when I walk I see
that it consists of
three or four hills and a cloud.
Wallace Stephens, Of the Surface of Things
There are a number of simple stages in the establishing of a consistent, daily, meditation practice. The preparatory stages can be found in the link in the header entitled “Starting a Meditation Practice” and they concern time, place and posture. This series of posts will move us on from those important preparatory elements.
Once we have established our posture and relaxed the body, we begin by placing our mind on the breath. In other words, we consciously and deliberately take our mind from wherever it has been up to that moment and focus its attention simply and gently on the awareness of the breath. We are conscious that we are letting go. We knowingly mark a change from what we were doing to this activity, to the next ten or twenty minutes of awareness of the breath. So three elements: settle the posture, deliberately change the focus, recognize thoughts and let them go. We gather the mind which has been scattered on a number of activities up to that point and begin to focus it softly on the simple act of breathing.
This is the the first part of the first stage, turning our attention to the breath, marking a change from what activity we were engaged in up to this point.