Why do we always recommend meditating with our eyes open? So, asked my stepfather the other day. He learned to meditate in the What Meditation Really Is classes held in New York City. And now, he goes to a different meditation group on Sundays, sometimes attended by 100 or so people, and everyone else meditates with their eyes closed.
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.
A couple of months ago I wrote a series of blogs that explain how to begin to integrate meditative awareness, the state of non-distraction, into daily activities. Here everything is brought together so that you don’t have to go searching through many different posts.
(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.
Welcome to our 10-step introduction to meditation.
We recommend that you go through steps 1-10 in order, but you can set your own pace, and repeat each step as many times as you want before you move on to the next one.
Regardless of who we are, the main purpose of our life is to be happy.
In this video, the Tibetan meditation teacher Sogyal Rinpoche offers advice on how to find inner peace and contentment, and explains why meditation has such an important role to play.
Inner peace and contentment
All of us share the same wish, and the same right, to seek happiness and avoid suffering.
We spend nearly all our time and energy trying to find happiness, peace and satisfaction.
But do we ever stop to ask ourselves where the real source of happiness and well-being lies? Is it in the ever-changing conditions of the outside world, or within our own mind?
Our society offers an endless array of seductive messages that advertise happiness in money, possessions, fame and good looks.
The trouble is that none of them seems to lead to lasting happiness.
At the same time, we only need to look around us to see how prevalent anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness have become, as well as how our constant hunger for more and more things is threatening the very survival of our planet.
Outer or inner wealth?
If we look closely, we can see that there are two kinds of happiness: one that is based more on physical comfort, and another that comes from a deeper, mental contentment.
Many of us spend so much effort trying to accumulate and maintain material or ‘outer wealth’.
This leaves us very little opportunity to cultivate ’inner wealth’, qualities such as compassion and patience.
But if we have this deeper, inner peace and contentment—this inner wealth—then even when we go through suffering, our minds can still be happy.
This explains how some people can have every material advantage, and still remain dissatisfied and discontent; and others are always satisfied and content, even when faced with the most difficult circumstances.
What do we really need?
Of course, basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, health and education are crucial for all of us to live healthy and happy lives.
Beyond these, however, we need to ask ourselves honestly: how many things really deserve our precious time and energy?
There is a saying that ‘Only the foolish go looking for happiness outside of themselves’—because when we do that, then we have no control.
The wise and learned, the saying continues, know that happiness and the causes of happiness are all present within us.
You could say that the principal characteristic of genuine happiness is inner peace and contentment.
If you have contentment and inner peace as your basis, your mind will be relaxed and at ease.
If your mind is relaxed and at ease, then no matter what difficulties or crises you encounter, you will not be disturbed. Your basic sense of well-being will not be undermined.
As a result, you will be able to carry on your everyday life, your work and your responsibilities more efficiently, and you will have the wisdom to discern what to do and what not to do.
Your life will become happier, and when difficulties arise, you will even be able to turn them to your advantage.
So, for our own inner peace and stability, taking care of our mind and heart is crucial.
Once our mind is more at peace, then both inner and outer harmony will automatically follow.
That is why we meditate.
As the Tibetan teacher Mingyur Rinpoche explains, when you meditate, you are giving your mind a job—and gradually, as the mind becomes more and more familiar with its job, a natural and powerful transformation occurs.
Now it’s time to try meditation for yourself.
To get used to the experience of being in the present moment, begin by sitting for five minutes.
Just sit comfortably, your body still, breathing naturally.
Let your thoughts come and go, without trying to hold on to them or follow after them.
Try not to have too much hope or expectation about what you might experience or achieve.
You can start now...
Five minutes a day
Give this a try for a few days, with one five-minute session each day.
Then, as you get more used to meditation, you can gradually increase the length of each session, or sit more than once each day.
If you find it useful, after a session you can note down what you have found easy or challenging, plus any insights you have about your meditation practice.
When people begin to meditate, they often say that their thoughts are running riot, and have become wilder than ever before.
This is a good sign.
Far from meaning that your thoughts have become wilder, it shows that you have become quieter, and you are finally aware of just how noisy your thoughts have always been.
It’s said that at the beginning, thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall.
Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge.
Then they become like a great river, slowly winding its way down to the sea.
Finally, the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled by only the occasional ripple or wave.
The fifth stage is that of perfect stability, which is described as an oil lamp not blown by the wind, resting bright and clear, unmoved by anything.
So meditation is a gradual process.
If you want to ask any questions, or share your experiences and insights, you can visit our forum at any time
Now move on to step 4: getting to know your mind