Some primary skills of meditation, notes
By Vajradaka. Spring 2011
The underlying principle of conditioned arising which is central to Buddhist teaching gives rise to a range of derived and implied principles which give the basic context for approaching meditation. The main implications are that growth and development are possible. The implication of that is you yourself are the working ground. For development to arise to you need to be conscious and aware, so awareness is the primary component of development.
Some Primary Skills; ( These often include qualities and faculties)
- Setting up awareness before you start the meditation practice.
- Getting into posture awarely.
- Finding a sense of poise in your posture , Cushions to low you bow, to high and you arch.
- Working with the relationship between being settled and uplift.
- The main object of meditation (like the breathe) is like an anchor to stop your mind drifting.
- Periodically tracking and reading the signs of your posture when things are changing for better or worse. Catching signals your body is constantly giving you. There is a definite skill to noticing the physical signs of when you are drifting off and when you are becoming more absorbed and still in meditation. Here the skill of noticing is founded on periodically checking the body for signs of what is going on, but which is just outside your awareness. Part of the art of checking the body is doing it in such a way that the checking itself is part of the experience of being present. It is a momentary broadening of experience from the breath to also take in the body. We are letting an understanding occur to us directly from the body. How do you notice what is happening, particularly especially when your mind wanders?
- Being engaged, This is the quality of feeling intimate and close to the ‘object’, the experience can be that you are the object and the object is you. Awareness is not about being distant as a cool observer
- Adaptable to change, (not being fixed or rigid) A pliant frame of mind as your experience changes from moment to moment. i.e. Continuity and staying with the developing moment of experience.
- Having a sense of connectedness, with a whole sense of your self , being expansive.
- Appropriate focus, having just the right level of effort and attention (not a narrow over-forced attention).
- Staying with a quality which has the characteristics of development and expansivesness.
- Acting promptly. It is a skill to catch the mind before it takes off and gets a momentum of it’s own.
- Knowing how to calm down from stimulated mental activity or up from dull or distanced attention into a calm but vibrant awareness (experience) of the object.
- Subtle thinking; Thought is is an important faculty which can be used in a positive way in meditation. The main quality of thought in meditation is that it is subtle. This means that helpful aspects of thought can not interfere with the ongoing process of being aware of an object or process of meditation. It has a quality of being translucent rather than opaque. The thought does not take you away or block you off from experience. The initial training in subtle thought in meditation is in the form of counting the breath, so that you can keep a continuity of presence while counting. You can also use subtle thought to ask questions and point yourself in a particular direction, (give yourself commands).
- Using metaphoric questions to arrive into a whole sense of how you are and what is going on. e.g If I’m water what kind of water am I like now.
- Being systematic. ( remembering what’s important and paying attention to it over time). Developing and exercising skills over time.
- Going step by step and paying attention to detail.
- Problem solving. ( Asking questions to find out what is going on and what is needed)
- Testing conclusions. (Is this really true or right, does it fit the facts?)
- Being experimental and trying things out in the context of the meditation. Learning from your experience.