Varieties of Concentration, Focus, and Steadiness of Mind

Focusing attention on a single object is fundamental to meditation.  In fact the skill of focusing attention has two distinct applications in meditation practice.   One application is as the fundamental strategy of Samatha practice, which has as its aim the development of calm and tranquility, a “place to rest one’s mind”.   The other application is as the framework that supports Vipassana practice, the stability of mind that allows us to “see things as they really are”, that is, to nurture mindfulness.  In our gathering this Sunday we reflected on the difference and connection between these two aspects of practice, and on the relevance of both to the world in which we find ourselves today.

Margaret guided the discussion on these matters, using teachings of Chas DiCapua, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield.

The first recorded teaching was a guided meditation by Chas DiCapua, recorded as part of the IMS “Daily Dharma” series on September 7th. You can watch the talk here.

The second teaching was by Sharon Salzberg, which was given last week as part of an online retreat through IMS. In this talk Sharon was reflecting on the role of mindfulness in developing understanding of what is really true (at both the relative and absolute level). Unfortunately we cannot link to the talk as it was part of a retreat.

The third teaching was by Jack Kornfield, discussing working with “slogans”  (tonglen practice, which derives from the teachings of the 9th century sage, Atisha) which you can view here.

Here are Kornfeld’s versions of the slogans Jack mentioned in that clip.

1.  Explore the nature of timeless awareness.  
2. Don’t be swayed by outer circumstances. 
3. Consider all phenomena to appear as dreams.
4.  Don’t brood over the faults of others.
5.  Be grateful to everyone.
6.  Offer your gifts to the world.
7.  At all times, simply rely on a joyful mind.
8. Don’t expect a standing ovation.