11 Sep 2012
For those having difficulties settling the mind, Alan proposes mindfulness of breathing as a useful prelude. Use each breath—and in particular, the out breath, especially the end of the out breath—to release any residual tension and relax the body totally. Make use of every out breath to relax more deeply and release any rumination. Core relaxation is a prerequisite to settling the mind. When practicing settling the mind, maintain peripheral awareness of the breath.
Meditation: settling the mind with mindfulness of breathing as a prelude.
1) mindfulness of breathing. Practice the mindfulness of breathing technique of your choice. If you detect any rumination, relax, release, and return.
2) settling the mind. Let eyes be open, gaze vacant. Direct attention to the space of the mind and its contents. Maintain peripheral awareness of the breath. Apply introspection to the quality of mindfulness and apply remedies as needed.
Meditation starts at 3:03
This morning I would like to try to make the practice of settling the mind in its natural state as accessible as possible. I think some of you are already in the flow of it, and this is really just a matter of different dispositions and so forth, and although some people find it quite easy, others find it more challenging. So especially for those for whom this is still something of a challenge, to really be aware of the thoughts and so forth, without simply being drawn into them, what I would like to do is begin with mindfulness of breathing.
And I’m going to say something again that I’ve said before, just because it is so important, and that is that: it is the out breath, and in the out breath, it’s the end of the out breath, that is key. It is just totally releasing, releasing your shoulders, releasing your chest, releasing every little bit of extra tension or constriction in the body, that you possible can. It is almost like a ship: if the ship is sinking, you just throw overboard everything that is not necessary, to keep it afloat. So just throw overboard every bit of residual tension, whether it is around the eyes, the chest, the belly, wherever it is, just totally relax the body.
So with every out breath, and especially when it comes to the end of the out breath, that total release of the breath itself, make sure that for every single breath - do not miss any opportunity - when you come to the end of the out breath, you are really quiet, you are not just being caught up in rumination, because that will ruin it.
So be really quiet when it comes to the end of the out breath, releasing, releasing right to the last drop, and then without taking in the breath (almost as you have your hands simply opened and somebody lays a gift in your hands, and you don’t even need to extend your arms, but just receive the breath) just let it flow in. And if it is a little gift, well sometimes little gifts are very nice. If it is a big gift, a big breath, that is fine too, but whatever it is… just let it be, just accept what is being given, and give back everything you do not need, everything, to the last drop that you don’t need.
So we will start with mindfulness of breathing in that way, with that deep core of relaxation, which is gonna really set you up for settling the mind. Without it, settling the mind does not happen.
And then we will make this segway, this smooth transition from having the primary focus of attention on the breathing, but still being introspectively aware of what is going on in the mind, just as I shift my attention from Daniel to Nato, but while I’m now focusing on Nato, I can still see Daniel from the corner of my eyes. We are also focusing primarily on the breathing, but remaining peripherally aware of the mind with introspection.
And then, we shift the main focus of mindfulness onto the mind, and peripherally just keep some point of contact with the breathing, so you don’t start spacing out and being so easily carried away by thoughts, but just maintaining a peripheral awareness of your breathing, until you find you are so in the flow, so relaxed, really tasting that simultaneity of the stillness of your awareness and the movement of the mind, that then you can release, release any deliberate attention to the breath, and then focus single pointedly on the mind.
(4:55) Settle your body, speech and mind in their natural states, and you may follow the Tibetan tradition, if you wish, of counting 21 breaths. One brief staccato count at the end of each inhalation.
(9:49) Then continue in mindfulness of breathing, in any of the three modes of your choice. Focus your mindfulness, single pointedly, on the sensations of the breath, but with your faculty of introspection, monitor the mind, releasing rumination as soon as you note it. First of all relaxing, then releasing, and then returning your attention to the object of mindfulness.
(13:36) Then with your eyes at least partially opened, shift the primary focus of your attention to the space of the mind and whatever arises in that domain, while maintaining a peripheral awareness of the rhythm of the breath. You may, if you wish, arise your attention, and focus clearly as the breath flows in, and then soften, relax, loosen up, as the breath flows out, all while maintaining a steady flow of mindfulness directed to the space to the mind and its contents.
(15:49) Recall that in any practice of shamatha or, for that matter vipashyana, while mindfulness is focused on the primary object of meditation, you monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection, applying the remedies as needed, when you see that attention imbalances have settled in.
Let’s continue practicing now in silence.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Diogo Rolo
Final edition by Alma Ayon