The 5 most important practices

There is nothing more beneficial than the following five practices:

Focused attention
The Four Applications of Mindfulness (body, feelings, mind and mental objects)
Four Immeasurable (compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity)
Dream Yoga
The Great Perfection

These practices are a direct path to the realization of our deepest nature and potentials of consciousness. These meditations are essential for refining the attention, growing recollection, opening the heart, investigating the nature of the waking state and its relationship with our dreams, and finally investigate the nature of consciousness itself. Each takes you a step further on the path to enlightenment, but we need not believe in a specific creed to commit to them, and quickly you can see for yourself how these relieve the sufferings of our mind and will lead to a greater sense of wellness and satisfaction.

Practice

In each of these practices, we began the session by establishing a proper body posture, and cultivate three qualities: relaxation, stability, and clarity.

Relaxation

There are two positions that I recommend for this practice: sitting or lying down. Generally, the best and most widely recommended posture is sitting on a cushion with legs crossed. If this is too uncomfortable, you can sit in a chair with both feet resting on the floor. But another approach used, not as common, is lying on your back, arms outstretched at your sides, palms up, and your head resting on a pillow. This is especially useful if you have back problems or if you are physically tired or sick.

Any posture you adopt, let your body rest comfortable, with your spine erect but not rigid. Relax your shoulders, with your free arms loose at its sides. Soften your eyes. Let your face relax as much as that of a sleeping baby. After completing this initial relaxation process taking three deep slow breaths through the nostrils. As you inhale, breathe slowly and deeply to the bottom of your abdomen. As if filling a pot with water, fill your belly and expand slowly, then breathe into your diaphragm, and finally to the upper chest. After breathing let it completely free, without forcing it out. Do this three times keeping your attention in the body, especially noting the sensations of the entrance and exit of air. Following these deep breaths, breathing returns to normal, unregulated. Let this quality of physical relaxation be an outward expression of your mind: let your conscience be relaxed, releasing all your worries; simply to be present here and now.

As you inhale and exhale, turn your attention to the tactile sensations of breathing passage in the openings of the nostrils or upper lip. Take a moment to find the feeling. Rest your attention right where you feel the incoming and outgoing breath. Occasionally, check you’re still breathing into the abdomen. This will happen naturally if your body is seated with your back straight and relaxed and soft belly.

Stability

During each session of meditation allow your body to stay as still as possible, with minimal nervousness; remain motionless as a mountain. This helps to generate the same quality in mind: a quietness, where your attention is focused and continuous.

Clarity

If you’re lying, still allow your posture reflect a sense of vigilance, not only collapsing into numbness. If you are sitting, whether on a cushion or in a chair, lift your sternum slightly, keeping your belly soft and relaxed. In this way, you naturally breathe in your abdomen, and when breathing deepens, feel your diaphragm and your chest expand as well. Sit attentive without slouching forward or leaning to either side. This physical posture also strengthens the quality of mental alertness.

On this post we are going to explore the first of these 5 practices we talked at the beginning.

Mindfulness of Breathing

Keeping focused attention is vital to virtually everything we do during the day, including work, drive, interact with others, enjoy entertainment and leisure time, and engage in spiritual practice. Therefore, is important to learn to focus our attention. Whatever your normal level, whether you’re usually dispersed or concentrated, the quality of your attention can be improved, and this brings rewards. In this practice, we are taking our conceptually compulsive fragmented conscience, towards deeper simplicity, moving towards a form of witness or an observer. In addition to improving attention, this meditation will improve your health, purge your nervous system, will allow you to sleep better, and improve your emotional balance. This is a different way to apply our minds, and improve with practice. The specific method is to continue growing mindfulness of breathing.

Because of habit, thoughts are likely to arise. When they arise, just as you exhale release them without identifying with them, not responding emotionally to them. Observe the thought emerge, passing in front of you and then fade. Hold your mindfulness of breathing as continuously as possible. You can count your breaths if that’s helpful.

Close your practice session in a meaningful way, dedicate your effort. Something has been gathered in our hearts and minds to apply to ourselves to this constructive activity. After completing the meditation session, you might want to dwell for a minute or so, to dedicate the merit of your practice that can lead to the satisfaction of whatever you find most meaningful to you and others. With intention and attention, this benefit can be directed to wherever we want.

Adapted from the book: “Genuine Happiness” by my teacher Alan Wallace. Spanish translation by Alma and Yonam Ayon

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