Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Yesterday I went to my first meditation class at the Himalayan Trading Post, this being the commercial enterprise which supports the Buddhist monastery on Mount Parikiore just north of Whangarei. Introductory meditation lessons are undertaken in the shop amongst a range of 'Trade Aid' type retail products, many from Nepal and India which provide a suitable Eastern setting.

There were 15 people including our Meditation teacher. We sat in a circle on the ubiquitous green plastic chairs with a cushion at our feet giving us the option once we started of two sitting positions.

Our teacher whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten ( which explains the state of my mindfulness and the need for instruction ) took us through three guided meditations after some discussion about what each of us wanted to get out of the session.

The first meditation was a relaxation meditation where we concentrated on relaxing different parts of our bodies in succession. This is an old technique, known I am sure to hosts of people.

The second was the standard form where we concentrated on our breathing. The technical name for this meditation is Samartha or 'Calming Meditation'. The inhalation and exhalation of breathe is watched and concentrated on. If any thoughts interrupt this rhythm and focus they are let go and the mind returned to the breathing.

The third was a guided visualization meditation. This is called Vipassana Meditation where a subject or concept is used as a focus. We were asked to choose something that we would personally like to improve on within our lives. Suggestions given were Compassion, listening, kindness, forgiveness etc etc. We were then guided to imagine this quality as a shining white ball of light. This steady light was  imagined to envelope our whole body and in progressions envelope the room / street / town / country etc until the whole world was visualized as a shining ball of light personifying the quality that we personally wanted to work on.

I found the experience of meditating in a group a powerful experience. I wouldn't use the words, esoteric, transcendental or exotic to describe what happened, rather I would call the experience  practical, calming, focussed and complementary to the literature on 'Mindfulness' and 'Awareness' that I am currently reading. For some reason being with other people  helped focus my meditation practise. I especially enjoyed the visualization meditation and can see the worth of guided meditation sessions. I can also see the advantage of finding a teacher with whom I can obtain ongoing instruction.

When these introductory lessons are completed there is the opportunity to join a weekly meditation group. I look forward to that. In the meantime I am happy to participate in what is an enlightening and satisfying experience while extending my own personal meditation experience.


Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Alden—

I'll bet you would enjoy reading a book titled, Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunarantara. It is a reliable guide to Buddhist meditation in the Theravadan tradition, but written in a very accessible style.


Alden Smith said...

Hi Dan, Thanks for the book recommendation, I will look it up.

I went to my Meditation class again last night and I am still finding it enjoyable and informative. I enjoy meditating with others and the discussions that ensue.

The Buddhist Monastery here in Whangarei is of the Tibetan Mahayana tradition. I am told that one of the differences between Theravadan and Mahayana practises is that Mahayana meditation is largely concerned with single pointed meditation whereas Theravadan mainly uses a different meditation practise where a larger awareness of surroundings is incorporated.

Each tradition seems to have a different emphasis.