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Meditation for Everyday Life

Lesson 7 of 28

How to Meditate - Leaving Some Space

David Nichtern

Meditation for Everyday Life

David Nichtern

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Lesson Info

7. How to Meditate - Leaving Some Space

Lesson Info

How to Meditate - Leaving Some Space

I just want to tell you here that creative live they're taking very good care of us here. It's bordering on the miraculous, actually, food just magically appears at the right time clearly labeled, you know, um mmm. Mmm. This is a really wonderful place that were gathered in and it's also a nice feeling to be radiating out to a larger community way saw in the last segment there are people in japan watching and probably all over the world. So obviously this is ah, new day that we're living in, um, in which these kind of communications can happen on, uh, in some sense, the excuse me, the corps of the teachings that we're studying really originated in specifically in india and developed in tibet, in japan and china and places like that. But I think it's safe to say this point were really entering a global community. Uh, and sometimes I find, you know, western people with sort of more orientation towards the kind of thing we're talking about, and sometimes we might find people in asia that ...

air just, uh, going gung ho into the materialistic zone. So clearly we're in a global community and its international, uh, basically it's a great time for being able to draw from all the different traditions that we have, uh, available to us so I've often said to people, you know, these days when there studying with me sometimes is like use the internet there are amazing resources available if you want to learn more about buddhism right there uh, so if you have a particular topic or something you're tracking like if you want to read more about mindfulness so shaman like we're studying it's a very good idea to kind of just look around, see what different people are saying and compare notes in my tradition we consider a smart meditator the better the batter meditator and lourdes uh it's not a question of dulling down your senses or your education and kind of trying to find some kind of trance state but becoming a really well informed uh, literate, intelligent person who also is working from the heart level with our intuition and sort of the notion of becoming a good human being sort of fueling the whole the whole inquiry that we have so we want to draw from the best of all these things that are available to us now to refresh what we're studying here for this course is introduction to certain principles of meditation and certain teachings and methods that really arrived from uh, through through me but through really threw the vehicle of tibetan buddhism on dh I studied with a wonderful teacher named children trumper amputee who was really one of the um early uh presenters of the tradition in the west. He came here in the late sixties on dh, had a tremendous footprints. Some of you know, pama children who is very well known buddhist teacher. She was a student of his a swell. Uh, he was a great translator. And the ability to really understand the american idiom and kind of get these principles in the form where people could digest it, you know, beyond the esoteric beyond just sort of wearing the clothes, talking the talk, but having the ability to, um, make sense, you know, two people in our context, and he really deserves a great thanks for that. And that traditions sort of carried on. I would say it's like a transplanted plant it's sort of been planted. But now it's growing, you know, eucalyptus you, those of you live in california. The eucalyptus was not native to california. Did you know that? Yeah. Where'd it come from new zealand? So now everybody thinks well, the eucalyptus is characteristic of california that's. Just how things go tomatoes from italy. Okay, from here now, tomatoes are big in italy. Yeah, ok, I'm picking it. Fantastic. They kind of did a good job with them, I would have to say no. If you're really looking at who who takes the ball and runs with it, you have to give the italians the tremendous if there any of you out there a big credit for running with tomato on making a good job of that. So we talked about, you know, what is the view of this practice and just to review very briefly the idea being kind to ourselves is sort of fundamental notion here, um, and not kind of going from a place of aggression and sort of hard edge, but softening into the practice, and we talked about things and notions, like being truly inquisitive about one's own existence and hum one's life is unfolding that that kind of pure curiosity, which we called progeny, and um, and then we talked about the method of meditation and developing some precision with how we work with our mind and the analog of having some precision about how we work with our body being a sort of way of easily hooking into it. People have a lot of ground in terms of working with body. So the idea that there's some method or some system for working with the mind and we reviewed the mindfulness meditation practice, or shama tha meditation in terms of them, we started in the last segment, this you remember, maybe for some of you that was your first taste of ever doing meditation you know and that's exciting in a way you know I remember the first time I'm going bowling I was maybe nine and my dad took me I had no idea what I was doing but the first ball every bowl was a strike I don't know how many of you had this experience is either a strike or a gutter ball usually um of course uh you might be wanting ji did the nine year old david nick turn roll a three hundred game the first time out? The answer quite simply be no I did not because after that they all went in the gutter s so um the notion of hitting it this simple simplicity of this practice sometimes we can get that right away you know and sometimes before people get too complicated and try to make it too fancy have a natural sort of feeling for meditation meditation is organic process well we're always meditating on something on dso this I wanted to introduce this the idea of this word called gum in tibetan geo m were always meditating on something you might be meditating on your, uh, family you might be meditating on your career you might be meditating on a on a flower rights when you mugged meditating on uh your relationship karma boy that people meditate on that we think a lot about our relationship uh so the mind is always being directed towards something that's the nature of the mind it has it has a sort of quality of being able to tune in to something. So in this case though we're working with the kind of basic ground of the whole process of having the ability to pay attention to something and kind of focusing it clarifying