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The Degree of “Grip” upon the Meditation Object

October 30, 2004

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)

It is very possible that one may either be holding on to one’s meditation object too “tightly,” or not “tightly” enough.  I find when I meditate, which successfully produces jhana almost every time this contemplative sits, then I observe the breath “loosely.”  This loose hold upon one’s meditation object should of course not be too loose to the point that one’s concentration wavers and wanders, by the same token one’s concentration should not be so tight that one only gets a headache from meditation and never experiences absorption.

So, what constitutes this loose form of concentration I am speaking of?  I liken it to the kind of hold one has upon the reigns of a horse.  If one has learned to ride a horse, then one will know that one should hold the reigns firmly but not rigidly, or the horse will rebel or resist one’s direction.

Many people do not know this about horses, but riding a horse is actually a cooperative venture between the rider and the horse.  As long as the rider is willing to let there be this cooperative venture between him/herself and the horse, then the ride will be enjoyable for both the rider and the horse.  On the other hand if the rider does not let the horse know that he or she is in charge of where the two of you are going, then the horse is likely to go to the nearest patch of grass to eat.  If one holds the reigns too tightly then the horse is going to yank and pull at the reigns and be impatient for when the rider will get off of its back.

If a horse riding metaphor does not work for any of you, then there is another metaphor I have resorted to.  It is the metaphor of ballroom dancing.  One’s hold upon the breath should be the same level of grip that the lead in the ballroom dance has with his dance partner.

In partner dancing there is often a lead.  It is the leads job to direct the flow of the dance and to direct his partner so that she does not bump into someone, because often the partner dances backwards.  So, there needs to be a level of trust as well as a level of gentle direction in dance, just as in riding a horse.

The same is true in meditation.  One needs to hold the “reigns” or “hand” of the mind firmly enough, so that the mind knows that “someone” is in control.  But, that grip should not be so tight that there is no latitude for a smooth and graceful “ride” through the countryside, or across the ballroom floor, or through the natural ripples of the mind.  So, the “grip” one should have upon one’s meditation object should be a light grip, but firm enough to avoid an endlessly wandering mind.

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

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