reply to post by RicketyCricket
Meditation is like anything else, the more you do it, the more skill-sets (methods) you pick up. It's hard to give definitive answers to many of your
questions because meditation is a fluid practice, and there are different techniques based on who you are learning from. I learned Vipassana
meditation from Theravada forest monks in Sri Lanka under the lineage of Mahasi Sayadaw. It's a bit more technical and expansive than other (more
western) versions, but is still very approachable to even the most novice of practitioner's.
What do you say to yourself while you meditate?
Do you say anything?
Try mental noting of whatever you become aware of. If focused on the breath, note "in" and "out" or "rising" and "falling". If bodily
sensations arise, note "feeling", "itching", "discomfort", and so on. If thoughts appear, note "thinking". And so on. Do this until the
awareness of whatever it is ceases. You can also use a mantra like "Buddho" to help with concentration. Something like "Buuu" on the in breath and
"dhooo" on the out breath.
Am I supposed to be actively envisioning something?
Am I supposed to feel anything?
Am I supposed to fall asleep?
Short answer, no. You aren't supposed to DO anything, rather just recognize whatever is happening and note it mentally. If visions arise, note them
as "seeing, seeing, seeing..." and so on. Falling asleep signals a lack of concentration, unless you're just really tired in which case you should
just sleep. Over time, as your concentration strengthens, the tendency to become tired will lessen.
Should I be sitting or laying down?
You can do whatever you like. I don't like to lay down because I get too tired, too quickly.
What about standing?
Yes, you can do walking meditation too. Especially when you get bored or tired, it's a good cure for that. If you look up Yuttadhammo on youtube, he
has a whole series on meditation including a video on walking meditation. Very important for any serious meditator, imo.
Is the point of this just simple silence?
No. At least not the style that I learned (which is considered the traditional method handed down from the Buddha himself). Silence, tranquility,
peace of mind... all of these can be symptoms of sincere meditation practice, but so can discontentment, anxiety and frustration. They are not goals,
but reactions. The ultimate goal of meditation is insight and understanding into the nature of reality and mind. That is why I feel it is important to
compliment meditation practice with the study of wise teachers such as Thich Naht Hanh, Ajahn Chah, and/or others. As insight and understanding is
strengthened, naturally a sense of contentment and well-being becomes more frequent. But it is not the goal.
What role do candles and crystals and incense play in all this?
Are they necessary?
I don't know. I guess they could be used to supplement a sense of importance or seriousness in the practice, but they are not needed. Whatever you
decide, it is important to practice in many different settings under many different circumstances. Try not to become reliant on a particular setting
or mood to meditate in.
Can I play music in the background?
Sure, although it seems like it would be distracting to a certain extent. Probably warrants the same advice as to the previous question.
Am I allowed to drink some water while meditating if my throat is dry?
Sure, just try to note everything your doing though. (ex. "Thirsty... standing up... walking... pouring water... drinking... and so on.)
As far as guides, again, I have found Thich Naht Hanh, Ajahn Chah and Yuttadhammo as great sources of guidance. The differences between their
teachings is minor at best, yet it's mostly concerning the style of explanation and not really the content of what is being taught.
Good luck my friend!