Week Two

Continual Placement

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

During the second stage of meditation, we call this continual placement.

Continual placement means just that. We continually place our attention over and over again on the focus of our meditation and by so doing; our periods of focus grow from a few seconds to several seconds and sometimes even minutes. This ability to stay aware of the moment and the focus of meditation is stage two.

We have probably all heard the traditional story of the monkey mind. It is a traditional way of describing how our mind interacts with our senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste, and in Buddhism, mind).

The monkey is said to be trapped in a house with five windows.

Each window is a sense. It quickly jumps from window to window looking for and at new distractions; my back hurts, I hear the cat, I smell the garbage, I have a funny taste in my mouth, look at the pretty picture on the wall.

Mind becomes the added sense in our meditation—what we try to watch instead of the physical senses. Mind is what relays these sensations. It is the foundation of our distraction. It is the (ness) that we attach to. The mind is like a skylight in our house—one we want the monkey to see and watch. The point of watching the mind is to see how it interacts with the senses. By so doing, we learn about our attachments and aversions.

There is a traditional saying that says, “Briefly and often,” meaning sit often for short spells of time.
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. ~ Amit Ray
It’s okay to lose focus, it’s okay to use the senses as a point of focus. Just simply make an attempt to be aware and in the end, breathe.

Don’t fret though.

The five senses can also be used initially, to direct the mind towards a point of meditative awareness. When we realize that we have lost focus on our breathing, we can bring it back to the breathing or we can look at what the distraction was.

Say our legs hurt from sitting in mediation. I have lost focus on my breathing and I am thinking about my legs hurting. It hurts in just such a place, in just such a way and I feel this specific way about my discomfort. Watch the mind’s interaction with this sense for a few moments. Don’t attach to the sense; just observe it and the attendant emotion. Unite this awareness with your breathing.

We can do this for any of the senses the mind wanders toward. For some of us, this may help in the process of continual placement.

Like natural introverts and extroverts, we all have natural inclinations. They do not have to be seen as right or wrong. Just be aware that they are there. Don’t look at your distraction as a negative, use it as a focus for meditation and rejoice!

If you have been unable to increase your periods of calm abiding over the last week, don’t worry. While this course is only 9 weeks, it is designed to educate you, not be a time line to gauge your progress against. It can take several weeks, months, or even longer for some of us. That’s all okay. It’s not a race. It is about intent to try and the willingness to act upon that intent.

I have been meditating and studying on and off for 20 years now and I still find myself making very small and measured baby steps. Some days my meditation is only a few short minutes, some days it is lengthy vigils through the night. It is not the length of time that matters. In fact, there is a traditional saying that says, “Briefly and often.” Meaning sit often for short spells of time.

Get used to directing the focus over and over again in every situation. Are you at a stop light? Great; take a measured and focused breath and just be there with it. Warming up tea or coffee? Allow the buzzer to signal a moment of focus. There is no right place for meditation. No matter where we are or where we go, there will be distractions. Focus on the awareness of the present not the idea of how meditation should be.

As you go into your meditation this week, remember that our expectations of meditation are often what become our stumbling blocks.

It’s okay to lose focus, it’s okay to use the senses as a point of focus. Just simply make an attempt to be aware and in the end, breathe.

For this week, our homework is to pay closer attention to how we feel about the process of meditation and why. What are we bringing to the table, so to speak? So while we continue our assignments from week one, we are now going to add a very specific addition…I feel this way when it’s time to meditate and this is why I feel that way.

For some, we may be experience doubt and negativity. This is normal. In fact, for many people in our fast paced age, sitting can bring up serious feelings of anxiety, fear, and even sadness. These feelings may make us think that meditation is not beneficial. What we are actually experiencing is how we feel—set free—because we aren’t clouding our mind with distractions.

The process of meditation will eventually allow us to fully engage these feelings, these doubts and fears. We are willing to be comfortable in a non-filled space (time, mental activity, even space empty space in our homes).

When we accept this process, we see the root of these feelings, we are comfortable addressing them without the desire for distraction, and with work, they begin to heal.

So be aware now…write it down, look at it often and dig into the notion of why you feel that way.

No matter where we are or where we go, there will be distractions. Focus on the awareness of the present not the idea of how meditation should be.


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