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Simple guide to meditation (Anapana Sati)

This guide is about Ánapána Sati meditation and it is not about Zen meditation nor Vipassana meditation

Mini-Chapters:

    1. Why even meditate?
    2. How to meditate?
    3. Observe your thoughts, don’t supress them!
    4. What is the state of No Mind?
    5. Focus on your breath
    6. Major difference between focusing and noticing
    7. Stay in the present moment
    8. Beginnings are hard
    9. Starve the ego, feed the soul
    10. How long does it take to see results?
    11. Spiritual side of meditation
    12. Being in the body and feeling
    13. Books and videos on the topic
    14. Summary, TL:DR;

Why even meditate?
For focusing your mind and staying in the present moment, not letting your mind drift away. For someone with ADHD, social anxiety, problems with feeling feelings deeply and regrets about the past or fear of the future (existential dread, depression), for controlling your impulses and noticing your behavior from 3rd person.

Every leader would tell you that a big part of his success, or even managing his daily life, is meditation. Tools of Titans is a pretty good read on this.

Meditation allows you to do a full day of work or to stay focused on things – you draw the energy from the Universe. Advanced meditators only need to sleep for 3 hours a night, because they are charged with positive energy.

Meditation is absolutely necessary if you want to build something huge or something successful, because massive amounts of focus are needed for that.

How to meditate?

We are going to be talking about Ánapána Sati, or sitting meditation.

First thing – you sit down, in a relaxed position and you can place your feet in a lotus position or just sit on your heels (Witcher style). What is important is to have some kind of support under your butt, like 2 pillows or Zafu pillow.

Be really comfortable, realize that you will be sitting for next 20 to 60 minutes.

You can meditate for how long you want, Samana Atari (monk who taught me) meditates every morning for 45 minutes. Before that he says protective mantras (Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sama sambuddhasa – “I greet and honor the enlightened one”, it goes on, but let’s keep this article short. Lot of people think Buddhism is a religion, but it is not – Buddha was just a guy who was searching for happiness and found what it really is). Anyway, if you are just starting meditating, the ideal time is 15-30 minutes.

Samana Atart - retreat
Samana Atari – retreat

Observe your thoughts, don’t supress them!

Close your eyes and try to focus on your breath. Now, you could have read somewhere that you should try to supress your thoughts, which is not quite right. You should be a watcher, the observer of your thoughts. If you are thinking a thought, and you just observe, without attaching to it, judging it… then who is the one observing the one thinking the thought?

You can ascend to this detached watcher state for only a few seconds from the 20 minute session when you are beginning. It’s called satori (in some contexts satori is also letting go), in that state you have no thoughts.. until your mind realizes that you have no thoughts and bam, it’s gone. You want to train yourself through meditation, to stay in that elevated state as much as you can.

Meditation is like learning to drive. Once you learn it, you can apply it to your life. Suddenly, you notice your impulses, so you won’t go for that random youtube video.

Supressing your thoughts would only spawn more thoughts. Don’t think about a pink elephant!
Nice taoistic saying on this matter is that your mind is like water full of dirt. You can observe the water and wait for the dust to settle, so your mind becomes clear, or you can grab the water with your hands and make it all dusty again. That is trying to get rid of your thoughts with more thoughts or trying to supress them.

 

What is the state of No Mind?

A good analogy for the “state of no mind” is probably a 3rd person view in games. You just watch your body and mind from a point in your head. You then realize that your thoughts are not you. So, the same way the camera in the game watches you, and you as a player can control your in-game avatar, the same way it is with meditation. Maybe you have heard about Thich Quang Duc, the monk who burned himself to death in 1963. He burned himself to death on the street, as a protest, and the whole time he was burning he did not make a sound. How is that possible? He was a monk who practiced detachment meditation for years, so he was able to watch his burning body from this detached state of mind.

Third person detached view - Franklin in GTA
Third person detached view – Franklin

Focus on your breath

Iiiiiiin, Ouuuuuuuut, Iiiiiin, Oooooout.

It may sound silly, but just mark your breaths. Mark the in breaths, mark the out breaths. By keeping your mind focused only on the breath, you prevent it from drifting to your thoughts – *sound of kids playing outside* -> Oh, my ex wanted kids -> Remember the time we visited the castle? That was the good times with her. -> The girl I met last week is great! -> I have to work on myself more -> Is the gym open tomorrow?

