I walked down the hill from my car to the office at the garden was a pure experience that inspired a myriad of sensations and thoughts, memories and questions. Watching the people swarm at the intersections in Waikiki with their chattering noise and bright colors like
plumage of birds on display inspires amusement, observation, stories, loneliness, comfort, anxiety, and memories. The birds diving out of the tree for bugs in quick short swoops reminds me of the kittens learning to hunt and the bees moving between flowers. Each thing is a host of trains and streams of consciousness that arise from the scent, the sound, the colors, the pattern, the words, and
the moment.

Why do I Write ?

Today, another writing exercise. This is a sort of stream of consciousness based on what is around me and a question. It is unedited and random.

Why do I write? That is an interesting question, and one I
am not certain I can fully answer. I write to express myself. I write to get
the words out. I write to remember. I write to describe. I write to share. I
write to heal. I write because writing is part of who I am. I am not writing
but writing is and writing is happening. As Writing the Bones said “writing is
writing.
The sun is out. The ac is on. Heat wraps around you with a
wet blanket. It isn’t hot like I remember as a child. The stifling, heavy heat
that press on you and pushes tendrils into you sapping all your energy is
pervasive in Texas and Louisiana. The damp heavy air makes the heat oppressive
as it nears or passes 100 degrees. Mosquitoes and gnats swarm and bite causing
you to bleed and itch into your dripping sweat. Plants wilt in the sun and
often in the shade. You can’t water during the day or you burn them but you
have to water or many plants will die from the heat and dehydration. This same
dehydration will hit you if you spend to much time out in it when hiking,
working, camping, walking, or playing. People frequently fail to notice just how
dehydrated they are. In some areas the dry air draws the moisture out of you. In
others the heavy, wet humidity causes you to sweat it out.

A pounding echoes through the shop as the crew loads and
unloads materials and preps those that need pre-assembly or dismantling. Hearing
the sound outside the glass door my mind tries to picture what they are doing
and what equipment they are working with. I am uncertain what crew is here
today, although I have seen several of them coming in for equipment or paperwork.
Having taken the time to get a tour of the shop I know what equipment we supply
and assemble here. It helps me to follow the calls and conversations around me
if I know the materials we are working with. Having grown up on construction
sites and reading blueprints all the details make sense but the names are a
blur and a mystery. I don’t remember names. I remember the sounds of metal
alloys as they are worked or hammered. I remember the sounds or the specific
tools. I remember the smell of sawn wood and how the acrid touch of arsenic
touches the treated boards lending a different smell than the white pine or the
rich cedar smell.

Meditation Series – part 5: development of a practice.

Meditation practice is a staged development, that flows and fluctuates with our inner self.
You first focus on awareness, focus, the positioning of the body, and calming the mind. You are developing the receptivity to seeing inside and the peace to sit in calm awareness and quiet.

Next, you will reach the stage of introversion where you can view your self, your emotions, your fears, your doubts, memories, and internal connections. These can be re framed in a different perspective of the same, to change your response. The act of acknowledging these things changes them. Simply having the receptivity to see them as they are and not as you want or fear to see them, changes how they affect you. You practice letting them go in meditation and you will see the root of them.

Next, is the subconscious states that are the true beginning of meditation. This is where you begin to truly touch the subconscious mind, the energy, and the knowledge. This is where you move toward the goals of self-realization, transcendence, enlightenment, and bliss.
You start your practice in non-threatening, quiet, controlled settings to develop the foundation that allows you to delve into other forms of meditation and to take those you do to new levels and methods. You will be distracted, you will think of other things, you will have that annoying itch, you will want something to listen to. The practice of silence (even if it is only one of the forms you use) will help you learn to let them go. Experience them, acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them, fight them, or have emotions about them. That is why you start with a focus, whether it is a physical thing like the flame, a word, a thought like compassion, or an action like breathing.

