Preparation before a meditation session

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Preparation before a meditation session

Post by Stiphan » Wed May 14, 2014 8:57 am

It is also important for you to begin your training with a brief contemplation on the "Four Protections" which the Enlightened One, the Buddha, offers you for reflection. It is helpful for your psychological welfare at this stage to reflect on them. The subjects of the four protective reflections are the Buddha himself, loving-kindness, the loathsome aspects of the body, and death.
The quote above is from Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw. Because of that passage, which I first read in 2006, I have made it a habit to begin a meditation session (even though I follow Ajahn Brahm's method) by reflecting on these four things. My question is: is this compulsory if one is practicing samatha and not vipassana (the quote above seems to be related to vipassana practice)? Can one start a meditation session without this preparation? I definitely intend to continue doing it, because I find it beneficial, however I'm just wondering if others do it and if it is required.

What I precisely do is this. Before a session, I first chant the "Namo Tassa" x3, then recollect the Buddha's nine qualities ("Truly the Buddha is holy, fully enlightened...), then the asubhas ("in this body there are various impurities: head-hairs, body hairs, etc.."), then I spread brief loving-kindness to all beings, then I recollect the five subjects for daily reflection ("I am subject to aging, I am not exempt from aging..."), and finally I reflect on the inevitability of death. And after that I start meditation proper, by practicing Ajahn Brahm's first stage of meditation called "present-moment awareness". This is what I've been doing before each sitting for a long time.

Do meditators prepare for a session in a similar way? Or do most of them immediately start meditation proper? Just wondering what folks usually do to get some idea.

Thanks in advance.

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purple planet
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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by purple planet » Wed May 14, 2014 10:28 am

personally as a begginer practicing the mahasi method what i do is :

i do mindful prostrations - then walking and sitting - then a little metta - nothing else

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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Wed May 14, 2014 10:30 am


I generally start in a fashion similar to you:

Namo tassa - three times while bowing
Refgues - three times while bowing
8 Lifetime Precepts
Dedication of the meditation to individuals and then all beings

I used to do the Five Subjects, the Itipi so... and the asubha before my meditations but found myself strapped for time. I think I may take them all up again as my practice seems to be regaining momentum. I definitely don't see them as obligatory but view them as a way to prepare the mind and clarify one's motive for practicing. Metta!
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by Coyote » Wed May 14, 2014 10:50 am

I don't think it compulsory, but good practice.

I take refuges and precepts and recite the triple gem recollection in the morning.

I usually start meditation with three "namo tassa..." and a short metta reflection.

I do a similar practice to you before bed - contemplation of the Buddha, metta, dedication of merit, and recollection of death/impermanence. I believe this advice came from a talk by Ajahn Munindo.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
Iti 26

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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by Stiphan » Wed May 14, 2014 12:16 pm

Thank you all for sharing. Some of you mentioned the dedication of merit. Could you explain how you do it? Because I've never done it and would like to add it to my practice.

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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by cooran » Thu May 15, 2014 12:12 am

Hello Stephen,

This previous thread may be of interest:

With metta,
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Preparation before a meditation session

Post by Goofaholix » Thu May 15, 2014 12:54 am

I've been doing this for 20 years, much of it with Mahasi teachers, and I've never heard of such a preparation process.

The only common start to a sitting is to bow 3 times, and then only if in a monastic environment.

Do whatever you find helpful, drop whatever you don't, it's up to you.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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