I use the practices described earlier as needed. This is the practice that I use formally once to three times each day. While each of the practices serves a purpose, this practice is central and must be practiced regularly in order to experience its benefits.
- As with all forms of meditation practice, follow the instructions provided in the section on Basic Meditation Practice.
- With an exception that will be explained shortly, keep your eyes open for this exercise, but let your attention fall short of any object so that your attention is focused as described in section (4).
- Begin with a few cycles of Attention To Breath as described earlier in this document.
- Bring your attention to the area one to two inches below the navel. By attention I mean be aware of what you feel and do not try to make anything happen. Simply feel. Over time you will feel a mild itching; this is a desired effect and you should narrow your focus to that area. This exercise is called Center of Gravity Attention because the area just below the navel is roughly your body’s center of gravity.
- If you find yourself waking from sleep, daydreaming, or with your attention anywhere else, go back to step (3) and start the process again. The following sections provide further details.
As with all of the exercises, the point is to be in a state of relaxed attention. Should you feel tense, you should apply Pain Meditation to the feelings of tension and then return to step (3).
In section (2) I asked you to keep your eyes open. There are two reasons for this: (a) with your eyes closed you will tend to fall asleep, and, (b) you will want to integrate what you learn in meditation to all aspects of your life especially those with your eyes open. There is one exception to this rule. Sometimes you may find it difficult bringing your attention to the spot below your navel. Briefly closing your eyes to shut out visual stimuli will help. Once you’ve found the spot, simply open your eyes and continue the process as usual.
During this process your mind will wander and you should simply bring your attention back to breathing and then to the area just below the navel. In fact the very act of recognizing that your mind has wandered, and bringing your mind back to the point just below your navel, is part of this exercise in attention. Over time you will find that your mind wanders less. You need not waste your attention on either gauging your progress or in fretting over the frequency with which your attention wanders. Rather gauge your success by how you feel about what you are gaining from meditation.
We all learn to create a mental model of our body’s location relative to the world around us. When starting this process sometimes people will work this exercise through their mental model of their body rather than actually feeling the spot below their navel directly. Make certain that what you are doing is feeling the spot below your navel directly rather than imagining seeing the spot through your mental model of yourself doing it. As I indicated earlier one of the results of meditation is that we learn to experience the world directly without the filter of our intellect interfering. Seeing the spot below the navel of your mental model of yourself is an example of the intellect interfering with the simple process of direct experience.
I began by sitting formally once each day for five minutes. I now sit once in the morning for 40 minutes and in the afternoon for 20-40 minutes. As with all exercises the more you practice the greater the benefits. Unlike physical exercise you cannot practice this exercise too much, however, you should pace yourself so that you will feel comfortable making this a regular habit. Meditating irregularly is not effective. It would be more effective to meditate for 10 minutes each day than to meditate for 60 minutes once a week. Start out small, with a regular schedule, and you will recognize when it is time to increase the time you spend at each session. Should you find that your schedule doesn’t allow for as much meditation time as you would like, reduce the amount of time you spend at each session to accommodate your other tasks while keeping a regular schedule for meditation. I do not recommend an irregular schedule of meditation because it is not as effective, but if necessary I suggest at least a short meditation every day with a longer period meditation every other day.