Meditation – pathway to the impressive state of the underlying self. Our most profound experience of self is sublime, peaceful, loving and creative. How to get there? Well, not by doing what the mind has been doing for years. And if you only aim at stress relief, you are setting your bar much too low. Try stillness, and a bit of work to understand your mind’s processes.
Your Mind and Reality
Your mind is very peculiar. It gives you your understanding of who you are and what the world is like. It keeps it in place by thinking – an endless stream of it. Thinking helps us make sense of the world. However, we try to make our sense of it fit reality, and all too often, our idea of how things are, or should be, just doesn’t fit very well with reality at all. So we try to make it fit, by being argumentative, or spiteful, or aggressive, or just by being stressed or depressed because we can’t make reality be how we want it to be. And you can’t.
Not enough power and control, perhaps? Too bad the level of control that any of us has is laughable! Consider the size of the universe, and your size; or the age of the universe, and your minuscule lifetime; or the generations of humans who have gone before, with the same old woes and worries that you have today, as we repeat the human story over and over. Oh yes, you would like much more control than you can have! The sad fact is that you can have the merest smidgeon of it, and your world just persists in being how you think it shouldn’t be. Your mind makes a lot of stress and trouble when the world doesn’t fit with its neat picture – or more commonly, it is the people in your world that don’t fit the picture. Maybe they’re the problem?
But here is the odd thing: the mind creates only a sort of virtual reality. It builds its world view, and its idea of who you are, and then acts as though what it has built is reality itself. That can’t be so… a bunch of thoughts cannot be what reality is. So you’d wonder why the mind gets so upset. After all, it is only reacting to an idea of how things are, or ought to be.
You’re always right
And then, to make matters worse, the mind always thinks it is right. Yep – you are always right. Don’t believe me? You’re right, then? Even the broadminded, who may re-evaluate in the light of further information, find themselves thinking, “I was wrong, but now…. I’m right!”
When we really see that EVERYONE thinks he is right, don’t we all have to take our own mind a little less seriously? Yet we whinge and whine about people and situations, even though the whinging is only a reaction to how you interpret reality – ie, to what you think. And you suppose that how you see it – is right. Maybe the mind stays busy all the time so we won’t notice the difference between its ideas and reality.
The mind can learn a different way.
So, how should I meditate?
An easy way to start is simply to notice your breath – it has been with you from the day you were born, after all, and the last thing you will ever do is breathe out! It has a peaceful rhythm to it. Because it is so familiar, it is harder to keep focused on it, so you could add a little temporary structure to your practice. Count each breath starting with one, up to five, and then start again at one. Keep the rotation of counting each five breaths until it feels just too heavy…. when that feeling comes, just let it slip away and sit in stillness. But the moment a new thought arises, or daydreaming, or any mental activity, replace it with breath counting until you slip into the peaceful state again. Over and over, that’s the way – nothing to be discouraged about. Remember, though, that it is about peaceful stillness, not the counting and not even the breathing. Just stillness.
Will it relieve my stress?
Of course meditation helps relieve stress. But you can get that from many sources. Even a movie or an aspirin will do it for a short while! Through meditation, you get a break from the cycle of stress, entirely without any external help, and so you find that you can handle things differently. Besides, the stress is no longer 24/7, and so it is easier to deal with in smaller chunks. That is the least of the good things that meditation brings, though. Meditation properly taught is life-changing.
But isn’t meditation a complementary health aid?
There is a common notion these days that meditation is an adjunct to the health professions. Sure, meditation can be helpful in that way, even if the methods are limited, like visualising pleasant fantasies or listening to apps or CDs. But high functioning minds benefit from meditation too, perhaps even more – though probably not from the more limited methods. Meditation, taught from a traditional understanding, is about uncovering the processes by which the mind delivers a virtual experience of reality instead of a direct experience – and highly functioning minds get even better for seeing that. Stillness is an essential tool.
The best question is not, “How can I scrape through life a bit better?”, but how can I be 100% comfortable with reality? Reality certainly wins every argument you have with it, so why not learn to get along with it? And the first step is to stop the old habitual mental processes that produce all the problems in the first place, so you get a chance to see how your mind shortchanges your experience of life.
Authentic meditation helps you see.
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