In the modern world our lives are filled with constant activities of work and family life. We all search for happiness but our busy schedules distract us from the true peace that can be experienced when we rest. The Dzogchen meditation is based on the practice of resting the body, speech and mind. It is particularly effective for managing the stresses of the 21st century.
What is Dzogchen meditation?
The practice of Dzogchen meditation has been passed down through an unbroken lineage for more than 400 years and is the complete resting of body, speech and mind. The lineage holder, His Eminence the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche, regularly teaches this ancient meditation method to students across the world.
The basic philosophy
Balance is central to our wellbeing, yet we do not give much consideration to it and operate at a constant fast pace. Often our idea of rest is to go on holiday or to enjoy our leisure time by meeting friends for a coffee and catching up. Dzogchen Rinpoche explains that going on a holiday is only a short-term solution; vacations help us feel refreshed for a short time, and when we return, the same stressors and problems remain and nothing really changes—sometimes problems seem even worse!
“When we are lying on the beach, our minds are still active and we are distracted by everything that is going on around us. We become unsettled by sitting in one place so we read a book, then listen to our mp3 player and check our mobile phones for text messages. Even though we think we are, we are not really resting,” he says.
If we really want to experience peace and be free from stress, then we need to use a method that will bring us continuous benefit not just temporary relief.
Importance of expert guidance
Practising meditation accrues us various benefits but it is important to follow an authentic tradition and teacher. “When we follow a teacher of an authentic wisdom tradition we can reconnect to this profound wisdom and experience genuine wellbeing,” says Dzogchen Rinpoche who was educated under the watchful eye of many of the great meditation masters of the last century.
Resting our speech
Resting our speech can help reduce many modern psychological imbalances such as anxiety. This approach is at odds with popular psychology that suggests that it is positive to continually express and talk about our emotions. Rinpoche believes, however, that we may actually be doing ourselves more harm than good by this.
“In the Buddha Medicine lineage, it is said that when we talk too much, our lung [wind/energy] increases. When lung increases, it destabilises the natural balance in the body, affecting our well being,” he explains. We often talk without thinking. When we talk less, we produce fewer thoughts and fewer problems. All the subjects that we discuss are plans orchestrated by our mind, so the mind is never resting. To experience inner peace the practice of resting our speech is essential.
Resting the mind
According to the Dzogchen tradition, all of our physical and mental suffering is created by our mind, so when we rest, we reduce the activity of our mind and the difficulties that it creates. At first, resting the mind may seem difficult but if we persevere and remember to turn our minds regularly inwards throughout the day, we begin to experience inner change.
“Our mind is like a candle flame disturbed by the winds of our thoughts and emotions. When the candle flame is still, the radiating light allows us to see more clearly. In the same way, when we calm our mind, quieten our thoughts and rest, clarity and confidence naturally arise in our lives,” says Rinpoche. Just like the candle flame, we too are disturbed by our thoughts and emotions. Meditation may initially seem unfamiliar to us so Dzogchen tradition offers clear instructions on how to rest the mind.
How to calm the mind
- To begin, sit in a comfortable position; it is not necessary to adopt the lotus position if you find it difficult. Rest your hands on your knees. “When we place our hands together this encourages thoughts; but with our hands apart and rested on our knees, this helps our thoughts to naturally dissolve,” says Rinpoche.
- Focus inward. When you first focus inwardly, you may begin to feel uncomfortable. You will see many different thoughts, moods and emotions flashing across the screen of your mind which can sometimes be overwhelming.
- Try not to block the senses. You can hear sounds and see objects, but it’s important not to get distracted by labelling your experiences. If thoughts or emotions come, just let them go so that you stay relaxed and calm.
- Keeping our eyes open when we meditate, allows us to rest our mind in any situation, particularly when we have completed our practice and got off our meditation cushion. Trying to rest our minds with our eyes closed can make us drowsy and will block the eye sense.
- Once we calm our energy, the mind will naturally settle and we begin to experience clarity. Wisdom can only pop up if the mind is calm and peaceful. If the mind is very busy then there is no space for it. Don’t give up at the first challenge, persevere and gradually you can experience clarity in your daily lives.
At first, you may doubt this method because we have been taught that realisations are complicated and difficult to achieve. In fact, it is the opposite and the answer has been present within us from the beginning.
By resting body, speech and mind we can become more aware of our actions and their consequences.
Learning to share
“We encourage altruistic action and the practice of compassion for others, but this can easily be destroyed by our emotions—in particular anger. One small seed of compassion can grow into a giant tree but one small spark of anger can burn an entire forest,” says Rinpoche.
Anger generally arises from doubt and fear and displaying anger is very easy for us as it has been our habit for many years. At times, our emotions can seem so intense that we feel we will burst unless we express them. Consequently, being kind and compassionate now seems very difficult and requires a great deal of effort.
So how can we recognise the suffering that our emotions create? No matter the strength of the challenges we face, resting body, speech and mind is the complete solution.