Beginners – Meditation

There are several parts to this section of the site. They are arranged in one long page with the most-developed and easiest-to-use material at the top. The page is in several sections, arranged like this:

*  Beginners’ Meditation Courses (Level 1)

*  Metta Bhavana

*  Mindfulness of Breathing

*  Practice Diaries and Meditation CDs

Beginners’ Meditation Courses (Level 1)

 

Here are a number of ready-to-use meditation courses for beginners:

 

Beginners’ Meditation Course (Sagaraghosha, 6 weeks)

This is a fully-worked-out six-week course introducing the FWBO’s main meditation practices, by Sagaraghosha from the Cambridge Buddhist Centre, UK.

A single PDF containing all the handouts in one document is available here. http://triratna-centre-support.org/wp-content/uploads/level-1-meditation-course-by-sagaraghosha-complete.pdf

Week 1:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Practical Points

Handout ‘Four Types of Meditation‘ (concentrative, generative, reflective, receptive)

Handout about meditation diary and meditation CDs

Week 2:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Meditation Posture

Handout ‘Mindfulness of Breathing

Handout ‘Diary‘ 2

Week 3:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Diary‘ 3

Week 4:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Metta Bhavana

Handout ‘Diary‘ 4

Week 5:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Diary‘ 5

Week 6:

Guide line for the teacher

Handout ‘Diary‘ 6

Handout ‘Feedback sheet

Programme for Meditation 1 Practice Day

 

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Life with Full Attention Course (Maitreyabandhu, LBC)

This is a very popular eight-week course based on Maitreyabandhu’s book of the same name, available from Windhorse Publications www.windhorsepublications.com/life_with_full_attention.

The Teachers Notes are available here: Life with Full Attention teachers notes.
And a selection of poems for week 6 (mindfulness of art and nature) are available here: Life With Full Attention – POEMS.

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Foundation Course and Practice Diary (Maitreyabandhu, LBC)

This is a six-week foundation course based on a practice diary. This course aims to support people in establishing a meditation practice, breaking down teaching into day-by-day experiential exercises and reviewing how the meditation is going. The materials include a meditation diary, handouts with reminders of the practice, and Teachers Notes. Developed by Maitreyabandhu and peer-reviewed by the Lighting the Flame Group.

Download: Meditation Practice Diary in Microsoft Word format

Note: this page does not reproduce the Meditation Practice Diary itself. Please obtain that by clicking on the hyperlink, above. The document will download automatically.

Notes on the Practice Diary

This page introduces the context for using the Diary in a course you are leading.

1. Aims
2. How best to introduce and use the Practice book
3. Weekly meditation reviews
4. Diary structure
5. Course plan
6. Class plan
7. Encouragement not guilt
8. ‘What next’ section
9. Producing the diary for your class
10. Anything else?
11. Will this cramp your style as a teacher?

Aims

1. Supporting people to meditate regularly. From my evaluation and feedback from courses, this is the area that people need most help with. We have always encouraged a daily meditation practice but not given much to help to support that. I hope the Practice Diary helps by:

o Suggesting particular approaches for meditation each day (exploring the themes taught on the course).

o Providing people with a meditation diary that they can fill in every day.

o Providing a series of handouts, reminding them about the stages of the practice and giving concise teachings.

o Weekly meditation reviews and by creating a dedicated space every week to talk about how the meditation is going.

2. Breaking down teaching into day-by-day experiential exercises. The Practice Diary explores the teaching of the preceding class (e.g. Breadth and Focus); the following week’s diary suggests different ways into this teaching, different methods of exploring it and leaving a space for people to write down what they have discovered. Hopefully this will mean that the meditator is more likely to learn the principles of meditation effectively rather than simply hear about them from the teacher.

3. Reviewing and assessing how the meditation is going. At the end of each week of practice, the diary asks various questions about how the week has gone; did you meditate? What have you noticed? and so forth.

How best to introduce and use the Practice book

The Practice Diary needs to be carefully introduced on the first day of the course. It only works if people take it seriously and use it. This means that the teacher needs to be behind it and see its potential value. (It is ideal if the teacher uses the diary too – I use them and find them very helpful).

