The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practising a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position.
The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind to become sluggish or sleepy.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to breathing. We breath naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is the object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it with the exclusion of everything else.
At first our mind will be very busy and we might feel that the meditation is making it busier, but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. We should resist the temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise and we should try to remain focused single pointedly on the sensation of the breath. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.
If we practise patiently this way, gradually our distracting thoughts will subside and we’ll experience a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Our mind will fell lucid and spacious and we’ll feel refreshed. When the incessant flow of distracting thoughts is calmed through concentrating on the breath, our mind becomes unusually lucid and clear. We should stay in this state of mental calm for a while.
Even though breathing meditation is only a preliminary stage of meditation, it can be quite powerful. In fact, we can see from this practise that it is possible to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling the mind, without having to depend at all upon external conditions.
When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well being helps us to cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience (including ill health) are caused or aggravated by this stress.
Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day we’ll be able to reduce this stress. Difficult situation s will become easier to deal with, we’ll naturally feel warm and well disposed towards other people, and our relationships with others will gradually improve.
Adapted from “The new meditation handbook”, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso