Meditating with Insight

I was about 16 years old when I meditated for the first time. I remember sitting on a chair outside and feeling the stillness, depth and presence. I was inspired by a description in a book by Doctor Ainlsee Meares.

Since then I have dabbled on and off without ever instilling a regular practice for myself, despite knowing and experiencing the benefits. I’ve used the Insight Timer app on my iPod for quite a few years now and find it helpful.

But recently I heard someone say they were enjoying the online community that Insight Timer offers. This was news to me. And since we have recently become more connected with the NBN, I had a closer look.

IMG_0128And behold a whole new community of meditators using this app. You can see how many people are using the app and meditating around the world and how many have meditated that day.

There are a huge variety of meditation soundtracks to select from depending on your own preference. There is music, verbal instructions and visualisations, sounds of nature, chanting, binaural beats, and much more.

You can select the soundtrack depending on the time you wish to spend in meditation. And there are personal statistics to keep you going. You get stars as you reach particular milestones. And when you have finished you can connect with others by saying “thank you for meditating with me today”.

#glamblogweekly

 

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Sinking or syncing

Does your mind need a tune-up? Are you plagued with anxiety? Are you sick of that constant annoying internal chatter? Do you strive to become calm, peaceful, wise, and able to navigate effectively through our busy modern lives? Do you need a brain massage?

Like many people I try to meditate towards achieving this peaceful state. I have practiced meditation for many years in a haphazard, inconsistent, and irregular pattern achieving a varied level of success.

It is undeniable that stilling the mind helps. But actually stilling the mind is the challenge. Always the internal chatter associated with our daily life interrupts.

As I try to sink into the deeper levels of consciousness my thoughts appear; sometimes I can notice them then let them drift away; other times I get caught up in the churning thoughts for awhile until I jolt myself back to the practice of stilling my mind.

So I have just come across binaural beats. I don’t know why I have never heard about these before, because it is not a new concept, discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove according to Wikipedia. These are now produced and published by several organisations of which Holosync™ is one. So what is Holosync™? This blog post describes it well I think.

Here is a beautiful example:

So the concept is that you listen to the sound track, wearing stereo headphones, that have various soothing sounds such as rain, gongs, bells, birds chirping, the sea, etc. But underneath the soothing sounds are sound waves that correspond with the natural brain waves and these ‘sync’.

There are various apps that can be downloaded and of course most require payment. But there are free trials that will give you an idea of the experience.

The first time I listened to a recording, I managed to easily still my mind and cease the ridiculous chatter. The sounds of rain and bells resonated through my brain. I felt like I had been given a brain massage. It was indeed bliss. This tool allowed me to reach the calm state with a still mind much quicker and more effectively than just trying to observe my breath.

So today I decided to do a little bit of research into the topic and found lots of information and demonstrations on YouTube as well as lots of controversial opinion about it all.

What to make of all this then? I suppose it is just another step in the journey towards being at peace in this world. Many people in our society are plagued with anxiety and this is completely understandable. So any tool that helps people to manage their doubt is a good thing I think. And most of us are not Zen Masters able to devote hours towards this pursuit. So 15 to 20 minutes spent listening to gorgeous sounds is manageable in my busy day and if there are additional benefits that lead to more clam, balanced and mindful living then that is a bonus.

Clear blue mind

Of late I haven’t had much to say, because I have been trying to practice “clear blue mind”.

Imagining my mind as a clear blue sky, I observe the light fluffy thought clouds as they appear, drift and then disperse. I sit “zazen” emptying my mind of all thoughts trying to be untroubled and free from fear and doubt. I breathe in the crystal white light that could provide me with energy to face the day. I imagine all negative thoughts as grey smoke forced out by the light.

I can sit for 20 minutes in this way but I fail to find regularity of practice.

The Dalai Lama tells us in his book, “How to Practise: the Way to a Meaningful Life, that six times every day he imagines the eight levels of mind one by one. Those levels of mind are: mirage; smoke; fireflies; flame of a candle; vivid white sky-mind; vivid red or orange sky-mind; vivid black sky-mind; clear light. Fuller explanations of these are in his book.

It was easy to imagine “clear blue sky-mind” yesterday as I looked out the plane window above the clouds with the first glare of orange sunlight lighting the horizon. It was also easy to contemplate “death” as the plane came in through fog above the city. I knew the city was there somewhere close below. I trusted the young 20-something pilots could land us using only the instruments to guide them. It was a 20-seater and I was sitting in the very front seat, so I could clearly see the young men and the instrument panel and the white wall of fog.

In Buddhism contemplating “death” is a key teaching. Whilst not dwelling on morbidity, I have always had a keen sense of my own mortality and it gives perspective. If we were to miss the runway, then I had fully appreciated the beauty of life on earth when we were above the clouds.

Reading about how other people, Westerners especially, have come into Buddhist practices is compelling. “Why Buddhism? Westerners in search of wisdom by Vicki Mackenzie is a collection of interviews with individuals who describe their own experiences with Buddhism. I particularly like the comments about the practicality of Buddhist philosophies and how they can easily be applied to help you get through life’s little dramas. I am encouraged by the repeated observation about the depth of content and how the more people read and learn the more intrigued and interested they are to learn more. I am on the brink.

Needless to say, the pilots landed the plane beautifully. All those hours playing computer games paid off. Thanks boys.