This week we're looking at what it means to develop the skill/discipline/superpower to get your monkey/thinking mind to 'stay' still. Exactly like how you teach your dog to 'stay'.
We've seen how prone our thoughts are to wander, leading us eventually into trouble. Building the capacity for stillness here will: 1) eliminate a significant portion of your ('untrue') problems [see last week], 2) allow your mind to finally rest (which means you'll rebalance into your innate health and happiness), and 3) open-up unknown potential for high-performance thinking and spiritual growth. Living inside your noisy mind has a literally unimaginable (the monkey can't see outside their thinking, but the human can) opportunity cost!
Concentration is the mental muscle behind the ability to 'stay'. In order to build this monkey-superpower, we do a practice called Shamatha. Here's where it fits into our daily practice:
Yoga — deliberate body & breath
Pranayama — deliberate breath
Shamatha — natural breath
Vipashyana — natural body
From wikipedia: 'shamatha':
Shamatha is a Buddhist term that is often translated as the "tranquility of the mind", or "mind-calmness". Gautama Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice:
Samatha: calm abiding, which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind;
Vipassanā: insight, which enables one to see, explore and discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates)
Ajahn Brahm writes that
Some traditions speak of two types of meditation, insight meditation (vipassana) and calm meditation (samatha). In fact the two are indivisible facets of the same process. Calm is the peaceful happiness born of meditation; insight is the clear understanding born of the same meditation. Calm leads to insight and insight leads to calm."
Through the meditative development of calm abiding (shamatha), one is able to suppress the obscuring five hindrances: sensual desire, ill-will, tiredness and sleepiness, excitement and depression, and doubt. With the suppression of these hindrances, the meditative development of insight yields liberating wisdom.