Masters' guide to Meditation

 Thich Nhat Hanh:

[comments on MINDFULNESS: “I have arrived”;(in)  “ I am home.” (out)]

 If we practice looking deeply we see that we have all the conditions for happiness right here and now.  “I have arrived, I am home.”  Means I have stopped running, I can touch happiness right now.  I want to make the present moment my true home. 

According to the Buddha’s teaching there is only one moment for us to be alive: the present moment.  This is the only moment where we can be deeply alive.  So our home is “in the here and in the now.”  It is not hard to understand, but needs some practice.  Using mindful breathing we can bring our mind back to the present moment.  We can touch the wonders of life in the present moment.  We can touch joy and peace.  We see things more deeply.

Buddhist meditation uses: stopping, calming and deep looking. 

At first we may think there is only pain and suffering in the moment.  But there is something else: stability, joy, peace and freedom are also there.  [contents are there, and also consciousness is there.]  The practice is to bring to us the energy of peace, stability, and freedom.  When I looked at the statue of the Buddha, and I was impressed, it is because it radiated these qualities. 

When we touch the present moment, we are touching the water.  We are touching the dimension of freedom, stability, joy.  We are touching Nirvana.  [We touch the non-touch: asparsa.]

If you come to the present moment with the energy of mindfulness you will not be afraid to encounter your pain, your sorrow, your fear.  The secret of your success is the energy of mindfulness, because with this you are not afraid to go home and meet what is there. Mindfulness is the capacity to be aware of what is going on.  The capacity to be here, really.  My definition of mindfulness is: to be there: to produce your true presence.


 URGYEN TULKU: from As It Is

 Every sentient being is cognizant.  We need to recognize that cognizance… present moment of unmade wakefulness  Allow that to simply be as it is, let be in naturalness… 

Do not divide your practice, making one practice for meditation and the other for post-meditation.  Here, meditation state lasts up until one is distracted from awareness, and then turns into post-meditation.  The moment you remember to recognize, you see immediately how mind essence is.  … It does not make any difference if you recognize while you are standing or sitting or eating..  The practice, as I state over and over, is short moments repeated many times…

Don’t cover this present wakefulness up with another thought. Do not reconnect anything to the present wakefulness.  Do not accept or reject. Do not affirm or deny.  Remain without holding anything—that is called mind essence. 

In the meantime, you will be distracted when you go about your affairs—there is no way around this. …  A thought is simply the extroverted expression of knowing, of awareness.  In the moment of recognizing the nature of what thinks, there is no way for this expression, the thought, to remain.  

Don’t expect anything spectacular.  Honestly, there is nothing more amazing than this recognition of awareness in which no thought can remain. We need the watchman named mindfulness, the guard who is on the lookout for when we get carried away in mindlessness. 

 Adyashanti: True Meditation


“In true meditation we start from the foundation of letting everything be as it is.  … We are not moving toward the natural state, or trying to create the natural state; we actually start at the natural state from the very beginning.” You come into the natural state by letting go of effort and resting in  a state of vivid clarity. 

When we allow everything to be as it is, stuff comes to the surface.  What to do?  Allow it to reveal itself.   Awareness, acknowledging and acceptance are the way through fear and desire.  “True Meditation is the space in which everything gets revealed, everything gets seen, everything gets experienced.  And as such it lets go of itself.” P.30 True Meditation

From Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind: working with images and emotions

Our natural state of being is awareness: an awareness which is not of anything but which is an all-encompassing state of pure experience.  We are not, however, able to stay in this awareness…  awareness gives way to ordinary consciousness, which divides our perception into subject and object, creating as subject a self-image, the “I”. 

The “I” is simply an image which the mind has projected.  … yet we take it as real, and let it run our lives.

Under the influence of the self-image we perpetuate this subject-object orientation.  As soon as we identify, comparison begins; grasping and selfishness follow.  Then the mind makes discriminations and judgments which cause conflicts.  The self-image gives energy to these conflicts and these conflicts in turn feed the self-image.  The self-image thus perpetuates itself, tending to filter experience in ways that allow only its own rigid constructions room to function.  Neither open nor accepting, the self-image imprisons us in blockages and constrictions.  Our natural flow of energy is interrupted and the range of our responsiveness and the depth of our experience are severely limited. 

To free ourselves… we must fist see that the self-image is not a genuine part of us, that we do not heed it, and that, in fact, the self-image obscures our true being.  One way to do this is to step back and observe… Look at the grasping nature of the self-image: it is always making demands, always wanting more and more.  12-13

We can change.  For example, every time you feel unhappy, say “I am happy.”  Remember, it is your self-image that is unhappy, not you.  It is possible to switch instantly to a happy, balanced attitude, and to stay there by believing it.

