What You Will Learn in Each Lesson
Basic Sitting Meditation
“People sometimes assume that meditation means to reduce thoughts or work with thoughts—maybe by mentally observing the thoughts, by following them or some other object of attention. In such cases the mind may say, ‘Oh, I’m doing fine. I’m not distracted by anything, so I don’t care about the body.’ But there is more to it than that. The mind must be deeply connected with the feelings of the body. They should be resting together in meditation.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 3
Meditation isn’t just for the mind. To begin our meditative journey, we learn how to establish a comfortable meditation posture. We discover how to join physical and mental awareness as we sit. Finally, we practice bringing mind and body together in relaxation as a preparation for calm abiding meditation.
Calm Abiding Meditation
“Especially in the twenty-first century, because of our busy lives, we are in the habit of having minds that are busy, involved, and very active. But let’s ask ourselves, Is this the only way my mind can be? And further, Is this the true nature of my mind? The answer is no. We can prove this fact by practicing meditation, by taking some time to connect the mind to calmness.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 23
Now that we’ve practiced relaxing and connecting with our bodies, we learn shamatha, or calm abiding meditation—a practice that exists in many contemplative traditions as a way of cultivating relaxed focus. We use an object of attention to free ourselves from the disturbances of thoughts and to reach a state of calm.
Refined Basic Sitting Meditation
“With refined sitting meditation, greater clarity allows our relaxed focus to become more stable and precise. This can be illustrated by the shepherd with his flock, where the animals themselves (our normal thoughts) are in a calm state and unlikely to run off, but still the shepherd must be watchful to guard against wolves (distracting undercurrent thoughts). So here—in order to reduce subtle undercurrent thoughts—there is more relaxation and less worry than previously, and from the support of that relaxation comes stability. We become inspired to remain longer in that meditation state.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 38
As our focus becomes more refined, it also becomes more relaxed. In this lesson, we arrive at clarity. The object of our attention shifts from an external object to single-pointedness itself—the unity between our mind and the environment. As we open our mind further, happiness and inspiration arise naturally.
“The direct translation of the Tibetan word lhag-tong is useful for understanding insight meditation. Lhag means ‘something extra,’ and tong is ‘seeing’ or ‘clear’ or ‘view.’ Translated as ‘insight,’ ‘extra-seeing,’ and ‘clear-seeing,’ the term means ‘to see one’s inner nature, inner being, or absolute nature.’ It points to seeing beyond the surface. Here we get a 360-degree view, unblocked by any corners.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 50
As we go beyond the urge to manipulate our experience, using less and less effort in our meditation, we begin to see beneath the surface to our inner nature—the nature of all phenomena. As our insight develops, we can rest in the clarity and inspiration of our innate wisdom, without dullness or agitation.
Open Heart-Mind Meditation
“This meditation has the Mahayana view—the openness of a vast and spacious heart and mind, a state of great rest and of loving-kindness and compassion for all beings. Everything around us in our environment is simply as it is. We are part of it, and there is nothing good and nothing bad within this vast meditational view. This view lessens the partiality that could produce conduct that is harmful to self and others—something we must be mindful of and careful to avoid. We find more receptivity to and contentment with our environment and with beings—that is openness.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 82
In this lesson, we begin to view our internal and external worlds more widely, which creates a foundation for the experience of unbiased compassion. Where we usually grasp at the duality of self and other, we instead practice cultivating boundless equanimity. This leads to the wide-open experience of spacious mind.
Pure Mind Meditation
“What we need most is trust—trust in the mind’s ability to cultivate this really deep connection. The purity we are seeking is not in the nature of ‘pure’ versus ‘impure.’ If those opposites arise in our minds, we relax with them both rather than hoping for and trying to grab the ‘pure,’ and fearing and trying to push away the ‘impure.’ We relax and let that duality, that labeling, calm down. Then we discover a new experience—one of natural purity arising from the release of dualistic opposites. With pure mind meditation, we calm down, relax, and leave subject and object, good and bad, alone—the pressure’s off.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 93
The true nature of mind is vast and uncontrived, free of thoughts and worries. As we deepen in this sixth meditation, we practice opening further to the space between dualities. We transcend our habitual patterns and achieve a deeper state of resting wakefulness.
“At times people are afraid of entering fully into nonconceptual meditation. When we open up completely to let whatever is in our minds manifest freely, we may be wary that something scary or destructive could appear. We might fear that we could lose our personality. But if we allow everything to arise and pass through without judgment, labeling, or commentary, we have nothing to fear. Fear arises from dualistic fixation, and once that tension is released, the fear also dissolves. This experience is like walking down a crowded street with all of its noise and activity. We’re just watching, completely unengaged. It’s fine, whatever arises. Then at some point the mind will become satisfied and happy with this experience. In fact, on a subtle level, we are receiving energy and teachings on the wisdom heart-mind through nonconceptual meditation.”—The Relaxed Mind, page 109
In this final lesson, we are introduced to Dzogchen. We allow the mind to rest effortlessly: beyond fixation, beyond manipulation, in the completely natural state. This is transcendent knowledge: primordial purity.