Meditation As a Learning Support
Meditation is a highly effective practice for optimizing one’s own mental capacities and enhancing learning. In this article you will be guided on how to practice stabilizing and analytical meditations.
Why did I choose this tool?
I have yet to meet a regular meditator who does not speak highly of this practice. Moreover, a growing body of research attests to the powerful and transformative effects of meditation on the human body, mind and soul.
In this article, learners learn to use meditation to organize and optimize learning, thereby developing the competence to identify and provide appropriate resources to support individual learning.
How does this apply to being a trainer?
Trainers learn modern uses of traditional Buddhist mind-training practices.
“Meditation is an activity of the mental consciousness. It involves one part of the mind observing, analyzing and dealing with the rest of the mind. Meditation can take many forms: concentrating single-pointedly on an (internal) object, trying to understand some personal problem, generating joyful love for all humanity, praying to an object of devotion, or communicating with our own inner wisdom. Its ultimate aim is to awaken a very subtle level of consciousness and to use it to discover reality, directly and intuitively.” (Tushita)
In general, this type of meditation is used to develop concentration, and eventually to attain a special kind of concentration which enables a practitioner to remain focused on whatever object they wish for as long as they wish. Concentration and calm abiding state are necessary for any real, lasting insight and mental transformation. In stabilizing meditation, we learn to concentrate on one object— the breath, the nature of one’s own mind, a concept, a visualized image—without interruption.
Concentration without interruption is the exact opposite of our usual state of mind. If you turn inward for a few moments you will notice your mind jumping from one thing to another: a thought of something you will do later, a sound outside, a friend, something that happened earlier, a physical sensation, a cup of coffee. We never need to say to the mind to think. It is always busy doing something, speeding along, with an energy of its own. With such a scattered and uncontrolled mind, there is little chance of success in anything we do, whether it is remembering a telephone number, cooking a meal or running a business. And certainly, without concentration, successful meditation is impossible.
Stabilizing meditation is not easy, but it is essential for bringing the mind under control. Although the development of single-pointed concentration and calm abiding state is the work of full-time meditators, we don’t need to retreat to the mountains to experience the benefits of this kind of meditation: even in our day-to-day city life we can develop good concentration by regularly doing ten or fifteen minutes a day of stabilizing meditation. It can bring an immediate sense of spaciousness, and allow us to see more clearly how our mind works, both during the meditation and throughout the rest of the day.
Analytical meditation brings into play creative, intellectual thought and is extremely beneficial for our mental development. This conceptual clarity develops into firm conviction which, when combined with stabilizing meditation, brings direct and intuitive knowing.
By using clear, penetrative, analytical thought, we unravel the complexities of our attitudes and behavior patterns. Gradually, we can eliminate those thoughts, feelings and ideas that are causing personal unhappiness and unhappiness of those around us, and in their place, cultivate thoughts, feelings and ideas that will bring us happiness and peace.
The level of conceptual thought that we can reach during these meditations is more subtle and therefore more potent than the thoughts from our everyday life. Because our senses are not being bombarded by the usual frantic input, we are able to concentrate more strongly and develop a finely-tuned sensitivity to the functioning of our mind.
This method of combining the two kinds of meditation causes the mind to become ‘one’ with the object of meditation. The stronger our concentration is, the deeper our insight will be. We need to repeat this process again and again, with anything we want to understand in order to transform our insight into actual experience.
When we sit down to meditate, we should start by examining our state of mind. Next we establish calm abiding concentration and then proceed onto clarifying our intention for engaging in analytical thinking.
We analyze the object using information we have heard or read, as well as our own thoughts, feelings and memories. At some point, an intuitive experience or conviction about the object will arise. We then stop thinking and focus our attention single-pointedly on the feeling, for as long as possible. We soak in the experience. When the feeling fades away, we can either continue analyzing or conclude the session.
Exercise (individual work):
– Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or any other meditation pose you might know. Straighten your back, open your chest and gently close your eyes.
– Take a few deep breaths, in and out through the nose, before you go back to your normal breathing.
– Start focusing on the breath: the space where the air passes through your nostrils. Keep a single-pointed concentration on this space alone, being alert and relaxed at the same time. Continue this for 15 minutes.
– Now pick the topic of your analytical meditation for the next 15-20 minutes.
Some questions and guidelines to use during your analytical meditation to support learning:
- Try to synthesize everything you have learned so far into one meaningful and coherent entity.
- Focus on a learning problem and try to solve it during your analytical meditation.
- How much have I covered and how much do I still have left to cover?
- What do I learn next? Outline the steps for your next learning situation.
- What learning resources have I used so far? What do I have left to use? How will I go about it?
- Am I satisfied with the learning strategies I am using? Should I change anything?
- How can I optimize my learning?
– When you are about to finish, focus on any new insight(s) you have gained, notice how it feels, and then focus on the feeling and breathe into the feeling for the next few minutes.
– When you are ready, gently open your eyes and smile.
- What impact can meditation have on learning?
- What is your attitude towards meditation? Is there anything that interests you particularly in meditation? Is there anything you would like to develop?
- How could meditation support your learning process as a trainer? In what moments?
- What would happen if you included meditation in your learning plan? What changes could this bring?