ESSENTIAL ADVICE ON MEDITATION
excerpts from Teachings by Sogyal Rinpoche
When you read books about meditation, or often when meditation is
is presented by different groups, much of the emphasis falls on
the techniques. In the West, people tend to be very interested in
the "technology" of meditation. However, by far the most
important feature of meditation is not technique, but the way of
being, the spirit, which is callled the "posture", a posture
which is not so much physical, but more to do with spirit or
It is well to recognize that when you start on a meditation
practice, you are entering a totally different dimension of
reality. Normally in life we put a great deal of effort into
achieving things, and there is a lot of struggle involved,
whereas meditation is just the opposite, it is a break from how
we normally operate.
Meditation is simply a question of being, of melting, like a
piece of butter left in the sun. It has nothing to do with
whether or not you "know" anything about it, in fact, each time
you practice meditation it should be fresh, as if it were
happening for the very first time. You just quietly sit, your
body still, your speech silent, your mind at ease, and allow
thoughts to come and go, without letting them play havoc on you.
If you need something to do, then watch the breathing. This is a
very simple process. When you are breathing out, know that you
are breathing out. When you breath in, know that you are
breathing in, without supplying any kind of extra commentary or
internalized mental gossip, but just identifying with the breath.
That very simple process of mindfulness processes your thoughts
and emotions, and then, like an old skin being shed, something is
peeled off and freed.
Usually people tend to relax the body by concentrating on
different parts. Real relaxation comes when you relax from
within, for then everything else will ease itself out quite
When you begin to practice, you center yourself, in touch with
your "soft spot", and just remain there. You need not focus on
anything in particular to begin with. Just be spacious, and allow
thoughts and emotions to settle. If you do so, then later, when
you use a method such as watching the breath, your attention will
more easily be on your breathing. There is no particular point on
the breath on which you need to focus, it is simply the process
of breathing. Twenty-five percent of your attention is on the
breath, and seventy-five percent is relaxed. Try to actually
identify with the breathing, rather than just watching it. You
may choose an object, like a flower, for example, to focus upon.
Sometimes you are taught to visualize a light on the forehead, or
in the heart. Sometimes a sound or a mantra can be used. But at
the beginning it is best to simply be spacious, like the sky.
Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe.
When you sit, let things settle and allow all your discordant
self with its ungenuineness and unnaturalness to disolve, out
of that rises your real being. You experience an aspect of
yourself which is more genuine and more authentic-the "real" you.
As you go deeper, you begin to discover and connect with your
The whole point of meditation is to get used to the that aspect
which you have forgotten. In Tibetan "meditation" means "getting
used to". Getting used to what? to your true nature, your Buddha
nature. This is why, in the highest teaching of Buddhism,
Dzogchen, you are told to "rest in the nature of mind". You just
quietly sit and let all thoughts and concepts dissolve. It is
like when the clouds dissolve or the mist evaporates, to reveal
the clear sky and the sun shining down. When everything dissolves
like this, you begin to experience your true nature, to "live".
Then you know it, and at that moment, you feel really good. It is
unlike any other feeling of well being that you might have
experienced. This is a real and genuine goodness, in which you
feel a deep sense of peace, contentment and confidence about
It is good to meditate when you feel inspired. Early mornings can
bring that inspiration, as the best moments of the mind are early
in the day, when the mind is calmer and fresher (the time
traditionaly recommended is before dawn). It is more appropriate
to sit when you are inspired, for not only is it easier then as
you are in a better frame of mind for meditation, but you will
also be more encouraged by the very practice that you do. THis in
turn will bring more confidence in the practice, and later on you
will be able to practice when you are not inspired. There is no
need to meditate for a long time: just remain quietly until you
are a little open and able to connect with your heart essence.
That is the main point.
After that, some integration, or meditation in action. Once your
mindfulness has been awakened by your meditation, your mind is
calm and your perception a little more coherent. Then, whatever
you do, you are present, right there. As in the famous Zen
master's saying: "When I eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep".
Whatever you do, you are fully present in the act. Even washing
dishes, if it is done one-pointedly, can be very energizing,
freeing, cleansing. You are more peaceful, so you are more "you".
You assume the "Universal You".
One of the fundamental points of the spiritual journey is to
persevere along the path. Though one's meditation may be good one
day and and not so good the next, like changes in scenery,
essentially it is not the experiences, good or bad which count so
much, but rather that when you persevere, the real practice rubs
off on you and comes through both good and bad. Good and bad are
simply apparations, just as there may be good or bad weather, yet
the sky is always unchanging. If you persevere and have that sky
like attitude of spaciousness, without being perturbed by
emotions and experiences, you will develop stability and the real
profoundness of meditation will take effect. You will find that
gradually and almost unnoticed, your attitude begins to change.
You do not hold on to things as solidly as before, or grasp at
them so strongly, and though crisis will still happen, you can
handle them a bit better with more humor and ease. You will even
be able to laugh at difficulties a little, since there is more
space between you and them, and you are freer of yourself. Things
become less solid, slightly ridiculous, and you become more