A Year to Enlightenment is a first-of-its-kind, holistic approach to a complete meditation experience. It is divided into 365 “days”—each composed of an Insight, a Reflection, and a Meditation—which will help awaken your intuition, insight, and inner knowledge to reach that state sought after by mystics and seekers throughout the ages: enlightenment.
Moving gradually from simple relaxation into the deepest, most profound areas of meditation and spirituality, A Year to Enlightenment encourages you to read only one page at a time, practicing a single technique until a personal insight arises. Only then do you turn the page and go on to the next, as your own insights become your personal teacher. Though former monk E. Raymond Rock uses Buddhist meditation principles, A Year to Enlightenment is nondenominational. People of all religions and at any level of spiritual development can use it to:
- Awaken natural creativity and begin your new life
- Become more loving, generous, and tolerant
- Show courage in trying situations
- Find meaning and significance in your life
- Change aspects of your life and personality for the better
- Reduce stress and worry
- Eliminate fear and uncertainty
- Find acceptance and love
- Feel better mentally and physically
- Deepen and improve your relationships with others
- Reach your maximum potential
The most revolutionary aspect of this practical book is not how it awakens each practitioner’s unique intuition, but how it uses that intuitive event as a signal to move forward. Those who follow the day-by-day program can find an endless stream of love to enrich their lives.
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About the Author
E. Raymond Rock (anagarika eddie) is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.
Read an Excerpt
Part I: Concentration
Applied and Sustained Attention
Concentration practice creates permanent shifts in consciousness. After a shift takes place, everything is seen in a different light. Depending on the strength of the shift, this new vision could be subtle, astonishing, or anything in between.
Part Two of this book involves mindfulness, which subjectively directs the concentrated mind to investigate specific objects within our bodies and minds. This combination of investigating specialized objects with a deepening consciousness creates wisdom and insight.
Part Three involves understanding the roots of our illusions; a "doer" and "doing," and therefore leads to release.
The process of enlightenment flows, with no real starting point or steps; however, you must work with what you are now, not with what you perceive yourself to be or what you plan to be. Each day of practice, each shift in consciousness, refines your awareness of what you actually are. In the beginning, you might fight with all your heart until your heart finds its release. If you attempt to release yourself through little effort, realization will be next to impossible. Review the How to Use This Book section, and follow the instructions carefully.
Be a beginner at all times, even though you might not consider yourself a beginner. Start fresh and do each meditation lesson completely and as perfectly as you can. Try not to bring opinions along with you. If you think the initial steps are too easy, then determine to do them perfectly. This will challenge you until you are gradually introduced to deeper meditation procedures. The simple, day-by-day instructions are designed not to overwhelm you. You will be able to keep up easily with the process while making solid improvements in every facet of your life.
Insights, as described, will occur when you penetrate into a truth bypassing old conditioning. They're a breath of fresh air that changes you, and even if they are seemingly insignificant insights, once they occur you will never return to exactly what or who you were. You will become aware of kind acts, as well as disingenuous acts. You will notice how you feel in a forest — and the feeling of walls. You might see your striving, doubting, or escaping, perhaps your bravery or cowardice. You might find yourself in ecstasy or wandering about in long, dark periods when all hope is gone. As your concentration deepens, your awareness of insights will sharpen, and then the insights themselves will deepen to new levels as your consciousness shifts. Keep your awareness antennae up at all times, because everything observed will be new.
A meadow of delicate, spring flowers. Hopeful faces turned toward the sun.
Many books were there to choose from, but for some reason, I chose this one. Was it curiosity, or is something guiding me toward ... something? I feel as if I'm trying to find my way home after being gone for such a long time, but so far, books have only been roadmaps for me. I'll actually have to take that first, tentative step if my journey is to begin.
True meditation is difficult to define. It happens when you forget yourself. You can't achieve it in the same way you soak up knowledge, because your desire to master meditation is exactly what prevents you from experiencing it. It is a riddle. For now, lay down and just close your eyes and picture your favorite surroundings. That could include lying on a sun- drenched beach, walking through damp, pungent forests, or maybe gazing at the blue mountain skies of winter — wherever you feel relaxed and comfortable. Remain there as you take a deep breath, and when you let it out, relax your shoulders and face by letting them fall along with your out breath. Now breathe naturally and remain completely at ease for about 10 minutes, imagining yourself in your favorite place. Keep all random thoughts away for now. As a reminder, remember to remain on this page until a new experience or insight arises. A new insight or experience can be as simple as noticing how your mind jumps around when you try to visualize your special place.
Just one moment in time.
A solitary butterfly resting on a leaf with wings folded — so motionless. Is this a symbol of the hushed, natural world of all beings? In this silence, will I find that which I can only now long for?
Close your eyes and feel your body breathing, then imagine yourself in your favorite surroundings again. Just notice your breathing as you rest there, keeping other thoughts away for now. Continue this for about 10 minutes. Try to meditate twice a day, preferably when you first awaken and just before bedtime. Remember, don't turn the page until a new insight or experience occurs, regardless of how many days that takes. Then record your insights below in your personal journal.
