The Beautiful Skills of Meditation
What is a skill? It's just a label for an ability, a facility, a talent that you can develop. Skill is another word for technique. I like it because we can refer to the teeny-tiny little shifts of attention that make all the difference. A skill is something you can practice for a few seconds at a time and
Let's look at the skills and "micro-skills" of meditation. This is the same material we have been covering all year, when we explore the senses and instincts, the Welcoming, and rhythms.
The advantage of looking at skills is that a skill is something we can practice. We can practice for as little as 15 seconds and build skills. To approach the material in this way, take something you love in this teaching – a Sutra, a selection from Meditation Made Easy or Meditation Secrets for Women, and look at the skills involved.
We defined meditation as the skill of cooperating with our own life force and as savoring the thrill of being alive.
These are all sensible little noticing, like noticing that you feel a little tired and it would be delicious to just say ahhhhhh and rest for a few minutes. Noticing that you eyes want to close, or open. Meditation is in many ways a physical sport, in which you are riding the rhythms of the life force, pranashakti, as it revives us and tunes us up for life. Or you can think of the life force as MY OWN INNATE HEALING POWERS. Knowing how you prefer to formulate these things is itself a skill, the skill of making a map that goes with your territory.
When we are talking about skill
, we are noticing that we are in bodies, and that we have many styles of attention
A skill of meditation is to give yourself space to do nothing for awhile, until you remember what you love and what your practice is. Then there is a set of skills to engage with your practice.
Let's look at the R's a a set of skills - there are many skills involved in each one.
Reviewing the 8 R's as Skills
It just so happens that the observable rhythms of experience, as reported by meditators, can be labeled with a bunch of R words.
Let's keep playing.
In any given moment of experience, we may find ourselves in our version of an R, and also transitioning to a different R. For example, when we take a few minutes to meditate, we may notice that we are deep in the REVIEW process, mulling over what just happened. This is an essential, life-affirming process of learning from our experience. When meditators shut down the review process, go to war against it, they also block their maturation and learning. This is very common, by the way.
It may take awhile before we emerge from the REVIEW process and have a free moment to REMEMBER what we love, remember what our doorway is.
Our individuality, our preferences, our mix of senses, and what we need, will determine how we experience each R and there are nuances we may discover as we journey.
REMEMBERING AND THE FLASH OF RECOGNITION
Let's play around with the words we use for REMEMBERING.
Another aspect of remembering is RECOGNITION. There is sometimes a flash of recognition, "Aha! That's right. That is what I love."
As we recognize and remember what we love, and begin to REST in that, there is another important nuance:
When we remember what we love, we simply DELIGHT in that.
Meditation can be defined as cherishing the life force at play. "Delighting in the recognition of what we love" is another way of saying the same thing.
An additional R we could name that comes into play with Remembering and Delighting, is,
RECRUITING. The process of integrating all the senses into our remembering, recognition, resting, delighting.
For example, if we are attracted to BREATH, or respiration, as a doorway into meditation, how do we know we are breathing?
-sensations in the nostrils as the air flows in and out
-temperature differential between the air flowing in and the air flowing out, which is often 10 degrees F warmer, and often more moist.
-smell of the air
-touch of the air in the throat
-stretch receptors in the ribs and muscles as they expand on the inhale
-hearing the little whooshing sounds of the air flowing through the mucous membranes and sinuses
-sensations of alternating fullness and emptiness
-tiny postural muscle signals as the body moves slightly, dancing withthe breath.
-tiny changes of balance sensing with the movement of the body during breathing
-rhythm of excitement and relaxation that go with inhaling and exhaling
Engaging more and more of the senses, and the full range of the senses, can be called RECRUITING. We are recruiting our full sensorium, resulting in richer experience.
The concept of RECRUITING is drawn from the physiology of fitness, "Muscle fiber recruitment is the process by which the central nervous system recruits muscle fibers to accomplish a given task. It enables the nervous system/muscle system to adapt its power output to match the load or the work demanded by the task." (paraphrase from various technical articles.)
In addition to the physical senses as listed above, there can be RECOGNITION that in breathing, we are accepting the gift of life, which is coming from the whole Earth, the entire ecosphere of living beings on earth that are continually recycling the oxygen we are breathing, and this process is part of the life of the Sun and therefore the life of the Universe.
We can recognize that the whole universe worked for billions of years to give us this particular moment, here in these bodies, perceiving life at play.
In addition to recruiting more senses, we can be recruiting more layers of perception, layers of gratitude, and types of love.
REVIEWING AND REPLAYING
We have been using REVIEWING as one of the R's, but I have been wondering if REPLAYING is a better term. Let's consider this.