We have through this series used a lot of terms and names you may not know offhand but you will find as you research that many forms of meditation have multiple names. Partially this is because the same form may come from multiple cultures and thus the names and even translations may vary. Also, we continue to develop new names as branches continue and branch again into new varieties of the same basic form.
Open monitoring for instance is a term I only heard recently because there are so many other names for the same thing. This is the silent observation forms where you are simply present and fully aware and immersed in the moment and what is. Most mindfulness meditations will fall into this type. Another example of this is Shikantaza from Japan. it is, like many in this group, a Zen based meditation.
Focused attention is another one but it is both fairly obvious and little different than the term I have used throughout, focused. Just like it sounds, these forms focus on something. The focus can be words, sounds, breath, an object, a point, or a body. You will also see this referred to as concentrative meditation. Mantra meditations such as transcendental meditation can be very helpful for focusing and clearing the mind. The specific mantras vary by form and culture and the tones tend to have very long histories and purpose. Those in the TM practice came out of the Vedic traditions.

There are some, like Vipessana (or in Tibetan rather than Sanskrit
lhagthong) that use aspects of both forms. Samatha is a form that also does but it is often today a paired form with Vipessana and you develop both together. The very long history of these forms leaves a lot of room for research and discussion about how they combine or don’t. “According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path.”” The early roots are Theravada but it ended in the 10th century and was revived in the 18th. The idea of open observation is to see all without interpretation, expectation, editing, self, or bias. You are seeing physical phenomenah such as breathing without engaging with it. It is not you, it simply is.
Vipassanā jhanas are stages describing the development of samatha. The four vipassanā jhanas are: one – explore the body/mind connection, nonduality; discover three characteristics. See these points in the presence of vitakka and vicara. two – in which the practice feels effortless, Vitaka and vicara disappear. three – piti/joy disappears leaving only happiness (sukha) and concentration. four – purity of mindfulness due to equanimity, leads to direct knowledge. Comfort disappears in seeing the dissolution of all phenomena. All phenomenon is seen as unstable, transient, and disenchanting. The desire of freedom.
Other methods that combine forms often combine an empty or open meditation with another form. Some examples are shambhala, loving-kindness, open awareness, analytic, mindfulness, dzogchen, and stabilizing. Chakra meditations probably fall in this group also.

Several forms use prayer bead such as those found in Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.
Taoist meditations were heavilly influenced by Buddhism and like many of the others we discussed have a very long history. Ding is the concentrative form. It is also called intent concentration or perfect observation. Guan or observe is to obtain unity with the Dao. Cun is is a visualization tequnique to be present and increase longevity. Inward training of the qi through breathing tequnices are another form. The sit and forget form from the 3rd century is an empty form. Internal martial arts or neijia include qigong, neidan, taijiquan. The related meditation forms are quigong, zuochan, nd taijiqan.

Many faiths have forms that combine prayer and meditation such as the Catholic rosary. Judais, Bahai, and Islam each have a combination form that falls in this group.
Chakra meditation could take a post of their own and are something you should look into if you choose to practice meditation regularly. they are often incorporated into meditation practices and used with other types of meditation.

Meditation series part 4: Active meditation

Active Meditation is recommended for those with some experience with passive meditation. However, it can feel easier to those that have trouble with the extended passive meditations sessions. It will be effective on its own but a time of passive meditation should be combined with it for best results.
Quoting one source “Once the ego mind has quieted down after passive meditation, and you then shift into an active form of meditation, this is where you can truly harness the power of meditation for creating inner transformation and charging up with new energy.”

The first example many people will think of is the use of meditative yoga or walking. Other actions and work activities can be meditative: think of raking a zen garden. Any task you can drop into a meditative state while doing is appropriate.
All meditation trains your attention but active meditation can be a great help to those that have trouble with long periods of sitting or quiet. Although it is recommended as a later stage if it is needed to help train your mind, it is the right time.

Active meditations are used to develop a connection between mind and body, drawing your attention to breathing and making use of the adaptive network of the brain. As in passive meditation, active meditation will have distractions. Simply acknowledge them in general terms and let them pass. Do not try to make them go away or identify them, just let them go and focus on your breathing. This practice is one of the stages of developing full awareness and connection to all parts of the body and feeling every part of it.

The 4 types of meditative yoga are pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Research and try different yoga forms and activities when you are learning.

In active meditation, you are using some of the same principles as in a mindfulness meditation. Here it is with intent to engage all your senses in the focus. This is often aided in early stages by having an actual physical focus such as a sound, a flame, a bowl of water, something you can physically interact with and engage the senses to help train yourself. This is one of many reasons active meditation is not step one, but a physical focus can be used in active meditation.

