In this section you’ll find:
- Settling: What it is. A general overview of what settling is and it’s importance in a path of Awakening in Life
- Clearing vs. Focusing. The difference between clearing vs. focusing in a settling practice
- Various Qualities of Settling. A succinct discussion of various qualities that can be emphasized and cultivated in a practice of settling
- Guided Meditations for Settling. Three guided audio meditations for settling.
Settling is simply coming to center in ourselves, clearing and relaxing our mind, heart, and body. In this process we experience a letting go and we rest in the space that remains.
Normally in our daily life, we’re often living in habitual patterns of reacting to life, for better or worse. When we want to shift from this habitual way of engaging our lives, either in the midst of our daily life or in formal practice, we have to center.
Like dust settling, leaving the air clear and breathable, we let our thoughts and emotions start to calm and dissipate. This practice of settling leaves us with a more clear mind and open heart, and as a result our experience and being becomes more workable and pliable. We become more receptive and we can more easily direct our attention to anything else we might do, particularly in working with the other capacities of awakening.
Another way to describe the practice of settling is that, through the practice, our mind becomes serviceable. There are two simple ways of looking at what might prompt one to take up a practice of settling: letting go to free the mind up or focusing the mind with effort to harness the power of attention. In a personal way, we might express these two approaches and needs like this: clearing vs. focusing.
‘I need to clear my mind’.
We experience too much distraction and we can’t stay present in practice enough to make use of the method. Here clearing the mind is done not by focusing attention on an object with effort, but trying to relax the mind by letting go of effort and remaining present, such that it becomes free and clear and able to stay with an object or practice.
‘I need to focus my mind.’
We either experience too much distraction or too much dullness, and so we can’t stay present in practice enough to make use of the method. Thus, a second way of settling is to make conscious effort to focus our attention exclusively on one object, pulling attention back (with effort) when it gets distracted on other objects. Over time we strengthen or ability to focus the mind on an object or technique more easily. This method can be particularly effective antidote for the experience of dullness.
This practice of settling can take different forms and flavors depending on what one is emphasizing. Some versions of this practice look like classic concentration meditations, while others look like practices of resting in presence. To help guide one’s practice, consider the following qualities and your experience of them in practice:
For example, one practice might emphasize focusing and excluding all phenomena except the object of concentration, which leads to a laser-like (narrow) quality and directionality of attention. In a very different way, another practice can emphasize relaxing attention such that attention settles and become stable, and in doing also becomes more open, inclusive (but less power in refined, pointed focus).
It is recommended to pay attention to your embodied experience in practice and life to help guide you to which settling practice and qualities might be most needed or beneficial at any given time.
Below are three different practices for settling depending on your needs. Please read the brief descriptions to help you choose:
This practice is discussed in more detail here, but one of the results of this practice is a deep settling, rooted in the body. Because this practice simultaneously cultivates many qualities and serves as a foundation for several other practices, it is highly recommended to students. There is an emphasis both on focusing and relaxing.
This practice is discussed in more detail here. Technically, it is recommended that you start with the above simple embodiment meditation, having done it at least a few times, before practicing this embodiment sequence transition. This sequence is meant as an opening sequence to precede other main practices, but serves very well as a beginning meditation practice by itself for settling. There is an emphasis on relaxing attention.
For beginners who need a very simple practice and who want an object of focus, this meditation focuses on the breath. There is still a quality of letting go and relaxing, but the breath is used as the object of focus.