Meditation With and Without Support

​I’ve been sitting down to meditate daily for over 40 years. The techniques I use have evolved. But I don’t have to think about them much. I just sit down, close my eyes, and awareness knows how to settle through the stress of the day and open up. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes not so well. But the process is ingrained and generally effective.

I’ve been lying down to sleep for over 70 years. I lie down, close my eyes, and awareness knows what to do to drift off, shut down, and fall asleep. Sometimes this works well. Sometimes not so well. But the process is a deeply ingrained habit.



I hurt my back last week. So now I’ve been lying down to meditate. The mind doesn’t know what to do. I tell it, “Time to meditate.” But habit is stronger than will and I’m lying down. The mind thinks it’s time to drift off and shut down. It’s harder to remember to Six R, and when I do, the mind often dribbles off into minutia. 

Feeling discouraged, I tried to force the mind to stay on task. That didn’t work so well. “I guess I’m not such a hot-shot meditator after all,” I thought. “But what can I do? Stop meditating until my back is better?” In my mind the Buddha frowned as if to say, “Wrong answer.” Meditation is not about special states. It’s about awareness of all states.

So rather than control the mind, I let it wander. I paid attention to where it went and how it felt. When the mind complained about “bad meditation,” I just encouraged it to relax with the Six Rs.

Gradually the mind learned. The soft and drifty feeling has been infused with more awareness so it feels soft and luminous. It has a more inclusive quality. I’m delighted to have been forced to learn to meditate in an unfamiliar posture.​

We can become so habituated to our practice that we don’t realize that ritual has replaced awareness and old habits have replaced direct seeing. This is as true in meditation as it is in relationships, families, and politics.

​​​In the text, the Buddha talks about two kinds of practice: supported and unsupported. “Meditation with support” means meditating with lots of techniques in a conducive setting. This is wise in the beginning — find the conditions that help the practice settle in and stabilize. We have lots of these in our style of meditation: radiating mettā, the six Rs, balancing factors, daily practice, saṅgha, retreats, study, and so forth.


As the practice deepens, we drop some of the explicit supports. We don’t exactly stop any of the techniques. But they become wired in enough that they start to work automatically without so much effort. 


​We direct the mind less and observe more. And we try to keep awareness going while sitting, lying down, walking in the woods, buying groceries, and so forth.

In the text this is illustrated by the famous raft metaphor: it takes a raft to cross a river; but once we reach the further shore, there’s no need to carry it up the mountain. The raft is a support. We ride it while it’s needed and step away when it becomes a burden.

How about your practice? What techniques are helpful? Where might more support be helpful?  What was once helpful but now might be phased out? 

We can also ask these same questions in regards to other parts of our personal life, family life, and the larger community.


ps. Over the summer the saṅgha meets with a more relaxed schedule: 45 minutes of meditation followed by informal discussion for those who are interested. I’ll be away traveling for parts of the summer and will attend when I can. This structure offers less explicit support. And sometimes, that’s exactly what is most helpful.


Special Events

The following events we have calendared from now to the end of the year:
Residential Retreat

June 24 to July 3
Kindness and Wisdom Meditation Retreat in San Juan Bautista led by Doug Kraft. All the full-time slots are full, but there may be room for experienced students to come for a day or so. Let us know.

Saṅgha Gatherings, Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30, 
September to mid-June
Our regular Tuesday saṅgha gatherings are open to anyone practicing or wishing to practice using our Buddhist Easing Awake style of meditation. For more information click here. You can find program notes for specific meetings here. Please join us.

Summer Saṅgha Gatherings, Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30, 
Late June through August
Over the summer, we meet for 45 minutes of meditation. There is no formal program planned for after the sitting, but usually people like to stay for informal discussion and sharing about the practice.

Second or Third Sunday peer-led retreats
A new sister saṅgha in Yolo county is offering self-guided daylong retreats once a month. Most of the people have trained with me or Bhante Vimalaraṁsi. So the style of meditation is familiar. They don’t offer talks or instruction — just time to practice together.
Here's where you can get information or sign up.

Daylong Retreat
August 25
Doug will lead this daylong retreat hosted by the Sierra Insight Saṅgha in Placerville. It will emphasize non-dual awareness and meditation practice. The retreat is full.

Spiritual Journey Group, 
Second Saturdays 8:30 to noon, September through June
We meditate for an hour, then explore other ways to deepen our practice, deepen our spiritual lives, and deepen our connections with each other. Note that we don’t meet during July and August. For information and signup, click here.

Walk in Nature & Meditation, 
Last Saturdays, September through June, 9:00 to 11:00.
We meet with Lance Ryen at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608. Note that we don’t meet over the summer. For more information, send an email to Lance.

Dhamma Talk
September 13, 7:00 pm
Roseville Sitting Group, 214 Judah Street, Roseville. More information here.

Daylong Retreat
September 29, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Roseville Sitting Group, 214 Judah Street, Roseville
A day of sitting and walking meditation for new and experienced meditators. For information and signup click here.

Weekend Non-Residential Retreat
October 19-21
This retreat runs from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon with meditators going home each evening. Home hospitality is offered for those coming from out of town. For information and sign up, click here.

Daylong Retreat
December 1
More details to come.

Meditator’s Field Guide

Doug’s new book, Meditator’s Field Guide: Reflections on 57 Insights that Slip Away, is available through Doug or thorugh Amazon here

​You can also get a copy at a discounted price by contacting Doug.

If you'd like to write a review on Amazon, that will help boost it up in the search engine. 

You can find out about Doug’s other books through his website at this link.



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