· Choose a quiet corner or room in the house or a shaded protected spot in nature, which will become your favorite and regular place for practice.
· Sit upright and steady, without strain but with an energetic and relaxed dignity, like a king. If on the ground, sit on the edge of a cushion or two to bring your knees closer to the ground and reduce the tendency to roll backwards. Your legs can be crossed in any way that is easy. If on a chair let your two feet touch the ground and sit erect.
· Close eyes and gather yourself together, mind and body present in this moment. It feels like a transition or small journey, from distraction and what was, to landing in the midst of our life experience. It has a sense of return and ease, like arriving home. Feel the luxury of simply being.
· Remind yourself that meditation is about being, not doing: There is nothing to be fixed, nothing to be gained or obtained, nothing wrong and no struggle. The only effort needed is to be present as consistently as possible.
· After some time choose the breath as a primary object of mindfulness, and a natural place to consistently rest the attention. Notice how each breath feels, track it as it enters and travels through the body, expanding the stomach, and then its journey out with the stomach contracting again. Let each breath be natural and soft, just as it is, closely embraced with your attention, as if the breath is breathing you.
· Notice how breath and bodily awareness are experienced together. Sometimes move the attention to this sense of embodiment, the sensations of aliveness that move and change in the body, such as the touch of the hands.
· Meditative attention does not need to hunt for a particular ‘right’ experience. It is a direct knowing of what is actually going on, with a radical acceptance.
· When thoughts, commenting, memories, pictures, stories about the past or future or any other mental content or pattern arises, let them appear and pass by like clouds in the sky, in background. If the mental content is insistent and dominant it can be helpful to step back and give it a label such as ‘judgmental thought’. If you identify with the thought and it carries you away with it to the past or future, step out of the train of thinking onto the platform, and return to the breath.
· All kinds of experiences and impressions can arise naturally. They can be at the level of the body, such as stress, tension, pain, ease or peace. They can be at the level of feelings, such as tiredness, boredom, agitation, sadness, enthusiasm, blankness, irritation, or any other. They are not disturbances or problems which stop meditation, they are the raw material for meditation. Leave the breath and turn your attention to these experience as simple phenomena, that arise, stay for a while and pass. Try to identify them but not identify with them. Be aware of the actual experience as it is and what if any is the reactions to it. Be aware if it is pleasant or unpleasant. If you are called by feelings or emotions, listen to them, as if you are sitting on the bank of a river listening to the sounds of the water flowing by.
· Be kind to yourself. No need to judge yourself as a success or failure. No need to measure progress. No need to label any psychological or physical experience as problematic. Allow whatever arises to be just as it is, even if it is difficult, let it be, and let it go. Be aware that everything passes by.
· Gradually get a sense that you are not on automatic pilot, but are able to hold your flowing inner life with kindness, appreciation and interest. Notice that this way it also empowers you to change it, soften it, or shift it, for example note the way loving attention to a stress in the body can melt it and reduce its dominance.
Second Stage: Working with Mental Content
· Turn to the stream of thoughts with interest and curiosity. What are they saying, what were the triggers for the current thought, what thoughts follow?
· Stay with the thoughts and explore their transitional and ephemeral nature. Watch the way each thought has a beginning and an end, and see if you can catch the space at the ending of a thought and before the next one.
· A thought may be visual, auditory, or be in the form of words in the mind. Notice the differences. Notice any feelings associated with the thoughts, for example thoughts about the future, even a simple but repeating ‘to do’ list may have an undercurrent of concern that without such thoughts you will feel lost.
· Begin to explore your place as an observer. Discover that if you can know a thought you are not the thought, but its audience or spectator. Begin to develop a consistent sense of being a fair witness of mental content. In a traditional image, it is like separating an emulsion, such as milk, into its distinct phases of oil and water.
· Repeatedly step back or step out of the identification with thinking, until it becomes easier, a second nature, to take the position of the audience to the movie not the chief actor.
· Reduce any pressure or agenda held by the witness. The witness is just standing back and observing, is simple and free, and uncontaminated by what it is observing.
· Notice how it feels to stay in the witness mind, what happens to the sense of a subject, the sense of well-being, and stillness.
Third Stage: Meeting Consciousness As It Is
· As you keep going with the witnessing meditation, notice that it is dualistic. Experience the position of the witness a subjective stance that is separate from the object being witnessed.
· Begin to extend the objects to include anything in the sensory field. It can be thoughts, feelings, trees or sounds.
· Particularly explore any sensory fields which point beyond normal limits of habitual boundaries, such as the wind, the space around the body, the sounds that have no special location, etc. Watch the way the object becomes attenuated, thinner, less solid.
· Continue being creative, playful and experimental with the apparent boundaries and location of objects. Extend the reach of the awareness out to a sense of endless space – a sense of a big mind, like a balloon of awareness.
· One useful practice is sky gazing. With soft open focus, gaze at the expanse of the sky and let go. Gradually the conscious awareness itself will feel like the sky.
· Along with making the object thinner and less solid, begin to notice how the observer itself is less solid and has less location and subjective stance.
· Using the tool of relaxation, ease and non-effort, begin to sense that the nature of the witness is just the quality of knowing, which becomes clearer when there is less dualistic sense of solidity in both subject and object.
· Drop into the quality of knowing itself, the essence of witnessing. If questions arise as to who knows the knowing, see them as the natural pressure of the habit of duality. Don’t try and work these things out, but just drop out of any loops of that kind.
· This quality of pure knowing or awareness can be there for a moment or for longer. Appreciate it, as if it is a gift from beyond.
· It will come and go, and itself is quite ephemeral, however it can be supported by various means. One is the sense that the conscious awareness is like the sky, and thoughts or content that arise are like clouds that drift across the sky. The clouds cannot disturb the sky. Similarly, it is like being the screen upon which the scenes of the movie are projected. The screen is unphased or unchanged by the movie.
· Another support is a general sense of presence which has no real object. It is just a sense that we exist, prior to any object that proves it.
· A third possible support is surrender. As soon as we try and catch or grasp pure awareness, we will lose it. So the inner movement is surrender, or dropping back into it, as if we are dropping backwards.
· Finally, this is a gradual process, and it can be vague or clearer, long or short. It is helpful not to measure or assess, but to enjoy moments where we are not controlled by object of mind and heart, as moments of freedom and harmony.