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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 53 5 THE MIND IS VERY WILD. The human experience is full of unpredictability and paradox, joys and sorrows, suc- cesses and failures. We can’t escape any of these experiences in the vast terrain of our existence. It is part of what makes life grand—and it is also why our minds take us on such a crazy ride. If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of our experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us. There are numerous ways to work with the mind. One of the most effective is through the tool of sitting medita- tion. Sitting meditation opens us to each and every moment of our life. Each moment is totally unique and unknown. Our mental world is seemingly predictable and graspable. We believe that thinking through all the events and to-dos of our life will provide us with ground and security. But it’s all a fantasy, and this very moment, free of conceptual overlay, is completely unique. It is absolutely unknown. We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now. Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly expe- rience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay. It’s a strange thing to do—sit there and do basically nothing. Yet somehow this simple act of stopping, says the renowned American Buddhist teacher PEMA CHÖDRÖN, is the best way to cultivate our good qualities. We do not meditate in order to be comfortable. In other words, we don’t meditate in order to always, all the time, feel good. I imagine shockwaves are passing through you as you read this, because so many people come to meditation to sim- ply “feel better.” However, the purpose of meditation is not to feel bad, you’ll be glad to know. Rather, meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky— spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises. In meditation, our thoughts and emotions can become like clouds that dwell and pass away. Good and comfortable, pleasing and difficult and painful—all of this comes and goes. So the essence of meditation is training in something that is quite radical and definitely not the habitual pattern of the species: and that is to stay with ourselves no matter what is happening, without putting labels of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, on top of our experience. If meditation was just about feeling good (and I think all of us secretly hope that is what it’s about), we would often feel like we must be doing it wrong. Because at times, meditation can be such a difficult experience. A very common experi- ence of the meditator, in a typical day or on a typical retreat, is the experience of boredom, restlessness, a hurting back, pain Reasons to Meditate PHOTOBYLIZAMATTHEWS