Inner peace and happiness refers to a state of awareness that is free of resistance.
When we are in a state that is free of resistance, our hearts are open and we are free from grasping. Contentment and joy become the natural by-product of this state of awareness.
However for the majority of us, this state of awareness feels like a distant dream because our minds are conditioned to become tense and rigid when life does not align with our personal preferences (which happens most of the time right?)
Our mind and body quickly turns into two clenched fists when life does not meet our expectations.
Have you noticed how your body automatically tenses up when you don’t get what you want (e.g. not getting the job you’d wanted or that text message from a friend/crush…) and when you get what you don’t want? (e.g. your internet stops working for a split second, a disappointing meal, that extra assignment from your boss…)
Before you know it, your mind has propelled you into thinking, planning, worrying, etc. about how you can experience more of what you like and less of what you dislike. The hamster wheel of the mind begins to spin.
We have been conditioned to believe that getting more of what we want and less of what we don’t want is the recipe for deep and sustained happiness. But… is that really true?
I know for myself, that this is not the case.
Whenever I have had the courage to step back and examine my actions, I can see how exhausting and ultimately pointless it is to try to manipulate myself and others to conform to my likes and dislikes. Though, I may experience temporal pleasure, I am never truly satisfied. I am almost always left hungry for more because my preferences are always changing.
Basing our happiness on our personal preferences may bring us pleasure but it will never be satisfying because we have no control in determining how each moment will unfold.
Think of a scenario where there has been a compelling sense of wanting in your life. Perhaps for your partner to change, for your body to look a certain way, for yourself to feel good all the time…
We can become so fixated in wanting things to work out a certain way that we lose sight of everything else. We become very stressed, and our lives become narrow, rigid and that is suffering.
Basing our happiness on our likes and dislikes causes us to look externally for fulfillment. If we investigate and looked deeply we will come to realize that this pattern of attachment and aversion creates the internal conditions that agitate the mind. This constant seeking out what we want and avoiding what we don’t want is what keeps us perpetually restless and dissatisfied. This is what prevents us from experiencing our true nature – a state of awareness that is open, expansive and free.
This is the timeless message from the teachings of Buddhism and Yoga. Both wisdom traditions tell us that the most effective way of discovering our true nature is through the practice of meditation.
What is Meditation?
“Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within. Meditation is not a part of any religion; it is a science, which means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified.” – Swami Rama
Meditation practices work by helping us (i) calm and steady the incessant activity of the mind so that we can concentrate and (ii) skillfully examine the phenomenon of thoughts, emotions, feeling states, body and consciousness. Meditation is not about getting rid of thoughts or feeling good all time. We are simply interested in becoming aware of our experience (be it thought, emotion, sensation or feeling) rather than letting our experiences blindly run our lives.
As Oren Jay Sofer, a wise meditation teacher once said: “When we don’t notice our thoughts, they have tremendous power over us to create emotions, to drive us to act, to create a whole reality about ourselves, our lives or someone else. When we start to see them more clearly, they have much less power over us.”
This is why meditation is often referred to as the Great Teacher or Healer.
Meditation is not easy. It is mostly uncomfortable because we are working with the destabilizing forces of our minds. Meditation is a practice that takes time, discipline and dedication for any progress to made.
So if you ever find yourself feeling like this dude right here during a meditation👇🏼 you are not alone.
*Cue: Story Time!*📖
An ancient metaphor for how the mind obscures the natural clarity of mind is that of a muddy pond, which when clean and the surface is still, reflects our true image.
When endless desires are present, it is as though we are looking into a pond that has been dyed. We are predisposed to seeing unrealistically – i.e., “seeing with rose-tinted glasses.”
When the heat of resentment and ill will is present, it is as if the water in the pond is boiling; no reflection is possible until the water cools down.
Lethargy and dullness are like having thick algae growing across the pond; again, no reflection is possible except by the difficult work of pulling out the algae.
Restlessness and worry are like the wind churning up the pond’s surface; no reflection is possible until the wind calms down.
Doubt is like water filled with mud; not only is reflection not possible, trudging through the mud is difficult
*Excerpt adapted from the 5 Hindrances by Gil Fronsdal
All said and done, it is important to remember that the mind is not our enemy, and that these natural forces are present in every human life.
So instead of labelling our minds as bad or our worries as personal failings, we can see these natural tendencies as opportunities to learn more about ourselves and as companions on our journey back Home to our true nature.
Meditation practices have truly changed my life, and I am so passionate about sharing this universal life skill.
I am now opening a few online meditation training sessions for those who are interested in establishing a robust and regular personal practice.
“Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly but surely, through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant, the more compassionate you can be” – Bhante Gunaratana