Week Five


When we first started meditating, we were kind of in that scratch and dent stage.

We loved or hated the process, but continued anyway. We dealt with the bumps and bruises inherent in any practice, and we were shocked, saddened, and maybe even elated by what we encountered. Now, we can call ourselves apprentices. We are breaking out of the scratch and dent faze of things and making items that can be sold in the front of the store.

This stage is known as taming.

We are not masters yet. We still experience discursive thoughts, distractions and doubts, but we can clearly see the benefit of what we have been doing. We are comfortable here now. Our hands have grown calloused and used to the tools of the trade. We are no longer afraid of the process, nor stuck by obsessive thoughts on the process.

The art of it is starting to unfold.

We sit and we are able to intentionally work with the mind now. Bruce Lee made famous the quote, “The sculptor does not add to the clay but continually removes from it until the truth is revealed.” It has become an interactive process now and we see that we can now apply our meditative process to more than just awareness of the breath.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You don’t give up.

~ Anne Lamott

We also come into full awareness that we could not have started this process without the long foundational practice of calm abiding; of that repeated refocusing on the breath.

We now see that, because of working and repeating the process of breath awareness, we are able to sit and focus on other issues as well.

We take into ourselves thoughts and feelings on compassion, hurt, fear, love and openness, and we roll them over and over until we become familiar with them. We take our fear back to its roots, our hurt back to its roots, and we see where our attachments came from, where our aversions came from.

During this taming process we begin to learn the second part of meditation.

We branch out from pure concentrated awareness to analytical meditation. We begin, as I mentioned above, to hold unto a concept now. To take them to their foundational roots and see where the experience of them in our lives has led us to this state, or this place.

We also come into full awareness that we could not have started this process without the long foundational practice of calm abiding; of that repeated refocusing on the breath.

It is important to remember however, that the foundation remains and needs to be reinforced with every sitting. We now begin to split our sessions.

The first 5 or so minutes are spent in concentrated awareness—strengthening our base and our foundation (a house built on sand vs a house built on rock). When we are settled we can begin to try the analytic process. Don’t force it or expect too much.

Like the beginnings of shamatha, this will be new.


For this week, I would like you to start the analytic process on what your greatest struggle was when you started meditating.

Was it feeling aches and pains, noise, roaming mind, agitation or even fear and doubt? Take the next few minutes of your meditation and look deeply into that distraction.

Where did it originate? Why was it so powerful for us? How did it begin to change and loosen its grip on us?

When you feel yourself struggling with analytic meditation, or if you feel anxious or distracted, go back to your base. Continue to strengthen your foundation. I would also suggest that you end each meditation by focusing on the breath as well. Exit your practice peacefully and with a sense of ease. When you are done, take a deep breath and sigh. As you sigh, close your eyes and smile and sit with the feeling of that smile for just a moment.

Keep a journal again, of the shift in our meditative process. How was engaging a feeling or concept vs. simply engaging the breath? What was beneficial about it? What was hard about it? As you go through the week with this split focus, keep detailed notes of how it changes and how the process helps you. If you feel it doesn’t, why not?

Keep the fact that our meditation process is to build awareness. When you begin and when you end, keep your awareness. You are apprentices now. Your awareness is central to breaking out on your own.

Smile and engage and don’t be afraid to sit with your mind.