Thursday, February 23, 2023

Mantra Meditation - A How-To (By Someone Who Doesn't Know Anything About It Yet!)

Disclaimer: I have no authority to post this at all. All I have done is look at a bunch of different takes on the subject and summarize the results. At this point it's just a collection of gathered notes that I organized.

Updated Disclaimer: I can tell already that I am going to be updating this once I have a more personal understanding. Not there yet though. I'm currently researching the 1 Giant Mind technique, Dr. Herbert Benson's Relaxation Response book, and Patricia Carrington's CSM method.

Patio garden. By Laura Fields

Mantra meditation uses the silent repetition of a soothing, resonant “word sound” to quiet the mind, relax the body, and expand self-awareness. The idea is that when you are paying full attention to the mantra, you are not disturbed by any other thoughts, memories, or sensations.

A mantra is for inward absorption only. It is best kept only in the mind. It loses power when spoken.

Choose a mantra that has no intellectual or emotional meaning for you so that you are just hearing its sound, its vibration...its feeling. You can use a time-tested mantra such as aham, so hum, or shi-rim. Take it as it is or fine-tune it to your taste. Don't overthink the pronunciation. You can also create one of your own. Dr. Herbert Benson used the number "one" in the Relaxation Response. For that matter, the number one in Chinese + Portuguese would make a good sounding mantra.

If creating your own, you might want to use a pure vowel sound like ahh, eeh, or ooh. The vowel sounds provide the energy of a mantra. You can add a consonant sound at the end like “m” to give it structure and form, prolong the vibratory effect, and help lead the mind to silence.

Play around with it. Hear the mantra in your mind and allow it to morph any way it wants – louder softer, fade in fade out, slow down speed up, stretch out, change pitch. If it has a touch of unfamiliarity or mystery to it, this can help remove you from everyday thoughts and concerns.

When creating your own mantra, remember that even non-sense syllables can have different qualities and effects. Not all are alike. Think of a sound like "thwack" vs a sound like "hush".

Again, don’t choose a term that has an emotional meaning for you, or any meaning at all. Using a word with meaning would keep the mind on the surface, thinking about the word, and not allow it to go beyond that level.

Don’t get obsessed with trying to find the best one for you - there is no perfect mantra for any one person. Whatever feels right will work.

You can also use your personal mantra throughout the day at any time to help maintain your composure. The more you repeat it, the more effective it becomes.

Mantra Meditation 101

Find a comfortable quiet spot where you will not be disturbed or distracted.

Sit comfortably, in a chair or on the floor. Legs crossed or uncrossed. Whatever is more comfortable for you.

Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Take a few moments to still the mind and let your thoughts come and go.

Perform a body scan from head to toe. How are you feeling today? Any aches, pains or other sensations?

Relax your muscles, from your feet all the way up to your shoulders, head, neck and face.

When you’re ready, introduce your mantra and repeat it gently and silently in your mind. Think it, but do not say it. Keep your facial muscles relaxed and fill your mind with the sound of your mantra. Focus your attention on the sound. Think of nothing else.

Breathe. Allow your breath to flow easily and effortlessly, silently repeating your mantra with each inflow and outflow of the breath. Listen to the mantra repeat itself.

As thoughts creep in, and they will, put them aside and bring yourself back to the mantra. You may have to do this over and over. Don’t let it bother you. Noticing when your mind has wandered and then gently bringing the mind back to the mantra is part of the process. The goal is not to stop thoughts but just to observe when you’re lost in thoughts and then to come back to the mantra.

Do not force your mind. That creates tension. The task is simply to maintain awareness of the mantra, moment after moment, without being heavy-handed. It’s a continuous and relaxed awareness.

If during meditation you find yourself uncomfortable, you can always change your position slightly, stretch or yawn, or scratch an itch. The point in this type of meditation is to be comfortable.

After about 15 to 20 minutes, let go of your mantra and take a moment to sit in stillness and silence before returning to everyday thoughts.

Conduct this mediation practice twice a day. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner so that you’re not digesting food.

If you are too busy to do it for 15 or 20 minutes, do it for an hour!

Originally I had made some field recordings of nature sounds and then edited them into 15 to 20 minute tracks that I could use as background sound "timers" while meditating. I'm not really liking that practice though. So I got a 20 minute duration sand-filled "hourglass" and now I use that as the timer. I like that better.

Your personal experience with meditation can change from day to day. Sometimes you will have few thoughts, other times it will be difficult and your mind will run wild. Don’t judge. Don’t expect anything. Don’t evaluate the results. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing or how well you’re performing the technique.

You are not to try to make anything happen during meditation. Allow the experience to be as it is. There is no right or wrong.

2019 Chesapeake Bay Bridge by Will Hilton


Saturday, February 4, 2023

Meat is to a Vegan as Alcohol is to a _________???

I've been trying to fill in this blank: Vegan is to meat as _________ is to alcohol. The term vegan describes what you are rather than what you are not. You don't say non-meater or non-eater. You say vegan. So I didn't want to fill in that blank with the terms non-drinker or alcohol-free because that's the same as saying non-meater, non-eater or meat-free. I wanted an equivalent to vegan.

There is of course the word teetotaler but to me that's just dumb sounding. So that word wasn't going to do it. I thought I was going to have to invent something, but then I came across the word nephalist.

The Collins dictionary defines a nephalist as a person who does not drink alcohol. Perfect! It also indicates that the word is obsolete. Also perfect! That just means I get to bring it back into use. "Tanner Llewellyn, a self-described nephalist...". That has a nice ring to it.

Nephalist sounds mysterious and alluring, almost occult. Makes me think of "necromancer" or "alchemist". I also noticed the letters "ph" in there. It more than satisfactorily fills in the blank: Meat is to a vegan as alcohol is to a nephalist.


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Books Read January 2023

I want to keep track of the books I read this year, on a month to month basis. Here are the books I finished in January, 2023.

Progeny of the Adder - Leslie H. Whitten, Jr. (January 5)
Another great vintage release from Valancourt Books. Written and set in the early 1960's. From the perspective of a cop hunting down a vampire!

The Lost Village - Camilla Sten (January 10)
Horror novel set in Sweden. Didn't quite live up to its potential. I wouldn't really even call it horror. 

Dead Silence - S.A. Barnes (January 15)
Started off promising but eventually felt stretched too thin. Would have been better as a short story or novella.

In A Lonely Place - Karl Edward Wagner (January 19)
An obscure yet highly renowned collection of short stories. Originally published in 1983 and just now put back into print courtesy of Valancourt Books. This was one of the best short story collections I have ever read, horror or otherwise! I had never heard of Karl Edward Wagner before. The writing style reminded me of Ron Rash. Kind of like a writer's writer.

Comeback: A Parker Novel - Richard Stark (January 23)
This is the book where Donald Westlake (AKA "Richard Stark") resumed his infamous Parker series after a 20+ year hiatus. Parker books are unlike anything else and are always a solid 3.0 or 3.5 stars out of four. This one was no different, thankfully. Opening sentence reads: “When the angel opened the door, Parker stepped first past the threshold into the darkness of the cinder block corridor beneath the stage.”

Out on the Cutting Edge - Lawrence Block (January 27)
Book 7 in Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series, but the first one I had read, and first book by Lawrence Block, I think. I checked it out because Lawrence Block had written the introduction to the Parker book I had just finished. I liked it a lot and hope to read more. The writing style reminded me of Denis Johnson, but in a detective/mystery format.