Another way …is to become immersed in the unhappiness, feel it, and believe it, and then switch it swiftly, electrically.  First be it completely, then jump to the opposite extreme.

Then it is our choice: to follow the self-image which makes us its prisoners, or to develop a positive attitude which brings lightness, fullness and wholeness.  … no expectations, no frustrations, no dominating self-image takes us away from the immediacy of our being.  Obstacles and distractions no longer divined our feelings and our mind. 

The choice is ours; we have only to choose the way of freedom. 15-16

We can challenge the concept of fear itself.  As our consciousness goes into the emotion, we become aware that what we are feeling is simply energy.  We see that everything that occurs is a manifestation of energy, which itself is a form of our awareness.

If you feel that love is missing from your life, you can create the positive warmth of love within your heart.  Let yourself feel this inner flow; expand it, letting it touch all your experience with a gentler happiness.  The more you do this, the more love you discover within, and the more you have to offer others.  You can become truly self-sufficient, not needing to rely on family, friends, or lovers.  No longer must your relationships be based on insecurity or emptiness; you can be free to express your feelings fully, and to deeply appreciate yourself and those around you.

As you develop the ability to contact this caring within your heart, you can use its energies to maintain balance in your life.  Whenever you feel depressed or hopeless, use love to transform these feelings.  If you find yourself going to the other extreme of excitement and exhilaration, find a stable peace in the warmth within.  The more you nurture yourself in this way, the stronger your self-confidence will be; you will develop a certainty as indestructible as a diamond.  You will find within yourself your own best protector and friend.   P.57

Visualize a vast open space, by thinking of all external objects as well as our bodies as being part of this space, all within the immediate moment.  Finally, no barriers remain.  Only a higher awareness alive and healing which gives warmth and nourishment. 

Imagine some beautiful experience from the past.  Really feel it.  Then shift to the present; back and forth.


From Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind: Meditation and "Awareness"

Meditation is a way of opening our lives to the richness of experience, not limited to certain times and places. …  In this kind of experience we learn to embrace and learn from whatever we experience.

This all-embracing form of meditation, however, is not as easy as it sounds, for it entails mindfulness in all we do.   We cultivate this awareness in every aspect of our lives… 2

This awareness is accessible to all who search for it: it can always be reached by delving into the nature of experience.  4

By learning how to be totally satisfied every moment, our time will never be wasted. 6

Be very still and relaxed, and do not try to do anything.  Let everything—thoughts, feelings, and concepts—go through your mind unheeded.  Do not grasp at them as they come and go or try to manipulate them… let meditation do itself.

After we learn to let thoughts slip by, the thoughts will slow down, and nearly disappear.  Then, behind the flow of thoughts you will sense a feeling which is the foundation of meditation.  When you contact this quite place behind your inner dialogues, let your awareness of it grow stronger. You can then simply rest in the silence.  For in that silence there is nothing to do, there is no reason to produce anything or to stop anything.  Just let everything be.  

Make your meditation casual, open—not self-conscious or forced.  31-33

As we develop our meditation, gradually our awareness increases.  The mind naturally clears of confusions and dissatisfactions, and we touch upon a meditative clarity, an awareness which is there no matter where our thoughts go, no matter what occurs. 

Our usually idea of awareness, however, is bound to an association with objects.  The ordinary tendency of the mind is to look ahead, anticipate… one dimensional… conditioned. 

Only with a quiet mind, an aware mind, can we see these patterns at work and stop them.

There are several exercises that will aid us increasing awareness.  (but remember, they are only exercises…) 

Whenever a thought arises, we usually feel the need to label and identify it.  Try to stop this process…

Simply watch the flow of mental images pass through the mind.  As past and future image-projections pass by, cut between them, not by looking at the thoughts and image, but by looking at “who” is watching the thoughts.  Try to develop a feeling for the thoughts watching the “watcher.”

Observing the mind carefully shows that the mind manifests our objects of experience directly.  Subject and object occur in the mind simultaneously, and both are manifestation of the mind.  There is no position to stand on, nothing to investigate.

In the moment of pure awareness beyond dualism, there is no longer division into subject and object; there can be no enemy; there can be nothing to fear. 117-119


 “When images come into your mind, bypass them.  Stay with the energy, the seeingness quality of the thought itself.  Gradually feel an opening which is part of the thought, an empty place.  See or feel this openness and expand on it. In this seeing quality it is also important to listen…”

Every single thought has a nucleus of energy, a center of power and awareness that we can easily find once we put aside the ideas of doing or achieving. …  this is being.  Being needs no improvements; it needs no doing or moving. 

Fist find the small gaps, the little points of entry you will learn to recognize.  Then make the gapes bigger until they expand into the whole. 

