• All About Meditation

    We asked Amona Buechler, co-founder of IMU, to give us some thoughts on meditation.

    Since moving from Chicago in April 2015, Amona currently travels the world, assisting in Professional Feldenkrais Training Programs by giving Functional Integration sessions to students, while also working on a private basis in various locations.

    (Feldenkrais is a movement therapy method that can support injury recovery and prevention; improve fine motor skills (such as playing an instrument, dancing, or repetitive tasks such as office work); address neurological disorders such as MS; brain “disorders” such as stroke or cerebral palsy; improve vision; help remedy sleep disorders and other stress-related symptoms; or just provide support to feel at ease and to develop a conscious lifestyle. Amona will be in Chicago during June 2016 and will be available for a Feldenkrais workshop and individual sessions. You can reach her at www.move-with- life.org)

    Question: How would you define meditation?

    Amona Buechler: Meditation is an inner state of silence. It could be called emptiness, or a state of simply being—non-doing. When we are in meditation, we let everything be as it is, within and without. We are the witness, consciously receiving the wholeness of the moment.

    Why did you start the practice of meditation?  

    I got into meditation because my partner was meditating and I just joined in with him. Over time it became my own, something that I looked forward to. When I started, though, sitting a full hour seemed long and I caught myself thinking that probably when I have meditated a few years I wouldn’t need it anymore. In other words, the thought of daily meditation for an indefinite amount of time seemed unpleasant and scary. I think it took some years until something in me didn't mind if I meditated for the rest of my life; in fact, I started looking forward to it and felt grateful for the possibility—the luxury—of doing nothing consciously, but just being surrounded by silence. It lost the feel of doing something—in this case, “meditation”—in order to reach a certain goal, and then to get rid of it, or stop doing it.

    How does a community support, such as sitting in a place like IMU, assist in having a meditation practice?

    AB: In some mysterious way it is very, very supportive to sit silently in a group. And, also, practically speaking, most of us do not follow-through to meditate alone, or, if we do, our practice is often more brief, or at least not as consistent. It is just, for most us, much easier to sit with other people. It is as if the silence is multiplied by the number of people coming together in silence. It creates a supportive energy field. The silence becomes more tangible. Also when people come together like this to meditate it means they have left their usual environments, and are away from all the things that call to be taken care of—away from the usual interruptions and demands by our families, phones, friends, pets, neighbors, desires, work....

    What is an emotion? How can meditation assist in effectively living with strong emotions, such as grief, anger, depression, etc.?

    AB: I have enjoyed Eckhart Tolle’s definition of emotion. He has once said something like the following: “Emotion is where the mind meets the body.” Throughout the day we have various situations in which reactions take place within the body, such as a racing heartbeat, sudden heat or coldness, tension, numbness, tiredness—all kinds of phenomena. Then typically thoughts start appearing, such as “Here goes my boss again, I hope this time he's not going to….”, or “What if this and that person doesn't like me…?" We then give those moments labels, such as ‘fear,’ ‘anxiety,’ ‘nervousness,’ ‘anger,’ or ‘depression.’

    Unless we have developed a practice of awareness, it seems as though the physical changes taking place and the arising thoughts are one and the same. However, with practice, we can learn to notice how the thoughts follow the reaction, a human phenomenon. The whole animal kingdom also experiences reactions, but only humans add the thinking. And then, even more challenging to deal with, is when feelings such as anger begin with thoughts, which then triggers physiological changes. Just a thought about a possible situation in the past or future is enough to start an emotional chain-reaction.

    In meditation, we can learn to experience sensations, the reactions to certain situations, without creating a story in the mind, or at least without believing the story. Then we just witness the heart race and so on, and we can just experience them consciously, letting them be. Once we have mastered the skill, to not believe that the bodily happenings and the thoughts are one and the same, we then notice that quite often within a few minutes all of these physical symptoms just settle as we learn to refrain from feeding them with further thinking.

    On the other hand, when the emotional chain starts with thinking, we can learn to recognize that in a way it is fiction, it is a projection of some past experiences into the future, or that we are hanging on to a past experience. As we see clearly that in this very moment nothing of what we imagine is actually happening, we can gradually distance ourselves from those thoughts by bringing our full attention back into the moment. It takes time and lots of patience. When we are strongly identified with something, then the reaction will come so quick, physical phenomena and thoughts seemingly being one the same. There are various methods nowadays to inquire more deeply into our identifications, into the conditionings within, which trigger an unproportionally strong emotional charge to an often minor situation.

    Question: How can one incorporate meditation or a meditative life into a fast-paced technologically based life or vocation?

    AB: The best thing that I have found is to sit in meditation first thing in the morning, right after getting out of bed. Otherwise, as most of us have busy and unpredictable schedules, we find excuses not to find the time. Sitting first thing in the morning is not easy at first, but it soon becomes a habit. If the rest of the family still sleeps, even better. Building a habit, daily, always at the same time, is very supportive.

