what you think.
What does meditation mean to you?
A lot of confusion and even some fear surround the topic
of meditation. In our culture, the word ‘meditation’ is such a
broad term that people have a difficult time understanding
the intended meaning. Some believe meditation is a deeply
religious practice used exclusively by Asian mystics or
specific monastic sects. Chanting, prayer, contemplation,
breathing exercises, or even hypnotism are described
as meditation. In fact, almost any experience involving
introspection falls into the category. Even more confusion
arises when people mistakenly relate meditation to
metaphysical practices dealing with crystals, astrology,
tarot cards, palm reading or crystal balls.
Magazines and entire sections in the local bookstore
are devoted to this topic, and you will see a broad sampling
of ‘experts’ selling their perspective with great authority.
Wading through the multitude of ideas and techniques can
be quite confusing. When you are ready to begin, where
do you get accurate information? How do you know which
method even works? In this topic, we’ll explore the
definition of meditation, as well as its benefits and reasons
Meditation is the process of clearing the mind of all
thought. When you tell the average person to sit and clear
the mind of all thought, they can’t. They might eventually
settle down to thoughts about one specific thing, maybe a
color, sound or image. But thinking your way to clearing
your mind of all thought is impossible. To successfully
clear your mind, you must understand where your thoughts
originate. Then, you must stop them at their root.
Stimulation of the senses inspires thought
Each thought is a distraction within meditation and all
thoughts originate from two primary places. First are the
senses. Imagine that you are sitting to meditate. You prac-
tice your diaphragm breathing, oxygenating your body. Now,
you are ready to clear your mind. Just as you settle down,
one of your senses is stimulated. Maybe a car drives by
and hearing the noise, you think of a car, or a dog barks
and you think of the dog. During a moment of stillness and
relaxation, you would never spontaneously think about a
dog until his bark stimulated your sense of hearing. As soon
as you hear the dog bark, the thought manifests in your
mind. No matter how quickly you let the thought pass, it is
still present for a moment.
You return to your efforts to meditate, when suddenly,
you smell fresh baked bread, and immediately the thought
of tasty bread passes through your mind. The breeze blows
gently through the window, and you think of its coolness or
warmth. A flood of unwelcome thoughts, inspired by the
senses, relentlessly bombards you throughout your
The art of meditation
is simple, but not
always easy. It
thrives on practice.
The assault of thoughts caused by memory
The second assault of thoughts originates from memory.
The senses stimulate a thought and from that thought, you
begin to remember experiences related to the thought. Just
as you become peaceful and calm again, you hear a radio
in the distance playing an old song. It stimulates your sense
of hearing, you think of the song, and then you begin
thinking of the last time you heard it. You were on vacation
in Aruba, dancing with a beautiful girl in a red dress. She
was laughing, and the ocean air was fresh and warm. In the
next moment, you realize that no longer are you clearing
your mind and sitting peacefully…you are on vacation in
Aruba—all because you briefly heard a song!
Detaching from your senses is possible
As human beings,
our greatness lies
not so much in being
able to remake the
world…as in being
able to remake
The senses not only stimulate specific thoughts, but,
supported by personal memories, they encourage
secondary or additional thoughts. Clearing the mind of all
thought and going deep within stillness, requires unplugging
of the senses. By disengaging from the stimulation, you
stop the thoughts before they are born. Many people think
that shutting off the senses is impossible, but you do this
every night when you sleep. In deep sleep, you don’t hear,
see, or taste any sensation. The world goes on around
you, but you are not aware of anything.
Meditation is the process of unplugging the senses, thus
consciously choosing to cease all thought. The benefits of
learning to still the mind are invaluable. It reduces stress
and helps to increase concentration. You are energized
and relaxed in the same process. So, why don’t more
people practice this ancient discipline? Learning to still the
mind and take control over thoughts takes time. Finding a
qualified teacher is difficult, people are impatient, and they
don’t persevere long enough to see the benefit. The first
several attempts are difficult and predictable.
Stop the fidgeting!
A willing student sits down, intending to meditate, and
after only a few moments of stillness, begins to shift around
to find a more comfortable position. He tries it again. He sits
quietly with the spine straight and chin parallel to the
ground, hands upturned at the juncture between the thigh
and abdomen and elbows slightly pulled back, breaths
deeply from the diaphragm, and suddenly, he has an itch.
Scratching this itch will encourage another and another.
He resolves to hold the body still, and works past the
fidgeting itches, only to be bothered soon by discomfort in
the knee, ankle, hip, or almost any other part of his body.
