Another classic way to bring the mind inward is to focus on one of the subtle-body spiritual centers, usually the heart center or the third eye. This heart-centered practice is based on a centering prayer from one of the Christian contemplative traditions. It directs your awareness toward the seat of higher emotions, allowing your attention to sink gradually inward. Sitting quietly, bringyour attention into the center of the chest, behind the breastbone, deep inside the body One way to find this spot is to measure five finger-widths below the hollow of the collarbone, and then bring your attention inward from this spot to the very center of the body. Let the breath flow as if it were flowing into and out of the center of the chest, touching this placc in the inner heart. You might imagine, ifyou like, that there is an
Once you've developed your core practice, there are certain classical contemplative practices from the great traditions that every meditator should know. Each addresses one or another of our basic human imbalances. Just as you work with a core practice for a few weeks or months to see If it "fits," so you should practice with one of these classical contemplations several times a week for a month, until it starts to open up for you. As you become more skilled at navigating the inner landscape, you'll come to know which of these contemplative practices would be helpful at a given moment-to shift you out of a stuck state, to open your heart, or to help you connect with a feeling of wholeness. Here are a few such practices.
LOVINGKINDNESS (METTA) MEDITATION
In lovingkindness meditation, you move through four stages of wishing that you, a loved one, a neutral person, an enemy, and the world have happiness, health, and freedom. The book Lovingkindness, by Sharon Salzberg, is a great source for learning about this practice.
TAKING AND SENDING (TONGLEN) MEDITATION
In tonglen meditation, you breathe in a heavy emotion or some other form of suffering, then breathe out happiness, peace, and healing, directing it first to yourself, then to an individual you know, then to a group of people somewhere in the world, and finally to all beings. One opening in the chest wall and that the breath is flowing in and out horizontally. Or you can simply feci that the inhalation ends at the heart center and that the exhalation rises from there.
As you gently focus your attention on the heart center, choose a word or phrase that helps you turn inward. It should convey a feeling of safety, of connection to love, to the Divine, or to inwardness itself. "Trust" is one such word. "Love"
effect of this practice Is to help you recognize that your emotion is not just personal. You'll realize that any form of emotion or physical suffering you feel is universal, and you'll begin to experience a true sense of kinship, compassion, and even oneness with these other beings. Pema Chodron's book Start Where You Are has a good step-by-step version of tonglen as well as teachings on the deeper meaning of the practice.
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