Having performed a ritual, small or otherwise, to enter into the meditation, which I would like to call establishing the right attitude, we need now to establish the right awareness.
When we look at the Seven Factors that lead to Awakening, we see that awareness sits on its own, but is supported by three factors that are passive and three that are active and they pair each other: calmness with interest, effort with concentration and equanimity with investigation the Dhamma.
In the Discourse on How to Establish Right Awareness, the Buddha starts by asking us to observe the breath in a gross way, then to use it to calm ourselves and then to turn on the curiosity and observe the characteristic of impermanence.
This exercise develops the passive qualities and it is best done standing, though you can change it to suit a sitting posture.
Feel the sensations in your feet and how they are changing. Then slowly come up the body both inside and on the surface feeling whatever sensations there are. When you get to the top of the head, feel all the sensations that arise on the scalp. Then turn your attention outward to hear sounds, see colours, sense the atmosphere of the room and so on. Once that outward awareness is established, bring into it the feelings in your feet, the breath and so on. In this way a very spacious awareness is developed whereby the boundary between inside and outside becomes softened.
Our attitude meanwhile is to develop calmness of the body and mind, by relaxing in the posture; a steady attention (the noting is very helpful) which is our concentration; and receptivity. That’s’ the equanimity. Equanimity means that we are coming from a place of ‘don’t know’ or ‘not sure’ and so stops concepts and opinions from distorting our experience.
Once this is established we can repeat to ourselves: Achieving nothing. (To achieve means we are always doing something now for some future result. But here we are just standing. Standing for standing sake.) Going nowhere. (Since we are in the present moment in a total way, we are right here. No planning needed.) Being nobody. (Since we are in silence and only in receptive mode, we don’t have to perform, become a personality. No hope of celebrity here!)
Once this open awareness with the attributes of calmness, attentiveness and equanimity is the default position within which we can switch on the curiosity and begin to investigate the Three Characteristics of Existence – impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self.
A further importance of this is that we can return to it at any time of the day and in later Tips I shall go into more detail. But if you keep dropping into this default position throughout the day, you yourself will see the benefits.