When I refer to my ‘appropriate’ or ‘usual’ preparations for meditation in my daily posts, here is what I mean:
- Cleaning and tidying the meditation room
- Setting up a shrine with representations of Buddha’s body, speech and mind,
- Arranging suitable offerings and making Prostrations
- Sitting in a comfortable posture
- Generating a positive motivation
- Generating three observations
- Going for refuge and generating Bodhichitta
- Accumulating merit, purifying negativity and receiving blessings
- Settling the mind, then meditating.
In point 5, we generate a very positive motivation such as: ‘I now have this very special opportunity to improve my wisdom and compassion, and take another step towards my spiritual goal. I will use this opportunity to meditate to the best of my ability for the sake of all living beings.’ We try to hold this motivation thought the meditation.
In point 6, generating three observations, I am referring to three things we should bear in mind throughout the meditation. Firstly, we imagine that we are surrounded by all living beings, and we spend a bit of time generating love and compassion for them. We never meditate alone – even when there is no-one with us, we imagine that we are surrounded by all living beings in the six realms of samsara, and they are meditating too, in complete stillness and silence. Then we visualise all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and other holy beings in front of us smiling at us with great kindness, and radiating beautiful golden and multicoloured light. We develop faith and respect for them. Finally, we imagine that we are all in a pure land where even the word ‘suffering’ does not exist. It is filled with beautiful things and we offer these things to all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and other holy beings in front of us. They accept with delight, and we all experience pure happiness and contentment. We focus on this for a while.
In point 7, we try to keep this recognition that the Buddhas are in front of us, and we address them directly while we go for refuge and ask for their help and blessing in the prayers. We also keep in mind all living beings around us, and remember that we are doing this for their benefit. This will make our practice very satisfying and joyful.
In point 8 we perform the Prayer of the Seven Limbs. This prayer allows us to accumulate merit, purify our negative karma and to receive the blessings of the holy beings.
In point 9, settling the mind, I do various practices to really settle my mind down. Sometimes I focus on my breathing and try to notice increasingly subtle signs of breathing. I start with trying to focus on the movement of my shirt on my skin as I breathe. The next object is the feeling of the breath as it enters and leaves my nostrils. And finally I let my attention let go of any object at all, and just float in emptiness.
At other times I dissolve everything into light – I imagine the universe changes from black space to being filled with white wisdom light. I then imagine the earth suspended in this pure white light, and dissolving into light. I then imagine that the whole earth except my room is pure light. Then, the room dissolves into light and I visualise my body floating in pure white light. Then my body starts to dissolve into light, so that eventually it can only be distinguished by the faintest of outlines. I then imagine my mind also dissolving into light, and a complete absence of thought.
I try to keep my mind clear for a while (which is often a very pleasant experience), and following this I begin my formal meditation.
I hope this helps you – there are no really fixed rules about how to enter meditation, but I find that the preparations above make a big difference to the results I get. What is it they say? ‘Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail?’