There are so many methods of meditation, so many techniques and tips. By offering this post, I am offering to you the most significant advice that I’ve ever received on how to meditate and how to really be able to work with my mind.
I’ve studied many, many methods of meditation. This “most important practice” that I’m sharing here can be applied to any method and will – undoubtedly – increase the stability of your mind and the strength of your practice.
When we practice anything, meditation, writing, tennis, parenting…we apply our mind to our tasks and to our skills. We might call this “mindfulness” or focus. To be good at anything, we’ve got to learn how to keep our mindfulness as we do whatever it is that we’re doing. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves distracted and not “100%” in what we’re doing.
While mindfulness is usually associated with many meditation practices, especially ones originating in the West, mindfulness by itself cannot help us from drifting into distraction and losing our meditative mind. Mindfulness needs a sentinel, an overseer, an aspect of mind, to bring it back when distraction takes over.
Enter…..awareness, the most important aspect or practice within meditation. Here are a few examples of how we already use awareness (but may not be aware of its presence):
When you’re meditating, or bicycling, or working, or parenting, what is it that reminds you that you’re distracted? Perhaps you’re involved in a conversation (deep or not), and you realize that you’ve missed the last – how many?! – minutes of the conversation. What is it that noticed that you were distracted? What is it that brings you back to the present? Even better, what is it that allows you to read this post, right here, right now? Answer?
”Why of course” you say, what else could it be? But, what is awareness? It’s cognizant. It’s aware. And, it’s always present. It’s with us when we are happy, sad, angry, or joyful. It’s with us when we sleep (though we may not recognize it in our dreams; that’s a great practice!) It’s with us when we work, read, or play. Yet for most of us, we forget about it when we start to meditate.
We sit down to do our practice and before we know it, we’re gone, lost in thoughts, lost in experience, lost in…space! We’ve lost our mind(fulness)!
Awareness is the precious gift of being cognizant which is being “fully informed, conscious” (The Free Dictionary online), fully informed about what’s going on within our mind, our environment, even our body. And, it’s what we tend to forget about when we’re practicing meditation!
Let’s do a super quick awareness practice. This will take less than a minute but it will give you a sense of what awareness is.
Right now, without thinking about it, you’re breathing. Simply watch your breathing. Watch the breath as it comes into your body and as it leaves. Whenever you notice that you’ve become distracted, gently bring your attention back to the breath, without commenting on being distracted, without giving yourself a hard time. Use your awareness to bring yourself back to your breath. And…relax.
That’s what awareness is, it’s the attention that you direct towards your mindfulness, a way to bring your focus back when you become distracted. Try experimenting with awareness. Notice when you’re being aware during the day, notice the quality of it as distinct from your distracted mind. Notice the quality of it as distinct from your mindful mind, that is, as the guardian over your mindfulness. Notice the clarity of awareness.
And, what’s the “great tip” that I’m going to offer? Bring a sense of spaciousness into your meditation practice. Give yourself a lot of space to practice your meditation, space within your mind, not a “spaced out” space, but openness, non-judgement, humor. Whenever you’re practicing meditation, allow your mind to calmly rest in the openness of the moment, without trying to “squeeze” your mind into practicing. Spaciousness is what allows the awareness to be fully present.
Does this post help you in your meditation practice? Do these tips help you to work with your mind? Please let me know.
For more information on how to meditate, please see the Related Posts below. Also, don’t forget to download the free ebook, Can Meditation Change the Way that You View Your World?, for help with getting started in you meditation practice, and download the ebook, How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation to learn how to deal with some of the obstacles to meditation.
ALSO, visit the Media, page where you can find articles, MP3 tracks for downloading, and videos on the subject of meditation.
As always, please feel free to share your comments. And, as always, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to see additional content or other discussions on this site.
The advice that I’ve offered in this post was given to me in teachings by a specific meditation master, Sogyal Rinpoche, my teacher and the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Because I’m so grateful to him for having helped me to work with my mind in such a profound manner, I’m offering this simple thank you as an homage to what I have learned.