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Lions Roar : March 2014
“but a more accurate way of describing it is strengthening the mind. That’s because we are strengthening qualities we already have, rather than training in something that we have to bring in from the outside.” Throughout life, we have trained in dis- tracting ourselves, so going unconscious feels like our natural MO. Our minds, however, have two essential qualities we can always draw on to help us wake up: being present and knowing what’s happening, moment by moment. To strengthen these natural quali- ties of mind, we can use meditation. This weekend, Buddhist teacher Eliza- beth Mattis-Namgyel, author of The Power of an Open Question, is leading us in our meditation sessions. Having spent more than six years of her life in retreat, she’s had ample practice. Shamatha medi- tation—calm abiding—is the technique she’s teaching, and she breaks it down into three parts: body, breath, and mind. “When you’re meditating, the body should have some energy in it—it’s not slumped over,” Elizabeth says. “But also the body should be natural. Often we think we have to ‘assume the position,’ and sometimes the position we assume is quite religious, kind of stiff. “Meditation is really just learning to enjoy your experience, so you don’t have to tense up. Don’t make meditation a project like everything else. The word ‘natural’ is very important. Yesterday, I was walking around Omega, and it’s so beautiful here. It feels like the last red leaf is about to drop, but it’s still there. We appreciate nature because it’s so uncon- trived and unselfconscious. Bring that to mind and know that the body itself has its own intelligence.” Next we have the breath, Elizabeth con- tinues. “We breathe in. There’s this natu- ral pause, and then the outbreath. There’s PHOTOBYMATMCDERMOTT “When you start getting lost in the activity of the mind or see yourself bracing against experience in some way, be joyful because you’ve noticed!” —E LIZABETH MATTIS-NAMGYEL Autumn at Omega Institute. SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 33