You can talk to me anytime about meditation, just don’t ask me to teach it. Sure, I’ve tried guiding a group or two in meditation practice before, but I don’t consider it teaching, not in the true sense of what the word really mean. For one to be able to teach meditation, I feel one needs to be well-established in multiple meditation techniques and very consistent in their own practice. For me, I’m just not there yet.
I love talking about mindfulness and meditation, though. It helps me in my own practice to be able to articulate, share and learn with other practitioners. So when I wrote “Meditation for the Non-Spiritual Types” over a year ago, all I really wanted was to share the practice of meditation with meditation beginners, or just about anyone who’s ever wanted to try meditation for the first time.
This post is not to repeat the why and how of meditation that I wrote about a year ago; this post is about the little story behind how I really started knowing meditation.
Meditation was not easy for me to get into. It took me a year of bouncing about, feeling that the practice was out of my reach, pushing on even though I felt very conflicted about what to feel about meditation. I did feel almost like a fraud to be sharing meditation techniques with other people, even though I didn’t fully understand it. That’s still very much how I feel, which explains why I don’t think I’m ready to teach.
It was not until I was to talk to a group of meditation practitioners at a local meditation group a couple of years ago that I chanced upon the wonderful “How to Meditate” series of videos by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu while researching on the topic.
The first two videos in the series threw wide open the doors of meditation for me. With his simple explanation, he talked about what meditation is truly about and how to make use of four foundations of meditation — body, feelings, thoughts and mental states. It worked for me like no other meditation techniques, and I quickly found that where other techniques distracted me from being able to focus inwards, his method was able help me to ground and centre myself easily. The fact that it’s still the only technique that I use for my personal meditation practice shows how comfortable I am with it.
For the sake of this blog post, I went back to watch the video again, and I was gladly reminded that peace and calm is not always a given in meditation, and that’s perfectly fine:
[I]t’s important to understand that sometimes during the meditation it may not feel peaceful and calm. Sometimes the meditation is dealing with the very deep and unpleasant states which exist in our minds — state of stress, state of worry, state of anger, state of addiction, and so on. And so sometimes it might seem that this sort of meditation is not as peaceful as we might have wished for, but we have to understand that this isn’t simply a drug. This isn’t simply a way to feel pleasure for a short time. It’s something which is meant to effect a real change on our minds and on our hearts, to bring our minds and our hearts back to its natural state of clarity, and our natural state of peace and happiness.
In the end, I chose to share the sitting meditation technique that I learned at that meditation talk. A fellow practitioner came up to me after the talk, and shared that the sitting meditation has its roots in a Buddhist mindfulness breathing technique. Having learned the practical technique, I was most glad to gain a theoretical and philosophical perspective on it:
Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit. Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, brings the four frames of reference to their culmination. The four frames of reference, when developed & pursued, bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination. The seven factors for awakening, when developed & pursued, bring clear knowing & release to their culmination.
To think that I was actually quite reluctant to speak at that meditation group, I am glad I did it after all. Without it, I may not have found and learned the technique myself, nor passed it on to the group in turn, which ended up further enriching my knowledge about the technique. What a wondrous circle of events!
So, talk to me about meditation, if you know me in person. Or tell me about your stories in meditation if you have any to share!
Photo credit: Austin Neill