Monday, September 24, 2012

The Beginning and the End of Meditation

How one starts and ends each sitting are almost as important as the meditation itself.

From Leigh Brasington, instructions we practiced during the retreat:

5 things to do at the beginning:

  1. Gratitude to teachers, life circumstances . . . 
  2. Motivation - Why am I doing this?
  3. Determination - to use time wisely
  4. Metta, first for one self
  5. Breathing - in and out

5 things to do at the end:
  1. Recapitulation - review what contributed to quality of sitting
  2. Impermanence - reflect 
  3. Insight - what did I learn that is personal and also impersonal
  4. Dedication of merit
  5. Remember to be mindful and continue momentum throughout the day
I have developed my own, simplified version. Starting always with gratitude for the practice, then determining to set aside ordinary habits of mind, then metta, and then breathing. Then ending with reviewing highlights of the sitting, and determining to stay mindful. 

How about you?


  1. Wonderful advice and reminder. Thank you for posting these lists.

  2. these are interesting, and i am going to bring them to my own sangha for discussion. i have no apprehension about the 5 for "before" a sit, but the first one for "after" sitting kind of seems to go against all i've ever understood about sitting. teachers i've sat with have always said that it's counter-productive to try to place "good" or "bad" judgement on a sit... what's important is that you DID sit. it's all good.

    also, i'm not sure i understand what the third one is about (Insight personal/impersonal?). can you explain that one more? thanks!

  3. Thank you, Linda. Yes, the first 5 are very good to take care of creeping doubt and set the proper stage for right effort in the sitting!

    1. Could be applied to more than sitting...have used similar list for yoga practice as well....!

  4. Franko, yes, sitting is good all by itself. And, there is also the question of the attitude one brings to sitting, and how the time is being used. Sitting is not just sitting, that is a fallacy. The assessment at the end is about reviewing what happened, whether hindrances were present or not, how did the mind get concentrated, or not, what if any insight arose, etc . . .

    The personal deals with one's psychological makeup. The impersonal deals with the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and corelessness (not-self).

    I hope this is helpful

  5. @Margeurite - ahhhh, yes, this helps. i misunderstood the intention. i thought it was passing judgement on it, (e.g., a "good" sit or a "bad" sit), not looking at it objectively for hindrances, etc.

    but i still maintain that sitting just IS, and it's all good in my experience.
    : )

  6. Hi Marguerite, This is a bit late but I have just read your reply to my comment about spinning. I really had no idea! Its funny because I have been thinking about getting an exercise bike!
    Re this present blog I think your friend and teacher is inclined to over complicate things and you are right to simplyfy.

  7. Dear Marguerite,

    Can you say more how"sitting is not just sitting" being a fallacy?

    I'm having a knee-jerk reaction here and could use some more words about this.

    Palms together,

  8. Farmer monk -

    I'm not Marguerite, but I thought I'd share what arose for me when I read your comment.

    You mention a knee-jerk reaction, so it appears that "sitting is not just sitting" struck a nerve. Perhaps you've been told that "sitting is just sitting".

    Remember that all teaching is about skillful means and it's not meant to be absolute truth.. it's all just pointers toward the truth. Some phrases will contradict other teachings. Does this phrase help you be more free or cultivate a wholesome state of mind? Go with it. If not, don't.

  9. Gasho, well said!

    And, Farmer monk, I would like to add that yes, sitting is about just sitting (and breathing). AND it is also about using that experience to gain insight and wisdom. Particularly, what are the hindrances coming up that get in the way of just sitting? What other insights arise?

  10. Dear Gasho and Marguerite,

    I can't see the skillful means in "using that experience to gain insight and wisdom." Whether phenomena is impermanent, empty, mind-only, or tathagatagarbha does not really matter to me, they're all turnings of the wheel of dharma. The raft is not the shore.


    Does this focus on gaining insight and wisdom come from the vipassana or theravadan tradition?

    In my experience, this gaining mind gets in the way of continuous practice. This gaining mind is misplaced in practice. It may be a gateway, but it's not a selling point.

    I speak up for those who practice everyday and fail to see the fruit of that practice. To sell insight and wisdom as a result of practice can be misguiding and deterring.

    It's selling water by the river.

    Please advise.

    I also wonder if we differ because of the great Theravadan-Sarvastivadan split. If so, please forgive me.

    Palms together,