Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Meditation Classes

I love meditation. About 30 years ago, I learned to meditate as part of my yoga classes. I meditated once a week at the end of class. Then the teacher mentioned that we didn’t need to be in a class. We could meditate as often as we liked, whenever and where ever we wanted.
That was too much freedom. I continued to meditate at the end of class with everybody else, and no place else.

After the class ended, my meditation ended. I felt like I was missing something. I went to the library. I couldn’t find any clear instructions. Sit quietly, with your spine straight, breathe slowly. Pick a time, preferably early in the morning. On a schedule. Once a week, once a day, it doesn’t matter. Just make a schedule.

I tried to meditate once a week, like my yoga class. Sometimes my brain went into gear. Sometimes it didn’t.

I experimented. When it was good – it was better than sex. When it was bad, it was like an argument.

I played games with my brain for about 20 years before I got the hang of it. Even one satisfying meditation every few weeks is enough to keep me going.

Then along came the internet.

I found http://www.project-meditation.org
This website has most of what I learned in 20 years of experimenting – just download it and listen and do what they tell you. (Except, they also tell you to buy their binaural beat programs – you don’t need those. You can try the free sample if you want. You can get more free samples here: http://www.jetcityorange.com/meditation/binaural-beats.html, and you can surf the web for other sites with similar programs.)

Before I found the web, I also found Sounds True, which sells an audiotape of Healthy Breathing by Ken Cohen, who is a Chi Kung master. I said this was a listing of free products. And it is.

If you download the free program Rhapsody, you get 25 free songs a month. Healthy Breathing is one of the songs they offer. This song is really a guided instruction that lasts about 75 minutes. If you want to buy it, the cost is 99 cents, but you can listen 25 times a month for free. I think once a week is plenty and a few months practice is enough to teach you the basics. You can listen that often for free.

Download Rhapsody here:

https://realstore.rhapsody.com/rhapsody/free/real

I find healthy breathing to be a core part of my meditation practice.
The only caveat here – slow breathing has become my normal breathing. When I was in the ER after being hit by a car, my slow breathing set off alarms on the monitor. The staff finally gave up and turned off the breath counting machine.

Since the accident, I found an even more useful meditation website.

http://www.audiodharma.org/talks-intromed.html

This type of meditation is called mindfulness. It has its origins in Buddhism. The first website listed here describes a meditation technique that has its origins in the Hindu religion. These meditation techniques require no religious beliefs or training. These are physical and mental techniques to focus and calm the mind.

The mindfulness lessons are supposed to take 6 weeks. I've already spent 2 months on them and I'm just starting lesson 4. There are 6 lessons. I'm finding that mindfulness is the most useful of the techniques so far.

With the other techinques, if I felt an itch, I'd stop meditating and scratch the itch. With mindfulness, I can focus on the itch, explore the itch, feel where the itch is precisely, noticing if it moves.

I want to state here that meditation is not necessarily calming. It is not the same thing as a pleasant walk in the woods, or the awe one feels at a beautiful view. It is training the mind to see life in a calm way. It's hard work. It may not be your pleasure, as it is mine. But if you are curious, and have access to a computer that is on the web (you are reading this article on such a machine), it doesn't have to cost you a cent.

It will claim a significant amount of your time. I'm up at 4 AM every day to meditate. At 5 AM I do my exercises. Then I shower and eat and walk my dog before my day begins.

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