With samadhi, there is a space to investigate and understand Mara, the personification of the patterns of mind that bind us to distress. We can begin to do this with applied intention and attention. We set the intention to be present with just one breath, one moment, but we find that our attention does slip away. So we reapply it. We renew those intentions. We don’t make one intention to be kind or one intention to be patient and think that that’s it. We learn to apply and reapply, moment to moment, with an effort that is calm and caring.

Attitude is so important. We are on a path that requires depths of patience and caring, and it is a path that has a direction: awakening and the end of distress.

Take this quote from the Digha Nikaya. The Buddha says: 

When there is appreciation, joy is born. When the mind is joyful, the body calms down. When the body calms, it feels happiness, and when there is happiness, the mind gathers.

Through the willingness to apply and reapply intention and attention, we begin to see the emergence of our capacity to sustain intention and attention, and the possibility of samadhi. This has profound implications, not only just for our practice but also for the whole of our lives.

A well-trained mind is one that is no longer governed by Mara but is guided by sustained intention. It is a mind that has the capacity to see clearly and reflectively. 

The Buddha speaks of the three wise intentions to cultivate and sustain: the intentions of kindness, compassion, and nonclinging. These intentions can guide our speech, thoughts, and actions. They also have extended families. A well-trained mind is a mind that’s a true friend. A place of ease, stillness, spaciousness, and responsiveness. 

A Practice

Settle into a posture where you can feel easeful and wakeful, where the body feels to be a friend. Establish a sense of groundedness, collectedness, and gatheredness. Intentionally cultivate calm abiding in the midst of all things, whatever agitations might be present, whatever sense of contractedness or busyness might be present. 

Introduce that clear intention to cultivate calm abiding with kindness, compassion, and nonclinging. With each out-breath, breathe out agitation, breathe out busyness. Allow the mind to settle in, to join the body in this cultivation of calm abiding. 

Just listen to the mind-heart of the moment, sensing whether any of the veiling factors are present. Is there a sense of discontent, of wanting a better moment, a better body, or a better mind? Is there a pattern of ill will, frustration, impatience, tightness, pushing away, or resisting? Is there a mood of agitation, worrying, busyness, or restlessness in the body or mind? Is there a pattern of dullness, numbness, or disconnection? Is there a mood or a pattern of doubt, uncertainty, or floundering? 

It is in the midst of these factors that we cultivate clear intention and wise attention. In the midst of this, we give greater authority to our intentions and attention rather than to whatever mood or veiling factor is present. In the midst of this, we can settle in the groundedness of the body. In the midst of this, we can cultivate a mind-heart of kindness, compassion, and nonclinging. We explore what it is to be undiverted, to not feed those patterns of thought. We let them be: arising and passing, applying and reapplying the intention to be present in the body of the moment, to calm the agitations, to cultivate stillness, wellness, and easefulness. 

We apply and reapply those intentions and attention many times. In all the moments we find ourselves diverted or forgetful, we come back. 

We discover we can return, celebrating and appreciating a capacity to return, to come back, to collect, and to gather. Begin to steady those intentions and attention. Appreciate what it is to abide in calmness, collectedness, and gatheredness; to be ungoverned by Mara; to be ungoverned by patterns of reactivity; to calm the storms. 

Breathe in and out with kindness. Breathe in and out with care. Breathe in and out with the clarity of intention, to know this moment just as it is; to know this breath just as it is; to know this body, mind, heart, and moment just as it is. 

Continue with this practice, if you wish, or emerge if that is appropriate for you, not leaving behind that sense of gatheredness and collectedness. Not leaving behind that field of skillful intention.

Excerpted from Christina Feldman’s Tricycle Meditation Month video “A Well-Trained Mind.” Watch the full video here and learn more about Meditation Month here.

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.