Teachings on Mindfulness & Meditation through Inspirational Short Stories & Motivational Quotes from a real travelling Vanlife Monk affiliated to No Tribe, Religion or Society always searching for Spiritual Enlightenment
Once apon a time in a land not too far away, four trees started to grow on top of a small hill.
Three of the trees are very selfish, arrogant and proud trees always boasting how big and tall they will become, teasing each other how they will live forever.
The fourth tree is all happy and content, just to be a tree.
As time passes the three proud and selfish trees spend all their days growing as tall and impressive as they can, boasting each and everyday how wonderful they will be
The fourth tree listens but is all happy and content, just to be a tree.
Many years pass and the three trees all look impressive and have grown straight and tall, but they have grown ever more arrogant, selfish and proud, boasting and teasing constantly how they are better than the other and how surly they will now live forever.
The fourth tree isn’t the best looking or the tallest but is all happy and content, just to be a tree.
The woodcutter comes along and cuts the three proud, arrogant trees down to the ground. The first tree is made into the City Gates the second tree a Great Warship and the third tree into a Great Place of Worship.
Each of the three trees is proud and happy of their new position in society, boasting that they are better than the other and how they really will live forever.
The fourth tree is all happy and content, just to be a tree.
A great army comes to attack, the City Gates are destroyed, the great Warship is sunk in the harbour and the Great Place of Worship burnt to the ground.
Only the fourth tree survives growing on the hill all happy and content, just to be a tree.
The fourth tree knows that it can not live forever. That the day must come when the fourth tree will too pass away,
But not before it sets seed to Four little Trees growing on that hill, all Happy and Content, Just To Be a tree!
Impermanence is the nature of everything, when we truly know the impermanence in ourselves and others we understand how precious each and every moment is. All that matters in life is to live each moment truly happy and content just to be.
Was a Buddhist monk of the Thai forest tradition, respected and well loved in his own country as a man of great wisdom, it wasn’t until the arrival of the hippies of the 1960’s that the west finally got to hear of this great spiritual master.
He was born into poverty in the northeast region of Thailand, his parents were rice farmers surviving from day to day. With no real education to be had in the region the young Ajahn would start his monastic training a the age of nine. He spent three years in the monastery where he learnt to read and write. He returned to work on the land of his parents but returned to monastic life at the age of 17. He was ordained at a local monastery where he stayed and practiced meditation until 1946 when he decided to become a wandering ascetic monk, a practice called dutong.
He wandered learning from teachers of the time, by far his biggest influence was Ajahn Mun a renowned enlightened meditation master. He spent this time of his life meditating in caves and forests until finally establishing a monastery near his home town where he taught his simple meditation techniques and started to gain a large following of disciples and lay people alike.
The arrival of the first western disciple, Ajahn Sumedho saw the development of a new monastery focused purely for the western mind filled with knowledge, the first of its kind in Thailand. A few years later Ajahn Chah was invited to give talks in England where he was to form the very first monastery in the Thai forest linage, called Chittaviveka.
Ajahn Chah’s health was in decline by the early 1980’s and he was to suffer a massive stroke leaving him bedridden and unable to speak for ten years. Still in this condition he transmitted the teachings of the Buddha using his own body as evidence enough of impermanence and the importance of seeking refuge within ourselves.
Ajahn Chah’s legacy of students continues today with Ajahn Brahm, Jack Kornfield, Ajahn Summadho and Ajahn Amaro to name just a few.
To read more about this wonderful man, a full Meditation Masters article can be found by Clicking Hear
The practice and Benefits of Meditationand mindfulness have been well documented, and by now we are all starting to explore with interest this ancient art form that has the potential to relieve us from our day to day stresses and anxieties. The practice of basic meditation and mindfulness can not only relieve stress, Anxiety, Depression and worry but it has the potential to bring a deep sense of joy and wellbeing into our lives. With so many meditation websites and endless mindfulness chatter out there where and how do learn the essentials of basic meditation?
