After starting the book with some great information such as what meditation IS and what it is NOT, the first week of instruction in "Real Happiness" provides a gold mine of extremely important, deep, simple and very - VERY - useful information.
At the beginning of the week, we started by talking about concentration. Sharon talks a little about how we can't change the past, and can't predict the future, and about being in the present moment. She talked about choosing a place to meditate, what to wear and a time to practice. She talks about the posture, and how it doesn't have to be perfect. About how the back is the most important part and how over time better posture will aid your practice. She gives an overview of what the week will look like. And, finally, she leads us with some guided meditations and offers some variations of practice for us to work with.
At a glance, this all sounds very basic. And while it is the basics, it is anything but basic! It is fundamental information, but it's also things that you will use and expand on every time you sit. Forever. So I can't overstate how useful the basic info provided in week one can be.
- Meditation is not glamorous.
- Your thoughts will drift.
- When they do, come back to the breath.
- Don't beat yourself up.
- Just start over.
- This IS the practice!
- Don't get discouraged.
- Mix up your practice.
- Try different approaches.
- Keep a sitting journal.
So, with all of this in mind, my Day 8 sit was a mixed bag. I did the core meditation. I followed the breath for a while. I let go of thoughts for a while. I did "Hearing Meditation" for a while. I did Cradling the breath meditation. I enjoyed it all. I didn't choose this, I just let it happen.
One thing I would like to add here, is the use of technology. This might sound a little strange when you're maybe picturing sitting with pillows and candles and bells and such, but I bring it up because toward the end of this section of the book, Sharon talks about keeping a Meditation Journal. While I have an actual bell, I have found it much more useful in my practice to rely on technology for this. I've reviewed in the past some of the meditation bell options, and there's been progress on many of them. So I'd like to reference a few options here for you to consider. I'm not promoting any of them, but actually use them all. I am sort of waiting for new versions before writing any more reviews of them, so for now I just suggest trying them out if you have a smartphone or tablet and see if you like them. More importantly, see if they HELP your practice. They should AID you, not distract from your practice!
~ Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch
~ Insight Timer - by Spotlight Six
~ Equanimity - Meditation Timer & Tracker by Robin Barooah
All of these are functionally great for using as a timer and bell(s). The latter two also act as meditation journals. Insight Timer is the least attractive, in my opinion, but the most functionality offering all of the above as well as a rather limited social media functionality (which if you are part of an online Sangha such as the Online Meditation Crew, makes it the most handy option). The most important thing is that they all work very well to aid in timing and tracking your practice.
When I prepare to sit, I tweet my check-in to the #OMCru, I set the iPhone to Airplane mode to prevent interruptions and then I start my timer. A bell rings to start me. Three bells signal the end of the sit. A journal automatically pops up for my entry then I turn on the phone and tweet my check-out. It's painless, seamless and very, very useful to me. I hope you will find it so, as well.
I look forward to the second week!