If he doesn’t shift his position, the discomfort rapidly turns
to pain. He vows to remain perfectly still, but battles an
overwhelming desire to move. Slowly, the pain subsides
and the body becomes calmer. Just when he thinks he’s
making progress, his mind begins to race. Thoughts like,
“I wonder if I am doing this right? Am I just wasting my
time? I have so much to do today. When I get up, I want
to remember to…” By refusing to give up, his mind settles
a bit, but is soon followed by another wave of intrusive
Do you have the
patience to wait
until your mud
settles, and the
water is clear?
Can you remain
unmoving until the
right action arises
Moving on to the next stage
By surrendering to aches, pains and itches, you never
move beyond this stage. The practice of meditation is lost
to movement, and you will view the experience as just a
mild form of torture. From the beginning, resolve to sit
as still as you can during meditation, and be diligent in
your practice. Start by practicing breathing exercises to
oxygenate the body. Then meditate for 10-15 minutes.
As the process becomes easier and more enjoyable,
slowly increase the time.
The art of learning to still and control your mind
Many people think that meditation is reserved only for
specific spiritual practices. They fear that meditation would
conflict with their own religious beliefs. We simply use the
term, meditation, to describe the art of learning to still and
control the mind. Regardless of spiritual preferences, all of
us would certainly agree that in our hectic society, the
ability to control our mind, and discipline our thoughts
To recognize the
oneness, you must
still the body and
quiet the mind.
Nicholas began practicing martial arts at the
age of eight. In every class, he practiced his basic
techniques and strived hard for proper form.
In the early years, he worked diligently on the basic
techniques. During his teen years he practiced form daily. He
was clearly the hardest working martial artist in his dojo–
maybe even in the whole city. In his late teens and into his
early twenties, he started sparring. In only a short while, he
began winning match after match. The winning streak
continued for almost three years.
Nicholas was often asked for the secret to his success.
He always responded, “Speed and power. I will always be
faster with my kick or punch.” Nicholas believed that the
best defense was a quick offense. One day the inevitable
happened-a fellow student, Paul, beat him. Paul was very
skilled and had practiced for as long as Nicholas. Nicholas
shrugged off the defeat, claiming it as a fluke or just bad luck.
But in the next few months, he began losing more matches.
Nicholas became incredibly frustrated and decided to talk
with the master. He poured his heart out describing his
frustration of losing, despite the fact that he was training
harder than ever. After listening carefully, the master said,
“You must learn two things. The first is that life is seasonal.
Everything is constantly changing and you must learn to
handle loss and defeat as well as gain and victory. Do not
become attached to either outcome. The second thing you
need to learn is better defensive skills. When two novices spar,
the fastest will win. At your current level of practice, without
good defense, you will continue to lose. At this point your
practice should be 50% offense and 50% defense.”
Nicholas began practicing his defensive skills: Blocking,
parrying, sidestepping, and pivoting. After a year, he was
satisfied that his defense was as strong as his offense.
Nicholas began winning most of his matches again, and
continued to win for many years. He learned to handle the
losses much better, taking them in stride and just continuing
Several years passed when, once again, he started losing.
After a string of defeats, he talked with the master. Nicholas
reminded the master that, years before, he had been told to
develop his defense as well as his offense. He explained that
this advice had served him well. But now, he was losing
again. Nicholas asked, “Am I just getting old?”
His master laughed and said, “Old? I am more than twice
Nicholas asked, “If I am not old, then what should I be
The master said, “ Get rid of offense and defense and just
- Offense and defense are internal attitudes, motivations
and thoughts. These thoughts cause you to view the other
person as an opponent. Your anticipation, fueled by desire
to win, causes your defeat. Remember that anger, fear,
frustration, anticipation or judgment has no place in a clear
and calm mind. You are defeating yourself. Learn to view the
other person as a partner, stay calm and focused, and let the
outcome happen as it may.”
Nicholas asked, “Are you telling me that I shouldn’t care
at all about winning or losing?”
The master said, “You should let go of all thought and
be in the moment. When you are able to do this, you will
spontaneously and creatively respond to anything that
happens. Meditation is the foundation of martial arts practice.
If you cannot control your mind when you sit to meditate, you
most certainly won’t be able to keep control over your mind
in a crisis, or during sparring. After all these years of training,
your body may have reached its limit on speed, power, and
flexibility. Work on controlling and disciplining your mind.
Your sparring will get better, and so will your life.”
A life of reaction is
and spiritually. One
must fight for a life of
action, not reaction.
–Rita Mae Brown
What we have to learn, in both meditation
and life, is to be free of attachment to the
good experiences, and free of aversion to
the negative ones.