Give out practice books at the first class, asking people

1. To fill in the Practice Diary as instructed (see above).

2. To come a bit early to the class to fill in their weekly review (otherwise this aspect of the book might well get forgotten).

3. To bring the Practice Diary with them each week, as we will be using it to review our meditation practice in pairs. (Having dedicated time for people to talk about their meditation practice and using the diaries as a way of doing this is vital.)

Weekly meditation reviews

At each class, allow between 10 or 15 minutes for meditation reviews (in pairs). This needs to built into the class structure (not during the tea break). I tend to do the review just before tea (and after the first meditation), then they can continue talking at tea break if need be; as they have already meditated that evening, they can at least talk about that (if they haven’t meditated during the week).

Diary structure

The diary only has six days per week – so they can have a day off if they want, or do it their own way on the seventh!

I suggest that if people miss a day of meditation they cross that day off, and if they want to go back and try out that day’s ‘instruction’ they could do so after the course.

Course plan

I run the course as follows:

  • Week one – Mindfulness of Breathing and body awareness.
  • Week two – Broad Awareness.
  • Week three – Metta Bhavana.
  • Week four – Mature Effort.
  • Week five – Hindrances (this course does not concentrate on the hindrances and antidotes – I feel it becomes too technical too quickly, I mainly concentrate on ‘cultivating the opposite’).
  • Week six – Fruitful Attitudes to Meditation (exploring the kind of attitudes we need to develop in order to progress in meditation).

Class plan

7pm – I encourage people to come early and fill in the week’s review, then lie down in the Alexander position.

7.15pm start – brief teaching, preparation and meditation (I find that because of the diary, I don’t need to teach and explain so much, as they can read it in their own time. Instead, I concentrate on creating a meditative atmosphere and making sure that we do at least two sessions of meditation).

8pm – meditation reviews in pairs using the practice diary to remind people.

8.15pm – tea break.

8.45pm – this week’s practice theme (e.g. mature effort).

9pm – meditation.

9.40pm – finish.

Encouragement not guilt

The main thing again is to encourage people to use the book to help them meditate regularly at home and to help them make the teachings their own by giving them different ways of approaching the meditation each day. Make sure at the same time that by doing this you don’t make people feel guilty about not meditating.

‘What next’ section

I have included a ‘what next’ section. The teacher needs to fill out what classes, courses, retreats and so on you recommend for people if they want to carry on meditating. In this section I also recommend a selection of Windhorse books for further reading.

Producing the diary for your class

I have formatted in Word and you will be able to change things once you have downloaded it. It has a contents page, a cover and a ‘how to use this diary’ introduction. I prefer to create an A5 booklet (as it is much easier for them to handle and therefore more likely to be used) but I have put it on the web as an A4 book, which I would suggest you put in a plastic binder of some sort. I hope to get someone to design an A5 version that is more pleasing to look at (the diary is at the very limits of my design capacity).

Anything else?

The cover of your Practice Diary needs to have your centre’s contact information, phone number, web page and charity number. This helps people contact you easily.

You may want to charge more for the course to cover costs of producing the book.

Will this cramp your style as a teacher?

Understandably, this is a teachers’ main concern when it comes to the Practice Diary: will it mean that they have to teach in a prescribed way? Obviously the diary works best if the teaching sessions follow the broad format of the diary (i.e. teaching metta on the third week) but this still, I hope, leaves space for your own personal approach. Some teachers have used it whilst teaching quite different things – I think this diminishes the effectiveness of the diary but it is still useful, especially if the teacher recommends it and dedicated time is put aside to share how the meditation has been going. A plus of the diary is that it reduces your preparation time, and, if nicely produced, helps people take the course more seriously.

I hope you enjoy using the book and that it helps people in their meditation. Any feedback would be gratefully received.

