Chapter Eight
Working in Meditation
 
 
 

 
ONCE YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE is established, you need to keep taking it deeper.  An established practice is like a plant that has managed to put down roots.  To some extent it can be left to look after itself, but it still needs regular attention if it is to remain alive and growing.  Sometimes it may need extensive pruning, weeding, and even transplanting!
 
If you can approach your meditation creatively and systematically, you will find it easy to retain your present interest in it.  The initial novelty may wear off, but your meditation will acquire its own direction and inner life, so that it never becomes routine.
 
activity and passivity
 
Perhaps the idea of working in meditation conjures up an image of hard exertion and knotted brows.  Yet meditation needs to be viewed as creative work, work that we can feel joyful about doing.  We need to think in terms of making a definite effort, because we are dealing directly with strong habitual tendencies.  If we see our practice merely in terms of relaxation, as some people do, we may just reinforce these habits.  Sometimes people refer to meditation as though it were something `passive'.  It's certainly true that we are trying to become more receptively aware in meditation.  But this receptivity in meditation is an attitude which is very deliberately cultivated - it’s hardly passive.
 
In meditation we are trying to combine both activity and receptivity together in a stream of mindful action.  We are receptively aware of the mental states which arise, and we actively respond to these states by cultivating the factors of dhyana and counteracting the hindrances.
 
 






 








 







PPostureBodily position allows energy to flowReceptively experiencing
IIntrospectionAware of present state of mind 
PPurposeStrategy for this session of meditationActively responding
EEnthusiasmEngaging with motivation 
RResolveUnification of all factors - total engagement 

P.I.P.E.R.

 
a setting up routine
 
There is a useful way of beginning your meditation which can help establish creative working habits.  It involves five stages which you can go through at the start of every session of practice.  (Each stage is also a principle which applies to meditation generally.)
 
The five stages are: (1) Posture, (2) Introspection, (3) Purpose, (4) Enthusiasm, and (5) Resolve.  We'll go through these briefly first, then in detail.
 
(1) Working in meditation starts with your sitting, your
posture.
 
(2) Once your bodily awareness is established, you need to
introspect - in other words, try to experience what is going on in yourself.
 
(3) It is only then, when you know what is happening, that you can decide on how best to approach this particular session of meditation.  The approach or strategy that you choose is your
purpose.
 
(4) Yet it is not enough just to know what your strategy is.  To commit yourself to it, you need to feel motivated and enthusiastic.  This emotional aspect of your purpose is
enthusiasm.
 
(5)
Resolve is the sum of the previous elements, and more.  Only when you have created those four factors - physical and mental self-awareness (i.e.  posture and introspection), together with conscious and well-motivated direction (i.e.  purpose and enthusiasm)can you truly start to meditate.  The self-awareness and the directedness, the active and receptive elements, work together on the meditation object in one unified process called resolve.  The combination of all the factors makes up a resolution to engage fully in the practice.
 
You can use this routine as a foundation for a session of meditation.  Checking your posture, introspection, purpose, enthusiasm, and resolve can help you to recall the main principles of working in meditation right from the start.  And once you have established them, you can more easily maintain awareness of them while you are meditating.
 
The five principles can easily be remembered using the acronym PIPER, made up from their initial letters.
 
This method makes a good general introduction to working in meditation.  Once it has been assimilated, you may not consciously employ it very often.
 
In a way, it's rather like learning to drive.  The instructor insists that you hold the steering wheel in a particular way, look in the mirrors, and signal very deliberately.  At first you need to employ the various elements of driving technique quite formally, but later, when experience comes, and you evolve your own driving style, you no longer need consciously to employ formal techniques.  The techniques have served their purpose, which is to implant a complex set of habits at an unconscious level, so that your whole body `knows' how to drive safely.
 
PIPER is this kind of method.  The initial discipline of identifying and using these factors in your practice will eventually give you a more intuitive `feel' for approaching meditation.
 
