Mindfulness Training (Secular Meditation)
Mental Spiritual Fitness
The Buddha said in the Dhammapatha Yamakavagga “Manopubbangama dhamma, Manosettha manomaya, manasa ce pasannena bhasati va karoti va, tato nam sukhamanveti, chaya va anupayini. This message summarizes, "The mind is the master; the body is the slave, a person accumulates good thoughts, good actions, and kind words, happiness will follow him/her the same as his shadow. On the other hand, suffering will follow a person who accumulates wrong thoughts, actions, and corrupt words, suffering will follow him.
Human problems are associated with three unwholesome elements: hate, greed, and revenge, deep roots in unhealthy minds. This unwholesomeness causes wrong actions towards others and an individual's life physically, emotionally, and mentally. Therefore, a healthy mind is fundamental to bring happiness or suffering to oneself and others.
From the Buddhist point of view, people are born based on their accumulation in their previous lives, known as "Karma". Therefore, they have different personalities and experience many different results in life. Some people are good with compassion and loving-kindness. Some people are aggressive with all kinds of hate and anger. We have to ask ourselves, "Do we need happiness or suffering?". Yes, everyone loves happiness. To find happiness, a person must understand reality and accept the truth. At the same time, we have to cultivate our minds with peace and compassion to exercise our minds with mindfulness to remind ourselves as parents, children, friends, students, neighbors, soldiers, citizens of the country, and so on. We have duties and obligations to accomplish in our lives based on individual roles in society. Therefore, we need tools to support us in times of peace and in times of turmoil.
What is Meditation?
One of the tools for mental exercise is Meditation or concentration. It is called Samathi in Pali language (Theravada Buddhist language). Meditation helps a person to focus on their daily activities with mindfulness. Also, it helps a person to think carefully with positive thoughts toward oneself and others. Positive thoughts keep a person on track without anxiety. There are two types of Meditation named Samatha and Vipassana. Samatha is a temporal calmness of mind while practicing the Meditation or after a short period of the Meditation. Without continuing practicing, the temporal calm (Samatha Samathi) could disappear when the mind confronts with unwholesome feeling. Consequently, a negative mind could damage or takes over an individual mentally. On the other hand, Vipassana is a permanent calmness of mind. The state of peace allows practitioners to think about the subject matter carefully and execute the tasks successfully with the right results. In the spiritual purpose, the right concentration is fundamental to understanding the reality, which could lead practitioners to achieve a spiritual achievement based on individual effort and abilities.
In this training, I am not focusing on spiritual achievement, which requires skills, time, and effort, but I focus on the benefit we can achieve in our daily lives, particularly in the military setting.
How does it work?
In the Military, soldiers have to be fit physically and mentally. PT (Physical training) benefits soldiers in terms of "physical fitness." Positive thinking helps them with mental fitness. In this case, I would like to introduce secular Meditation, which is not associated with a religious setting, as a tool for mental training. As I mentioned about the PT, I would like to compare Meditation with physical exercise with the two different levels (temporarily and permanently).
Soldiers who do not practice PT regularly; are not ready for the PT test. If you do not run regularly, you can imagine that you will start to run for the PT test tomorrow. You are not ready to pass the PT test because your body is not ready. On the other hand, Soldiers who run regularly; are ready for a PT test at any given time. In the same way, a person with an aggressive mind could cause damage to others and individuals. They are not ready to react to any circumstances peacefully because their minds are filled with anger and frustration. On the other hand, a person with loving-kindness can generate happiness for others and individuals, even in conflict. Both physical and mental fitness must be ready to win in any situation.
When do we use Meditation?
In the Military, Soldiers could use Meditation in many ways, such as stress management, anger, qualification for shooting, and survival in a time of crisis on the battlefield. Stress is prevalent in the Military because Soldiers confront all kinds of situations at home and in training, particularly on the battlefield. Without mindfulness (concentration, focus, Meditation), soldiers could commit bad things such as suicide, shooting rampage, and domestic violence. A trained mind could manage unwanted feelings. The untrained mind could damage oneself and others. In addition, soldiers need concentration to pass the weapon qualification in a weapon qualification. If Soldiers could not manage their distraction and emotion, it could annoy their engagement with the targets.