Maitreyabandhu November 2004

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One-Page handout summarising our meditations (Lokabandhu)

Provided by Lokabandhu, who says: “I produced this for use in Buddhafield and Bodh Gaya, I’ve always liked it as a very compact one-page summary of our meditations. The idea is that it is a one-page printout that folds into 4 and makes a miniature leaflet. It does need a printer that can cope with small margins though…”

buddhist-meditation-summary.pdf

buddhist-meditation-summary.doc

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Essentials of Buddhism and Meditation (Glasgow, 6 weeks)

A six week course provided by the Glasgow Buddhist Centre

‘Essentials of Buddhism and Meditation’ is a six-week course from the Glasgow Buddhist Centre. The course offers introductions to the basic meditation practices and covers the following topics:

Buddhism: the basics and the path

the Buddha, historical and ideal

ethics, meditation, wisdom

the Sangha, the fellowship of practitioners,

the six emphases of Triratna.

You can download the complete course materials here or simply take the notes for individual sessions below.

Outline of the course –

Introduction

Short course description including a commented reading list

Session 1

meditation: posture and body awareness

buddhism: the basics and the path

Session 2

meditation: awareness of the body and breath

buddhism: the Buddha, historical and ideal

Session 3

meditation: the mindfulness of breathing

buddhism: the dharma, part 1 – ethics

Session 4

meditation: the metta bhavana

buddhism: the dharma, part 2 – meditation

Session 5

meditation: the metta bhavana

buddhism: the dharma, part 3 – wisdom

Session 6

meditation: working creatively

buddhism: the sangha, the fellowship of practitioners,

the six emphases of Triratna

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Meditation Course (Vajramati, New York, 4 weeks)

Week 1. Mindfulness of Breathing

Week 2. Metta Bhavana

Week 3. Hindrances

Week 4. PIPER

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Posture guide (Bodhipaksa, Wildmind)

This is a link to a 13-page ‘Posture Workshop’ developed by Bodhipaksa from Wildmind –

http://www.freebuddhistaudio.com/texts/othertexts/Bodhipaksa/FBA111_Meditation_Posture_Guide.pdf

 

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Posture guide (Kamalashila)

This is a link to the chapter on ‘Posture’ in Kamalashila’s classic book on Meditation –

http://kamalashila.co.uk/page7/page14/page14.html

 

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Posture handout (Vajramati, New York)

Posture

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A short handout on the essentials of our practices (Glasgow)

short hand-out on the essentials of our practices

Posture, body awareness, Mindfulness of Breathing, Metta Bhavana – from the Glasgow Buddhist Centre.

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Tips for Establishing a Meditation Practice (Suvarnaprabha)

Tips for Establishing a Meditation Practice

Focus: Beginners

Suvarnaprabha, San Francisco Buddhist Center

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Introductions to the Metta Bhavana

Introduction to the Metta Bhavana (Ruchiraketu, detailed guide)

Introducing Metta Bhavana is a highly-polished 32-page guide to the Metta Bhavana developed by Ruchiraketu in 2004. He introduces it thus:

Download: Introducing Metta Bhavana

Introduction

The ideas given in Introducing Metta Bhavana are to give practical tips for designing experiential exercises while introducing Metta Bhavana to newcomers. I hope they will stimulate more experimentation with an experiential approach to learning.

They are not a complete course in themselves but are provided to supplement whatever teaching you might normally do. Adapt them to suit your own style and purposes. They are not procedures to follow but just examples of an experiential approach for you to modify and adapt for yourself.

Introducing Metta Bhavana is divided into the following sections:

Introduction

What meditation is and isn’t

What meditation is

What meditation isn’t

The Four types of meditation

Short meditation

The four types of meditation

Option for experiencing the four types

The four types of meditation

Short experiment – the value in being systematic

Becoming aware of the body (body scan)

Short experiment – the effect of ‘kind awareness’

Preparing for bhavana – what do you not want to change?

Preparing for bhavana – ‘maintaining’ before ‘developing’

Avoiding the pitfalls in the first stage of the Metta Bhavana

Exploring how to develop positive emotions and metta

Introduce the idea of intentionally developing positive emotions

Introduce the idea of metta

Explore (in small groups) how to develop metta

Designing a 25 minute loving-kindness meditation in 5 stages

Short exploration – scaling questions for positive emotions

Other options

Exploration – how would you prepare for Metta Bhavana?

