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Lions Roar : March 2018
Open Your Heart and Mind to Life by Pema Chödrön THE MIND IS VERY WILD. The human experience is full of unpredictability and paradox, joys and sorrows, successes 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 meditation. Sitting meditation opens us to each and every moment of our life. Each moment is totally unique and 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 experi- ence the present moment, free from conceptual overlay. 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 simply “feel better.” However, the purpose of meditation is not to feel bad, you’ll be glad to know. Rather, meditation gives us the opportu- nity 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, pleas- ing 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. Meditation TAMING YOUR WILD MIND Focusing a stable mind on the nature of reality is Buddhism’s unique method. 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 experience of the meditator, in a typical day or on a typical retreat, is the experience of boredom, restlessness, a hurting back, pain in the knees—even the mind might be hurting—“not feeling good” experiences. Instead, meditation is about a compassionate openness and the ability to be with oneself and one’s situation through all kinds of experiences. In meditation, you’re open to whatever life presents you. It’s about touching the earth and coming back to being right here. It’s about opening the heart and mind to the difficulties and the joys of life—just as it is. And the fruits of this kind of meditation are boundless. PEMA CHÖDRÖN is a leading American Buddhist teacher and author of such classics as When Things Fall Apart. This teaching is adapted from How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind (Sounds True). * The Unique Power of Mindfulness by James Baraz THE BUDDHA SPOKE of mindfulness as the most direct way to overcome sorrow and lamentation, end pain and anxiety, and realize the highest happiness. What is so special about mindfulness? Of all the fifty-two mental factors listed in Buddhist psychology, mindfulness possesses a unique power. It weakens the negative or unwhole- some mind states that cause us suffering, such as attachment, aversion, and confusion, and strengthens the wholesome mind states that lead to happiness, such as kindness, generosity, and wisdom. It can even help us develop the penetrating awareness that opens the mind to full awakening. Mindfulness trains us to be more conscious and awake to PHOTOS BY DONNA SVENNEVIK LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 48