Over the last 30 years or so meditation – like yoga – is enjoying huge interest as THE holy grail which is going to solve every personal problem such as stress, anxiety, sexual dysfunctions, poor self image, chronic fatigue, poor relationships, better mental concentration and many more.Based on unofficial figures the numbers of North American centers offering meditation courses increased by x100-150 over the last 30 years! Why such an explosive trend?
We can identified 5 main reasons:
The demand is very strong especially for adults in their the mid forties and older
The teaching of meditation is not regulated opening the door to charlatans and pseudo-experts.
The business of teaching meditation can be very lucrative.
Being Oriental in its origin the practice of meditation carries some sort of exotic, divine and mysterious flavor with the expectation that it may produce unique skills to the student.
Meditation has been very well advertised with the help of marketing experts:
Advertising for meditation courses and retreats locally and also online is promising automatic happiness, well being, total relaxation, great self image, job promotion, weight control and even enlightenment! This is exactly what most of us want and are dreaming about.
Advertising guaranties that these dream goals will be achieved rapidly.
Finally advertising claims that the student will not have to make too much effort.
These 5 factors and the fact that we are always looking for a quick fix with the least effort is a perfect guaranty of success for those who teach meditation but not necessarily so for those who pay for the courses.
Think about it. During several minutes we sit still like a statue and focus on our body, on our mind anchor and incoming thoughts like a drill digging into the mystery of our inner self. This daily meditative exercise is just the opposite of what is happening during the day since during the day, continuously and without our knowledge our mind jumps from one thought to another and our body is moving all the time. We are in constant motion physically and mentally without being totally mindful to our thoughts. Therefore as we settle into sitting meditation, our drill bit can be perceived as very dull, frozen and totally useless. When our drill bit is dull, meditation becomes dull and boring. Meditation is simply perceived to be boring but in fact meditation is neither boring nor exiting or anything, meditation is just what it is. Only the meditator is bored.
“Happiness from outside does not last, happiness from inside lasts forever”.
This is a modern translation of what the Buddha said some 2500 years ago and repeated many times by the Dalai Lama. Easier to say than to understand or to do.
Where do we get our happiness?
If good health is excluded I bet you that 99.9% of our happiness is coming from the outside: love of course, family, friends, pets, job satisfaction and promotion, learning, money, new house, sport, new car, trips around the world, sex, a good book, vacations, food, Netflix, Twitter, …the list is endless.
This “outside happiness” is wonderful, expected and needed but unfortunately it remains out of our control and by definition transient. Sources of outside happiness come and go and there is nothing we can do about it. This is I think, what the Buddha means.
We enjoy them but if we become too attached to them we are opening the door to potential delusion, deception, dissatisfaction and..unhappiness.
So….what to do ?
Finding & using the Middle Way – a key Buddhist teaching – is probably the solution. One may discover steady happiness by using a proper balance between outside sources of happiness and the inside one.
Like our perfect True Nature inside happiness exists already in all of us but the problems are: 1) to believe that we have it, 2) to find it and
3) to practice it. How?
As mentioned already many times before our ego-centered mind is the main source of our dissatisfaction and unhappiness caused by desires, anger, resentment, anxiety, etc. Controlling our ego thoughts via meditation is the most effective way to manage and reduce our unhappiness. When the level of our unhappiness drops the level of inside happiness & contentment rises automatically.
Little by little we must train ourselves to discover and experience happiness by controlling our deceptive mind. In fact we can literally create & maintain happiness rather than looking for outside self or by buying stuff endlessly like most of us do.
Creating and practicing happiness is indeed a wonderful tool that all of us have.
Happiness is contagious and by improving yours everyone will benefit from it. This is a wonderful form of compassion.
We have to realize that true lasting happiness is not something we find with our credit card such as in a shop,in a hotel room, with a new car, with a new kitchen, or by buying an airline ticket. You have to understand that it is here, hidden within ourselves and ready to please at no cost.
“Zen practice is bringing our mind and body together in the present moment to reflect mindfully and without judgment on living beings, events and surroundings as they are in reality and not as our ego-centered thoughts want them to be”.
“We are free, every one of us. We are born free, and the bondage, restrictions, edges and limits that we find in our life are self-created by our mind. Beside the Law of the Land and Morality there are fundamentally no edges, no boundaries. Zen practice is an experience which has nothing to do with believing. Zen practitioners are not believers per se since there is nothing to understand but everything to experience day by day.
Understanding from our analytic mind implies a separation between the knower and the thing that the knower knows. In Zen such separation does not exist since Zen is a direct and intimate mindfulness experience with our body, mind and surroundings moment to moment with a non judgmental attitude.
Only you have the power to make yourself free and this is a big difference from other religions. Only the one sitting in front of this screen and reading these words has the key to open the door.”
Adapted from : Mountain record of Zen talks by John Daido Lori.
A student said to the teacher: ” My life is terrible…I am in jail”
Teacher: “Who put you in jail?”
Student: “No one”
Teacher: “Yes…your mind put you there. Don’t believe everything you think”.
1) At birth: a living being #1 is created with consciousness (C) + the 4 other components. The 4 others components are the body (B), the 5 senses (S), the emotions (E) and the mental (M).
2) At death: among the 5 components (aggregates) only consciousness survives. It returns to a “Streaming Consciousness” or Global Consciousness common to all living beings. The 4 others components: the body (B), the 5 senses (S), the emotions (E) and the mental (M) die.
2) Karma or law of cause and effect will affect the next living being # 2
3) At rebirth. A new living body will be created with new (body, 5 senses, emotion and mental) but with the same previous consciousness . The actions and thoughts of the previous living being will affect greatly the state and life of the new creature (karma).
This post life subject is very controversial among Buddhists scholars. Zen does not consider this topic with priority if not interest.