I was sitting here for a few minutes… I’ve been getting the feeling to sit in silent meditation for a little while now. I’ve been doing it off and on, and being mindful sometimes throughout the day.
As I sat here an hour ago or so, I realized that usually I don’t tell new meditators who read my books – What to do with the tongue during meditation?
I hadn’t really thought about that question before now – but, now that it presented itself – I’ll see what I can say about it.
The tongue, during meditation, seems to stick at the roof of my mouth. I guess that’s the natural resting place of it. If your tongue naturally rests some other way – I think better to go with the way your tongue is naturally relaxed and doesn’t cause you to think about it.
I realized that the tip of my tongue is resting where the two big front teeth join. My tongue actually seems to be slightly between my upper and lower teeth. I’m not biting it – it isn’t that far between, but only a couple of millimeters. Now, do all tongues rest like this? I couldn’t tell you whether that is true, but mine seems to. Other times I try – my teeth are closed and the tongue just rests on the back of the front teeth where they meet, but more of the tongue is against the top front teeth.
So, no idea what your tongue is doing during meditation, but if it’s as relaxed as possible, that’s best. It doesn’t matter too much, but your mouth (lips) should probably be closed. Ideally you’re breathing through your nose easily and without effort to hold your mouth together.
Make sure your jaw is totally relaxed too.
That’s about it. Don’t copy my tongue-position if the one you have is working for you. I just thought I’d comment on the topic since I don’t think I have done so in years.
“Meditation for Beginners – a 22 Day Course” my little ebook, gives you the basics on meditation… You can find it here.
One set up the garage as a meditation haven today. The bug light is in there to take care of mosquitoes. The Buddhists in the forests have mosquito nets which don’t necessitate taking their lives–but this one doesn’t have the luxury. It was done in mindfulness.
One drank some hot coffee before entering the garage and its 85+ heat and high humidity just to see if one could suffer more this time. One was reading the book by Levine called Gradual awakening that spoke of the times when meditation appears to be going badly is actually a time of great growth if one can come through it without attaching to or desiring better circumstances like (cooler, more comfy, less bugs, less noises outside,etc.)
It didn’t take one long before immersed in sweat, heat, and a position sitting on towels on top of the jacuzzi cover (thick hard foam). As soon as this one started, there was noticed a sharp pain coming from sweat entering an abrasion on one’s ankle where the hands remained. One started to move them away to erase the pain, but then stopped and re-placed them so that the pain would continue.
Not wanting things to be different is a concept that needs to start being followed. Sweat started to run down the body and tickled. A couple of mosquitoes did get to me and the itch was very intense towards the last 20 minutes or so of sitting. Through it all one was able to remain in what a book described as the sunyatta state (annatta) which is voidness and non-self. I really would like to avoid the fluff of Pali and Thai language which isn’t necessary in order to have or describe the experience.
One did not have thoughts of how it could be better. One did not reach to quell itching or pain or sweat from tickling various parts of the body. One just sat with it. Occasionally when concentration seemed fairly steady one would concentrate on the pain or discomfort to try to see the nature of it. One found that one could only concentrate on one discomfort at a time and that though multiple situations appeared to be bothering the body at once, in reality there were many competing stimuli vying for that crucial attention necessary to perceive them. One found that when attention was shifted from one to another that the original disturbance did not bother this one–unless the attention was shifted back to it.
One concentrated on focusing attention to the sensation of the nostrils as air passed over them on the inhalation and the exhalation. Though one was not able to maintain concentration very well throughout the sitting one was able to watch the process of thoughts arising and leading to other thoughts and eventually the whole process leading to full blown little fantasies played out in the mind!
It was incredible how small a diversion from the concentration on the breath it takes to divert the entire mind to another direction all together! One time one noticed that the bug zapper made a noise. This led to a thought that maybe some flies were in the air. Then this led to a thought about other possible bugs and lizards and spiders that may be crawling about. This led to a video picture in ones mind about some horrific creature that had big teeth! One felt the urge to laugh then because the whole process of diversion took just a couple seconds.
One immediately got back to the focus on the breath. This process happened many times tonight–perhaps a hundred or more–though not always completing a coherent thought sequence. Many times one caught the process as soon as it started. It seems to start with something perceived…some sound, pain, feeling, desire, etc. The mind takes this thing perceived and reacts instantaneously with whatever is within the mind to take the sensation to a different focus–perhaps as a way to entice the attention to follow it and not see it for what it was to start with–just a pain or sound or whatever.
