WHAT IS MEDITATION?
When you read books about
meditation, or often when meditation is presented by different groups, much
of the emphasis falls on the techniques. In the West, people tend to be
very interested in the "technology" of meditation. However, by
far the most important feature of meditation is not technique, but the way
of being, the spirit, which is called the "posture", a posture
which is not so much physical, but more to do with spirit or attitude.
It is helpful to recognize
that when you start on a meditation practice, you are entering a totally
different dimension of reality. Normally in life we put a great deal of
effort into achieving things, and there is a lot of struggle involved, whereas
meditation is just the opposite; it is a break from how we normally operate.
Meditation is simply a question of being, of
melting, like a piece of butter left in the sun. It has nothing to do with
whether or not you "know" anything about it. In fact, each time you practise meditation it
should be fresh, as if it were happening for the very first time. You just
quietly sit, your body still, your speech silent, your mind at ease, and
allow thoughts to come and go, without letting them play havoc on you. If
you need something to do, then pay attention to your
breathing. This is a very simple process. When you are breathing out, know
that you are breathing out. When you breathe in, know that you are breathing
in, without supplying any kind of extra commentary or internalized mental
gossip, but just identifying with the breath. That very simple state of
your thoughts and emotions, and then, like an old skin being shed, something
is peeled off and freed. Usually people tend to relax the body by concentrating
on different parts. Real relaxation comes when you relax from within, for
then everything else will ease itself out quite naturally.
begin to practise, you center yourself, get in touch with your "soft spot", and just remain there. You need
not focus on anything in particular to begin with. Just be spacious, and
allow thoughts and emotions to settle. If you do so, then later, when you
use a method such as watching the breath, your attention will more easily
be on your breathing. There is no particular point on the breath on which
you need to focus; it is simply the process of breathing. Twenty-five percent
of your attention is on the breath, and seventy-five percent is relaxed.
Try to actually identify with the breathing, rather than just watching or
paying attention to it. You may choose an object, like a flower,
for example, to focus upon. Sometimes you are taught to visualize a light
on the forehead, or in the heart. Sometimes a sound or a mantra can be used.
But at the beginning it is best to simply be spacious, like the sky. Think
of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe.
When you sit, let things settle and allow all
your discordant self with its falseness or duplicity
and unnaturalness to dissolve; out of that rises your real being. You experience
an aspect of yourself which is more genuine and more authentic: the "real" you. As you go deeper,
you begin to discover and connect with your fundamental goodness.
The whole point of meditation is to get used
to that aspect which you have forgotten. In Tibetan, "meditation"
means "getting used to". Getting used to what? To
your true nature, your Buddha nature. This is why, in the highest
teaching of Buddhism, Dzogchen, you are told to
"rest in the nature of mind". You just quietly sit and let all
thoughts and concepts dissolve. It is like when the clouds dissolve or the
mist evaporates to reveal the clear sky and the sun shining down. When everything
dissolves like this, you begin to experience your true nature, to "live".
Then you know it, and at that moment, you feel really good. It is unlike
any other feeling of well-being that you might have experienced. This is
a real and genuine goodness, in which you feel a deep sense of peace, contentment
and confidence about yourself. It is good to meditate when you feel inspired.
Early mornings can bring that inspiration, as the best moments of the mind
are early in the day, when the mind is calmer and fresher (the time traditionally
recommended is before dawn). It is more appropriate to sit when you are
inspired, for not only is it easier then as you are in a better frame of
mind for meditation, but you will also be more encouraged by the very practice
that you do. This in turn will bring more confidence in the practice, and
later on you will be able to practise when you are not inspired. There is
no need to meditate for a long time: just remain quietly until you are a
little open and able to connect with your heart essence. That is the main
After that, some integration,
or meditation in action. Once your
mindfulness has been awakened by your meditation, your mind is calm and
your perception is a little more coherent. Then, whatever you do, you are
present, right there. As in the famous Zen master's saying: "When I
eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep". Whatever you do, you are fully
present in the act. Even washing dishes, if it is done one-pointedly (single-mindedly), can be very energizing, freeing, cleansing. You are more peaceful, so
you are more "you". You assume the "Universal You".
One of the fundamental points of the spiritual
journey is to persevere along the path. Though one's meditation may be good
one day and not so good the next, like changes in scenery, essentially it
is not the experiences, good or bad, which count so much, but rather that
when you persevere, the real practice rubs off on you and comes through
both good and bad. Good and bad are simply apparitions. Just as there may be good or bad weather, yet
the sky itself is always unchanging. If you persevere and have that sky-like
attitude of spaciousness, without being perturbed by emotions and experiences,
you will develop stability and the real profoundness of meditation will
take effect. You will find that gradually and almost unnoticed (imperceptibly), your attitude begins to change. You do not hold on to things as solidly
as before, or grasp at them so strongly, and though crises will still happen,
you can handle them a bit better, with more humour and ease. You will even
be able to laugh at difficulties a little, since there is more space between
you and them, and you are freer of yourself. Things become less solid, slightly
ridiculous, and you become more light-hearted.
THE END !