Here is a more detailed description of the stages of PIPER.
 
posture
 
The first thing is to find the best possible sitting position.  You could use the information in Chapter Seven to establish a posture in which you feel alert and able to develop concentration.  It can sometimes be beneficial to pay attention to your posture for an extended period, say for the first ten minutes or more of the meditation session, checking the body's inner balance and relaxing any tension.
 
Postural awareness can be used as a method of working in meditation in its own right.  In some forms of Buddhism, such as Zen, there is a considerable emphasis on correct sitting.  Awareness of subtle bodily energies is also a factor in the development of higher states of consciousness, as we shall see shortly.
 
At a more basic level, postural awareness can be used to counteract certain hindrances.  One specific use, which we saw in the last chapter, is as an antidote to the hindrance of sloth and torpor.  Trying to sit well provides a certain physical stimulation, so if you are sleepy the most effective counter-measure may be to spend the meditation session just maintaining a good posture.  The `opposite' hindrance, restlessness and anxiety, can also be counteracted by postural awareness.  Concentrating on your body - a part of you that is at least relatively stable - has a calming, grounding effect.
 
As a general rule, you should periodically check your posture in order to see whether it is still helping your practice.  Make sure that you are not slumping or arching, and verify that you are still correctly aligned, still relaxed, and that your vitality is flowing.  We shall be going into some of these details shortly.
 
introspection
 
Introspection means checking and assessing your state of mind as you meditate.  It's important that you notice when you become distracted, and the specific ways in which you get distracted.  Unless you check out what is happening, you will have no way of assessing what kind of effort to make.
 
Introspection is an art which requires practice.  It isn't simply an analysis, or a distanced observation of your experience.  You'll need to use intuition as well as hard reasoning - but acquiring some theoretical understanding of the principles of meditation will be useful.  If you can give names to your experiences, you'll be able to get a better grasp on what is happening in you.
 
Introspection can be both receptive and active.  You can be receptive by simply being open to your experience, letting whatever is there reveal itself.  You can be active by questioning and checking yourself - checking perhaps for hindrances to concentration, or latent dhyana factors.
 
What exactly you look for will depend on your temperament, your experience, and what is going on at the time.  Perhaps you could look for laziness or restlessness, or ask whether your thoughts are directed or wandering.  The basic question is `What's happening?'
 
Once you have made it a habit, checking like this can give a quick general picture of your present state of mind.  It is a faculty which to some extent develops in its own time, and the time you actually spend doing it may be long or short, depending on the strength of your self-awareness and the general momentum of your practice.  At the beginning of a session you may only be able to muster a vague, fuzzy awareness of the state you are in, so in that situation you may benefit by giving more time to introspection.  But you may find, with experience, that such an emphasis is unnecessary: just making a little effort to introspect will often set going a momentum of clarity which will sharpen more and more as you continue.
 
It is important, however, to establish that initial effort.  Mental states can change rapidly, and you will need to check frequently throughout the session.  At first, such checking may seem artificial.  If you are not accustomed to it, introspection will probably feel like an obstruction to concentration.  But when it has become more familiar, you will appreciate the edge that it gives.
 
purpose
 
Purpose means having some kind of strategy for this session of meditation.  Now you know the state of your mind, you can decide on your approach, formulating aims and goals.  There are two aspects to this: specific and general purpose.
 
Your specific purpose is the immediate direction which you decide to take in this session of practice.  It is not a rigid aim, but a provisional line of action which you are prepared to adapt to meet changing conditions.  For example, at first you might notice the presence of sloth and torpor, and in response decide to put extra energy into the practice.  Later on you might need to reverse that decision.  You might need to start calming down if over-application of that approach arouses too much energy.
 
Here, both the arousing and the calming of your energy would be applications of specific purpose.  Specific purpose is the intention to use a particular strategic working method.  Deciding on the right approach need not involve a lot of thought, though in particular mental states it may sometimes be necessary to spend extra time considering exactly what is needed.  At other times you may be able to act quickly and intuitively, without thinking about it much at all.  Both are valid ways of determining your specific purpose.
 