that basic quality then you can use it with anything so if you want to think about your relationships or if you want you think about your music practice or or your uh you know, a case that you're working on or or any any of the things that come up that mind that's been trained in this way is more focused more clear and so um we're talking about a very general principle even even unexamined I always like to give about meditation instruction that's taken place and not cold that is the lamas method of child birth so if any of you have had a baby recently or ever or have had a friend who's had a baby it's very inching process that happens when you're having a baby not that I could really write the book on that one but I was there and I did participate briefly theo theo in the original stages you could say if the thing uh but the idea of um something's happening to you that's challenging you know which having a baby probably this is challenging because it gets uh so the mind wants to freak out you know and go like I can't do this it's not gonna work the ma's method is you just bring your attention back to the breathing and when I did this with the mother of my son ethan and we're there and we're learning this thing and I said, oh my goodness they're teaching us meditation this exact same your mind starts to wobble you know, freak out and then you bring it back to breathing so what we're talking about is a very universal, very organic kind of principle and the problem most people have is making it too complicated to be honest and I'm meaning to save you a lot of time maybe even money you know keep it simple keep it simple you know the best things in life are very simple and direct you know? So uh the idea of just being able to gather your attention gather your focus come back to what you're doing is an organic process um and it's something that we can cultivate and develop further so the idea of this afternoon's first workshop is to recognize first of all I called it leaving some space that there's some wisdom there's some potency there's some power and value and leaving some space in your life maybe they you know, sort of common logic these days is just get as much done as you possibly can and cram some more and so you end up at the end of the day, you know, kind of like you to do list only has three things left on it and they moved to tomorrow's to do list and you crash we just got like we're dead so we're not really using our energy evenly at that point, you know, on dumb the idea the meditation is not to make you a specialist and being in some kind of special meditative state but how to monitor how to gauge your energy and engagement with the world a cz you go through life and to do that it makes sense to cultivate that like anything if you want to cultivate strength like if you do your job, you need to be physically strong for you do exercise that build that up so the exercises that we're doing we leave a little bit of space in our day our day has tons of time in it by the way people say I don't have time to meditate all you have to do is say, well, give me your schedule for the day and you look at this this this and this and those are all things that you prioritized over doing this particular practice it's a simple is that so somehow if weaken recognize the value you know, off leaving space and of course the meditation is a very formal kind of space to leave it's really very concentrated but even the idea of having a conversation properly with somebody is meditative like you have something you want to talk to and you're set up that conversation and you actually take the time in the space to have that conversation with somebody or to cultivate something or to even have a cup of tea or something. So the idea of leaving space is very much part of this counter uh initiative about uh a world that we're just filling space all the time and even us taking this workshop together is leaving space, isn't it didn't you all have to leave some space in your busy lives you know? But I'm coming from the addition says it's valuable and then when you re enter it'll be it'll be about it'll be worthwhile so that's been my personal experience over you know, forty years of doing this practice I've had to cut out sometimes but it's always with this sense of going back into it with a sort of clear month and sort of cultivating somewhere basic qualities that will serve one and everyday life so that's our point of view um mmm mmm mmm mmm. This afternoon you know, we're settling into the practice a little bit so what I'd like to do now is just remind us since we just in the last segment reviewed the meditation instruction for doing the mindfulness meditation we're going to another period and I think the way I'll do this, I'll guide us through that meditation there may be some periods of silence and that for you at home, but if you are falling us online so by now, hopefully you have some kind of cushion or chair set up for doing the practice and again don't look at this a za break. This is the meat and potatoes of the with the workshop, so we're goingto and they live uh, gathering here, we're going to do this all together, which is the first step was who remembers what the first step was taking your seat. Okay, so if you all could take your seat plantation, see, and if you're just joining in fresh, I'm gonna kind review a little bit about that. You can either take a comfortable cross like in position on the, uh floor on, ideally on a cushion of flat matte cushion and, uh, round cushion called zach, and so that your butt is a little bit elevated because you're going to be more comfortable than sitting flat on the floor. If you're used to sitting on flat on the floor that's fine too, and then your pelvis should be slightly higher than your knees, so if you're noticing that your needs are so sticking up, take more cushions and get them underneath you and gulp a little higher. Altar in a parallel world you could be sitting on a chair and if you are sitting on the chair you have your feet flat on the floor in front of you um your um sitting upright so you're back it sort of liberated from the being supported there's a kind of independent strength that you're feeling it's like coming into a kind of powerful position in a way that the seat but relaxed at the same time then your hands khun just float down and rest on your knees or thighs depends how long your arms are you will of course see people meditating all kinds of gestures with hands and things like that and again those are all fine but we're keeping it very simple here and we're just relating to the kind of downward energy of the hands down and grounding energy and then you remember we talked about elevating the spine elongating this spine excuse me so that if you find you know you're starting from here that's okay and then just sort of we mentioned pulling