Most of us are so attached to our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that we believe them to be our essence. Unfortunately with this focus, we are destined to a life of frustration, disappointment, and expectation. If you’ve spent any time meditating, however, you know that about 15 to 20 minutes into a practice (on a good day), the mind releases and what appears is spacious. A definite respite from the chaos of day-to-day living, what meditation does is tap you into the abundant resource that many of us lost sight of years ago.
Sogyal Rinpoche pens this recent Huffington Post on using meditation to unlock our natural wisdom and compassion. A tribute to the Buddhist tradition, Rinpoche speaks to how meditation holds within it the opportunity to reach our full potential. Acknowledging that the mind is the root creator of everything, from happiness to misery, according to Rinpoche, we must tame and transform our minds in order to understand the mind’s true nature. Using meditation to turn our focus within is the key.
One of the best ways to tame our mind is through the unique and profound approach of meditation in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet.
The first and most basic practice of meditation is to allow the mind to settle into a state of “calm abiding,” where it will find peace and stability, and can rest in the state of non-distraction, which is what meditation really is. When you first begin to meditate, you may use a support: for example, looking at an object or an image of Buddha, or Christ if you are a Christian practitioner; or lightly, mindfully watching the breath, which is common to many spiritual traditions.
What is very important, the great Buddhist teachers always advise, is not to fixate while practicing the concentration of calm abiding. That’s why they recommend you place only 25 percent of your attention on mindfulness of the breath. But then, as you may have noticed, mindfulness alone is not enough. While you are supposed to be watching the breath, after a few minutes you may find yourself playing in a football game or starring in your own movie. So another 25 percent should be devoted to a continuous vigilance or watchful awareness, one that oversees and checks whether you are being mindful of the breath. The remaining 50 percent of your attention is left abiding, spaciously. Of course, the exact percentages are not as important as the fact that all three of these elements — mindfulness, vigilance and spaciousness — are present.
Gradually, as you are able to rest your mind naturally in a state of non-distraction, you will not need the support of an image or the breath. Even though you are not particularly focusing on anything, there is still some presence of mind, that may be loosely described as a “center of awareness.”
This undistracted presence of mind is the best way of integrating your meditation into everyday life, while you are walking or eating or caring for others — whatever the situation. When you bring conscious awareness to your activities, distractions and anxieties will gradually disappear, and your mind will become more peaceful. It will also bring you a certain stability within yourself and a certain confidence with which you can face life and the complexity of the world with composure, ease and humour.
Read more from Rinpoche on the practice of meditation here.