In this episode, Dassetu explores the idea of developing a daily meditation practice. It is common to think of meditation and mindfulness as a remedy to life’s problems, like paracetamol for a headache, but really, meditation extends far beyond an activity done sitting down in the traditional way we think of. With simple changes in our life, we can be cultivating our heart-mind every moment of every day.
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This week we’re talking about Developing a Daily Meditation Practice.
In modern-day society, meditation can be used as a remedy for life’s problems, when stress becomes too much. If you look at meditation as simply a tranquiliser, as like paracetamol for a headache, then you’re missing the bigger picture of what it can be doing for you.
Meditation, in the Buddhist context, means cultivating the heart-mind. Cultivating it in order to grow, to mature, to reach and to transcend our positive inner qualities.
When we speak of meditation, many think of the formal sitting down type – but this is not the only way to meditate. Meditating in a formal seated way is a support, a chance to develop exceptional levels of mindfulness, concentration. But, it is not the path, and it is not the only form of meditation.
Meditation, the definition, the translation, means to cultivate – cultivating the heart-mind. So any time we’re engaging in any mental training or practice of the mind – this is meditation.
It’s common to think that we need to set aside a special time or place to meditate – and while this is helpful for our formal meditation practices, the true purpose of meditation is to help us here and now, on a daily basis, while we’re out there, interacting with the world. It is to help us achieve and maintain exceptional levels of inner peace, emotional balance and mental health, in the midst of all the trials and tribulations of our daily life.
So if it is to help us in the midst of a busy life, then it must be a dynamic practice, not one confined to a chair or a cushion.
Your daily meditation practice then, is, in the here and now. Moment to moment awareness, cultivation. It is with you not just during the ups and downs, conflicts, disappointments, heartbreaks – but ESPECIALLY during those times.
If we want to resolve our daily problems – the things we get stressed about, angry over, jealous of – our conflicts, etcetera – then, we need to understand them, investigate them, and remedy them. The mind is where you do that? And the technology needed to work with the mind? Is meditation. You work directly with the mind.
If you lost your car keys inside your house, you wouldn’t look outside – you wouldn’t walk down the street, into the town looking for them? You’d look inside your house. It’s the same here, we need to look directly at the mind, work with it and remedy it from direct experience.
And to really understand it and make strides towards some sort of personal freedom and liberation, well, understanding it when it is truly stable, calm and clear under formal meditation is very important, BUT, equally if not more important, is watching and observing it when it gets angry, when it craves, when it is in conflict with another.
Attending closely with introspection, mindfully noticing and observing the myriad of thoughts and emotions as they arise, play out their time and dissolve again. When we are inattentive to these processes, living mindlessly and allowing our mind to be off the leash, then we’re not really making any progress – and we’re not gaining any control.
However, even the act of merely watching our thoughts and emotions, being aware of them as a third party, leads our thoughts and emotions to lose their strength. If we have no awareness, then, we may become angry or upset with someone but only able to reflect on how extreme our behaviour was after the fact.
Now, being aware, moment to moment of our thoughts and our emotions in the midst of a hectic daily routine is no easy task – especially if we don’t have much familiarity with the workings of our mind to begin with. But, living mindfully is definitely possible!
Recently, while chopping some veg for my dinner, I, superficially cut some skin off the end of my thumb. After it stopped bleeding, I now had a cut which, until it healed, I needed to protect from getting infected, and from banging it against things. So you begin to live mindfully, mindful of the fact that you have this cut you need to protect. So, when you’re washing your hands, typing on a keyboard, getting dressed, putting shoes on, and just going about your day – you’re being mindful of this cut and avoiding using it. Once or twice you will forget and bang it against something, but it serves as a sharp reminder to be mindful. Now, very quickly this becomes an automatic habit. Very soon you don’t have to consciously think about it moment-to-moment, because there is a deeper level of mind looking after the job.
So, it’s all about familiarity – living mindfully is definitely possible, we do it all the time. We’re mindful that on the way home we need to pick up some groceries – it doesn’t mean that all day we think ‘groceries, groceries, groceries’ (No I can’t help you, I’m trying to be mindful!) It just means that we ‘bear in mind’ that with which we think is important.
If we think that having some peace of mind, and freedom from our stress, anxiety, worry, anger, is important to us – then, we can definitely live mindfully.
Having said that, to begin with, it is definitely helpful to become familiar with the mind in silence. Not silent in terms of no thoughts, but a mind free from discrimination, not preferring one thought over another, or no thoughts over some thoughts. Begin by taking some time to sit quietly, have your eyes partially open, and turn your awareness to the mental domain – the place where dreams, thoughts, images, and so forth occur. Then, quietly observe. When thoughts, images, or emotions arise – don’t follow them. Simply watch them. If a thought relating to food arises, for example, watch the thought as if you were an uninterested party, see it arise, play out, and go – actually thinking about food and planning your next meal is not the object of this meditation. So, you simply watch the thoughts. After a while, you can start to pose questions such as ‘where are these thoughts coming from?’ ‘what do they do once they’ve arrived?’ ‘where do they go?’ ‘do they have size, shape, colour?’ ‘if I stay detached, do they go away faster?’ ‘do they stay longer if I attach myself to them?’ ‘do some thoughts appear to be my own, and do others appear to not have my influence?
More crucially, in becoming familiar with how thoughts and emotions work, their causes and conditions, and asking these questions – you’ll be able to increase your level of awareness of them not just when you’re quiet but in the midst of daily life. You’ll also have started to gain familiarity with how you can influence them, and, how you can actually not follow the thoughts that you know will bring yourself or others harm.
So meditation, a daily meditation practice, need not be something difficult to start, and it need not be something separate from life and its daily ups and downs. If you wish to experience peace in the modern world, then you need to be able to watch, understand, and remedy your anger, craving, sadness, anxiety, stress, AS they occur. Only when you turn the tables and gain control over your emotions, and find true emotional balance, instead of having them control you, can your naturally peaceful, loving, and joyful side emerge.
This peaceful and balanced nature allows you to live life more fully, not sweating the small stuff, but really enjoying and living in the moment, with a fresher, happier outlook. And, what you saw as a problem before, just might not be a problem any more.
I wanted to thank you for listening to this week’s podcast, I hope it brings some benefit to you. If you would like to learn more about meditation or join us for our free weekly online meditation sessions, then please join our Samadhi Community on Facebook. Please, don’t forget to subscribe and share and I hope to see you again soon.
What is the Samadhi Podcast?
The Samadhi Podcast is a series of bitesize talks and guided meditations that help you become a happier, more peaceful and positive person. Learn how to calm the mind, deeply relax, gain control of feelings and emotions, find inner strength, and let go of negative states of mind such as stress and anxiety by developing a positive approach to life.