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Teach Yourself to Meditate

Written by: Eric Harrison
Published: February 1, 1994

Summary

"Teach Yourself to Meditate" by Eric Harrison is a practical guide that introduces readers to the fundamentals of meditation. Aimed at beginners, the book demystifies the concept of meditation and offers step-by-step instructions to incorporate this practice into daily life. Harrison, with his extensive experience in teaching meditation, provides a clear and accessible approach to understanding and practicing meditation.

The book begins by addressing common misconceptions about meditation. Harrison explains that meditation is not about emptying the mind or achieving a state of blissful detachment. Instead, it's a practice of focusing the mind, becoming more aware of the present moment, and cultivating a sense of calm and clarity. He emphasizes that meditation is not exclusive to any particular religion or belief system and can be practiced by anyone.

Harrison introduces various types of meditation techniques, including mindfulness, concentration, and loving-kindness meditation. He explains each method's principles and offers practical exercises to try them out. The book encourages readers to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for them.

One of the key aspects of the book is its focus on the practicalities of establishing a meditation practice. Harrison provides guidance on creating a conducive environment for meditation, finding a comfortable posture, and setting realistic goals and expectations. He emphasizes the importance of regular practice, suggesting that even short, daily sessions can have significant benefits.

The book also addresses common challenges faced by beginners, such as dealing with distractions, handling physical discomfort, and managing wandering thoughts. Harrison offers practical advice on how to navigate these challenges, reassuring readers that such experiences are normal and part of the learning process.

Harrison delves into the benefits of meditation, discussing its positive effects on stress, anxiety, concentration, and overall well-being. He backs up these claims with references to scientific studies and personal anecdotes from his teaching experience.

Another significant aspect covered in the book is the integration of meditation into daily life. Harrison provides tips on how to maintain mindfulness throughout the day, even outside of formal meditation sessions. He suggests simple practices like mindful breathing, walking meditation, and being present during routine activities.

The book also explores the deeper aspects of meditation, such as developing insight, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the self. Harrison guides readers on how to use meditation as a tool for personal growth and self-exploration.

Finally, "Teach Yourself to Meditate" emphasizes the journey aspect of meditation. Harrison encourages readers to be patient and persistent, reminding them that the benefits of meditation unfold over time and with consistent practice.

Final Thoughts

"Teach Yourself to Meditate" serves as an excellent resource for anyone looking to begin or deepen their meditation practice. The book's practical approach, combined with Harrison's clear and encouraging tone, makes meditation accessible and achievable for readers of all backgrounds. Whether seeking stress reduction, greater self-awareness, or simply a moment of peace in a busy day, this book offers valuable guidance and support on the meditation journey.

10 Big Ideas

1. Demystifying Meditation

Meditation is not about achieving a blank mind or reaching a state of bliss. It's about training the mind to focus, be present, and cultivate clarity and calmness. This understanding makes meditation more accessible and practical.

2. Variety of Techniques

The book introduces a range of meditation techniques, including mindfulness, concentration, and loving-kindness. Understanding different methods allows individuals to find the approach that resonates best with them.

3. Practical Steps to Start

Harrison provides practical advice for starting a meditation practice, such as setting up a conducive environment, finding a comfortable posture, and establishing a routine, making the process approachable for beginners.

4. Overcoming Common Challenges

Addressing common challenges like distractions, physical discomfort, and wandering thoughts, the book offers strategies to navigate these hurdles, reassuring that they are normal parts of the meditation journey.

5. Regular Practice and Consistency

Consistency in meditation practice, even for short daily sessions, is emphasized as key to reaping its benefits. Regular practice helps in cultivating the discipline and habit of meditation.

6. Integrating Meditation into Daily Life

The book encourages incorporating mindfulness into everyday activities. Practices like mindful breathing and walking meditation help maintain a meditative state throughout the day.

7. Benefits for Mental Health

Meditation has significant positive effects on stress, anxiety, and concentration. The book highlights these benefits, supporting them with scientific evidence and personal anecdotes.

8. Meditation as a Tool for Personal Growth

Exploring the deeper aspects of meditation, the book guides readers on using meditation for developing insight, compassion, and a deeper understanding of oneself, making it a powerful tool for personal growth.

9. Patience and Persistence

Meditation is a journey that requires patience and persistence. The book encourages readers to stick with their practice, reminding them that the benefits of meditation unfold over time.

10. Self-Exploration and Insight

Lastly, meditation is presented as a means for self-exploration and gaining deeper insights into one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This self-awareness is a fundamental aspect of personal development.

5 Exercises

Exercise 1: Basic Mindfulness Meditation

Objective: To begin practicing mindfulness meditation and develop the skill of present-moment awareness.

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, free from distractions.
  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes to start with.
  • Focus on your breath, observing the sensation of inhaling and exhaling without trying to control it.
  • When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  • After the timer ends, gradually bring your awareness back to your surroundings.
Exercise 2: Walking Meditation

Objective: To practice mindfulness during a routine activity and integrate meditation into daily life.

  • Choose a quiet place where you can walk back and forth comfortably.
  • Begin walking at a slow, natural pace, focusing on the sensation of your feet touching the ground.
  • Pay attention to the movement of your body and the rhythm of your steps.
  • If your mind wanders, gently refocus on the physical sensations of walking.
  • Continue for 10-15 minutes, maintaining an awareness of your movement and surroundings.
Exercise 3: Loving-Kindness Meditation

Objective: To cultivate feelings of compassion and loving-kindness towards yourself and others.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes.
  • Start by focusing on yourself and silently repeat phrases like “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe.”
  • Gradually extend these wishes to others, starting with loved ones, then acquaintances, and finally all beings.
  • With each phrase, try to generate genuine feelings of compassion and kindness.
  • Practice for 10-15 minutes, maintaining a gentle, non-judgmental attitude towards yourself and others.
Exercise 4: Mindful Breathing for Stress Reduction

Objective: To use mindful breathing as a tool to reduce stress and regain a sense of calm.

  • In moments of stress or anxiety, pause and shift your focus to your breath.
  • Take deep, slow breaths, inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and exhaling for a count of four.
  • Concentrate on the feeling of the breath entering and leaving your body.
  • Continue this breathing pattern for several minutes until you feel more relaxed and centered.
  • Use this technique whenever you need a quick way to de-stress.
Exercise 5: Daily Reflection Through Meditation

Objective: To develop self-awareness and insight through daily meditation and reflection.

  • Set aside 10-15 minutes each day for quiet meditation and reflection.
  • During this time, reflect on your day, noting any moments of stress, joy, or learning.
  • Observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing them to come and go.
  • Use this time to gain insights into your behavior, reactions, and patterns.
  • Conclude your meditation with a few moments of gratitude for the day's experiences.

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