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Personal Development


What is

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Now the mind needs its food but because there is so little knowledge about the mind this is not recognised. Mind-food is not a substantive food as in carrots it is a process in which the mind calms itself, becomes centred and is not wasting its energy in pointless wayward thoughts. This process of calming is the same as feeding because by calming the mind the mind reverts to its natural state and becomes replenished ready for work. Is this not a purpose of feeding - replenishing ready to work?

Maybe you don't like the analogy but you will like the process. To begin here is a simple background on mind to help you understand where this is going. The Natural state of mind is being still, if your mind is still it is best ready to cope with the day. This must sound strange for many for whom the mind is continually thinking but the optimal state of mind is not that of continuous thought but stillness. When it is calm and still it is ready to interact with experience and begin good thoughts. For many the mind is continually experiencing thoughts, there is no calm - no stillness, and this diffusion of mind prevents clarity, optimal thinking and measured interaction.

If we are able to revert to a state of calm in the mind then interacting with experience becomes so much easier. Life slows, there is no need to rush into a decision that proliferates into a whole cascade of problems. A calm mind interacts, and gently thoughts and actions follow.

Many of you will recognise this as meditation, and of course that is what it is - meditation. In Zandtao meditation is feeding the mind, calming it down, replenishing it, ready for daily life. A distinction concerning meditation is that it need not be considered a religious practice. For many religious practice is only such if parctised in daily life, but for others it is not this way. Perhaps a religious life is something they would like to attain, perhaps daily religious practice is an if-only - if only I could. Zandtao does not want this development process to be considered as a religion for such people, for such people Zandtao wants them to start this minute and so does not want religious associations as an excuse for prevarication.

Before starting the overall practice of meditation the mind needs to be working towards the right frame of mind - the frame of mind of moral integrity. Every religion has its moral code, every society has its set of laws but moral integrity is not following a code, it is a desire to be moral in your daily practice. With this right frame of mind meditation can begin, without it mediation will throw up doubts and questions concering the morality of your daily actions.

Beginning meditation can be uncomfortable but because it is a natural process you should know that it will always be helpful. But the longer the mind has not been calm, the longer it has not been clear, the more mental toxins it will contain. The problem with toxins in the body is that when they are expunged they can cause physical problems. Likewise with mental toxins they try to cause mental problems. For this there is an assurance that Nature means for you to be able to clear the toxins from the mind. Sometimes this does not come easy; to clean the toxins from the body can take time, likewise with the mind. But in both mind and body processes the detoxification improves, and mentally it helps in the creation of happiness that a clear mind can bring.

If you haven't tried meditation then initially untrained minds will cause difficulties, therefore the first step is to resolve that you will practice meditation. To begin with maybe 10 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before going to bed. Establish a place where you will not be disturbed. Posture for meditation is important but it is acceptable for it not to be as exact as some would try to make it. The back should be straight and perpendicular to the ground. If you can achieve this in the lotus position do so, kneeling with stool, or on a dining chair with a straight back are as good especially at the beginning. Discomfort is not the order of the day, but you don't want to be too comfortable or you will sleep.

Focus on the breath. As the breath goes in through the nose you mentally watch it, and try to follow the in-breath as you breathe deeply into the stomach area. Once you have breathed all the way in, gently hold the breath until it wishes to come out. Then try to follow the out-breath, and when you feel that the breath has left the body through the nose pause briefly. Then begin the breathing-in cycle again.

During this breath-cycle the mind will wander naturally, planning the future or remembering the past, anger with partner or bosses. Note what enters the mind at these times but do not hold to it - let it go. Try to recall the breath again, and continue this process of breathing and recalling for the meditation session. Perhaps you will set an alarm clock for the time period to avoid being preoccupied with time and when the meditation is supposed to finish.

Perhaps begin with 10 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night, and as these time periods become easier try to extend them. One can never do too much meditation, however daily-life time schedules could limit the amount of meditation you do. Once you start meditation you will feel better initially, Nature rewards you for being on the right track. Sometimes such rewards can be powerful, and whilst this is enjoyable they hold an inherent danger - that powerful reward is not the normal result of meditation. And if you keep searching for that reward it will harm your meditation. Remember to focus on the breath, hold to that focus, and if the mind wanders including wandering to this powerful experience forget it and pull the mind back. The general happiness that eventually comes is not the pleasure in the meditation itself although you can feel very good, the happiness is a general demeanour that comes in daily life as a consequence of good daily practice.

Where does meditation take you? Now this is an important question, and you should be asking it. But start to ask yourself, where should I be going with this? This path of meditation is different for so many people but the best answers come from inside. Your heart will tell you. Now this seems a strange answer but as meditation clears the mind there is a clarity and openness in thinking. Insight into what is going on develops, and through this insight the heart will guide you. You can read one person's blog on insights here, and search for insight.

As you start to do meditation more regularly you will meet and discuss with meditators. The greatest source of wisdom on meditation is from Buddhists, and Buddhist monks I would recommend you look into are Ajaan Buddhadhasa, Thich Naht Hahn, HH Dalai Lama and Ajaan Chah.

The meditation approach I have discussed above is a version of the early steps of Vipassana meditation. Here is a deeper discussion of Insight Meditation - Vipassana. This touches on Buddhist doctrine but not excessively, and for in-depth study on Buddhist doctrine you can follow Santikharo's programme or Bhikkhu Bodhi's discussion of the Buddhist suttas - Majjhima Nikaya. In line with Tibetan Buddhism Matthieu Ricard ( Matthieu Ricard's TED talk) can help as well.

But if your heart tells you to steer away from Buddhist doctrine, do steer away - your heart knows best for you. In New Earth Eckhart Tolle discusses an approach to understanding ego and self and offers a book on meditations. If the meditation is calming the mind then that is enough to begin with. Don't force yourself, it will come with time and your heart will guide you to a source for the next step in your journey. Just meditate and listen.