HERMETIC - ESOTERIC - MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHIES
TIBETAN DREAM YOGA
CALM ABIDING "ZHINČ"
All yogic and spiritual disciplines include some form of practice that develops concentration and quiets the mind. In the Tibetan tradition this practice is called calm abiding (zhine). We recognize three stages in the development of stability: forceful zhine, natural zhine, and ultimate zhine. Zhine begins with mental fixation on an object and, when concentration is strong enough, moves on to fixation without an object. (Same principle as working with the Perfect Model presented to you on this website).
Begin the practice by sitting comfortably on a chair or in the five-pointed meditation posture: the legs crossed, the hands folded in the lap in meditation position with palms up and placed one on top of the other, the spine straight but not rigid, the head tilted down slightly to straighten the neck, and the eyes open. The eyes should be relaxed, not too wide open and not too closed. The object of concentration should be placed so that the eyes can look straight ahead, neither up nor down. During the practice try not to move, not even to swallow or blink, while keeping the mind one pointedly on the object. Even if tears should stream down your face, do not move. Let the breathing be natural.
Generally, for practice with an object, Zhine practitioners use the Tibetan letter A as the object of concentration. This letter has many symbolic meanings but here is used simply as a support for the development of focus. Other objects may also be used — the letter A of the English alphabet, an image of your Perfect Model, or any other sacred Image , the sound of a mantra, the breath — almost anything. However, it is good to use something connected to the sacred, as it serves to inspire you. Also, try to use the same object each time you practice, rather than switching between objects, because the continuity acts as a support of the practice. It is also somewhat preferable to focus on a physical object that is outside the body, as the purpose is to develop stability during the perception of external objects and, eventually, of the objects in dream. Concentration
If you wish to use the Tibetan "A" you can write it on a piece of paper about an inch square. Traditionally, the letter is white and is enclosed in five concentric colored circles: the center circle that is the direct background for the "A" is indigo; around it is a blue circle, then green, red, yellow, and white ones. Tape the paper to a stick that is just long enough to support the paper at eye level when you sit for practice, and make a base that holds it upright. Place it so that the "A" is about a foot and a half in front of your eyes.
The Tibetan Letter "A"
Many signs of progress can arise during the practice. As concentration strengthens and the periods of practice are extended, strange sensations arise in the body and many strange visual phenomena appear. You may find your mind doing strange things, too! That is all right. These experiences are a natural part of the development of concentration; they arise as the mind settles, so be neither disturbed by nor excited about them.
The first stage of practice is called "forceful" because it requires effort. The mind is easily and quickly distracted, and it may seem impossible to remain focused on the object for even a minute. In the beginning, it is helpful to practice in numerous short sessions alternating with breaks. Do not let the mind wander during the break, but instead recite a mantra, or work with visualization, or work with another practice you may know, such as the development of compassion. After the break, return to the fixation practice. If you are ready to practice but do not have the particular object you have been using, visualize a ball of light on your forehead and center yourself there. The practice should be done once or twice a day, and can be done more frequently if you have the time. Developing concentration is like strengthening the muscles of the body: exercise must be done regularly and frequently. To become stronger keep pushing against your limits.
Keep the mind on the object. Do not follow the thoughts of the past or the future. Do not allow the attention to be carried away by fantasy, sound, physical sensation, or any other distraction. Just remain in the sensuality of the present moment, and with your whole strength and clarity focus the mind through the eye, on the object. Do not lose the awareness of the object even for a second. Breathe gently, and then more gently, until the sense of breathing is lost. Slowly allow yourself to enter more deeply into quiet and calm. Make certain that the body is kept relaxed; do not tense up in concentration. Neither should you allow yourself to fall into a stupor, a dullness, or a trance.
Do not think about the object, just let it be in awareness. This is an important distinction to make. Thinking about the object is not the kind of concentration we are developing. The point is just to keep the mind placed on the object, on the sense perception of the object, to undistractedly remain aware of the presence of the object. When the mind does get distracted and it often will in the beginning, gently bring it back to the object and leave it there.