Meditation is best done in a sitting position, preferably crossed legged on the floor with a straight spine. Meditation once understood can be done wherever and whenever you find you have moment to yourself, standing in a line at the supermarket checkout perhaps, waiting for a lift, in the bathroom or maybe while sitting at traffic lights, are all perfectly good examples.
The basic meditation posture and positions are sitting meditation, standing meditation, Walking Meditation and lying meditation, although the last position isn’t recommended for beginners as the tendency to fall asleep is a common issue. Today we are going to learn meditation at the most basic level, however first we must grasp what meditation is really all about.
Meditation is a one pointed concentration and in the most usual instance we focus our attention on our breathing. Our breath is used as a focus tool because it is always with us wherever we go, our breath must surely be. To calm ourselves and to reconnect with our breathing it is good practice to take a few slow deep breaths. As you feel your breathing returning to normal keep your attention on the movements or feelings of each rise and fall.
This is the one pointed concentration. Watch closely to the feeling of the in breath as it passes through the nose filling the lungs and expanding the abdomen and chest. Now watch in detail how the reverse process takes place on the out breath. IN BREATH, OUT BREATH
To start you may find your mind wander from the breath onto something else, a shopping list, a fantasy or start to day dream. This is perfectly natural and ok, always be kind to yourself, never scolding, always patient and gently bring your attention back to your breathing. The more you practice the better you become at anything, and this is the same with mindfulness and meditation.
Now we have the basic idea and grasp of the mindfulness and meditation one pointed concentration we can now begin to use it in our everyday lives. We don’t have to shave our heads, build a shrine and spend hours painfully sitting crossed legged on the floor. This method is best used in everyday situations you may find yourself free, waiting for a bus, sitting at lunch in the park, the back of a taxi or even in a busy cafe. To experience just one moment fully, you automatically feel uplifted and fully energised, to experience that one moment fully brings all the benefits of meditation flooding to you.
Ajahn Chah, a Thai forest Buddhist monk with tens of thousands of hours meditation experience under his belt and a true meditation master of our time, used to stress
“If meditation was all about sitting for prolonged periods of time, then all chickens would be enlightened”
It really isn’t about sitting for long, long periods, it really is about being 100% involved, occupied, absorbed in the one pointed concentration of your breath. Breathing in I’m really aware Of the air filling my lungs, breathing out I’m really aware I’m breathing out.
Try right now, while your reading this, wherever you are right now, take a couple of long slow deep breaths and relax into following your breath. Let’s start to meditate, let’s start right now to bring mindfulness into our lives.
There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper. His father decided to hand him a bag of nails and said that every time the boy lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the fence.
On the first day, the boy hammered 30 nails into that fence.
The boy gradually began to control his anger and over the next few weeks the number of nails he was hammering into the fence slowly decreased.
He discovered it was easier to control his temper than to hammer those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the little boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father the news and the father suggested that the boy should now pull out a nail every day he kept his temper under control.
The days gradually passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were finally gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.
“you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
Moral of the story:
We all experience anger from time to time, what we all to often forget is the consequences of that anger on others, sometimes ever lasting. Learning where our anger comes from can help, try this link below for more on this topic
When you smile you bring with it a multitude of effects, not just beneficial for yourself, but everyone that comes into contact with a smile is softened instantly. Far better than a common hand shake a smile says far more when we meet someone. Your smile is so yours and yours alone. There isn’t anyone else that does it your way, from the way your skin is formed to the size of your lips, there isn’t two smiles the same. Own your smile it not only makes you more beautiful, it makes life more beautiful too.
2 Your made of the same stuff as star dust and rainbows
The scientific community have unquestionably found that we are made up of the same base matter as that of star dust and rainbows. In fact every living and non living entity in our entire known universe is made up of this very same stuff, you are as equally unique as a shooting star or a passing rainbow. The beauty in every stone, tree, waterfall or landscape is inside you. From the rain drop on the mushroom to storm clouds that made it, you are that very same beauty.
