Meditation is a mental exercise found in all religions. In many types of meditation such as prayer or reciting mantras, the goal is to achieve an altered state of consciousness with an intention of connecting with a higher deity.
But Buddhist meditation takes a different approach.
Buddhism uses meditation as a way to achieve enlightenment. Instead of seeking a connection with a deity or seeking the cause of “what is,” Buddhists approach the human condition in a straightforward way based on observation.
Most of life is defined by pain and suffering. Those, unfortunately, are the driving forces behind much of what we do (avoiding pain and suffering, and willingly or not inflicting it on others). We feel separate and create the concept of “others.” And we deal with the world by creating illusory mental images that form our unique versions of reality.
But trying to be separate and holding on to other “separate” things (including people) leads to more suffering because nothing is permanent and life is a continual cycle of loss and rebirth. Relationships change; people die or move away; objects deteriorate, and so on.
EVERYTHING IS TRANSITORY but because of our fear of being alone and separate, we cling desperately to what we know, to what is familiar, even as we intuitively understand it may not be there tomorrow.
The Four Noble Truths (Buddhist Tradition)
1. Life is painful and frustrating.
Even if things are okay at the moment, they won’t always be great. We all go through painful and frustrating moments. All you have to do is look at the state of the world around you to see this!
2. Suffering has a cause.
The cause is our attachment to the familiar, the known.
3. The cause of suffering can be ended by releasing expectations and attachments.
We can still have meaningful relationships but without that needy, clingy attachment based on fear of loss and fear of being alone and separate.
4. Meditation, or the practice of mindfulness and awareness, is the way to end suffering.
We stop expecting things to be a certain way because we stop focusing on the fantasy of the future. We stop rehashing the past because we are focused on right now. No more self-torture about things we did!
What happens? Life becomes very simple. We begin to see things as they really are, NOT as we fantasize them to be! This brings about incredible inner peace and happiness.
The Eightfold Path To Enlightenment
The way to become liberated from the painful state of being is called the Eightfold Path:
1. The right view or way of perceiving the world: See things without expectation, judgment, or preconceived notions. See things as they are.
2. The right intention: Work from a place of pure intentions (no harm to anyone/ anything). No manipulating.
3. The right speech: Say what you need to say, and say it from the heart.
4. The right discipline: Give up your tendency to complicate things by imposing your fantasy perceptions and expectations on how things should be. Take life as it is.
5. The right life: “Bloom where you’re planted” and do the best you can, with attention to detail and integrity, no matter your job — even if you feel it’s totally wrong for you and your talents are better used elsewhere (yes, you can change jobs, but don’t spend your work hours wishing you were someplace else).
6. The right effort: Doing things the right way removes the need for struggle or the desire to overcome, just as seeing things as they allow us to work with what is.
7. The right mindfulness: You become mindful of the most minute, mundane, tiny details of your life experience: the way you talk, the way you stand, the way you walk, your thoughts, your emotions, the way you work, etc. — especially the actions that have become habits.
8. The right concentration: Most of the time, we run on autopilot and our minds are everywhere except the here and now. Meditation teaches you to discipline your mind so that it remains HERE and NOW instead of in the past, future, or any other location.
The goal of Buddhist meditation is to achieve a state of being called Nirvana.
Nirvana doesn’t literally translate to “heaven” but to “cessation” – as in, stopping suffering and all of its unwanted effects like aggression, struggle, drama, manipulation, etc.
Tips For Daily Practice
Daily practice to adopt in your everyday life that enrich your life experience:
- Practice non-attachment: Don’t feel attached to anyone or anything. Attachment = longing and need based on a feeling of being separate. You can still love someone very, very deeply, but without the neediness or clinginess that is associated with attachment.
- Improve your concentration: The ability to focus (direct) the mind and to concentrate (keep it focused) on a single point. This is hard! The mind loves to jump from topic to topic but when you master it, you master your life!
- Be mindful, or present-aware: This moment is the only reality; everything else is a mental movie that you are constructing in your mind, with all of its emotions and complications. It is not reality; the only reality is RIGHT NOW.
- And of course, meditate: This will help with detachment and concentration, but also with mastery of the mind. Thirty minutes a day spent meditating will create changes in your life that you can’t imagine achieving with your mind the way it is right now. Only self-mastery of your thoughts and emotions will allow you to walk the Eightfold Path to enlightenment!
The more you practice these concepts, the less fearful you will be and the more your thoughts and actions will align with doing what is good, wise, kind, compassionate, and generous.
Learn to see the world as ephemeral and temporary — the classic “this, too, shall pass” refers not only to the undesirable situations in life, but the desirable ones as well. The sooner you can understand this, the sooner you will become non-attached and happier.
The Buddhist tradition states that true peace can only come to the world through minds that are at peace. Something to meditate on, isn’t it?