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excerpt from Chapter 5,
Bringing the Mind Home

The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really are, our unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death

In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to that deep inner nature that we have so long ago lost sight of amid the busyness and distraction of our minds. Isn't it extraordinary that our minds cannot stay still for longer than a few moments without grasping after distraction; they are so restless and preoccupied that sometimes I think that living in a city in the modern world, we are already like the tormented beings in the intermediate state after death, where the consciousness is said to be agonizingly restless. According to some authorities, up to 13 percent of the people in the United States suffer from some kind of mental disorder. What does that say about the way that we live?

We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don't know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home.

Meditation, then, is bringing the mind home.

Gom - Meditation
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

Rest in natural great peace.

Above all, be at ease, be as natural and spacious as possible. Slip quietly out of the noose of your habitual anxious self, release all grasping, and relax into your true nature. Think of your ordinary, emotional, thought-ridden self as a block of ice or a slab of butter left out in the sun. If you are feeling hard and cold, let this aggression melt away in the sunlight of your meditation. Let peace work on you and enable you to gather your scattered mind into the mindfulness of Calm Abiding, and awaken in you the awareness and insight of Clear Seeing. And you will find all your negativity disarmed, your aggression dissolved, and your confusion evaporating slowly, like mist into the vast and stainless sky of your absolute nature.

Quietly sitting, body still, speech silent, mind at peace, let thoughts and emotions, whatever rises, come and go, without clinging to anything.

What does this state feel like? Dudjom Rinpoche used to say, imagine a man who comes home after a long, hard day's work in the fields, and sinks into his favorite chair in front of the fire. He has been working all day and he knows that he has achieved what he wanted to achieve; there is nothing more to worry about, nothing left unaccomplished, and he can let go completely of all his cares and concerns, content, simply, to be.
The masters say: "If you create an auspicious condition in your body and environment, then meditation and realization will automatically arise." Talk about posture is not esoteric pendantry; the whole point of assuming a correct posture is to create a more inspiring environment for meditation, for the awakening of Rigpa. There is a connection between the posture of the body and the attitude of the mind. Mind and body are interrelated, and meditation arises naturally once your posture and attitude are inspired.
In the Dzogchen teachings it is said that your View and your posture should be like a mountain. Your View is the summation of your whole understanding and insight into the nature of mind, which you bring to your meditation. So your View translates into and inspires your posture, expressing the core of your being in the way that you sit.

Sit, then, as if you were a mountain, with all the unshakable, steadfast majesty of a mountain. A mountain is completely natural and at ease with its self, however strong the winds that batter it, however thick the dark clouds that swirl around its peak. Sitting like a mountain, let your mind rise and fly and soar.

The most essential point of this posture is to keep the back straight, like "an arrow" or "a pile of golden coins." ... Don't force anything. The lower part of the spine has a natural curve; it should be relaxed but upright. Your head should be balanced comfortably on your neck. It is your shoulders and the upper part of your torso that carry the strength and grace of the posture, and they should be held in strong poise, but without any tension.

Sit with your legs crossed. You do not have to sit in the full-lotus posture, which is emphasized more in advanced yoga practice. ... You may also choose to sit on a chair, with your legs relaxed, but be sure always to keep your back straight.

In my tradition of meditation, you eyes should be kept open: this is a very important point. If you are sensitive to disturbances from the outside, when you begin to practice you may find it helpful to close your eyes for a while and quietly turn within.

Once you feel established in calm, gradually open your eyes, and you will find your gaze has grown more peaceful and tranquil. Now look downwards, along the line of your nose, at an angle of about 45 degrees in front of you. One practical tip in general is that whenever your mind is wild, it is best to lower your gaze, and whenever it is dull and sleepy, to bring the gaze up.
There are several reasons for keeping the eyes open. With the eyes open, you are less likely to fall asleep. Then, meditation is not a means of running away from the world, or of escaping from it into a trance-like experience of an altered state of consciousness. On the contrary, it is a direct way to help us truly understand ourselves, and relate to life and the world.
When you meditate keep your mouth slightly open, as if about to say a deep, relaxing "Aaaah." By keeping the mouth slightly open and breathing mainly through the mouth, it is said that the "karmic winds" that create discursive thoughts are normally less likely to arise, and create obstacles in your mind and meditation.

Rest your hands comfortably covering your knees. This is called the "mind in comfort and ease" posture.
1. "Watching" the breath
The first method is very ancient and found in all schools of Buddhism. It is to rest your attention, lightly and mindfully, on the breath.

Breath is life, the basic and most fundamental expression of our life. In Judaism ruah, the breath, means the spirit of God that infuses the creation; in Christianity also there is a profound link between the Holy Spirit, without which nothing could have life, and the breath. In the teaching of Buddha, the breath, or prana in Sanskrit, is said to be "the vehicle of the mind," because it is the prana that makes our mind move. So when you calm the mind by working skillfully with the breath, you are simultaneously and automatically taming and training the mind. Haven't we all experienced how relaxing it can be when life becomes stressful, to be alone for a few minutes and just breathe, in and out, deeply and quietly? Even such a simple exercise can help us a great deal.

So when you meditate, breathe naturally, just as you always do. Focus your awareness lightly on the outbreath. When you breath out, just flow out with the outbreath. Each time you breathe out, you are letting go and releasing all your grasping. Imagine your breath dissolving into the all-pervading expanse of truth. Each time you breathe out, and before you breathe in again, you will find that there will be a natural gap as the grasping dissolves.

Rest in that gap, in that open space. And when, naturally, you breathe in, don't focus especially on the inbreath but go on resting your mind in the gap that has opened up.
What, then, should we "do" with the mind in meditation? Nothing at all. Just leave it, simply, as it is. One master described meditation as "mind, suspended in space, nowhere."

There is a famous saying: "If the mind is not contrived, it is spontaneously blissful, just as water, when not agitated, is by nature transparent and clear." I often compare the mind in meditation to a jar of muddy water. The more we leave the water without interfering or stirring it, the more the particles of dirt will sink to the bottom, letting the natural clarity of the water shine through. The very nature of the mind is such that if you only leave it in its unaltered and natural state, it will find its true nature, which is bliss and clarity. So take care not to impose anything on the mind, or to tax it. When you meditate there should be no effort to control, and no attempt to be peaceful. Don't be overly solemn or feel that you are taking part in some special ritual; let go even of the idea that you are meditating. Let your body remain as it is, and your breath as you find it. Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe.
When people begin to meditate, they often say that their thoughts are running riot, and have become wilder than ever before. But I reassure them and say that this is a good sign. Far from meaning that your thoughts have become wilder, it shows that you have become quieter, and you are finally aware of just how noisy your thoughts have always been. Don't be disheartened or give up. Whatever arises, just keep being present, keep returning to the breath, even in the midst of all the confusion.

In the ancient meditation instructions, it is said that at the beginning thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall. Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge, then a great river slowly winding its way down to the sea, and finally the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled only by the occasional ripple or wave.
Just as the ocean has waves, or the sun has rays, so the mind's own radiance is it thoughts and emotions. The ocean has waves, yet the ocean is not particularly disturbed by them. The waves are the very nature of the ocean. Waves will rise, but where do they go? Back into the ocean. And where do the waves come from? The ocean. In the same manner, thoughts and emotions are the radiance and expression of the very nature of the mind. They rise from the mind, but where do they dissolve? Back into the mind. Whatever rises, do not see it as a particular problem. If you do not impulsively react, if you are only patient, it will once again settle into its essential nature.


We invite you to read excerpts from the following chapters of
Chapter 3: Reflection and Change
Chapter 11: Heart Advice on Helping the Dying
Chapter 12: Compassion: The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel

We are grateful to Harper San Francisco for permission
to use excerpts from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

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