Energized Mudra for Concentration Meditation
It involves introducing an energy current via a mudra (hand pose) which helps stabilize the breath and provides an additional non-thought object so there is really no space left in the mind for thoughts. This energy current eventually merges into the breath producing a single highly coherent energized breath object (which is what samatha is supposed to produce anyway).
While sitting, make the dhyana mudra:
Place the tips of your thumbs together very gently, and simultaneously try to pull them apart very gently while keeping them together. The simultaneous impulses to both push together and pull apart are performed very gently and continuously. The result is that the thumbs will not move at all. However, the two competing impulses produce a very stable yet subtle energy current up the spine which you should be able to perceive after a short time. This energy current is also very equanimous and has a calming effect in and of itself.
Practise this mindfully until it becomes a learned habit. This should only take a couple of minutes as it is very easy. Now, continue doing it while maintaining concentration on the breath. Now, give yourself to the breath – the energy current will stabilize attention on the breath.
This, I believe, is one of the original purposes of this mudra, and why it is the standard mudra in Buddhist concentration practice. It should be performed as an enhancement to your existing concentration practice.
One thing I am trying to do is to bring back things from yoga such as poses, energy practices, and some subtle breath control, that were present in Buddhism but somehow got lost when this stuff got brought over to the West. In many cases these simple practices are the difference between absorption and spinning your wheels for years.
One other fascinating and absolutely useful thing I discovered from practising this mudra technique for a couple of weeks is that it becomes a psychological anchor for calmness, in the style of associative conditioning as described in modern Western psychology and utilized in practices such as NLP and hypnosis.
One thing I have been doing diligently for the last several months is to begin conditioning ongoing clarity both on and off the cushion, rather than chasing states of bliss or rapture. I will explain the backstory for that in another post. The short version is that I became increasingly frustrated by the temporary nature of bliss states and instead made a firm decision to experience clear-seeing regardless of emotional state in any given situation. While out in a noisy shopping centre at the weekend I felt myself losing this clarity due to the distractions and just instinctively touched my thumb and forefinger tips together on both hands. This fired the anchor trained by the mudra during sitting practice and led to immediate profound stillness and mental quiet, to a degree which I have never experienced before in such a noisy environment. This was an unexpected and very encouraging response which prompted me to share the technique with you.
Let me know how it goes.