up from the on the hair love it and so that the spine just kind of stretches upward even had one person said he felt taller after he did the practice which is which is fine and then with the chin tucked in slightly and a z remember we talked about this being an awareness type of practice so if somebody sneezes in the room that's okay wait, we just noticed that and eyes are open with a soft town would gaze I know some of you wrote in that this is new to you that's fine just try it out the principle of the eyes being open is that we're sort of working with kind of openness of the sense perceptions and as opposed to just trying to go deep inside awesome things like that it's a kind of inside announced that a very porous when you're doing this kind of practice like when you're swimming in water said feeling the two environments mingling the inside of the outsider mingling so in a sense very relaxed about our whole sense of africa and you know, trying so hard to do something but there's a tautness to it like like the way a bow is on a narrow I mean on a string is on the ball has a certain tartness to it but it's not tense and as we mentioned a few during the practice session, you know, get into a sort of feeling that it's painful for you physically too difficult it's okay to just bring your legs up in front of you um or even stretch if you need to that's fine, you don't like what you're doing over there is the sort of fun if you like my back is killing you can just just kind of roll back up but try to avoid making that your whole practice this is not stretching ok, so any of those gestures or movements are meant to sort of create equilibrium rather than become a distraction for you so I haven't taken your seat what's the second step okay, use the specific word what I'm looking for placement of attention place your attention on your breathing or let's say that a couple of different ways become aware of the breath ride the breath sort of feeling of riding the breath with your awareness feel the breath okay again it's not a highly conceptual kind of thing this you don't need to describe it or analyze it it's just you're there you're sitting you're good posture, you're breathing and you're aware of that fact you're leaving space so as you arresting your awareness lightly on your breath going in and out you can choose one of three ways of working with the breath the first one is at the tip of the notes that's a very classic buddhist uh exercise he just become aware of the breath going in out at the tip of the nose and you can choose that if you like that's usually easiest the second one is if you like you can just feel the breath rising and falling in your abdomen right stomach rises and falls with the breath and you can just sort of feel like that accordion uh kind of happening like your bellows again the awareness here is just the the breathing is the object of the of the meditation so we're not trying to manufacture manipulate the breath this is not if those of you who do yoga that's not any kind of prana yama or breath practice breath work the breathing is a natural breathing but the breath itself has becomes the object of our concentration so don't try to manipulate the breath in any way just let it be natural breathing their sense perceptions fire you know if you hear something in the hall or uh smell something or feel the wind on your skin those are just naturally arising moments of perception and you could just let them come and go we don't tryto manage that process of them during this practice so can we just resting our awareness on our breath the third way you can do that is by feeling the flow of breath throughout the entire body first way is the tip of the nose second way atomic rising and falling third weighs just feeling the breath going in and out of the body with its entire cycle you could just choose one of those three that works for you men we add in the third ingredient of the mind from this practice does anybody remember what that was okay label thinking so this is, um kind of extra little tweak of the mindfulness because we get lost in thought were gone most of us most of the time we're doing meditation are lost in thought and the way trunk are temperature used to say this my teacher said we're actually only pretending to meditate the only thing we really meditate is when the bell rings at the end so there's this feeling of like, okay, I'm sitting here doing this but the mind is you know, we're just thinking about everything else so to begin to notice that have some precision noticing and when you do notice it not judging it not evaluating it just simply labeled thinking whatever it is I thought slow thoughts you know, you might be thinking about killing somebody actually that happens you might be thinking about doing the other thing to somebody that happens you might be thinking about you know, uh, your whole life you know and think I really understand now well, I can tell you right now if I could stop meditating and we'll tell you why my life is such a mess you know it doesn't matter doesn't it or you might be thinking about enlightenment you might be thinking about bliss you might be thinking about, uh, chocolate ice cream you see, we are thinking about talk that ice cream uh so whatever it is just without judging label thinking and then come back to the breath coming back so let's try that together for five minutes um this is the practice that were kind of developing together and if you're at home give this a try even if you're just joining us on dumb will resume you know our conversation in five minutes so we'll do a period of sitting now without without me guiding it uh wanted to give you this one idea before we do that I was thinking about what what really this is similar to is scuba instruction deep sea diving instruction has anybody done scuba diving? Yeah okay, so you know that when you're starting the instructors very close with your or uh jumping parachuting the instructor is not gonna let you get too far away and make sure you clearly understand the parameters of it right um they'll even breathe with you in a sense, you know but at a certain point once you know what you're doing go do it you now you're through your in your scuba gear you know how it works and you're exploring your world so that's in our tradition we don't hold everybody's hand all the time but we could some kind of format and then give you a lot of space for you have your own experience without us managing it all the time and the premise of that is that people do and it's been proven for centuries have a lot of wisdom of their own and will discover uh things for themselves but through this practice so you've had your scuba instruction. You got your gear, and now you're going to go explore for five minutes. And then, well, we convene, and we'll talk about what kind of fish we saw, okay? Oh!

