Is meditation really for everybody? Aren’t there a lot of good reasons never to meditate? Seems like all we do on this blog is go on and on about how great meditation is. To remedy this one-sided approach and bring a bit of balance to the blog, I’ve painstakingly compiled a carefully researched list of the top ten reasons never to meditate. Please feel free to add your own reasons in the comments section.
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.
Jealousy is a painful emotion, in part, because when we get jealous we lose our self-respect. It is deeply embarrassing to watch ourselves feel displeasure at the happiness and good fortune of others, whether it be their wealth, physical attributes, money...whatever.
I suppose, if we look at it in one way, it is good news that we feel disturbed when we feel jealous. This shows that we have a conscience – that in truth we really do want others to be happy and don’t want to feel uncomfortable about their good fortune. And yet we experience this inner-conflict.
Jealousy comes from feeling impoverished in our own minds. We wish we possessed the attributes that belong to someone else…therefore we feel we “lack” something in some way. So jealousy comes from being totally self-focused. Herein lies the problem.
Buddhist psychotherapy, which has been adopted in the last several decades, is a novel approach to the clinical practice of mental health. It combines aspects of conventional psychotherapy with traditional Buddhist psychological theory and practice. Because there are several sub-schools of psychotherapy and Buddhism from which to integrate, there currently is no single formalized clinical approach to its practice. Therefore, Buddhist psychotherapy differs widely in its presentation among diverse practitioners.
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.
One of the most common reasons we turn to spiritual practice is to reduce worry, anxiety, the mental agitation that can be life's most consistent challenge. As the Buddha taught in the Sabbasava Sutta and elsewhere, while certain dangers in life are avoidable, most stressful events are inevitable, and our challenge is to learn how to skillfully tolerate each day's fresh "mosquito bite".
Actually, days without difficulties and challenges are often days without growth, for its the roadblocks and setbacks that force us to develop new, successful coping strategies. So a good start to reducing stress is to begin approaching challenges as valuable learning opportunities; once we find a way to adapt to situations without adding unnecessary stress, we have tools that are always at our disposal.
What follows are six useful approaches to facing our challenges without adding stress and suffering into the equation.
There’s so much information available to us on how to meditate, when to meditate, even with whom to meditate. With what we have available, you’d think that we’d all be able to master meditation with ease. Nope!
Since first learning to meditate, after years of meditation, I’ve come to realize that there’s something that is definitely opposed to my peace of mind and finding my “meditative mind,” and that is…the soap opera mind!
I caught up with Dan Goleman recently in New York. Neither of us could think of where to meet, so somehow we ended up at the infamous Olive Garden chain's Time Square Flagship. Well, it is the pinnacle of the Olive Garden experience with views in every direction of the Square. And we discovered they have gluten-free pasta for those of you where that is an issue.
Dan was especially interested in hearing about the whatmeditationreallyis.com meditation program. I posed the following question to him and this was his answer: