“I can’t make my mind a blank…” Is a common complaint and ‘monkey mind’ (the mischievous wandering mind) seems to be the biggest problem for anyone ‘sitting’ without proper direction. Trying to make your mind ‘blank’ is a thought in itself – and therefore self defeating.
The Japanese word ‘Mushin’ or ‘no mind’ means no thinking mind, the only way you can create this spontaneous mental state is to gradually reduce the activity of the thinking mind until it ‘flatlines’ and allows the aware, non thinking, ‘wisdom mind’ to come to the foreground. The best route to achieving this is as follows:
You can start with a nice quiet and peaceful environment, good music, incense etc, but eventually you need to be able to meditate anywhere.
It’s probably best to start sitting, but you need to be able to meditate (as the Buddha said), standing, sitting or lying down. Ensure that you sit in a chair with your hips as high or higher than your knees and sit erect, as the classics say ‘as if being pulled upward by a rope at the crown of your head’ with the chin tucked in, tongue to the top palette, chest softened and sunk inwards with the back open and the kidney area relaxed. Gently pull the lower abdomen (just above the groin) in and slightly upwards.
Breathe from your stomach letting it go outwards as you breathe in to draw the diaphragm down and fill the lungs with air, getting more oxygen into the bloodstream and therefore the brain, helping to make your mind more alert. Allow the stomach to gently deflate as you breathe out, like air escaping from a car tyre. The air can be controlled by chanting such as ‘Om’, ‘Omani Padme Om’ or ‘Buddho’ (this doesn’t have to be done out loud).
You need an alert and focused mind to meditate. To train the mind to be able to meditate on a subject, you first need to ensure that it won’t wander or fall asleep. Start by following the breath, follow it from the tip of the nose down to the belly and back up out through the nose. Timed with the breath, you can also follow the energy cycle through the ‘lesser heavenly cycle’, as you breathe in, follow the energy down the from the chest to the lower abdomen, as you breathe out follow it from the abdomen through the lower body, up into the kidney area, as you breathe in again, follow it up the back, over the head to the roof of the mouth, as you breathe out, follow it from the roof of the mouth, into the tongue and down into the chest.
Every time your mind wanders (as it invariably will at the beginning) dispassionately bring it back to the subject. If you get annoyed with yourself you will fail and give up. It’s important that you don’t let your emotions beat you. Controlling your mind is like training a puppy or small child, just keep dispassionately correcting it until it learns the discipline to follow your will.
As you progress, the wandering will get less and less, the awareness and focus will increase, eventually the mind and breath will become one and ‘absorption’ will spontaneously occur. You will have attained mushin or ‘no (thinking) mind’…
Then you are ready to meditate on life, death and the universe!