Sitting quietly in isolation with the unruly chattering mind is not spending time with one’s true self
~Tich Naht Hanh
This part is call ‘Being Honest with yourself’
Close your eyes for a moment and take a very deep look into yourself. Look further into your daily activities from the beginning of the morning till you go to bed. Where are you in your life? What have you done so far in your life? Now the biggest question you have to ask yourself, are you happy? Now the second important question you need to ask, are you ‘truly’ happy?
In our daily life, we are consumed by our daily affairs. We like to be busy, we indeed like to be very busy. By the end of the day we are completely depleted with our busyness. But ask yourself, what is that I am so busy in life? Am I busy with myself or with everything else other than myself?
More often than not, we are actually very uncomfortable sitting quietly with our own self. We constantly need distractions either our phone or our friends. And to avoid this uncomfortable confrontation with our mind, we fill our lives with mindless schedules. We think by undertaking more and more activities our sense of dissatisfaction will just fade away. But even after that, we still feel deep sense of shallowness within ourselves.
MATERIALISM VS SPIRITUALISM
What exactly is this materialism? In a lay man’s term, if someone looks for happiness in consumer products is often refer as a materialistic person. This is a very surface level definition in spiritual term. Materialism comes from the word ‘matter’ which by definition in science world is the synthesis of physical properties with an aggregates of solid or fluid. Then by definition, even this human body is also a matter. Spiritualism is someone who who looks beyond all matter, someone who looks beyond physical properties into the inner world.
From a very early age we are taught to label things. We get to label what we like and what we do not like, we want to possess what we think will give us happiness and we discard of what we think is no longer a mean to contribute to our wanting. We save every penny from our first salary to buy the car/house we always dreamt of, thinking that will bring us the sense of pleasure. But within few years, we start seeking pleasure in selling it to refill the pleasure with another one. We are not happy having everything and we are also not happy on having nothing. So, ‘complete’ happiness should not come from external world but rather from inside of us.
So the question rises, how to develop this inner peace?
THE TERM MEDITATION
The term meditation in Tibetan is call GOM which means ‘Familiarisation’. So how familiar are we with our own space and what we want to become familiar of? Recall doing any action that you have done during the day. It can be an act of generosity or it can be an act of anger towards another person. This ‘action’ is so quick that we are not familiar with its arising. But action itself has no power. For an action to happen it must rise from a thought. But we are totally unaware of this thought, whether positive or negative, and quickly jump to action. This is where meditation allows us to become familiar of our thoughts. With meditation we can start getting familiar with our ideas, thoughts, perceptions, emotions.
With continuous practice, we train our mind on our thoughts and instead of acting we begin to watch our thoughts first. When was the last time when you were getting angry and in the middle stopped and told yourself, wait a second, what I am angry of?
Most of the problem that we face in our lives is that we are swept away with our thoughts and emotions as if they are out of control. We do not have a general grasping in channelling our thoughts for our own well being. We are completely oblivious to what is happening around us and within us.
Myth around Meditation
Myth # 1- Meditation helps us to have no thoughts
When we think of meditation we immediately jump to conclusion that it means sitting without any thoughts. But we know all very well from our daily experience that we cannot create a vacuum in our mind. Thoughts will always be there. Within mediation we have to let the thoughts arise and dissolve by themselves in mindfulness. Meditation is about ‘Knowing’. It will help us knowing our thoughts as soon it arrives. So with meditation, one cultivates the awareness on recognizing the thoughts as soon it arises and learns not to give any energy to it. So it is very important to throw away the notion of this misconception, because if we base our practice on this then we will give it up after few sessions.
Myth # 2 – Meditation is relaxation
There is indeed a relaxation element to it but meditation is not about relaxation, in contrary its being alert. Relaxation can give short term bliss but long term dullness or laziness whereas constant meditational practice will bring long term and lasting happiness.
Is Meditation for me?
There is this scene in the movie Eat, Pray and Love where Julia Roberts closed her eyes for the first time and thought to have meditated on an hour only to realize it has been not even a minute. For the very first time closing the eyes without thoughts can be more daunting than the interview of your dream job. We are known to have this monkey mind who is always busy chattering. So it becomes a paradoxical moment of self doubt. But like anything in life, where one accomplishes through gradual training, meditation also falls in that training. It needs determination, perseverance and joyousness. The greatest obstacle we face is, this is the way it is, this is how it will continue, we cannot make much change to our thoughts. However, we are desperately try to make changes to our outside world from better jobs to better health but unfortunately a complete ignorance grasps us when it comes to our mind training.
But most importantly, one should apply for skilful means. Like a baby who is learning to take the first steps, instead of running they go for few steps, similarly, instead of aiming to meditate for hours one should instead focus on few minutes.
How Meditation can benefit us?
What is the point on reading so much if mediation does not benefit us, right?
Scientists have recently concluded that neuroplasticity of our brain can be changed. This demonstrates that the human qualities can be certainly cultivated through mind training which is something people could not have thought in the past. So what exactly it means by changing the plasticity of the brain neurons? Few decades ago it was concluded that we born with fixed neurons until death. Only recently scientists re-visited their conclusion stating that brain has the ability to continually change structure and function. And with that it is very possible to cultivate positive seed through continuous practice of familiarization.
As a starter lets say, your attention span will be vastly improved, the concentration on the focussed object will be much stronger than before. 20 minutes a day for 2 months also shows reduction of stress, anxiety, strengthens the immune system and brings positive emotion.
Mediation helps us in tying the monkey mind, disciplining them and slowly liberating them. If we observe carefully, within the space of our thoughts, first emotion rises, which leads to moods and behaviours, and finally habits and character than leads to final action. But our mind is like a fish entangled in a fishing net, more and more it gets agitated to get free more it gets entangled in further thoughts.
Types of Meditation
How to even start. What is that I will meditate upon? Although there are various types of meditation from beginners to advanced, we should start with the vey basic considering we are all very novice to this.
There are hundreds of meditational techniques from beginner’s to advanced level where one can have focus on one object for days if not months without even moving.
My practice comes from Tibetan Buddhist tradition and that is what I will be putting more emphasis on. I will not claim this is the only technique; everyone has different requirements and one has to choose that suits them the best. In Tibetan practice there are 2 types; Single pointed concentration (Samadhi in Sanskrit) and Analytical meditation. Single pointed focuses on concentration to bring intense clarity and with this clarity one investigates on various topics in analytical meditation. And not necessarily one has to do meditation only sitting in a corner of a room but can highly integrate in every moment of our life with mindfulness.
This is a brief introduction of what meditation is and the way I want to work is slowly building a foundation. So that we have the base to build up ourselves instead getting scattered in a clueless ocean.