General purpose is the overall intention to apply principles of working in meditation.  You have a certain general knowledge of methods and principles - an understanding of the need to introspect, recognize hindrances, and so on - which you have built up in the course of your practice.  Over a period of time you'll learn how best to approach the particular configurations of hindrances that you experience most often.  You will find certain hindrances continually cropping up and, through continually trying to work with them, you develop a strategic sense.  This sense of strategy will continue from one meditation to the next, so that rather than taking each meditation `as it comes', you base the approach for your next sitting on what happened in the previous one.
 
This strategic awareness is most likely to build up on retreat, when there is little to distract you.  Otherwise, you may be able to maintain more of a continuity of awareness by keeping a simple meditation notebook.  If you maintain this sense of strategy you'll need to spend less time in constantly re-discovering the needs of the situation.  This will make more energy available for actual meditation.
 
enthusiasm
 
It is important to have a clear strategy, but only emotion can actually move us into action.  Our approach to meditation cannot just be cool and rational - it also needs some spark that will fire our efforts.  The stage of enthusiasm is rather like saying `Yes, I really want to do this.' Purpose has to do with forming intentions; enthusiasm is our emotional engagement with those intentions.
 
In order to arouse enthusiasm for working in your meditation, you'll need to awaken - or re-awaken - some of the positive associations you have with it.  You could try reflecting on why you were drawn to meditation in the first place.  You probably have a strong personal feeling for your growth and development.  Try to re-kindle it, if you can.  You might have been inspired by the example of the Buddha - or perhaps you would just like to become more aware and concentrated, more friendly and helpful, better organized, wiser, more insightful.  Ask yourself what results you hope for from spiritual practice.  These considerations will arouse your motivation and give you the courage, the confidence, and the enthusiasm that will be needed for you to involve yourself wholeheartedly in meditation.
 
resolve
 
Resolve is a fully integrated approach to the task in hand, combining all the previous factors - posture, introspection, purpose, and enthusiasm - and bringing them to bear on the meditation object.  It is the full weight of one's physical, rational, and emotional being.
 
Resolve is what you actually meditate with.  The word `resolve' implies a resolution which you make, even a vow to achieve something.  You have now marshalled all the forces at your disposal and are in a position to make a very effective effort.  Resolve really comes into its own when you are quite clear in your mind that you actually want to meditate.
 
Resolve is an especially important quality in the spiritual life generally.  You need to constantly clarify and re-clarify the motives that you have for practising.  Re-clarification will often be necessary because, until you are irreversibly established on the Path, new doubts - new levels and degrees of doubting - will keep arising.  In the long term, resolve will unify your entire life; it is the dynamic centre around which the whole process of integration takes place.
 
working in meditation - a review
 
Now we are going to explore ways of working in meditation in more depth.  But in accordance with that principle of `working from the ground up' let's go back, briefly, to our mental states outside meditation.
 
mindfulness of the hindrances outside meditation
 
Just now I mentioned looking for the five hindrances in meditation.  But it is a good practice to look for them outside meditation too.  They will almost certainly be there - much of the content of our ordinary consciousness is usually coloured by these mental states.
 
It's natural, for example, for your attention to be centred around pleasurable sense experience (this is the kama-loka, after all!).  It may be useful for you to monitor how your intake of sense experiences affects your ability to concentrate.  Other hindrances may not be far away: under pressure, it's easy to become irritated or angry; often we either cannot relax because of restlessness, or we become sluggish and dull.  At times we are indecisive and lacking in confidence.  If you establish the habit of recognizing these hindrances outside meditation, you'll be in a far better position to notice them as you meditate.
 
encouraging the seeds of meditation
 
Much the same principle applies to the five factors of dhyana.  It will help the delicate art of coaxing positive mental states into being if you maintain awareness of the `seeds' of the dhyana factors that are present in your everyday consciousness.
 