That is the meditation practice: expanding, contracting and expanding again this state of awareness.

This pristine quality of awareness belongs to nothing whatsoever, it is a new dimension.  [According to Longchenpa it is open, luminous, spontaneous presence, ineffable.]   120-122


"Inherent in the realization that our everyday world is actually always changing is the realization of intrinsic awareness"


Suzuki Roshi: Beginner's Mind


In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's ther are few 

People say that practicing Zen is difficult, but there is a misunderstanding as to why. It is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross-legged position, or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in its fundamental sense. The Zen school developed in many ways after it was established in China, but at the same time, it became more and more impure. But I do not want to talk about Chinese Zen or the history of Zen. I am interested in helping you keep your practice from becoming impure.     ,

In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means "beginner's mind." The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind. Suppose you recite the Prajna Paramita Sutra onlv once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitude towards it. The same thing will happen in your other Zen practices. For a while you will keep your beginner's mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind.

For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our "original mind" includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.

If you discriminate too much, you limit yourself. If you are too demanding or too greedy, your mind is not rich and self-sufficient. If we lose our original self-sufficient mind, we will lose all precepts. When your mind becomes demanding, then you long for something, you will end up violating your own precepts: not to tell lies, not to steal, not to kill, not to be immoral, and so forth. If you keep your original mind, the precepts will keep themselves.

In the beginner's mind there is no thought, "I have attained something." All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn some-thing. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.

So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner's mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, "I know what Zen is," or "I have attained enlightenment." This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner's mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.


Mahamudra: Stillness and Inquiry:


Based on Pointing out the Dharmakaya.  Wangchug Dorje (9th Karmapa) comments by Thrangu Rinpoche

Preliminaries create a right atmosphere: remembering, life and death, gratefulness, compassion, purification, teachers, Overself.

Mahamudra returns mind into Mind using Stillness and Inquiry.

Primary method of stillness: relax into the presence, or nature of mind. 

Primary method of inquiry: examine the inter-dependent no thing of world, look within for the nature of “I” and see what it refers to. 

Mahamudra alternates stillness and inquiry, combining them in unique ways.  It does not just look at the mind in stillness, but looks at the moving nature of mind. 

You mind is no thing, insubstantial, yet is has the power to know to experience, to think, imagine.  Stillness mediation is allowing this insubstantial mind of knowing to be at ease naturally, to relax into its own nature.

In another way, it is simply not reacting: not allowing the contents to take your attention away.

In another way, it is allowing awareness to disentangle itself. 

Our mind is pre-occupied with contents of all sorts—the flavors of form, feeling conceptions, volition, ego, memory, images: yet our mind is no thing at all, and has the ability to know, to be aware, to experience.  Every experience as such is known, witnessed, lit up.  Yet attention is always caught in the constant stream of contents.  Let these contents arise, but don’t get interested in them.  Just watch whatever arises in the mind, don’t get taken away by the contents, and don’t try to cut them off.  Let the mind relax into a “direct experience of the present moment.”  Shift attention from the contents of the mind to the mind itself: to the knowing spacious awareness which is always and already there. This nature of mind is luminous, open, no-thing, spontaneously arising, ineffable, non dual.

If you can’t get the mind quiet: use supports. If the mind is agitated, or wandering, or tired, then a support such as watching the breathing can be valuable to help the mind come to rest.  “I have arrived, I am home” or “yes, thank you…”  Or simply ringing attention from the head down to the life field of the body.  Do this for a while and then allow, allow, allow the mind to come to rest in a recognition of itself, of its own deeper nature of awareness/observer.


“Here, mindfulness means a simple, direct recollection of what we’re trying to do.  In other words, mindfulenss is recollecting that we are trying to rest in a sirect experience of the present… Use your alertness or mindfulness to notice when you are distracted, get interested in a thought, or obsessed or disgusted.  Use gentle attention or mind ful ness to re-mind you to relax.  Gently remember to recognize this, bring the attention away from the contents and back to noticing the background always present awareness.”  Or rather, to allow awareness to simply shine, and notice itself

“simply recognize the arising of a thought, feeling, emotion, memory in your mind and pay very little attention to the contents of the thought.  You only need to recognize is that the thought has arisen.”  If it is an aweful thought, you don’t even think “this is aweful,” if it is a great vision  you don’t get excited.  If your mind wanders, don’t have any guilt or judgment.  Don’t let thought entice you.

You can do this practice with eyes and ears open.  Any experience is an opportunity to practice shifting from contents to awareness.  Even the ego I avery is a thought content, not the nature of mind, and this is the root content which keeps us from recognizing the nature of mind.

© Copyright Avery Solomon 2013