01 Settling body speech and mind in its natural state

25 Aug 2012

It’s important to settle the motivation for the day. In Mahayana teachings the motivation is the base of bodhicitta. It’s important to have cognitive balance, which brings intelligence to our desires and aspirations.
Relaxation, stability and clarity are crucial for meditation. First melt away the body and then allow the breath to flow naturally. Trust in the healing capacity of our own body. If you get tired when meditating, focus on relaxation without loosing stability.
Meditation starts at 14:55

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As many of you know in the retreats that I lead, I tend to keep ritual to a minimum, little ritual but filled with meaning. I have nothing against rituals but it tends sometimes to focus too much on the outside rather than the inside, it does not necessarily do that but often does. So the only two rituals we are engaging in at this point are: 1) the one like this (he brings hands together to the area of heart in the prayer gesture), which is a common greeting. If we are in Asia it is just courtesy, it is politeness. For me it is my deepest respect to the Buddha nature in each one, to the essential purity awareness in each one. 2) And then this (he snaps his fingers) saying that is a sign/ritual standard in the Tibetan tradition that he embraced, reminding himself of his own mortality. It is simply here I am, I am here to offer the Dharma, to transmit the Dharma, as purely as I can with the awareness that I certainly shall die at any moment. In the light of that, leave off everything else, just let that scrape away everything else that is not essential and not true dharma such as ego, reputation, praise, respect, all that stuff. Within the context of one life, within the border of one life, how much people respect this, etc and have some value, but in face of death it has no value at all. So that is my reminder, let all the Dharma teachings through my mouth as much as I possibly can. Let it of value in the face of death. So money, wealth, fame, etc all of that stuff, zero value, but whatever can be offered is authentic dharma with good motivation that is truly of benefit that still has value in the face of death. That is why this tradition is being carried for hundreds of years and I very happily embrace it. That is our ritual.

(4:15) Since we are starting very, very deliberately, starting relatively late in the day, I assume you have one session in your own room, I would encourage in your session before coming here, one of the things to do preferably in the very first session is to settle your motivation as meaningful as it possibly be and I leave that for you to decide exactly what that entails, of course in classical Mahayana teachings that should be starting the day with refuge in bodhicitta that is hard to do but whatever you find to be the most meaningful motivation then I would encourage you to really kind of plant your stuff, get your barriers, settle your navigation from the sessions before this, so then when we gather, I would assume that you already settle your motivation so I would not take time of our very short morning session to focus on that as well, you already have done that, Ok?

(5:40) This fit with a framework that I find more and more useful and that is the framework of, I called that Buddha’s mental health, so speaking in terms of conative, conation and desires, aspiration, motivation, intention all that built in the psychological term of conation. Attention we all know, conation we know and emotion these are very familiar terms so I can speak of each of these four. Conative balance and that is having authentic motivation but not having too much desires that can be obsessive, not too little that can be apathetic and having meaningful desires, aspirations. So that has to do with motivation and with that grounding, with that settling forth with that initiation then getting your mind serviceable and of course is through Shamatha and Shamatha is all about making your mind serviceable specifically in terms of your attentional skills and there is the central theme that I think you are already familiar with, which is cultivating the sense of relaxation, stability and clarity.

(6:45) On that basis then we apply our mindfulness, our introspective skills, our attention, our Samadhi and we apply that to really attending closely to the nature of reality in terms of “the four applications of mindfulness” to get greater and greater cognitive balance that may lead us to stop conflating reality with our projections. We are not becoming apathetic or disengaged from reality, that is a kind of cognitive deficit, nor are we distorting our perception with another kind of cognition of reality, a true delusion.

So the cognitive balance of course with the “four application of mindfulness”, is what the doctor ordered and out of that may have the emotional balance that come quite naturally, quite spontaneously but If you would like to give a boost to this emotional balance, you may also apply “the four immeasurable”, bodhichitta is bound to be a sheer elixir.

This conative balance may also be called as intelligence is one translation for prajña, sometimes wisdom is also a good translation but among the mental factors when we go to Buddha’s psychology, the mental factor of prajña is a best translation of intelligence. So conative intelligence, we bring intelligence to our desires to our aspirations, our motivations and our intentions so we become wiser and wiser in terms of choosing what to choose, choosing what to desire and this is a type of intelligence.

