“You will reach a point where the heart tells itself what to do…Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things, You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. ” Achaan Chah.
This is a classic meditation used throughout the world. The breath is used as an object of focus because it is with us all the time. Using this meditation helps each of us come back to ourself, and, paradoxically, it also helps each of us to connect with all beings on the planet who share this air.
Choose a quiet place, indoors or outdoors that is comfortable for you. Sit on a chair or cushion with your back upright and posture relaxed.
Take a breath or two so that you get used to the feel of being there: your feet on the ground, your bottom on the chair, the temperature of the air, the scent. Just place yourself there.
Pay attention to these sensations. See them as waves on a lake.
Now pay attention to the steady rise and fall of your breath – the rhythm of it, the sensations in your nose or your chest or your belly. Don’t confuse imagining your breathing or visualizing it with feeling it. Pick a spot in your body and just notice the sensation of your breath there.
Your mind will wander off in another direction, just like a dog on a leash that wants to run off somewhere else. That’s normal. When you notice it has strayed, bring it back gently to the breath. Some people acknowledge where their mind strayed by naming it. ‘Thinking about what to make for supper’ or ‘worrying about work’ or ‘hearing the plane fly overhead’ or less specifically, ‘thinking’, ‘planning’, ‘having an opinion’. This isn’t about stopping the mental chatter – that’s not going to happen. It’s about becoming aware of it and choosing to return to the breath anyhow.
Once you get the hang of this, you may get a sense of the deep calm that rests within you. The calm of a still forest pool. The surface thoughts, sensations and activities may be turbulent – sometimes little wavelets and sometimes whitecaps in a storm, but underneath it all is that sense of deep stillness. Some people even imagine a pebble dropping into the stillness of the pond and their awareness dropping with it into the stillness of their inner being.
This classic sitting meditation can be done on a regular basis or whenever you can get the time. Try to give yourself a few minutes every day rather than a long session once a week. Once you get a feel for it, you can use the breath to still yourself a few minutes before an important meeting, or while waiting in line at a shop.
It can take a few tries to find the best, most comfortable position that will support you while not lulling you to sleep. Try something a bit different each time until you see what you need. Some people kneel and rest their bottoms on small benches. Some sit on cushions that gently tilt towards the front so that their pelvis is open and the vertebrae stack up in a way that doesn’t tire the back. Some sit on small benches or chairs. Whatever works for you is best.
To keep it light, you may want to bring a joyful or cheerful idea into the meditation with you. For example, breathe the sweetness of life as you follow your breath. Steep yourself in sweetness or honey or appreciation.
Content © Janet Dane unless otherwise stated.