Anyway, the further the mind can carry one away with the chain of reactions the more clever and far away from the original sensation the movement gets!!! It was not unlike my Freudian free association idea in which one follows a thought and its subsequent reactions down the line until we see what becomes of it.
The mind naturally does this on its own and infinitely better than we can do while consciously aware and choosing each word. The mind strings together chains of thoughts and reactions in a seemingly continuously flowing line of thought. The curious thing is that the result of its process is very far removed from the original sensation.
Mind is built for regurgitation and linking similar thoughts/experiences/perceived sensations/goals/desires/opinions/wants/things we want to be/ etc. That is all mind is–a storage bank, an infohouse. Much deeper is the soul or spirit that can guide with wisdom and in consonance with the one consciousness of the world (all that is).
Just have to write an incredible example that Levine wrote in the above mentioned book. He wrote that the only difference in the pleasure received from touching your lover sexually and touching rotting bird carcass is the contents of the mind. (Not as explicitly–but same idea). Everything that we’ve been taught and conditioned with decides feelings!
There are a number of things advanced meditation students are doing that are impeding their progress. Assuming you want to progress quickly through the stages of meditation and see some tangible benefit to your practice, you are always looking for new ways to go about things. Read these two meditation tips and see if they might apply to you.
Advanced meditators want a formula. They want step by step instructions to do this, that and the other thing – and a guarantee to get further than they presently are. I would love to give you that – if it worked. But really, that is not the problem. This problem is that you are not dedicated to your practice. I don’t mean you’re not sitting enough. Everyone in the far stages of the game seem to be able to sit for hours on end meditating.
What matters is not length of time spent meditating, it’s the effort you use while there. Sit and watch the breath… if thoughts or other distractions like pain, tickles, sounds, heat, cold, or other things pull you away – refocus on the breath at that tiny spot inside your nostrils. Concentrate on watching each breath come in and out right at that spot. Watch it over and over.
When explained verbally like that – it sounds easy. Guess what? All you need to do is follow that. Really, that’s just about the entire game of meditation – right there.
It is far from easy. Some find it easier than others – and jhana levels come, a lot of new experiences come… and they are on the way to wherever they are going. Most people just cannot continually refocus the mind on the breathing – time, after time, after time… thousands of times. You don’t need more instruction. You don’t need more time sitting. You just need to work while you are sitting. Work while you are doing walking meditation. Work at being mindful outside of meditation.
Another real problem for advanced meditators is – they WANT IT too much.
This might be even bigger than the previous stumbling block.
Wanting = attachment, which = failure. Failure to go forward.
Meditation requires letting go of all resistance, fluff, experiences, and attachment in the mind. Unfortunately, the vast majority of meditators across the globe first read many books and then find a group and teacher to help teach them meditation. It’s my opinion that if you do that – you’re going about meditation the wrong way.
If your entire goal, and all efforts, all thoughts, all knowledge you accumulate – is to get to first Jhana… you’re going to have a really difficult time of it. Ask the hundreds of thousands of monks in Thailand and across Asia. There are very, very few that have even experienced Jhana. Fewer still who experience it regularly.
Why is that?
Monks want it worse than any other meditators.
Instead of going about meditation like that – where you have a goal to reach Jhana or some other experience… revise your goal and give yourself half a chance.
Revise your goal to…
I’m going to meditate to find relaxation.
If you find relaxation, then you’re already winning… the goal is yours. Continue on doing it.
When you restate your goal this way, and take the focus off attaining some level of Jhana – you are reconditioning the mind in a way that can let you move forward when the time comes. You’ll need to say it over and over to yourself as a mantra so you believe it.
What will happen when you get close to Jhana is, you’ll not be thrilled about it. The goal is relaxation. First Jhana isn’t necessarily that… it’s filled with emotion really – rapturous joy. When you start to experience first jhana – you’ll let it happen and not attach to it nearly as much as if it was the goal.
When you first experience Jhana you will see – it’s maybe the most momentous experience you’ve ever had in your life – certainly the most extreme thing your consciousness has ever experienced. If your goal is to keep that up – you’ll attach to it very strongly – and it will elude you forever more.
