How can our meditation practice help us deal with the particular challenges we face?
Each person’s experience is different, and our experiences changes from day to day, year to year, and actually from moment to moment. Within the day you might be happy in the morning, stressed in the afternoon, and calmer in the evening. For a few minutes here and there, you might be feeling whimsical, nostalgic, stressed, relieved, very sad or very happy, full of anger or passion, or, simply, very peaceful.
With mindfulness we can develop an ongoing awareness of the changing states of our mind. When we sit down to meditate we see the thoughts and emotions arising in a protected environment, secluded from our activities. We have a window to see what is happening inside. It is important to keep that awareness as much as possible in all kinds of situations. That process can be quite relaxed and does not have to be perfect. We are training our mind, constantly learning.
It is important to understand that it is not a question of trying to force a calm state, repressing our emotions and masking our feelings. We can bring the contents of our mind into the open. The observation of what is going on in our mind brings a certain detachment: we can start to free ourselves from the tyranny of dysfunctional habits and have more choice in the way we deal with things. Through the understanding of our own emotions and needs we come to better understand the emotions and needs of others.
It may be frustrating to discover that in spite of your efforts in meditation, the same old dysfunctions keep appearing. Perhaps you hoped that meditating every day would make your mind smooth and calm. Many of our Imagine Clarity users have found that those moments of meditative calm, and in particular the insights they provide, have indeed made them more capable of dealing with the challenges of their daily lives.
Unfortunately, our modern world often subjects us to unbearable pressures and expectations. It’s a normal reaction to be very stressed. That stress may be due to dysfunctions of a system of which you are only one part, in the context of your workplace, your family, or other aspects of your environment.
You might like to review the demands you have to deal with and the expectations that you have internalized, and try to get in touch with your deep feelings and what you really care about. That could be emotional, which is fine. The short course in Imagine Clarity entitled Knowing Yourself to Know the World directly examines these issues.
In the series Conative intelligence and flourishing, Alan Wallace guides us in an examination of what would make us happy and fulfilled. Matthieu Ricard’s Connection Between Meditation and Genuine Happiness is an eloquent and detailed explanation of the way to identify and develop true happiness and resilience in the midst of the ups and downs of life.
Matthieu emphasizes the particular benefits of developing an altruistic attitude. In fact, most people, in the midst of their confusion and emotions, are simply trying to manage as best they can in a complex and confusing world, trying to make some sense out of their lives, to be happy, and help their dear ones to be happy. When we understand that it becomes almost automatic to feel love and compassion. As Matthieu succinctly puts it:
How can we cultivate love and compassion? The first step is to realize that deep down we want to be happy and not to suffer, and that it is the same for all beings, including animals.
Developing a compassionate mindset is not only a wonderful gift to those around us. It is a soothing balm for our own heart. New habits inevitably take time to be properly established, and it is important to have the right approach. Imagine Clarity’s courses are a structured guide to developing mindfulness, clarity and compassion, step by step. As always we are there to answer your questions about any difficulties you may encounter on the way.
Photo: Matthieu Ricard