Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Basic Method of Meditation’ is a free-distribution, nuts and bolts, introduction to the ancient practice of meditation. It is derived from the opening half of his longer and more detailed book, Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond: a meditator’s handbook. Brahm, the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth, is himself a highly experienced Buddhist meditator and Dhamma practitioner. He’s given literally thousands of talks on meditation and Buddhism to a wide variety of audiences in Australia and overseas, all of which are freely available online. The language and analogies used by Brahm in this booklet may seem deceptively simple, but when put into practice, can become deeply profound insights. The idea of ‘being in the moment’, for instance, is something we are all familiar with. But do we actually know what it is really like to be in the moment? What does stillness mean? What does it mean to be deeply contented? What is it like to be so in the moment that you disappear?
So, with that bait in the water, and without further ado, I present:
Things I learnt from Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Basic Method of Meditation’
1. Good meditators aren’t control freaks. This point seems particularly relevant in modern society, where pushing yourself is regarded as the key to success. In fact, pushing yourself in meditation is completely unproductive and will actually cause a whole lot of problems. Throughout the entire book, Brahm emphasises letting go of the ‘inner control freak’ in order to let things be. This skill is something that can only come through patience, kindness and practice.
2. It’s all about establishing good foundations and proper groundwork. Meditation, you may not know, is about letting go, peace and stillness. The main barriers to these goals almost always come from neglecting the foundations of meditation: not indulging in inner speech, and not showing interest in thoughts about the past and future. Whilst these areas go unaddressed, the higher states of meditation will be impossible. In meditation, there is simply no point in carrying around the coffins of the past.
3. You never know when it’ll all turn around. Brahm emphasises that there is no such thing as a bad meditation session. A difficult session, he says, is actually where the real work gets done. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to predict when a ‘good’ meditation session will happen. One moment, the mind may seem very agitated, distracted or chatty, and then in the next moment, it’s as if a switch has been flicked and everything comes into place.
4. You can disappear! Although covered at greater length in the Meditation, Bliss and Beyond, Brahm briefly describes how the basic stages of meditation eventually lead towards deeper and deeper meditation states. Eventually, the mind can become so still and free from distractions and thoughts, that it goes into itself. The world of the five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and sound, simply disappear. This is where the possibility of mental objects or phenomena can emerge. These experiences, and those beyond them, are what meditators should be aiming for in their meditation: being both beautiful, blissful and profound.
I’ll try to talk about these experiences, as understood in the Buddhist tradition, in Part 2.
If you’d like to check out Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Basic Method of Meditation’ for yourself, you can access it here.
What’s up next? Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.