Instead… if you make your goal relaxation… you’ll have Jhana – not be that impressed, and it will come again. Eventually 2nd, 3rd, and the rest follow. Each one you must not get too excited about – and focus just on relaxation and letting go of all hindrances that pop up – mostly attachment to getting to Jhana.
When I first started meditating I didn’t even know what Jhana was. I knew there might be strange experiences I came up against… but I knew that I should ignore them and not get carried away by them. I let them go… Sometimes if I planned to get up in a certain amount of time – and yet I was into the Jhanas – I’d just get up and go do whatever I had to do. I gave the Jhanas no respect at all. What happened then was that they came so easily I hardly needed to do anything. Really – this is one of the very little known keys to getting through Jhana levels.
See how you would have been better off to start meditating for “relaxation” as a goal – instead of attaining something?
See how much easier it is for beginners to do so before they get wrapped up in the idea that Jhana is going to save their life, and save the entire planet once enough people know about it?
I have explained the very simple process of meditation in the book at the top right column on this page. It’s cheap, and it can help you immeasurably. If you cannot afford the $2.99, write me and I’ll give it to you.
I think there must be many people that are looking for a quiet place to meditate in Thailand – but they have no interest in attending a 10 day silent retreat, or any other guided retreat. These are most likely to be advanced meditators from various schools of meditation who are at a loss where to go to find a good place to meditate on their own.
I have an answer for you…
I too have been wondering about a place like this. I have considered numerous times, creating a place like this – but, time, money, and other obligations have proven bigger than my idea and if I want to meditate I just sit on the floor in a bedroom at my home, or at a local temple for a short while – but it is usually quite noisy.
For years I’ve wanted to find someplace to go for a couple of days to meditate on my own schedule.
Finally I found it. I just happened to read further on a website I’ve visited often, and there it was…
At Wat Suan Mokkhabalarama in Chaiya, Thailand (southern Thailand just north of Surat Thani province) it is possible to stay at the Thai side of Suan Mokkh (the original “main” Suan Mokkh temple), for a few days and practice meditation on your own schedule.
It’s funny, but the option to do so must have been there for years, and I just never saw it mentioned anywhere. So, I’m writing this so you can see it too!
I’ll be planning a stay there for a couple of days for some sitting and walking meditation. If anyone would like to go at the same time and meet up there – great, just let me know.
I will probably leave the car here for my family, and just take the motorbike.
If you have any questions about anything before you go – just write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll respond quickly.
Here’s a brief rundown of what they offer at Suan Mokkh:
Dormitory – there are separate mens and women’s dorms. These are basic, and I think they are small rooms for women and open dorm for men, with a mosquito net, mat to lay on. I have not been inside the dorms yet – but will post photos and better description after I return. Temperatures during April – December are hot and I am not sure if they offer a fan or not. January through March is fairly nice at night – best temperature for the year. I don’t think they have blankets, but meditation cushions and maybe towels would be available.
Restroom – Sinks – Bathing – There are communal sinks to wash and brush teeth, and showering is done by splashing water from a very large clay jar. Restrooms are all located outside the dorms and are very basic. They are sit down toilets – western style, not the squat overs you see some places in Thailand.
Meditation Facilities – There are a number of buildings that can be used for meditation at Suan Mokkh. Some are meditation halls in the middle of the forest, with few sounds. Others are closer to the highway and trucks can be faintly heard passing. There are also kilometers of dirt trails (almost roads) where walking meditation can be done. It is quite peaceful at Suan Mokkh and you probably won’t have to deal with people talking much at all. The sounds of nature fill the air in the forest – cicadas, frogs, birds, wind.
Library – There is a basement library filled with rare meditation books in English that you might enjoy. I found some great books there on my last visit. If you are staying in the dorms you can check out the books, there is a nun (magee in Thai) that will help you.
Food – Outside the front gate are a couple of Thai food ‘restaurants’ that offer various southern curries over rice. Most dishes are spicy, but there are a couple that are not. There are a number of small convenience type shops where cold drinks and other snacks can be bought as well. If you want different food, a short trip up to Chaiya city can give you many more options. If I happen to be there at the same time you are staying, I will probably be making food runs on the motorbike occasionally.
Meditation Instruction – There is no meditation instruction offered at this location – everyone speaks Thai.