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In stressful days, when I really need to calm down and find some inner peace, is when I find it harder to meditate. A lot of thoughts going in and out and creating intense feelings as a consequence of the events of the day.

Is there any kind of method one can use to meditate in such days?

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One of my favourite quotes is an old Zen adage

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour

I find that both infurating and inspirational at the same time. So on the zen theme, when I am just way too busy I can't do mindfulness of breathing or metta practice. So the one I turn to is a just sitting or zazen type practice. I just sit there and ask - what is it like to be this. It might not be traditional zazen but it helps me.

Ironically when meditation is going well and seems to be taking off (if that makes sense) then I also do just sitting. It's the beginning and end of practice for me.

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I've also had this problem in the past since I had a small anxiety problem. Before the exam days and presentation days it was at its worst. I tried several techniques which were successful during the peaceful days. Most of them actually didn't work the day before the presentation or the exam.

One technique I had a bit of success was Metta meditation. I would not perform it to all the beings, but I would first do Metta to myself and then the specific people I would meet the next day e.g. my supervisor, teacher. :)

I also had a sleeping problem the day before exams and presentations due to cycles of same thoughts arising mainly due to the fear of failing. Metta meditation on myself helped mostly to get rid of them and have a good sleep.

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    One thing you can work on is letting the thoughts pass through you, seeing them pass, and being aware of them, but not fussing over them. I grew up in a city and if I have trouble start by remembering how I'd zone out watching cars pass on the overpass, the thoughts being like that, and after that just letting go of that image as well. In the end you can do a similar thing with your anxiety itself, become aware of it and (particular) its origins and impermanence and it doesn't get in the way. (Just my experience which might work for you, I'm no expert). – Dan Sheppard Aug 26 '14 at 19:32
  • (+1) because this answer gives some concrete and focused help, even more based on personal experiences from the buddhist practizing. – Gottfried Helms Jan 14 '15 at 11:35
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The best prepration for formal insight meditation is practising mindfulness/being in the present moment in the daily life. All of the little things/activities that usually a person overlook in daily life can be immensely helpful to meditator. Washing the hands, drinking water, walking inside the home or in a street, spending time in a bus, being aware of the feelings exc.. every moment in daily life is a huge opportunity for a person to prepare the mind against the ups and downs of the life. Because in daily life a person faces all kinds of thoughts, emotions, feelings, external events. A person who becomes a master of living mindfully in daily life can easily shift to formal meditation in every situation and even in a stressful day. And If he has free time he can even start practicing intensive meditation, which is meditating all day long with some advanced methods. And as it is mentioned above doing metta meditation can also be a helpful tool to calm the mind before formal meditation.

Mahasi Sayadaw's noting method is very helpful for person who is practising mindfulness and formal meditation in daily life.

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The best is to do Metta meditation, recollection of past good deeds, recollection of qualities of the Triple Gem, etc. for a while as it calms your mind.

These meditation tend to bring about tranquility and also result in positive Karma. This helps to switch back to Insight Meditation.

  • ok, so in a practical way, what do you do? whishes for all beings to be happy, free from dangerous...etc? what is the technique you use – konrad01 Aug 26 '14 at 11:25
  • You wish for everyone to be well and happy. Also if you have helped some one keep recalling that. Or mentally meaning of the quality of the triple gem. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Aug 26 '14 at 14:57
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Some teachers compare meditation with experiments done in a lab where conditions are controlled and manipulated. We use specific meditation techniques to learn about our mind or to generate peace, compassion etc. It is done in a quiet room without distractions, with an altar or other various objects that help us achieve good results.

In everyday life we are outside of this safe environment and this is the time to check the results of our meditation. How do we react when we are thrown into difficult situations and bombarded by the unwanted stimuli? Do we rely on our inner peace or are we driven by those external stimuli? What is it that makes us stressed, what exactly knocks us out of our safe settings? Is it our boss, our tasks or some uncertainty? What is the underlying feeling? Fear of failing? Anger? Attachment? By carefully watching and analysing our emotions and reactions on stressful days we can clearly identify the obstacles that keep us away from the inner peace. Maybe not a formal meditation technique, but definitely a powerful tool for watching one's mind. If we identify a single thing that stresses us out, we might also recognize how small and unimportant it is so immediately we can dissolve the stress.

The type of formal meditation which we can do on stressful days will depend on the meditation we normally do and the school/lineage we follow. I follow Vajrayana so on such days I keep repeating specific mantras and imagine perfect Buddhas above my head and the head of my horrible boss. I do all those things to try to remember that we are all Buddhas, our mind is indestructible and all the powerful emotions, tensions and difficult situations are impermanent - they can last for some time but at some point they will inevitably end. So we can as well relax about them here and now.

The final goal of the meditation is to have equally stable mind during the formal meditation and in every day life. Naturally, it takes years or even lifetimes to master it so there is no need to feel bad that we still depend so much on the external settings. If on the next stressful day we feel a tiny little bit less driven by the outside circumstances, it is a great step forward on our way to recognizing one's mind.

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As a Pureland Buddhist our core practice is 'Nian Fo' - earnestly chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha, to be 'mindful of Buddha'. The practitioner can chant just the Buddha's name "Amituofo" (in Chinese), or "Namo Amituofo" (Homage to Amitabha Buddha, the Shin Buddhists chant "Namu Amida Butsu"), chant repetitively with great clarity and concentration, thus blocking any possibility of wandering thoughts, or even transforming wandering thoughts into 'Amituofo'.

In Mahāvaipulya mahāsamghāta sūtra, Buddha said that chanting the Buddha's name is the highest, deepest and most wonderful of Jhana (In Chinese,《大集經》曰:若人但念阿彌陀,是即無上深妙禪也。).

The 13th Patriarch of Pureland Buddhist, Venerable Master Yin Guang (1862 - 1940), has reiterated the importance of Nian-Fo, and written detailed instructions the 'Ten Chants Method'(十念法), each chant first voiced from the heart, then spoken with clarity, counted (from 1 to 10 and repeat), and clearly heard with the ears. One should also refrain from using chanting beads, to avoid bodily distraction. By doing so, 4 of the 6 senses are focused on Buddha, and with eyes gently closed all senses are able to focus on chanting.

Pureland and precept are practiced in all schools in Chinese Buddhism, and during the last 10,000 years of Buddha's influence it is one of the surest approach to attain enlightenment.

Practicing meditation in today's world is highly challenging. Today's society demands a lot more from us, our duties have grown in complexity, and information is booming at an incredible rate. We have to learn and fulfill complex tasks like mortgages, tax systems, beauracracies, insurance policies, and many many more. The more we multi-task the more challenging it is for us to find time to meditate and practice.

Without uninterrupted time, how can we expect to focus and penetrate through the eternal cycle of Samsara? If we're not careful, we could spend our entire lifetime and not even come close to Sotapanna.

Venerable Master Yin Guang emphasized on the importance of fulfilling our duties, and whenever we have time, we can chant, voiced or silently with our minds depending on the environment we are in.

I chose to practice Pureland because I find it is the most suitable for my circumstances. It is convenient and, as described in many Buddhist scriptures, the merit is unimaginably wonderful.

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