lesson
3

Peaceful Abiding

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In the previous lesson you explored where you are right now – the current state of your mind. In the lesson following this, you will learn the “technique” of shamatha meditation. Before you start on a path, however, it’s important to know about your ultimate destination, in this case peaceful abiding.

Before you begin this lesson, reflect on the state of your mind. How often do you abide peacefully? Do you know what peaceful abiding is? Do you recognize the unpeaceful state of your mind? If so what do you do when you recognize it?

Unpeaceful abiding

 

Even though the bewildered mind is untrained, it is already meditating, whether we know it or not. Whatever we're doing, we're always placing our mind on one object or another. For example, when we get up in the morning and we're anxious about something, that anxiety becomes our object of meditation.

So while your mind is always abiding, you’ve learned in the previous lessons and will see for yourself in meditation that it's not necessarily abiding in its natural peaceful state. Seeing your mind abiding in irritation, anger, jealousy, frustration, and fear is how you begin to untangle your bewilderment.

"Peaceful abiding" describes the mind as it naturally is —calm and very clear. In shamatha meditation you're not trying to create a peaceful state—you're letting your mind be as it is to begin with and learning to see yourself as you are. This doesn't mean that we're peacefully ignoring things. It means that the mind is able to be in itself without constantly leaving.

In peaceful abiding we begin to see how the mind churns up intense emotions that keep us trapped in suffering. Meditation shows how discursive thoughts lead to emotions — irritation, anxiety, passion, aggression, jealousy, pride, greed—which lead to suffering.

Do you have a sense of what it is you meditate on now? Where are you putting your mind, your attention? If you're now abiding in peace, what are you abiding in?

As you begin meditating, where you place your mind will become quite apparent to you. But it's useful to reflect even now on what awareness you have of where your mind is abiding.

 


Being discursive might feel good, just as food we're allergic
to tastes good, but after we eat it, we suffer.

Abiding peacefully

But we have to learn how to abide peacefully. If we can remember what the word shamatha means, we can always use it as a reference point. We can say, "What is this meditation that I'm doing? It is calm, peaceful abiding." We're accustomed to living a life based on running after our wild mind, a mind that is continually giving birth to thoughts and emotions. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with thoughts and emotions — in fact, the point of making our mind an ally is that we can begin to direct them for benefit.

If we lived in the wilderness, we'd observe nature's patterns around us: the activity of the birds and animals, the behavior of the weather, and changes in the plant life. After a while, we'd be intimate with the environment. We might be able to predict when winter is coming and whether it would be long or short. In peaceful abiding — simply by being conscious of the present moment — we ground ourselves in our nature We begin to observe and understand our thought patterns. We watch how our mind weaves from one idea to another, how emotions rise and, unobserved/unaware, grow. We observe how we out thoughts and emotions grow to the point that we act on them, thereby creating our environment.

After we've spent some time watching thoughts and emotions come and go, we begin to see them clearly. They no longer have the power to destabilize us, because we see how ephemeral they are. Then we can actually begin to change our patterns, and in doing so, change our whole environment.