Friday, August 8, 2008

The first step: steadying the mind

In my last post I spoke of Buddhist psychology’s progressive steps for direct inquiry into the nature of mind. In order to create the conditions for insight, it is important to steady the mind through mental training. The principal beginning meditative practice for cultivating calm, steady mind states is mindfulness of breath meditation or anapanasati (Pali trans.) Bringing the attention to the actual physical experience of breath, either in the belly or at the nostrils, trains the mind to stay concentrated upon an object of awareness or “anchor”.

One of the translations of sati, (the Pali word for mindfulness) is remembering. True mental training happens during concentration practices when we remember to return the attention to the anchor. This process of remembering and returning happens over and over again during the practice when we realize the attention has strayed from the breath to thoughts, emotions, body sensations or other distracted mind states like boredom, sleepiness, racing mind, etc. The nature of an untrained mind is to wander; so we train the mind in a way that allows it to naturally attenuate to calm, collected, focused attention for longer periods of time.

Though generally considered a beginning meditation practice, anapanasati (anapana=breath, sati=mindfulness) is actually a complex set of 16 progressive meditation instructions for full realization of the ground of being.

I have recorded a Mindfulness of Breath Meditation for Beginners that is available on my web site for free download. Click on the “Free Mindfulness Meditations” link on this blog page to get to my site.


O "Monstro" das Tapadas said...
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Rachelle said...

Thank you for this. I find my mind is constantly chattering and I find it incredibly difficult to switch off. In the occasional times I have attained peace, I have felt wonderful benefits, but it all seems to fleeting and it happens infrequently.

I go everyday, same time, same place to quieten my mind and I focus on my breath but I feel that my mind is like a naughty puppy most of the time!! It needs definite discipline, but I'm unsure how to do this.

Is it practise, practise, practise? And then some more practise? I've been seeking to achieve clarity and inner peace for about 10 years, but I'm still not there!

Any thoughts? The link was a 404 not found :(

Lisa Dale Miller, MFT said...

Rachelle, it is practice, though it helps to be practicing mindfulness of breath meditation properly. This is why I recorded the Mindfulness of Breath meditation for beginners. Use the link to it and download it through iTunes or directly from my site.