Firstly an update on my meditation practices since attending the class last week. I have been ill with cold/flu so haven’t really had the focus to do anything except sleep cold and sneeze. Though in the few moments of clarity I had and trying to work some problems out in my head, I found myself sitting with my eyes closed contemplating the best course of action. I have made some decisions based on this practice and I do believe that I made the right choices.
Back to this week, where I found myself attending the class early, I must have been looking forward to going. While the class was being set up I found myself reading Modern Buddhism written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso where this passage stood out a lot;
“Nothing can be accomplished just by reading words.
A sick man will never be cured of his illness
Though merely reading medical instructions”
The reason this stood out a lot to me was because back when I had my diagnosis of fibromyalgia I read loads of books online, bought some expensive ones from shops and read them. I didn’t actually find myself practising any of the tips that the books suggested in getting well. I’m not sure what I was expecting from just reading the words alone, though the thought of carrying out what was written in them just came with the “I’ll do it tomorrow” – which we all know tomorrow never comes.
The class got started with the breathing technique the same as last weeks’ class did and, I’m not sure if the cold is still remaining, I found focusing on my breath entering and leaving my nostrils harder. It all felt the same; there was no difference between inhaling and exhaling. So, instead I focused on my chest filling and emptying with air. It did the trick and I relaxed fully for the rest of the lesson, though this would later cause confusion for the second meditation of the night.
We were recapped on last weeks’ session of pain and suffering, and that they can only be caused by your mind and not external objects. His analogy for this was by taking the same situation, hitting your thumb with a hammer while putting up a shelf, but where you are in different mind sets. The first of the scenarios was where you are with your friends doing the DIY and you are having a good time and are in good spirits. When you hit your thumb the pain obviously may hurt but it isn’t too bad. Now the second scenario is where you have had a rubbish day at work, you have argued with your partner and you don’t really want to be putting this shelf up. So when you hit your thumb with the hammer the pain is immense and lots of bad language can be heard.
(M) So pain and suffering all depends on our mind set at that time, which can be the same as when we have negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves. What happens when we think negatively about ourselves is we become a self fulfilling prophesy. You believe that you are a bad person, so you act like a bad person. You believe that you are not worth having a treat of coffee and cake at a local coffee shop, then you won’t have one while making yourself feel a bad person. We are not born to feel negative about ourselves, this is a habit that has formed over time and can be broken through meditation.
Our teacher was explaining to us that good meditation practice comes with, well practice. It’s the same as when we are born, we do not know how to walk and we need to be taught how to stand on both legs. We need to be shown how to put one foot in front of another for us to walk. As with eating; we are not born with the ability to put food in our mouths let alone with a knife and fork. We need to be taught and we need to have patience in doing this for it to work the way it is meant to. This is the same as meditation; we can’t expect to master the art on our first attempt. We must practice.
He understands that meditation practice is hard and explained how it can be done with this analogy. Imagine moving house from the countryside to the city and your TV room is on a busy main road. When you first move in to the house all you can hear is the noise of the traffic over the TV and you can’t focus. Though you teach yourself to focus on the sound of the TV and over time you forget that the road is there. This is how you start with your meditation practice. There may be noises, smells or an ache in your foot, but over time you train your mind to become less aware of these distractions and focus on your practice.
The discussion led on to virtuous and non-virtuous objects, explaining that one causes peace and the other causes suffering. Virtue can be likened to love; the traditional Buddhist meaning of love is to unconditionally care for someone else and wishing for them to be happy. So to say that if this person that you love does something that you would not see as a good thing yourself, you love them and allow them to do it anyway. Whereas non-virtuous objects are those that have formed attachments; where you expect someone to behave in a certain manner, maybe the same way you would, and by them not doing so you are left with the suffering that comes with it. He explained that meditating on virtuous objects, such as love, can help you develop a clear heart and mind.
The second meditation was a challenge for me, and it appears that not everyone in the class found it easy either. We were to change our focus from our breathing to our heart, or true mind. There we were to picture our heart with clarity; pure clarity like the sky. While thoughts may come in and distract us, they are merely clouds on the sky and to let them dissolve back in to the pure clear sky. This meditation was virtuous as it gave us positivity towards our mind and acceptance that there was pure loving kindness within. I found this one hard due to the visualisation that was required; I simply could not picture a sky in my true mind’s eye. I have always had this problem, though after listening to the lesson tonight I feel that with practice I can overcome this.
I was actually kind to myself tonight as well, I allowed myself a cup of herbal tea at the end of the session where I did not last week. I didn’t feel as though I was allowed that little bit of praise and encouragement after the session, but this week I felt good about myself. These classes have really been an eye opener, and I’ve only done two so far, and can’t wait to explore myself more with the next session.
- The Meditation Class: Week One (traceypallett.wordpress.com)
- Meditating before a lecture improves students’ performance (nyrnaturalnews.com)