1. First, train in the preliminaries.
In this case there are two “preliminaries:” First, maintaining an awareness of the Four Reminders; second, practicing shamatha-vipasyana (mindfulness -awareness) meditation. They are preliminaries in the sense that they are the ongoing basis of all that follows, not that they are ever finally completed.
The Four Reminders is a traditional Buddhist teaching to help us remember 1) our precious human birth; 2) the reality that death comes at the end of life; 3) the “entrapment” of karma or cause and effect; and 4) the inevitability of samsara or the cycle of suffering. Our human birth is precious because it gives us the opportunity to hear and practice wisdom teachings such as these. Because human life always ends with death, it is even more precious and fleeting. Everything we do during this human life, whether beneficial or harmful to others, has an unavoidable effect. Finally, as stated in the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, human life by its nature includes dukkha or suffering.
The second preliminary in this slogan is shamatha-vipasyana meditation. While this is a relatively simple practice, it is also the basis for profound transformation through getting to know one’s mind. As I like to say, “The beginning practice is the advanced practice.” Pema Chödrön describes this practice as “…the earth that we stand on, …also the air that we breathe and the heart that beats inside of us.” This practice is one that is best undertaken on a regular basis, ideally daily. It is better to practice regularly for a shorter amount of time than less frequently for a longer amount of time. For example, there is likely more benefit from meditating daily for ten minutes than once per week for an hour.
You can find video, audio and written meditation instructions on this page.