B. Alan Wallace, 10 Sep 2012
Some take to settling the mind easily, and others have a harder time. For the latter, start by focusing on mental images (without the soundtrack) which everyone can do, then the soundtrack alone, and mental images with the soundtrack. Among the 4 types of mindfulness, the first is called single-pointed mindfulness which means being simultaneously aware of the stillness of your own awareness and the movement of thoughts. Such mindfulness is accessed through deep relaxation.
In post-meditation, maintain a peripheral awareness of the breath or the space of the mind in order to cast a shield against rumination.
Meditation: The Buddha’s instructions to Bahiya, including the mentally perceived.
1) “In the seen, let there be just the seen.” Let your eyes be open. Direct mindfulness to the visual field without any add-ons.
2) “In the heard, let there be just the heard.” Close your eyes. Direct mindfulness to the auditory field.
3) “In the felt, let there be just the felt.” Keeping your eyes closed, direct mindfulness to the space of the body and the tactile events arising therein, including sensations of the 4 elemensts and somatic feelings.
4) “In the mentally perceived, let there be just the mentally perceived.” Let your eyes be open. Through the process of elimination, what do you perceive not by way of the 5 senses? Let your body be like a mountain, and let you mind be like space. Deliberately generate a thought or an image, if needed.
Meditation starts at 5:50
This morning we return to settling the mind in its natural state. And again, some people take to this like a duck takes to water, very naturally, easily. Others find it much more challenging, with getting frustrated sometimes by just being carried away by every thought that comes up, not having much of the sense of really observing. It’s important to have little steps, to be able to, like going into the shallow end of the pool so that you build on success and don’t fall into failure and you’re just feeling you’re not able to do it. So in terms of the various types of events that you can observe in the space of the mind, I think there are some that are simply easier than others. For many people these mental images – like a television or a slide show with no soundtrack, or with mute, no voice – those are quite easy to watch, they just come up. Or you can of course just generate an image of anything you like and observe it. And it’s hard to say that can’t happen. Almost everybody is aware of that, not everybody, but almost everybody. So that might be the easiest.
(1:25) The second one will be more like listening to a radio and there is just a soundtrack and that is just being aware of the thoughts, the chit chat and so forth and so on coming up. So like a radio with no visual. It is also possible to attend to the two of them arising and interfacing with each other, so now like television or a movie where there’s a visual and the audio. So there’s a whole array of events arising as in a dream, objectively appearing to you and of course it’s not just audio and visual, it could also be olfactory, it could be gustatory, it could be tactile. You can imagine, you can think of the touch of Jell-o! You put your finger in Jell-o.
(2:10) So we have these subjective appearances and then definitely more challenging to be aware of are the subjective impulses, desires, emotions, intentions and again what makes these a bit trickier is by the time you’re aware of them, they’ve already occurred. So it’s that very short term working memory, you’re aware of an emotion just after it occurred so you’re aware of an emotion that took place maybe 15 milliseconds ago. So you are aware of them, but they just went by. Ok? So there’s that.
(2:42) So in terms of the sequence, I’d like to now just highlight one more stage – Miles reminded us a couple of days ago – about the very first stage in settling the mind in its natural state, that you have opened the door, that you are actually entering into the practice. An indicator of that is the ability to distinguish between stillness and motion. Primarily there is the stillness of your own awareness and the activities, the motion of thoughts, images and so forth, but also as you are attending to the space of the mind and its events sometimes you may not pick up anything so you may just sense, Ok, it’s stillness. But stillness is not simply an absence. There is that space of awareness, which is still. Attend to that, and then you detect some movement within that space and you observe that. So that’s a little bit of reminder.
(3:38) Now there are four types of mindfulness that Dudjom Lingpa highlights one by one, culminating in actually achieving shamatha. So there are only four steps rather than nine steps plus shamatha. And so the first of the four types of mindfulness is called single-pointed mindfulness. Single-pointed mindfulness. This is something you might experience this morning. It’s not that exalted or advanced. And that is, it occurs when you are simultaneously aware of the stillness of your own awareness and the movement of thoughts. Ok? And how can that occur? By being deeply, deeply relaxed, releasing, so much at ease, so relaxed that you’ve let go of grasping and in that release of grasping then the thoughts, images and so forth cannot pull you. It’s like your awareness is Teflon, there’s just nothing for them to snag and so you remain still, thoughts and images come and go.
