formal sitting practice
- Find a sitting position that allows your posture to be upright and yet relaxed.
- Set your intention for practice. You might sense this as a prayer that in some way dedicates your practice to your own spiritual freedom, and that of all beings.
- Relax by taking several long, full breaths, and letting go of tension with each exhale. You might also scan through your body, experiencing different parts of your body from the inside out, and relaxing and softening wherever possible. Take your time, relaxing the shoulders, softening the hands, loosening and relaxing the belly. Let your senses be fully awake, aware of physical sensations, feelings, sounds, scent and the space around you.
- Choose a home base, a primary subject of meditation. Examples are the inflow/outflow of the breath, sounds or the field of bodily sensations. Let your intention be to have this home base in the foreground of your attention while still including whatever other experiences arise in awareness.
- Remindfulness. Very soon you will probably discover your mind is distracted and off in thought. The purpose of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts. It is to be awake, and not lost in thought. The process of remindfulness is to notice that thinking is happening and remember or reconnect with presence. When you realize you’ve been off in thought, pause and take your time as you open out of the thought and relax back into the actual experience of being Here. You might listen to the sounds, re-relax your shoulders, hands and belly and relax your heart. Gently arrive in presence, letting your senses be wide open, your home base in the foreground of awareness. Notice the difference between any thought and the vividness of this Here-ness!
- Natural Presence. Thus far, the practice has involved directing attention in order to quiet the mind and arrive in presence. Once there is some mental quieting and a sense of being Here, explore letting go of any control (including keeping your home base in the foreground.) Rather, let everything be just as it is, simply recognizing and allowing the changing flow of experience without judgment, resistance or grasping.
This lucid, open presence is our deepest nature, and the essence of meditation is to realize and inhabit the truth of what we are. When we do, our lives are guided by our innate wisdom and compassion.