at Your Home Base
The image most
often associated with meditation is that of a sitting Buddha fixed
in a crossed-legged posture. While such a representation is undoubtedly
inspirational and aesthetically pleasing, it unfortunately suggests
to the uninitiated that meditation is merely a static, "statue-like"
pursuit practiced only in temples.
is to have any relevance to everyday life it has to be done at home.
This does not just mean your residence but wherever your attention
happens to reside. To meditate at home requires a 'hands-on', dynamic
practice that is not restricted to any particular time, place or
posture. When applied in this way, it naturally becomes integrated
into the ordinary activities of life and becomes the basis for a
meditative lifestyle in everyday life.
Yet it has to
be acknowledged that integrating meditation into daily life is not
easy. Therefore you need to purposefully set yourself up to do it;
good intention is not enough. There has to be commitment. So consider
your priorities, what is more important, hours sitting in front
of the TV screen (or computer monitor :-) or a half to an hour or
so of sitting meditation. The regular daily home sit is the anchor
for the practice. Even if it is only used as a form of mental hygiene,
as in unstressing, it will greatly contribute towards harmonising
family and work relationships.
meditating at home is about paying attention. The actual meaning
of 'attention' indicates its practice: 'to attend upon', 'to be
present with'. So by being attentive 'presence of mind' is developed.
While there are degrees of attention (down to lack of attention),
it can be said that there are two types: natural attention, which
is 'automated attention' and the intentionally 'deployed' attention
that is developed in 'meditative attention'.
is either passive, or in the sense of being applied, active. The
passive mode is 'bare attention', that is just registering what
is happening, in a receptive state of mind, without reaction. While
the active mode of attention is applied when any kind of movement
or action is done, including active reflective thought on things
So what do you
pay attention to - your own body and mind. There are four areas
to establish attention on:
- either tuning into its elemental qualities and/or
sensations or actively monitoring body movements and actions;
- knowing the feeling tone as either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
(not to be confused with emotion);
sadness, calm, elation, etc.;
the things of the mind e.g. thinking, concepts, ideas. Whatever
is the predominant experience in any of these 'four spheres of
attention' is used as a frames of reference to help guide the
practice of paying attention to whatever is happening in your
body and mind from moment to moment.
It is important
to get your bearings. So it is a matter of literally coming to your
senses, by being attentive at one of the Six Sense-Doors:
these are the five senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and
touching plus the sixth sense or mind-door which is the consciousness
or knowing. By being present with bare attention at any of these
six sense-doors you observe what happens between the senses and
their objects during a sense impression.
One thing to
notice when watching at a sense-door during a sense impression is
the feelings that arise. If the feeling is unpleasant a negative
reaction occurs; if it's pleasant grasping arises. Thus the mind
is mostly just reacting: liking, disliking. The result is that you
are being caught in the conditioned cycle of suffering at the linkage
of feelings and grasping. But there is no need to be. By intercepting
the primary feeling at a sense-door, without the following emotion,
the feeling will go no further, therefore no attachments, no liking
or disliking, end of story, end of suffering.
to 'home in' is really the key to this practice. Get your bearings
at a sense-door and keep in mind the 'four areas of attention'.
Success in doing so also depends very much on the way you are relating
to things: witnessing the experience rather than just reacting to
it; having an attitude of acceptance of all thoughts, feelings and
mind states into awareness without discrimination or selection.
The kind of 'spaciousness in the mind' allows you to be more receptive
and intimate with what is observed.
of Daily Activities
to deepen, continuity of attention, which gives momentum to the
practice, needs to be maintained for at least a few hours in the
day. Continuity arises through careful and precise attention to
movements, actions, feelings and mind-states, whatever is prominent,
for as long as possible in whatever situation you are in during
the daily routine.
be dismissed as unimportant: domestic chores, eating, cleaning your
teeth. Any and every movement and activity is repeatedly noted in
order to establish the habit so that it becomes your second nature
to note during the daily routine. Of course, this is not easy to
establish and so requires patience, perseverance and a sense of
humour, especially when you feel frustrated by constant forgetfulness.
up to do a daily mindfulness exercise using 'triggers' as reminders.
Such a trigger can be every time there is contact with water to
remind you to be present with whatever you are doing while you are
doing it. So what are the situations when you come into contact
with water: washing your hands, the dishes, hosing the garden, washing
the dog, etc. If you succeed only once in paying full attention
it can be the start of establishing the habit of being mindful at
It is very helpful
as well to reinforce your efforts by reviewing or taking stock of
you daily notings at the end of the day. You can record your efforts
in a meditation diary, so long as you do not make judgments on the
quality of the practice or be discouraged by blank pages.
It is important
to maintain the daily meditation sits at home as a way of sustaining
and stabilising your practice. With a busy life it is easy to convince
yourself that you really haven't the time any more to maintain the
regular sitting or when you are feeling tired, just want to drop
it. Naturally, when you get stressed or overtired there is resistance
to facing the stress by meditating. But it is usually only an initial
resistance you have to face before you go through it. Also, do not
evaluate your practice, thinking if the meditation isn't of sufficient
good quality you are wasting your time. It is all grist for the
mill, you must persist as it is vital to maintain the habit of practice
to get the long term benefits.
It is worth
quoting from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama for the more compassionate
aspect of the practice.
feel and also tell other Buddhist that the question of Nirvana will
come later. There is not much hurry. But if in day-to-day life you
lead a good life, honestly with love, with compassion, with less
selfishness then automatically it will lead to Nirvana. Opposite
to this, if we talk about Nirvana, talk about philosophy but do
not much bother about day-to-day practice, then you may reach a
strange Nirvana but will not reach the correct Nirvana because your
daily practice is nothing. We must implement the teaching in daily
There is a saying
that the beginning and the end of a journey are essentially the
same. This is especially true of meditation. For there is nowhere
you need to go to discover your true nature other than where you
are now -
at your home-base.