Walking meditations: think of the Christian practices like James Way in Spain. Many people walk to clear their head or relieve stress. Time to walk at lunch can change the work day. At many jobs or schools I have used lunch as a time for some type of meditation to keep stress down. In Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin and is combined with extensive sitting meditation.

I prefer to do walking meditation outside but it can be done in an office or other room. You know meditation mazes, paths, and other things designed to focus you but you usually just walk, pause, breath, and be a part of only walking. Two forms are done. One is a clearing and open form that is less focus than empty. The one we are discussing here is clearing the mind by focusing on walking. Do not go on autopilot, that is why it helps during work. For 10 minutes be actively aware of the steps and breathing and nothing else.

Start by being aware of the major components of walking: the lifting of a foot; then the standing and slow movement of that foot forward; then the foot lands on the floor, feel it; feel the weight shift off that foot and how the foot begins to lift. Different forms focus on breathing, the movement itself, the sounds you cause, or other parts of the walking.
Work meditations include gardening or cleaning. Think of monks and the work they do. Working at a garden I hear many people talk about gardening and although they may or may not intend it that way, they use it as meditation. The practice is very similar to walking.

Art meditations: think of the zen doodles or free-form painting. Other activities include flower arranging (Ikebana), calligraphy (Shodō), and archery (Kyūdō). Really, you have no limitations in art meditation and the details vary. This is definitely one I recommend. Art is a release anyway so it’s a perfect outlet. I do free form sewing sometimes also and you can research this and try activities for years without exhausting the options. Some are open or empty mind to allow the art to express. Others are focused like the walking.
Dancing: think of Dhikr in Sufism, trance meditations, Mevlevi Dervish and Sama. I love dance meditation. Although I have not done it recently, it was my primary form for a long time. When I would dance, I was alone even in a crowd. The only thing that existed was dancing. Fully immersed in dance you find a completely different place of meditation than walking or working. My choice is the free form dance with music that you just do as it feels.

Exercise meditation can be any form of exercise but most the recognizable will be yoga or tai chi. Tai chi is also the first option most think of regarding martial meditation. This is another section that could be a series of books to itself do I recommend research and trying them. Even if you plan to practice alone, taking a class can really help you. You want to learn the forms enough that you are not thinking about them. You want to be able to meditate.
Again with meditative there are many forms that include both open and focused. Empty mind forms often use yoga. Focused forms are often guided or use equipment like weights, blocks, straps, muscle focus, or music. Your form must be right both for safety and to be most effective. Take the time and training to perfect your form and work up gradually from repeating a couple of perfect forms to more. Yoga, for instance is good for you and the learning time is stress relief itself.
As with all meditation, find what works for you and in your path. Research, experience, and think of you in the activities. The important point is a consistent and continuous practice that you do every day. A combination of types can give you a way to do that. In some jobs I did yoga at lunch and sitting forms at night. Other places I walked at lunch or meditated on the beach before work and did a water meditation after. What I need changes, what is available changes, time availability changes. It will grow easier to make time but start by working we within your schedule and altering it as little as possible. You are building a practice and it will develop.

Meditations Series part 3 – Short sessions and tea

Short sessions and mindfulness practices to help build your meditation skills. They are not a full practice in themselves but are a useful and helpful addition to life.
Quoting an article from Science News: “Zeidan likens the brief training the participants received to a kind of mental calisthenics that prepared their minds for cognitive activity.
“The simple process of focusing on the breath in a relaxed manner, in a way that teaches you to regulate your emotions by raising one’s awareness of mental processes as they’re happening is like working out a bicep, but you are doing it to your brain. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to release sensory events that would easily distract, whether it is your own thoughts or an external noise, in an emotion-regulating fashion. This can lead to better, more efficient performance on the intended task.””
There are a lot of brief exercises that can be done anywhere that are tools to help you learn the process and to help you with stress management.
One is Anchoring. Stop, breath, and feel your feet (remove shoes if you can.) Just feel whatever sensations they are feeling, feel them completely and move up through your lower body. This can be done sitting ,standing, walking, or riding.
Another is the many forms of simple breathing exercises that can help you with your breathing during longer meditation sessions. Some of them you count, some you just feel the breath. Most involve slowing the breathing to breath deep and even. One even uses a simple motion to focus you…run a finger slowly along the sides of the fingers on your other hand. Starting with the thumb, you breath in as you go up and out as you go down. If you pause to do this with both hands you have a decent moment of meditation that is small and contained enough to do in most offices.
One breathing exercise/mindfulness exercise came from a medical journal recommending it to doctors in a busy hospital. It uses a doorway because that is a natural passage from one metal space into another. Pause before opening the door. Stop walking, reach for the handle, close your eyes and take 1-3 deep breaths before you open the door.
Tea is my preferred choice to stop to focus and center. The practice of stopping for a few breaths to focus just on those breaths and clearing the mind and emotions can help settle you, prepare you, and maintain your self and peace. Pause before entering a room and be present and aware, breath and feel the door handle you are touching or the feeling of your feet on the ground. But, let’s be more specific, how do I use tea as a meditative practice?
A tea meditation starts when you enter the room or space you will prepare the tea. You slow down and do each thing with intent, mindfulness, and quiet. Think about the traditional tea ceremonies. This is the same idea. The full ritual continues through finishing the tea and cleaning up after. When you are busy at work, you may only have time to do it in 2 parts, one making the tea and for the first couple swallows, and again when you drink the last swallow and stop to clean the cup rather than just setting it aside. It can often be very worth it to stop and have a full cup of tea (or coffee if you can prepare it and have the same experience.)
The basis of most tea rituals is that you be aware that this moment is totally and completely unique, and will never come again as it is right now, you drink your tea with complete awareness and appreciation of the moment. It is a balance if internal and external. You are fully present and aware of the moment, of a guest if you have one, and of the ritual of preparing and drinking the tea. That is all you are doing and all you are focused on. For most ritual forms the process begins well before you heat water, as you prepare for tea, then boil the water, then steep the tea, pour the tea, breath the tea, taste the tea, and clean the cup and pot.
After preparation, pause. Be thankful and breath in the steam. consider the tea and how you came to have the tea and the moment to savor the tea. breathe until you are quiet and calm.  Drink the tea in small savoring sips, being mindful of the motions involved, the feel of the steam, the feel of the hot tea, the taste, the smell, every part of the experience. You are becoming a part of this experience only and for a brief time leaving all other parts of life aside. You are fully committing to this moment and knowing it is one moment and will not occur again and has not occurred before.
Both of these – tea and short sessions, are areas that you can find a lot of information on and I recommend you do. the short sessions especially are very personal, so try it until you find the ones for you.

