Imagine being able to gain full control of your entire mind. Being able to choose with razor sharp precision which thoughts you invest your attention in, and which thoughts can be completely released without a trace.
What would it be like to reflect on an inspired idea, and be able to follow it through to reach a stable conclusion without wavering?
This can only be achieved with a calm mind, and once a conclusion is reached, you are able to observe and accept the implication of this experience without deviation. You are then able to integrate this observation into a more enhanced world view.
With this comes a remarkable feeling of enthusiasm towards everything you do and a pure sense of serenity in all aspects of your life.
To be able to say no to thoughts and direct your focused energy towards absolutely anything you want whenever you want is an incredible capacity. Suddenly you have a unique and dangerous competitive advantage!
The Art of Calm Abiding Meditation
In Tibetan meditation practice, reaching this state of mental one-pointedness is referred to as ‘Calm Abiding Meditation.’ But just like anything extraordinary in life, there is a certain journey that must take place in order to safely arrive at this place of complete clarity and pure power. This achieved through practice and development of meditative concentration, also known as Shamatha.
Stemming from the ancient teachings of Buddha, Tibetan Buddhist tradition refers to the process of calm abiding as 'the path.' Integrated more as a practice than a technique, calm abiding meditation is actually a very approachable way for the beginner to develop a strong and healthy relationship with meditation.
What makes this path of meditation unique is that it also provides a very invigorating way for true progression and evolution to take place–a very appealing process for the advanced practitioner.
Duality of the Ordinary Mind and the Objective of Calm Abiding
The practice of calm abiding is to keep bringing your mind back to the object of meditation. The breath is always a great focal point, but any comforting object can be used.
Instead of going up and down through the busy wave pattern of the habitual mind–over excited when something good happens, and completely depressed when things go slightly off point. The development of focus through calm abiding opens up a mind that is much more evenly concentrated.
The objective of calm abiding meditation is to gain capacity of your own mind. This allows you to be more in control of the energy of your thoughts and emotions.
You can also acquire the ability to follow a stream of thought without any distraction, reach a conclusion, and actually stay there for a while to observe. In order for this to happen, we need to have a calm mind without the need to retreat or jump around to other magnetic thought processes.
Calm abiding is the balancing of the mind and the transcendence of a dual mentality. While meditating, one is confronted with the distraction of wandering thoughts. When we are trying to ease into a session, there is a wave going up and down that needs time to settle.
The Nine Stages of Calm Abiding Meditation
Take note that these stages of progress are not meant to be achieved in one session. The path of calm abiding is an extended path and a progressive journey that must be respected. When one is getting ready to start calm abiding, while they settle into an object of focus, this is the entering of Stage 1.
Stage 1 – Placing the Mind
- In this phase of entry, the objective of the practitioner is to find an object. As mentioned earlier, the breath serves as the perfect focal point because of its constant grounding in the present moment.
- Once the object is found and the meditation session has been initiated, the mind goes all over the place and has and has a hard time finding the object amidst a swirling mind of thought.
- The object can be found through focus, but for most of the session, the mind is in and out of concentration. In stage one, we are placing the mind on the object in the first place, before advancing.
Stage 2 – Placement With Continuity
We are able to place the mind on the object and keep it there for a little while. Now there is a continuity, where before there was none at all.
Stage 3 – Patch Like Placement
At this stage, one is able to stay on the object for quite a while. For an extended period of time, the one in meditation can stay on it, but still tends to lose it from time to time. But when the focus is lost, the practitioner is instantly aware and is able to bring the mind right back.
Stage 4 – Close Placement
- From the beginning to the end of the session, the object is not lost at all.
- There is still distraction and dullness, but one part of the mind stays on this steady stream of constant attention.
Stage 5 – Controlling Placement
- By familiarizing oneself with stage 4 and realizing that steadiness has been reached, there is an overwhelming sense of inner peace. This sensation is new and something that has never been experienced before.
- Up until this stage, the mind has been like a pot of boiling water, and when it finally settles down, the tranquility of the deeper mind is realized. This is an intensely pleasant feeling.
Stage 6 – Pacifying
- This stage is difficult to notice as one is completely immersed in the meditation, but extremely aware of the moment.
- This is the intensity of holding onto the object.
- However, the mind is still able to recognize slight variations of excitement and dullness.
Stage 7 – Fully Pacifying
- Excitement and distraction almost never arises throughout the entire session. Even if it does, the practitioner has complete control and can make even the slightest disturbance disappear instantly.
- This is the transition from the ‘ordinary mind’ into a mind of ‘calm abiding’
- It is like entering something. The mind is concentrated and vibrant.
Stage 8 – Single-Pointed
With time and consistent daily practice, the meditator will be able to enter a fixed meditation much easier than ever before.
Stage 9 – Fixed Absorption or Meditative Equipoise
- At this point, we transcend the ego and and sense of need.
- The mind of ‘calm abiding’ is cultivated and maintained for a long period of time, over extended and repetitive practice.
- When fully developed and integrated, there is a deep transformation in the mind and body. This is the sensation of bliss and joy. This is also accompanied by a lightness in the body and sharpness of the mind.
Arriving at the stage of calm abiding, we are reunited with nowness and oneness of the moment. The illusion of past and future disintegrate into a mellow vibe that is sensed throughout the entire body. Continuing to bring the mind back to the breath, or to the object will gradually allow the mind to settle.
The path of calm abiding is very clear, but one must exercise discipline in order to attain the intense beauty, only achieved through dedicated practice. For anyone looking for a clear path of meditative progress, the practice of calm abiding provides the perfect way to develop a strong and lasting relationship with daily meditation.
The mind of calm abiding can then be carried into many aspects of life, and eventually become the dominant mind of an advanced being. In this state of mind, there is no question or judgment; the mind of calm abiding is pure calm, focus, grounded in the concentrated energy of the universal moment.