Early this month, I was visiting a friend on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There, I discovered the BMW Guggenheim Lab, “ led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability, the Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life through programs and public discourse”. And “Over the Lab’s six-year migration, there will be three distinct mobile structures and thematic cycles. Each structure will be designed by a different architect, and each will travel to three cities around the globe. The theme of the Lab’s first two-year cycle is Confronting Comfort—exploring notions of individual and collective comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility.”
Sounds sorta interesting. But what really caught my attention was that each Saturday morning a group called “I Meditate NY” was hosting a free meditation program. A clever take off on the old “I Love NY” ad campaign. That one was copied by everyone and soon you saw “I ‘Heart ICON’ <insert your favourite place/activity/restaurant/pop star/etc.>” pretty much everywhere. Behind the group is a world-wide organization called The Art of Living founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I am a sucker for clever marketing, so I vowed to go on the following Saturday.
Yesterday I heard a teaching by Tsoknyi Rinpoche, who taught about the speed and agression of the modern world. Although I have heard these kinds of teachings before, they always really hit me. Maybe because I am particularly prone to this hurried syndrome, being a pretty ambitious person in a competitive world...
It’s intriguing to think that while business seeks to make profits by providing goods and services in a competitive environment, some eastern spiritual traditions would consider the advice to “Give all profit and gain to others, Take all loss and defeat upon yourself,” to be extremely profound and supremely important. These two approaches to life have both been part of societies for millennia, but there’s still plenty to discuss before a common understanding can be clearly defined in our current era.
Recently, I watched an extraordinary documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. Vipassana is a simple, non-sectarian meditation technique.
This film moved me deeply. It illustrates so vividly how anyone can change and the powerful transformation that can arise through simply looking at your own mind.
It might sound crazy, but Doing Time, Doing Vipassana actually renewed my faith in humanity and our inherent potential for goodness. It gave me hope. We can avert the environmental destruction of the planet. We can dispel violence and terror. We can create a harmonious world. If only we can learn to look within and abandon our own negative tendencies, thoughts, and emotions.
Sure, we need to take practical steps too. But without collectively changing the inner landscape of our minds, there is no hope for permanent, positive change in the world.
It's funny because I avoided watching the DVD for a number of months. The idea of watching a film about prison seemed depressing. But in the end, this is one of the most inspiring and motivational films I've ever seen.
If you feel like it's impossible to change yourself - or the world - don't give up. Watch this film instead. And even if you are not discouraged, I think you may find amazing inspiration here.
I ponder this while chugging coffee at 6am at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, waiting for the train to Montpellier to start my meditation retreat.
It seemed like a really good idea on that freezing winter night in New York City, when I booked my spot. Warm, sunny, South of France, (sunny)! Sold! It was great for the next few months as I fantasized at my desk (and bragged to my co-workers) about the amazing retreat I was going on and all the inner peace I was gonna get.
However, now I am actually here, giving up a beach holiday and fruity drinks, for what I am now told is a NOT sunny, NOT warm retreat. So… what the hell am I doing here?
Do you sometimes feel in a stranglehold of overwhelm? So pressed for time that meditation feels like an unwarranted diversion from the important affairs of life?
The very thought of meditation may begin to spark annoyance. And the actual act may feel excruciatingly painful. When all the demands of life start pressing in, meditation can appear like an enemy on the battleground of life.
You came to meditation for a reason. You know that meditation is "good" for you, yet you resent the time it takes away from your real-world obligations.
How do you get through this?
I just finished reading „In the Shadow of the Buddha“ by Matteo Pistono. It´s a fascinating book about a nearly decade-long pilgrimage through Tibet, on the footsteps of a great master of the past. And it’s also a detailed description of the author´s inner journey, a journey through the various levels of meditation.
After 8 years of sometimes dangerous travels, Matteo arrives at the last sacred place that his teacher had told him to go to – and finds a completely devastated, “empty” and abandoned place at the end of the world. Right there, with all his expectations being crashed, he has a fundamental insight.
(This post is the second installment in a series of about integrating meditation into daily life.)
As mentioned in the last post, as a meditator, we should take lots of meditation mini-breaks throughout the day. But often it seems hard to switch gears between our involvement in daily activity and slowing down enough to meditate. So here are some steps we can take that will help us create the meditation habit during the day.
The last few days I have had a bad cold. Actually the cold hasn’t been that bad, but somehow I developed a really nasty cough. It is the kind of cough which makes other people run for cover when they hear the thunderous symphony of hacking noises approaching, fearing the plague or even one of these new diseases that comes from flying Asian pigs. Needless to say, the last few days have been kind of lonely.
Whales - with their dramatic presence and playful spirit - always captivate my attention. Suddenly, all my thoughts drop away. My mind is wholly attuned to watching the water, waiting for the next appearance of these magnificent creatures.
When this happens, it's almost as though meditation has naturally dawned in my mind. Wouldn't it be wonderful if meditation were always so easy?