The Basics of Meditation

A simple guide for meditation, extracted from the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

“With a straight spine and a half smile, you breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale as long as possible; exhale as long as possible. Be mindful of the whole duration. Simply let go of everything else.

Maintain quiet, even, flowing.

Picture a pebble being thrown into a clear river. It lands directly on the fine sand of the riverbed – the point of perfect rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.

Whenever you find the mind wander away, simply return to your breathing again.

When a thought arises, don’t go chase it like a dog every time a stick is thrown; be like a lion – a lion turns to face the one who flings the stick.

The goal of meditation is to bring awareness to every moment of life, not just the time of sitting. That said, setting aside time each day to sit is an indispensable part of the process. The more time you devote ‘on the cushion‘, the more mindful you become when you are ‘off the cushion‘.

The more familiar we are with examining our mind, the more easily we recognize that whatever we experience – fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, attachment, or desire – is simply a fabrication of the mind.

To begin with, don’t try to make it long in one sitting; instead, do several short sections throughout the day.

Let go of any goal and simply sit for the sake of sitting. You just watch yourself breathing in, breathing out, and nothing else.

It doesn’t matter whether your practice is good or not. The most important thing is just do it.”

“To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem. To meditate means to observe. Your smile proves it. It proves that you are being gentle with yourself, that the sun of awareness is shining in you, that you have control of your situation. You are yourself, and you have acquired some peace.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

“Meditation is like a single log of wood. Concentration and calm are one end of the log; investigation and insight are the other end. When you lift up the whole log, both sides come up at once together. Which is calm and which is insight? Just this mind.”

~ Ajahn Chah ~

“One of the problems meditators experience is that there is a guilty feeling that they ought to be doing something rather than just experiencing what goes on. But meditation is not a project; it is a way of being. Fundamentally, sitting here and breathing is a very valid thing to do.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche ~

“A renunciation mind has nothing to do with sacrifice. When we talk about renunciation, somehow we get all scared because we think that we have to give up some goodies, something valuable, something important. But there is nothing that is important, there is nothing that is solidly existing. All that you are to give up is false identity.”

~ Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse ~

“We all boast that we are practitioners, but we never really give up on our attachment to the things of this life. We haven’t relinquished even the smallest of our desires – for friends and relations, for flavorful food and fashionable clothing, for pleasant conversation and pleasurable entertainment, and so on and so forth. As a result, our minds and the practice go different ways, any positive activities we undertake are not really effective, and we are still stuck in cyclic existence.”

~ Dudjom Rinpoche ~

“The way to rest the mind should be neither too intense nor too relaxed. Let the mind rest with clarity and without distraction, like a lamp on a windless night. Let the mind wander to various objects with awareness, like a bird set free from a ship at sea. Regard all sensory impressions as part of meditation, like reflections of the moon on water.”

~ Saraha ~