What is analytical meditation?
The first step in a session of analytical meditation thus is the proper attitude and motivation. The second step is to sit in the correct posture. For analytical meditation, the physical posture is straightforward. Simply sit with crossed legs, keeping your back as straight as possible while at the same time staying relaxed. The upper part of the body should feel light, while the lower part of the body should feel more weighty and stable.
After taking our seat with good meditation posture, we begin with the threefold cleansing of the stale breath. Hold your hands palms down on your knees. Place your thumbs at the base of your ring fingers. As you slowly and deeply inhale through your nostrils, slowly curl your fingers around your thumbs so that your hands are in loose fists with your thumbs tucked inside. Exhale through your nostrils. Do not force your exhalation; it should be gentle and slow, with some added force at the end. As you exhale, extend your fingers and thumbs at once, but without violence. Then slowly inhale again and close your hands as before. Do this inhalation and exhalation three times. On the first breath, imagine that you are gathering and expelling all physical obstacles to meditation. On the second breath, gather and expel all emotional obstacles. On the third breath, gather and expel all mental obstacles. Be sure to maintain your physical posture, especially when you exhale, staying centered and upright in your seat.
Following the cleansing breaths, we engage in a brief session of resting meditation. We do this meditation in order to free our minds of coarse agitation or torpor. One’s awareness may be scattered or outwardly oriented, and we want to draw it inward. Or we may be feeling drowsy and need to rouse ourselves in order to practice well. We want to bring our minds to a point of stillness and clarity.
Focus your attention on the coming and going of your breath. One common method of working with the breath is to count the breath, one count for each cycle of inhalation and exhalation. Count from one to ten and then start over. Or keep counting as high as you like. When you lose the count, begin again. Another method you might use is to relax on the inhalation, and when you exhale, mentally recite a long hung with the out breath.
Bring your mind to rest. When you have the feeling that your mind has come to a state of stillness, then recall that now is the time to do analytical meditation. Through resting meditation, you establish a calm and lucid mind. Arise within that calm and lucid mind and begin your analysis.
Sometimes when we reach the point where the mind is resting, we might want to stay in that peaceful place, and we do not wish to engage in analytical meditation. When this happens, it is important to give rise to the aspiration to engage in analytical meditation.
Lastly, when we do analytical meditation, which involves effort and reasoning, it is very important to be mindful that one’s awareness remains in the center of one’s body. Otherwise, we will just engage in a superficial conceptual investigation rather than in genuine analytical meditation.
When your mind is resting and clear, proceed to the analysis. How do we conduct the analysis? We select an appropriate example of the object of analysis and examine it using our reasoning.
What Is Analytic Meditation? Here’s How A Small Tweak To Your Meditation Practice Can Help You Focus
If you’re curious about practicing meditation, you’ve likely heard a lot about mindfulness, which is often touted for its mind-body benefits— but contrary to popular belief, it’s not the only meditation practice there is. While the scientific community has focused on mindfulness for many of its studies on the benefits of meditation, analytic meditation takes a different approach.
“The Dalai Lama practices analytic meditation, a kind of meditation which has received almost no attention in the Western scientific literature,” Dr. Richard Davidson, William James and Vilas professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, tells Bustle.
Analytic meditation, experts tell Bustle, incorporates elements of mindfulness, but is its own particular practice. Mindful meditation involves focusing on a particular thing — often the breath — to center attention on the immediate environment. Tenzin Nor-bu, the author of Ocean of Compassion and former philosophy professor, writes forHuffPostthat analytic meditation uses mindfulness techniques to help focus. “One cannot effectively engage in the practices of analytic … meditation with an agitated or distracted state of mind,” he writes. However, the core of analytic meditation isn’t about attention; it’s about reasoning.
“Analytic meditation uses reasoning to gain insight into how the mind works and particularly the nature of the way the mind constructs our selves as an entity,” Davidson tells Bustle. “By using reason and probing in this way, we can come to an experiential realization of the ephemeral, constructed nature of the self.”
If this sounds pretty difficult to understand, breaking it down reveals that analytic meditation bears a resemblance to cognitive behavioral therapy. Nor bu writes that analytic meditation involves “pondering thoughts that can influence you to develop a particular pattern of thinking or feeling.” When you do analytic meditation, he writes, you evaluate your thoughts in three stages: “reasons why a particular belief is true, the benefits of feeling or thinking in a particular way, and the disadvantages of not feeling or thinking in a particular way.”
In cognitive behavioral therapy, people are encouraged to examine their thoughts and beliefs about themselves, and how they influence their behavior — and challenge beliefs that are irrational or unsupported by the evidence. Analytic meditation strives to use logic and reasoning to influence behavior by doing a similar sort of examination.
Analytic meditation is also used to help understand the roots of your emotions and look at how they affect those around you. The Dalai Lama himself noted in a speech in 2017, “While the midst of anger, your tendency is to perceive the person who harmed you as 100% bad. But deeper analysis will make you realize that every human being is composed of both positive and negative characteristics, and you can try to get a more realistic view of the person, thereby diluting the anger harbored against the person.”