3 Your laugh gives people happiness
Your laugh comes from within, a beautifully orchestrated melody of sound that fills people with happiness. No one can produce your laugh, it has been in evolution since your birth, your richness of tones, your accent and language all play a role in shaping your laughter but it is YOU who put the finally spin on it shaping it into you very own, there isn’t two people in the entire universe with the same laugh, which makes yours truly uniquely special. Don’t forget to share.
4 Your beautiful from the inside out
There is no one as beautiful as you, no matter your shape or size, inner beauty your always outshines, leaving people with a great satisfaction after meeting you. With your smile and laughter you have the power to heals wounds, the qualities you already posses inside yourself can far exceeded that of materialistic possessions, an ever lasting contentment of peace and tranquility, the key is yours and yours alone.
5 Your big heartedness
Your loving compassion and openness, willingness and patience make your heart filled with love. A heart that doesn’t just merely beat around 115,000 times a day, it isn’t just an organ to send oxygenated blood around your system, it is so so much more. With the capacity to envelope the entire universe with unconditional love and compassion, you have with in your heart all that is good, a heart can feel love and feel pain, but a heart also has the capacity to overcome pain and transform love into unconditional ever lasting peace and tranquility.
6 The sunshine in your eyes
Your eyes have taken 550million years to evolve and that’s still an ongoing process, after your conception your eyes are already starting to form at two weeks, and once grown they stay the same size from birth to death, unlike your ears or nose. Like an iceberg only 1/6 of your eyes are visible and there are over two million working parts. You eyes have more unique characteristics than a finger print counting 256 compared to 40 for a finger print. Your eyes are the second most complex organ in the body after your brain and 80% of our memories come from our eyes. They are so unique to you they sparkle from your very soul.
7 The way you express love
Love comes in many shapes and forms, your love is true, it’s pure an unconditional love that has the power to change the power to heal. Your love is all conquering and all encompassing, no one loves like you. Poets have written sonnets about this very love and never touch the ever lasting feeling your love brings. Your love is so bountiful and never ending, eternal, it can never be taken away from you, it is always yours to give.
8 Your beautiful reflection in the water
You are so beautiful and perfect in every way, your still reflection is a perfect example. No matter your shape or size you really are completely and utterly perfectly you. No one could come close to your perfection, those little lumps and bumps you feel ashamed are yours and your uniqueness alone. No one comes close to being you, own it and walk with pride, you are truly uniquely beautiful.
9 When you speak angles dance in the twilight
The sound of your voice belongs to you, completely unique to you. When you sing angels really do know it’s you. Your shape and size all play an important role in your sound as well as the size of your vocal tract. Each an every factor from the location of your birth to environment you were bought up, have all shaped the way your voice sounds. A completely unique and special gift of yours.
10 Your completely and utterly unique
From your smile which can only be yours to the laughter and love that makes the world a better place, the way you listen with your enormous heart containing unravelled unconditional love, your voice is perfectly in balance with the beauty of your body and the beauty from within. You really are as truly remarkable as a shooting stars and rainbows. You are and always will be Lovely. There is only one you, one complete unique you, treasure yourself for there is only one.
There are a few methods and ways to practice loving kindness, the method I describe below I find works wonderfully for me. It is one of visualisation, I was a Buddhist monk in Northern Thailand and after many years of meditation practice and guidance I find this is the most suitable way for my western mind.
This method however is just one of the three ways to practice which will achieve loving kindness in the heart. Reflecting and auditory are the other two methods used to create the feeling of loving kindness. Reflect on the positive qualities of yourself or a loved one will ensure loving kindness to flourish with in the heart. Using a mantra is the auditory approach and an example could simple be the words loving kindness.
