A recent happening has been the development of a Saturday morning Shamatha class that runs from 10:30am until 12pm. The class has been attended by two or three individuals and consists of practicing Shamatha - a concentration meditation, also known as calm-abiding. In between sessions, which are 24 minutes long, we can do some Kum Nye (Gentle Tibetan Yoga exercises), let discussion arise or sit quietly.
Shamatha is meditation with a focus, usually on the breath or on a visualised image. The attention is settled and the distractions of sleepiness and scattered thoughts are worked through with the correct antidotes. It’s a pleasant way to spend a morning and can become quite addictive as the sheer act of breathing becomes an interesting subject. Firstly, with a strong intention to practice for the benefit of all beings, we settle ourselves to meditate. With an inspired motivation and relaxed body, the breath begins to breath itself as we let go completely of controlling this simple function. We see every breath as different, observing many feeling tones, noticing the pauses before the next in-breath begins and enjoy resting in the pauses with no effort. And then the stomach tightens or the shoulders rise again as we are bombarded with thoughts and images that may feel self-obsessed. But it’s through this practice that we can come to realise what this ‘self’ is, by ‘attending’ (a favourite Alan Wallace term which suggests 'nurturance' instead of force) to the rich immediacy of whatever appears.
What does come to light is really what is going on all the time in our minds but we haven’t given much time to it. It can feel disconcerting that we seem to have little control over what appears! I can get impatient sometimes but that impatience does not just rear it’s head in my meditation practice. It is often the force behind many things I do. I just do it! It can feel like I have little control. These things are only habit patterns built up over a lifetime, or lifetimes! The way to ’attend’ to what arises is to recognise it as habit, not get involved in it and understand that it will change. Let it pass and return to the breath. The natural result of this practice is a general feeling of comfortableness.
Imagine if you can, this feeling at the time of death, to be in the present moment, relaxed and at ease.
To live in this way is surely practice to die well also. Fear and disappointments are simply practiced habits.
May all beings be at ease.