Shamatha Meditation

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Posted by Tim C. ( on May 10, 2000 at 02:36:38:

In Reply to: lost posted by jenni on May 09, 2000 at 12:48:59:

Dear Jenni:

I was recently at a retreat on Shamatha meditation (concentration, single-pointedness of mind meditation, etc.) and the teacher, Ven. Tenzin Tharpa, made a wonderful point about meditation. He said that in the West one thing which Westerns tend to confuse about meditation is that it is not an action--it is not something you do. Rather meditation is something that happens--a state of mind or being which happens to you.

As with all Buddhist teachings, there are appropriate causes which lead to a desired effect. Tenzin-la spoke of creating the appropriate causes and then meditation will just happen.

Now, I have to be honest. I had great difficulty in meditation (absolutely any level of meditation) before having been guided and taught by an ordained teacher. However, below, I will copy a handout which I was given at the retreat. Maybe it will be of help to you.

"Guided Calm Abiding Meditation

(This should be read aloud by the person leading the meditation.)

1. Review the posture: [the 7-features of Buddha Virochana, the Buddha of form]
* Legs crossed if possible [to slow down downward moving of energy]
* back straight [very important for the flow of inner energy through the chakras]
* Hands in meditative posture [left on bottom, right on top with palms up, with the thumbs lightly touching, about four finger widths from the navel]
* Shoulders straight but not tense, relaxed but not slumped
* Arms away from the body [to allow air to flow between the body and your arms]
* Chin slightly tucked in with the head tilted a little forward [to slow down upward moving energy], the eyes should be slightly open with the gaze cast downward
* Teeth in a natural position, and the tongue touching the roof of the mouth [to prevent the mouth from drying out]
2. To calm our discursive thoughts, focus on the breath, not forcing it in or out, just being aware of its natural flow [you may focus on the rise and fall of the stomach, or the sensation at the tip of the nose as the air enters and exits]
3. After a little while of focusing on the breath, a sense of peace should arise within us. When this occurs then let go of the breath, and simply dwell in this sense of peace.
4. As thoughts arise, try not to follow them, just notice them and let them go."

"(Analogies by the First Panchen Lama: [pick two or three that might be helpful and read them aloud.]
* Like an eagle soars through the sky; it only has to flap its wings once or twice, with little effort to sore for many miles. So when we find our mind wandering, with just a little effort we return to the object of our meditation.
* We should be like an innocent child observing an intricate wall painting. A young child simply stares at the whole canvas, noticing shapes and colors, without judgement. In the same way we should observe the mind as a whole, with openess and innocence.
* Like the calmness of the ocean at its depths is not disturbed by the waves on the surface, so our minds should not be disturbed by discursive thoughts or sounds that arise during meditation.
* A bird flying in the sky leaves no trace; as a bird flies over it leaves no trail. In the same way thoughts should leave no lasting impression as they cross our minds.
* The sun shinning in a cloudless sky; if there are no clouds the sky is bright and clear. Likewise our concentration should be bright and clear, unclouded by dullness or obstructions."

These may not be readily helpful to you. I hope they are, but meditation only improves with increase frequency, and with increasingly enhancing its causes.

I wish you the best of luck.


Tim C.

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