📰 Meditating on the Mind Itself
Full Title: Meditating on the Mind Itself
In Mahamudra, beginners to shamatha meditation should use an external object, such as a piece of wood, a pebble, or any physical object in your visual field, and concentrate on that. Whenever the mind becomes distracted, remember to go back to that physical object. After practicing that for a period, you can use your own breath as the object of meditation by applying mindfulness to the incoming and outgoing breath. To help with this process, you can even count your breaths. Counting helps the mind focus on the breath when that is the object of your meditation.
When you can do that with some success, move on to using the mind itself as the object of meditation. Try to be mindful of thoughts and emotions as they arise, without labeling them, without judging them, but simply by observing them. As this process of observation becomes stabilized, mindfulness will transform into awareness. If distraction arises, become aware of that distraction; if dullness or stupor arise, become aware of that; if mental agitation arises, become aware of that.
When you contemplate the mind itself and let the mind be in its natural state, you will experience a sense of clarity as well as mental stability. In the Mahamudra teachings, this is described as the aspect of stability and the aspect of clarity.
According to the Mahamudra teachings, if you can pursue this practice and make the mind more stable and clear, then even when thoughts and emotions arise, the stability and clarity of your mind will not be disturbed. If you can maintain mental clarity equally whether your mind is calm or agitated, that is the best form of meditation. The ultimate goal of meditation is not to eradicate thoughts and emotions but to maintain that sense of awareness when mind is in movement as well as in a restful state.
Awareness is present whether the mind is in a state of rest or a state of movement; it does not make any difference. The nature of the mind is realized when the mind does not make any distinction in meditation between mental agitation and rest. By not making this distinction, the mind is left in its natural state, and thoughts and emotions become selfliberated.
The Mahamudra teachings also say we should not think of thoughts and emotions (particularly negative ones) as having to be eradicated or removed. If we can realize the nature of these thoughts and emotions, we will understand the nature of mind itself.
Just as a lotus blossoms in mud and farmers use smelly manure to cultivate their fields, we attain wisdom by realizing the nature of the defilements and obscurations, not by getting rid of them.
The Mahamudra teachings use the phrase “ordinary mind,” which means that to realize the nature of the mind, to realize buddhanature, does not involve getting rid of anything that exists within the mind. It comes from realizing the nature of this very mind we already have: the mind that thinks, wills, anticipates, and feels. The problem is not that we have thoughts and emotions; the problem is that we do not understand the nature of these thoughts and emotions.
The simple technique of letting the mind be is conducted by either tightening or loosening body and mind. However, even these two methods should not be done with extreme deliberation or effort, which is why another expression in Mahamudra is very helpful: “Letting the mind be in its natural state effortlessly.”