I haven’t done much stability practice for a while, and am now coming back to it. One of the benefits of leaving something and then returning is the rediscovery, seeing it in a more fresh way, being more interested in it and its effects.
Stability practice (shamata) is a basic and ongoing companion practice to almost any other practice, whether it is prayer, allowing, inquiry, yoga, or something else.
It allows for a more stable attention, which is helpful for any other practice. And this stable attention in turn calms the content of the mind, which is also helpful for many practices.
It helps our attention stay with the prayer. It helps us be with whatever we are experiencing, fully allowing it all in a wholehearted way. It helps attention stay with inquiry, whether it is labeling practice, Big Mind Process, The Work or any other form of inquiry. It helps attention stay with the breath and body while we do body-inclusive practices.
And it also helps us in daily life in many ways… stable attention, more clarity, even a greater sense of energy because attention is focused instead of scattered.
There are many ways of doing stability practice, although they all (?) include bringing attention to an object.
Often, this object is the breath, such as the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. It is also helpful to count the breaths in the beginning of each session until there is more stability, and then just stay with the breath without counting. (The counting helps keep the interest there, and is also great feedback for when attention strays into the inside of thoughts.)
It is helpful to stay relaxed, allowing the breath to come and go as it naturally does, and then tune attention just enough to stay with the breath.
Eyes somewhat open helps with alertness, and light does the same. It attention is scattered, it can help to lower the gaze and maybe reduce the light level. If there is sleepiness, it can help to raise the gaze and increase the light level.
It is also helpful to do some form of physical activity before sitting, such as strength or aerobic exercise or a form of yoga. It tends to invite in a more relaxed alertness.
Although any body position is fine, sitting with an erect spine helps with staying awake and alert. I find it interesting to sometimes experiment with different positions, including lying down, and notice the difference.
And it can be done whenever we have time and are not doing anything else, such as when sitting on the train or bus, waiting for an appointment, or while still in bed before falling asleep or after waking up.