Lesson 2: Shamatha Meditation

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Lesson 2: Wednesday, August 4th

In the lesson last week, I talked about the point of view, that the Buddha took concerning our identification with our mind.
I made the analogy and compared our thoughts to the ripples on the ocean. The waves and the ripples of the ocean are not the ocean, only the surface of the ocean, likewise is the constant flow of thought not who we are.But our mind is not just full of thoughts, but also full of emotions. And this is where it becomes more apparent why we should not identify ourselves with our mind.Let’s take the image of the sea one step further. Let’s talk about Emotions today.If the sea hits the shore. What happens?

  • It’s a big turmoil:
  • The waves break,
  • The water splashes
  • With the constant force, they wash away the land. Break the rock.

We can use this image to understand what emotions are. Emotions are thoughts that become physical, thoughts that trigger a bodily reaction.

  • Sadness makes us cry.
  • Happiness makes us laugh.
  • Embarrassment makes us blush.
  • Nervousness makes us sweat.
  • Fear makes our heart beat faster and raises the bloodpressure

These are feelings that become physical. We need to learn to identify these emotions and feel where we feel them in our body, especially those hurtful ones, like grief, sorrow, anxiety, loneliness.Becoming aware of them, in our mind and in our body, puts them in the spotlight.The more you identify yourself with the mind, your likes and dislikes, your judgements, and interpretations, and the less, you become aware of them as an observer, the more these demons in your thoughts and emotions take over and will eventually show themselves as physical symptoms and illnesses in your body.

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The Shamatha Meditation

Let’s get back to where we left of last time with the Shamata meditation.
In the last episode, we heard about how to take a posture that reflects dignity. 
In meditation your eyes remain open, but the gaze is slightly lowered and rests on the floor one to two metres in front of you. According to the traditional illustration, you hold your gaze as if you were leading the plough behind an ox.
But the eyes can also, be half-closed, but without drifting off, so that they are relaxed, but not loose awareness
Don‘t look at anything in particular, but just to keep the eyes open with a gentle gaze.

All these details of posture support you in meditating on the breath. With good posture, mindfulness of the breath comes naturally.
Once the body has settled into this posture, we have to convince our mind to play along.
It’s called the merging of mind and breath.
Our mind is of a restless and a moody nature. This makes it unsteady and jump from one thought to another.

Meditation is both training and taming. We don’t immediately come to peace or sort out our problems in one swift strike. It is more like taming a wild horse or ploughing up hard, rocky ground. 

So it is best to give our mind a toy, and the best toy is something that is similar to it. Something familiar. It’s like giving a child a doll or a teddy bear. Small, cuddly and a bit like the child itself. The toy is not too big and not too small, you can take it to bed with you, pull it around and play with it. It is like a mirror image of yourself.

In meditation, the breath is your cuddly bear. The breath has something as unsteady as your mind. By nature it has to be a little restless. When you have inhaled, you have to exhale, and when you have exhaled, you have to inhale again. Your mind also has this restlessness, it is constantly looking for alternatives and thinking of something. The breath is of a very similar quality.
So your mind is given the breath as a toy. In the Tibetan tradition they teach that in meditation you should only use a quarter of your concentration on the breath.
The point of this is that when you meditate you should only be aware of the core phases of the breath; you don’t remain continuously one with the breath.
So the recommendation ist to be focusing mostly on the out-breath. 
The out-breath carries you out into the world. Then you breathe in all by yourself.

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Ralf Eisend

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