Now that we have established some basic ontological categories of being, let’s put them into practical use with mindfulness meditation. This where you decide whether reading The Luminous Mind is going to be mere useless curiosity, or give you practical benefit. No amount of reading about or thinking about the Buddha’s teaching can give you the slightest transformation of being; only applied meditation can do that. The Buddha says:
And so, Ānanda, I have taught directed meditation; and I have taught undirected meditation. Whatever is to be done by a teacher with compassion for the welfare of students, that has been done by me out of compassion for you. Here are the roots of trees. Here are empty places. Get down and meditate. Don’t be lazy. Don’t become one who is later remorseful. This is my instruction to you. — Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta (Saṃyutta-Nikāya 47.10)
It is necessary, but not sufficient to read and think about the Buddha’s teaching; that is only preliminary. To get the benefit of reducing or eliminating suffering, you must find the Buddha’s truth in your own experience. This means deep, concentrated self-observation and meditation based on his instructions in the Suttas.
The principle of this beginning exercise is very simple: sit down in a peaceful place, control the senses and watch the mind. When your mind is here and now, recognize that ‘This is reflexive experience, ontic consciousness’. When the mind jumps to the past and future, recognize that ‘This is reflective experience, ontological consciousness’.
You will find that when your attention is in the present, you will be conscious of your six senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touch and the mind thinking about the present experience. When your attention drifts to the past and future, you will be conscious of memory and imagination, respectively.
If you train yourself in this way daily, a minimum of fifteen minutes per session, soon you will be able to tell immediately when your mind drifts from the present, immediate and reflexive experience into the past or future, reflective experience. Soon you will begin to realize subtle things about yourself that you can easily improve. You will very quickly notice improvements in your energy, efficiency, mood and health. This is merely a side-benefit of proper training in mindfulness, which is only a preliminary to actual concentration and meditation—that’s where the real benefits are.
By the way, we do not think that a rigid, fixed procedure for meditation is a good idea. Meditation does not cause or produce enlightenment; rather, it is a form of training the mind to be strong and precise, but also supple and flexible. One should be able to apply the mind and intelligence creatively to any problem, including the problem of existence and suffering. Therefore a rigid program or extreme effort actually works against attaining insight. Use a light hand; don’t try to force anything. Relax and take it easy—meditation should be fun.
OK, now close the computer, sit down and get started.