Sunday, April 8, 2012

Before and After Meditation

Meditation serves as a workout for the mind, the same way exercise is a workout for the body. Lately, I have been paying attention to the 'warm up' and 'cool down' phases before and after sitting practice. How does one prep up the mind before sitting every morning? How does one ease back into the ordinary world after practice? 

Five things to do at the start of a sitting:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Why am I doing this (what's my motivation?)
  3. Work up some determination
  4. Metta - always for yourself, for others as well if you wish
  5. "Breathing in I calm body and mind, breathing out I smile."

Five things to do at the end of a sitting:

  1. Recapitulation - what did I do and how did I get there
  2. Impermanence - all these high, but mundane, states are now gone
  3. Insights - did I get any; what were they
  4. Dedicate the merit from this sitting for the liberation of all beings
  5. Resolve to be mindful as I get up and go about my activities
To which I would like to add another practice:

Before sitting, I read a few lines from the Suttas, from 'In the Buddha's Words', or online at Access to Insight, or from Leigh Brasington's very good list.

How do you prepare for sitting? Do you? How do you transition back afterwards? Do you?


  1. I've lately started or ended by hearing this metta chant, to reaffirm my intention.

  2. Love the Saranaloka nuns . . . They live very close to me, you know. They also come to give a talk once a month at IMC, my sangha.

  3. Over the years, I have used a few versions of Japanese gongyo or otsutome--a kind of service that covers a lot of bases--reaffirming refuge, resolution to improve, reciting from Lotus or Heart Sutra, and ending with dedication to benefit all living beings. It takes 20 or 30 minutes to go through all that, and then I sit for 20 or 30 minutes after that. I think the recitation part is really a kind of meditative practice, so it helps me extend the time of meditation without too much pain. Also, one teacher at a temple here recommends doing prostrations before meditating--there is a Buddhist significance to this, of course, but this teacher says it is also just the right amount of stretching/exercise to prepare the body for sitting.

  4. I usually begin with a gatha from "Present Moment, Wonderful Moment," by Thich Nhat Hanh, and I usually end with some form of Metta practice. I do find it helpful to prepare the mind beforehand and to do something afterward to help carry through the day. I like a lot of these suggestions, too, and I will probably incorporate some of them into my practice. Thank you for posting! _/\_

  5. I make coffee, first for 60, then for me ( a little french press indulgence) and then study The Lankavatara sutra or sew my teachers mountain seat kesa.

    Afterwards, we do 9 prostrations, Chant the confession sutra, chant the refuges, the heart sutra, a dharani (a small one), another sutra (like loving kindness or the harmony of difference and equality) and then the names of male and female ancestors (alternating days for boys and girls!).

  6. Thank you all three for adding to the repertoire of before and after practices. I found that most important is not so much the practices themselves as being able to make them our own. Whatever works . . .