Meditation series – part 2: Focus and Stillness

We started with some basic types and categories because, face it, most people…well Americans I know at least, need to categorize things to understand it. So lets dig into some of these and how they overlap. Because focused meditation is often recommended as a first place to work we will start there. Specifically lets look at the overlap between focused and open eye meditations and how they can help you develop your meditation practice. I love the forms of meditation that once you are confident in them you use in active and public places because they teach you peace within the chaos rather than your mind and body learning there is a place for peace and a place for chaos. The combination can be very helpful. A quiet space for meditation is highly recommended for your primary meditation space.
Visual meditation techniques like candle meditation are a great contemplative practice. They can help you develop the focus and ability to sit quietly and let go, so they are a good starting form for many people. They are so commonly used that there is a candle meditation in the Wii Fit Plus program. I have used a variety of candle meditations, including the Wii fit one that is an interesting start to someone with an inability to sit still and quiet for long periods. It is a great way to practice stillness since it measures motion by you sitting on the balance board. Lets look into the basics of a candle meditation.
Start by preparing the space. The preparation for a deep meditation is very important for most people and is in many forms we have learned from history.  For a deep meditation or a longer session the preparation helps ease you into it and is preparing you as much as it is preparing your space. It also allows you to control the environment and ensure limited distractions. You will want dim lighting, quiet, a place to sit quietly and comfortably upright, and space to set the candle approximately 2 feet in front of you. Keep some distance to protect your eyes from strain. Set the candle at eye level. Try to ensure there are no drafts. Drafts can distract you and they can flicker the flame. Some people use small LED, lights, or use some other focus in the same type of meditation. That may not be a candle meditation but it can be very similar. Water is a good example and can be done either in water or with a bowl of water as a focus.
Start with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. When your breath is calm, even, and you are ready, open your eyes and focus just above the wick. This is another stage of preparation and moving into the meditative state. Your breath is your focus here in most forms of meditation that do this. Breath deep and steady but don’t think of your breath as wrong or in need of correction. Just feel it, be a part of your breathing. You are slowing it but not fixing it.
Most forms have you go as long as possible between blinks and not rubbing your eyes. As you stare, allow the flame to occupy your mind and let any other thoughts or feelings pass. Again, do not correct or chastise yourself just let them pass. You are acknowledging their presence and letting them go by focusing on the flame, not discarding them or disapproving. The flame, water, or other focus is simply the object of attention and the space your in. This is a good early form of meditation precisely because of that focus point that helps train your mind to let things go. This is a way to learn the clearness of mind, the focused mind, the stillness of body and mind, and the quiet spirit you are working for in meditation. Whatever your end goals or preferred forms you are working towards, these can help you build toward that.
Some people do more visualization of breathing in the light or being surrounded by the light, but a simple meditation simply clears and focuses the mind. As you focus long term without variation your mind and optic nerves are able to relax and stop fully processing the surrounding input. You are aware of them but they are not active unless you acknowledge them. It is an odd sensation of both being unaffected by and any not processing things around you but being also more sensitive to them. It will become familiar and comfortable, a place you want to be and a being you want to be.
When you are done, if you need, cup your hands over your eyes, without touching them, and let them rest. Do not press on them or rub them. they may water or have after-impressions. Simply breath and still yourself until you are ready. The intense focus can tire them and the candle light can tire them so give them time to rest.
The variations of this are vast and many both modern and ancient are hugely effective. One of my favorites is often done with objects of nature like leaf. The focus in on the details of that leaf, becoming aware of it in every possible way from sight to smell. Another is focus on you body or a specific part of it.
Most physical training regimes from weight lifting to martial arts will teach you to focus on the muscles you are working in each form. This is a more intense version of that. I first learned of it in a sci fi book, Dune but later was shown an old form of it in I think a qigong class.  You focus intently on specific muscles or parts. I have been shown 3 basic forms. One moved through the whole body one muscle at a time, including all the tiny ones you never notice. Another focused on one part at a time like a finger or hand and intensely focused on that part to feel and be a part of and aware of every aspect. Like the leaf, you are aware of the skin, muscles, lines, bones, nerves, circulation…all of it. The third was the form used in some active meditations of focusing in an activity like tai chi on the muscles and energy of the activity. In this last you focus on them and you increase the work of specific muscles in an activity and increase their resistance to magnify the load and work they are doing.
(note that the image is not mine and I am uncertain of the source, if you know please let me know.)