Sometimes we desire foolishly and there is a saying that says: be careful of what you wish because you may get it. So that would be an indication, well look out if you have a foolish desire and then you get it, you fulfill it and then you just suffer.

So conative intelligence that is what renunciation and bodhichitta is all about, it is bringing all the wisdom we can bear to our aspirations. As Dalai Lama said: “if you want to be self-centered at least be intelligent about it”.

That would be just sheer renunciation without bodhicitta, without the four immeasurable but at least developing the authentic motivation that you desire things that really will get to undermining or relieving the causes of suffering and giving rise to greater wellbeing by cultivating the actual causes of happiness.

So conative intelligence I think is very useful and then attentional intelligence, attending wisely with intelligence, relaxation, stability and clarity, that makes really a good sense. Cognitive intelligence is almost, well that is kind obvious and then we have of course emotional intelligence and there is a lot of research on this and that would be a kind of culmination, a kind of flourishing and that is supported by, nurtured by the four immeasurable, by bodhichitta, by the whole bodhisattva way of life.

This framework, I find very useful then I assume that you developed, cultivated your conative intelligence and wisdom before coming here. Our morning sessions will be really primarily focusing on the attentional balance and then as we venture into the rest of the day with the vipashyana, the four applications of mindfulness, primarily by cognitive, but just by cultivating the clarity, the groundless, discernment, the insights, leading from the four applications of mindfulness, this will definitely have an impact on your sense of emotional balance, emotional wellbeing, overall sense of genuine happiness and of course augmented a little bit with the four immeasurable. So that is the scope.

So this morning we go directly to the shamatha and the mode of shamatha that we’re going to start with and the one you are familiar with it, it is really like a cornerstone of a building and so the cornerstone for shamatha which is the cornerstone for vipashyana which is the cornerstone for developing compassion on the basis of wisdom all comes right down to relaxation, stability and vividness, and relaxation means learning the skills of settling your body, your speech, your respiration and your mind in a natural state.

We are including here (below) definitions of the four aspects of mental balance (conative balance, attentional balance, cognitive balance and emotional balance) that may help you to have a better understanding of what is being writing in this transcript based on what Alan Wallace said about this theme in the session.

The source is: www.sbinstitute.com/node/1576 that give a summary of the retreat of Feb, 2012 covering “Cultivating Emotional Balance”.

This retreat provides an overview of the central themes of the 42-hour training program called “Cultivating Emotional Balance” devised by the eminent psychologist Paul Ekman, Ph.D. and B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. at the request of HH the Dalai Lama.

Focusing on both theory and practice, Alan Wallace explains four aspects of mental balance: conative, attentional, cognitive, and emotional. Conative balance has to do with cultivating meaningful desires and aspirations that truly contribute to one’s own and others’ wellbeing. Attentional balance focuses on overcoming attention deficit and hyperactivity, replacing these imbalances with a sense of inner calm, centeredness, and clarity. Cognitive balance is achieved through the cultivation of mindfulness so that we can experience the world without cognitive distortions. Finally, emotional balance maybe achieved through enhancing the positive emotions of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity while bringing afflictive emotional states under control through understanding and meditation. The weekend included guided meditations, lectures and open discussion.


Let your awareness descend into the body, right down to the ground. Attend to those sensations of firmness and solidity where your body is in contact with your chair, cushion and floor and rest your awareness in a witnessing mode, the quiet attentiveness, the closest approximation to bare attention.

Attend quietly, not conceptually to the sensations of the earth element, sensations of firmness and solidity, your body in contact with the earth.

Let your awareness rise up and fill the whole space of your body, right up to the top of the head, like a frequency filling a room. Let your awareness fill the space of the body, taking note of the sensations arising on the interior and from the interior as well as on the surface.

There is no need to visualize the body or think about it. Simply be aware of the sensations arising in this tactile field.

As you are mindfully aware of the sensations arising throughout this field, you may note areas that feel tense, tight, contracted. Gently focus your attention upon this area as you breathe in, and as you breathe out, surrendering yours muscles to gravity. As you breathe out you may feel your shoulders drop, the muscles around the base of the neck soften and loosen up.

