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.
Lately I've been aware of my unawareness. And it's amazing how awarely unaware I can be!! I mean, when I train my awareness on my unawareness, it's like I'm aware and unaware at the same time! If this sounds a bit like Alice in Wonderland or Dr. Seuss, read on...
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.
The Buddha, on the essence of his teachings, said that sentient beings must learn how "to tame this mind of ours." My dad, a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, often tried to get me to incorporate Buddhist principles in my life. I, however, did not understand the Buddha’s teaching until my summer at the Berklee College of Music, where I changed my understanding of what having a tamed mind actually means, and how it can help me become a better musician. In turn, I made quite an important discovery: playing music, for me, is a sort of meditation.
And this ruby red can help you with mindfulness too!
The system involves the use of a kitchen timer set to 25 minutes of time, but you can actually use any timer. This slice of time is officially called a “pomodoro”. Wind your physical timer or click the Pomodoro online time for 25 minutes. Then set out on a task without stopping until the timer rings.
Here’s where your mindfulness training comes in.
All through my life, I’ve wished that I could reduce or eliminate the suffering that others go through. I guess this is built into the basic pre-programming that comes with being human. Most of the time this desire is in relative abeyance and I’m distracted from it, as I'm busy coping with my life. There are people in my life with a lot of pain, but I don’t think about it often as there’s nothing practical that can be done about it --- and I hate problems I want to help with but can’t do anything about! And, like all of us, I have (too) many defenses which blunt my perception of others’ suffering – that’s something I’ve needed to work with all my life.
A few months ago at a meditation retreat for Business leaders in Australia called Practical Wisdom, which was led by Sogyal Rinpoche, I had the chance to ask a few top executives how meditation has helped them in their lives and in particular whether they had found any benefits in their work.
Here’s my interview with John Akehurst, a former CEO of a large oil and gas company, a non-executive director of a number of top 20 companies and a board member of Australia’s national reserve bank. What he said was quite incredible and possibly not what you would expect.