Meditation Series – part 1: Intro

Some time ago I did a lesson on meditation for a multi part series. Recently I decided to update it for posting here in a parallel series to my ongoing Bug restoration. This will develop and dig deeper into each section but starts with an overview of the class as I wrote it.
Meditation is something used to some extent by most paths, practices, by many religions, and many people outside of religion. I am going to briefly cover what types of meditations are used and describe some of them. I will have a more detailed descriptions of a few, especially those I personally use or have received instruction in. If you know more about any of them, please share, none of us know everything about all of them or even any of them. This is a foundation and general information designed only to fuel imagination, interest, and understanding to prompt further research and experimentation. Meditation is intensely personal for many people and should be understood in that context. Also, it is an incredibly old practice with a lot of varied research attached both for and against. There is a lot of history and cultural relevance to the many forms of meditation. My personal forms are a blend from the cultures that have impacted my life, just as my blood is blended and my path is blended, they are very specific to where I am and what I am doing.
A complete meditation practice will combine active and passive forms. How often you should do it is discussed in every practice but it relies on your ability to know when you need it and your dedication to a consistent practice. You are best able to know the state of your self. frequent and regular is best, but do not berate or punish yourself for your available time and focus. It is something that develops itself with use. Consider short but frequent sessions interspersed with fewer long sessions that allow you to fully immerse in the experience. you will find more time for it when you are doing it regularly. Be consistent but be open to life and self, doing otherwise is counter to the very process.
So what are the types of meditation?
Note, that there is some overlap between the categories I list here and this is not exhaustive but most others will still fall within one of these. These are broad and cross lines so they are only a starting point.
Eye open meditation. 
These include gazing (including candle) and most active meditations. A common one you may recognize is zentangle.
Active meditation.
These include walking, Tai chi, yoga, work, gardening, repetitive action, swimming, art, doodle, writing, chanting, dance, martial. When considering the mental state these also include guided, sound, chant, and other focused and directed forms of meditation. This section is pretty self explanatory and you can see how these will overlap into other categories.
Focused attention. 
These include sound, manta, zazen, Loving Kindness, Chakra, Kundalini, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, guided, spiritual, Primordial Sound, tea, visualization, mandala, Heart Rhythm, and chant. You may know gong or bowl meditation, or guided meditations, but most people will recognize the chant meditation form. Many awareness exercises and mindfulness exercises fall into this category.
Open Meditation.
observation of thought or function of self, mindfulness, Vipassana, some types of Taoist, Heart Rhythm, and Yoga Nidra. This can be a hard one to pin down in the mind of many people but is actually widely used on a small scale. Most types, if not all, will also fall into another category.
Blank or effortless.
Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some forms of Taoist, some advanced forms of Raja Yoga, Choiceless Awareness, and Pure Being. Probably the clearest way to describe this is the open becoming one with the true nature and true being. There is a focus on the true nature but you are not focused, you are open. It is not empty mind meditation but it can sound like it at times. Some people include empty mind in this category and make the distinction on the deeper levels of understanding.
Note.
I do not personally recommend the forms of meditation that use mind-altering substances. The practice is to develop your awareness, your self, your connection, your peace, your focus. The use of mind-altering substances in other practices or trances has a long history and purpose but in this case of regular practice to develop and clear yourself it is not in my observation conducive to the purpose you are working toward. There are descriptions of those methods available elsewhere if you are interested, I will not be discussing them here.
So, what is the base difference in some of these forms of meditation and why would you choose them?
Think of the focused forms that have you focusing on a specific thing, be it a word, idea, breath, action, object, whatever, they are a form of concentration and focus development. They calm the mind by focusing all processing on a single thing. All sensation is focused on one thing. All emotions are focused on one thing. It is openness through a calm developed out of repetition and attunement. A sound will resonate in your body and mind. A light will fill your mind as you look at it and feel it. A word will fill your consciousness through your focus. Each of these allows you to develop the empty mind, the focus, and the peace by allowing you to learn how to let sensations and thoughts pass unhindered and without impact. The mantra stills the normal discourse of the mind and resonates in you. You are detaching from the external world through focus on something like a mandala. Art is used in many focused meditations and active meditations.
Mindfulness, empty mind, Vipassana, and observational meditations are different in that they are not focused. they are open and observing everything that occurs. they observe and release all thoughts, sensations, emotions, and responses. They are for many a development from the focused forms. You are being present in yourself and in the awareness of what is happening in yourself. Some medical practices teach these forms for pain management. Zen and empty mind are emptying your mind and sensation. You are not so much being aware of these things as letting them go. You are working to have the state of emptiness and openness not impinged on by thoughts, sensations, emotions, actions, not by anything internal or external. Vipassana does focus on breath but not in the same ways that the more focused forms do. It is a focus in order to empty. A distinction not clear without feeling it. You are, in these forms, detaching both from the external world and from your response and judgments of things. You let thoughts and sensations go without judgment or response, and clear your mind by not focusing or judging. They often start focusing on breathing to reach the state of empty calm.
Active meditations can be focused, blank, open, and may be done either eyes open or closed. Active meditation first bring to mind such things as walking, yoga, tai chi, dance, or other full body activities but they can be painting, drawing, writing, washing, cleaning, and any number of other things. If you have trouble with the stillness of some types of meditation, active meditation may give you a place to start but it is usually recommended as a later stage not a starting point. It is a later step to draw your whole being into the process in a new way. It is very important o stay focused and clear and not be drawn away by your body, surroundings, or the activity. An active meditation can be a good start in many ways but it can be hard to work on the completeness of the experience using these forms.