Sacred geometry

First Morning Instructions and Guided Meditation

As we learn to develop concentration in meditation, samatha (calm, tranquility) is also developed, and together these qualities become a powerful means for deep insight and a source of profound well-being. This progressive series of talks, guided meditations and instructions explores in some detail the art of concentration, primarily through different ways of working with the breath and the body to open to deeper and deeper levels of calmness, presence and joy.
Date9th August 2008
Retreat/SeriesThe Art of Concentration (Samatha Med...


Okay. So this morning what I'd like to do is do a guided meditation together, and then, actually, at the end of the session this morning, kind of recap some of the main points I want you to take through the day.

[0:15, guided meditation begins]

So, really finding, settling into a posture that's comfortable. Again, the important thing about the posture is this kind of balance, inclusiveness of uprightness, so the posture is reflecting a wakefulness and alertness. That quality is balanced with a sense of openness in the body, of softness, if possible, particularly in the chest area. The body reflecting that balance, which is also the ideal balance in the mind. So the body is upright, open, soft, relaxed.

Taking a moment to feel into how the face feels right now. Just noticing any obvious areas of tension, perhaps around the eyes, the mouth, the jaw. Just feeling in, seeing if it's possible to relax them right now. Just letting go, as much as you can -- not a problem if it doesn't all go.

[2:10] Feeling into the throat and the neck, and again just relaxing, relaxing. The shoulders, allowing them to move towards the floor, to drop down. The upper back, just feeling in, sensing in, relaxing. The chest, the chest area. The abdomen, the belly, and in particular the lower belly, allowing it to hang down towards the floor.

Then opening the awareness to the sense of the body, right here, right now. So just checking in with the sensations of contact, of sitting, the buttocks, the feet, the legs making contact with the cushion, the chair, the floor. Just receiving those sensations in awareness. Connecting with those simple sensations. Then opening the awareness, filling the body with awareness, permeating the body with awareness, like air fills a balloon. Just feeling into the sense of the body, the texture of the body, the texture of that area that we call the body. Just a global sense of it. Tuning in. A sensitivity to the whole body.

[5:25] Within that, just lightly becoming aware of the breathing. Keeping the awareness large. When you're ready, beginning to take some long, slow in-breaths, long, slow out-breaths. Comfortably long. So you're not forcing the breath; you're allowing it to really open and expand. If you have a blocked nose or a cold, fine to breathe through the mouth. Not necessarily moving a lot of air, but just lengthening, slowing down the breathing, filling the body with the energy of the breath.

Then tuning in, seeing if you can notice, if you can feel into the sense of the whole body expanding, the whole body expanding with the in-breath, and reversing that expansion with the out-breath. Just feeling into that, throughout the body. How does that feel?

[8:24] You may also be aware, perhaps, of a sense of the whole body being energized, feeling energized as the breath comes in. The sense of the body being energized. And as the breath goes out, there is a natural letting go, a natural relaxation that happens. So expanding, energizing with the in-breath; contracting, relaxing, letting go with the out-breath. Just tuning in, in the whole body, to whatever feels the most helpful of all of that to connect with right now. Whatever is most helpful for you. Keeping the breath long, keeping the awareness large.

[11:35] Now, keeping the breath long and slow, and keeping that whole-body awareness, the awareness stretched to fill the whole body, seeing if you can notice -- and maybe you can notice, maybe not, and it's fine either way -- how does it feel up the front of the body when the breath comes in? So perhaps you notice something there, perhaps not. It's really fine either way. Keeping a delicate touch of awareness, very light awareness in the whole body, how does it feel up the torso as the breath comes in and goes out?

What do you notice in the throat area and the face as the breath comes in and goes out? So whole-body awareness, a very light, sensitive awareness to the whole body. Perhaps you notice something in certain areas, and perhaps not, and it's really fine either way. Just tuning into what's helpful, just noticing.

