By Daniel Scharpenburg
Shamatha is a style of meditation that is simple.
The point of it is to free ourselves from delusion. We dwell in delusion all the time, but as long as we understand that and cultivate discipline, shamatha can help us transform ourselves.
It’s about being here now.
Shamatha meditation is based on bringing stability and awareness to our body, speech and mind. We want to have mindfulness of physical experience, mindfulness of emotions and mindfulness of discursive thoughts.
To free ourselves from delusion we practice—we sit and meditate. Through meditation we develop a state of awareness, both when we’re meditating and off the cushion in daily life.
In shamatha we are just dwelling in mindfulness—noticing the things that come up in our minds and letting them go. We are engaging in one pointed awareness. Mindfulness manifests in us in a sense that we are actually present in what we’re doing. We train our minds to allow thoughts to just pass through instead of attaching to them.
Our development of awareness is based on our mindfulness practice. We strive to be present and just being—just here.
Being here without preconceptions or discursive thoughts or daydreams is possible.
Meditation is about training our minds to experience reality directly. In this practice we are following the Buddha’s example just as he did. It’s important to remember that he was a regular person just like us, not a god or a spirit.
We want our approach to this practice to be as direct as possible.
Our sense of discipline in the practice isn’t really about how long we sit, but how involved we are in sitting. In shamatha practice we want our body, speech and mind to be 100% involved in what we’re doing.
In mindfulness we are noticing the breath and a sense of openness manifests if we just pay attention to our breathing. Shamatha is about making things more simple.
Following the breath is the most simple thing that we can possibly do.
SIMPLE SHAMATHA INSTRUCTIONS
Set a timer. You want to set a time for your sit, rather than just sit until you feel like getting up.
Sit and arrange yourself. Posture is important. Your head and shoulders need to be straight and uplifted. Keep your back straight and never slouch, because when we slouch we start to lose our awareness.
Sitting upright helps our back be free of strain and helps us avoid sleepiness. Sit with your legs either in the half lotus or just the cross-legged position. Relax your eyes. Don’t focus on anything.
Put your hands in either the cosmic mudra or the relaxing mind mudra. The cosmic mudra consists of placing on hand on top of the other, face up. Gently touch your thumbs together, making a circle. The relaxing mind mudra consists of simply resting your hands on your knees.
Feel the cushion beneath you and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Feel yourself breathing. Keep your mouth slightly open, so you’re breathing through both your nose and your mouth.
Feel the breath coming into and going out of your body.
As we pay attention to the in breath and the out breath, we can feel our awareness expand. Every time a stray thought or distraction comes into your mind, bring your attention back to your breathing. Simply bring your attention back to your sensation of breathing every time a thought comes into your mind.
Just be here.