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Lions Roar : September 2017
SHAMATHA MEANS “peace- ful abiding” or “tranquility.” Also called mindfulness or concentration meditation, sha- matha is an important intro- ductory practice that leads to the practice of vipashyana, or insight meditation. The purpose of shamatha meditation is to stabilize the mind by cultivating a steady awareness of the object of meditation. The traditional practice of shamatha uses dif- ferent kinds of supports or anchors for our practice. Even- tually, this leads to practicing without supports and medi- tating on emptiness itself in an open awareness. For this par- ticular practice, the instruc- tions will be for shamatha meditation using the breath as the focus of our practice. Shamatha mediation allows us to experience our mind as it is. When we prac- tice shamatha, we are able to see that our mind is full of thoughts, some conducive to our happiness and further realization, and others not. It is not extraordinary that our minds are full of thoughts, and it is important to understand that it is natural to have so much happening in the mind. Over time, practicing shamatha medi- tation calms our thoughts and emotions. We experience tranquility of mind and calmly abide with our thoughts as they LAMA ROD OWENS is a resident teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship in Cam- bridge, Massachusetts. are. Eventually, this leads to a decrease in unhelpful thoughts. When we experience stable awareness, we are then ready to practice vipashyana, in which we develop insight into what “mind” is by investigating the nature of thoughts themselves. In the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to practice calm abiding and insight in union, which opens the door to realizing the true nature of mind. Traditionally, shamatha practice is taught through instructions on the physi- cal body and then looking at the medita- tion instructions themselves. The Seven-Point Posture The seven-point posture of Vairochana is an ancient set of posture points that are said to align the physical body with our energetic body. The posture has been practiced for thousands of years by Hindu and Buddhist yogis. The seven points are: 1. Sit cross-legged. 2. Hands in lap or on knees. 3. Have a straight back. 4. Widen the shoulders to open the heart center. 5. Lower the chin. ILLUSTRATIONSBYCAROLEHÉNAFF HOW TO PRACTICE Shamatha Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or concentration—is the foundation of Buddhist practice. LAMA ROD OWENS teaches us a version from the Vajrayana tradition. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 27 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE