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Excerpted from Transforming the Mind by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Copyright © 2000 by H.H. Dalai Lama. Excerpted by permission of Thorsons/HarperCollins.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously."

  His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Transforming the Mind, Part 5

Agitation arises when our state of mind is too uplifted and we are over-excited. The antidote for this is to find a way of bringing that excited state down to a more sober level. One way is to reflect on thoughts and ideas which have a naturally sobering effect, like death and the transient nature of life, or the fundamentally unsatisfactory side of human existence.

These methods can be applied, of course, in the context of almost all the major religious traditions. For example in the case of a theistic religion, if one finds there is too much dullness and mental laxity in one's meditation, then one can uplift one's state of mind by contemplating on God's grace, or on the great compassionate nature of the Divine Being. These thoughts can instill in you a sense of joy, and lift your mind out of its dullness.

Similarly, if there is too much excitement in your meditation, then reflecting on how you are often unable to live according to God's precepts and teachings, or remembering original sin, can immediately bring a sense of humility that will temper your elation. In this way, the practices can be adapted and incorporated into different religions.

To summarize, we have seen that in order to counter the four obstacles to meditation, and particularly the two principal ones, distraction and mental laxity, what is required is the skillful application of two important mental faculties: mindfulness and introspection. Through introspection we develop a vigilance that enables us to see whether, at any given moment, our mind is under the influence of excitement or distraction, and whether it is focused or lapsing into dullness, Once we have observed our state of mind, mindfulness allows us to bring our attention back to the object of meditation and to remain focused on it. So we could say that the practice of mindfulness is the essence of meditation.

Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort.

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