Try an eight-minute guided meditation from Lama Tsomo that’s suitable for beginners and long-time practitioners alike. In this Shamata practice, you’ll use a visual as a method of support to help calm and train the mind.
In this short session, you’ll focus your gaze softly on an object of support. Find a photograph or object that brings you a sense of awareness and peace. For Buddhists, you may want to use an image of the Buddha or a Buddha statue. For Christians, you could use an image of Jesus or Mary. If you’re not religious, consider a picture from nature like a mountain or river. The object itself is not necessarily important — what’s important are the feelings evoked when you look at it. Images that evoke a sense of calm, peace, and ease are ideal. Avoid images that will stir up difficult or stressful emotions.
Here is the image that we often use during retreats. The symbol represents method and wisdom. Because we are practicing focusing our minds, the goal is to narrow the focus to the very top of the image as we cultivate our ability to focus. We can begin with the image as a whole, then work to narrow the focus to the very top of the image.
We also regularly use this image of the Buddha as an object of support at retreats. With this image, the goal is to focus on the forehead between the eyes of the Buddha.
Tips for Shamata Practice
The Three Methods for Bringing an Unrestful Mind to Rest
The first three of these methods help us learn to focus our minds upon an object. Normally, our attention is jumping around like a puppy dog, and we are very easily distracted. We increase our power of mindfulness when we notice our distraction and bring our minds back to the object. Then we can settle in with our object for more time without wandering off.
1. Placing the Mind: We begin by “placing” or focusing our minds on an object. In Buddhism, an image of the Buddha is most used. In that case, we focus our mind (which Buddhists see as being in the heart) to our eyes and our eyes to the spot on the Buddha’s forehead between the eyebrows.
2. Continual Placement: Here, we try to maintain our focus on the object for longer and longer periods of time without distraction.
3. Placing Again: As we are trying to maintain our focus on the object, we will get distracted. Here, we mindfully bring our minds back to the object again and again whenever they wander off. We can congratulate ourselves for noticing. After all, that is mindfulness in action! In fact, especially in the earlier stages, the more you’ve noticed the wandering and brought it back to fresh Shamata, the better! Really!