Soto Zen Teacher Ben Connelly leads a guided meditation integrating two ways of meditating in the spirit of the Yogacara tradition of Buddhism.
Ben Connelly Bio
Ben Connelly is a Soto Zen teacher and Dharma heir in the Katagiri lineage. He also provides secular mindfulness training in a wide variety of contexts including police training, correctional facilities, and addiction recovery. Ben’s books include Mindfulness & Intimacy, Inside Vasubandhu’s Yogacara, and Inside the Grass Hut and teaches at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.
Guided Yogacara Meditation Introduction
[00:00:00] Ben Connelly: This will be an opportunity to integrate two of the main ways of meditating from the Yogacara Buddhist tradition, what we call vipassana and shamatha. So here, vipassana will refer to actively noticing specific aspects of our experience in particular ways, like mindfulness, and shamatha refers to objectless meditation.
You’re not choosing an object and there is no goal, nothing that you need to attain in the practice.
And these two meet in this tradition, both start attending to the breath. We call this access to shamatha in Yogacara texts. So I’m just going to invite you to find a posture of the body that feels stable and optimal, feeling your upper body lifting and opening upwards. So sitting in some way where you can feel the energy, the upward extending energy of your spine.
And let’s just bring some attention to places where the body is in contact with the ground and the chair, where we are supported.
We’re sitting. We can just keep coming back to the physical sensations in the body. And if they feel out of alignment or just need some care, you can just gently move the body and reorient it so it can be stable and upright.
Allowing awareness now to settle down in the physical sensations in the lower abdomen.
Noticing that the body expands a little bit as you breathe in and contracts with the exhalation.
If you find that you are having some settling of awareness in the breath, in the lower abdomen, just open up your field of attention to include the whole body.
And you may find at times you are very focused on some mental activity, thinking.
And if that occurs, you can just gently bring the awareness back into the feeling in the belly, the body breathing.
As we are experiencing awareness of the body, see if we can expand our attention to include emotion, or feeling.
You may not notice any feeling or emotion and that is fine. We don’t need to pin this down or figure it out.
It is like listening if you’re in a quiet room.
You’re choosing to care and attend to the aspect of experience, which is emotions, but you may not notice anything. And that’s okay.
You might not notice sound in a quiet room, even though you are listening.
Awareness settling in the body, sensations of breathing throughout the body.
Noticing if emotion or feeling is present.
And if you find you’re thinking, if there are words moving through the mind, you don’t need to do anything to them. You can just bring your attention into the breath and the body.
Shifting attention from mental activity, because it needs less attention and care right now. And turning it towards the body and any feelings or emotions that arise because these really can benefit from attention and care, just noticing.
If it feels mysterious, like where are my feelings or what does it mean to notice my emotions? That’s okay.
This is not about figuring it out. This is about caring, just turning towards.
Even if you’re not sure quite what you’re listening for, what you’re hearing, or why, you can still listen.
So we’re choosing here to notice the body and attend to it and notice emotions and feelings and attend to them.
But as we do this, there are so many other phenomena, things heard, thoughts, visual images, whether the eyes are open or closed, maybe smells or tastes.
We don’t need to do anything to any of those things.
Just allowing the whole field of awareness to be known.
We can let the awareness be so broad. Naturally, including physical sensation, the body as experience, emotion, visual images, thoughts, sounds.
Maybe trusting that we don’t need to fix, judge or control. Any of it.
So for the last few minutes of this meditation practice, I will be quiet.
And you can just let what is known in awareness, be known.
But if you find that your experience is dominated by thinking you could actively bring the attention into the breath and the body having settled there just let the field of awareness expand to encompass the whole, all the senses. What is felt?
This is not about creating some particular and special state of mind.
This is not about being something other than who you are.
Closing of Meditation
Good friends on the path.
I invite you to join me in closing this meditation, to join me in the aspiration that all the benefit of our practice here and offering it for the liberation of all beings everywhere throughout space and time, that we may be healed.
May we be free from all the binds.
And I wish you well in all things. Thank you.
Ben Connelly’s new book Mindfulness & Intimacy is available online and in bookstores, as is the book we talked about on the last episode, Inside Vasubandhu’s Yogacara.
Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Tara Anderson
Audio mastering by Christian Parry and Chris Boulton
Digital Production by Jason Waterman