Shamatha Meditation Instruction

by | Meditation

Meditation instructionIn this audio program,  I offer meditation instruction on Shamatha, or calm abiding meditation. This is a fundamental form of mindfulness meditation. This is excerpted from my audio learning course (available through Dream Yoga: The Tibetan Path of Awakening through Lucid Dreaming.


Mediation Involves the Body, the Breath, and the Mind

The Foundation: The Body

Posture is important in meditation. The posture of your body has an effect on the posture of your mind. If you slouch, the mind tends to slouch. If you’re too stiff, the mind tends to get too stiff. As Pema Chodron says, “not too tight, not too loose”.

Instructions for Posture: Fearlessness and Gentleness

  • If you have a meditation cushion, take your seat in the middle of the cushion, and feel your connection to the earth.
  • Cross your legs, which are almost like roots into the earth, and place your hands passively on your thighs.
  • Have an attitude of dignity, even nobility, almost as if you’re taking a throne.
  • As we work our way up, the back is firm, but not stiff.
  • The shoulders are gently pulled back, opening the chest area, revealing the heart.
  • The central instruction about posture is opening the heart, which is symbolic for also opening the mind.
  • The back is strong, stable, and unwavering, representing the masculine quality of fearlessness.
  • The heart center is soft, receptive, and open, representing the feminine quality of gentleness.
  • The head is aligned on top of the spine, which for many people means pulling your head back.
  • The eyes are open, resting about six feet or so in front of you.
  • The visual field is open, receptive, unfocused.
  • The lips are slightly parted, as if you were saying the word “ah.”
  • The tongue is resting on the back of the upper teeth.

If Sitting on a Chair:

  • Sit squarely on the chair but don’t lean against the back.
  • Plant your feat on the ground and rest your hands passively on your thighs.
  • The rest of the technique for the posture is the same.

The Breath

  • Gently but precisely bring your awareness to the natural movement of your breath.
  • Don’t imagine it, don’t visualize it, just simply feel it.
  • Feel the movement of your breath as it goes in and out.
  • That’s it.

Surrender to the Simplicity

  • You’re just sitting and breathing. An important aspect of meditation is its uncompromising simplicity. Don’t try to outsmart the practice. Let the simplicity work on you.
  • Complexity doesn’t stand a chance against simplicity. In meditation, the complex mind eventually surrenders to the simplicity of the technique.

The Mind

  • Whenever anything arises in your mind that distracts you from your breath – a thought, fantasy, image, emotion, whatever – you simply but precisely label that distraction as “thinking” and then return to your breath.
  • “Thinking” is not a reprimand. It’s an act of recognition, an act of lucidity.
  • Within the context of lucid dreaming, you can replace the label “thinking” with “wake up.” Every time you notice you’ve been distracted, you wake up from that and come back to your breath.
  • It’s very gentle, like popping a bubble with a feather. Thoughts are just the play of your mind. Thoughts are never the problem.
  • Using the language of lucid dreaming, once you get hooked into the contents of your mind, you’ve gone non-lucid. To get lucid, you simply recognize the thought and come back to your body and breath.

Practice 15 to 20 Minutes a Day

  • If you can do longer, that’s great, but 15 minutes is enough. It also helps to do it first thing in the morning.
  • Be a bit tight at first, and lean into establishing this good habit.
  • The goal is to get to the point where it doesn’t feel quite right if you’re not meditating, just like for most of us it doesn’t feel quite right to go to bed without brushing our teeth.
  • If you stick with it, you’ll get to the point where meditation almost seems to “do you.” It comes more naturally, gets easier, and builds on itself. But we have to invest in it a bit before we can reap these benefits, just like with any other noble venture.

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