At this point we can go through the actual form of the practice. First, it is important how we relate with the room and the cushion where we will practice. One should relate with where one is sitting as the center of the world, the center of the universe. It is where we are proclaiming our sanity, and when we sit down the cushion should be like a throne.
When we sit, we sit with some kind of pride and dignity. Our legs are crossed, shoulders relaxed. We have a sense of what is above, a sense that something is pulling us up the same time we have a sense of ground. The arms should rest comfortably on the thighs. Those who cannot sit down on a cushion can sit in a chair. The main point is to be somewhat comfortable.
The chin is tucked slightly in, the gaze is softly focusing downward about four to six feet in front, and the mouth should be open a little. The basic feeling is one of comfort, dignity and confidence. If you feel you need to move, you should just move, just change your posture a little bit. So that is how we relate with the body.
And then the next part–actually the simple part–is relating with the mind. The basic technique is that we begin to notice our breath, we have a sense of our breath. The breath is what we’re using as the basis of our Mindfulness technique; it brings us back to the moment, back to the present situation. The breath is something that is constant–otherwise it’s too late.
We put the emphasis on the outbreath. We don’t accentuate or alter the breath at all, just notice it. So we notice our breath going out, and when we breathe in there is just a momentary gap, a space. There are all kinds of meditation techniques and this is actually a more advanced one. We’re learning how to focus on our breath, while at the same time giving some kind of space to the technique.
Then we realize that, even though what we’re doing is quite simple, we have a tremendous number of ideas, thoughts and concepts–about life and about the practice itself. And the way we deal with all these thoughts is simply by labelling them. We just note to ourselves that we’re thinking, and return to following the breath.
So if we wonder what we’re going to do for the rest of our life, we simply label it thinking. If we wonder what we’re going to have for lunch, simply label it thinking. Anything that comes up, we gently acknowledge it and let it go.
There are no exceptions to this technique; there are no good thoughts and no bad thoughts. If you’re thinking how wonderful meditation is, then that is still thinking. How great the Buddha was, that’s still thinking. If you feel like killing the person next to you, just label it thinking. No matter what extreme you go to, it’s just thinking, and come back to the breath.
In the face of all these thoughts it is difficult to be in the moment and not be swayed. Our life has created a barrage of different storms, elements and emotions that are trying to unseat us, destabilize us. All sorts of things come up, but they are labelled thoughts, and we are not drawn away. That is known as holding our seat, just dealing with ourselves.
The idea of holding our seat continues when we leave the meditation room and go about our lives. We maintain our dignity and humor and the same lightness of touch we use in dealing with our thoughts. Holding our seat doesn’t mean we are stiff and trying to become like rocks; the whole idea is learning how to be flexible. The way that we deal with ourselves and our thoughts is the same way that we deal with the world.
When we begin to meditate, the first thing we realize is how wild things are–how wild our mind is, how wild our life is. But once we begin to have the quality of being tamed, when we can sit with ourselves, we realize there’s a vast wealth of possibility that lies in front of us. Meditation is looking at our own back yard, you could say, looking at what we really have and discovering the richness that already exists. Discovering that richness is a moment to moment process, and as we continue to practice our Awareness becomes sharper and sharper.
This Mindfulness actually envelops our whole life. It is the best way to appreciate our world, to appreciate the sacredness of everything. We add Mindfulness and all of a sudden the whole situation becomes alive. This practice soaks into everything that we do; there’s nothing left out. Mindfulness pervades sound and space. It is a complete experience.