I have seen in my lifetime how many people, myself included, turn to religion to find peace and relief from suffering. Dissatisfaction in our lives, and lacking solutions to difficulties, we often look for answers in religion.
I see Buddhism as being no different in the way it attracts people to the teachings. Plus I think the images of people meditating and appearing calm and peaceful, give hope to someone who is searching for some peace in their life.
I think that initially, many people see meditation as a way to control their minds. And meditation as a vehicle to begin this process. I think perhaps this was the concept I had when I began my journey in studying the dhamma. Control the mind, and I can control my thoughts and emotions.
But I have come to see that this may be quite the opposite of what the Buddha taught.
I cannot control my mind anymore than I can control my body. The body is changing, aging and decaying every moment. I cannot stop this or control it anymore than I can control thoughts and emotions from rising and falling away.
But this practice is all about observation, acceptance, removing ignorance (avijja), and gaining wisdom (bodhi). Not struggling to change or control anything.
In fact, by this process, the struggles are greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. By learning to see and accept the simplest things, like seeing that your back hurts means you have a back. That’s it, no more to the story than that simple reality. Now doesn’t that sound easy?
Well, I can tell you it takes a great deal of practice, and I still have far to go.
Not a day goes by that I am not caught in some disturbing thought or emotion. I attach to them, create stories, and get side-tracked from my practice. But then perhaps, the fact that I am aware of this is completely what my practice is about. Not stopping or controlling anything, but becoming more and more mindful and aware so that I can observe and then release these as they arise. And I see how beneficial my meditation practice is in teaching me to return to the breath. This being the same reaction that I am becoming increasingly trained to do while off of the cushion.
The longer that I practice, the more I become aware that there are many levels to mindfulness.
Each of our words and actions create far-reaching ripples and can affect so many others. And I am often dumbfounded at how little mindfulness I had in many situations.
But I am increasingly grateful for the observance of this, and able to see so many opportunities to live more compassionately in the future.
I think this practice is a wonderful thing, and I hope my experiences may serve as some food for thought. May we all become more mindful and loving, may we live in peace and equanimity.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.