There are three common myths or misconceptions about meditation that can block us from realizing the power and benefit of practice. Yet, if we take a moment to expose them, we can easily figure out how to overcome them.
Sometimes it seems so difficult to meditate. We might try to sit, but our minds are all over the place; or perhaps we have too much pressure and stress in our life and can’t seem to find the mental space for meditation. What can we do?
I have had the privilege of working with many experienced meditators on their personal food issues. It’s always a real pleasure when a long-time practitioner walks into my office. As they tell me about what’s troubling them I often hear the phrase “how could I have missed this?”. Total confusion, sometimes even desperation, is in their eyes.
It’s often a relief for people to hear that so many of us “miss this”.
Something as basic as eating - is a big deal. How do we really look at something this primal without judgment? How do we change our reactions to these ideas and patterns that have formed before birth?
How often do you stop? Really stop? Stop so that your mind is still, stable in the moment without reaching forward to what you're planning to do next, or roaming over something that happened in the past? If you're like most people, the answer is probably, rarely or even never. Our minds tend to constantly whirl ahead of where we are, perhaps to the next thing on your 'to do list,' the date you're planning for saturday night, or the destination of your journey. Even when we think our minds are still, there's often a subtle reaching towards the next moment.
A few years ago at dawn one Summer morning, a friend and I pedaled to the top of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. This is possible and pretty easy because Australia is the world’s oldest continent and Kosciuszko (7,310 feet or 2,228 metres tall and named by Polish explorer Strzelecki in 1840) has been weathered over millennia into a place more rounded than its younger, steeper and craggier equivalents elsewhere on the earth. But that’s by the by.
The thing is that when we got there not only were we alone at the highest point on the world’s biggest island but up there it was absolutely, utterly, wonderfully silent.
No wind and no wind through leaves (no bushes or trees), no chirruping insects or croaking frogs, no twittering birds or lowing of cows, no distant bark of a dog on the breeze, no traffic, no lawnmowers, no voices. Nothing -- just glorious silence. Absolute silence is a thing most of us rarely get to experience and when you do it can be profound.
Isn’t it strange how silence – if you care to listen -- feels full rather than empty; pregnant with possibility rather than absent of meaning?
Last year I had the opportunity to ask Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche some questions about meditation, while he was visiting the Lerab Ling retreat centre in southern France
Andy Fraser: These days we have all kinds of ideas about meditation. We see it everywhere, on television, in adverts, on YouTube and so on. Could you tell us very simply what meditation really is?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: Meditation is a process of getting to know yourself, or a process of getting to know your own mind. The great meditation masters from Tibet often defined meditation as becoming familiar with your own mind and its nature.
This is what meditation really is.
If Jackson Pollock was the archetypal boozing, tortured artist, would he have painted anything worthwhile if he had found inner peace? Or would he have been an even better painter if he had indeed found inner peace.
If Steve Jobs was the super-cool Zen creator, would Apple even have come into existence if he had not meditated?
If, as Spike Milligan said “it is all in the mind”, how does sitting quietly to train your mind through meditation build creativity?
Maybe it is because of the type of mind meditation produces.
Here is the second part of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's discussion on the essence of meditation, go here to review the first one.
In this one he gives very practical advice on how to deal with difficult emotions, how you can use anger, low self-esteem, fear etc as support for your meditation.
You can find more about how to work with difficult emotions in Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's book "The Joy of Living".