Phakchok Rinpoche talks about the quality of having a calm, relaxed mind state and being content. In order to have contentment, one needs to meditate with dignity. Rinpoche also highlights the importance of choosing proper role models to inspire us and not to be biased or self-righteous, both as practitioners and humans.
Shamatha (calm abiding meditation)
Anxiety is widely reported to be the number one psychological challenge among students today, and in a recent survey, 97% of students reported technological distractions are a problem both inside and beyond the classroom. Any faculty member can confirm this: to give a single anecdote, I was sitting at one of our public events behind a young woman who had brought her laptop, and she had nine live social media feeds open at once in just one app. More in others. Did she hear anything at the event where she was sitting? It seems unlikely. Many students find themselves in a constant state of distraction.
Visualization can seem unnecessarily complicated when we first encounter meditation instruction. But creating a mental image and using that as an object of our attention is an important technique on the Vajrayāna path. Here, Phakchok Rinpoche shares some brief instruction on how to incorporate visualization practice into your daily meditation
Repeated Placement is the third stage of our calm abiding meditation. In shamatha meditation, our practice proceeds gradually so that we are able to quickly recognize when our attention wanders off. Here, Tulku Migmar Tsering explains how repeated placement works.Repeated placement means that as soon as we notice we are distracted we bring the mind back. Here Tulku explains that if we allow our wandering to go on, it makes the mind very “heavy”. And then it is harder for us to be mindful and to meditate. So he suggests that we learn to do this in three seconds–don’t forget our focus.
Continuous placement, or establishing continuity, is the second stage of calm abiding meditation. When we practice calm-abiding or shamatha meditation, we’re gradually retraining our minds. When we practice continuous placement we don’t have more thoughts than we had before. In fact, we are making a big step in managing our minds. We are noticing when the mind wanders and how many thoughts we have. Normally we don’t pay any attention to that process.
Tulku Migmar explains that Mindfulness is an exercise everyone can practice, notwithstanding their religion or lifestyle.
“Meditation training with focus” takes many forms. As we begin to build a habit of mindfulness, we can use one or more of these techniques. For example, in a meditation session or sometime in our day, we may focus our attention lightly on a sound. How so? We simply rest our mind on the sound of our choice. Then, when we notice that our mind has wandered away, we gently guide it back to the sound. That’s all there is to it–bringing our mind back to the object of focus again and again. We call that process “mindfulness”. In this video teaching, Tulku Migmar Tsering advises us on how we can use meditation training with focus to cultivate a habit of mindfulness.
When we hear the word “meditation” we may think that we can’t keep still for an hour and be calm. But, as Tulku Migmar as explains here, the point of meditation is the process itself. When we meditate we are cultivating new habits bit by bit in short periods.
Calm abiding meditation forms the backbone of Buddhist meditation practice. Without developing a solid foundation in this core practice, we will not be able to settle our minds. Traditionally, we spend months or years learning, practicing, and experiencing the results of calm abiding meditation before we move on to other practices. And we never abandon calm abiding: this simple technique recurs throughout all types of Buddhist meditation.
Why meditate? What benefits does meditation bring, and why might we want to take the time for practice? Phakchok Rinpoche, in this video teaching from a talk at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde New York, New York, points out very concrete benefits.