(4:38) So now we’re going to spiral in, I’m going to give you again, because I like to make sure this is accessible and not simply frustrating, because I know it can be very frustrating. So I’m going to try to give a spiral coming into it, and we’ll again follow the teachings of Buddha to Bahiya, where we’ll attend to the visual, the auditory, the tactile, which we did earlier during the first week, remember? And we omitted the space of the mind, now we won’t omit that.
(5:04) So we’ll start by bringing the so-called bare attention to the visual, then the auditory, then the tactile, “in the seen let there be just the seen” and so forth and then we’ll come to the grand finale which is: “in the space of the mind let the mentally perceived be just the mentally perceived.” In other words become lucid with respect to your own mind. That’s exactly what it is, just like a lucid dream. Recognizing dreams as dreams? Good. Recognize thoughts and images as thoughts and images and don’t mix them up with what you’re thinking about because they’re really very different. Ok? Oh yeah!
Let’s jump in and I would suggest a comfortable position.
We begin as always by settling the body, speech and mind in their natural states and for the mind you may wish to establish a baseline of equilibrium and clarity with a few minutes of mindfulness of breathing. In the Tibetan tradition they’ll often count for 21 breaths. See whether that’s helpful for you.
(10:40) Now let your eyes be open and mindfully bring your whole attention to this elliptical field of visual appearances. Let your conceptual mind be silent and observe what is real, what is directly manifesting to your visual perception without adding anything on. In the seen let there be just the seen.
(12:19) And close the eyes and direct the full force of your mindfulness single-pointedly to the auditory field, the domain of sound. In the heard let there be just the heard.
(14:00) Now direct your attention to the space of the body and to whatever tactile events that arise within that domain, including both the sensations correlated with the four elements, also somatic feelings. And in the felt let there be just the felt.
(15:46) Once again let your eyes be at least partially open, but now through a process of elimination examine closely to note what do you directly experience, directly perceive, that does not come by way of any of your five physical senses.
(16:43) And the Buddhist answer is all that you directly perceive that does not appear in any of the five sensory domains appears in the mental domain, and is perceived with mental perception. This includes a wide array of phenomena: discursive thoughts, images, memories, fantasies, dreams, emotions and desires and so on. This is the domain of experience that remains even when your five senses are completely dormant, you’re fast sleep and you are dreaming.
(17:37) So focus your attention now single-pointedly on that domain of mental experience, this relative dharmadatu. Observe whatever arises in that domain, observing the mentally perceived as the mentally perceived. And again insofar as you still find it helpful, you may at any time crystalize your attention by deliberately generating a discursive thought or mental image. Generate it, allow it to fade and keep your attention right where it was, single-pointedly focused on the domain of the mind. This, then, is a deeper retreat, a retreat from all of the five physical senses, a retreat from the physical world purely into the mind as single-pointedly as you can.
(19:25) Let your body be as still as a mountain, your awareness as still as space and experiment with the breathing to see whether it’s more helpful to breathe through the nostrils or through the mouth, whichever leaves you feeling more relaxed, loose, comfortable in body and mind.
(22:49) As always monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection, applying the remedies as needed. Let’s continue practicing now in silence.
Teachings/instructions after meditation:
(30:29) As your shield to protect you from the arrows and spears of rumination throughout the course of the day, what I would suggest is that you hold in one hand, so to speak, your awareness either of the breathing if your primary shamatha practice is mindfulness of breathing, just maintain that peripherally. It’s very light, it’s an easy touch, just being aware when the breath comes in and when it goes out. It keeps you real and then it gives you something else to do instead of rumination, because rumination comes in when there is nothing else to do.
Or if your practice, if your primary practice is settling the mind in its natural state, same thing. Just keep that window open, attending to the arising of thoughts, images, whatever is coming up there. Just stay in touch because that’s just as real as any other perception. Maintain that flow of awareness. So maintain your lucidity with respect to the space of the mind. Oh yeah! Enjoy your day!
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by James French
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon