What Does Meditation Mean?
What does meditation mean? How do we go about working with our habitual patterns of behavior and the emotions in our daily lives?
The only way we can do so is to begin by becoming genuine and down to earth with ourselves and those around us.
One of the ways I’ve been able to get in touch with my past, my feelings, my insecurities, and habitual patterns of behavior is in my daily practices of mindfulness and meditation. It’s about taking the teachings as “good medicine” to support us in the things that are confusing to us and the suffering affecting our life.
When we aren’t being genuine, it shows that you are suffering a lot. Most of us try desperately to suffer alone.
But most of us are only trying to transcend the messiness of life. We’re really here to use the circumstances and events in our lives as our greatest teachers. We’re here to look at our
anger, addiction, grief, loneliness, struggle with illness, loss of a loved one, or our job.
Every one of us wants to hear something that will be of value in our life.
Here are the 4 qualities that are keys to waking up:
1. Stabilize your mind:
Most of us are a lot more interested in staying asleep and there’s lots of cultural support for staying unconscious.
It’s human nature to want to distract ourselves from uncomfortable and painful feelings such as anger, boredom, bitterness, and restlessness. There are a plethora of distractions like television, our phones, shopping, eating, alcohol, etc. Even when we turn off the ringer, our phone settings allow it to still vibrate making the pull to check it almost irresistible.
Stabilizing our minds is the basis for showing up for our own life. You can call it training or taming the mind or more accurately, it really is about strengthening the mind. We are strengthening qualities that we already have instead of bringing something in from the outside. We’re training our minds to return to the present moment.
The silence is always there, we are the ones who leave.
Throughout life, we have trained in distracting our minds and ourselves so going unconscious seems like our natural way of being. So much so that many of us don’t even realize we are operating on automatic pilot almost all of the time. But our minds have two essential qualities we can always draw on: being present and knowing what’s happening on a moment-by-moment basis. To strengthen these natural qualities of mind we can meditate.
Start by learning to enjoy your experience. Don’t make meditation a project like everything else. The body has its own intelligence.
Next is being mindful of your breath: Bring a natural pause in between the inhale and the exhale.
Keep bringing your mind back to the present moment.
The mind will get lost because it’s habituated to always wanting to escape the present moment. When you start getting lost in the act of the mind, be happy that you’ve noticed. Getting lost or distracted and continually coming back is what is supposed to happen. That is mediation! That is the training; to notice that you’ve been distracted and bring yourself back to the present moment over and over again.
In the Buddhist tradition, they say the untamed mind is like a limbless person trying to ride an untamed horse, without much choice in the matter.
You create choice by reigning in the mind.
2. Make friends with yourself
It takes a degree of gentleness and a lot of courage to bring such gentleness to your practice. That’s because we are so accustomed to judging ourselves and others and have an unfounded fear of “doing it wrong.”
What you will begin to notice In the process of stabilizing the mind is that you will gradually become more aware of traits within yourself that you may not like. Cruelty, selfishness, cynicism, etc. This is exactly what makes the practice of meditation and mindfulness so incredibly powerful and life-altering. This is also when the combination of meditation and life coaching can be an incredible resource for you as you feel some of the things you’ve shoved down into your psychological basement begin to rise.
When examining our addictions for instance, we need to be able to examine the sadness that’s behind having another drink, the loneliness that’s underneath taking another hit of a joint, the desire to fill the missing hole we feel in our lives when we keep purchasing things we don’t need or really even want.
When you have a true friend, you stick together year after year. But you don’t put your friend up on a pedestal and think they are perfect. You’ve had fights, you’ve seen them be petty, and mean and they’ve seen you in all diff states of mind that way as well. But you’ve stayed friends throughout it all.
There’s something about the fact that you know each other so well and love each other that strengthens your friendship. Your friendship is based on knowing each other fully and still loving each other.
Unconditional friendship with yourself has the same flavor as the deep friendship you have with others. That’s because if you bring loving-kindness to yourself, you know yourself and you can bring kindness to yourself. You even love yourself when you know you’ve blown it once again. In fact, it’s only through unconditional friendship. with yourself that your issues will budge. It takes grace toward yourself to have the courage to examine yourself.
Repressing your tendencies, shaming yourself, and calling yourself bad and wrong will never help you realize transformation. Keep in mind that transformation does not mean that you are going from being a bad person to being a good person. It’s a process of learning what helps and what hurts, what de-escalates suffering, and what escalates it. What increases happiness and what obscures it?
“It is about loving yourself so much that you don’t want to make yourself suffer anymore.”
– Maggie Kelly
Don’t reject what you see in yourself, instead embrace it. Instead, bring unconditional friendship to yourself. Feeling hurried, feeling like you’re shoving meditation into your life, feeling cut off from nature, feeling no compassion – recognize all of it and embrace all of it.
3. Be free from your fixed mind
Stand up. Inhale and raise hands high then exhale with a “HA” and slap our hands on our thighs!
Suddenly, we feel fresh. This is an experience of being free from a fixed mind.
Having a fixed mind is being stuck, and inflexible. It’s a mind that closes down, like living with blinders on set in your own beliefs and stories and unable even to entertain another point of view.
Even consider an environmentalist. Clearly what you are working for is very important but when you deal with the other side, you become prejudiced, and closed off. When that happens, it makes you less effective as an activist.
On the spiritual path, being free from a fixed mind is the third most important aspect. Life gives us plenty of opportunities to draw upon.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a “gap” between your thoughts. It’s like blah, blah, blah, pause/gap, blah, blah, blah over and over again. That pause/gap is always there yet most of us never notice it exists.
The incessant chatter brings about our conditional emotional reactivity and judgment.
But it can also be our reference point for being free from a fixed mind.
Of course, the mind starts up again. But once you’ve had the experience of the gap, you begin to notice it happens frequently.
A mindfulness and meditation practitioner begins noticing the gap and appreciating it in every action, every sound, and every smell that they may not have before. This “gap” is where you, the Self with that capital “s” actually lives. In that space is wonder at every pause and every mundane turn.
The potential of your human life is so vast, so enormous.
4. Take care of others
It’s a big deal to be simple, to not make a big problem out of your life.
There are countless times in our lives when we literally feel like we don’t know what to do. We don’t have to make it a big deal.
When we are in a very painful circumstance, there’s a way we can see these circumstances as part of the bigger flow of life. At the same moment you are having that pain, there are millions of other people having that same painful feeling. There are millions of people sitting in a hospital, millions of others dealing with grief, anxiety, sadness, and loss.
“When you feel bad, let it be your link to others’ suffering. When you feel good, let it be your link with others’ joys.”
– Eckhart Tolle
This understanding that our link to others’ sufferings and joys is the key to this last quality of waking up – taking care of one another.
We can’t stand our flaws or failings, we can’t stand our feelings of boredom and disappointment or fears. We can’t stand to see the suffering on the evening news, or the face of the homeless person and so we shut down. It’s like a snail. When you put your finger near it, it closes up and hides in its shell. That’s a kind of sanity. Your body and mind intuitively know what’s enough but in your heart, you have a strong aspiration before you die that you will become more capable of being open to other people and yourself.
Start by simply taking the attitude of “one step at a time”.
It’s like four steps forward, two back. Just allow it to be like that. Trust that you are going at your own speed.
Typically, we allow our emotions and experiences to isolate us from others. We feel alone in our desperation and our sadness. but when we use these experiences to link us to everyone else in the world, those who are suffering all over the world, who are suffering in the same way we are, discover a vast, deep well of compassion for others.