How to Practice Shamatha Meditation

Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or focus—is the muse of Buddhist follow. Lama Rod Owens teaches us a model from the Vajrayana custom.

Illustration by Carole Henaff.

Shamatha means “peaceable abiding” or “tranquility.” Additionally known as mindfulness or focus meditation, shamatha is a vital introductory follow that leads to the follow of vipashyana, or perception meditation.

The aim of shamatha meditation is to stabilize the thoughts by cultivating a gradual consciousness of the item of meditation. The normal follow of shamatha makes use of completely different sorts of helps or anchors for our follow. Finally, this leads to training with out helps and meditating on vacancy itself in an open consciousness. For this explicit follow, the directions might be for shamatha meditation utilizing the breath as the main target of our follow.

Shamatha meditation permits us to expertise our thoughts as it’s. Once we follow shamatha, we’re in a position to see that our thoughts is filled with ideas, some conducive to our happiness and additional realization, and others not. It isn’t extraordinary that our minds are stuffed with ideas, and it’s important to perceive that it’s pure to have a lot taking place within the thoughts.

Over time, training shamatha meditation calms our ideas and feelings. We expertise tranquility of thoughts and calmly abide with our ideas as they’re. Finally, this leads to a lower in unhelpful ideas.

Once we expertise secure consciousness, we’re then prepared to follow vipashyana, by which we develop perception into what “thoughts” is by investigating the character of ideas themselves. Within the Vajrayana custom of Buddhism, the final word objective is to follow calm abiding and perception in union, which opens the door to realizing the true nature of thoughts.

Historically, shamatha follow is taught by directions on the bodily physique after which trying on the meditation directions themselves.

The Seven-Level Posture

The seven-point posture of Vairochana is an historical set of posture factors which are mentioned to align the bodily physique with our energetic physique. The posture has been practiced for 1000’s of years by Hindu and Buddhist yogis. The seven factors are:

  1. Sit cross-legged.
  2. Fingers in lap or on knees.
  3. Have a straight again.
  4. Widen the shoulders to open the center middle.
  5. Decrease the chin.
  6. Open mouth barely with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth.
  7. Eyes open, gazing about 4 finger widths previous the tip of nostril.

A Physique-Delicate Posture

All of us have completely different our bodies and capabilities. It is crucial to regulate this demanding conventional posture to meet the wants of our personal our bodies, and never wrestle to adapt our our bodies to the posture. What’s most necessary by way of physique posture is maintaining the again and backbone as straight as doable and remaining comfy. So the seven factors of a extra body-sensitive posture might be:

  1. Sit on a cushion or a chair, stand, or lie down.
  2. Prepare your fingers in any approach that’s comfy.
  3. Maintain your again as straight as doable.
  4. Hold your shoulders relaxed and chest open.
  5. Maintain your head at no matter degree is comfy.
  6. Hold your decrease jaw barely open.
  7. Hold the eyes closed or open.

The Meditation

There are numerous sorts of breath meditations. Some have been written down, whereas others have solely been transmitted orally from instructor to pupil. The next is a primary breath meditation from the Vajrayana custom:

  1. Regulate the physique into a cushty place, and begin the follow by turning into conscious of your breath. Discover the inhalation and exhalation.
  2. As you discover the breath, proceed to let go of ideas as they come up. Every time you might be distracted by clinging to a thought, return to the breath. Hold doing this again and again.
  3. Finally, as you exhale, turn out to be conscious of your breath escaping and dissolving into area. Expertise the identical factor with the inhalation.
  4. Slowing down, start to enable your consciousness to combine into open area with the breath on each the inhale and exhale.
  5. To deepen the follow, start to maintain the breath after the inhalation for just a few seconds earlier than exhaling. By doing this, you might be splitting the breath into three elements: inhalation, holding, and exhalation. Hold doing this.
  6. As you inhale, start to chant om to your self. As you maintain, chant ah. As you exhale, chant hung. Chanting these sacred syllables helps to additional help consciousness and is believed to purify our minds.
  7. As you proceed with exhalation, loosen up extra. Proceed consciousness follow, letting go of ideas and returning to the breath. Do that for so long as you possibly can.

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