Let's take the first two factors, initial and sustained thought, as an example.  Thinking, of course, is much less clear in ordinary consciousness than in dhyana, but if you try to be mindful of your thoughts you'll be more generally tuned in to the thinking faculty.  Then, when you meditate, your thoughts will tend to be clearer - they’ll be closer to being dhyana factors.
 
Maintaining a consistent base of mindfulness may also, in the same way, tune you in to the potential of the other dhyana factors, like rapture and bliss.  Rapture is `potential' in enjoyment of ordinary sense pleasures, like the enjoyment of visual beauty, lovely sounds and forms - they do not have quite the same quality of experience, but it's as though the higher state is reflected in the lower, or suggested by it.  By acknowledging such pleasant sense experiences, and enjoying them in an aesthetic way, you will be cultivating the `seeds' of the dhyana factor.  You'll be making a connection with the possibility of rapture and bliss, even though on a more ordinary level.  You may find it generally helpful to cultivate your sense experience outside meditation, to enjoy more actively what you find pleasurable.  This does not mean being over-indulgent, in a way which might increase a tendency towards craving - it’s more to do with awakening the imagination.  One-pointedness of mind, the fifth dhyana factor, can also be seen reflected in ordinary consciousness.  Take more interest in the phenomenon of concentration.  Be curious about what you find yourself concentrating on in each moment.  Albeit on a lower level, you'll be learning to familiarize yourself with the quality that leads the way into the dhyanas.
 
more about working principles
 
Continuing to work from the ground up, let's just remind ourselves of the four working principles that were introduced at the end of Chapter Three.  These were acknowledgement, faith in one's potential, working from the ground up, and the creative use of antidotes.  At this stage we can say a little more about each of them, and the procedure will serve as a good introduction to working in meditation, our main theme.
 
But first a word about principles generally.  Meditation is an art which can only be learned through practical experience.  This needs to be borne very firmly in mind when exploring all these principles of meditation.  There are probably as many different ways of applying a particular principle as there are meditators, but the principles themselves are indispensable.  PIPER is just one particular way of expressing a few vital principles.  The principles can be expressed in many ways - but without something like PIPER, no one is going to be able to concentrate their minds.  Without some awareness in these areas, they will be distracted by (1) their body, (2) their lack of self-awareness, (3) lack of direction, and (4) lack of emotional involvement.  With this in mind, we are going to re-visit each of the four working principles.
 
acknowledgement and faith in one's potential (re-visited)
 
At this stage, more light may be shed on possible reasons why people don't acknowledge what happens in their meditation.  It may sometimes have to do with their poor self-image.
 
It appears that the principles of
acknowledgement and faith in one's potential are very closely linked.  No one can work in meditation without taking responsibility for their mental states.  But it is very common for meditators to refuse to accept that a negative state is there, or at least to view it as an alien intrusion into their consciousness.  Those for whom this rejection is a habit usually attempt rigidly to `meditate', regardless of what is actually happening in their mind.  Unfortunately this approach can only increase their mental rigidity.
 
As already suggested, acknowledgement of what arises is the essence of meditation.  To some extent we all tend to avoid `what is'.  `Human kind', said T.S.  Eliot, `cannot bear very much reality'.
41 One common reason why we cannot bear it is a negative self-view.  Nowadays there are many people who suffer from irrational guilt feelings.  They are convinced that they shouldn't feel this or that emotion, and they have an attitude of condemnation towards their `lower nature'.  They don't like to admit the possibility that negative emotions could exist in their mind - often because they really think, underneath it all, that they are `a bad person'.  But people are always both `good' and `bad', in varying proportions.  We need to understand that hatred and craving are normal in human beings.  Negative emotions obviously shouldn't be encouraged, or their consequences condoned, but the habit of viewing them as `bad' or `sinful' may actually prevent us transcending them.  It is better to think of the hindrances as immature parts of ourselves that need developing, rather than as evils to be rejected and destroyed.
 
