“Meditation leads the practitioner along a well-defined path from confused mind to a mind that is clear and strong ”
~~~ Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
It’s been quite some time since I last devoted some of these articles to the subject of meditation. Since meditation is basic to Buddhist Belief, this is a very important subject. This process where we devote time each day to our sitting practice is a process of training our minds to realize more clarity. So, although I realize many of you have a regular practice of meditation, there may be some readers here who might be just starting out. I will write today about how I do my practice. What I describe today is not meant to give you any hard and fast rules for meditation. There are many teachers who will offer different techniques or styles. All I’m doing here today is showing you how I do my own practice.
Taming our mind through meditation, or “peaceful abiding”, is, to my way of thinking, the most important thing we can do. When we are regularly practicing peaceful abiding, we learn to rest peacefully and fearlessly in our natural state. When I say our “natural state” I’m referring to our basic goodness. We experience basic goodness when we allow ourselves to relax deeply into how things are, without wanting to change everything. Training our minds to be this way is the purpose behind why we meditate.
So often, there is a tendency to procrastinate about our practice because we think we don’t have the time to sit. However, once you’ve developed a regular daily practice in your life, you will see how the stability, clarity and strength you’ll develop through meditation will make your life simpler and you’ll be feeling a lot less stress.
The first step is to develop a basic routine. You should know when and where you will practice. Put your practice on your daily schedule just as though it was a daily business meeting. Once you set a time that works for you, stick with it. Consistent practice will lead to a better meditation. I now practice an hour each day – sometimes more – but that hour is scheduled. I didn’t start out at an hour. In the early days I found fifteen minutes was workable and gradually discovered the time allotted grew on its own.
Take a look at your life and surroundings and find a place that will provide the proper environment for meditation. It should be a quiet place – one where distractions won’t become a problem to you. At my age I sit in a chair to meditate, but you may prefer to sit on a cushion or meditation bench on the floor. It is also a good idea to prepare yourself for your practice. Take a note of how you’re mind is feeling. If you just had an argument with your partner – or have just come from a high-stress meeting, you may want to go for a slow walk before taking your seat. Do whatever it takes to provide a good bridge from your daily life to the chair or cushion. Think of your mediation seat as a throne in the center of your life.
These next steps are the steps I take myself. Again, you may have been taught differently and that’s fine.
On your cushion or chair, take a balanced grounded seat. If you’re on a cushion, sit with your legs loosely crossed. If you’re on a chair, sit with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the ground. Imagine a string tied to the top of your head pulling your spine erect. Feel your organs, muscles and bones settle around your uplifted spine to allow the energy in the center of your body to move freely. Slouching will not only impair your breathing, but it will restrict the flow of energy. Not holding yourself upright will also bring in a temptation to fall asleep.
Place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing down. Keep your fingers relaxed. You can tuck your chin in and relax your jaw while you rest your tongue against the roof of your mouth. If you find it easier to breathe you can leave your mouth open a bit and you can either have your eyes gazing downwards with the eyes half open, or you can close them, whichever works best for you.
In a practice of peaceful abiding, the object is the act of breathing. By resting our mind on the breath, we are training it to stay present and mindful. Stay with the feeling of breathing. Feel it in your nostrils and feel it in your abdomen. Hold your mind on the breath. Focus on the air moving in and out. This will help to keep your mind focused as well as help you to relax. You will notice how your mind tends to slip away from the focus on the breath and move into a variety of thoughts and emotions. When you do notice these distractions, which are normal, just acknowledge their presence silently or you could label them as “thinking”. I often use the vision of my discursive thoughts as clouds in the sky and watch them gently float away.
Don’t come down hard on yourself because your mind keeps wandering away from your breath. This is a normal thing. We humans really can’t stop thinking. It’s going to happen, so be gentle with yourself as you just let the thoughts slip away without giving them your complete focus. If you beat yourself up over this, your mediation will seem like a boot camp and the purpose will be defeated. Let the thoughts fade on their own as you gently bring your focus back to your breathing. Don’t bring judgment to yourself or try to analyze why you’re having thoughts. Just recognize thoughts as thoughts and avoid being distracted by them.
At the end of your session, enjoy the space you’ve created in your mind by this peaceful abiding. You may want to bask in the peacefulness for a couple of minutes before resuming your daily life. You may find it’s now easier to be present to what is going on in your life, to communicate more clearly with others and to be able to stay more focused on the tasks at hand.
Next time, I’ll begin some articles about how using peaceful abiding can greatly improve your mind’s inherent stability and strength. Since most of our lives have been spent in allowing our minds to go wherever they wish, learning to train the mind will bring about wonderful developments to enable greater strength, stability and clarity.
Metta ….May I be well and happy. My I live in safety. May I be healthy and strong. May I live with ease. May all beings be well and happy. May all beings live in safety. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with ease.
Namaste — Be in Peace.
Just click the links that are sort of Grey in color to take you to where you can learn more about each book and how you can purchase a copy for your own library.
Stephanie Kaza — Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
Stephanie Kaza, an amazing writer and Buddhist teacher I knew from my 36 years living in Vermont, gathers key Buddhist thinkers to reflect upon aspects of consumerism, greed and economics. Certainly, many other authors have examined consumerism from the lens of their religious traditions, but this book’s Buddhist perspective is unusual, and its pairing of consumerist critiques with core Buddhist concepts is generally fruitful. Check this one out! Hooked!
Stephanie Kaza — Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking
Another one from my Vermont friend — Stephanie Kaza, a biologist and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Vermont, combines Zen Buddhist practices and teachings with her 40 years as an environmentalist for this guide to enlightened environmentalism, proposing a belief in the interdependence of people and nature as the genuine way to “go green”: “When we come to see ourselves as part of the green web of life… we are naturally drawn to respond with compassion.” A good read for Buddhists or anyone from any religion. Mindfully Green
Anam Thubten — No Self – No Problem
No Self – No Problem
shows how to realize the ultimate meaning of life in each moment by dissolving all notions of ego-identity. It asks that spiritual seekers wake up to their true nature, which is already enlightened. Based on Buddhist wisdom traditions, this easy-to-read book discusses in simple, but profound and inspiring language, how we can live a life full of love, satisfaction, and happiness. No Self – No Problem
Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook
“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that. — From The Kindness Handbook
Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, A New Earth
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, My Stroke of Insight: Nirvana is just a breath away!
And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.
This is a new one for you by Pema Chodron entitled: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Have a peaceful day!! —
P.S. If you’d like to read my memoir/novel, you can access it here: