Calm Abiding (shamatha)

The meditation practice of stabilizing the mind and strengthening its concentrative powers
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    Instructions for Listening Meditation Paid Member

    Try to sit stable like a mountain and vast like the ocean.Listen to the sounds as they occur. Do not imagine, name, or analyze the sounds. Just listen with wide-open awareness. Let the sounds come to you and touch your eardrums. Go inside the sounds and notice their fluid nature. If there are no sounds, listen, and rest in this moment of silence. Notice how sounds arise upon certain conditions and disappear upon others. Do not grasp at any sounds. Do not reject any sounds. Just be aware of sounds as they arise and pass away. Open yourself to the music of the world in this moment, in this place. In your daily life, notice the positive and negative habits you might have in your approach to listening. What helps you to listen fully and spaciously? If you are in a place that is very noisy, how can you help yourself? Must you find a quieter place or wear earplugs? Or can you be with these sounds in a different way? More »
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    The Freedom to Breathe Paid Member

    I am skinny-dipping. Stripping off my clothes, running into the water, diving down naked to disappear for a few breaths from the shouts and sounds of the world. Shedding clothes, embarrassments, care. The surface breaks as I return for air. For a few moments, I am free, opened, beyond place, beyond space.And then I am here. I breathe deeply, fully clothed in a compulsory uniform inside walls that do not vanish before half-closed eyes, seated during an officially-sanctioned time for Buddhist group meditation. My breath joins those of the women around me, travels across the walls and over the barbed wire. Freedom of breath cannot be measured, contained, or punished—as I breathe, my aliveness asserts itself, even laughs at its constraints. Yes, in this place it is an elusive joy, but I feel it now, as surely as I feel the knots of anxiety loosen in my shoulders. More »
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    Evaluate Your Meditation Paid Member

    After a person has been meditating for some time, it’s important that he or she evaluate how the practice is developing. Is it working? Does it need adjustment? Is it the right practice to be doing? Can it be improved? Some of this evaluation can be done on one’s own, some with a teacher or with friends. Taking a step back to assess our meditation shouldn’t be seen as a difficult task. We are evaluators by nature. We evaluate all the time, even if subconsciously. We decide what clothes to wear after considering a number of factors, not least of all the weather. An activity as simple as going for a walk requires a variety of considerations: How far will I walk? Does the walk require preparation? Do I need to pace myself if it is a long walk? What is the best route? Which are the best shoes? More »
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    Busy Signal Paid Member

    When the Buddha says, “I know of no single thing more conducive to great harm than an unrestrained mind,” I think he is referring, in part, to the current penchant for multitasking. When the mind tries to do several things at once, it does not do any of them very well. This is an empirical fact proven by numerous experiments, and it is easy to test out for yourself: try texting a message while catching the latest baseball scores on the radio and discussing some recent relationship difficulty with your partner. More »
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    Within You Without You Paid Member

    I have been drawn to the practice of shamatha from the time I was first introduced to it, in Dharamsala, India, in the early 1970s. I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of using the methods of shamatha (the word literally means “quiescence”) to explore the nature of the mind firsthand. Such practices lead to advanced stages of samadhi, or meditative concentration, where one is able to focus unwavering attention on a single object. This object may be as small as a single point or as vast as space, so it does not necessarily entail a narrowing of focus, only a coherence of focused attention. This is what Tibetan Buddhists refer to when speaking of “achieving shamatha” and “settling the mind in its natural state.” More »
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    Do Nothing Paid Member

    I’m going to talk a little about shamatha meditation, and I thought it would be good to try and actually do the meditation as we go along. The actual technique is very simple. All the great meditators of the past advised us to sit up straight when we meditate. When we sit up straight, there is a sense of alertness, a sense of importance—it produces the right atmosphere. In this particular instruction, I’m going to suggest we don’t use an external object, such as a flower, but instead follow the standard Theravada tradition of using our breath as the object. So we concentrate on our breathing: we simply follow our breath in and out. That’s it. Our mind is focused on the breathing, our posture is straight, our eyes are open. More »