If You Enjoy Freedom, Then Meditate

If You Enjoy Freedom, Then Meditate

What role does meditation play in Buddhism?

That might seem like a strange question. It plays an important role, certainly. It’s one of the key pillars of the faith.

But what, exactly, does it do?

In Christianity, the purpose of prayer is to connect you with God. Some see it as literally talking to Him, while others see it as opening yourself up to receive what He has to offer.

There are elements of this in Buddhism, sure.

It’s also completely different.

Meditation is nothing short than the pursuit of freedom. I’m writing this a couple of days before the United States celebrates the 4th of July, so maybe freedom is on my mind. I stand by it, though. The practice offers nothing short of total liberation.

Freedom and liberation from what, though?

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The Most Ancient Meditation Practice on Earth

The Most Ancient Meditation Practice on Earth

Buddhism is about 2,500 years old. It’s an oppressive amount of time. A hundred generations (give or take) have lived, shaped the world and died during that span. No empires and few cities have survived since then.

Looking back in time a fifth of the way there brings you to Leonardo da Vinci’s day. Going back halfway puts you in Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire.

It is an old style of meditation.

But it’s not the oldest.

There’s a school of meditation that’s still alive today. It stretches back much, much further.

Forget 2,500 years – we’re talking tens of thousands of years. It might be as old as the culture that created it, which goes back 40,000 years.

If not more.

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The Harry Potter School of Meditation

The Harry Potter School of Meditation

There’s a style of meditation that could have come right from the pages of fantasy.

It’s the closest thing we Muggles have to magic.

And, in the world beyond Diagon Alley, it’s the fuel for the most powerful magic there is.

It keeps people safe from things that should harm them. It even blocks unblockable spells – the ultimate power.

I am, of course, talking about love.

But not just any love. After all, that’s an emotion felt across the human species. If all a wizard needed was to feel something, everyone could use it.

Yet in the books, love-based magic is ancient and mysterious.

Intriguing, isn’t it?

And what does this have to do with meditation?

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Ancient, Trendy Ideas

Ancient, Trendy Ideas

It’s interesting when something that’s thousands of years old becomes trendy. What relevance do ancient teachings have today?

If the teachings endure on their own merits, then they’re timeless. They must contain some element of truth that appeals to people. Continents and millennia don’t dull the spark of a truly useful idea.

Speaking of ancient and popular ideas, have you heard about mindfulness?

Mindfulness is one of those ideas that sounds too simple to work. It involves bringing your attention, without judgement, into the present moment.

Big deal, right? Don’t people do that already?

Well… if you’ve spent much time meditating, you know the answer to that.

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Using Meditation to Add, Not Remove

Using Meditation to Add, Not Remove

When looking at emotions, you can treat them the same way you treat thoughts. You can accept them, dissociate from them or let them pass.

But what if you don’t want to let go of old emotions? What if you want to add something new?

Something better?

Mindfulness meditation is great for clearing out the garbage in your mind. Strange as it sounds, it’s a tool of destruction. It clears the way for other things to blossom.

There is a tool of creation within meditation, though.

Something powerful enough to block the garbage in the first place.

People who master this technique are… different. I’m not one of them (yet – I’m working on it) but you can spot them from across the room. They are intense, in a warm and loving way. When they speak, every word seems loaded with wisdom and benign energy.

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The Most Difficult Task within Meditation

The Most Difficult Task within Meditation

Meditation is a complex artform. It consists of skills within skills and challenges within challenges. All of them are valuable, as they train your mind to function in a smoother, more effective way.

One important task is probably the most difficult. Everyone comes from different histories and personalities, so maybe you find this easier than others do. Having said that, most of you will struggle with this at first.

It isn’t holding your attention stable.

It isn’t quieting your mind in a relaxed, easy way.

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How Impermanence Creates Emptiness

I’ve talked about my take on the old Buddhist idea of suffering (or ‘dissatisfaction’). I view it through the lens of impermanence – if our intrinsic rewards disappear through our fingers, we can never be satisfied with reality. The third characteristic of existence – emptiness – follows a similar idea.

Emptiness, also known as no-self or egolessness, is a strange idea for any sentient being to hold. I mean, it sure feels as though my mind continuously exists. There are no clear jumps or gaps. Sure, I don’t remember everything and my attention wanders. But that’s more like a camera with poor focus and no memory card. This idea is like the camera disappearing at times.

Does the mind persist, even when attention wanders? It could, except that anything “continuous” is an illusion. Continue reading “How Impermanence Creates Emptiness”

The Root of Dissatisfaction

Evolution punishes complacency. The organism that is content with enough doesn’t have enough for long. A little bit of greed drives you to find that little extra food. That impulse that says you’ll be happy after one more purchase? It keeps you stocked for the leaner months.

But I don’t believe that this dissatisfaction is a feature added to our brains by natural selection. I think it’s a fundamental part of our neurological makeup. A useful one from a survival perspective. But it’s intrinsic to who – and what – we are.

And, if I’m right, this teaches us how to be happier with what we have. Continue reading “The Root of Dissatisfaction”

Relaxation within 15 Seconds

Instant relaxation is not only possible; it’s the most natural thing. How fast can you move from relaxed to alert? If you see a car speeding towards you, it’s immediate. Moving from stress to calmness is almost as quick.

If it’s so natural, what stops us from doing it? How can we use this comforting influence?

The answer is over 2,000 years old. Continue reading “Relaxation within 15 Seconds”