Recently I've been taking to heart the connections between meditation and compassion. There are times in my meditation practice when I've found these sweet, inspired and clear moments - glimpses actually - where I can actually see how the suffering that I endure in my life really is due to my mind. And, with these glimpses I've begun to emerge from my claustrophobic "me" in realizing that we all suffer due to our mind.
In this video, Sogyal Rinpoche explains that we are usually lost in the appearance of mind, our thoughts and emotions, instead of recognizing the essence or nature of mind. Essentially, we are turned in the wrong direction. This is the root of suffering and dissatisfaction. But by turning our attention to the essence of mind itself and learning how to simply be, we can find true contentment.
Not long ago I came across this very simple statement from the Buddha in a book by the great Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:
Love is understanding.
I find this to be such a beautiful statement and I think it reveals a lot about how the practice of meditation can change the world and make us more loving. Here are a few reflections…
Do you ever long for dead silence in your mind? Do you think this is what meditation really is?
Basic meditation is sometimes called “calm abiding”, “peacefully remaining” or “tranquility meditation.”
Sounds good, right? Given the 15,000 to 50,000 thoughts popping about in your brain on any given day, a moment of quiet seems like outright bliss. I bet you’re wondering, “Where can I sign up?”
Many novice meditators believe that meditation means putting an end to thoughts and emotions. Well, at least the bothersome ones. I’ll tell you a little secret. Even experienced meditators may be hoping for the same isle of peace.
Is it devilish of me to burst the bubble?
If you live near San Francisco and are interested in finding more out about meditation and the What Meditation Really Is program here are two events you should consider checking out. I will be at both of them.
Twenty five hundred years ago, Gautama Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, had some deep insights and created powerful techniques that would allow major reductions of human suffering. Traditionally the Buddha is said to found a total end to all suffering. Perhaps that's true, perhaps it's not. I don't know, but certainly Buddhist meditation techniques and related practices can greatly reduced individuals' suffering.
From that time on, to greatly oversimplify, you can talk about two main streams of Buddhist activity. The heart of Buddhism is the monastic tradition, monks and nuns so dedicated to achieving enlightenment for their own sakes and for the sake of others that they devote their entire lives to living in ascetic conditions and practicing meditation and prayer. The other main stream is the beliefs of the common people, in essence, that the Buddha was some kind of god, or at least had supernatural abilities, as the monks and nuns also do to various degrees. These people were too busy trying to survive and earn a living, and so could not meditate very much themselves, but they could earn merit, which would go toward improving their future lives, by worshiping the Buddha and by supporting the monks and nuns with alms and other donations. I'm speaking very generally, of course, and you can find many variations on these themes.
Question to Elizabeth: We hear the term “nakedness” a lot in the dharma. They often say: “Rest in the naked state.” In my life, I have found it extremely difficult to be naked, to be exposed both physically and emotionally. I tend to enjoy quite a bit of privacy. When I am exposed, I feel very uncomfortable, quite agitated and it's times when I feel extremely agitated that I do not want to sit on my cushion. In fact, if I get to such a point of agitation, I don't sit on my cushion but do things to numb it out. Is there a way that I could methodically work with this type of situation so that I can systematically learn to gently unveil myself? I really think these periods of agitation from exposure need to be worked with consciously and methodically to keep me engaged and on my cushion, but I don't know what to do. When I am on my cushion during such emotional upheaval, I feel like I need some way to walk myself through the practice step by step so that I can allow myself to look deeper into what this agitation really is. Can you offer me any suggestions?
Recently I had some ideas and insights – partly based on personal experiences I can’t share in public – that I thought might be worthwhile to write a few lines about. I basically became more aware of how stubborn my behaviour and my thinking is, how much I hold on to procedures and static opinions or viewpoints. Which prevents me from living my potential. Which is the whole point about meditation, isn’t it?