LAYPERSONS – MEDITATION & NOBLE FRIENDSHIP by Mike DiMeo

“And what is accomplishment in good friendship? It’s when a gentleman resides in a town or village. And in that place there are householders or their children who may be young or old, but are mature in conduct, accomplished in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. That person associates with them, converses, and engages in discussion. And they emulate the same kind of accomplishment in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. This is called accomplishment in good friendship.” https://suttacentral.net/an8.54/en/sujato

VIPASSANA (Main Insight) On this Dhamma journey, associating with wise and noble Dhamma friends is necessary to advance on the path. Associating with wise and noble friends is necessary to open the Dhamma eye. Wise and noble friends can support us in our practice, help us during difficult times, and offer us advice when we need it.

MIND TRAINING We should always reflect upon the value of wise and noble friends. Who have we been spending our time with? With wise and virtuous friends? Or with heedless and foolish people who encourage us to stray away from the path? What do wise and noble friends do for us? How can they help us on the path? If we need to cut back on sensual pleasures in order to increase our happiness and peace, how can being around the wrong people stop us from achieving this? Reflect upon these things.

PREPARATION Find a comfortable place to meditate. It should be quiet, secluded, and dark. It should also not be too hot or too cold.Sit in lotus position with your legs crossed. You can also sit in a chair if you are unable to sit down on the ground. Place your hands in your lap and close your eyes.

METTA WARM-UP Let’s start our meditation practice today by radiating metta towards ourselves and all other beings. Say to yourself “may all beings be well, happy and peaceful”. Say this several times. After that, recite the words “may I be well, may I be happy and peaceful”. Say this several times as well. Then, spend the next few minutes alternating between these two recitations.

THE BREATH Bring your attention to your nostrils, lungs, or abdomen. Notice the air going in and out of your nostrils or lungs or your abdomen expanding and contracting. Note “rising” in your mind every time the air goes into your nostrils or lungs or every time your abdomen expands and “falling” in your mind every time the air comes out of your nostrils or lungs or every time your abdomen contracts. Keep your attention here. Do not let your mind wander here and there. Remain concentrated on your breath. You will begin to notice your body and mind calm down and relax. Observe the rhythm of your breath. At the beginning of your meditation practice, it may be faster. As your body and mind calm down and relax, your breath will become calmer and more subtle.

THE BODY When your mind begins to calm down and your breath begins to become more subtle, your body will begin to relax. The Buddha teaches us the truth of Anatta (not self). It’s important that we get rid of our belief in a self. To do this, briefly observe your head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, or skin. Understand it’s function (i.e. to help you chew food or to protect you from sun rays), and then remember how skin color changes and gets darker or pale depending on the seasons and how your skin wrinkles as you grow older, how head hair becomes white and falls out as you age, how body hair falls out frequently, how nails can fall out and change size all on their own, and how teeth can fall out, break, and rot all on their own.This practice will give us insight into the impermanence of the body, and then we will be able to see it as “rupa”, meaning form, and not self.

THE MIND Even as your mind calms down, your breath becomes more subtle, and your body relaxes, your mind stays active, thinking about this and that. When thoughts arise, try not to follow them. Just observe them as they come and go. Try to keep your mind concentrated on the breath. If you follow your thoughts, they will stay in your mind and you will become distracted.

MEDITATION TIPS You may feel guilt for associating with unwise people or spending your time doing heedless things. Forgive yourself. We are all looking for happiness in this world, and often times we indulge in sensual pleasures because we believe they will give us happiness. Associating with wise and virtuous people will help you stay on the Dhamma path. During his life, the Buddha consoled and encouraged monks who were feeling helpless and wanted to give up the path. Wise and virtuous friends can help you when you are in need or when you feel like you want to give up. Wise and virtuous friends are honest, kind, and generous. They maintain the Dhamma and encourage others to do the same. These are the people you should spend your time with. Reflect upon these things.

SELF-GUIDED MEDITATION When you sit in meditation, think about the people you are associating with. Think about your environment. Who have you been spending time with? Are they encouraging you to commit to your practice or to be heedless in your actions? Is it better to go to the club or out gambling with people, or go to a meditation retreat with your Dhamma friends? Are you going through a difficult time in your practice? Do you need to speak to Dhamma friends so they can help and encourage you? Associating with wise and virtuous people is vital to the success of lay people in the practice of Dhamma. They can support us on our journey and help us to turn away from indulgence in sensuality. They can point out our mistakes and show us how to live our lives according to the Dhamma. They can remind us why we are on this path. Reflect upon these things and return your attention to the breath.

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