In uncertain, stressful times much may seem out of our control. At such times it is particularly important to reflect on the things that are within our control .
The one thing most out of control in our lives is our minds. An untamed mind is a constant source of joy and sadness. We know from experience the rollercoaster ride we go through when our thoughts and emotions buoy us up and then drop us in troughs. These yo-yoing experiences arise because we aren’t aware of what’s happening in our mind. When we are unconscious of the content of our mind’s activity we are taken by surprise and consequently get uncontrollably sucked into situations.
Meditation is any method that helps keep the mind from wandering, and that helps us experience things as they really are. Meditation isn’t:
Formal sitting meditation trains the mind to inhabit a serene part of the experience spectrum so that it (and consequently you) aren’t tossed from one extreme to another. This is called equanimity. In meditation we discover that each moment is fluid, unpredictable, and unique. This realization clarifies how unrealistic it is trying to control every external phenomenon and person so that we can feel safe.
The Indian sage, Shantideva, described this struggle in an analogy. He said it is as if we are trying to cover the entire earth with leather, so that we don’t injure and bruise our bare feet. Clearly that’s impossible. The only thing you can do is to wrap your own feet in leather to protect yourself. Recall how often we have tried to control external forces by putting out one fire after another, all so we don’t suffer. This failed strategy only leads to increased stress and frustration.
The most effective way to deal with the irritating co-worker or neighbor, physical and emotional pain, and unfair work or world situation is to work with your own mind. Learning to meditate is the ultimate protection from life’s irritations, and the best tool for empowering you to live a calm, aware, and skillful life in a challenging world.
There are many different types of meditation with different purposes and benefits. Below are just a few of the more widely known meditation techniques:
When choosing a meditation technique it is important to consider your personality and temperament and to choose a technique that resonates with you, your goals, and needs.
To effectively do this, begin by getting to know yourself a little better. Take a few minutes a day to reflect on your life, goals, needs, and your way of dealing with the world. You can also do this by noticing your likes and dislikes, and your attitude and reactions to things and situations.
You could also choose to work with someone who can guide you to the best technique when you're beginning
and who will progressively lead you to other suitable meditation techniques as your skill level develops.
I will be teaching a beginning online mindfulness meditation class, which introduces students to several different meditation techniques focused on calming, growing attentiveness, and wellbeing. Check it out here. Hope to see you in class.
May you be supported and empowered in your journey to wellness.