I have been studying and practicing meditation for over a decade, mainly following Kamalashila's stages of meditation as a guide. I learned that Shamata is defined as the single-mindedness which is imbued with the exceptional bliss of practiced ease due to single pointed meditation on its object.
I have just started Alan Wallace's Fall 2013 Shamatha and the Bodhisattva Way of Life (https://media.sbinstitute.com/courses/fall2013/) where he is giving instruction in "Shamatha practice".
I believe he means a meditation practice with the goal of achieving shamata. However, when I hear "shamata practice", I automatically think that someone is already able to rest in the state of Shamata and is meditating at that level. This would be like, for instance, someone running having a "running practice" by running. In contrast, someone aspiring to be a runner, might first begin with walking as they get in shape. They might say, "I am walking, with the goal of running." Do you think they would call their walking a "running practice"?
Given the definition of shamata I know, it seems many different meditation practices could potentially lead to shamata, if that was one's intention for their practice.
My first question is: Is there something distinctive about "shamata practice"?
My second question, is where did the custom of labeling meditation "shamata practice" originate?