REPLAY draws on the way sports broadcasts have instant replays, to show some snippet of the action in slow motion, or different angles from different cameras.
Replay is also great because it has the word PLAY in it.
The REPAIRING --> RESTORING flow also suggests the term, RECOVERY.
I am not sure of the distinction here, because in a way, the whole flow of meditation is the process of RECOVERY from the wear and tear of living.
I have a feeling that RECOVERING is a meta-term, for many of the R's, many of the sub-processes that occur during meditation.
Keep in mind also that the 8 R's are not unique to meditation - they are just observable rhythms of how life continually repairs and restores itself. These brilliant impulses and processes occur during sleep, whenever we rest, and periodically through the day.
What is unique to meditation?
- we give over completely to life renewing itself
- we attend to the process lovingly and tenderly
- we make use of our natural doorways, enthusiastically
- because of all this, we sometime rest more deeply than deep sleep, thus giving the body a chance to do deep repair and recalibrating. (OOPS, another R - recalibrating.)
Make your own deck of cards with the R's on them and study the transition between these phases. Note also the substitute or alternate words for each R, that bring out different nuances and aspects and enhancements.
Explore: What happens when you WELCOME each of the R's in advance?
How does it feel in your experience to saturate your being with welcoming toward the rhythms of your experience?
In any given moment, we are flooded with thousands of unique perceptions and energies, and we can say yes to them and game on – from there we can combine, transform, transmute, revive, cancel, sublimate, express, or alter the energies in any way that is suitable for our life and our health.
The Beautiful Skills of Meditation
Meditation is attending to the life force at play. This is a loving relationship, in which the life force - the evolutionary dynamic energies of self-renewal that we call life, are continually repairing us and attuning us for survival. When we attend to these dynamics, we enter into the meditation rhythm.
There are thousands of forms of meditation. In The Radiance Sutras, we pay particular attention to the 112 doorways mentioned in the text, as a simpler and more accessible approach, compared to Buddha's 84,000 dharma doors.
Meditation is a basic human instinct, and we use the same neural circuits as when we are loving anyone or anything. The skills of meditation are totally learnable and teachable. Life is rhythm, a play of opposites - breathing in and breathing out, being awake and being asleep, working and playing, loving and being loved. Thus meditation skills are always involved in the play of opposites, or syzygy. Meditation is a play of individuality and universality.
- Meditation happens one minute at a time.
- The skills can be practiced one minute at a time
- Even shorter - some practice sessions can be 15 seconds then 30 seconds then 1 minute
- Many of the skills of meditation are so tiny as to be almost unnoticeable, requiring not effort but a light touch and permission.
- Everyone has already meditated many times, spontaneously, for a few seconds here and there. Learning to meditate intentionally is the realm of skill acquisition.
- Everyone has their own individual preferences for their doorways, their style of engaging with meditation.
Over the last half a century, I have experimented with many forms of teaching, from brief single sessions, to having ongoing follow-up. Very few people can build a daily meditation practice on one meditation coaching session. That is like having one yoga asana class and expecting yourself to practice yoga daily for years with no further instruction.
What works best is for people to have a coherent series of coaching sessions.
SESSIONS 1 AND 2 - WHAT DO YOU LOVE?
The first 2 sessions can be devoted to exploring what that person loves - their natural doorways into:
- Being at home in themselves
- Being happy
- Being in love with nature or something
- Being thrilled to be alive
- A sense of adventure
Notice the Syzygy of safety and thrill. Meditators crave both. We all need both.
Sessions 1 and 2 are really, "What do you love so much that you want to melt into it? Be suffused by it? Blend with it. Hang out with it. Explore it. Drink it in. Engage with it."
SESSIONS 3, 4, 5, and 6 are an intensive in skill building
- In the 3rd session, after exploring their own native and spontaneous meditation practices, plus whatever techniques they may have practiced in the past, we begin to build an individualized practice for the person. Together we explore what works for this person now, in their daily life. We meditate together for 30 seconds, a minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes. The person goes home with a set of instructions to explore on their own, perhaps a morning and an evening meditation.
- The 3rd session and the following several sessions can be devoted to the microskills of meditation - those tiny little adjustments of attention that make all the difference.
- Sessions 3, 4, 5, and 6 need to be close together so that the person gets almost daily supervision. If they do not get this kind of opportunity to share their experiences and receive immediate feedback and correction from the teacher, it is extremely likely that they will develop bad habits that interfere with their meditation and lead them to either stop practicing, or continue, but in an unhealthy way.
Session 7 is the one-week follow-up.
Review experiences and give correction.
