Following are the extracts from the book "How to See Yourself As You Really Are" by H.H.The XIV Dalai Lama.I hope that you'd find it just as helpful as I did.
Let distractions melt away like clouds disappearing in the sky
Focussing Your Mind
In all areas of thought,you need to be able to analyse,and then,when you have come to a decision,you need to be able to set your mind to it without wavering.These two capacities-to analyse and to remain focussed-are essential to seeing yourself as you really are.In all areas of spiritual development,no matter what your level is,you need both analysis and focus to achieve the states you are seeking,ranging from seeking a better future,to developing conviction in the cause and effect of actions(karma),to developing an intention to leave the round of suffering called cyclic existence,to cultivating love and compassion,to realizing the true nature of people and things.All these improvements are made in the mind by changing how you think,transforming your outlook through analysis and focus.All types of meditation fall into the general categories of analytical meditation and focussing meditation,also called insight meditation and calm abiding meditation.
If your mind is scattered ,it is quite powerless.Distraction here and there opens the way for counterproductive emotions,leading to many kinds of trouble.Without clear,stable concentration,insight cannot know the true nature of phenomena in all its power.For example,to see a painting in the dark,you need a very bright lamp,if it is flickering you cannot see the painting clearly and in detail.Also,if the lamp is steady but weak,you cannot see well either.You need both great clarity of mind and steadiness,both insight and focussed concentration,like an oil lamp untouched by any breeze.As Buddha said,"When your mind is set in meditative equipoise,you can see reality exactly as it is."
We have nothing but our present mind to accomplish this with,so we must pull the capacities of this mind together to strengthen it.A merchant engages in selling little by little in order to accumulate a pile of money;the capacities of the mind to comprehend facts need to be drawn together and focussed in the same way so that the truth can be realized in all its clarity.However,in our usual state we are distracted,like water running everywhere,scattering the innate force of mind in multiple directions,making us incapable of clear perception of the truth.When the mind is not focussed,as soon as something appears,it steals away our mind;we run first after this thought and then after that thought,fluctuating and unsteady,powerless to focus on what we want before being pulled away to something else,ready to ruin ourselves.
Despite the fact that distraction is our current state,the capacities for knowledge which we all possess can be drawn together and focussed on an object we want to understand,as we do when we listen to important instructions.Through such focus,all practices-whether love,compassion,the altruistic intention to become enlightened,or insight into your own nature and the actual condition of all other phenomena-are dramatically enhanced,so your progress is much faster and profound.
Buddhism offers many techniques for developing a form of concentration called "calm abiding".This powerful state of concentration earns its name because in it all distractions have been calmed and your mind is- of its own accord- abiding continuously,joyously,and flexibly on its chosen internal object with intense clarity and firm stability.At this level of mental development concentration does not require any exertion at all.
CONDITIONS FOR PRACTICE
For beginners,external factors can have considerable impact on meditation because your internal mental capacity is not particularly strong.This is why limiting busy activities and having a quiet place to meditate are helpful.When your internal experience has advanced,external conditions will not affect you much.
Meditative posture is important,because if you straighten your body,the energy channels within the body will also straighten,allowing the energy flowing in those channels to balance,which in turn will assist in balancing your mind and putting it at your service.Although meditation could even be conducted lying down,a cross-legged sitting posture with the following seven features is helpful.
1.Sit with your legs crossed,with a separate cushion under your rear.
2.Calm abiding is cultivated by focussing your mind not on an external object but on an internal object.Thus,with your eyes neither widely open nor tightly closed but open a little,gaze down toward the tip of your nose but not intensely;if this is not comfortable,gaze toward the floor in front of you.Leave your eyes slightly open.Visual stimuli will not bother your mental consciousness.Later,it is fine if your eyes close of their own accord.
3.Straighten your backbone,like an arrow or a pile of coins,without arching back or bending forward.
4.Keep your shoulders level and your hands four finger-widths below the navel,with the left hand underneath,palm up,and the right hand on top of it,also palm up,your thumbs touching to form a triangle.
5.Keep your head level and straight,so that your nose is in a straight line with your navel,but arch your neck slightly, like a peacock.
6.Leave the tip of the tongue touching the roof of your mouth near the front teeth,which later will enable you to stay for long periods in meditation without drooling.It will also keep you from breathing too strongly,which would dry out your mouth and throat.
7. Breathe in and out quietly,gently,and evenly.
A SPECIAL BREATHING PRACTICE
At the start of a session,a series of nine inhalations and exhalations is helpful to remove counterproductive currents of energy,called "airs" or "winds,"from your body.
First, inhale deeply through the right nostril by pressing the left nostril closed with your left thumb;then release the left nostril and press your right nostril closed with your left middle finger,exhaling through the left nostril.Do this three times.After that inhale deeply through the left nostril by continuing to press the right nostril closed with your left middle finger;then release the right nostril and press your left nostril closed with your left thumb,exhalaing through the right nostril.Do this three times.Finally, put your left hand back in your lap as described in the previous section and inhale deeply through both nostrils,then exhale through both nostrils.Do this three times,for a total of nine breaths.When inhaling and exhaling,concentrate all of your thought on inhalations and exhalations,thinking,"inhaling breath" and "exhaling breath,"or count each pair of inhalations and exhalations from one to ten and then back to one.Stay focussed on your breath, and this in itself will make your mind vaster and lighter and fresh.
At this point,bring your altruistic motivation,your desire to help others,vividly to mind.This breathing practice is like preparing a dirty piece of cloth for dye;after washing, it will easily take the dye.
Concentrating your whole mind just on your breath,which you always have with you and does not need to be newly imagined,will cause earlier thoughts to melt away,making it easier to collect your mind in the subsequent steps.
Now let us consider what kind of object you should focus on while practicing to attain calm abiding.Since the effects of previous destructive emotions tend to linger in the back of your mind,any attempt to concentrate your mind is easily interrupted by these forces.You need an object of attention that will weaken your own predominant destructive emotion,whether this is lust,hatred,confusion,pride,or excessive thoughts.The focal points used to counter these tendencies are called "objects for purifying behaviour."
If your predominant destructive emotion is lust, you can meditate on the components of your body.Seen superficially,the body might be considered beautiful,but if you closely consider its parts for the purpose of this exercise,it is not so beautiful. An eyeball alone can be frightful.
If your predominant destructive emotion due to past behaviour over many lives is hatred and frustration,meaning you get worked up quickly,and even fly off the handle at others,you can cultivate love through the wish that those who are bereft of happiness be endowed with happiness and the causes of happiness.
If your predominant destructive emotion is confusion and dullness,due,perhaps, to the belief that phenomena occur without causes and conditions,or that the self operates under its own power,you can meditate on the dependent-arising of phenomena,their dependence on causes.You can also contemplate the process of rebirth in cyclic existence,beginning with ignorance and ending with aging and death.Either of these will undermine the confusion of wrong ideas and ignorance and promote intelligence.
If your predominant destructive emotion,carried over from the past,is pride,you can meditate on the categories of phenomena within your mind-body complex.Paying attention to these many factors undermines the sense of a self separate from them.Also,when you consider these in detail,you will realize that there are many things you do not know,thereby deflating your aggrandized sense of self.
If your predominant afflictive emotion is generation of too many thoughts,so that you are fluttering around thinking about this and that,you can meditate on the exhalation and inhalation of the breath as described in the previous section.When you tie your mind to the breath, the seemingly ceaseless stream of thoughts roaming here and there will immediately diminish.
If you have no predominant destructive emotion,you can choose any of these objects.