How to become a Meditation Master: Flow vs. Deliberate Practice

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About midway through my time in Myanmar, I was on a bus sitting next to my teacher, Sayadaw U Tejaniya.  In the background was the cacophony of talking voices, traffic horns and music blaring from cheap speakers.  It was very different from my quiet monastery.  While I tried my best to stay aware, I was easily pulled from my meditative state.

I turned and asked him, “Sayadaw, do you find all this noise and activity distracting?”

“Not distracting,” he said in his broken yet clear English, before adding, “awareness is always there.”

Around that time, I was very closely observing him.  I knew his teachings, but how did that translate into how he lived?  How was he while conducting a group interview?  While eating?  While casually talking?  While on a bus? Continue reading

The Four Stages of Competence Theory in Meditation

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Even though there’s a number of skills involved with meditation, the most basic marker of successful meditation practice is the extent to which you can be continuously aware.

Meditation is a skill like any other skill.  Just like most kids who first try and ride a bicycle aren’t very good at it, so too are most people who start meditating not very good.  However, with time and diligence, a person gets increasingly proficient.

In educational circles, there’s this thing called competence theory, which does an excellent job of describing the stages of skill acquisition.  Here’s the four stages and what they’d look like for the most basic meditation skill.

1) Unconscious Incompetency

Most people who’ve never engaged in body or awareness practices are at this stage.  They don’t really understand the difference between present moment awareness and non-present moment awareness.

When they start meditating, they either don’t get what they’re supposed to do (pay attention to my body sensations?  Huh?), or they just sit quietly ruminating and think they’re actually meditating.  Generally, they have no idea how scattered their minds are or how much they’re enslaved to their impulses and emotions. Continue reading

Why Meditate? Or, Dialogues with The Heart

You could read the latest neuroscience articles to get scientific explanations on why meditation is worthwhile.  You could parooze a million testimonials of people who say its benefited them.  Or, if it’s your bent, you could even find several-thousand-year-old treatises from sages and holy men who talk about transcendence, enlightenment or alleviating suffering.

However, you don’t need more reasons.

As a culture, we are extremely good at analysis and reasoning; so good that we live much more from the “head” than the “heart.”  Of course, balance is what’s needed.  I’m not saying don’t have a reason.  I’m suggesting that if you’re gotten this far, you probably already know that it will make you more grounded, less reactive, more directed, less weary, more sincere, less stuck, more     AAAAA    LLLLLL     IIIIII     VVVVVV     EEEEEEE  !!!!!!!

In turn, rather than dive more into the reasons, today I’ll invite you to plunge into your “heart,” your passion, your deep inner well of motivation—that felt sense of I will live my priorities no matter what comes challenges come my way.

Firstly, consider what impulse led you to reading this post on meditation.

Dive into that impulse a layer beneath the surface.  Is it the same thing that’s led you to caring about the world or trying to live consciously and deeply?

That “thing” is a raw feeling.  It’s nothing you could neatly condense into a “reason.”  It’s a pull of your heart.  An innate curiosity.  A longing of your soul.

Here’s one of the most important questions I’ll ever ask, so take a moment to actually feel into it before answering: Continue reading