Buddhism has always seen this problem quite clearly.  It puts negative emotions in perspective by suggesting positive correspondences to them.  Buddhaghosha, for example, says:
 

Understanding is strong when profitable [action] occurs in one of hating temperament, owing to its special qualities being near to those of hate.  For, in an unprofitable way, hate is disaffected and does not hold to its object, and so, in a profitable way, is understanding.  Hate seeks out only unreal faults, while understanding seeks out only real faults.  And hate occurs in the mode of condemning living beings, while understanding occurs in the mode of condemning formations [i.e.  cyclic tendencies].42

 
Hatred, because it rejects and discriminates, is said to have a certain correspondence with intelligence and wisdom; it may even be transformed into them.  The sharp, cutting energy that we invest in hatred can be `re-channelled' into keenness of intelligence.  The negative quality of craving, which wants to draw desirable things and beings exclusively to itself, also has a certain correspondence with compassion, which wishes to nurture and help all beings.  The desire that at present manifests as craving could one day (if systematically re-channelled through spiritual practices like the Metta Bhavana) manifest as a genuine desire for the well-being of all.  The very idea that such problematic emotions can be transformed - as opposed to needing to be destroyed - may help to break down this damaging attitude of self-condemnation.
 
working from the ground up (re-visited)
 
As we saw earlier on, the principle of `working from the ground up' has to do with establishing the necessary groundwork for concentration.  Sometimes people pitch into their meditation in a very driving, ambitious manner.  But the basis for their concentration is often too weak, narrow, and intense, and their fire can dissipate itself very quickly, like a red-hot stone being dropped into a tub of cold water.  To develop a stronger basis to sustain the concentration, it is necessary to proceed from a general awareness of all aspects of yourself before investing your energy in the particular intense awareness of the meditation object.  `Working from the ground up' could also be called `working from the general to the particular'.  This principle underlies the emphasis on frequent self-checking in PIPER.
 
focus and breadth
 


Receptivity to one's groundbase of mindfulness

Active attention to the object of practice

     Feelings
     Emotions
     Thoughts

Breadth

Focus

     Body

     The Meditation Object

Balancing Focus and Breadth in Meditation

 
 
Here's a useful way of applying this principle to meditation practice.  We could refer to the ground - the more broad, generalized awareness of ourselves - as our `breadth', and to the object of meditation as our `focus'.
 
Now think of your ability to focus as being supported by the breadth.  It's like the way the topmost peak of a great mountain - a very small piece of ground - stands on such a huge volume of rock as its base.  Perhaps this is where the idea of `sitting like a mountain' in meditation comes from.  You focus on the breathing process, or the development of metta, but if this focusing is going to lead to full concentration, it has to be supported by a broad base of experience.
 
When you don't have a balance of focus and breadth the concentration will `fall over'.  If your focus on the object isn't well grounded, then concentration will feel tight, as though you have to grit your teeth to hold it all together.  Proper focusing should be relaxed, carrying your breadth of experience along with your concentration.  It should not be forced.  Forced focusing feels narrow, tight, and greedy.  It demands extra effort and is impossible to keep up for long - hence the quick dissipation of attention.
 
If it takes into account the breadth of your experience, your focus can be more relaxed and kept up indefinitely.  Your `breadth' is how you are as a whole, taking into account your body and its vitality, your feelings and emotions, and your thoughts and mental images.  If you allow these other elements a place in the background of your consciousness, your focus will be relaxed and, most importantly, there will be more energy available for the concentration.
 
When contacting breadth, the idea is not to get involved with these broad elements of your experience but simply to acknowledge their existence.  If you are over-involved with breadth, you will become distracted.  But if breadth is balanced with focus, there is no such danger.
 
In terms of PIPER, breadth, like acknowledgement, is an aspect of introspection (it's receptive introspection), and a relaxed, properly directed focus is equivalent to resolve.
 
creative use of antidotes (re-visited)
 
In Chapter Three we mentioned several traditional antidotes to the hindrances, but didn't say much about their creative use.
 