Your passion to know and be able to BE with yourself
Play at the edges of your capacity
Make mistakes and quickly correct them
Slow practice - to gain the micro skills
Ease is a skill to be practiced
Outside of meditation •••
- The skill of time management
- Joy of sorting
- How to eat
- Express your soul
- Live your life
- Have boundaries appropriate
••• so that your body is ready to meditate Session 8 is the two-week follow-up
The skills of:
Session 9 is the 6-month follow-upSession 10 is the one-year follow-up
- letting yourself be flooded with feeling sensation imagery sound
- Being carried away, being carried
- being at home
- Being nourished
- Being gently turned on
- Being near sleep yet continuing
- Diving deep and emerging refreshed in half an hour
- Submitting to the pain of reviewing your mistakes (learning, emotional intelligence)
- Reviewing and discarding the endless propaganda about silencing mind and sitting in church
- Shifting between levels of Vak
- Being in silence, noticing quietude
- Of gentleness
- Infinite tenderness
- Utter simple tenderness
- Of listening feeling mantras as if universe resonating with them
- Of delighting on all the chakras- areas of the body
- Listening to the song of each area
- Engaging all the senses - more and more combinations
- Skill of preparation - cleaning up, orienting, list making, praying, exercising, OR- come as you are
- Skill of asking for help - getting coaching or mentoring or therapy
- Language skills - words are important and shape experience and even annihilate experiences. Skillful use of words allows.
- Resting skills - riding the cycles into deep rejuvenation.
- Giving permission. Much meditative experience is so subtle it will not unfold without full permission
- Skill of allowing embracing entering
- Each instinct needs practice and skills evolve
- Skill of engaging recruiting whole body
- Skill of letting your eyes close of themselves or remain open
- Pulsation skills- heartbeat, breath, 8 R’s, triple Shakti, rest-action, and many-times-per-second cycles.
- Crossing threshold skills - recognizing boundaries and the sensations/emotions of entering (pravesha)
- Skills of being delighted, amazed, appreciative, impressed, rather than resentful
- Skills of receiving from life in all directions and tonalities, through all instincts and senses and all areas of the body
- Spherical skills - being alert to all directions, receiving info and nourishment and energy
- Skills of resting and then welcoming the flow and transition of the R’s
- Skill of welcoming unpredictability and surprise
- Skills of lingering absorbing nourishment digesting energies
- Skills of purification
- Skills of orienting to the inner and then back to the outer
- Skill of transitioning into deep relaxation (as in sleep) and deep absorption (as in sleep) and then to the waking state again.
Checklist of Skills for Sessions 1-6
- Salute to the senses - vision hearing smell taste touch temperature motion joint position balance. Peripheral vision, outer and inner sound. Big moves and tiny moves. Recruiting all the senses - engage all the senses
- I am seeing hearing feeling smelling tasting —-
When do you feel
- At home in yourself
- Glad to be alive
RE-PRESENTING - the skill of welcoming the present (the gift) of a great experience into the present moment. Such as the memory of being at home, being thrilled to be alive, feeling LIKE YOURSELF, feeling true to your being.
Sensory aliveness - the skill of welcoming all the senses to become activated by these experiences.
The skill of remembering what you love and accessing your great experiences.
Eyes open and close of themselves
- Review all senses
- Review safety and thrilled to be alive
- I am safe I am alive with energy I am immersed
- Skill of being natural with yourself
- Spaciousness, peripheral vision, skin sensing
- What is calling you?
- What is aching? To be lived?
- When have you felt in touch with this?
- Are there any changes you feel to make to get ready? Usually can just jump in
- Transition skills
Qualities of attention
- Snoozing, purring, being at home
Notice bhavana words
The skill of NAMING what you love, and welcoming the melting, fear, tenderness, tears, vulnerability, and release that occurs when you remember what you love.
The skill of recognizing your doorways and entering the door.
What are you wanting to get out of a daily practice?
What would a daily practice for you look like?
Build a daily practice
- I welcome all my senses
- I welcome all of who I am
- Eyes open
- Move with breathing
- I cherish this moment
- BEING thought
- The skill of not judging - just letting those judgy thoughts flow without worrying about them
- The skill of improvising
- Skill of not putting pressure on yourself
- Welcome challenges
- Welcome all parts of the self
- Giving & receiving
- Giving permission attention gratitude
- Receiving nourishment rest healing support delight
- Taking delight
Review of experiences. How to deal with all the kinds of experiences that arise.
- Millions of thoughts
- Release of tension
- Hearing outside sounds
- Dreamlike thoughts
- Mind wandering
- Losing track of time
- Forgetting the meditation technique
Let the practice carry you
Rest inside then techniqueSession 5
Review of experiences.
Learning to enter and exit meditation skillfully. Transition times.
How to deal with:
- Busy mind
- Eager to jump up
- Not wanting to stop
- Buzzing with excitement
The skills of effortlessness
- Notice when you are pushing and practice doing nothing.
