Session One

Introducing Meditation

Welcome! The aim of the course is to introduce you to Insight Meditation and the Buddha’s teachings on the four noble truths. We will explore how meditation helps us to respond to the struggles we have in life and discover a deeper freedom. The first two weeks of the course will focus on introducing meditation and responding to the hindrances that arise. The following four sessions will focus on each of the ‘noble truths’.

Each week you’ll receive a video talk, a guided meditation and some written reflections. As you work through the material, it will be helpful to keep a journal of how your practice unfolds, and the particular themes you find interesting. The more you actively engage with these resources, the more useful the course will be.

Part One

Part Two

Meditation Instruction

As we go through the course, we will explore meditations that include more and more aspects of our experience. However, to begin with it is very helpful to simply focus on the breathing. 

We can sum up initial meditation instructions by saying ‘allow the attention to rest on the breathing, and whenever the mind wanders gently and patiently come back to the breath’. 

When you do this you’ll notice that the mind tends to wander away from the breath and becomes drawn to trains of thought, memories and plans. At other times the attention will be pulled towards sounds or bodily sensations. This is a normal part of the practice. It doesn’t mean anything is going wrong. We can just recognise this and come back to the breath. 

There is no need to alter the breath in any way. Just bring the attention back to the usual rhythm of the breathing. Notice where you can sense the breathing in the body. This may be in the belly or the chest, or perhaps at the nostrils.

Formal periods of meditation are not the only way we can cultivate awareness. Everyday activities like washing up, ironing and making tea can also be used as an opportunity to develop mindfulness. We can bring our attention to the physical sensations of these activities and gently bring the mind back whenever it wanders into streams of thoughts.

The attitudes we bring to the practice are fundamentally important. Kindness and gentleness allow us to begin time and time again. If we practice with a harsh and self-judgemental attitude, the exercise of bringing the attention to the breath can feel like a battle. However, if we bring patience to a busy mind it no longer feels like such a problem. When we stop resisting a wandering mind, it often begins to settle.

Beginning a meditation practice

Each day this week, practice the audio meditation below for twenty minutes. Keep a journal of what you notice in your practice.

Choose a regular time and place for your meditation. This kind of routine can be a helpful support for practising even when you don’t feel like it.

Watch the video on meditation posture and choose what would be most helpful for you: using a chair, sitting cross-legged, or kneeling.

If you’re unsure, start with a chair. Dining chairs are generally a good choice. Feel free to experiment with adjusting the height of the chair by using a cushion or a blanket. Some people also find it help to raise the back legs of the chair (using a block of wood or perhaps some books) in order to tip the seat forward a little. Experiment and see if this is useful. 

All kinds of things will arise as you begin meditation. It’s usual to discover that the mind feels very busy, that there are periods of sleepiness, and that aches in the body may start to show up. This is all part of starting meditation. We’ll explore how to work with these patterns more in next week’s session.

Home Practice

Each day this week, practice the audio meditation below for twenty minutes. Keep a journal of what you notice in your practice.