A clear stream, not a rushing curre
If only I could move like a brook, wandering along ever-changing wood- land scenery, flowing relaxed and ever watchful.
Your meditation sessions will begin with a simple breathing exercise as follows: Take a deep inhalation for about five seconds, filling your lungs. Begin this inhalation from the tip of your tailbone and visualize it as a ball of intense white light moving, in a seemingly reverse fashion, up your spine and over the top of your head. Then exhale slowly for about 10 seconds, imagining the light showering over your chest and between your legs like a waterfall, releasing all of the tensions in your body as they fall along with it. Repeat this cycle three times around the back and down the chest and then remain bathed in your shower of white light as your breath floods and cleanses your entire body. Spend the remaining 10 minutes imagining your favorite place again and relaxing there. Don't allow stray thoughts to distract you. Allow them to pass through.
The truth, like a spotless lens, is many times looked past.
Soft petals of wildflowers touching my cheek. A snowflake melting on my tongue. Childhood memories? Are they really so childish? How close to the truth?
Begin with your three circling breaths of white light. Similar to learning to play a flute, there will be some clumsiness at first, but soon you will be running the breath around your body with ease! This exercise, when done properly and daily, may have the power to cure and prevent physical diseases. Practice meditation every day, at the same time of day, if possible. Set aside a separate practice area, perhaps with a candle and some flowers, to help move your mind away from worldly concerns for these special 10 minutes. After your opening exercise today, return to that favorite place in your mind where you can relax. Try to practice twice a day if possible, and at the same time. If thoughts get in the way, remember that it's normal for the mind to think. If you watch thoughts carefully with an overvie w and without becoming involved with them, they will pass through on their own, and you will soon discover their transient nature. Don't forget; don't move ahead until an insight is experienced and recorded in your journal.
I sit quietly, watching my snow castles of knowledge melt beneath the sun.
I'll have to be quick to catch a glimpse of truth. It is so fast!
Begin with your warm-up exercise. Then draw the next breath of white light into your solar plexus, just above your navel. Exhale slowly, completely, maintaining your concentration of the white light in your solar plexus. The exhalation should be two or three times longer than the inhalation. For example, if you breathe in for 2 seconds, breathe out for 4 to 6 seconds. Allow the body to take the in breath on its own, naturally, and then purposely extend the exhalation. Focus on your solar plexus, or the point of your diaphragm that rises and falls, just above your navel. Resist breathing high in your chest, as this causes stress, keep your breathing in the solar plexus area. Be aware of your breath at all times as it cleanses your body, but don't follow it up and down or in and out. The breath should always be flooding your body in the background, with your main focus at your diaphragm. The solar plexus is your object of concentration now. Practice this breathing rhythm during your 15-minute meditation sessions today. Concentrating on your diaphragm will be your primary focus, but be aware of each inhalation and each exhalation as well, long or short, restricted or free, but keep them in the background.
Nature is closer.
I love to stroll through a quiet forest, gaze at the magnificent mountains, and relax in the warm waters of the tranquil ocean. I feel their vastness, their majesty, their full emptiness. Are they guiding me toward that infinite, eternal essence within?
Sit on the floor on a pad or carpet. Cross your legs Indian style and place a small, firm pillow under the tip of your tailbone. You may sit on the edge of a chair in an erect position or lie down, for modified positions. Silence is best, but if you live in a noisy household, mask the commotion with headphones. It is better to avoid music during meditation, but recordings of soothing nature sounds are okay. Don't forget the three preliminary circling breaths. You will follow the breaths in the form of a ball of white light around your body, but when you are concentrating on your meditation object, which in this case is your solar plexus, do not follow the breaths in and out or up and down. Your primary focus will be a point in the solar plexus. Watch your body draw natural incoming breaths into your solar plexus, and then purposely extend the outgoing breath two or three times longer. Don't forget to keep your primary attention and the ball of white light in the solar plexus, with only a background focus on your breath. If the focus of attention and light seem to drift away from the solar plexus, don't disturb your concentration by repositioning them into your solar plexus; allow them to remain where they are. Remain focused on the light no matter where it travels. Sit for 15 minutes during each session.
Security and creativity never mix, just like oil and water, like fear and love.
I remember falling in love for the first time. I had always imagined what it would be like, but the reality of it left my feeble expectations awash in its powerful wake.
