Shamatha Meditations (3x)
One of the many forms of meditation in Buddhism that is elemental is called ‘shamatha’, and was taught by the Buddha. It consists of various techniques with one purpose. Shamatha is meant to cultivate and refine your capacity for attention, to experience the deepest consciousness dimension (called ‘rigpa’ in Tibetan), pure awareness, primal consciousness, Buddha nature. To achieve that state of consciousness you need a good method, and that is shamatha.
In one word it is about stability. Stable attention means that you can stay focused, without crumbling the focus of your attention. Shamatha development bears great fruit: your attention becomes more stable and clearer. Negative emotions such as contempt and disgust decrease, and are replaced by compassion and equanimity.
These meditations were offered during the annual Thangka Painting Retreat in Italy.
1) Shamatha Meditation 1 ‘Mindfulness of breathing in three phases’ (based on the Theravada Buddhist tradition)
Type: Meditation with object Duration: 40 min.
Although we focus on breathing, this meditation is not a breathing exercise; we do not control breathing in any way, but simply allow it to flow inside and out. This is a Mindfulness meditation with regard to breathing, where we focus on the whole body, the abdomen, and the sensations that you feel and experience from the breathing, not only inside your body but also outside.
2) Shamatha Meditation 2 ‘Establishing the mind in its natural state’ (as taught in the Dzogchen Buddhist tradition)
Type: Meditation without object Duration: 43 min.
This meditation is also called ‘Observing what occurs in the mind.’ In this meditation we are directing the full force of our mindfulness to the space where mental events are happening, to the contents of experience that are not detectable with any of the five physical senses. This is the space in which discursive thoughts arise, mental chitchat, mental images, memories, fantasies, desires, all kinds of mental events. You let them pass by, observe them, but don’t follow them, you don’t hold on to them.
3) Shamatha Meditation 3 ‘‘Consciousness of Consciousness’ (as taught in the Dzogchen Buddhist tradition)
Type: Meditation on the essential nature (the nature of the mind) Duration: 40 min.
In this practice of shamatha without an object, the attention is not focused on something. It rests in its own nature, and is simply aware of its own presence. You could say that consciousness takes itself as the object. During this type of shamatha, we relax our body and we relax our mind in its natural state, just as if we were relaxing after having done two hours of sport exercise, or having done a very hard job. We tire ourselves out, and then we relax completely. For the experience of this practice, it is a matter of not taking any object. You simply let your consciousness rest, without any indication, in its own innate clarity and knowledge.
This meditation was taught during one of Carmen’s Thangka Art Courses
(suitable for total beginners without any drawing experience to advanced thangka students)
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Shamatha Meditation Diagram – artworks by students of Carmen Mensink