It is important that you use antidotes to hindrances creatively and sensitively.  You need to be aware of the effect a particular approach is having and be ready to change it if it seems appropriate.  Using antidotes creatively means having an open-minded attitude to the possibilities of your practice, rather than applying a ready-made remedy and expecting automatic results.  The mind is constantly changing, so you may need to experiment with different methods before you know which works best for you at any particular time.
 
Efforts to concentrate can be wrongly and inappropriately directed.  It is possible to bend and force your attention, through impatience and lack of sensitivity, without properly experiencing your actual state of mind.  For example, you could persist in going through each of the stages of a meditation when it would be more realistic, and helpful, to stay with just one stage until you experience yourself fully in that stage.  (Or you might do the opposite - insist rigidly on the method of staying in one stage `until something happens', when it might be more helpful to move on through the usual sequence of stages and allow yourself to be buoyed up by their momentum.)
 
This tendency to inappropriate effort is similar to that of ignoring your breadth.  You are under the influence of a somewhat acquisitive and insensitive attitude, too concerned with results.  If the dominating idea is to get results, there is no time to stop and consider what you are actually experiencing.  It is not wrong to want successful results, but it is unhelpful to have a rigid idea of what results you want, and how you are to get them.  A result-oriented approach may stem from a pleasant memory of some past meditation experience.  It is natural to want to get back to that experience.  However, trying to recapture meditation experiences is not really possible.  It is best to start completely afresh every time.
 
The typical result of inappropriate or wilful effort is pain and frustration.  When you force yourself to concentrate, you may create physical pain - headache, digestion problems, and stiff shoulder muscles are very common.  Your mental state may also be affected; agitation, anxiety, or dull, blocked states - or a generally `spaced out' condition - can be expected.  Obviously this could affect your overall ability to meditate, and also your attitude to meditation.  It may, for example, confirm a tendency towards rigid-mindedness - you may resist even more the idea of creative working in meditation, and try even harder to `get on with the meditation' in an unrealistic, tunnel-visioned, sort of way.
 
A more general effect of applying inappropriate methods in meditation could be acquiring the habit of `going through the motions' in your daily practice.  Some meditators sit `religiously' to meditate every morning.  They do it in exactly the same way every time they sit - year in, year out.  They put themselves through a set sequence of mental actions with no regard for their actual mental state.  This is not meditation! Such people may admit that they do not particularly enjoy their practice, yet still cling to this way of doing it.  It's always hard to change ingrained habits.
 
If you ever think that your meditation is becoming wilful, simply stop for a moment - stop `trying to meditate', and instead try to tune in to what is actually happening, try to get back to a real experience of yourself.  This might take some time, but however long such a readjustment in your practice may take - hours, days, perhaps even weeks - it will be worth it.  You may learn to develop a much needed relaxation in your approach, both in your practice and outside it.  It could change your whole life.
 
The issues raised in connection with the last two working principles, breadth of focus and creativity, may imply that you could do with a little more richness and colour in your life.  It is a question of inspiration: some more imaginative ingredient must be allowed to enter your practice.  You may be able to introduce this by reading literature, looking at paintings, playing or listening to music, meeting people, spending time alone - whatever keeps the well-springs of inspiration flowing for you.  You could also try reflecting on the pleasures and value of meditation, and in that way develop a more positive attitude - an attitude which generally regards spiritual practice as something enjoyable and accessible.
 
 



     'Owning' - taking responsibility for - hindrances


     Self metta




     Not 'going through the motions' in daily practice
Acknowledgement     Acknowledging mental states which are present
Faith in one's potential     Self-confidence
Focus supported by Breadth     'Background' mindfulness of oneself
Appropriate effort     Maintaining an open attitude as to one's approach 

FOUR WORKING PRINCIPLES

 
 
summary
 
Above, in tabular form, is a summary of the four principles of working in meditation - some with new names to reflect our enhanced understanding of them.  Working in meditation must involve these four general principles.  Though meditation is primarily a matter of appreciating the meditation object more and more deeply, at the deepest level that object is not different from `you', the subject.  (Where does `it' end, and `you' begin?) So the subject must always be taken into account during the act of concentration.  To experience the meditation object effectively, you need to acknowledge whatever mental states are present in your mind, maintaining a positive self-view; there must be some sense of breadth going on simultaneously with your concentration, and when you work to deepen that concentration, it must be done both creatively and appropriately.
 