[14:20] Keeping the breath long, keeping the awareness large, how does it feel up the spine as the breath comes in and out? Up the back. Perhaps you notice something, perhaps not. Just lightly, delicately tuning in, in the whole body.

How does it feel in the legs as the breath comes in and out? So really including the legs in this whole-body awareness, the whole body.

Now, perhaps you notice some movements of energy in different areas of the body, perhaps not. It really doesn't matter. But tuning into whatever is helpful. The whole body expanding and contracting, the whole body being energized, or certain movements, the whole body relaxing with the out-breath. Whatever in there feels helpful, feels good, feels connecting, just tuning into that.

[19:02] Still keeping this wide awareness, this large awareness, allowing yourself to play and experiment with the breath. So seeing if you can get a sense, allow yourself to play -- what kind of breath feels best right now? Feels most comfortable? How does the body want to breathe? Keeping a large awareness, does the breath want to stay long? Or to be shorter, or to be even much shorter? Much, much shorter? Does it want to be smooth or rough? What feels best right now? So really allowing yourself to play with it, to make it the most comfortable it can be. Not just falling back on the default, unconscious way of breathing, but really engaging, playing with the breath like a child would play with plasticine. Really feeling into what feels best: a strong breath or a subtle breath? This will change. Keeping responsive, keeping playing in that large awareness. Just encouraging the breath and the body to feel just as good as they can, right now, however that is.

[23:47] Just seeing if you can get a sense of what the body needs in this moment, and giving it that with the breath, through the breath. You can use the breath to open the body, breathing in a way that opens up the body. Or you can breathe in a way that energizes the whole body. If it feels needed, you can breathe in a way that soothes the body, and feel that soothing. You can bathe the body with the breath. You can calm the body with the breath. Feel the breath as calming, and find a breath that's calming. See what does the body need right now, and see if you can respond through the breath and feel that. Whole-body awareness.

[27:09] So you're nourishing the body with the breath energy, nourishing the energy of the body with the energy of the breath, in whatever way feels best. Playing with that. The awareness fills the body, and seeing if that awareness can be really close, really alive and bright. So not so much an awareness looking at the body, but awareness in the body, permeating the body, really putting the awareness inside the body to fill the body as much as possible. Really being alive to the texture of the body area, the feeling of the body area.

[29:14] Breathing in a way that allows the body to feel comfortable, as comfortable as possible. It may be that somewhere in the body, some area, could be anywhere, feels a little bit comfortable right now. There's a comfortable spot, a place of ease or warmth or openness or pleasant feeling. Some place that one is actually enjoying this breathing, this body. Really including that in the awareness. If you want, actually centring the awareness in that place and knowing that place, feeling that comfort, knowing the whole body from that place. Even if it's not remarkable at all. It doesn't have to be anything particularly special. Just some place of relative comfort, ease. It feels good, feels okay, feels nice. Any place in the body. Just connecting with it, opening to it, feeling whatever degree of comfort there is. Tuning into that. Nourishing that sense with the way you breathe and your playing with the breath.

[32:47] Is it possible that whatever place of comfort, spot of comfort, of ease there is, of even pleasure -- is it possible that that can spread a little bit, through the way you're playing with the breath, the way you're breathing? It's okay if not. You can just stay with that one place, and just tune into the comfort there.

[36:04, guided meditation ends]

Okay, so that's quite a lot of stuff already. I want to do a little recap. We're playing with the breath, but we're not putting a lot of forcing into that. You're not ... [sniffs audibly] yanking the breath either to be subtle or to be short or to be long. We're not putting a lot of physical pressure on the breath. Sometimes it's actually just a sense of questioning: "What would it feel like right now, what would happen, if the next breath were a bit longer? I wonder what that would feel like. Or a bit shorter or a bit stronger or a bit more refined?" It's almost like just dropping the question in, and that question allows the breath to move. It allows that possibility to open up and the breath to move in that way. As I said, you can sense in -- what's needed right now in the body, in the energetic system? You can use the breath to open the body, really get a sense of the body opening. Or energize. Especially if there's sluggishness and tiredness around, actually use the breath to energize the whole system. Oftentimes, long, slow, deep breathing is actually very energizing. You can use the breath to soothe, if you feel agitated. Breathe in a way that the breath is just really soothing the whole system. Find out what this is. Everyone, we all need to find out what this is for ourselves. We can breathe in a way that we're just bathing the whole system, calming the whole system, and just really feeling that.

