Importance of Meditation
Meditation is helpful for the body, it stills anxiety, and is generally beneficial. This is scientifically proven. So there are many reasons to meditate. There is no doubt that it can help stress, depression, and anxiety. It is helpful for the emotional problems of daily life, when things go wrong It opens the heart and makes you more aware. And when awareness rises, so does wisdom, and the wisdom that rises from meditation is very powerful.
Everyone can meditate, no matter who they are. You should commit to daily meditation, no matter for how long. Until you sit down on a cushion or on a chair, meditation won't start. The most important point is to take a comfortable seat. If you practice meditation every day for fifteen or twenty minutes, after a while when you look back, there will be no doubt of its effectiveness.
Why is awareness so important? Because it is the nature of wisdom. You may meditate because you want peace. All sorts of expectations can arise in your mind. It is possible that you may experience peace, but most of the time you will not? Why? It's not a problem with the meditator. At the beginning there may be a sense of calm and peace. But after a while your mind will seem even worse than before. Even though your mind may seem worse, actually it is better.
So you must keep the continuity of a practice, like a river. Regardless of whether your mind seems better or worse than before, you should continue practice, and you will improve. It's like washing your clothes or dishes. If you wash them regularly, it won't be difficult. But if you don't it will be difficult to clean them. When I was in retreat, I would wear the same clothes for a month. When I returned, I had to soak them in hot water for six or seven hours before I started to wash them. Even then I had to wash them several times.
The reason why your mind seems worse after meditating for a while is that your emotional problems are coming to the surface. It's important to let what needs to come out, come out. Try not to judge your thoughts. And do not chase after them or hold onto them. If you follow this instruction, meditation becomes very easy. When these emotions come up, hold on strongly to your mental focus. If your mind is calm, your focus can be more relaxed. All meditators experience emotional upset and crying when they practice. Let this be and afterwards there will be peace.
Breathing is the most important form of meditation practice. The breath is connected with the subtle winds, and this is connected with the heart mind. When your mind is restless, focus on the navel chakra. When your mind is sleepy, focus on the third eye. But don't forget to follow your breath.
If you keep focus on breath, in and out, naturally you will become calm. You will feel joyful and light. As you continue meditate, that feeling will stabilize. Then a feeling of love and compassion will arise. Inner peace starts from there. Why does that happen? All the emotional upset has come out, so the mind is calmed.
A gong has the potential to make a sound, but until it is struck, no sound will be heard. The striker is the cause of the sound. Similarly, we all have the potential to experience inner peace. But until the teacher explains how to practice, it will not be realized. The fundamental enlightenment is in everyone equally. We wash clothes because they have the potential to become clean. Otherwise, we would throw them away. Similarly, we meditate because we have to ability to realize our fundamental potential. This potential is there, but it is normally obscured. It is important not to push too hard. If meditation becomes difficult, get up and do something else. But practice again tomorrow, don't give up. Eventually your mind will become clear, like an empty blue sky. It is possible for the mind to be free of thoughts. But even then, there is further to go. An impartial love even for our enemies will arise. It is not easy to get to that level, but it is possible to experience that equal love for all.
It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to meditate. When I teach, I am sharing Buddhism, but there is no expectation on my part that you will become a Buddhist. Love is the wish that others will be happy. Everyone wants to be happy, and they have a right to be happy. Compassion is the wish that others be free of suffering.
There are many skillful methods taught in Buddhism depending on the abilities and inclinations of people, but meditation is the most important. Meditation is the best kind of prayer. It is the best kind of offering. It is also the best purification practice. Meditation is the best kind of virtuous conduct. It can reach everyone's heart. Even persons and animals living with a meditator will benefit. So my job is to encourage you to practice meditation. One should practice with others in a group, as this will be easier.
Q: How helpful is it to do retreat?
A: it is helpful to do even a short retreat. In the West it is often difficult to arrange this, and I feel proud of those who can. So I recommend doing weekend retreats. And you should simplify your life. to make room for practice.
Q: How would you describe a simple life?
A: As a Buddhist and practitioner I learned that everyone is filled with wants. But often these cannot be fulfilled. One should have the necessities: food, clothing, and shelter. But beyond that one should spend one's energy seeking insight. It is what the Buddha called the middle path.
February 22, 2009