Misconceptions about Meditation

A few weeks ago, a friend on Facebook posted about taking a course on ‘Mindfulness’. He wrote about how his intent was to make the voices in his head shut up. While in the beginning this seems like a natural reason to meditate, it can lead a person away from mindfulness.

Everyone has a different view on meditation and how to do it. This is fine because there is not one path that is correct. Many ways lead to the same goal, or in this case, inner peace. Therefore, take what I say with a grain of salt. My path may lead me in a different direction than yours.

Meditation seems to be taken for more than it is. There is an importance placed on meditation as though it is more than just sitting. Therein lies the problem. We try to make it more significant than it is. Meditation is simply sitting. The more that you complicate it, the further you get away from your goal of inner peace.

For those who have tried sitting meditation, they may have thought about how boring it is. After 5 minutes of sitting, their mind starts to wander. It is natural for everyone. The mind is curious and doesn’t like mundane activities like sitting in one place. This is when fantasies begins. The mind concocts what it’s going to do when you’re finished meditating. Maybe it remembers what you were doing before you sat down.

This is one of the popular ideas in Western meditation: you have this monkey mind that’s swinging around endlessly. If we want to get to peace, we’re going to have to calm it down. The monkey dabbles around in one area, then abandons it randomly for another. The mind chooses a topic and changes it rapidly. Naturally this monkey becomes an enemy – after all, it’s preventing us from being peaceful.

Well, the monkey and peace thing is somewhat true. But chasing after your mind, trying to calm it down, is not going to help. The monkey will run free and wild. The more you attempt to slow it down, the more it will run rampant. The monkey is not the cause of your unhappiness or dissatisfaction, your attachment to your mind is.

Think of your mind as a dog. Each day when you wake up and let it out, it runs around energetically. You can chase it but chances are it will elude you. The dog will run too fast for you to catch it and when you trick it, it’ll escape again. But if you sit down and let the dog run wild, it will get bored or exhausted. That doesn’t mean you should concern yourself with the dog, recognize it as your own but don’t try to overly control it. It is an animal after all.

The focus of meditation shouldn’t be to suppress your mind. It will only find ways to elude you. Besides, the mind is a wonderful tool. Instead, we need to open up and sit back. Let the dog run around but don’t attach. Don’t mistake yourself as the dog. Enjoy the sunny day or the rainy day. Feel the breeze and what it physically feels like to be alive. Focus too much on the dog, concern yourself too much with where your mind runs off to, and you will unhappy. How can you enjoy when all you do is suppress.

This seems to be the misconception of western meditation: we are not trying to get rid of the mind. It is not evil or wrong. It is simply a tool that, if used improperly, harms the person using it. When you want to get a specific job done, bring out the tool kit. When you’re done, set down the tools. Simple as that. Sit down and enjoy a frackin’ lemonade! It’s the weekend guys and yesterday was payday! Woot woot!

Can’t believe BLOGtober is already half over, day sixteen is finished!

 

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“Dude, just enjoy”

As a writer, I’m often guilty of pouring out words and labeling my life. Instead of relaxing, taking in the moment, I’m fantasizing about some far away place. It’s easy to write about these fantasies and dreams because our minds can create such beautiful possibilities. What is truly difficult, however, is living in the moment, whether good or bad, and taking it all in.

On Facebook, a person commented on a photo of mine with “enjoy”. What they probably meant was “I enjoy this” but they didn’t finish the thought. Instead of letting it go, I responded with a question mark. The comment seemed unusual and I wanted to know what they meant.

Almost immediately another friend responded with, “Dude, just enjoy”. It’s taken about a year to realize the true meaning of this.

While I was walking down the beach earlier today, I thought about it and was lead back to the word “enjoy”. It’s a simple two syllable word that we throw around and occasionally hear when we order food or go to the movies. We think of it like, “here’s your ice cream, enjoy!”. Essentially it has lost its meaning because of how often we use it.

What does “enjoy” really mean? It’s when you appreciate the world around you and the situation that you’re in. It means that you’re living in the moment and loving what is happening to you. More than anything, it’s the acceptance of life in its rawest form: you’re letting the world in. You’re truly feeling the taste of the ice cream or the sand on your feet.

Later that day I went out with some friends who got really drunk. The police were involved and it’s a long story that I’ll write about tomorrow. When we were sitting down with the cops, after about an hour, I remembered “enjoy”. Our situation was horrible and we would be up staying late that night, but I accepted it as part of my life. I took “enjoy” and just appreciated the moment for what it was.

In retrospect, it’s the small moments in each day that form our lives. Sleeping late on Sunday may seem meaningless but after a month, maybe you’ll appreciate stretching in bed and laying around. After a year, you may look back and remember those days when you could lounge around the house. Those are the moments that create a life. We look back and see the bliss.

What value is as of that if you didn’t actively “enjoy” those moments? Think back to the last time you thought to yourself “Wow, I’m having a good time” or “I really enjoy this”. Chances are you’ll remember a few moments but they will be few and far between. We don’t appreciate life at its core, only in the ‘grand’ moments. But life isn’t built on these moments, we don’t have them often enough to call them common.

Life is built on making oatmeal everyday for breakfast, or the long commute to work. It’s built on working in the heat and coming home covered in grease. These are the moments that populate our lives and keep our days filled until we go to bed. They are the first breaths after waking and feeling of exhaustion after a long day’s work.

“Enjoy” is a reminder that we need to take a breath and enjoy the moment. If we don’t take in the world and relax, life will pass us by. We were too busy thinking about our next action, or what could be, that we lose sight what is happening around us. When you’re on the side of the road with a group of cops and a group of drunk friends – “enjoy”. When you’re craving pizza and you finally get a slice – “enjoy”. Don’t question it, if you do, you’ve missed the moment. It all boils down to; “Dude, just enjoy”.

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Become Intimate with Your Fears

Lately I’ve been reading a lot from “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. It’s a rather small book that seems almost too small to be significant. The book almost feels like it’s an older novel in size. This contrasts with how big the ideas are inside.

Pema came to my life when I needed her the most; amid the mental crisis of moving to a new place and hitting the restart button on most of my routines. There is excitement in going to a new place, but, for me, there is also the fear that I may not like what I’m stuck with.

When I was flying from Minneapolis to Charleston, I began reading. The way that everything is explained goes much more than typical Eastern philosophy. Sometimes you get those books where you have to interpret what the author is try to say because they don’t have English grammar down. Pema doesn’t have that problem at all! All of her examples are totally applicable too!

Basically “When Things Fall Apart” is a self-explaining name. The book is about crisis and when we react to those crisis rather than respond. Inside, Pema explains how fear is something that shows you that you’re alive and progressing. It’s something to become intimate with and understand.

Part of my struggle, and what I believe a lot of other people face, is that when we face the unknown, many of us become subdued. We climb into our shells and retract from the world. Pema explains that through fear, we can realize a lot about ourselves. We can look and see what we are attached to. We can see that we are attached to much more than we think.

Over time, we can release this fear of losing what we think we have, and we can accept fear as an emotion. So much of what we fear is illogical or creates unnecessary suffering for us. By paying attention to our fears and our worries, we can move past them.

Each time I’ve gone somewhere new in the last year (I’ve moved 4 times around the country), I’ve been afraid of the unknown. When I’m about to move, I become gloomy and act as if everything around me is coming to an end. Especially when I moved to north Texas. This fear destroyed the pleasure of getting to know a new place, and enjoying my last days in Mississippi with my friends.

By realizing this is cyclical, I can become intimate with that fear. Realizing that growth doesn’t happen without change. Fear and worrying go hand in hand; by worrying about moving and leaving things behind, I fear what I will experience in the new place. By fearing what I will experience, I worry about things that may never happen.

The silly thing is that fear is of itself. Let me explain. Fearing fear is another great fear. We realize that we are afraid and it amplifies itself. That fear compounds and becomes much more simply because we have a bad relationship with fear. We are afraid of being afraid.

That is exactly what “When Things Fall Apart” is about. Changing that, and realizing that fear is nothing to be afraid of. The cycle of fear is becoming afraid of something, then becoming more afraid because you are afraid.

Become intimate with your fear and when you are afraid, acknowledge it. Realize that you fear something and accept it. Don’t try and fight it or reject it. Simply think about the feeling of being afraid and why you are afraid. Your fear may not dissolve but you will stop being afraid of being afraid. Learn to be intimate with your fears!

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