<<previous [from Buddhas Heruka, Manjushri, and Naropa]
As you meditate your way to Enlightenment, you’ll attain a state of mental concentration called Samadhi, ‘Tranquil Abiding’, or simply ‘Abiding’.
Many consider this a level of high attainment; the fact is, you really need to get there before you can go anywhere else.
Abiding is the state at which you first really have some control over your mind. Up until then you may always be able to bring your mind back to your object when it wanders, but it still does wander.
Once you arrive at the point of tranquil abiding, your mind is content to stay on its object without getting distracted.
This then frees your mind to get on with its virtuous object/subject of meditation/focus.
You may be wondering why We’re talking about meditation in a chapter on dreaming and visioning. Tranquil abiding, dreaming and visioning share many characteristics. They all require a mind that focuses singularly on its object of concentration.
In meditating, you choose a virtuous object, say ‘Compassion’. Once you get your mind focused onto compassion, you then do a very special kind of wandering in which you explore all the nooks and crannies and ins and outs of compassion, never straying from the boundaries of that concept until you’re done with that meditation (for the time being).
When you’re dreaming and visioning, your mind also stays within certain boundaries – those of your dream or vision world.
For most people, dreams flicker past rapidly. You slip into your dream world for just a moment, until some mental distraction (usually another dream incident) whisks you away. You’re not even able to ‘keep your place’ within the dream world, much less exert any control over it.
The same holds true for visioning: you might catch a fleeting glimpse of something, but then it’s gone before you can really inspect it and make some use of it. As you develop steadier concentration, you’re better able to follow, and later control, your object, dream or vision. Once you reach this point, these activities become much more productive for you.
Now, when We say “productive” We certainly don’t mean to take a work-horse attitude about these activities which may actually give you a lot of pleasure.
You can use meditation, dreams and visions to reach your goals and make your life more enjoyable.
Having an unpleasant experience while meditating, dreaming or visioning results from your karma. If you know how to dream actively (not passively) then ‘nightmares’ might not disturb you, and you’ll still be eager to get on to your next dream. However, if you treat dreaming as work… Well, you know what’s likely to happen. Similarly for meditating and visioning: you want to set yourself up to reap benefits, not discouragement.
So, how do you reach the point of Tranquil Abiding in meditation, so that it can sharpen all of your mental activity?
With a lot of patience.
How to you keep your patience? By not taking on more than you can handle. How do you know how much you can handle? By trying something new, and watching to see how your mind reacts.
For example, if you sit to meditate for twenty minutes and afterwards find that you feel tired, discouraged or irritable, or you experience any other negative emotion, then try only fifteen minutes the next time.
Please note: feeling tired and falling asleep are not the same thing.
Sometimes when you dream or vision, the mind relaxes more quickly than you can keep up with and follow while remaining conscious. When this happens, it’s not wasted effort; it’s just that you’re not training as actively as when you are conscious.
So keep adjusting your time spent practicing until you find a length of time that suits you, and then modify it as you go along.
Of course you may find this challenging if you happen to be participating in a group class and everyone is on a different personal rhythm. You may end up feeling inadequate or superior, and neither of these attitudes is going to help you.
There’s a trade-off that you have to weigh: on the one hand, group practice certainly generates more powerful energy (positive or negative).
On the other hand, when you’re in a group you’re more likely to be faced with distractions.
Practicing alone reverses the effects of practicing in a group, and both of these options involve compromise.
A third option that you might like to try experimenting with is to practice with a small group of people who are at a similar level of experience as yourself.
If you’re fortunate enough to find or form such a group, you may find the best of both worlds.
In any case, if you do group practice, you still need to make time for your individual practice as well. The powerful energy of group practice can help you get a taste or preview of levels you may advance to, but you need private time to hone your skills and gain understanding of where you are on the spectrum of concentration.
Practicing alone takes more self-discipline and strong motivation, but you have more freedom to choose your schedule and meditation object.
The solo-practice scenario parallels more similarly what you face during dreaming and visioning. So, as We get back to our main subject, We can conclude:
A steady private meditation practice may make your dreaming and visioning skills more effective.