See, now the mind drifted from the stimulus of “sound of kids outside” to thinking about the gym. You learn to catch yourself doing this and stop yourself on the first level.
If you notice your are drifting and you are not focused on your breath, just take a not of it, like “I am off” – nothing violent, just notice it – and then return to watching your breath.

If you have trouble with thoughts taking over too often, try to prolong the labeling of the breath. So don’t only breathe in (mark “In”), but mentally say “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin” for the duration of the breath. That way your mind has no space to think about bills, girls or planning anything.

 

Major difference between focusing and noticing

This is probably the most important thing that Samana Atari showed us.

You should not control your breath, you should only observe it. If you start to focus on it, you also start to control it.

It is literally like when you are reading this. You are not focused on your breath. It just IS.

For that reason, focus on your belly, not your breath – notice how is the belly getting bigger, that way you will not control the breath. Only notice your breath.

Stay in the present moment

It is the same stuff like in conversations – you tell a story, and then you are in another 5 sub-stories which branch into another… and so on. Too late you realize you are not talking about the thing you wanted. Same it is with thoughts. You want to focus on your breath, one thing to focus on… and then your mind diverges. It starts to jump around, to different branches. Just realize you are off and return to the main thing. Try to stay on the “master” branch, no need to create new branches. And when you do, notice it, then return to master. It is all about training your internal Manager archetype – part of your personality.

branching of thoughts
branching of thoughts

Beginnings are hard

Lot of people I know say they tried meditation, but it did not work, so they stopped. They expected to go from zero to hero in 2 days. But meditation is more like dripping water into a cup. You cannot expect to have the cup full in a week. But after 2 weeks or a month, you will seriously feel the effects.

Starve the ego, feed the soul

If you meditate the first 20 minutes, at the end you will probably have numb legs and meanwhile your face starts to itch. Ignore it. That is your mind, your ego, trying to stop you from focusing on one thing, or „feeding your soul“. Starve the ego, feed the soul. Through meditation.

How long does it take to see results?

Also, the first time you will be able to achieve the clear mind „satori“ state only for about 1-5 seconds in the 20 minutes. But the next days its 20s. Next 2 minutes. It goes quite fast. (I could do it for about 40 out of 45 minutes after 4 days, but I meditated about 8 hours a day with pauses for food, under a lead of a Buddhist).

And if you do it regularly every day for about 20 minutes, at least for a week, then you will feel much more calm, even after the one week! You will be able to not act on your impulses, because you notice them before you attach to them and identify your self with them.
At the same time – Zen masters would laugh at you, doing this only for the results. They are doing it “just because”, because they know that the only way to attain Zen is to not fucking care.

Spiritual side of meditation

If I have to go to the spiritual part, then you are connecting with the absolute consciousness, Being (you will be in a place where you watch the one watching your thoughts). You observe your mind from somewhere outside your mind, your consciousness. That is the state of clear mind. And the more you meditate the more you learn to be in that state, and not listen to your ego. You could call the place your soul. And ego is just a small part of it. Telling you all the negative shit. If you feed your soul through meditation, it will overgrow the ego and it will see it only as a small child. You can hear it, but you don’t have to do what its telling you to. Those are the negative impulses. Impulsivity.

Being in the body

By being in the body, you are also connecting more with your feelings. And, when you are in your body, you cannot be in your thougths at the same time. It is mind vs body, mind vs matter, thinking vs feeling.

In my previous article (MBTI analysis), I noticed that analytical and thinking people have trouble feeling emotions deeply. That is because they are in their heads all the time, identifying their thoughts with themselves. Just sink into your body and let the intuition take over. The more you are feeling the breathing and noticing it, the more you start to feel. You empathy goes up. You stop being in your head and instead you start focusing on what is happening in the minds of others. You become connected more to others, to the Universe. And all that only by meditating alone!

 

Books and videos on the topic

If you want to read about the entity which you become when you ascend your mind as watch your thoughts from that place – read Tao Te Ting by Lao Tzu.

And for some great videos, you can check out Alan Watts 🙂

Summary: Focus on your breath. If you realize you are in your thoughts, focus on your breath. Are you thinking about other things other than your breath? Observe that you are doing so, and return to focusing on your breath. After a few days you will be able to achieve the state of clear mind and you will be way more aware of your impulses, with that difference that you will only observe them and not act on them. In turn you will be able to focus way more and you will be able to stay in the present moment, not worrying about the future or what others are thinking of you.

 

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