Meditation is training / exercise for the mind. Theravada Buddhist meditation’s ultimate goal is to help you retrain how your mind thinks so that you can become free of suffering. You will be able to train train yourself to change the type of thoughts you have. And will be able to reduce and eventually stop having thoughts that cause you to suffer. As you become more and more free of the suffering, caused by your mind, you will find yourself becoming more and more happy, joyful, peaceful, and kind… both to yourself, and to those around you.
Learning to meditate is like learning to swim or play drums. It is a skill, that requires some instruction, but ultimately your ability to do it well will depend on how much you practice.
Also, there is a difference between talking about meditation and practicing meditation. Let’s use the analogy of the competitive swimmer that actually swims, and the swimming commentator that talks about competitive swimmers swimming. This page is going to get you swimming (pronounced meditating) right away, not talking about swimming, or the theory of swimming, or the philosophy of swimming.
The @StarbucksSangha Twitter feed posts one or two dharma talks a day. By subscribing to that Twitter account, you’ll get dharma talks to listen to each day. This will help remind you to keep yourself in the habit of keeping the dhamma and meditation as part of your daily routine.
Gil Fronsdal is the senior guiding co-teacher at the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) in Redwood City, California and the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. He started Buddhist practice in 1975, and has been teaching for IMC since 1990. Gil is an authorized teacher in two traditions: the Insight Meditation lineage of Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia, and Japanese Soto Zen. He holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Stanford. He is a husband and the father of two sons.
Here are some excellent topical talk series to start listening to:
More of Gil’s talks & guided meditations
– One can meditate without any supernaturalistic beliefs. Gil Fronsdal describes what he calls Natural Buddhism, meditation without supernaturalism.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu is a Theravada Buddhist monk I have found helpful, and the way his site is setup appealed to me when I first started listening to dharma talks.
Get started by listening to “The Basics”, A graduated series of 50 dhamma talks for meditators, starting with breath meditation and leading through issues of discernment. Don’t be overwhelmed, start by listening to just one of these talks each day (the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step), and you’ll have completed the series before you know it. An expanded version of this series (64 talks) is also available on YouTube.
Then, continue to listen to a dharma talk each day. Use the “Play random talk” at the top of the Evening Dhamma Talks Full Archive, to make doing this easy. Let the topic and the sound of Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s voice wash over you. Make it a daily ritual, and I think that within a month you will begin to see some definite results. You can also find a page where the talks are collected by theme and this can be useful at times as well.
You can also listen to the talks on Google Podcasts.
Try meditating yourself. Thanissaro’s meditation manual / instruction book; With Each And Every Breath will give you detailed instructions on the meditation process. The book is available free to read online, download as a PDF, and other formats. Here is a link to the introduction, and here is a link directly to the basic instructions.
Here are some additional teachers that have helped me.
They come from two big archives of dharma talks by a variety of people. They publish new talks almost daily by a variety of people. Hearing the dharma explained in a variety of ways by a variety of people really helped me begin to grasp meditation in a way I had not when exposed to meditation in some of the general religious introductory books, or even some of the classics specifically on Buddhism and meditation from back in the 70’s, I read years ago. Perhaps they will be of help to you as well.
– Mindfulness in Plain English, by ven. Henepola Gunaratana - Great intro to meditation book, free online version
– Random sutta page - different each time the page loads
– My “Dharma - tts (text to speech)” YouTube playlist - mostly stuff converted for friends when asked.