Meditation is not contemplation. Meditation isn’t about “thinking about stuff”. But that said, sometimes thinking about stuff can be useful, if you’re thinking about the right stuff. The Buddha offered 4 Guardian Contemplations. When meditation just isn’t working, here are four hacks that can put you in the right frame of mind or be a beautiful source of inspiration.
The guardian meditations are one tool to reduce the power of the hindrances. Remember, you achieve jhana by temporarily eliminating the hindrances. The guardian meditations help arouse faith, peace, joy, and energy.
1. Buddhanussati – recollection virtues of the Buddha
The Buddha is unfailingly pure. Because of his unexcelled Awakening, and because he trains others to awaken, he is known as the Awakened/Awakening One.
2. Mettabhavana – loving kindness
All living beings — human, non-human, & animal — who are searching for happiness: May they all be happy and, through their happiness, secure.
3. Asubha – contemplation of the 32 parts of the body
This conglomeration of things from dead bodies, like hair of the head & hair of the body: The body as a whole is disgusting and, in terms of such things as its colors, unclean.
4. Maranasati – contemplation of death
Death, the destruction of the faculty of life, will come to all beings. Death is certain, but life is not.
I heard a recommendation to do each of these contemplations for a couple of minutes before breath meditation. That’s ok, but to me it’s way too pre-programmed. If you sit and your mind is clear, go directly to the breath. If your mind is cloudy, if the defilements or hindrances are strong, then try using one of these guardian meditations as an antidote. But be smart! Use the meditation that’s appropriate.
More on each of these in the upcoming days.