Overview of the Practice
It is necessary
to appreciate the nature of practice as applied to meditation
because it could mistakenly be taken to imply the notion of control.
This is far from the case, as the meditator needs to have a flowing
receptivity to the experience without in any way controlling it.
Discipline in the meditation context can be misunderstood as imposing
one's will to control the practice. Actually, it is no more than
following the directions and persistently applying the instructions
with sensitivity. So correct practice is repeated performance
to develop skills, without controlling or interfering with the experience.
It's developmental - the way to growth!
consideration for the meditator at the beginning of the practice
is to notice how you are relating to your experience or what your
attitude to it is. If it happens to be reactive or judgmental then
it is necessary to change the way you relate to things, situations
or people, by cultivating qualities of acceptance, empathy and that
of letting go'. Being more accepting and allowing, without
the struggle to gain something, creates a natural meditative state
that facilitates the practice.
Strategy of Practice
self-manage and adjust your practice it is necessary to take a holistic
approach and to work within a supportive structure. Such a system
is found in the "Three-fold Strategy of Practice", which
is a complete and integrated system supportive of the psychological
well-being of the practitioner:
of behaviour in order to harmonise relationships;
especially regarding developing the meditative art of focusing;
which upon maturity, is the wisdom that sees the true nature of
mind and existence.
there are five rules of conduct formally undertaken, or are here
implicitly accepted, as the prerequisite for meditation. They are
the foundations that good practice is based on, without them good
concentration cannot be attained. These restraints need to be considered
and accepted, as they act as protectors for your well-being on the
meditation path: 1) refraining from harming or
taking life; 2) from taking what is not given;
3) from the misuse of the senses; 4)
from false and harsh speech; and 5) the taking
of intoxicants which confuse the mind. This is the ethical underpinning
of the threefold system. But they are not to be considered as mere
no-nos as they are balanced by the cultivation of positive
behaviour: honesty, generosity, kindness, etc.
The quality of recollectedness or full awareness is acquired through
the development and the managing of three meditation skills: Right
Effort, Right Attention and Right Concentration. Effort is right
in the sense of arousing, sustaining and balancing the effort; meditative
attention is right when there is close and impartial attention to
the various meditation objects as they arise; concentration is right
when it centres upon and intensifies the meditative focus. Too much
effort makes the mind restless; not enough makes the mind slack;
too much concentration restricts the awareness, not enough and the
mind loses its focus; but there can never be too much attentiveness,
as the acuity of attention is the factor which will deepen the practice.
The successful managing of these meditation skills will produce
mindfulness or presence of mind, the prerequisite for a finely tuned
is the intelligence that uncovers the true nature of things by seeing
through the 'content' mind to the underlying processes. This presupposes
a non-reactive awareness with a perfectly attuned attitude and a
penetrative attentiveness that has the potential to see what
really is. The outcome of such practice is direct experiential
knowledge of the three universal characteristics of existence:
change, unsatisfactoriness and impersonal process which culminates
in a series of insights freeing ones view from
the distortions caused by ignorance.
and Mental Impurities
are said to be present in three stratified layers in the mind: 1)
dormant 2) manifest and 3) expressed. These impurities, or the three
poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance, can be dealt with in three
ways: first their expression can be restrained by harmonising ones
behaviour; secondly, when they manifest in the mind, for example
as angry thoughts, then they can be skilfully suppressed through
concentration practices in serenity meditation; eventually when
they are seen at their primary source or dormant level then they
can be eradicated through insight meditation.
Here's an example
of how the three-fold strategy is used to deal with our most troublesome
negative emotion - anger: first restraining your behaviour in a
situation where anger arises by not giving it a chance to be expressed;
as soon as anger surfaces in the mind as negative thoughts then
a serenity meditation technique will calm the anger in the mind.
But it is only through insight meditation where the ego-illusion
is seen at its primary source, as the notion of me and
mine, can the anger at the dormant level be seen with
the possibility of eradicated it at its source.
the Two Modes of Meditation
It is important
at the beginning of this course for you to thoroughly understand
the two types of meditation. Because it will contribute to your
ability to adjust and manage your own evolving practice, especially
if you do not have the guidance of a personal teacher.
There are two
types of meditation: Calm and Insight. Calming
or serenity meditations use techniques of 'fixing' on a single object,
excluding all secondary objects to produce calm and one-pointedness.
Examples are techniques using visualisation, following the respiration,
mantras and contemplation. The second meditation mode is practices
that develop awareness. That is, paying close attention to the predominant
object in your physical and mental experience with moment-to-moment
awareness. The result of this meditative attention will lead to
The ability to manage yourself in meditation depends on making
appropriate adjustments or 'fine tuning' during a practice session.
This ability is based on understanding these two modes of meditation:
for example, if you become strained or tense during insight meditation,
switching to the serenity meditation mode will calm and relax the
mind; or if you became stuck in a becalmed mind-state in serenity
meditation, you can invigorate the mind with an awareness exercise
to give it an investigative edge.
For your meditation
practise to be skilful and therefore successful it needs to be based
on understanding and applying the ground plan of the three-fold
strategy of practice.