Don't forget: Begin with three deep breaths, bringing them up your back in the form of a white ball of light, around the top of your head, and down your chest in a circle. Spend 4 or 5 seconds inhaling up the back, and 8 to 12 seconds exhaling down over the chest and between the legs, before the breath starts back up the spine again. Next, breathe into the solar plexus, with the length of the inhale and exhale being a ratio of 1 to 2 or 1 to 3. Your strength and concentration increase during the out breath, and this is why it is prolonged. If you are sitting cross-legged on the floor, tuck your left heel between your legs and try to place your right ankle on top of your left thigh, on top of your left calf, or on the floor next to your left calf while keeping both knees firmly on the floor. This might take some getting used to. When using a chair, sit on the edge with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight. If, for physical reasons, it's difficult to maintain either of these positions, then any motionless posture is okay. Now, for today's sessions, try to maintain your sitting position for 20 minutes. In the background, keep that feeling of your first, powerful love in mind — just the feeling, not the memories.
The threshold; emptiness.
I once lost someone who was close. Do you know how I felt? I felt tremendously empty.
While meditating, your hands should be relaxed, lying in your lap, palms up, one cupped within the other. Your left hand should be underneath, with the right hand on top, and your thumb tips touching very lightly. An alternative position of the thumbs, which increases the power of concentration for some people, is to make a circle with your thumb and index finger of each hand, then as you cup your hands, join these two circles so it makes a "OO" formation with opposite index fingers and thumbs touching. After your three circling breaths today, concentrate on breathing into your solar plexus and maintaining the position of your hands and fingers. In the background, keep the feeling of emptiness or loss in your heart. Sit for 20 minutes during your sessions until you get to day 15.
Only when escape is no longer necessary, do we fully escape.
When I feel empty, it really does frighten me. I have no choice but to run from it. How can I relieve the uncomfortable feeling? How can I fill this emptiness?
Make certain that your spine doesn't slump during meditation — this is essential to productive meditation. Retain the natural inward curve of your spine in the small of your back by thrusting your hips foreword. Never allow yourself to slump in this area. Remember to begin each session with your three circling breaths, and then concentrate on both your breathing into the solar plexus and your posture. Try to know every in breath and out breath as it fills your body with healing energy. Your hands should be in the correct position and your back should be curved naturally inward. Your shoulders and legs should be relaxed, feeling only a slight tension to keep the back curved inwardly. In time, as you learn to thrust your hips forward, this tension will relax as well. Keep the feeling of emptiness in your heart again today, but keep it in the background.
The sage with laughing eyes said, "Unlike you, I have nothing left to lose
Now I know what fills my caverns of emptiness; I create treasures.
The position of your neck is very important. It should not be tilted forward or backward, but upright and stretched toward the sky while at the same time your arms should be relaxed and fall from your shoulders. Relax your face and eyes as well. Your chin should be tucked in slightly. For today's session, begin with your three circling breaths. After that, draw the incoming breaths into your solar plexus, as instructed, and then completely exhaust the outgoing breaths. Your out breath should be two or three times as long as the in breath. Sit upright, with the small of your back curved naturally inward, thrusting your hips forward to maintain this position. Keep your head upright, not tilting forward or backward, and stretch your neck upward, tucking your chin in slightly. It is important that you remain relaxed at all times and not become tense. If you feel tense, relax for a few moments and breathe normally and deeply, then continue your practice. Spend your entire session monitoring your posture, your solar plexus, and breathing, and make certain that you remain relaxed. Thoughts that come and go should be allowed to pass through; don't become stuck on them.
Knot upon knot, entanglements grow.
Is there some tiny part of my busy world that I can simplify? I've spent considerable time and energy filling up my life, haven't I? Maybe it's time to make a little space.
You may keep your eyes open or closed, as you prefer. If open, keep them only half or barely open, gazing at the floor 3 or 4 feet in front of you. Try not to glance around. When using a chair, your feet should be able to touch the floor and your thighs should be parallel so that your knees are neither higher nor lower than your hips. If you are sitting on the floor, some back discomfort or knee ache can be expected until your body adjusts to the posture. Don't be too quick to surrender to pain or numbness or you won't learn about them. On the other hand, always treat yourself kindly regarding acute pain at this stage in your practice. If the pain doesn't subside after a reasonable amount of time, adjust your position. Later, you will be able to disassociate the pain from the body, and neither the pain nor the fear will be a problem. Today's meditation assignment will be to monitor your posture, your meditation object, and your breathing. Also be sure to notice the cycles of pain that might arise in your back or legs, and how the pain affects you mentally.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Year To Enlightenment"
Copyright © 2006 E. Raymond Rock.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
How to Use This Book,
Part I: Concentration,
Stage 1: - Applied and Sustained Attention,
Stage 2: - Applied and Sustained Attention Abandoned,
Stage 3: - Happiness Abandoned,
Stage 4: - Bliss Abandoned,
Stage 5: - Boundless Space,
Stage 6: - Infinite Consciousness,
Stage 7: - The Void,
Stage 8: - Neither Perception nor Non-perception,
The 7 Energy Centers,
Part II: Mindfulness,
3 Characteristics: Impermanence, No-self, and Discontent,
10 Obstacles of Enlightenment,
Part III: Insight,
7 Attributes of Enlightenment,
About the Author,