When you practice coming home again and again — to your body, your breath, your sensations, your feelings — you eventually grow to realize that you’re always home, no matter where you are.
— Stephan Bodian
The Practice of Meditation
The practice of meditation gives us some distance from our thoughts, as if we were observing clouds from an observation tower. Through our practice, we learn to hold the contents of our minds in a wide, friendly embrace, and let our sense of self expand.
In meditation, and in daily life, we carry ourselves with wide-awake dignity. We straighten our bearing, being what we are— children of Light.
Soften the Belly/Heart
As we straighten the back, we also soften the front. We keep our hearts open and our bellies soft. With a quiet mind, noble bearing, and open heart, we cultivate on-the-spot wakefulness and tender relaxation.
We let the act of breathing be the connecting link between body and mind, ourselves and all of life, newness and eternity. Breathing in we feel fully, genuinely ourselves. Breathing out we expand into formless, boundary-less awareness. With each exhalation we have the chance to dissolve and let go. With each inhalation we begin again, fresh and curious.
We do not have to enjoy the painful parts of life, but we can accept them as part of the human experience. To accept pain is to end suffering. In the Buddhist tradition this is the Buddha’s First Nobel Truth. So, we practice meeting life on its own terms instead of straining to make everything manageable, or familiar, or safe.
Develop a Daily Practice
We create a meditation practice for ourselves that is simple yet rigorous, informed by tradition yet suited to our personal needs. We find a teacher if we can, or choose a path and stick to it long enough to learn the directions. We practice regularly and with a sense of purpose. We establish goals but follow them like we would fireflies on a dark summer night. We do not get too rigid. Instead, we maintain a sense of humour and openness.
The monkeys will visit us as we mediate and as we try to live mindfully in everyday life. They will swing from tree to tree, in the guise of distraction, pain, restlessness, sleepiness, doubts, and self-criticism. We do not resist resistance. Instead, we observe the fluid nature of our minds, the rising and falling of our feelings, the pain and restlessness of our bodies—without judgment, irritation, or panic. Why? So that we can do the same thing in daily life: meet painful situations with grace, difficult people with patience, and persistent problems with perspective.
Stress Is, But Anxiety Doesn’t Have To Be
We take a deep breath and look squarely at the stress in our life. We try to divide what’s bothering us into choice-based stress, unavoidable stress, and reactive stress. We consider simplifying our life. When we cannot simplify, we work with our reaction to stress: instead of control, we choose curiosity; instead of struggle, we move in the direction that the river is flowing. By letting go of the compulsion to control, our anxiety about stress lessens. We learn to free up creative energy that before we were expending on fighting and forcing.
Reality Is Not What You Think It Is
It is bigger; it is more; it is inclusive. Our false ego wants to keep things small and under its control. But we are bigger than our little self, with all of its attachments, and anxieties, and opinions. When the false ego starts to panic and demand supremacy, when we think we are right, or that we know everything, we practice saying, “I don’t know; God knows,” or “Not either/or, but both, and more.” We walk outside of our limited perspective; we step into the open air of the big picture.
The Secret in Life Is Enjoying the Passage of Time
Instead of clutching on to the past or fearing the future, we experiment with letting go into the mystery of life. We float on the river of time, curious about its direction, open to its changing nature. We do not really know where it’s going, so we relax and experience the ride.
~ Elizabeth Lesser, The Seeker’s Guide
For further guidance in the practice of meditation, we recommend the following books:
Moment by Moment: The Art and Practice of Mindfulness, by Jerry Braza
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, by Sharon Salzberg
Finding the Centre Within: The Healing Way of Mindfulness Meditation, by Thomas and Beverley Bien
Mindfulness in Eight Weeks, by Michael Chaskalson