On the Subject of Meditation

24/11/2012 18:14

Most of us struggle with meditation. Often that's also due to misunderstandings such as, you should eliminate all thoughts to be in the proper meditative state, or, you have to be have stilled your thoughts in order to meditate. (And let it just be said here, meditation is one of the many yogic practices to still the mind. And no, there will always be thoughts arising from the pond-like obscure depth of your consciousness - question is, will you give them your attention or will you just let them pass you by?)

This afternoon our trainees were put into groups of three and everyone was to present two personal issues in their practice. The other two in the group were then to present hands-on strategies and tools to deal with these issues in a daily practice. I have to say, I was impressed as I sat with most of the groups and just listened to their discussions. The little exchange that stuck with me the most was precisely one on issues with meditation. The question that was asked was quite original - as I thought. 

If you're mind is already calm, already harmonious and sattvic, would you still sit down and meditate?

Or you could also ask: If a runner has a good day and they feel like they could go on for miles and miles without the pulse quickening, would they still go for a run? Of course, they would. Purely because of the pleasure of running lightly and effortlessly. Meditating on a "good day", without having to make the constant effort of bringing your mind back, bringing your mind back... It's simply beautiful and soothing.

But then, as the Buddhists or Classical Yogis would say, the purpose of all practices, especially meditation, is to train and tame the mind. And the mind is like a muscle: If you use it every day, it stays supple and nimble, or in the mind's case, sharp and on point. In other words, repetition is key. This is what we call the formal meditation practice: Taking time to sit down every day, even if it's just for ten minutes, and exercising that muscle. Even when you feel you don't need it, or, on the opposite polarity, when you feel like today is impossible.

It's like drills for an emergency evacuation in a school building. They may seem pointless, but if you don't create a habit in a routine situation, chances are very high that the strategy won't work in a state of emergency. So, by practicing daily, we create a habit for the mind in a calm and secure situation. So that whenever we do end up in a more stressful situation, we elevate our chances of keeping the mind calm(er) i.e. slipping into informal meditation. Such as: You're leaving to go to Italy to see you family, but as you get to the airport, you are told at the check-in that you're not listed as a passenger although you booked your tickets month ago. They send you to different desks all across the airport and boarding time is getting closer and closer. (And yes that really happened to me two months ago, just in case you were wondering). I remember a time when I would have thrown a fit and been hysterical not to mention yelled at the airport personnel. Of course, nowadays I still get a bit agitated, my pulse quickens, but I catch myself. I take a breath, think clearly and orient myself towards the solution. Do what is necessary, buy a new ticker, find out what happened later. That is only possible when the mind is already used to clarity and to not getting unsettled so easily.

Maybe some days meditation seems pointless to you. Maybe this is why we do it anyways.