The First thing we need to do is find the love from within ourselves. Now I understand that may sound a little scary to some. Visualisation is a great way to achieve love inside, we all have something we love, something that will bring that feeling back when you start to think deeply enough about it. For me this is my adopted stray dog Marley and the crazy fun things he gets up to. If your still finding difficulty thinking of something that your really love this much, then try hitting this link 7 wonders of life, it will help you find something wonderful in your life to feel that loving kindness and to help with the practice. Now that we have our object of focus, it time to relax.
Find a comfortable place somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Now sitting in a comfortable position with a straight spine, gently relax your shoulder and neck muscles and slowly close your eyes. Take a few long deep breaths and feel yourself relaxing.
Let’s start by calmly watch your breathing, don’t disturb your breathing, just let it be natural. Breathing in, be aware your breathing, breathing out, be aware your breathing out. Count one.
This is a great link to learn how to practice Breath Meditation. Relax and do this for a count of ten.
Now bring your object of love to the forefront of your mind and begin to feel the love you have. really start to explore that feeling, the feeling of love. Don’t worry if you feel a little resistance at first, be kind to yourself and be patient. Try to find where the feeling is coming from, do you notice how the feeling grows the more you explore it. Again don’t panic if you feel resistance to this, it is all ok, it just means a little more patience and kindness towards yourself is needed. Now feel that love start to consume you, feel it’s warmth, is your smile hurting you cheeks yet.
If you are having trouble visualising, please still use loving kindness with yourself, this is not going to be easy for some. Tell yourself it’s ok we can have another go later, always be patient and kind towards yourself and even that is practicing loving kindness.
Once we have the feeling of love flowing within ourselves, it’s time to send out our love to others. We now use a mantra with our loving kindness, to truly send out our positive vibration to the chosen person. First we start with ourselves. Repeat this ten times to yourself, or out loud that’s entirely up to you.
May I be happy
May I be free from metal suffering and distress
May I be free of physical pain and suffering
May I be peaceful and at ease
Now we are going to give that love from our heart, that loving kindness to someone other than ourselves.
The Four Types of Persons to develop loving-kindness towards are
A respected, beloved person – such as a spiritual teacher
A dearly beloved – which could be a close family member or friend
A neutral person – somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g a person who serves you in a shop
A hostile person – someone you may be having difficulty with
Starting with yourself, then systematically sending loving-kindness from person to person in the above order will have the effect of breaking down the barriers between the four types of people and yourself. This will have the effect of breaking down the divisions within your own mind, the source of much of the conflict we experience
May (insert name) be happy
May (insert name) be free from suffering and distress
May (insert name) be free of physical pain and suffering
May (insert name) be peaceful and at ease
If you find your mind wanders or you notice your loving kindness looses it ferocity, at this point always be kind and patient with yourself, slowly return to the original object of focus, take a few deep breaths and start again. once you have established the feeling again in your heart, continue with the mantra.
The history of meditation, the oldest form of spiritual awakening there is, could be as old as antiquity itself. It isn’t however until the very first use of a form of the written language do modern historians find there first glimpse into this mystical tradition.
The earliest found written proof of meditation comes from the sacred Hindu Vedas dating from around 1700-500BC, to put that into perspective, this is from the Iron Age to late Bronze Age, the most famous reference is that of the Vedic Mantra known as “Gayatri” it describes meditating on the divine light of Savitri. The buddhist scriptures state how Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment through mediative techniques of the time, around 563BC, the masters of his time based there techniques on the very same Hindu scriptures. The Buddha however found them to be incomplete on his way to becoming enlightened and so developed his “middle way” meditation as way of gaining higher states of complete enlightenment.
It is from this period in history do we see that Buddhism gives rise to the spread of meditation, slowly moving from its Indian roots via the Silk Road, first to the East and into China, Nepal, Burma, Thailand and beyond. Confucius 551-479BC developed and further expanded on mediative ideas and techniques and would later pass them on. Taoism then developed from these methods and would spread far and wide throughout the entire of China finally reaching the shores of Japan with Zen Buddhism and zazen meditation around the 12th century.
The spread to the west again uses the Silk Road, at first spreading into Afghanistan, Turkey and then into Syria, it’s not until just twenty years before the birth of Christ and the invention of our calendar that we see the Roman Empire recording of meditative techniques and forms of spiritual exercises of the day, in its great library at Alexandra.
Islam has reference to meditation and meditation techniques, these first appear around the 8th or 9th century with the practice of Dhikr which involved the repetition of the 99 names of God. By the 12th century breath control was in practice as a mediative technique as recorded in the practice of Sufism.
And the Christians also developed some sort of meditation techniques by the 6th century, however it seems there meditation techniques contrasted all the previously discussed by not involving the repetition of any phrase and required no particular posture, which all the other scriptures without exception had practiced, bible reading according to the christians at this time was considered meditation. It’s not until the 10th-14th century do we see the practice of Hesychasm which involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.
The modern western idea of meditation really starts in India in the 1950’s when easier forms of meditation were introduced and presented as relaxation and stress reducing techniques, these new ideas spread quickly to a busy western world, and by the 1960’s the hippy trail had started with young men and women finding there way into the Ashram’s of India, to learn first hand meditation and mindfulness. Famous bands like the Beatles popularised the spiritual meditation and mindfulness practices of today and with many eastern spiritual teachers becoming refugees during the sweep of communism across the east it hasn’t taken long before meditation practices and mindfulness training have become mainstream. It has become increasingly more difficult to find your way through the mind field of information out there. So where do you start.
What is meditation
Meditation as cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is “The action to focus one’s mind for a period of time, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation” and Wikipedia describes it as “a practice where an individual uses a technique of focusing their mind on a particular object”. Meditation in days of old was a passage to gain spiritual enlightenment, however today the word meditation or mindfulness can be over used by a commercial industry selling self help, relaxation and stress reduction.
The Benefits of Meditation are far more than just relaxation, yes it produces results of calming, compassion, equanimity and a general feeling of contentment, but if used as a regular practice true everlasting peace, contentment and wellbeing can be achieved through meditation and mindfulness.
The numerous scientific studies that have taken place over the last fifty or so years have shed light on The Benefits of Meditation and this mystical practice from the east. The benefits of meditation are far reaching. Increased concentration levels, reducing stress and anxiety, being more attentive, respecting others and nature, becoming kinder and calmer. Increased IQ levels, can eliminate sleep deprivation and will leave you with a deep sense of satisfaction and wellbeing.
So where do you start?
In the beginning it’s difficult to know where to start, there are so many types of meditation to choose from wether that’s focusing on the breath, Chanting a Mantra, Walking Meditation, mindfulness meditation or SittingMeditation to name but just a few. It’s good therefore to have a decent place to start.
No matter if you are looking for meditation to relax and distress or for further enlightenment, the best place to start is by having a regular practice. This can be from as little as 2 minutes a day to begin with and slowly increasing the time the more comfortable you get.
Another important factor is to find a quite place, somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, nature can be an excellent place to meditate but can also be difficult to find somewhere you feel safe and alone. Your own house or apartment is usually best.
For myself the morning is an excellent time to meditate, just after you rise, but equally as relaxing is the evening time, there is no set time just what suits your time commitments.
Position and posture
After setting aside a time slot and promising to keep to a regular schedule to yourself, posture and position are next to get right. No matter how old or inflexible you are there is a position for you to meditate in. The usual meditating positions are sitting, standing, walking or lying.
Sitting Meditation doesn’t just involved bending your legs into those funny lotus positions you see in the photos, it can easily be done from a straight back chair. The most important factor to consider is your own comfort. If you do sitting meditation on the floor, you can use either the full lotus or the half lotus positions or the Thailand/Burmese style cross legged position which as you sit cross legged you sit with you legs on the floor not on top of each other, be, this is to help eliminate the pressure to the knees and ankles that sitting with your legs on top of each other creates.
