Meditation, Mindfulness & Other Dharma Resources

Meditation is one of those words like cooking that covers many different activities from baking to braising to frying to boiling. There are meditations to produce relaxation, to focus attention, to develop compassion, or to enhance clarity and awareness, to mention just a few. As in cooking, meditation is designed to create some sort of change through its processes.

In the most basic meditations, we simply learn to turn the mind that usually goes outward to look inward instead. Through Shamatha or calm abiding meditation, we are able to get under the hood of our own minds, so to speak, to glimpse its inner workings. By taking up meditation, we don’t lose the ability to navigate and understand the outside world. Far from it, as we withdraw our projections from the outer sphere, it comes into clearer focus revealing what is actually there.

Shamatha or Calm Abiding meditation focuses on following the breath, in and out, in and out, in a natural rhythm. Since we can't breathe in the future or the past, this meditation trains us to keep coming back to the present moment. It also fosters relaxation, stability, and clarity.

In any meditation, it helps to sit up straight so that the air flows freely through body. First just sit. Don't try to do anything. Just sit. Next comes relaxation: become aware of the the muscle groups in the face, the forehead, around the eyes, the cheeks, the jaw area. Let your attention lightly scan this area just as a brush lightly touches a canvas. As you scan, relax the muscles so that your face is as soft and open as that of a sleeping baby. Continue to scan down the body, noting where there are knots of tension and releasing them as you go. Become aware of the sensations of the body, just noting them. Center on the sensation of the breath as it flows in and out. When thoughts arise, and they will, don't fight against them but try not to get carried away by them either. Just return your attention to your breath, in and out, in and out.

Stability comes with holding your body still and your mind quiet. Clarity brings a sense of brightness or aliveness to the process and is related to being aware of what you are doing. Being able to focus your attention with more ease and clarity is an added bonus of meditation. The greatest value will eventually come from becoming aware of your inner world and gaining some control over your own mind and actions.

Buddhist psychology describes sem or ordinary mind as being like the choppy waves on the surface of the ocean. Our minds are constantly busy with thoughts incessantly tumbling over thoughts, always coming and going, always changing. Below sem is a different type of awareness and intelligence although it is all part of the same ocean. This deep mind is called by many names such as pristine awareness and natural mind, and is seen as the source of creativity, insight and wisdom. These deeper levels are traditionally accessed through meditation. We talk of people needing to take care of themselves, and there is no better way to take care of yourself than to become familiar with how your mind functions and to learn to work with it.


The word "mindfulness" is often used interchangable with the term "meditation," but traditionally it has wider connotations, specifically in terms of becoming aware of cause and effect.

Mindfulness is basically paying attention. You are mindful of your breath in Shamatha or calm abiding meditation, but on and off the cushion, you can become mindful of your emotions, the workings of your mind, as well as your reactions to others and the effect of your actions on others and on yourself.

During the six-week long Cultivating Emotional Balance through Mindfulness Training taught by Kimberley Snow & Radhule Weininger, participants are asked to try to become mindful of the following:

Your bodily sensations, especially that of the breath when meditating Physiological sensations in the body that accompany different emotions

Become intimately aware of your general emotional landscape – what emotions do you feel the most? Which do you avoid? Which emotions would you like to have more control over? Be mindful of the range of your emotions. How would you wish to expand this range? Different emotional groups have different triggers. Be mindful of the specific triggers that set off each of the different emotions for you. Be mindful of your own narrative about your life. Watch how you respond emotionally to different people and situations. Too much? Too little? Inappropriately? Balanced except sometimes? Just right all the time! Become mindful of other people’s emotions, how they are displayed, acted out. Become mindful of pockets of resistance when thinking about different emotions. Become mindful of the effect of other people’s emotions on you. Become mindful of the effect of your emotions on other people.

Be mindful of your motivation, your intentions and direction. How much pleasure in your life is exclusively stimulus driven (when the stimulus is over, the pleasure stops)? How much pleasure in your life depends on an outside source? How much happiness in your life is generated from within yourself? Are you helpful to others? Where are you headed in your life? Is it toward more stimulus driven pleasures or toward inner generated happiness? If you desire true happiness, are your activities and aspirations aligned with this goal? What is your deepest aspiration as to what you’d like to become? What would you like to give to the world? What would you like from the world in order to achieve your deepest goals? Looking back from age 84, what would you like to have accomplished?

ATTENTION/COGNITION Can you pay attention? Are you often distracted? Spaced out or dull? Do you know how your mind works? Do you live in reality? Fantasy? Daydreams? Do you operate from concepts about how things should be rather than seeing how they actually are? How often do you fall into obsessive thinking? How do you get out of it? Do you suffer from OCDD -Obsessive, Compulsive Delusion Disorder, considered more or less normal in modernity? Obsessive: can’t stop the flow of thoughts; compulsive: follow each thought as it goes by; delusional: believe everything you think is 100% true just because you think it. Become mindful of how the mind works, especially yours.

A central set of teaching in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness or Satipattana, investigates our sensations, thoughts, and body as well as the phenomenal world. Rodney Smith's excellent, very thorough, podcast series on the Satipattana may be accessed on www.seattleinsight.org.


A mantra is a repeated sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is call a "mind protector" in Tibetan Buddhism. Use and type of mantras varies widely today. For both a traditional Tibetan Buddhist and methods for creating your own mantra are found here: http://cebtm.net/Mantra.html


Engaging in the three-stage process of study, contemplation, and meditation frees us to be ourselves.
~ Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Contemplation or reflection means thoughtful concentration on a particular topic. The mind returns again and again to the topic without judging or rejecting it, but with openness toward understanding about its true nature.

In Christianity, prayer is often considered to be a form of contemplation

“Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self..We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. (34) Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of this external self. There is an irreducible opposition between the deep transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular. Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness....We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality.... God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self.”
― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

In Buddhism, impermanence is frequently chosen as a topic for contemplation as is the self, and the nature of mind. For a sample of short teachings to contemplate and/or write about, go Death Poems on this site.