Notice the space

 When your eyes are closed, you can listen to the inner voices that “speak” in the mind. They say “I am this…”I should not be like that”. You can use those voices for bringing you to the space between thoughts. Rather than making a big problem about the obsession and fears that go on in your mind, you can open your attention and see those obsessions and fears as mental conditions that come and go in space. 

Ajahn Sumedho, The Mind and the Way

Like holding a baby

File:US Navy 100202-N-4971L-162 Sailor helps Haitian woman by holding baby.jpg

Thich Nhat Hahn from the Zen Tradition using the Christmas story as a way of teaching how to meditate:

I am going to remind you of the way to practice. First, “in” and “out.” It means that when I breathe in, I know I am breathing in. It’s easy. And when I breathe out, I know I am breathing out. I don’t mix the two things up. Breathing in, I know it is my in-breath. Breathing out, I know this is my out-breath. By that time, you stop all the thinking, you just pay attention to your in-breath and your out-breath. You are 100 percent with your in-breath and your out-breath.

It is like holding a baby in such a way that you hold it with 100 percent of yourself. Suppose this is a baby and I hold the baby like this. I hold the baby with 100 percent of myself. Remember, there are times when your mother holds you like this. Have you seen the image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus? She holds him like that: 100 percent. So here, our in-breath is our baby, and we hold our in-breath 100 percent. “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” You just embrace your in-breath, nothing else. Don’t think of anything else. That is the secret of success.

Thich Nhat Hahn

Representations and reality

Consciousness works by making maps, and there is always a gap between our maps and the territory of our lives. A surprise is a landscape feature that was not on my map.  Surprises are common and an indication you are alive. Our representations are fragile and based on poor data. The mind assigns value to events, saying, “This is good” and “This is bad,” but the values we give things are usually just arm-waving and scrambling about. The world is truly unpredictable in its consequences and our reactions to events are also unpredictable, even if we have a deep meditation practice.

We can make an ally of surprise. Meditation methods are not intended to make the world predictable, but they provide a space in which we can have our reactions without fighting with ourselves. And in the end, meditation resets the maps and opinions to zero.  When we meditate, there is nothing else in the world, and whatever we have is enough.

John Tarrant, 7 Ways to Make the Most of Life’s Surprises.