Walking meditation is one of the nicest ways to meditate, and for me personally I find it the most relaxing. First find an area where you are safe to walk, no obstacles in your way. With your back straight and your shoulders relaxed, keep your head and eyes looking forward but slightly down, about 6-10ft in front of you will do nicely. Now walk as slowly as you can, try to really feel the movements of each muscle as you inch forward. Walk for 20 or so paces then slowly turn back around, pause, and walk back again. Try walking slower than a snail, it’s most enjoyable.
Lying meditation is one of the easiest ways to fall asleep and isn’t really recommended for beginners. However lay on your right shoulder, with a hand resting under the head, a pillow can be used as required, legs slightly bent.
Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine, gently relax your shoulders and your neck muscles and softly close your eyes. Take a few long deep breaths and feel yourself relaxing.
Breathing in, be aware you’re breathing in,
breathing out, be aware you’re breathing out.
Repeat this for five or ten counts then start again. This is the basics of breath or breathing meditation also known in Pali asSamadhi Meditation.
Some ponts to remember, try to keep the breath as natural as possible. If your mind wanders, be kind to yourself, and bring your awareness back to the breath and start counting again. Try this meditation exercise for ten minutes at first then slowly increase the time over the course of a few days. The most important thing is to be patient and compassionate to yourself.
Meditation for kids
Meditation for children is one of the most beneficial activities you can get them to do, it can boost concentration levels at school, help with socialising, aid in confidence, it will help balancing emotions and will have an overall improvement in academic test results. You can start children meditating from a very early age, however the breath technique, described above, wouldn’t be a good place to start with very young children but teenagers would be able to manage quite proficiently. For younger children it is better to do guided meditations, almost like story time, we get them to use there already incredible imaginations to focus on one particular object of meditation. Games are also another great example. Imagining that as they breath out they are filling a big balloon with air as an example.
Other types of meditation
The other types of meditation that you will find all have great benefit include,Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation, SamadhiMeditation, Vipassana Meditation, Body Scan, TranscendentalMeditation and KundaliniMeditation to name just a few. If you are a beginner the best place to start is with the Beginners Meditation or breath meditation as found above. It is a foundation for further meditation techniques that need great powers of concentration. If you are more practiced and have a good routine then you will may feel as though you may want to explore some of the other methods listed. Just for you we have put together a resource page at the bottom which can help you investigate further.
Tips and tricks
When you first start to meditate you will undoubtedly come across a few niggling problems, maybe it’s the pain in your knees or back. Maybe you keep falling asleep, or you mind keeps wandering and you don’t notice. This section is hear to help. I understand first hand the issues with meditation I was a Buddhist monk in Thailand for many years. During the full moons for instance we were expected to meditate from 10pm until sunrise.
When your feeling sleepy rubbing or a light pinch of the ear lobes gives an instant surge of life through the body, try it.
Never sit in any position longer than is necessary. There are meditators that say the pain is a useful experience to learn. Yes it is, but your knees will suffer really badly, there is other pain that can better to learn from and not as damaging.
Make a meditation diary this helps keep you motivated. Make a regular time in your day of 10 minutes or even 20 minutes and keep to the same time, make it a habit forming exercise. It takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to make that habit natural.
Always be kind and patient with yourself, the times when you think your meditation isn’t good because your mind is distracted, can be the times of our greatest learning, compassion and kindness go a long way.
Spend a couple of minutes getting settled into a position, wiggle your bottom around until it feels comfortable on the tail bone, also known as the sitting bone.
For more on Tips and Tricks Page to the common problems that can arise in meditation. If for any reason you can’t find the help within these pages then please feel free to Contact Us and we will respond personal as soon as we are able.