As human beings, we
all want to be happy
and free from misery…
the key to happiness
is inner peace.
The activity this month is answering questions from
the last eleven lessons. Although some of the questions
have specific answers, others are looking for general
understanding of the lessons. If necessary, go back and
review the related topic, activity or technique.
- In your own words, explain the student teacher
relationship in detail.
- In your own words, explain how to practice diaphragm
breathing and the benefits.
- List the seven ways of becoming a great martial artist.
- What is the goal of triangular breathing?
- In your own words, explain how to practice triangular
- Explain the concept of practicing as partners and not as
- In tension and relaxation exercises, does the tension lead
the breath or does the breath lead the tension?
- In both good and bad times, what can we always control?
- Name one thing on your original wish list that you have
- Which statement is correct?
- The more tension in my body and mind, the more
focused I am, and I breath slower.
- The more tension in my body and mind, the less
focused I am, and I breath faster.
- In your own words, explain the phrase, “Do what you
can do perfectly.”
- Explain how to practice the technique of “Watching your
thoughts,” and the benefits.
- Complete the sentence, “Right now, you are the sum
total of _________________.”
- Describe the benefits of affirmations and explain two
different ways to practice affirmations.
- Complete balance cannot be achieved and maintained
in life. List strategies you can use to maintain relative
- In your own words, complete the sentence, “To be a
martial artist, you must_________.”
- What are the two environments addressed in these
lessons. Which one is more important and why?
- Explain the connection between the breath and the
- Explain the difference between watching the breath and
controlling the breath.
Do not seek to
follow in the foot-
steps of the wise;
seek what they
When you have completed this activity keep a copy of your
work for future reference and make a copy to turn in to your
In meditation, work on consistency, depth, and
then duration to achieve calmness, peacefulness
and ultimately self-realization.
The most important
journey is the
Watching the breath
The goal in meditation is to detach from the senses and
clear the mind of all thought. There is a distinction between
meditation and a breathing exercise. Breathing techniques
are exercises to manipulate the breath for a specific result.
Every breathing technique has a specific purpose.
Watching the breath is the first meditation technique.
It is a very basic and powerful technique that can be
practiced by anyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Every
human being breathes, and simply watching your breath
cannot offend any spiritual path or religious belief.
So, begin by sitting comfortably in a full lotus, half lotus,
cross- legged, seiza or in a straight back chair. Keep your
chin parallel to the ground, hands relaxed and up turned at
the juncture between the thigh and the abdomen. Eyes
should be gently closed, and your attention should be
focused at the point between the eyebrows. Practice 6-12
diaphragm breathes to oxygenate the body. Exhale and
begin to watch the breath. Do not try to control it forcibly.
Just let it flow naturally. The breath has four positions,
inhaling, holding the breath in, exhaling, or holding the
breath out. Do not attempt to control the breath, just be
aware of the position, without judgment.
Not only a truer knowledge, but a greater power,
comes to one in the quietude and silence of a mind
that, instead of bubbling on the surface, can go to
its own depths and listen.
Resist analyzing each breath. Don’t think about whether
it is a good deep breath, a short breath, whether or not it
is satisfying, or whether inhalation was faster than the
exhalation. Just feel the breath and watch it without
attachment. Watch as if you were observing another person
breathing. After a period of time, the breath will naturally
The breath and the mind are inseparable. The condition
of one directly reflects the condition of the other. As the
breathing slows, the mind will slow. As thoughts slow, the
breathing will slow. At this time you want to be totally aware
of the breath, consumed in it to the exclusion of everything
else. As you learn to go within, the senses will unplug,
allowing the mind to become still. Practice this technique for
at least ten to fifteen minutes a day. Gradually increase to
twenty minutes or more.
To meet the true self,
one must unplug the
senses and go within.
- Keep the spine straight and the chin parallel to the ground
- Keep the attention focused at the point between the
- Hold the body perfectly still while practicing this technique
- Wait at least one hour after eating to practice
- Understand the difference between manipulating and
controlling the breath, and watching the breath
- Reduces stress and increases awareness
- Helps to promote calmness and a realization that you are
more than your thoughts
- Connects you on a deeper level to what is real in that
What is behind
the darkness of
Tao Te Ching: 25th Anniversary Edition–Lao Tsu
The I-Ching or Book of Changes: A Guide to Life’s
Turning Points—Brian Browne Walker
After the Ectasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows
Wise on the Spiritual Path–Jack Kornfield
Man’s Eternal Quest–Paramahamsa Yogananda
Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet.
It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already
there–buried under the fifty thousand thoughts
the average person thinks every day.
–Dr. Deepak Chopra