This word 'play' that I mentioned last night is absolutely key. Play and patience. We're really playing with the breath. And something else I also mentioned last night: to let go of preconceived notions, just as much as you can, of what the breath should feel like. Maybe one is breathing and there are currents of energy moving down the leg, down the legs. Maybe. I'm totally happy with that. Maybe it moves up the legs. I'm happy with that too. Maybe it feels like it's coming in somehow and moving down the whole body, or up, or ... who knows? See if you can just let go of preconceptions, and within that, where we should feel it. The whole body breathes. It's not just the nose and the mouth and the lungs. The whole body is actually breathing. One might feel that anywhere or everywhere. So really want to listen, to really tune into the breath in the body and this experience. Really in an open way, as open as possible.

[39:28] Through this playing with the breath, we allow the breath and the breathing to become more comfortable. We're allowing, we're interested in nurturing this sense of comfort. So this question, "What actually feels best right now? What feels best?" It's a very alive process. For me, implicit in the word 'play' is an aliveness. One is very alive to, "What does feel best right now? How does that feel?" There's a checking in. There's a real feeling in. Now, we can manipulate too much. You can be over-involved sometimes. Or you can be under-involved sometimes. Or you can be just right. But there's no rule with this, and it's not fixed. One really, really important thing is don't fear mistakes with this. Don't think, "Am I doing it too much? Am I not doing it enough?" Play, play, play, play, play. Don't worry about this. You're going to make mistakes. We're all making mistakes. That's not a problem. That's how we learn. Don't fear mistakes.

It could be that in the course of playing with the breath and whole-body awareness that some area of the body -- could be the belly, could be around the face, could be the chest, could be anywhere -- feels a little bit comfortable. Maybe a lot comfortable. Maybe just a little bit, just okay, easeful, really nothing to write home about necessarily. Could be pleasure, could be ease, could be warmth, enjoyment in some way. And then using the breath to support and nourish, to kind of nurture that sense of comfort, however it is. Allowing the mind to really connect with that sense of comfort, that sense of ease, as much as you can. It's the consistency of attention with the area of comfort that allows it to grow. We're not putting pressure on it. That's also really important. We think, "Well, this comfort is not that comfortable. It's okay." Don't put pressure on it. Just be with what is there, and keep it relaxed. Keep that spot of comfort relaxed. Slowly, slowly, one is nurturing it, and a sense of fullness can come from that, and we're moving towards allowing that to spread and begin to fill the body.

So it's really important to enjoy and be contented with -- this is really, really important -- enjoy and be contented with whatever you have that feels good or okay or a little bit pleasant. We can always, the mind can always go, "Well, it's not good enough. It's not strong enough. It's not ..." Really see if you can develop a sense of contentment with it. Inclining the awareness towards what does feel okay, what does feel pleasant. If we don't do that, the mind gets quite tense and unhappy. So this is very skilful to incline towards the pleasant and the comfortable.

[42:58] Now, we are, in the course of the days, moving towards nurturing, nourishing, in a very gentle way, that sense of comfort. And moving towards having that sense of comfort spread and permeate the whole body. This is a very gradual process. So usually we have to just stay with that one spot where it feels okay, and actually just enjoy that, allow ourselves to enjoy it before kind of trying to spread it. Usually. There are actually no rules with this, but usually we need to stay with what's there that feels okay, and then we can move to spread it. When it feels more solid -- and this is, I'm talking ahead a little bit for many of us -- but when it begins to feel more solid, more steady, then perhaps we can allow it to spread and fill the body more.

Sacred geometry
Sacred geometry