Calm abiding or “shamatha” meditation is a method for calming our anxious or stressed-out mind, sharpening our dull or unfocused mind, and stabilizing the experience of relaxed presence both on and off the cushion. With its help, we start acting with greater clarity, calm, and authenticity instead of always being ensnared by our unconscious habits or overwhelmed by the various demands and pressures of our modern world. From this perspective, meditation is not about what we should do but about how to connect with our present experience skillfully. Shamatha is also the foundational meditation technique that acts as the support to all other forms of meditation on the Buddhist path. Therefore, whether we are seeking an antidote to our stress, clarity and focus in our life, or a path to complete awakening, shamatha’s importance and benefits are undeniable.
What Will I Learn In This Course?
Taught by Acharya Lhakpa Tshering, a Buddhist monk, scholar, and meditation master, this course gives you a practical introduction to the skills needed to confidently practice meditation in your own life and on your own time. Topics include how to sit for a meditation session, overcome common obstacles like forgetfulness, dullness, and so on, and different techniques for calming the mind. You will learn all the details of this traditional Buddhist meditation, make an in-depth exploration of your mind, and perhaps even come to know yourself beyond the thoughts and labels that obscure your true being.
What Are The Topics Covered In Each Course?
- April 5th – Training Your Mind
- Why is meditation an essential practice in Buddhism and a beneficial practice in general? Buddhism is an inner journey, transforming our world from the inside out. In Tibetan, a Buddhist is called a “nangpa”, meaning “insider” or “one who looks within”. Therefore, on this journey, getting to know one’s own mind is key. Meditation is the method for familiarizing with and getting to know your mind. Since mind is the source of both joy and sorrow, understanding how to work with it is universally beneficial.
- April 12th – The View, Motivation, & the Ideal Environment for Meditation
- How does our motivation and environment impact our meditation? A clear motivation and purpose is key to meditation. Setting up and connecting with our intention at the start of every session will give us purpose, focus, and determination. We might meditate to calm our mind, to have clarity and focus at work, to transform emotions, or contemplate doubts about the path. In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is a tool for going deeper into the essence of mind beyond thoughts and emotions. Just like our motivation, where, when, and how we meditate has an impact on the quality of our experience.
- April 19th – Posture of Body, Speech and Mind
- Why are the postures of body, speech and mind vital for meditation practice? Having good physical posture keeps our body comfortable and aligns our inner wind channels or subtle nervous system. Refraining from any speech—worldly or spiritual gossip—and refraining from following thoughts about the past or future grounds us in the state of nowness. Skillful posture creates an inner environment that is conducive to a settled and calm mind.
- April 26th – Meditation with the Breath
- Why is meditation with the breath emphasized? After settling down in accord with the three meditation postures, the instructions then tell us how to keep our mind undistracted. There are many methods involving a focal object—such as focusing on a statue of the Buddha, a small pebble or a twig—but the most omnipresent focal object for meditation is our own breath, which is always there. Whether we are on the cushion, at work, or spending time with loved ones we can always connect with our breath.
- May 3rd – Meditation with Object, Without Object, and Resting in the Nature of Mind
- Where should we look in meditation? If you are looking for peace, enlightenment, or Buddha, the teachings say it is not outside of your own mind. But if this is so, why is it so hard to experience it? Our mind has been habituated to going far out from home for a long time, looking to outer objects for happiness. So, by practicing meditation with object, without object and resting in the nature of mind, we can begin to gradually bring our mind back home.
- May 10th – Obstacles and Remedies
- How do we recognize and overcome the obstacles to meditation? When you begin to meditate regularly, it is normal to notice positive experiences as well as obstacles. Certain obstacles are hard to point out because they are very subtle, while others are coarse and easy to notice. When these obstacles arise, we should apply remedies as soon we can, before the obstacle becomes more entrenched.
- May 17th – The Experience of Meditation
- How can I tell if my practice is progressing? Our ability to recognize obstacles during meditation is a sign of improvement in practice. Without cultivating awareness we wouldn’t be able to see those obstacles. The experiences arising in meditation help us to assess where we are in the mission of bringing our mind back home to the present. Sometimes we fail to recognize the experience and instead take an exit, but we are never truly lost.
- May 24th – Summary and Reassurance
- The instructions for meditation can be complex, but if we can simply remember the essential points we will be able to take any experience onto the path. Sometimes, all we need is a little reassurance from a fellow practitioner or meditation teacher to remind us of what we already know. This class will review all of the essential points from this course and offer resources for continuing and deepening your practice.
Ticket price includes all eight talks. The zoom link you receive upon registration is the same for all eight talks.
You can register at any time during the eight weeks of the course, and you will have access to the recordings in case you miss a class.
About Acharya Lhakpa Tshering
Acharya Lhakpa Tshering was born in Bhutan and entered monastic school at age 12. In 1993, he enrolled at Rumtek Monastery’s Karma Shri Nalanda Institute in Sikkim, India. During his final years as a student, he served as an assistant teacher and member of the student welfare committee. In 2002, Acharya Lhakpa graduated with a master’s in Buddhist studies, also known as an acharya degree. After completing his studies, he served as co-librarian with Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, as a teacher at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, and as an editor for Nitartha Publications in Kathmandu, Nepal. In 2006, Acharya Lhakpa moved to Nalanda West in Seattle, Washington, where he continues to support students as a resident teacher. He is also a visiting teacher at Nalandabodhi centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Latin America.