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  • Written by  Andy Fraser
  • // Monday, 17 December 2012 19:14
Andy Fraser

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on What Meditation Really Is

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.

What are some of the common misunderstandings people have about meditation?

That it involves stress.

Most meditation instructions say that we should rest and relax and then we can discover who we really are. Yet most of the time when we try to rest, we stress ourselves so much about it. When we do this we are not resting at all, and instead our meditation becomes a kind of stressful process.

One of the misunderstandings I used to have about meditation was that I should try to do something when I meditate. Meditation is not about doing anything; it’s basically about resting. In a way, meditation is a process of un-doing.

What advice would you give to someone who has never meditated before?

First of all, it is important to relax.

Second, you need to find the right balance for yourself between meditating—by which I mean focusing—and relaxing. To find this right balance is the most important point.

What makes someone a good meditator?

A good meditator is someone who is ready to accept who they really are, someone who is ready to accept their mind as it is.

How can we tell if we’re making progress in our meditation practice?

You can’t.

I once saw an interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in which he explained that we cannot easily see the progress in our practice. It is not the case that you can say: “Alright, I’ve been practicing for one week now, so how did I change? What progress have I made?” You cannot really do this. Perhaps if you look back after practicing for 10 years, you may notice some progress. But I think any progress that takes place in meditation is quite subtle and it is only something you will see gradually.

Also, if you are practicing meditation with a goal-oriented attitude, I don’t think you will see any progress. You have to relax a little bit.

How do you take meditation out into your daily life?

The key is to have this sense of relaxation, or resting, which means not taking things too seriously.

For example, if the barista didn’t make your coffee exactly as you wanted, you don’t have to get so angry about it; it’s not the end of the world. You can still get another coffee somewhere else.