The method I use most in teaching is anapanasati or mindfulness with breathing. Breath awareness supports us while we investigate the entire mind-body process. It helps calm the mind and gives us a graceful entry into a state of choiceless awareness--a place without agendas, where we are not for or against whatever turns up in the moment.
In this state we relax into ourselves. We allow the mind to empty itself of its own content and take us into a realm of silence.
Choiceless awareness, with the transition into and out of silence, has fascinated me for a long time. What are the barriers to our minds becoming silent? How do we remain in silence long enough to receive its countless benefits? Can we learn to bring thought-free wakefulness into each aspect of our ordinary, daily living?
As lay people we need a practice that helps us learn how to live whole-heartedly, to do justice to the many challenges of lay life, and at the same time grow in the dharma. This includes moving gracefully back and forth between our daily life and intensive retreat practice.
Presently, I am deeply interested in using Buddha's Charter of Freedom of Inquiry, the Kalama Sutta, as a framework for my teaching. In this teaching, the Buddha invites us to question and doubt. It invites us to use personal experience to test and verify the truth of the teachings. This in turn encourages us to acknowledge life's greatest teacher: Life itself.
The challenge for us all is to question ourselves. Do we know how to live? If the answer, in any way, is no, then bring in the dharma and let's see how the teachings help us live in a wise and kind way.
Larry Yang, a longtime meditator, trained as a psychotherapist, has taught meditation since 1999 and is a core teacher at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. He has practiced in Southeast Asia and was a Buddhist monk in Thailand.
Kate Lila Wheeler began teaching meditation in the mid-1980s and continues to practice with teachers in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Writing is an important part of her life; she has recently completed a second novel.
Linda Graham, M.F.T., has a full-time private psychotherapy practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and leads trainings nationwide on the emerging integration of relational psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience. She is the author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience (New World Library, 2013) and publishes a monthly e-newsletter Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, archived on her website.