On Faith

»Meditation helps tame mind
» Concentration essential for success


Meditation can help
you tame your mind
and make it an ally

A Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which translates as familiarity.

I think it's odd for people to say "I don't meditate" because whether or not we are working with our mind in formal meditation, one way or another we are always becoming familiar with something.

Most of the time we're becoming familiar with "me." Our root meditation is "What about me?"

We're meditating on our immediate reactions to the world around us. Somebody has something we want, so we meditate on jealousy. We don't get something we want, so we meditate on anger.

Our mind is continuously chasing itself around, trying to secure happiness. Its speed and reactivity keep us under siege. There's so little space that by the end of the day we feel exhausted.

In the practice of sitting meditation, we become familiar with a technique: to recognize and release thoughts and emotions and return our attention to the breath. As we do this, we also become familiar with what I call a healthy sense of self.

First we develop the patience and honesty to be self-aware. As our minds become more flexible and curious, a whole new range of reality becomes available to us. We begin to notice that there's a constant pull on our attention. Everywhere we go, moment to moment, we're trying to be entertained.

Somehow we're not able to rest in our own mind. We're always thinking that the next little thing -- the next thought, bite of food, conversation, or relationship -- is going to bring us final satisfaction.

Meditation shows us this tendency most directly. As we sit there, we notice that even though we could abide peacefully, the mind is still churning. Rather than relax right now, we continue to look for entertainment.

We distract ourselves with replays of the past and fantasies about the future. We rehash conversations and plan our day. We continue to become angry and jealous, even in the privacy of our own mind.

Meditation is not about being "good." It's about taming our mind by engaging it. It requires discipline to strengthen our mind by actively working with our thoughts and emotions. To fully engage, we have to work with the speed of our mind.

With continued practice we begin to be able to see when we're about to buy into habitual reactions such as anger or jealousy.

Meditation offers space for us to see that we can choose how to use our mind. We can go beyond knee-jerk reactions. We can say, "Traffic is bad, but I don't always have to be irritated. I can choose a different response."

With a tamed mind, we are grounded, balanced, and open. Centering ourselves within this state of contentment is how we become totally happy, because it liberates us from the "me" plan.

Everything we need is already here. Now we can extend ourselves toward others. We can focus on cultivating qualities like love and compassion, deep aspects of being human that represent our genuine health.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, director of Shambhala International meditation center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will lecture at 4 p.m. tomorrow at Windward United Church of Christ, 38 Kaneohe Bay Drive, from his book "Turning the Mind into an Ally."


Concentration is
essential for success
in all aspects of life

Over the years many people have come and said to me, "I have no powers of concentration." But there is no valid basis for such thinking. Everyone, even a child, can concentrate. While watching cartoons, children display great concentration. At that time, their minds appear to be glued to the TV screen.

It is not true that we cannot concentrate. What we lack is the ability to concentrate our minds on everything and under all circumstances. It is easy to concentrate on what is pleasant.

The difficulty arises when we have to concentrate on something we find unpleasant. A student finds it hard to concentrate on an uninteresting book. A parishioner feels drowsy when listening to a boring sermon. But we must learn to concentrate on whatever we do, whether pleasant or unpleasant, as long as it is beneficial for us, because concentration is indispensable to achieve any kind of success in life. And concentration is all the more essential to achieve the highest goal of human life: experiencing Divinity or the Ultimate Truth.

Meditation -- training in concentration -- teaches this. But meditation is only a means. It is not the goal itself. All theistic religions speak of the omnipresence of God. Therefore there must be Divinity in every human being. At any given point in time, Divinity is equally present in all, but not equally manifest. The purpose of all spiritual practices, including meditation, is to fully manifest this inherent Divinity.

This Divinity is our true Self. It forms the very core of our being. We can give up whatever is extraneous, but not that which forms the very core of our existence. Sooner or later this true Self, this Divinity, must manifest itself. All, without exception, will eventually experience this Divine Self in all its infinite splendor. This is God-realization. This is the inevitable goal of human life.

Hinduism teaches that Infinite Bliss is one of the principal aspects of Divinity. We all yearn for joy. This longing is expressed through craving for money, sense pleasure, name, fame, power and position. Through all these cravings we are unconsciously trying to reach our Divine Self-Infinite Bliss. No matter how much pleasure, money, power or fame we have, we are never satisfied. We yearn for more. Finding lasting satisfaction through them is impossible, because the joy derived from them is finite. Only Infinite Joy can satisfy us. Eventually we realize that searching for Infinite Joy through finite and external means will lead us nowhere.

This realization will inspire us to turn around and consciously search for that fountain of Infinite Bliss within. When we arrive at this perennial source of Bliss, all our wants and cravings will disappear forever. We will then experience God, the all-pervading Divinity, as Supreme Bliss, both within ourselves and without, in everything that exists in this entire, interminable universe. We will experience God as the essence of every thing and every being.

We will love all, even our enemies, because we will see no enemy anywhere. In this state, any interaction with the world will be a most joyous and rewarding experience because we directly interact with God. We will no longer identify with our body-mind complex, which is subject to birth, change, decay and death. We will gain the unshakable conviction that we are the eternal Divine Spirit-deathless and birthless. Thus we will transcend all fear, suffering and sorrow.

Swami Bhaskarananda, the spiritual guide for the Vedanta Society of Hawaii and a Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Order, will speak tomorrow on meditation, and again May 25 on "How to Overcome Fear," at 11:30 a.m. at the YWCA, 1040 Richards St.

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