Martine & Stephen

Batchelor

Buddhist meditation is the cultivation of samatha (concentration) and vipassana (questioning, looking deeply) together, whatever the traditions.  It can be done in many different ways.  One of my Korean Zen teachers, Master Kusan, told us repeatedly to develop calmness and vividness together.

Concentration helps us to develop calmness and spaciousness; because when we focus and return again and again to the object of concentration we do not feed our mental and emotional habits.  This allows them to return to their creative functioning over time.  Concentration can be very focused on a small single object like the breath or wide-open like the whole moment.  The point is that it makes us come back to our experience in its totality.  When we come back to the breath, to the question or the sitting posture, we come back to the whole moment.  Questioning or looking deeply helps us to look at our experience in a different ways and enable us to feel and understand organically change and conditionality.

So meditation is about cultivation of certain qualities, which over time generally has certain positive effects.  However when we meditate, we often focus immediately on the effects we imagine or hope meditation is supposed to have.  So instead of cultivating, which is the point of the exercise, we are waiting to feel certain effects, evaluating if anything is happening, frustrated because nothing seems to happen, etc…  But most of the time nothing happens!  Just cultivate and let effects happen in their own time.  Generally one will feels them anyway more in one’s daily life than in the meditation itself.

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