Meditation could help Soldiers survive in a crisis or emergency. Soldiers might trap in the middle of nowhere or surround by enemies. A calm mind can help them to manage the situation. It's not by miracle or magic but by controlling the situation. There are many testimonials of how monks or people survived using Meditation in crises in the Buddhist scripture.
Benefit of Meditation
Many people assume that Meditation can help them gain an extraordinary power. From a Buddhist point of view, this mindset is unwholesome thought because this kind of mindset is not the way to get rid of suffering. Instead, the Buddha taught us to cultivate our minds without attachment. Although extraordinary power is mentioned in the life of the Buddha and some other monks, the Buddha did not admire the extraordinary power. However, in this training, There is not miracle or magic behind it. I will not talk in detail about spiritual (religious) Meditation. But I will speak about secular Meditation that you can use to deal with your drill SGT, family, and weapon qualification. I did not expect that you would attain enlightenment after this class. This Meditation is a simple mental exercise to keep the mind concentrating on the meditation object. It helps when you are depressed with your drill SGT. You could evaluate your progression by looking at your mind when facing unwanted feelings. If you cannot let it go (the unwanted feelings), you need more time to train your mind. Don't give up.
There are two procedures of meditation practice. First is a preparation to train the mind to familiarize itself with a single thought. Practicing a single thought or concentration on one object helps practitioners slow down the thinking process toward many things simultaneously. In a real-life, stress occurs because people confront many problems at one time. Therefore, we have to learn how to focus on one thought or one meditation object. Secondly, the right understanding of reality means we have to view reality and accept it the way it is without attachment.
Now, I would like to introduce a basic meditation or concentration with an easy object to keep our mind focused on to slow down the thinking process. Try to think one thing at a time. When the mind calms down, you have more time to think before reacting. The breathing IN and OUT method or "Anapansasti" is one of many meditation objects that meditators use to concentrate on. You can be in any position, sitting, walking, or lying down. The most important thing is concentration on the meditation objects. We start by sitting in a comfortable position on the chairs or the floor and check the following checklists
- Scan your body from the head down or from the bottom up to ensure that you do not block your blood circulation.
- Close or open your eyes………………..
- Put both hands on your knee or your lab…………
- Sit in a comfortable position……………
- When everything is settling down, ……………
- Start by deep breathing in……………….. and hold 3-4 seconds………….. then let it out ……………repeat this three times or more to let your body know that you are going to concentrate on the breathings……………
Now, bring your attention to the breathing in and out at a normal rate by following the IN and OUT breathing. You can concentrate by knowing IN and OUT continuously. Or you can count by counting one on one breathing process
Breathing IN ….. Breathing OUT Count..1
Breathing IN ….. Breathing OUT Count..2
Breathing IN ….. Breathing OUT Count..3
Breathing IN ….. Breathing OUT Count..4 ...
You can set your goal to 100 or more to show that you can reach that goal without thinking about something else.
Now, let's start to concentrate by counting your breathing.
……..If you feel sleepy, open your eyes, or stand up in the back…..
……..If you feel pain in any part of your body, you can change your posture to a comfortable position. The point here is to focus on your breathing.
Listening Meditation (Concentration on the Sound)
The second method is Meditation on the sounds. It could be a sound of a bell, a song, and the sounds of nature around you like running water, birds chirping, etc. In this training, I would like to use the sound of the bell.
Now, we start by sitting in a comfortable position and check the following checklist:
- Scan your body from the head down……………… or from the bottom up ………………..to make sure that you do not block your blood circulation
- Close or open your eyes……………..
- Sit in a comfortable position…………..
- Bring your attention to the sounds of the bell…………….
- Count them until the end of the meditation section. Or listen to the sound
Check your posture often to make sure that you are comfortable.
Now, open your eyes to ensure that you are ok to stand up. You might need to stretch out your legs before standing up,
By doing this training consistently over time, the mind will settle down. It benefits you when you need concentration during weapon qualification because the process of thinking is transparent and focused on the task. Also, in times of stress, you can slow down frustration, confusion, and anger by positive thinking and calming yourself while finding solutions. In addition, you have no fear in times of emergency because you can control the panic. Therefore, to make our minds fit at any time and in any situation, you need to exercise your mental exercise regularly.