Jinzang wrote:As you get better at practice thoughts get fewer and further apart. There are gaps between your thoughts. It's easy for someone who craves this to fall into a subtle dullness which is thought free but lacks the clarity that meditation is supposed to have. The remedy is to keep a balance between concentration and alertness, something which is learned through practice. This is explained in the standard texts on shamatha meditation. Which is the only reason I know this, as my own meditation practice is very poor.
The "increasing space between the thoughts" is a metaphor often used by the teachers - I also find useful the idea that the entire aggregate of mental thoughts as a whole, slowly subsides, until it is very, very difficult to discern at all, if it is even there. However I think some of you peeps are saying that as soon as awareness kicks back in the silence is lost. I am a mere beginner however I would really strongly suggest that this is incorrect - awareness is never lost. IMHO the whole trick is to maintain awareness very steadily, as Jinzang says, between dullness and agitation, as the whole thought aggregate calms down. It's totally, totally possible to do this. The result is a profound (and profoundly odd) experience of groundlessness. Good ol' emptiness. Nice tasty and delicious silence. And the more you can maintain this shamatha, the deeper and deeper into awareness and emptiness you can go.
There are two main obstacles to the tranquility of the mind. One is becoming too relaxed and the other is becoming too tense. When we become too relaxed, we start to follow our thoughts and become absorbed in them. When we are too tense, we make too much effort focusing on the idea of concentrating and being tranquil so that in the end our mind cannot remain tranquil and we become distracted. We have to constantly try to find the balance between being too tense and too relaxed by finding just the right amount of effort to put into our meditation. Saraha, a great mahasiddha, said that when we meditate, the mind should be like a thread of the Brahmin. In India the Brahmins used to spin a lot of thread. If one puts too much tension on it, the thread breaks. If the thread is too loose, then it won't be strong enough. In the same way, when we meditate, the mind should maintain the right amount of alertness; neither too tight, nor too loose.
Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche