I would like to start out by making clear that the following is simply an accumulation of my own thoughts and interpretations on what I have learnt so far, following on from my earlier post about meditation. I am calling this notes of mediation to continue with my previous post, however what I will talk about will also be about buddhism, and mindfulness etc, but all three are interlinked and basically stem from the same ideas.
Also want to say that this may all come out in a slightly jumbled way (as usual), as my thoughts tumble around my head, of which there are so many, and I don’t always know which ones to bring to the forefront. What I do know however, is the more I learn about Buddhism and related topics, the more I find the teachings so fascinating, and at the same time so simple, yet daunting in their profound meaning. For example, the saying that everything is a state of mind is in one way so obvious to me, so simple when you think about it, everything is only ever how you perceive it to be, two people could have witnessed or experienced the exact same thing, and yet they will both interpret it entirely differently.
I mentioned in my first post that there are many benefits to meditation. And whilst meditation is something you generally sit down/ lie down and do, mindfulness, in my words, is how you apply that to your everyday life. In theory, if we begin to develop a greater awareness of our mind, our being, our body, each and every living thing, and living moment, we will start to be able to notice a lot more. You cannot fix something if 1. You do not know what is wrong with it, and 2. You do not understand how it works. So if you begin to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, actions, words etc you are better equipped to see when something is about to be thrown off balance and through practice, ie mindfulness, you can start to understand how your own body and mind works and therefore try to break down bad habits of non virtuous states – for example anger, neediness, jealousy, depression, guilt. And instead start to cultivate virtuous states such as love, compassion and cherishing.
So, I think what I want to focus more on in this post is in fact mindfulness. Developing an awareness of the present moment. An awareness of your thoughts, feelings, your body, everything. If you think about it, it makes sense that this is pretty much now proven to have dramatically positive effects on your whole being. If you are watching, and listening, you are more likely to notice and be able to stop it before you get angry, or start to self pity, or self loathing. The point I would like to make, which I made in a similar way in my first post, is that if you notice that actually you weren’t very nice to that person today, or you really shouldn’t have said that thing, or lost your temper the way you did, instead of beating yourself up about it, and wallowing in it, and therefore continuing on the downward spiral, and therefore continuing to attract bad future karma into your life, try to let it go and simply notice that you would not like to act like that/ talk like that again. Otherwise if you beat yourself up about it, you are creating guilt, a non virtuous state which creates self loathing. Buddhism/mindulness is about showing love and compassion towards others, but it actually all starts with showing love and compassion towards yourself.
For so many reasons you must try and show yourself love, and compassion. Not in a self involved or obsessed vain way, but in a way that means you do not talk down to yourself, do not have this inner dialogue where you are constantly putting yourself down and being hard on yourself for all the things you haven’t yet done, or all the things you haven’t yet achieved, or all the things you wish you were/ weren’t. Put quite simply, if you do not love yourself, who else will? The more you radiate a positive glow, a contentedness in yourself and your state, the more you will attract positive things and positive people into your life. If you are constantly wallowing in self pity and self doubt, even if those around you love your dearly, it becomes hard for them to always show it, and it can be draining to be around people like this. It is a matter of slowly trying to change your mindset, focusing on the good, following the ‘light’ and not getting bogged down with trying to be someone else or something else.
At nearly, if not all, of the meditation classes I have been to so far, the teacher starts of by saying that virtually everyone in the whole world wants the same thing. And this alone should bring us closer and realise how connected we all are. And this ‘thing’, is that everyone wants to be happy. It is just that people have different beliefs, or understandings as to how to go about that, or how to get that. A lovely thought that came up in a teaching was this idea of developing a realisation that it’s ok to find joy from food, shopping, sex, alchohol etc but knowing that it will never bring about permanent joy. These states of lust, or excitement or adrenaline, or sudden joy, they are not true happiness. The way they define it in Buddhism, in my interpretation, is that if you had endless amounts of any of the things I mentioned above, would you keep on being happy? Yes it can be fun to go out and dance, and drink with your friends, but if you did it ALL the time, would you be happy? Or how about that chocolate cake or pizza that you love so much, would you be happy if you ate endless amounts of it? What they instead say is that true happiness does not come from any external factor. True happiness is already within you in the form of deep inner peace, like a vast expanse of blue sky. But unfortunately that sky tends to get clouded over with grey clouds a lot of the time, but the blue sky is always there behind it….
Which leads on to my next point… the ultimate aim of meditation is to reach ‘enlightenment’, and be in this blissful state of happiness/ inner peace, all the time. And something a teacher said recently made so much sense to me, he said that instead of thinking of enlightenment or ‘nirvana’ as this unreachable/ inconceivable place that we need to work for years to get to, or travel miles to get to, instead, think of those little slices of peace and joy throughout your daily life – noticing these is basically practicing mindfulness. Try to notice the fresh air you breathe in when you go outside, the cool breeze on your skin, the sun as it shines through the clouds, the colours in the flowers, the blossom on the trees, the clouds and their amazing formations, the smile from someone you love, the words you shared with a friend, the water you drank this morning, the water on your skin in the shower, the feeling of being wrapped up in bed at the end of a long day.. I could go on, but these small things, these lovely warm feelings of peace and contentment, try and start to pay more attention to them, try to notice them throughout your day, and nurture them, cultivate them, give them attention and they will grow and grow and grow until there is only peaceful / peace – filled moments – THIS is nirvana. It is not some magical land in a parallel universe, the roots of it are already within us, we just need to help them grow and come to the surface.
“Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed, and how precious things are. Resenting what happens to you and complaining about your life are like refusing to smell the wild roses when you go for a walk, or like being so blind that you don’t see a huge black raven when it lands in the tree that you’re sitting under. We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table or that when we walked out in the morning, the flags weren’t up, and that when we came back, they were flying. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting”
– Pema Chodron from the book, ‘The Wisdom of No Escape’ … which I have been reading and re-reading and will for sure be writing about within more blog posts in the future. It is an easy to read gold mine of wonderful Buddhist teachings!
Unfortunately there is a pattern by which most people in modern day society go about their lives, we are constantly trying hard to either make the things happen that we want, or avoid the things that we don’t want to happen. We are constantly going about (in a rushed and often hap hazard way) our days and lives trying to ‘fix’ everything, saying things like ‘when I have more money I’ll do this and that… and then I’ll be happy’, or when I have a new job I’ll be happy, or a new partner, or when I loose weight or when I get this or buy that. We continually place our happiness on external things, or on other people. We must realise that these things, or people will never fix us, it doesn’t matter where you go, or what you have, or who you are with, if you are not happy and content, and peaceful within yourself, you will never be happy. You may feel temporary joy or excitement, but it will fade again and you will keep looking for the next thing, for more money, for a better body, or a better boyfriend or job or car or bla bla bla… Placing this pressure on a thing or person is referred to in Buddhism as attachment, or ‘grasping’. And I think it just takes practice to take yourself out of your own head and realise that the answer does not lie in something outside of yourself. You already have everything you need to be happy. Think about that. Enjoy the right now, this moment, and be grateful for it all. Try not to lean on someone else or something else for security or happiness. We all do it, but the more you do it, the more you stray from a deep inner connection, a peace with yourself and your world, as it is now, right now.
There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, there is only ever today, here, now, right now. That is all we ever have. Tuesday does not exist. Tomorrow never comes.