    For some, the best time to meditate may be the moment of coming back home from work, or back from bringing a child to school, or before going to bed. If that seems too much of a time commitment, then one can commit to leaving a gap of a minute or so between each activity, a moment of taking a few conscious breaths, and a moment of inwardly closing the situation that we are leaving behind, and consciously opening up to the next situation that is about to start.

    Question: Any final words on meditation?

    AB: I would like to say little bit more about the aforementioned capacity to let things be as they are. Generally one describes the practice of meditation as looking within. However, generally speaking, during the normal activities of our day, our attention is directed outward, for example, interacting with people, taking care of tasks, creating, being with our natural and urban environments, etc. So in a way, in meditation we going to the opposite extreme, leaving the outside world; in fact, in many practices, you close your eyes, and create a space of silence, a space in which the triggers from the outside world are minimized as much as possible. How do you integrate these two, the inner and the outer? Most importantly, perhaps, how do you know when to simply observe, and when to take action when you are in the ‘real world?’

    For example, at times, the way people interact with us may trigger strong feelings in us. Other triggers may include things seemingly going wrong, or certainly not in the way in which we planned. We may interpret the meditation instruction of letting things be as passively accepting all the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    Now, the deeper and more paradoxical understanding of this instruction to let things be means that we honor a very delicate balance. What is this delicate balance? That of staying in touch with both our inside and the outside happenings while noticing the difference between a habitual, conditioned negative reaction and one that signaling to us that we need to leave or change our surroundings. In other words, we must learn to discern in which circumstances is it valuable to just stay with, sit with, remain with the inner unease, and in which moments it is valuable to go into action of creating change in the outside world. It takes practice to learn to discern between those two, and the outcome is very subjective and varies from moment to moment and from person to person.

    I'm describing this a bit in detail, because we have to find a way how to bring the meditation practice into our daily lives, how to find a way so that we don't just sit mornings and evenings to find some rest, and then during our activities remain in our habitual patterns, that are not always healthy, not always spontaneous and free, and not always kind to ourselves or others. This may take some years. Most of us will first find ourselves going forth and back like a pendulum, relaxing during meditation, then getting agitated during our busy lives.

    Even as we become more at ease throughout the day, still, it will always be valuable to maintain a sitting practice, to do nothing, not to be engaged with anything, not having any goals, not following any desires, just to be and to let go. This is valuable as long as we live.

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    Who We Are:

    The IMU, Inner Metamorphosis University, was co-founded by Amona Buechler and Jeffrey
    Tippman who came from Germany in 1999 as students of Bhashkar Perinchery, a meditation
    teacher originally from India who now lives and works in Freiburg, Germany. Today, the IMU’s main focus is a daily silent sitting practice, loosely defined an open awareness, or mindfulness meditation. We follow various teachers, including Toni Packer, Charlotte Joko Beck, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, Bhashkar Perinchery and others, but we have no formal affiliations with any Zen schools or religions.

    There is no experience needed, no special clothing or props. Pillows are provided.

    We welcome to our silent sittings
    every race, nationality, religion, gender,
    sexual orientation, age, and physical ability.

    We are conveniently located at 1418 W Howard Street, behind Quesadilla restaurant. You can reach us by bike, bus, el, or car. You’ll find plenty of street parking nearby. Our entrance is in the alley. Ring the bell.

    What is Silent Sitting?

    In its simplest definition, it is what American Zen teacher Joko Beck calls, ‘Nothing special’. It’s an opportunity to sit and watch what is within us, and take in what is around us. It’s learning to witness our lives, and disentangle a bit from our minds.

    Simple Instructions on Sitting (from Amona Buechler)

    1. Sit straight. “First of all, to sit upright makes it easier. You can be relaxed and comfortable, but also sitting upright supports being alert.” (For those who cannot sit on the floor, we have chairs and cushions.)

    2. Watch your breath. “Then, it is helpful to pay attention to your breath, as it comes in and out naturally. Pay attention to the sensations of it—how does it feel in your body? Where is it? Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath.”

    3. Pay attention to your body. “Then also feel your body: are you cold? Warm? Are there any aches and pains? That is a way to come in contact with oneself in the moment.”

    4. Open into awareness. “After one has settled into sitting, non-doing, feeling oneself, then one can start opening the awareness to any thoughts and emotions that take place within. At the same time, you can also be aware of the external world, for example, noticing sounds, smells, sensations on the skin. Are there any reactions arising within you, triggered by your sensory perception?”

    5. Be a witness. “So we learn to notice all that takes place in the moment, without any doing, without reacting, without interfering. We just simply let things be. And of course if we find ourselves judging, reacting, or manipulating, that is also just to be witnessed. We can simply just observe the experience of it. We also open our awareness to the un-manifest silence. This is the space in which everything happens—it’s something like emptiness, the dimension beyond body, mind, and emotion. Even the attention within can shift from paying attention to physical phenomena, to being aware of the inner spaciousness. It is as if we listen to the silence, as if we feel it.

    6. Let it be. “In other words, we don't try to achieve anything-- not the silence, not the peacefulness, not the still mind. We just witness all of those aspects, and then just wait patiently for meditation to happen.”

    We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.
    - Rumi

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