Continuing with Kamala’s talk, “The Five Spiritual Faculties’ relationship to Equanimity,” and the fourth faculty of concentration.
Several teachers, talks, and articles on this subject frequently comment that the word “concentration” may not be the best translation for samadhi.
When I was on retreat with Susie Harrington last August, she said that the word “concentration” has a brittle quality. You can probably think of a time when you were trying hard to figure something out; then there was something that disturbed you – kids arguing, a loud truck, dogs barking – and snap! there goes your concentration.
Susie said in contrast, samadhi has more of a feeling of being pliable and flexible; it allows things to move through. Some other words I’ve heard teachers use are: collected, gathered, composure.
Susie also described how this practice requires the right balance of effort. If we pounce on our concentration, we can tire out. Rather we make a commitment to each moment. She also said we don’t “do” concentration. Instead, we pay attention with some continuity, and the result is this quality of a collected mind.
Kamala’s talk discusses a couple of ways to approach concentration. One is to stay focused on a single object (the breath, a metta phrase, a kasina). This can result in very deep states of absorption. The other is a type of concentration on changing objects. Your breath may be the anchor, but if something becomes more predominant, then that becomes the focus for the mind, until something else comes up. Also knowing that we can always return to our anchor (breath, body, sounds) if we need to re-stabilize.
Guided meditation: Here’s a meditation that supports this quality of concentration from Max Erdstein. The meditation is about 30 minutes, followed by a few comments and announcements.
Feel free to share your reflections or comments below, or by email.
With warm wishes,