Week 3 Meditation : Cultivating Clarity of Mind: Shamatha Practice

Though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.



Days full of wanting, let them go by without worrying that they do. Stay where you are inside such a pure, hollow note.


The basic technique that we use in meditation practice is anchoring in our breath. Our breath is constant and of-the-moment, so using the breath as our anchor trains us to come back to the moment, back to the present situation.

Using the breath as the object of our meditation is especially good for calming a busy mind. The consistent, rhythmic flow of the breath soothes the mind and allows for steadiness and relaxation.

This is ordinary breathing; nothing is exaggerated.

As you focus on the breath, you'll notice that various thoughts and emotions arise. When this happens, acknowledge that you are thinking (you can just say quietly to yourself "thinking) and return your focus to the breath. As you do this, no matter how many times you do this, you'll notice that you are slowly settling. As the mind slows and as you settle down, you're starting to actually land in yourself.

When your focus is wavering, check your posture. Imagine a string pulling your spine up straight, then relax your body around that. Slouching and slumping affects the breath, the mind, and the rest of the body. Sometimes the littlest shift into a more upright state can help us sharpen our commitment and return to our anchor.

The practice of using a simple anchor, like the breath, and coming back to it again and again, calmly and patiently, is called shamatha. One way of translating this term is "calm abiding". So the word shamatha captures both how we practice and what we experience when we practice. We come back to the breath again and again, learning to calmly abide there, and in time, we experience a state of calm abiding.

Try this simple shamatha practice for 10 minutes a day.

For further support:

Tara Brach's simple, free meditation guide:
Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield
Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana
Start Where You are by Pema Chodron

Week 3 Meditation : Cultivating Clarity of Mind

Week 3: Cultivating Clarity and Wisdom through Meditation

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.


Over the last month we have explored the many facets of yogic teachings.

We've especially focused on why we practice-- to discover our true nature as present, open, wakefulness in the body, heart and mind, and on what we practice. Last week our emphasis was on yoga asana, and this week we focused on meditation.

During Tuesday's classes, we talked about how to get started with meditation practice.


It can be helpful to set up a regular space in your home for your meditation practice.

It doesn't have to be big or special, just a consistent space that you can keep clear. Having a designated space serves as a reminder, calling out to us when we might otherwise just walk right by.

It can be helpful to have a meditation cushion to support good posture. Remember, good posture is upright but also relaxed. I recommend using a timer so you don't have to constantly interrupt your practice to check the time (try your cell phone-- most have timers, just be sure to turn the ringer off so that it doesn't disturb you while you sit).

You might find it inspiring to create a small alter with a candle or meditation bell or bowl or a memento from nature, or even a picture of your teacher or some other figure who inspires you to practice.

None of these things are necessary, however! All you really need to meditate is a few minutes and willingness to sit down and be with yourself.


Even if you can only carve 10 minutes a day for meditation, do it! 10 minutes counts!

Scheduling your sessions can be the key to success in maintaining your practice. It clarifies the intention to practice by giving practice a set time in your day. Practice is supported by the force of habit when it is part of your daily routine.

Early morning is often found to be a convenient time, and it can be great way to start your day, though any regular time is fine.

If you miss a day, or even a week, simply reconnect to the daily schedule. If you haven't started practicing yet or if you have gone a long time without practicing and want to start up again, take a look at the details of your day and find a place in the flow of the day's events. If your inspiration is waning, go sit with a meditation teacher and group, or read over a book that speaks to you about your original motivation to meditate.


Here's the best part: you don't need any tools or special techniques to meditate. Meditation is simply the act of sitting down, getting quiet, and paying attention.

In our next blog post, I'll describe shamatha practice -- which we we'll review in class on Tuesday-- and mindfulness practice -- which we'll review in class on Thursday.