16459ESSENTIAL ADVICE ON MEDITATION (long but excellent teaching)
- Dec 19, 2008ESSENTIAL ADVICE ON MEDITATION
excerpts from Teachings by Sogyal Rinpoche
When you read books about meditation, or often
when meditation is presented by different
groups, much of the emphasis falls on
the techniques. In the West, people tend to
be very interested in the "technology" of
meditation. However, by far the most
important feature of meditation is not technique,
but the way of being, the spirit,
which is called the "posture", a posture
which is not so much physical, but more to
do with spirit or attitude.
It is well to recognize that when you
start on a meditation practice, you are
entering a totally different dimension of
reality. Normally in life we put a great
deal of effort into achieving things, a
nd there is a lot of struggle involved,
whereas meditation is just the opposite, it
is a break from how we normally operate.
Meditation is simply a question of being,
of melting, like a piece of butter
left in the sun. It has nothing to do with
whether or not you "know" anything about it,
in fact, each time you practice meditation
it should be fresh, as if it were
happening for the very first time. You just
quietly sit, your body still, your speech
silent, your mind at ease, and allow
thoughts to come and go, without letting them
play havoc on you. If you need something to do,
then watch the breathing. This is a
very simple process. When you are breathing out,
know that you are breathing out. When
you breath in, know that you are
breathing in, without supplying any kind of
extra commentary or internalized mental gossip,
but just identifying with the breath.
That very simple process of mindfulness
processes your thoughts and emotions, and then,
like an old skin being shed, something is
peeled off and freed.
Usually people tend to relax the body
by concentrating on different parts.
Real relaxation comes when you relax from
within, for then everything else will ease
itself out quite naturally.
When you begin to practice, you center
yourself, in touch with your "soft spot",
and just remain there. You need not focus on
anything in particular to begin with. Just
be spacious, and allow thoughts and emotions
to settle. If you do so, then later, when
you use a method such as watching the breath,
your attention will more easily be on
your breathing. There is no particular point on
the breath on which you need to focus, it
is simply the process of breathing.
Twenty-five percent of your attention is on the
breath, and seventy-five percent is relaxed.
Try to actually identify with the breathing,
rather than just watching it. You
may choose an object, like a flower, for
example,to focus upon. Sometimes you are taught
to visualize a light on the forehead, or
in the heart. Sometimes a sound or a mantra
can be used. But at the beginning it is
best to simply be spacious, like the sky.
Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe.
When you sit, let things settle and allow
all your discordant self with its un-genuineness and unnaturalness
to dissolve, out of that
rises your real being. You experience an
aspect of yourself which is more genuine and
more authentic-the "real" you.
As you go deeper, you begin to discover
and connect with your fundamental goodness.
The whole point of meditation is to get used
to the that aspect which you have forgotten.
In Tibetan "meditation" means "getting
used to". Getting used to what? to your
true nature, your Buddha nature. This
is why, in the highest teaching of Buddhism,
Dzogchen, you are told to "rest in the nature
of mind". You just quietly sit and let
all thoughts and concepts dissolve. It is
like when the clouds dissolve or the mist
evaporates, to reveal the clear sky and the
sun shining down. When everything dissolves
like this, you begin to experience your true
nature, to "live". Then you know it, and at
that moment, you feel really good. It is
unlike any other feeling of well being
that you might have experienced. This
is a real and genuine goodness, in which you
feel a deep sense of peace, contentment
and confidence about yourself.
It is good to meditate when you feel inspired.
Early mornings can bring that inspiration,
as the best moments of the mind are early
in the day, when the mind is calmer
and fresher (the time traditionaly recommended
is before dawn). It is more appropriate
to sit when you are inspired, for not only
is it easier then as you are in a better
frame of mind for meditation, but you will
also be more encouraged by the very practice
that you do. This in turn will bring more
confidence in the practice, and later on you
will be able to practice when you are not
inspired. There is no need to meditate
for a long time: just remain quietly until you
are a little open and able to connect with
your heart essence. That is the main point.
After that, some integration, or meditation
in action. Once your mindfulness has been
awakened by your meditation, your mind is
calm and your perception a little more coherent.
Then, whatever you do, you are present,
right there. As in the famous Zen
master's saying: "When I eat, I eat; when
I sleep, I sleep". Whatever you do, you
are fully present in the act. Even washing
dishes, if it is done one-pointedly, can
be very energizing, freeing, cleansing.
You are more peaceful, so you are more "you".
You assume the "Universal You".
One of the fundamental points of the spiritual
journey is to persevere along the path.
Though one's meditation may be good one
day and and not so good the next, like
changes in scenery, essentially it is not
the experiences, good or bad which count so
much, but rather that when you persevere, the
real practice rubs off on you and comes
through both good and bad. Good and bad are
simply apparations, just as there may be good
or bad weather, yet the sky is always unchanging.
If you persevere and have that sky
like attitude of spaciousness, without
being perturbed by emotions and experiences,
you will develop stability and the real
profoundness of meditation will take effect.
You will find that gradually and almost
unnoticed, your attitude begins to change.
You do not hold on to things as solidly
as before, or grasp at them so strongly,
and though crisis will still happen, you can
handle them a bit better with more humor and
ease. You will even be able to laugh at
difficulties a little, since there is more
space between you and them, and you are freer
of yourself. Things become less solid,
slightly ridiculous, and you become more
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