It looks like I’ll teach (show, guide) meditation for a group of teenagers, so I thought I would go over the basics again here, as a reminder for myself.
There are three basic forms of meditation: Stable attention, rest, and inquiry.
Stable attention / samatha. Attention can be trained. Untrained, it may easily be scattered and unruly. Trained, it can become stable and pliable, and a stable attention is helpful for almost any activity in our lives – from relationships to sports to learning and working. One way to train it is to bring attention to the breath, for instance the sensations at the nostrils as the breath naturally goes in and out. Attention may wander, and when that’s noticed, bring attention back to the breath. The noticing happens as grace.
Rest / shikantaza. Allow everything to be as it is. Notice it’s already allowed to be as it is. Notice what’s here – the sensations, sights, sounds, smell, taste, words and images. It all comes and goes. It lives it’s own life. Rest and notice what’s here. Even notice any resistance or trying. It’s all happening within and as the field of what’s here. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do. Just notice what’s already here.
Inquiry / vipassana. Insights into what the mind is, and how it works. These happen, to some extent, through the two previous ones. And they also happen through guided inquiry or exploration. such as sense field explorations, the Living Inquiries, The Work, the Big Mind process, and also holding satsang with what’s here.
Mutual support. Each of these support the others. A stable attention makes it easier to rest and do inquiry. Familiarity with rest makes it easier to explore a stable attention and inquiry from rest. And inquiry gives insights – and a release of identification with words and images – that supports a stable attention and rest.
Support of life. All these forms of meditation are in support of life. And there are, of course, many things that supports both life and meditation. Physical exercise is one, including forms of yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), endurance and strength. Precepts is another, guidelines for how to live our lives. These give a preview of how it is to live from more clarity, they shows us what’s left (fears and beliefs that prevents us from living from clarity and love), and they support an easier and more stable relationship with others and ourselves. Different forms of therapies can also be very helpful in allowing our human self to align with clarity and love.
Note: “There is nowhere to go and nothing to do.” In the context of rest (natural meditation, just sitting, shikantaza), that’s a reminder that makes sense.
Three forms of meditation: (a) Stable attention. (b) Rest. (c) Inquiry.
Notice the sensations at the nostrils from the natural breath. No need to change the breath, allow it to be as it is. Notice when attention goes somewhere else – to words, images – and bring it back to the breath. Notice that this noticing is grace.
Allow what’s here to be as it is. Notice sensations. Notice how sensations, sounds, sights, tastes, smells, words and images come and go. They live their own life. Notice how it’s all allowed as it is.
Insights into the nature and dynamics of the mind. Some insights come naturally from the two other forms of meditation. Others come through guided exploration, for instance through sense field explorations and other forms of inquiry such as the Living Inquiries, holding satsang with what’s here, and The Work.
These relate in different ways to who and what we are. Resting is an invitation for what we are – what a thought may call awareness, or that which the field of experience happens within and as – to notice itself. It’s an invitation for who we are – this human self – to relax, and for identification with who we are to relax. Training a more stable attention happens within and as what we are, and it clearly benefits who we are in it’s activities in the world. Inquiry reveals what we are to itself, and also gives insights into the dynamics of what and who we are. It also tends to invite identification with who we are to relax, soften and eventually release so what we are can more easily notice itself.