Week Three

Repeated Placement

 Stage three of the meditation process is called repeated placement.

I know what you’re thinking; ‘isn’t that what we have been doing all along?” The long and short of that question is, yes and no. Each stage of the meditation process is subtle, so while phrases may bare a striking resemblance and repeating nature (which they do) they also touch on the variety of the experience.

In stage two, we talked about continued placement: the repeated effort to stay focused for brief periods of time on whatever the meditative focus is. Hopefully you are gaining a sense of the minds ability to do so, but if you’re not, that’s okay.

In the stage of repeated placement, the effort becomes less and less forced. We are growing in our periods of calm abiding and catching our minds when they wander. We are repeatedly bringing the mind back to focus without struggle and hopefully with less and less judgment of the process.

As the process of stable awareness grows, the notion of separation starts to fade. We start to glimpse the notion of what we refer to as emptiness. Emptiness for many people sounds scary. How can I be empty? How can my experience be empty? This isn’t what emptiness means. I find that it is much easier to understand when we refer to it as interdependence.

Things are empty of independent self because they are formations of several other things. When we sit to eat, we are eating vegetables that are part of the earth, part of the rain from clouds, part of the effort from farming, gathering, cooking, and serving. This is the nature of emptiness. The food did not just appear on our plates without any outside cause or influence…it is interdependent.

Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh often says, say hello to the cloud in your tea.

He is touching on the nature of emptiness/interdependence when he says this. The water in our tea or coffee is part of the cycle of evaporation and rain. It was a cloud at one point. When we are mindful of this process we are mindful of the nature of emptiness.

Our meditation should help us bring this reality to light. We are able to observe the mind as it interacts with and creates our experience. This observation should begin to lead us to the nature of our inter-being with all other things. The greater our awareness of each moment, the more and more our meditation becomes our general interaction in life with right view.

As we continually reapply our focus, even if we have to do it 100 or 1000 times over, try to let go of expectations for a desired outcome. Allow the process of abiding and focus to be its own course and its own reward (it is the vehicle and the path). So often we go into this notion of spiritual life or spiritual practice and we think it’s a magic pill. We tell ourselves that if we meditate every day that all of our problems will be fixed and we will be all better.

We have to remember, again, as I said in week one and week two, that meditation is what we bring to it. So, our expectations can be our stumbling stones or our buried negative emotions may be what surfaces. When we learn to simply sit and observe without chasing after each thought or hammering ourselves with a judgment, we begin to notice the natural patterns of the mind.


Repeated concentration allows us to slow down these patterns and sit simply with what we have and where we are. Breathe with intention, look with intention, observe with intention but not with expectation and judgment. Our intention is to just be aware. To be settled into the process of simply beingI have received dozens of contacts and questions over the course of the years of teaching, and more than any other question, I hear, “Is all this is, just breathing?”

It is asked with a sense of sadness, as if the wish for a sacred mantra, or deeper idea that never surfaced is a let down. Yet, when we cannot even focus on something as simple as the life giving process of breathing, how can anything else cause change?

When the Buddha spoke of meditation in the Pali Sutras, he said (paraphrasing), “when I breathe, I am aware that I am breathing, when I sit, I am aware that I am sitting, when I stand, I am aware that I am standing…” This is vital to our understanding of the process of awareness. It is not a magical endeavor. It is a state of complete connection to whatever it is we are doing in the moment. A connection so profound that even the simple act of sipping tea has a universal interaction.

Your breath is life. Don’t chase an idea that it needs to be passed up or is something simple to look over. It is the foundation of all your practice. It is the grounding interaction between mind and earth. Nothing so solidly brings us into the present as the simple act of breathing.

As you begin to understand the process of continual focus, I want to you bring your meditation practice off of the cushion and into your daily lives.

Apply what you are learning on focusing and being aware of the breath, into each interaction, regardless of how mundane it seems. When you wake up, being with your body as you sit up in bed, as your feet hit the floor, as you stand, as you dress, and on and on.

Your meditative awareness is an open interaction with each event. It is being where you are, fully. While you eat, are you elsewhere? Unaware of each bite, each taste and texture, the process of picking up and ingesting each bite? Carry this into your work, your past times, your relationships, and watch how the surface noise begins to fade and your clarity begins to surface.

Take your journal with you. Write down how you feel when you are fully engaged. When you are aware without chasing thoughts and notions of things that no longer, or do not yet, exist.