taking notes
 
Mental states can change very rapidly.  It may sometimes help to get more of a grasp of what is happening in your practice if you keep a record.  A meditation notebook provides a means of monitoring your practice - it can be a simple log or a systematic analysis, just as you like.  At times when you are practising meditation more intensively, or when you want to look at your daily practice more closely, some form of meditation diary can be a very useful aid.
 
Here are two suggested ways that you can record information - an analytical record and a journal.
 
the analytical record
 
This can be in the form of a check-list which you complete after every meditation session.  You record what actually happened, and how you approached each session - and anything else you like - in terms of definite categories.  By doing this over a few days you will build up a systematic picture of mental states that regularly arise.  You can look back, see patterns, and decide on new modes of strategy.
 
To start, you first of all decide on the areas of experience you wish to monitor.  The `worksheet' table above gives a few suggestions.  (Note that some of the terms on it, like the subtle hindrances of `sinking' and `drifting', will be introduced later on.)
 
Immediately after each session of meditation (otherwise it is easy to forget) take out your notebook and tick the factors which were present - or perhaps you could give them a mark out of ten, or write a few words of description.  You can work out your own categories and tables.  It might be possible to design a table which shows patterns emerging over several days or even weeks, which would be useful.
 
After the check-list you can add any comments, such as `good but patchy', `preparation could have been better', `couldn't stop thinking about work', or whatever.
 
Every few days - once a week is about right - it’s a good idea to look at the implications of the information you have gathered, and on that basis decide on a definite approach to your practice over the next few days.  It may be very useful to go over the contents of your notebook with a friend who meditates - discussion always arouses interest in meditation, and your friend will often see aspects of your practice that you miss.  On some retreats there may be an opportunity for daily `interviews' with a teacher.  These can be invaluable.
 
Most people find this type of diary unsuitable for keeping up indefinitely.  Sometimes the process of analysis itself feels restricting, and for a while it seems better to take your practice more day by day.  To a degree, these fiddling details are unimportant - compared, for instance, to your basic commitment to the path of development.  But there are always times when some extra objectivity is needed, times when your meditation seems to be going nowhere.  If you are in the mood to take things deeper, an analytical record could stimulate new energy and creativity.
 
Practice                                                          Date    /   /    Time































































GROSS HINDRANCE
SUBTLE HINDRANCE
DHYANA FACTOR
Desire for Sense Experience Stray Thoughts One pointedness 
Ill-will Sinking Initial Thought 
Sloth & Torpor Drifting Applied Thought 
Restlessness & Anxiety   Rapture 
Doubt & Indecision   Bliss 
PIPER
WORKING PRINCIPLES
  
Posture    
Introspection Acknowledgement Breadth
Purpose   Appropriate Effort
Enthusiasm    
Resolve   Focus
OTHER NOTES 
Preparation 
Special Conditions 
Current 'issues' 
Dream Life 
sample meditation worksheet…   or it can be simpler…
 
journal type diary
 
A second way of making notes about your meditation is simply to keep a journal.  This is a more descriptive, personal approach.  In this journal you just write down any reflections that you have about each meditation session, in whatever way you like.  You could just describe what happened, or speculate on the significance of the experience.  You could include some information about hindrances and dhyana factors too.  This format may not be so useful for getting an overview later, but it will probably help you contact your practice more deeply.  It can also be more satisfying: making a record of your inner life can connect you with your meditation in a new way, and even become a focus for your life generally.
 
If you record the happenings in your meditation you'll find yourself reflecting more about them - which is in itself a very good support for your meditation.  The records you make can be an important reminder - like dreams, meditation experiences are often subtle and easily forgotten.