Class Description

In today’s hectic world, our busy lives often crowd out any chance to sit still. Who has time to focus on mindfulness when there are 40 emails to write? Join Buddhist teacher David Nichtern for an introduction to meditation. David will show you how meditating for just 15-30 minutes a day will clarify your mind and decrease your stress levels.

David will teach you the basics of meditation, unpacking the centuries-old spiritual tradition into a practical playbook for living a balanced life. You will learn simple posture, breathing, and directed contemplation techniques that will help you unclutter your mind and increase your energy.

Stillness is a powerful way to be kind to yourself. At the end of this workshop, you will be more present, aware, and connected to the world around you.


Sean Newton

I've tried to develop a meditation practice in the past and signed up for this course because of the title ..'everyday life' This course works!! I'd like to thank David and the Creative Live crew for providing a life enhancing course. At first I was a little impatient as I thought the sessions were long, drawn out and repetitive however, half way through it 'clicks' (it made sense) and what may seem as a long-winded preamble is in fact laying a firm foundation for understanding and progression. Hastily wanting to skip to some perceived 'good bit that helps hedge fund mangers etc ' is like sprinting to the end of the rainbow instead of appreciating the various colours. (Your own perceptual colours even ;-)) Anyway, a worthwhile course - so stay the course and feel better for fit

a Creativelive Student

David is an amazing teacher, he has a gift for relating the principles of mindfulness in an accessible, relatable way. Plus, he's really funny. I'm super psyched to participate in this workshop. Thanks CreativeLIVE!


Also found this through the DTFH podcast. What a wonderful, powerful, and approachable course in meditation. Highly recommended to anyone interested in starting on this path. It's chock full of practical information and ways to apply meditation to your life.