“Meditation is the way to bring us back to ourselves, where we can really experience and taste our full being, beyond all habitual patterns. In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to that deep inner nature that we have so long ago lost sight of amid the busyness and distraction of our minds.” – Rigpa.org
What is meditation?
These days meditation is many different things. For some it’s a method to reduce stress; for others a means to restful sleep. Again for others meditation is a method for better concentration and more efficiency at work. Some of us meditate to find more clarity in our own life; while others believe it’s the best thing they can do to help liberate all beings from suffering, including themselves.
Bookshelves and websites are filled with the approaches of varied spiritual traditions and teachers, describing many techniques and benefits. Over the last 20 years I’ve discovered many unique instructions on meditation. For myself, meditation is one of the most beautiful and important skills in life. I think almost all of us benefit from knowing about it.
What is meditation for you? How does it show up in your life? How does meditation benefit you? How would you like it to? The way you think about meditation will play an important role in how it affects your life.
To let the mind be as it is
Just as we spend more or less time to care for our bodies, we spend more or less time to care for our minds. Our education trained us to “use” our minds. We studied logic, math, history, languages, etc. But we didn’t learn much about how to calm our minds, how to relax, recover, and re-energize our mind-body system.
We are used to using our mental abilities, but what is our mind just as it is? What is it if it is not actively doing anything, serving us in any particular way? Can there be anything else besides activity? One form of meditation is to let the mind rest in its own nature, in its natural openness and presence. For many it’s a surprising idea that we can simply allow our mind to remain in its natural state. What is that state?
Qualities of the mind as it is
Especially in my work with the elderly and dying I’ve noticed how important knowledge of our natural state can be. It can benefit nearly any situation in life if we can learn to rely on our inner space, on openness. We develop an inner sensitivity, clarity, and flexibility if we get to know own mind in years of daily meditation.
The downside of good meditative qualities is that ideals and expectations might form about them. It’s such a common tendency to think we (or others) should be better than we actually are. Easily we can judge ourselves and others if we meditate motivated by ideals and expectations.
Meditation as a resource
If someone asks me why I meditate I like to answer, “Because I need it.” Without meditation I would get totally lost in this world. I would drown in my own interests and I would not find the peace, orientation, and balance I so value. Nevertheless these benefits are not constant companions in my life, but they are “found qualities, again and again.”
For me a good meditator is not necessarily someone who has a calm mind, but someone who meditates with their mind as it is. Someone who knows his or her own mind well. The mind can be wild or calm, clear or unclear, but if we’ve had many experiences navigating it, we will have an easier time in most situations. Such a person can regain balance if it seems lost, reorient if confusion arises, and sense good energy in a tight spot—all from experiencing their own mind’s open, clear qualities. Inner clarity resulting from these resources can influence one’s life more and more as we age, no matter how nervous and busy outer appearances might be.
I wanted to start writing about meditation in this way because I see how frequently meditators judge themselves according to expectations which actually hurt. I feel our inner clarity and our authentic way of living and practicing can be harmed by that. On the other hand, if we regard our thoughts, emotions, impatience, resistance, and our contradictions as part of the meditation—then it’s easier to accept and let go of these states. In this way we can care for an open, bright, friendly, and inviting base upon which our practice can naturally unfold. This base is the natural mind itself, just as it is. With understanding, compassion, and kindness, we can continue on, happily.
I wish all of you a beautiful November week, maybe with some meditative moments and wonderful Holidays to come.