Introducing Samadhi Mind
Updated: May 20, 2019
Imagine gliding through life with your mind always balanced, harmonious and under your control. Imagine waking up in the morning completely in the moment, but also knowing how to go about completing the day’s tasks, with no thought or emotion wasted on how it would all turn out.
Imagine being even tempered, open, and appropriately responsive in the midst of breakdown, crisis, and sudden change. When others around you are falling apart and losing control, imagine remaining grounded and calm and focused on the welfare of those who need it most and dealing with the practicalities of the situation rather than your emotional response to it.
Imagine not being the victim of your own mind, but its master, directing it to do your bidding rather than reacting to its sudden whims, compulsions and habits.
I’ve named this blog and website Samādhi Mind because samādhi is a state of consciousness in which the mind is unified in undistracted concentration and imbued with the qualities of relaxation, stability and vividness or clarity.
The more samādhi you have, the saner you are.
Samādhi plays a central role in Eastern spiritual traditions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. The Buddha taught that both samādhi and insight into the nature of reality were pre-requisites for achieving enlightenment. Samādhi provides a kind of foundation or base from which to explore and discover the nature of reality. Samādhi gives a person exquisite powers of concentration needed for sustained contemplative inquiry.
We all need more samādhi. Most of us have rarely had, or even never had, a taste of samādhi. And when we have had it, it’s been fleeting.
Perhaps in nature, walking in an ancient forest or along an empty beach you’ve had an experience of abiding calm, a deep tranquility that infused your entire being. Back in the city the feeling is gone, replaced tension, agitation, worry. You think it was the forest that gave you one kind of feeling and the city that gave you another, but this isn’t the case. It was your own mind in both instances.
Yes, each environment has a certain energy and we pick up on it, but a mind deeply trained in samādhi is equally balanced in all environments.
For most of us tapping into the mind’s capacity for bliss and tranquility in the midst of a noisy downtown filled with rushing commuters and pollution seems out of reach. It’s not. It just takes time and effort to get there.
The type of meditation used to achieve states of samādhi is called shamatha, or calm abiding, meditation.
The most common form of shamatha is simple breath meditation. I will give the basic instructions for three different types of breath meditation in future posts. Often people are instructed to simply “focus on the breath” but if you’ve ever tried to follow this simple instruction you’ve probably run into certain problems.
Where should I focus on the breath? At a particular point such as at the nostrils or the abdomen, or should I somehow focus on the whole breath? Or the sensations associated with the breath throughout the body? What if those sensations shift location?
Should I control my breath? Should I take deep breaths? Should I exercise no control over my breath?
For how long? What do I do when my mind wanders? Am I doing it right if I’m focusing on the breath and thoughts keep coming up?
Am I even trying to empty my mind of thoughts?
How do I know if I’m starting to do it right? Are there typical experiences that commonly arise in shamatha meditation even in the early phases?
How do I know if I am progressing? How often and how long should I meditate in order to progress?
There are clear and straight forward answers to all of these questions and more. I will draw on the Buddhist tradition to discuss shamatha and share from the experiences I have had in my own nine year shamatha practice.
Meditation is one avenue towards achieving greater samādhi, and for most of us probably a necessary one. Yet it isn’t sufficient. This modern world of ours with its endless distractions and sources of stress takes a toll. We need to establish the conditions in which meditation, contemplation, and insight can take root and have long-lasting effects.
Most importantly, we need to be focused on:
1. Ethics. Peace and a unification of the mind will remain out of reach if we live a life of deceit and causing hurt. Lying, cheating, expressions of anger and willfully causing pain are no basis upon which to build a calm and integrated mind. Gratitude, compassion, loving kindness, and empathetic joy are.
2. Healing. Pretty much everyone is damaged psychologically. Even happy families have their secrets and dark corners. Unknowingly we pass psychological pain and dysfunction down through the generations. One of the great benefits of our current historical period is that we have access to a wide variety of wonderful healing modalities.
3. Health. The body can be an ally or an enemy in the quest for a balanced mind and a balanced life. Looking around, most of us need a lot of help to make it an ally.
4. Environment. Do you live in a home whose simplicity and beauty creates an energy that is itself healing? If not, there’s work to do.
5. Relationships. Researchers have shown conclusively that the quality of our relationships are the most important aspect of the quality of our lives. Period. If our most important relationships aren’t loving, harmonious and resilient this is an area of life that needs urgent attention.
6. Meaning. We all have a life purpose. We have a calling. Perhaps more than one. It might not be what is practical or what society most values. Yet failing to follow a calling leads to inner conflict and unhappiness. Not knowing what it is leads to lethargy and emptiness. On the other hand, knowing you are leading the life you were meant to live makes every day a joyful adventure.
We are all on a path, and we take our journey with more or less clarity and awareness, and more or less happiness and contentment.
Every step we take can be a step towards greater joy, meaning, sanity and wisdom bringing its own satisfaction and justifying the effort.