Step 2 sets the second component of meditation: right attention also referred to as meditative focus. Within The Practice of Living Awareness, this step is called “Tip of the Nose.”
Step 1 established an openness to life through wonder and appreciation. Smile opens us up. Otherwise, a person contracts and tends toward small mindedness, judgement, gossip, entitlement and other such mental and emotional states. Smile uplifts, and the curve of the smile metaphysically becomes a bowl which supports a lighted mind which happens automatically when one genuinely smiles. The experience of a lighted mind includes the experience of spaciousness, which also is supported by the smile. Wonder, appreciation, and gratitude, then, become habits of the mind. As a result, many things change: impatience transforms into patience, pettiness changes into non-judgement, the tendency to worry is released into ease and less need to control. As a result, one abides in the space and light of the mind grateful for the moment, the people in it, the teaching that life is bringing forward, and for the mindfulness available to experience it. A smile really does change everything – which is how it can change the world.
Step 2 adds attention, but with meditation in mind. True meditation takes time to cultivate because there are several components to real meditation. One of them is concentration: meditative attention. Yet, in order to establish meditative attention so that right concentration can result, one must withdraw from the external foci that habitually command one’s attention. This is the primary reason why meditation is difficult to learn or acquire as a skill: we have many outer stimuli that our mind is used to responding to or being distracted by. These are antithetical to a meditative focus and to contemplation.
The step Tip of the Nose draws one’s attention to the small interface of the moment: the breath coming in and the breath going out. Experiencing this – in contradistinction to thinking about it – is the technique necessary to establish the mind in a stable state. This fact was given by the original yoga master, Patanjali, and by Shakyamuni Buddha. With meditative attention stabilzied then one can actually develop meditation.
Downloadable podcast: Cultivating meditative attention 2a