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Based on the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Sherry Marshall, a Sydney counsellor and relationships therapist who specializes in Process oriented Psychology has been teaching Buddhist mediation for many years in Sydney CBD and on the Northern Beaches near Manly.
People wish to meditate to be calmer and not so stressed, etc. But there are also much deeper reasons.
- Meditation increases our mindfulness and awareness. It shows us how to just be. We are always distracted and not at home inside ourselves. Meditation helps us develop mindfulness and awareness. To be present, here, now.
- Its very simple, so simple but we can’t do it because we want to make everything complicated!! Breathe, be quiet and simply be.
- Calm abiding meditation brings us to the NOW. Past has gone, future hasn’t happened yet. We only have now. Most of us miss our lives as we don’t have now, only past thoughts and future plans!
- It helps us develop a kind heart. Atisha, a famous teacher always used to say, ‘how is your heart today?’ rather than hello.
- Meditation, as Sogyal Rinpoche says, ‘brings the mind home, allows us to settle into our own true nature, our pure Buddha nature, which is obscured or clouded by upsetting emotions and disturbances, confusion and allows all our negativity to dissolve into natural purity.’ Meditation removes confusion and brings focus and clarity.
- Its like flying in a plane and being in the bad weather with all the turbulence. We feel angry and afraid. When we meditate, our mind, like the plane flies above the clouds into the clear blue sky.
- Meditation brings healing. All our questions are answered from within ourselves. All the conflicting parts of ourselves become more harmonious and we feel more at peace.
- We begin to really simplify our lives more and stop rushing around so much and being so busy. It helps us see what is really important, what makes us happy and we begin to let go of the unnecessary extras.
- We turn our mind inwards rather than out where we get lost in our projections.
- “Bring the mind home, release and relax.” If we allow our mind to become calm and peaceful and develop understanding and wisdom, we can find the answer to physical, emotional and mental problems.
Why is the posture important? How we sit, strongly influences our mind. I was taught the posture called ‘Comfort at Ease’. The main point is we need to have a straight back, whether that is sitting on a chair, sitting cross legged or lying down. Lying down is usually not recommended as we tend to fall asleep! But if you are sick, it is ok.
Have a Straight back, hands placed downwards on knees, mouth slightly open, eyes at 45 degrees. Why keep the eyes open? Because we don’t move around the world with eyes shut. People think that meditation is closing off the senses, at least closing the eyes. But we tend to get sleepy or ‘collapse’ into ourselves. That is not how we want to be in the world. “Alert, alert, relaxed, relaxed.”
Calm Abiding Meditation
Calm abiding meditation is also called Shamatha or Shine meditation, meaning peacefully remaining.
Bringing the mind home and through the mindfulness, developing one pointed concentration. Freeing the mind from its grasping to return to pure mind, which is mind free from the manipulation of thinking and fabrication.
This meditation is called one pointed mind as we learn how to focus the mind without distraction of thoughts. It helps us become very concentrated and can help us in day to day life to be more focused and mindful, at work or home.
The result of calm abiding is improved concentration and a calm clear mind. If we decide to put our mind on something and leave it there, we can!
The mind becomes stable, peaceful and relaxed. We are at ease without difficulties and the mind does not become agitated.
The method inspires us to see our true nature, then we don’t need to use the method any more, we just sit in the clear spaciousness of the true Nature of mind.
Concentrating on the breath when we meditate
Lightly, mindfully watch your breath. When you breathe out, know you are breathing out, breathe in, know you are breathing in. No running commentary, no gossip! Pure mindfulness. 25% attention on the breath, other 75% mind is spacious and relaxed. Then slowly you become one with your breath, the breath, the breather and the breathing become one.
Grasping, negativity, suffering dissolves and goodness, kindness, love and compassion begins to arise.
Our mind goes off into different thoughts and ‘stories’. Bring the mind back to the breath. Don’t ‘beat yourself up’ or think, now what was I thinking about? Or why did I go off on that? They are all just thoughts and will distract you. Come back to the breath, mind goes off, back to the breath, mind makes a shopping list, back to the breath, mind thinks, what do I have to do at work tomorrow, back to the breath, memories come from the past, back to the breath.
Then the duality dissolves and your mind is relaxed and at ease. Then you don’t need the method of watching the breath anymore but can just sit in stillness and peace.
5 stages we can go through in meditation
- Experience of instability, many thoughts arising, good and bad, like a waterfall rushing off a cliff. We are not actually having more thoughts than normal but as our mind begins to quieten down, we are merely noticing our thoughts more.
- Experience of attainment, like a river in a gully, still many waves of thoughts but not so rough.
- Experience of familarisation. Meditation becomes easier, like a slow flowing river and the power of the thoughts are decreased.
- Experience of stability which is a continuous state of stability without disturbing thoughts. A still and placid ocean only disturbed occasionally by a ripple.
- Experience of complete stability where we are not disturbed at all and experience bliss, clarity and absence of thoughts.
Integration into our daily lives is important. We need to use what we learn in our meditation and contemplation. However, as Sogyal Rinpoche say’s, we cannot eat a meal if we have not gone out and bought the ingredients and cooked it! We cannot integrate anything if we don’t meditate!
- Don’t be scared to start meditating on your own at home. You can always stop or take short breaks, like in the class. Start with a few minutes every day, take a 30 second break and do a few more minutes
- Make sure you are comfortable but with a straight back.
- Keep the momentum of sitting meditation, every day, if you can
- Find a time daily to sit and allow yourself to enjoy it!
- Make a plan for yourself, which can include meditation, contemplation, and reading. Or go on the internet and start reading about Buddhism.
- Don’t undermine yourself, by thinking you are too busy or you can’t do it! Just start and keep going!
- Don’t let doubts undermine your confidence. Remember that every time you meditate it will be a different experience. Don’t get caught in ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
- Notice how your habitual patterns, moods and fears stop you from making changes that work better for you
- Refresh your inspiration by walking meditation, sitting out in nature, listening to music you love, reading inspiring Buddhist quotations etc.
- Focus on what is meaningful to you. If you find contemplation on motivation and intention, compassion, impermanence, transforming emotions, etc, focus on one of them for a week or 2 and then change the subject.
- Don’t worry about what you haven’t connected with, just keep going with what has made sense
- Enjoy and practice having a little more acceptance, tolerance and compassion. Even just realising that everyone has a different opinion because we all have different perceptions is a big step.
- Awareness of what we are thinking and feeling and awareness of our habitual patterns is the key.