Intermediate: Liberation from the ego

patanjali-1If shamatha is the foundation for all levels of meditation, then what is the foundation of shamatha? The great sage Patanjali states that it is “to still the patterning of the consciousness.” (Sutra 1 of Book I) He furthermore states: “Then, pure awareness can abide in its very nature. Otherwise, awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness.”(Sutras 2 & 3 of Book 1) This abiding of awareness in its own nature is shamatha. It also is the more refined and exalted states of meditation and levels of Awareness.

How does one “still the patterning of consciousness?” Patanjali offers: “Both practice and non-reaction are required to still the patterning of consciousness.” I. 12
“Practice is the sustained effort to rest in that stillness.” I. 13 This, then, is the effort and instruction that leads one to establish and stabilize shamatha. It is necessary to practice this stilling of the patterning of consciousness on and off the cushion.

Off the cushion, one would try to pause briefly and hold a moment of neutrality frequently through the day. This needs to be done with thoughts, definitions, habits of mind, beliefs, habituated emotional responses, and even the idea that red is red and green is green. These are patterns that have been placed within or upon the consciousness but do not hold sway in the vast possibilities of Awareness itself.

We continue to practice a simple pranayama that will, with practice and effort, produce a shamatha – the ground of all states.


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2 thoughts on “Intermediate: Liberation from the ego

  1. Hi Donna
    Hoping you are well. So happy to be meditating with you again. I have a question about this last meditation and was hoping you could help. I really am not sure if I understand this breathing technique. Am I breathing up left side to the crown and down right side, then up right side to crown and down left like you would doing alternate nostril breathing or is the technique your using totally different. I would like to be doing the breath work correctly before I move on to the next session. Thanks for all the wonderful meditations that you share with everyone.

    Linda Wall

    1. hi Linda, not quite right. The technique is simpler than that. Right or left is up to you. It is likely that one side will feel intuitively more comfortable with either the ascending of the breath or the descending of it.

      The first in-breath begins below the root center, then in and up one side. In one in-breath – but not hurriedly – the in-breath goes from base center (root) to the crown center. The out-breath goes down the other side from the crown to the base. Now the in-breath is within the subtle system, and one simply breathes consciously, attentively following the same in and out breath. After one has done that for several breaths, one then drops the mental attention on technique and abides in tranquility and luminous attention.

      Hope that is clear.

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