An email exchange prompted by an earlier post.
Dear Mr. McLeod, I greatly value your teaching but found the latest email about concentration not being meditation a bit odd. My experience with both shamatha and (even more so) deity practice is that they are unequivocally concentration practices. Yes it's important to drop any sense of undue struggle or will but the whole point at least for a long while is to drop (but not supress) thoughts that distract one from focus on the object and return to it. There is a clear preference for one object over all others and an ever clearer preference for concentration over distraction. What am I missing?
And the reply:
I'm not sure you are missing anything. My aim was to move people away from trying to bind the mind to the object by force of will and toward bringing about stable attention by resting with the object (or more accurately, in the experience of the object). This particularly applies to deity practice. Here, one is not actually focusing on an object, but resting in the sense of being the deity. All kinds of internal voices rise up against this (we experience these as distractions). Concentration tends to lead people in the direction of suppressing those voices, creating tension in the system, which undermines stability in attention. Resting in the whole experience allows the emotional material driving those voices to be experienced, releasing the emotional tension, and thus the distractions, and now one can rest more completely as the deity. This way of practicing is not what most people usually understand from the word "concentration".