The Heart Of The Practice

From the book "Minding the Breath"




When we sit down to meditate, we can notice many things within the body and mind taking place. This is due to the fact that we are taking the time to sit down and notice these things. We will notice things like; how busy the mind is with thoughts, how uncomfortable the body can become. We may notice feelings of fatigue, boredom, pain and anxiety. We may also notice energy, contentment and serenity.

            If we look at our meditation practices as a representation of our lives, as the understanding of all that we are. We can easily learn the value of the practice and gain a clear picture of the true purpose behind this practice.

            The knowing that our silent time, the time we set aside for meditation is simply a time to get a clear look at ourselves can be a profound period of self discovery. As we see the activity of the mind we are getting a clear look at life. Not the thoughts and mental activity as being us, but the one who is watching this activity.

            Any improvements in or during our meditation can be looked at as improvements in our life, and this is done through concentration and reflection resulting in insight. So, we are what and how we meditate. If we notice tension in the body and then use the  breath to relax and counter act this tension we are taking control of the situation in an intellectual manor. If we learn to use the energizing short breath as taught in the Anapanasati Sutta to combat fatigue, and stabilize our posture, we are using mindfulness to notice and then properly utilizing the breath.

            Through concentration and more importantly knowing when we are concentrated. We can deeply penetrate into the sensations and feelings that are such a big part of us.  The control of our reactions to feelings is, in a large way, the control over our lives. Our continuous movement toward the things that we feel, we need to make us happy or move away from the things that we feel, we must avoid, can cause unpleasantness in our life. Meditation can allow us to understand that we can simply watch all of this activity without reacting to it. We also learn that it is through concentration that the feelings lose their grip on us. This allows a true form of happiness to take its place, a happiness that is born from serenity. This is a serenity that comes from the calming of the push and pull of feelings.

            Our mind states or states of mind, is an invaluable area to learn to understand through our practice of meditation. When in meditation we can simply investigate and momentarily witness the state of mind in which presently resides. Although very temporary, this points out another aspect of us. What state are we in at this moment, and why? Can we see it change and how are the ways it changes? What does deep concentration do to depression? And what does the identification of a mind state instantly do to the state itself?

            The Understanding of the nature of reality is for many the reason behind the meditation practices. This is the dhamma, the understanding of impermanence and the way in which all things are connected and in reaction with each other. This is the practice of insight, an investigation of our reaction to phenomena. It is a type of contemplation that utilizes the aspect of concentration. It starts with the mental penetration into impermanence which results in the clear comprehension of why suffering and stress is linked to our trying to save and hold on to that which is impermanent and ever changing.            Through our practice, we can learn to see through the idea that we must hang onto anything in order to be complete. We can learn to see this in our selves, in others and in all worldly things including places and events.

             Our formal Meditation practice is an opportunity for us to witness our own lives at a deeper level that we can when we are out in the world. It is a moment in our day when we can sit on the way side and watch as the world, in the form of thoughts, feelings, and there results, moves about without our being involved. It is through this simple act of watching that we learn and understand life. How we react to our experiences during our meditation practice points directly to who and what we are in our life beyond meditation, this cannot be denied.

            If we cannot sit and be with our selves, in silents for a specified time each day, we must ask ourselves why? And take a deep look at our life and what its purpose truly is. We must never forget that what we see during our meditation practice, and on the way to, or away from the practice, is who we are.