Excerpt from Living in Blue Sky Mind (Deidrichs): How We Meditate
How We Meditate
Right Concentration furnishes the eighth step on Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Technically, Right Concentration signifies passing through four stages in meditation called jhanas, and arriving at mindfulness. While the steps on the path are not consecutive and are practiced together, Buddha said that by following the previous steps, that is, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Understanding, Right Effort, Right Intention, Right Livelihood, and Right Mindfulness, we arrive at Right Concentration.
When we concentrate, we focus our attention on something. Concentration, here called samadhi,
means that we focus our mind on an object that helps us to become more wholesome and pure in our awareness. As we know, a distracted mind races between ideas, thoughts, and concepts, filled with anxiety, worry, concern, and delusion (thinking that things differ from the way they actually are). This mind has been compared to the antics of a drunken monkey. A drunken monkey chatters and flits and flops around in a cage. A concentrated mind focuses and is not easily distracted. A concentrated mind readily sees things exactly as they are right in front of us: the truth of the moment.
We learn to focus in Zen practice (with a teacher) on the breath as the object of mind. Our breath never leaves us. It functions always and only in the present moment. The longer we practice concentrating on the breath (without striving for any particular goal), the more space we create to allow thoughts, ideas, and concerns to rise up in our mind momentarily, and pass on without attachment, without judgment, and without concern.
Finally, our mind becomes so one-pointed that we purify our awareness, letting go of what we call mental afflictions and defilements, such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, greed, craving, clinging, delusion, and doubt. We cultivate wholesome qualities, such as joy, energy, concentration, confidence, alertness, clear mental faculties, and tranquility. Ultimately, we arrive at true wisdom.
Wisdom and compassion are the final abodes, the home, and the goalless goal that we reach after treading on Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.
Why is Buddha’s Eightfold Path called a path?
Why is meditation an essential part of Zen practice?
A beginning koan (mind puzzle) in Zen is called susokan. The teacher tells the student: “Bring me susokan, the ‘breath with eyes.’” Why do you think this koan, “breath with eyes,” is given to new students?