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ESSENTIAL ADVICE ON MEDITATION excerpts from Teachings by Sogyal Rinpoche

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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When you read books about meditation, or often when meditation is 
is  presented by different groups, much of the emphasis falls  on 
the techniques. In the West, people tend to be very interested in 
the  "technology"  of  meditation.  However,  by  far  the   most 
important feature of meditation is not technique, but the way  of 
being,  the  spirit, which is callled the  "posture",  a  posture 
which  is  not so much physical, but more to do  with  spirit  or 

It  is  well  to recognize that when you start  on  a  meditation practice,  you  are  entering a totally  different  dimension  of 
reality.  Normally  in life we put a great deal  of  effort  into 
achieving  things,  and  there is a  lot  of  struggle  involved, 
whereas  meditation is just the opposite, it is a break from  how 
we normally operate.

Meditation  is  simply a question of being, of  melting,  like  a 
piece  of  butter  left in the sun. It has  nothing  to  do  with 
whether  or not you "know" anything about it, in fact, each  time 
you  practice  meditation  it  should be fresh,  as  if  it  were 
happening  for  the very first time. You just quietly  sit,  your 
body  still,  your speech silent, your mind at  ease,  and  allow 

thoughts to come and go, without letting them play havoc on you.

If you need something to do, then watch the breathing. This is  a 
very  simple process. When you are breathing out, know  that  you 
are  breathing  out.  When  you breath  in,  know  that  you  are 
breathing  in, without supplying any kind of extra commentary  or 
internalized mental gossip, but just identifying with the breath. 
That  very simple process of mindfulness processes your  thoughts 
and emotions, and then, like an old skin being shed, something is 
peeled off and freed.

Usually  people  tend  to  relax the  body  by  concentrating  on 
different  parts.  Real  relaxation comes  when  you  relax  from 
within,  for  then  everything else will ease  itself  out  quite 

When  you begin to practice, you center yourself, in  touch  with 
your  "soft spot", and just remain there. You need not  focus  on 
anything in particular to begin with. Just be spacious, and allow 
thoughts  and emotions to settle. If you do so, then later,  when 
you use a method such as watching the breath, your attention will 
more easily be on your breathing. There is no particular point on 
the  breath on which you need to focus, it is simply the  process 

of breathing. Twenty-five percent of your attention is on the

breath,  and  seventy-five percent is relaxed.  Try  to  actually 
identify  with the breathing, rather than just watching  it.  You 
may choose an object, like a flower, for example, to focus  upon. 
Sometimes you are taught to visualize a light on the forehead, or 
in  the heart. Sometimes a sound or a mantra can be used. But  at 
the  beginning  it is best to simply be spacious, like  the  sky. 
Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe.

When  you  sit, let things settle and allow all  your  discordant 
self  with  its ungenuineness and unnaturalness to  disolve,  out 
of  that  rises  your real being. You  experience  an  aspect  of 
yourself which is more genuine and more authentic-the "real" you. 
As  you  go deeper, you begin to discover and connect  with  your 
fundamental goodness.

The  whole point of meditation is to get used to the that  aspect 
which you have forgotten. In Tibetan "meditation" means  "getting 
used to". Getting used to what? to your true nature, your  Buddha nature.  This  is  why,  in the  highest teaching  of  Buddhism, 
Dzogchen, you are told to "rest in the nature of mind". You  just 
quietly  sit  and let all thoughts and concepts dissolve.  It  is 

like when the clouds dissolve or the mist evaporates, to reveal

the clear sky and the sun shining down. When everything dissolves 
like  this, you begin to experience your true nature, to  "live". 
Then you know it, and at that moment, you feel really good. It is 
unlike  any  other  feeling of well being  that  you  might  have 
experienced.  This is a real and genuine goodness, in  which  you 
feel  a  deep sense of peace, contentment  and  confidence  about 

It is good to meditate when you feel inspired. Early mornings can 
bring that inspiration, as the best moments of the mind are early 
in  the  day,  when  the mind is calmer  and  fresher  (the  time 
traditionaly recommended is before dawn). It is more  appropriate 
to  sit when you are inspired, for not only is it easier then  as 
you  are in a better frame of mind for meditation, but  you  will 

also be more encouraged by the very practice that you do. This in

turn will bring more confidence in the practice, and later on you 
will  be able to practice when you are not inspired. There is  no 
need  to meditate for a long time: just remain quietly until  you 
are  a little open and able to connect with your  heart essence. 
That is the main point. 

After that, some integration, or meditation in action. Once  your 
mindfulness  has been awakened by your meditation, your  mind  is 
calm  and your perception a little more coherent. Then,  whatever 
you  do,  you  are present, right there. As  in  the  famous  Zen 
master's  saying:  "When I eat, I eat; when I  sleep,  I  sleep". 
Whatever  you do, you are fully present in the act. Even  washing 
dishes,  if  it is done one-pointedly, can  be  very  energizing, 
freeing, cleansing. You are more peaceful, so you are more "you". 
You assume the "Universal You".

One  of  the fundamental points of the spiritual  journey  is  to 
persevere along the path. Though one's meditation may be good one 
day  and  and  not so good the next,  like  changes  in  scenery, 
essentially it is not the experiences, good or bad which count so 
much, but rather that when you persevere, the real practice  rubs 
off on you and comes through both good and bad. Good and bad  are 
simply apparations, just as there may be good or bad weather, yet 
the sky is always unchanging. 

If you persevere and have that sky like attitude of spaciousness, without being perturbed by

emotions and experiences, you will develop stability and the real 
profoundness  of meditation will take effect. You will find  that 
gradually  and almost unnoticed, your attitude begins to  change. 
You  do not hold on to things as solidly as before, or  grasp  at 
them  so strongly, and though crisis will still happen,  you  can 
handle them a bit better with more humor and ease. You will  even 
be  able to laugh at difficulties a little, since there  is  more 
space between you and them, and you are freer of yourself. Things 
become  less  solid,  slightly ridiculous, and  you  become  more