December 22, 2009
I’ve been finding myself deeply affected lately by a growing awareness of the tremendous diversity of our Meditation Oasis “family”. Facebook more than anything has made me aware of how different we all are and yet we are drawn together by our common human experience and the deepest aspects of our inner life which we reach through meditation.
From time to time I like to click on the faces on the Facebook page. It’s been so fulfilling to see people living in so many different countries with such different interests. Many of us could probably fall into heated discussions with each other at the drop of a hat over politics and find ourselves world’s apart in our musical tastes. Yet we can all sit together and meditate and experience a place of complete harmony.
Many of us are busy with holidays now, but some are not. We all experienced the solstice yesterday, but for some it signaled the shortest day of the year while for others it was the longest. We moved into winter where I live, but some of you are experiencing summer. Awareness of these differences has caused me to pause before sending a year end message. Yesterday instead of writing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukah” (which most people celebrate where I live), I found myself looking for a more universal greeting. I could have sent out a “Happy Solstice” message, I suppose. We all experience the changing seasons thanks to the tilt of the earth moving around the sun. But then I remembered that for people on or near the Equator, the Solstice doesn’t mean much. All of this has brought me to this place today where I want to send a different kind of message, one that we can all relate to no matter what we all do or don’t celebrate and believe.
As I searched for the perfect holiday/non-holiday message, I remembered the message Richard and I have often used. That’s the message I’d like to send to you all today. I think it’s something we can all relate to and a desire every human being shares. And it’s something many of us move toward through meditation —
“We wish you a peaceful mind and an open heart.”
December 9, 2009
Someone taking our online course asked about negative thoughts in meditation. His concern was whether letting them go would release them into the universe and bring negative results back to him. My answer was absolutely not! When I say “let thoughts be a meaningless activity in the mind”, that includes all thoughts, positive or negative. To allow the mind to expand and relax in meditation, we have to release it from its usual focus. During meditation we give the mind a break. We let go of the need to understand, analyze, evaluate and so on. We don’t need to pay attention to what our thoughts are about. The type of thoughts we have doesn’t matter. It’s not necessary to monitor our thoughts in any way and weed out the “wrong kind”. All thoughts are equal in meditation!
How we handle thoughts in meditation and outside of meditation is different. Outside of meditation the meaning of our thoughts is important, but even then I feel people become overly concerned about “negative” thoughts. So often people people struggle with them. They fear that negative thoughts or angry feelings will bring them harm and this can cause a lot of suffering. I’ve seen people become tense and afraid when negative thoughts come, trying hard to replace them with something positive. It becomes a war within.
From my perspective, it’s not only frustrating to try to eliminate negative thoughts, it’s futile! Life is a mixture of positive and negative. We are a mixture of positive and negative. Trying to change that is trying to change the basic structure of things. Can you get rid of one side of a coin or one pole of a magnet?
I don’t mean to say that how we think isn’t important. Of course, we’d rather have a positive, uplifting perspective on things, and our attitudes and perspectives definitely do affect us. There can be a value in becoming more aware of our mental patterns, particularly our underlying beliefs and attitudes toward life. When we start to see ourselves more clearly, we are sometimes able to bring about shifts in our way of being and seeing things. But bringing about positive changes goes much deeper than simply trying to stop negative thoughts. It involves the ability to relax into who we are and accept ourselves as we are now — the positive and the negative. It’s a kind of paradox that when we can truly accept ourselves all the way just as we are now, we may very well morph into more compassionate people. That is the natural result of self-acceptance.
December 1, 2009
Is the purpose of meditation to create a frame of mind that continues outside of meditation? “Paul” asked some great questions related to this in an email. Here’s what Paul wrote:
“The meditations seem to follow a similar format applied to different themes. I enjoy listening to them. They are relaxing. Is the frequent use of “easily bring your mind back…” or “doesn’t matter” etc by design? Is it intended to get the listener in that frame of mind even when out of meditation? Does it have some other purpose?”
Paul’s observation that the meditations follow a similar format applied to different themes is absolutely true The way I think of it is that there are core meditations like Simply Being and Letting Go that embody the essence of meditation. They help the mind let go of its usual outer-directed focus and expand into an easy, open state. Other meditations, like the Nature, Inner Child and Grief meditations, are more effective if that relaxed and open state is achieved before doing any visualizing or imagining. That’s why all the meditations start in pretty much the same way.
The frequently used phrases that Paul mentions help the mind and body to relax. In particular, they help us to let go of the habit of straining and working at things, so that we can experience a state of effortlessness. They help us to relax into the natural flow of things. That seems pretty obvious, but what has really had me thinking is whether or not the purpose of these phrases is to get us into that frame of mind when we are no longer meditating. The answer I’ve come up with is —- (drum roll)—– “yes and no”!
The answer is yes in the sense that what we practice in the meditations — letting go of resistance to what is happening, relaxing into our emotions, and being more present in the moment and so on — will hopefully carry over into our activity. In a way, we call meditation a “practice” because it is practicing certain skills that become applied in our lives. So it could be said that the things I frequently say are meant to get us into that frame of mind outside of meditation, except that it’s not exactly the same frame of mind. Only some of the elements of meditation are meant to be carried into our activities. That brings us to the “no” part of my answer.
The answer is no in the sense that in meditation we are letting go of the evaluating, analyzing, accomplishing aspects of the mind. We are allowing the mind to let go of its focus on doing. When we return to our activity, we have to focus on things. The analytical aspect of the mind is important in our daily functioning. In meditation we let go of thoughts, whereas in activity we sometimes need to pursue a train of thought when we are problem-solving. So in this sense, the purpose of these phrases isn’t to get us to be in exactly the same “frame of mind” in and out of meditation. The frame of mind while meditating isn’t appropriate for most of our time outside of meditation.
Bringing meditation into our lives definitely changes how we experience life outside of meditation. That’s one reason we do it. We can certainly live our lives in a more meditative way, but how we apply the principles of meditation during meditation and outside of meditation is different. I’ve been thinking more and more about how we can approach daily living as meditation. Our new Walking Meditation album is a “step” in that direction. We’ll see where that step leads!
What has your experience been? How has your life changed with meditation? How do you think the changes are related to the practice of meditation?