Bring awareness to the face and soften, loosen the muscles around the mouth, the lips, the jaws, the temples.

Bring awareness to the forehead, let it feel opened, spacious, relaxed, let it be opened between the eyebrow, soften all the muscles around the eyes and finally soften the eyes themselves. Soften your whole face and feel relaxed, soften and loosen.

In this way settle your body in a posture of ease and comfort and insofar you do it and feel relaxed and comfortable you should find it easy to let your body remain still with no unnecessary movements, just the movement of the breath.

If you are in a supine position then your body should be fully relaxed, let still, psychologically you can adopt a stance, an attitude, a posture of vigilance. This is a formal meditation posture to use only for practicing. And if you are sitting upright, let your spine be straight, slightly lift your chest so you are sitting with very much attention, keep your abdomen muscles lucid and relaxed so as you breathe in, the sensations of the breathe go right down to the belly that is expanding when you inhale and falling back as you exhale.

In this way settle your body in its natural state imbued with the qualities of relaxation, stillness and vigilance.

(25:04) Settling your speech in its natural state is quite straightforward, not difficult, it simply means to rest silently, in effortless silence, the silence of a guitar with the streams cut. But together with settling the speech in its natural state, you settle the respiration in its natural rhythm, this is crucially important. In short this involves breathing effortless without forcefully drawing the air in as you inhale or forcefully expelling it as you exhale. Allow the breath to flow in and out effortless without constraint. The key is the out breathe, with every out breath relax more and more deeply in the body, releasing most of the tension, tightness, stress, with every out breath simply release the breath without holding it back or forcefully expelling it.

And with every out breath simply release any thoughts, memories and images that may come to mind as if the out breath is gently gust of breeze loading away easily. With every out breath as if with a sign of relief, just let go of any thought that may come to mind and return your awareness to a non-conceptual flow of mindfulness.

The key to the out breath is at the very end of the out breath. Each time be mindfully as you approach the end of the exhalation. See if you do release fully without expelling the breath. Simply do not hold any back, release it fully, release, release until the next breath flows in, effortless like a wave washing upon the shore, just let it flow in, and whether the breath is short or long, deep or shallow, whether the cycle of respiration is rhythmic or not-rhythmic, let your body breathe without intervention, without regulation, without control.

Allow your body to reestablish in its own equilibrium, its own balance, energetically by way of the breath.

And in this way settle your respiration in its natural rhythm which is bound to shift, to change as your body is sorted itself out and find its own equilibrium.

And finally settle your mind at ease by releasing all concerns, all hopes and fears about the future and the past.

For the brief duration of this session settle it all aside, let your mind be careful and free, untroubled by what is going by and by what is yet to come.

And in this way allow your awareness to come to rest in stillness, hovering motionless in the present moment.

Awareness is by nature luminous, it is clear, it is bright, so let the natural luminosity of your own awareness illuminate the field of the body and attending especially to those sensations associated with the in and out breath.

Relax deeply with every out breath.

Settle your mind in its natural state, imbued with the qualities of relaxation, stillness and clarity.

And in this phase of mindfulness of breathing, the challenge is to balance an ever deeper sense of relaxation, of lucidness, of ease, without losing the degree of clarity with which we began the session.

Comments after finishing the meditation:

(41:04) What we are trying to do here is cultivating a new type of habit which we are not born with it, that is not coming naturally, but it is incredibly important and that is to learn deliberately how to relax more deeply and the out breath is a really good occasion for that: releasing, releasing and doing nothing more than relax more and more deeply without losing the clarity which you began with. The first thing is just to learn to mellow out (relax) and not mellow out into dullness but maintaining the clarity you have right down that is sufficient and on that basis we can slowly start developing stability and on that basis start developing clarity and move along the path of shamatha.

Develop a habit of allowing the breath to flow unimpededly, effortlessly and stop holding the natural flow of the breath, relax by breathing not only when you are meditating in your cushion but also when you are walking, checking e-mail, eating, sleeping and so forth.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Alma Ayon

Final edition by Alma Ayon


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