As stability is developed, the second stage of practice is entered: natural zhine. In the first stage, concentration is developed by continually directing the attention to the object and developing control over the unruly mind. In the second stage, the mind is absorbed in contemplation of the object and there is no longer the need for force to hold it still. A relaxed and pleasant tranquility is established, in which the mind is quiet and thoughts arise without distracting the mind from the object. The elements of the body become harmonized and the prana moves evenly and gently throughout the body. This is an appropriate time to move to fixation without an object.
Abandoning the physical object, simply fix the focus on space. It is helpful to gaze into expansive space, like the sky, but the practice can be done even in a small room by fixing on the space between your body and the wall. Remain steady and calm. Leave the body relaxed.
Rather than focusing on an imagined point in space, allow the mind, while remaining in strong presence, to be diffuse. We call this "dissolving the mind" in space, or "merging the mind with space." It will lead to stable tranquility and the third stage of zhine practice.
Whereas in the second stage there is still some heaviness involved in the absorption in the object, the third stage is characterized by a mind that is tranquil but light, relaxed, and pliable. Thoughts arise and dissolve spontaneously and without effort. The mind is integrated fully with its own movement.
In the Dzogchen tradition, this is traditionally when the master introduces the student to the natural state of mind. Because the student has developed zhine, the master can point to what the student has already experienced rather than describing a new state that must be attained. The explanation, which is known as the "pointing out" instruction, is meant to lead the student to recognize what is already there, to discriminate the moving mind in thought and concept from the nature of mind, which is pure, non-dual awareness. This is the ultimate stage of zhine practice, abiding in non-dual presence, rigpa (awareness) itself.
In developing the zhine practice, there are three obstacles that must be overcome: agitation, drowsiness, and laxity.
Agitation causes the mind to jump restlessly from one thought to another and makes concentration difficult. To prevent this, calm yourself before the practice session by avoiding too much physical or mental activity. Slow stretches may help to relax the body and quiet the mind. Once you are sitting, take a few deep, slow breaths. Make it a practice to focus the mind immediately when you start the practice to avoid developing the habit of mentally wandering while sitting in meditation posture.
The second obstacle is drowsiness or sleepiness, which moves into the mind like a fog, a heaviness and torpor that blunts awareness. When it does this, try to strengthen the mind's focus on the object in order to penetrate the drowsiness. You may find that drowsiness is actually a kind of movement of the mind that you can stop with strong concentration. If this does not work, take a break, stretch, and perhaps do some practice while standing.
The third obstacle is laxity. When encountering this obstacle you may feel that your mind is calm, but in a passive, weak mental state in which the concentration has no strength. It is important to recognize this state for what it is. It can be a pleasant and relaxed experience and, if mistaken for correct meditation, may cause the practitioner to spend years mistakenly cultivating it, with no discernable change in the quality of consciousness. If your focus loses strength and your practice becomes lax, straighten your posture and wake up your mind. Reinforce the attention and guard the stability of presence. Regard the practice as something precious, which it is, and as something that will lead to the attainment of the highest realization, which it will. Strengthen the intention and automatically the wakefulness of the mind is strengthened.
Zhine practice should be done every day until the mind is quiet and stable. It is not only a preliminary practice, but is helpful at any point in the practitioner's life; even very advanced yogis practice zhine. The stability of mind developed through zhine is the foundation of dream yoga and all other meditation practices. Once we have achieved a strong and reliable steadiness in calm presence, we can develop this steadiness in all aspects of life. When stable, this presence can always be found, and we will not be carried away by thoughts and emotions. Then, even though karmic traces continue to produce dream images after falling asleep, we remain in awareness. This opens the door to the further practices of both dream and sleep yogas.
Note: The extracts contained here are for personal use only, and may not be reproduced for commercial distribution.)
(These are excerpts from two different Dzogchen Dream Yoga books - "Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural light" by Namkhai Norbu and "The Tibetan yogas of dream and Sleep" by Tenzin Wangyal Rimpoche)
To read more on this subject click on this line "Teachings in Dreams"
You can also read on this website:
*Importance of Dreams in the Mystical Process
* Guideline to Dream Interpretation
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