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Meditation - What is it about?Meditation is a process of coming to know your own mind. It is a way of understanding and working with your mind, and a way of being with your mind, so you get the best out of it. The essence of shamatha, the first of the basic practices of meditation, is non-distraction. Shamatha involves allowing the mind to settle into a state of non-distraction. It is the antidote to distraction, the root of ignorance.

The ultimate “purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce us to who we really are and the unchanging pure awareness which underlies the whole of life and death.” (The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, p.60)

What is so special about meditation in Rigpa?A special feature of meditation emphasised by some traditions in Tibet and by Sogyal Rinpoche is awareness, or the pure awareness of the nature of mind. Most other meditations focus more on abiding, remaining or stillness, rather than on clarity and awareness. The way meditation is taught in Rigpa emphasises awareness at every level of practice, which eventually leads us to the pure awareness of the nature of mind.

Sogyal Rinpoche has also developed ‘the unifying practice’, a practice that brings together the body, speech and mind by focusing attention on a visual object such as an image of the Buddha, the sound of a mantra and watching the breath. This practice accelerates the process of meditation and deepens the experience, with the result that meditation can happen effortlessly.

What are the benefits?The restless thinking mind, with all its stories, naturally subsides into a state of deep inner peace and contentment. This brings a profound transformation on every level of our being. The pain and distress of struggling with ourselves is dissolved; and a deep and fundamental forgiveness of ourselves becomes possible.

Scientific research has shown that practising meditation or compassion can actually alter the structure and function of the brain. Studies done on experienced practitioners found changes in parts of the brain important for happiness and well-being, and a significant increase in activity in the parts of the brain associated with positive emotions and the readiness to jump into action to help others.

Studies have also shown that training in meditation has a noticeable effect even on people who don’t practise very much. Other benefits include:

  • boosting the body’s immune system
  • improving the brain’s capacity to concentrate for extended periods of time,
  • reducing high blood pressure and improving heart function,
  • lowering levels of stress hormones,
  • improving the capacity to deal with stressful situations or even uncomfortable physical conditions, and
  • reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.