Mind Training Enhancement.

Even though we cannot think of two things at once, we can do and think of different activities at the same time – in fact, we can do three things at once, using body, speech and mind.

In morning meditation sessions, I do pujas (prayers). I chant text in Tibetan (speech), and read the English translation and visualise (mind), while my hand counts the beads (body). My mind is only visualising the description in the text, while knowing it all to be a rainbow-like vision in emptiness.

Even then, it is still possible to wander off into a day dream, and everything goes onto auto-pilot. The result would be a pointless practice, so one has to know how to concentrate.

(Incidentally – and this is strangest thing – inspiration to write comes in the middle of this practice every day, and I have to tell it to go away and come back when the prayers are finished! The first thing I do at the end of meditation in the mornings is turn on the computer and type as fast as possible to get it all down…I’m doing this now! 

This is why Shamata practice is so important – concentration trains the mind. Of course, auto-pilot has its uses, when the body and mind goes through their routine, as in driving a car – but this can become mindless and unaware, and the result could be an accident. This lack of concentration can make spiritual practices a waste of time.

The next stage is Shamata without support – effortless concentration.

We become aware of the gap between breaths. This is where we rest. We are aware of the body breathing, but there is a deeper sense of stillness. Being aware in Shamata is a duality – me and stillness, me and breath, me and awareness. It is important to recognise this, as it is the precursor to non-duality. First we have to recognise what it is that is being let go of…and that is the observer, the ‘I am’.

With proper instruction, the observer – the ‘I’ – transforms into merely observing…mere awareness…pure awareness. In Shamata, there is a time element present: “I am aware of being aware” and this takes time – even if that is only milli-moments. In pure awareness, there is no time: in pure being, emptiness and cognition are instantaneous and inseparable, like waves and water.

The point I’d like to make here is that the Buddhist methods are complete. They can take anyone at any stage and any capacity to enlightenment. It has to work for total beginners so at times it may sound too structured, but there are times when the mind needs convincing. This why we do analytical meditation and study. As such we have to have a system that works from the beginning to the end: to jump in with statements such as there being no path is incomprehensible to a beginner. There are two aspects to enlightenment: one is to recognise our true nature of pure awareness, and the other is to exhaust all karma. When the memory bank of reactions – which, in Sanskrit, is called the Alaya Vijnana – is exhausted and collapses, our basic nature – the all ground, known as the Alaya – is revealed.

We may have a partial knowledge from other sources, which may help or hinder our progress. It’s best to know one system inside out!

Now we come to mind training in daily life.

First we have to realise that most of the thoughts in our mind are not ours! We have been bombarded for so long with ideas that we assume they are ours. We learn responses. Have you noticed when someone is surprised, they invariably say, “Oh my God!” and put their hand up to their face? It’s learned – copied. We all acquire gestures, mannerisms and speech patterns. My French daughter says “Ah-choom!” when sneezing, and “Ieeee!” when it hurts: everyone knows it’s, “Ah-choo!” and “Ouch!” 😉

Mind training in daily life is not re-acting: not re-enacting our acquired, copied, programmed responses. In any situation, note the breath, find the stillness. This creates space in the mind. A pause in the programme. Then take a fresh look. Through compassion, the mind will then scan itself for a response from our own relevant experiences (although sometimes we may not have anough data, and so silence is golden).

Compassion is so important in any situation as it counteracts pride and a domineering attitude, which will pervert our own minds.

Training in daily life comes from a compassionate attitude, towards ourselves and others. Maybe our capacity is limited, and so we remain silent, and just listen. Listening to others is of great benefit to them, and stops us smothering a situation.

In the mind, there are three levels of consciousness: perception, judgement and the storehouse of memories (the Alaya Vijnana). To recap, through the senses (the five sense consciousnesses) we perceive objects in the mind. This information goes immediately to the memory-storehouse for recognition, and then to judgement, to refer to our habitual likes or dislikes. This is our usual programming, and keeps us as sentient beings…sleeping buddhas.

This very same process can serve as a positive expression of essence, when used in conjunction with compassion. The mind consciously scans our experiences for relevant knowledge that could be of benefit to them. This is how we can empathise with others.

All too often, spiritual people only repeat teachings from an absolute point of view, missing how someone on a relative level is feeling. It’s a sort of spiritual arrogance, and lacks compassion: there is a lack of love – zero empathy!

Daily mind training is conduct. Conduct is merely resting in the continuity of compassionate effortless meditation. In actuality this is non-meditation, as we are not doing anything, but merely recognising. We simply allow karma to unfold and wear itself out. Gradually, mindfulness becomes present in everything we do, and this serves as a reminder to be aware. This reminds us of either or both Shamatas, and we rest in the present moment.

We just need a short hop into pure awareness…dropping mindfulness and Shamata, as they are no longer needed, and it’s therefore pointless to hang on…we have arrived…and there we are!

The step between Shamata and Dzogchen may be very short. However, it is easy to become caught or trapped in mindfulness. This results in exaggerated effort, and is a little unnatural and contrived. Being too aware or too mindful, the mind becomes conceptual, and too rigid and solid. Therefore, we rest in barely being aware, dissolving into emptiness…and out again when necessary.










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