Once again from the same book by H.H.The Dalai lama:
Tuning your mind for meditation
A monk named Shrona was trying to meditate,but his mind was either too tight or too loose.He asked Buddha for advice.Buddha inquired,"When you were a householder,did you play the guitar beautifully?"
"Was the sound right when you tightened the strings hard,or when you loosened them a lot?"
"Neither.I had to do it with moderation."
"It is the same here.To meditate you have to moderate the tightness and looseness of your mind."
---Paltrul Rinpoche's Sacred Word
You are seeking to develop a meditative mind that itself is intensely clear,where consciousness is bright and alert.You are also seeking the stability of being able to focus single-mindedly on the object.These are the two qualities of mind you need:intense clarity and unwavering stability.
What prevents these from arising?Laxity-the mind's being too loose-prevents the development of clarity,and excitement-the mind's being too tight-prevents staying focussed on the object.
There are coarse,subtle,and very subtle forms of laxity.In coarse laxity,the object is not at all clear,and the mind feels sunken,or weighted down.In subtle laxity,you remain on the object,but the mind lacks intense clarity.In very subtle laxity,the intensity is just slightly lacking,the mind being just slightly loose.
Laxity occurs when the mind is withdrawn inside in the process of developing meditation.This is not lethargy,which is a heaviness and unserviceability of mind and body from dullness and which can occur even when attending to an external object.In lethargy your body is heavy,and your mind is heavy,trapped in darkness.
Excitement is an agitated state of mind,most often due to an attraction to an external object of lust.It can also be any scattering of the mind,whether the new object is virtuous,such as charity;nonvirtuous,such as lust;or neutral,such as sewing.There are coarse and subtle forms of excitement.In coarse excitement,you forget the object of your meditation and stray off into other thoughts.Although in subtle excitement the object is not lost,a corner of your mind is involved in fast-moving thought,like water flowing under the frozen surface of a river.
In between sessions of meditation,it is important to restrain your senses,to eat a moderate amount of food,and to maintain conscientious introspection of body and mind.Otherwise,these can serve as causes of laxity and excitement.Sleeping too much generally leads to laxity,whereas having unrealistic expectations about the pleasures of life tends to lead to excitement.
LENGTH OF THE SESSION
If you are facing interference to concentration from laxity or excitement and cannot counteract it,rather than stubbornly persisting in long meditation sessions,try short but frequent sessions.When your performance improves and these problems diminish,make the sessions longer.
It helps to meditate in a high place if laxity is a problem,and to meditate at dawn.Just after you wake up,your senses have not yet become active,but the power of thought is present.And because the sense organ are not yet working,you will have fewer distractions.In my own experience,dawn is when my mind is clearest and sharpest.
MINDFULNESS AND INTROSPECTION
Mindfulness is a technique for keeping your mind continuously on the object of your meditation.It is the antidote to forgetfulness.Since beginners have this ability only to a minor degree,you need to train and enhance it by repeatedly putting the mind back on the object.
Frequently check to see whether your mind is on the object or not.By doing this over and over,you will come to notice immediately when your mind has become distracted by something else.Eventually you will notice when your mind is about to stray from the object,and you will be able to keep it there.This ability is mindfulness.
The technique for recognizing whether laxity or excitement is preventing the mind from developing clarity and stability is called "introspection."This frequent introspection of whether the object is clear and stable is done not with the full force of the mind but as if from the side,so as not to interfere with the mind's focus on the object.
Indeed,to achieve powerful mindfulness,you need to monitor whether you are staying focussed on the object,but the special function of introspection at this point is to see whether the mind has come under the influence of laxity or excitement,not just whether it is staying on the object or not.As the Indian scholar-yogi Bhavaviveka says:
The elephant of the mind wandering wildly
Is to be securely bound with the rope of mindfulness
To the pillar of an object of meditation,
Gradually to be tamed with the hook of wisdom.
Within your own experience,you need to recognize when your mode of meditation has become too excited or too lax and determine the best practice for adjusting it,as explained in the next two sections.As your faculty of introspection develops,you will gain an inner sense of the right level of tautness,like tuning a guitar string until the right balance is found,neither too sharp nor too flat.Eventually,as a result of your own accumulated experience you will be able to detect laxity and excitement just before they arise and implement techniques to prevent their arising,tightening or loosening the mind's mode of apprehending the object.
1.Place your mind on the object of meditation.
2.Using introspection,from time to time check to see whether your mind remains on the object.
3.When you find that it has strayed,recall the object and put your mind back on it as often as needed.
In this way you will develop the faculties of mindfulness and introspection.
APPLYING THE REMEDIES
When through introspection you realize that your mind has come under the influence of laxity or excitement or you have a sense that these are about to arise,you need to apply remedies immediately.It is not sufficient just to notice these problems without counteracting them.Remember failure to enact remedies is itself a problem;make sure to implement them.Do not make the mistake of assuming either that these problems are not important or that you could not possibly stop them.
REMEDIES TO LAXITY
In laxity,which is caused by overwithdrawl inside,the mind becomes too relaxed,lacking intensity,the tautness having weakened.Heaviness of mind and body can lead to becoming lax,which can lead to losing the object of observation,as if you have fallen into darkness;this can even turn into sleep.When laxity begins to occur,it is necessary to uplift the mind by making it more taut.
If you need a further technique to intensify the mind,brighten or elevate the object of meditation or pay closer attention to its detail;notice the arch of the eyebrows on the Buddha image if that is your object.If this does not work then while remaining in meditation,leave the intended object temporarily and think about a topic that makes you joyful,such as the marvelous qualities of love and compassion,or the wonderful opportunity that a human lifetime affords for spiritual practice.If that does not work,and you are still subject to coarse laxity or lethargy,you can leave off meditating and go to an elevated place,or a place where there is a vast view.Such techniques will cause your deflated mind to heighten and sharpen.
REMEDIES TO EXCITEMENT
In times when your mind is excited and you have tried to loosen the tightness of the mind,but this has not worked,you need a further technique to withdraw the mind.At this point,it can help to lower the object and imagine it as heavier.If this does not work, then while continuing to meditate,leave the intended object temporarily and think about a topic that makes you more sober,such as how ignorance induces the sufferings of cyclic existence by putting us under the influence of destructive emotions.Or you could reflect on the imminence of death.It also helps to think about the disadvantages of the object to which you have strayed,and the disadvantages of distraction itself.Such reflections will cause the mind's excessive tightness to loosen a little,making you better able to keep your mind on the object of observation.When that happens,immediately return to the original object.Sometimes I find that if my time for meditation is limited because of work I have to do,this sense of urgency will promote greater exertion in a way that strengthens mindfulness.
DESISTING FROM THE REMEDIES
When you have applied a remedy successfully,it is important to desist from applying it and return your full attention to the object of meditation.Overapplication of antidotes to laxity and excitement when these defects have been removed will itself disrupt the stabilization that you are seeking to achieve.At this point it is crucial to stop applying the remedies and just stay on the object,checking from time to time to see if either excitement or laxity is about to arise.
Later,when you have become highly skilled in meditation and there is no longer any danger of becoming too loose or too tight,even maintaining concern about the possible need to apply remedies will interfere with developing one-pointed concentration.But do not stop being alert to these problems too soon.