Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to meditate: What is "mindfulness"?

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly
Dive deep into meditation, ever mindful of the breath before us, to one-pointedness.

Even walking, keep the breath in mind.
"Mindfulness" or sati means "wakefulness, vigilance, presence of mind, conscientiousness," all of which mean BARE-awareness, awareness without judging, evaluating, or personalizing.

This is. Now this is. This = the present moment. Part of mindfulness means acceptance, seeing what is and allowing it to be.

Allowing what to be? Allowing anything to be. Accept, welcome, permit, tolerate, embrace what is. All you have to do is observe it. Let's not take it personally, which will mean grasping and rejecting, clinging and resistance.

Mindful meditation is non-resistance, and it gives way to clear comprehension, sometimes called sati-sampajanna.

Looking up to the waters above or the clouds below, the mind unifies around the breath.
How is it "done"? How do we do this on a meditation mat? 

This is, of course, a silly question. But there are no stupid questions in the zendo (like the dojo). As Americans we are "doers," so naturally we will have silly questions from time to time.

The answer to, "How to do this?" is allow it. Relax. Observe! Stay observant or you'll fall asleep.

This is the thing that most tend to neglect when describing it. Sitting in mindful meditation leads to serenity and insight. The way to it is to become tranquil WHILE paying attention. It is not attention vs. relaxation; it is relaxation to pay more and more attention. Thinking gets in the way, so abandon it.

Thinking will be and do its own thing, let it. How do I let it? Observe it, accept it, see it at a distance as impersonal, something that happens without will or volition. It just is. It's very interesting. Don't get caught up; just let it be. And turn your attention to the breath, which is far more interesting and something we have been neglecting for centuries.


It is like going to sleep while staying awake. How? Let the body relax so fully that there is no tension, yet you're sitting up.

Let the breath and mind relax while staying attentive to the object of meditation. The meditation object is the object of focus and attention. At first it will be the breath or a kasina (disk) or a recollection (like the Buddha, Dharma, or Sangha) with the help of an experienced teacher.

Do this: Place your attention on the breath in front of you, which is at the point just where it touches the nostril (or the center of the nostril hole right outside the body, the crucible, the crossing point, the imaginary border between outside and inside). Hold the attention here.

As the body calms down, so will the breath. The breathing is NOT the object of attention. The BREATH is. What's the difference? Breathing is this mechanical heaving, which when we calm down becomes autonomic. It operates on its own with no willpower, no control or interference (no pranayama).

The BREATH is the subtle breath, a subtle squiggly thing happening outside, right under the nose, by the tip. It has a life of its own, and it's very interesting. One of the most interesting things about it is that it is a mirror reflecting the mind. The mind is subtle, quick, exceedingly quick. We (conscious attention) can't keep up with it. 

But the breath reflects it exactly in real time. Forget the mind. Look at the breath. And you will be seeing the mind as it happens, almost before it happens.

Attention will become so deep with persistent right practice that the mind will generate a counterpart sign (patibhaga nimitta). Don't look at it; it's very alluring. Look at the breath; stay with the breath. If you do this, they will merge.

Mini Pagabu shrine (sycalaelen)
One was always a counterpart of the other anyway, and as the mind coheres, becomes collected, as we remain relaxed and concentrated on this point, it will become the light of wisdom that guides us into absorption (Pali jhana, Sanskrit dhyana, Chinese ch'an, Japanese zen), a word that literally means "meditation."

We have to meditate (persistently practice) to get to that state of meditation, a "Zen state of mind" as so many people love to say without having any idea what they're talking about. The first absorptions are blissful but very close to ordinary distracted consciousness. So we go deeper, and everything becomes serene and equanimous.

Practicing this prepares us for mindfulness exercises called sati-patthana, the four kinds of setting up of mindfulness. This is when we go from serenity to active contemplation. Go into absorption, emerge with a temporarily purified mind. Set up the four foundations. This will lead to insight.

This is how Siddhartha did it under the bodhi tree. It led to his great awakening (budh), enlightenment (bodhi), and liberation that is the release from all suffering (nirvana).

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