Life ‘off the cushion’, and a few homework ideas

Expressing metta in daily life

Some homework ideas

Handouts

The Four types of meditation

Developing loving-kindness (Metta Bhavana)

Maintaining then developing (3 steps diagram)

Although the sections are arranged roughly in the order in which they might be used on a meditation course, many of them can be used independently for a single class. Some of them overlap and repeat similar points so it’s worth scanning through them all to choose or adapt the ones you want.

They have all been successfully tried out in meditation courses at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre over the last couple of years. However be aware that whenever you introduce an experiential element, people may not respond in the way that you expect! If you can demonstrate an open and exploratory attitude at such times then they won’t be setbacks but opportunities for learning….

Do let me have your feedback and suggestions for improvements.

Ruchiraketu August 2004

Note: to obtain the document please click on the hyperlink: Introducing Metta Bhavana. The document (in Microsoft Word format) will download automatically.

 

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Introduction to the Metta Bhavana (Adiccabandhu, 3 weeks)

Introduction to the Metta Bhavana

Foundation level teaching units for Metta Bhavana. Each unit explores an aspect of metta. They can be pieced together to make a 3-week introduction to metta, or imported into your own design for a metta introductory course. Developed by Ruchiraketu, adapted by Adiccabandhu, and peer-reviewed by the Lighting the Flame Group.

 

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Handouts on the Metta Bhavana (Dhammaloka)

Developed by Dhammaloka for a retreat at Vajraloka. You can download the following pdf documents.

metta-first-stage.pdf

metta-stages-two-to-four.pdf

metta-last-stage.pdf

 

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Introductions to the Mindfulness of Breathing

There’s no material here yet exclusively on the Mindfulness of Breathing. However it is included in most of the general introductions to Meditation. Also check Wildmind or FreeBuddhistAudio for some excellent introductory material.

Wildmind materials are at

http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness

FreeBuddhistAudio material is at http://www.freebuddhistaudio.com/meditation/guided

 

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Practice Diaries and Meditation CDs

This section includes material on –

*  Practice Diaries to accompany meditation courses.

*  Making Meditation CDs

Practice Diaries help students be more systematic in their approach to meditation.

Meditation CDs are a great way to give your students an ongoing connection with you and with the practice.

 

Simple Practice diary

 

 

Meditation Workbook (LBC, 4 or 6 weeks)

A detailed instruction for a meditation diary over 4 or 6 weeks.

Provided by the LBC team.

Focus is on Mindfulness of Breathing, Body Scan, and Metta Bhavana.

Including clear reminders of essential aspects of the practices.

Week 1: anchoring awareness to the body

Breath and Body – focus on good preparation and anchoring awareness to the body; becoming aware of tensions and discomfort; noticing positive factors.

Week 2: focus supported by breadth

Breath and Breadth – including all one’s experience in awareness; learning about feelings and the mind; physical counterparts of mental states; ending the practice.

Week 3: the spirit of exploration, appreciation, warmth

Positive Emotion – self-metta and confidence in one’s potential; bringing the friend to mind; warm awareness and enjoyment.

Week 4: practising with patience, persistence, sensitivity

Mature Effort – appropriate activity and receptivity; working with distractions and feelings; developing sympathy.

While weeks 1-4 can be used as a complete set, for those who wish to go deeper, a workbook over 6 weeks is offered.

Week 5: naming, acknowledging, regarding positively

Knowing the mind and working with hindrances to meditation; exploring mental states without condemning; naming and owning; cultivating the opposite.

Week 6: cultivating an attitude of learning and exploration

Fruitful attitudes to meditation – adjusting expectations in relationship to one’s experience; bringing imagination to the practice; reflecting.

Outlook: where to go from here?

Download the workbook:

Version over 4 weeks

Version over 6 weeks

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Living Practice Workbook (LBC, 60 pages)

The Living Practice workbook is an exceptionally detailed resource which leads participants through the process of recording their experience during a whole meditation course.

 

To use this you will need to download three files: Buddhist Meditation: Living Practice Workbook and How to Use the Living Practice Diary. All are in Microsoft Word format

Aims and Methods

The course aims to develop mindfulness in everyday life.

The course is designed to help people:

1 Cultivate the ‘Four Spheres of Mindfulness’ [ 1 ] in daily life

2 Cultivate the ‘Four Dimensions of Mindfulness’ [ 2] in daily life

3 What issues in our current system does the course address?

– Bhante taught meditation as a standalone practice, divorced from everyday life and from Buddhism. His teaching methods were in response to a very different cultural atmosphere, one in which meditation was seen as exotic and therefore suspect. Our current concept of meditation is indivisible from Buddhism and daily life – we need to teach that more overtly.

– We have been criticized by other Buddhist groups for not teaching mindfulness.

– The course helps people deepen their practice of Buddhism without getting more involved in the institutions of the movement (which has been our default position for ‘getting more involved’ until fairly recently).

– We encourage people to meditate everyday, but how much support do we offer to make that possible?

4 How the course is led, and how it changes our usual conception of what classes are

– Putting it crudely, our classes are usually conceived as fill-up stations. People are left to get on with their own practice during the week. They come to the centre to fill-up on meditation and inspiration, which, runs out during the remainder of the week.

– The Living Practice course turns this assumption on its head. Almost all of the class time is devoted to reviewing how people have managed with their practice during the previous week, as well as setting goals for the following one. As the course is currently conceived, there is not enough time for a sitting meditation – though we do walking meditation every week.

– Living Practice is based on an intensive workbook which participants use during the week and in the class itself. It forms the basis for discussion in pairs, three’s or small groups about how people’s practice is going and how participants intend to practice during the following week.

– Much of the class is given over to working with the book – to discussion and feedback (e.g. in setting the mindful walk everyday, you ask them to think about what might get in the way of doing that, and then take feedback, thereby sharing the issues we all face in trying to develop mindfulness.) Much of the content of the class therefore comes directly from the participants rather than the teacher ‘telling’ the class what they should do and what the issues are likely to be. This interactive approach takes time, but helps promote active, engaged learning/exploring. The workbook also includes some drawing – so its no too heady.

– By week 3 each participant is asked to:

Fill in their daily meditation diary (each week’s diary explores the ‘sphere of mindfulness’ that we have introduced during the class).

Integrate a daily mindfulness walk into their daily life.

Choose one daily activity as a mindfulness cue

The workbook is quite long (I prefer it in a handy A5 format – so that people can have it with them all the time) so you may want to print it up week by week, so as not to put people off. The price of the workbook should be integrated into the course fee.

To lead this intensive mindfulness course, the course leader needs to do it themselves!

Notes

[ 1 ] This is commonly translated as The Four ‘Foundations’ of Mindfulness, but this is incorrect: foundation suggest something to be built whereas the teaching is actually a complete system of practice up to Enlightenment itself – not a ‘foundation’ for more ‘advanced’ practices.

[ 2 ] This is Bhante’s teaching (i.e. it is not canonical). The value of Bhante’s contribution is that it makes mindfulness of the environment, objects and, especially, people explicit.]

 

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Meditation CDs

 

Ruchiraketu and other teachers have strongly recommended that meditation teachers consider preparing their own meditation CDs to give participants to on their courses. The CDs helps beginners retain a connection with the teacher and with their practice through the week. For this reason is it important it is the teachers voice on the CD ie that ‘general purpose’ CDs are not used.

We are hoping to upload a guide here to preparing your own meditation CDs (it’s much easier than you might think!); however in the meantime you can use the links below to access sample text by Ruchiraketu and also recordings that he has made.

Click here for sample scripts for you to record –

  • introducing the Mindfulness of Breathing
  • introducing the Metta Bhavana
  • introducing Body Awareness

And click here to dopwnload Ruchiraketu’s recordings of the above three:

  • talking through the Mindfulness of Breathing
  • talking through the Metta Bhavana
  • talking through Body Awareness

 

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