Buddhist Philosophy

Three Key Steps for a Meditation Session


Three key steps can improve your meditation sessions and ensure that your practice is meaningful. In this audio clip from a retreat in Hong Kong, Phakchok Rinpoche reminds students to always remember these three points:

Three Key Steps for a Meditation Session

1. Reflection. What kind of motivation do I have?
2. What are my negative habits? This is very important to reflect on.
3. Do I really want to practice Dharma? Why?

First, begin by reflecting on our own motivation. We should always take the time to check our motivation and to correct it if necessary. If we acknowledge that our motivation is selfish, then we need to change it!

Secondly, take some time to think about our own negative habits or tendencies. This is not to lower our self-esteem or to beat ourselves up. We need to take an honest look at our own patterns to know where we need to improve. These negative habits could be laziness: that is common. Or our negative habits could be specific physical or verbal actions.

Thirdly, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do I want to practice Dharma?” That is very important to reflect on. Sometimes this is a really powerful question. Do we just learn this meditation to reduce our stress levels or have some positive feelings? Or do we really want to experience enlightenment? Rinpoche says that he does this himself. He says that asking these questions makes him maintain his motivation that all beings may attain Buddhahood. If we recall this motivation, then we see that the question is very important.

Usually, the answer to this final question brings us to reflect on the Four Mind Changings: the four thoughts that turn the mind toward the Dharma.

Four Mind Changings

1. Precious Human rebirth – I am very lucky right now with this opportunity to practice the teachings I have received.

2. Impermanence – this fortunate situation can change at any moment.

3. Ordinary life is meaningless and there are so many ups and downs. For that reason, it is basically suffering.

4. Whatever we do – good or bad – we experience those results

And we can understand that these four thoughts can truly turn our minds to the dharma. Moreover, they can turn us into a sincere practitioner. Sometimes we may think that we have heard these so many times–we stop paying attention.  But that is actually a big mistake.  Until our mind truly changes, we should continue contemplating these core reflections.

Why Practice? Reflection Exercise

Again, Rinpoche reminds us that he finds the question, “Why do I practice?” enormously helpful. It serves to trigger all the above reflections.  So, during the next month, keep coming back to this question.  And be honest when you answer.  Why are you learning Dharma?  And why are you practicing meditation?

3 responses on "Three Key Steps for a Meditation Session"

  1. This isn’t a helpful reminder to check in on our motivation . Thanks.

  2. Sorry meant to say it IS a helpful reminder!!!

Leave a Message

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.