- Notice when you are judging yourself and be neutral.
- Notice when you are blocking an experience and take it easy.
Review of experiences and correction
A checklist of skills
The Skills of Instinctive Meditation - I just sat down and tossed this off in 20 minutes, so it's a first draft. This is probably very similar to previous skill lists I’ve posted. You can choose what you prefer to call this system – Radiance Sutras Meditation, Instinctive Meditation, or Pranava Meditation.
This is a simple way of talking about the skills we are learning and practicing, that allow meditation to be a healthy practice for a lifetime.
- Welcome rhythms of restfulness and restlessness and the unpredictable alternation from one to the other – learn to trust the rhythms of life
- Welcome all the senses: balance, motion, joint position, skin sensing, deep touch, light touch, tendon stretch, oxygen, hunger, thirst, need to excrete, “repair-sensations,” vision, hearing, taste, smell
- Learn to selectively attend to the most useful sense or combination of senses in a given moment
- The skill of welcoming the transitions between levels of perception of sound, emotion, sensation, and light – from the obvious levels, to subtle energies and sensations, to very quiet sensations and perceptions, to silent hums and vibrations, to just barely there pulsations
- Welcome sensuality and erotic sensations and emotions
- Welcome all the emotions – sad, mad, scared, peaceful, powerful, joyful, and all the near-infinite fine-grained expressions (excited, sensuous, creative, hurt, bored, lonely, intimate, nurturing, and so on)
- Welcome all the instincts: homing, exploring, playing, resting, nesting, mating, bonding, socializing
- Learn to welcome the weird and often chaotic sensations of the instincts sorting, transmuting, evolving, cooking, mixing, melding, transforming, refining, combining, learning from mistakes, planning future actions, mental practice
- Learn to follow faint sensory trails
- Learn to practice in a way that goes with your essential nature and gives freedom rather than imprisonment and suppression
- Learn to practice in a way that gives you access to the essential bliss of your being
- Learn to discern good pain from bad pain, as when you are doing asana or exercising and stretching to your limit
- Learn to handle the stress release that is caused by relaxation and restfulness
- Learn to delight in the ecstasy of resting when you are exhausted and letting the body repair itself – the sensations of recovery are amazing
- Learn to ride through mind wandering and wander into your mantra or “area of interest” of your meditation – that is, learn to simply continue
- Learn to allow meditation to be centered in what you love
- Learn to allow all the negative or positive voices to just chat away and not feel you have to do anything about it – the brain has as many connections as there are stars in the universe
- Learn to accept all the “noise” in your head as just the chakras (the instincts) talking to each other and working things out
- Learn to accept the way the 8 R’s show up in each moment - the wonderfulness of resting, the painfulness of reviewing mistakes, the pain-ecstasy of releasing tension, the fast-slow movies of your to-do lists coming to awareness and then fading
- Learn the way the TABOOS feel, the sense that you are doing something forbidden or naughty or illegal – being yourself always feels taboo, as does increasing the level of vitality you are circulating
- Learning to allow meditation to feel like dancing, massage, sex, great music, wandering in nature, surfing, gazing at the stars, feeding, sleeping, being at a party – all at the same time
- Finding the places in your body where awareness likes to rest and party
- Finding the words, images, motions, sounds, that evoke what you love and love to be infused with – the skill of building your technique
- The skill of knowing your personal doorways – dvara – and means of union – yukti
- The skill of not being mean to yourself and blessing any little self-harm you detect
- The skill of effortless attending – because you have constructed meditation to be what you love about prana, pranashakti, the life force
- The skill of meditating in accord with your essence, your nature and being KIND to yourself
- The skill of welcoming your future self into being
- The skill of saying yes to what is essential to you in life - OM is the primordial YES to life – learn to continually bathe in your yes to life
- The skill of knowing when to meditate and for how long, how to enter and exit meditation, knowledge of transitions
- The skill of holding and being held – allowing what you love and are holding in your heart and mind to hold you
- The skills of the different styles of attention, from detached noticing, to interest, to wonder, delight, avid absorption, warm embracing, melting, being one with
- The skill of finding the right language for yourself, that works with your nature and preferences – whether it is an emotional language, or sensuous, instinctive, psychological, scientific, biological, or spiritual.
: proficiency, dexterity that is acquired through training or experience. A developed talent or ability. An art or technique, particularly one requiring use of hands or body.Vijñāna
– The act of distinguishing or discerning, understanding. Recognizing. Skill, proficiency, art. Worldly or profane knowledge, as opposed to jñāna, “knowledge of the true nature of God.”Shakti or śakti
– Power, ability, strength. Faculty, skill, the female aspect of the divine.