Analytic meditation in the Buddhist tradition is thought to be most effective in people who have reached a certain stage in their search for enlightenment. However, Davidson thinks that if you aren’t Buddhist or spiritual, that shouldn’t stand in the way of your practicing analytic meditation.
“There are secular forms of it that could easily be implemented,” he tells Bustle. “It may very much be a guided system, or one you practice on your own.”
If you want to start analytic meditation on your own, there’s guidance available from the Dalai Lama himself. Neurosurgeon Dr. San jay Gupta, who practiced analytic meditation with the Dalai Lama in 2017, told CNN that the Lama encouraged him to use the practice to isolate problems he was finding difficult.
“He wanted me to separate the problem or issue from everything else by placing it in a large, clear bubble,” Gupta writes. “The problem was now directly in front of me, floating weightlessly. In my mind, I could rotate it, spin it or flip it upside-down. It was an exercise to develop hyper-focus. Less intuitively, as the bubble was rising, it was also disentangling itself from any other attachments, such as subjective emotional considerations.”
Next time you’re struggling with an issue or an emotional problem, it may be worth putting the Dalai Lama’s suggestions into practice and attempting some analytic meditation, with some mindfulness first to clear your mind
Recently I’ve had a number of requests for tips on meditation techniques, so I’m going to take a shot at simplifying the means by which a mediator-to-be might find their way down the path to clear-minded joy, serenity and focus.
There are as many ways to meditate as there are mediators, and just a simple search of the topic reveals lots of good advice on how to go about it (here is a really excellent site). I always recommend Chapter Six of The Bhagavad Gita. It’s a four or five thousand year-old how-to that’s pretty hard to beat. In Teachings of the Buddha, edited by Jack Kornfield, you’ll find Zen Master Dogen’s “Practice of Meditation,” which is a very simple and direct suggestion for how to meditate. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali detail the paths and purposes of meditation. In Eknath Easwaran’s translation of The Dhammapada, there’s a great description of the four dhyanas, or Buddha’s stages of meditation leading to his enlightenment. It gives a very comprehensive idea or what we’re going for in its ultimate form.
If you get to the fourth dhyana your first time out, let’s just say you’re a real natural. Maybe you could give me some lessons?
Be comfortable, but not too comfortable. The object is simple, relaxed unity, not unconsciousness. Sitting in a chair is OK and is good practice for meditating on a train, a plane, or a bus, but making like a real swami, and sitting cross-legged in a half-lotus (if possible), is best. Obviously, it’s best to never be preoccupied by any kind of pain. You can do a simple image search to get the idea on optimum positions.
Sit on a cushion or folded blanket and on a slight slope is good too—where your feet naturally settle a bit lower than the base of your spine. Imagine that “golden string” pulling straight up your spine, tying to the crown of your head and drawing straight up towards heaven. Relax your neck and let your shoulders hang from your spine like a rack.
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama who identifies most strongly with his role as a simple Buddhist monk, was ordained at a very early age and his daily regimen includes spending several hours in prayer and meditation. While his daily practice may include several different types of meditation, the Dalai Lama often recommends a particular form of Buddhist meditation called ‘analytic meditation’ just as he did recently while addressing the FICCI Ladies Organization in New Delhi.
In this type of meditation, he said, one needs meditate on the information accumulated by the mind from various sources and use reasoning to decode and decrypt it. Reasoning hones positive states of mind and alleviates thoughts and emotions that lead to suffering and dissatisfaction, he believes.
Analytic meditation brings about inner change through systematic investigation and analysis thereby leading to optimum and proper use human intelligence.
Talking about the prevalent violence and anger across the globe, he said one should systematically investigate and reflect upon the destructive effects of anger.
Anger has major repercussions on one’s physical health, one’s family relationships and in society. One should analyze this and reflect upon it not just once or twice, but repeatedly until it becomes part of one’s deeper understanding, he added.
If one reflects upon the destructive nature of anger, it immediately makes you more cautious of how the anger might escalate leading to destruction and collateral damage. On further analysing and systematically investigating whether responding with anger is ultimately constructive or destructive, you might get an answer to whether it will improve the situation or not, and so on, explains Dalai Lama.
“You might also want to analytically meditate on how you might have contributed in some way to the situation that made you angry. And while the midst of anger, your tendency is to perceive the person who harmed you as 100% bad. But deeper analysis will make you realize that every human being is composed of both positive and negative characteristics, and you can try to get a more realistic view of the person, thereby diluting the anger harboured against the person.” Says Dalai Lama.
Analytic meditation may also play a role in a field of psychology that focuses on developing positive states of mind. According to the Dalai Lama, using techniques adapted from Buddhism may help actively cultivate positive states of mind such as kindness, compassion and tolerance.