Meditation, much like the art of war, is a profound practice that empowers us to gain control over the ceaseless flow of thoughts within our minds. It teaches us to observe without attachment, allowing thoughts to arise and pass freely.
Yet, meditation is a challenging pursuit for many individuals, as our societies are plagued by anxiety and mental suffering. The lack of direct teachings or exemplary role models further compounds the difficulty in embracing this practice.
In the modern age, skepticism lingers regarding the efficacy of meditation. While we encounter anecdotes and testimonials about its transformative effects, we often yearn for immediate, tangible results. Meditation, however, requires time and consistency to yield substantive outcomes. The duration may vary depending on our commitment, external circumstances, emotional disposition, and innate tendencies.
Moreover, our daily actions often perpetuate the divide within our minds, leading to increased separation and fragmentation.
As we progress along the path of meditation, our goals evolve. Initially, we strive for a state free of stress and attachment. We find solace in seeking a tranquil space, closing our eyes, taking deep, extended breaths, and reflecting upon the palpable positive sensations in our bodies and minds. This simple practice allows us to temporarily step away from negative emotions like sadness, despair, anger, fear, and anxiety. However, should we find it challenging to gain mastery over these afflictive emotions, meditation can become a valuable tool. Coupled with talk therapy and a wholesome lifestyle, meditation can establish enduring routines that form the foundation of a spiritual or self-help practice.
In my view, it is best not to dwell too much on the labels and titles assigned to various practices, as they often serve as distractions. Instead, our focus should be on one fundamental but arduous task: being fully present in the current moment. Nevertheless, when writing a book or describing a subject, it becomes necessary to express opinions and make value judgments.
Regarding meditation, I believe it does not belong to any particular adult group or culture. It is not an invention confined to a specific region or era. Countless cultures throughout history have embraced meditative practices as a means of healing the mind, often sharing similarities with the meditation I discuss in this book.
In some remarkable cultures, the concept of meditation may not even exist explicitly, as their way of life embodies a constant meditative state. They live in a state of presence and profound wakefulness. Notably, one characteristic that distinguishes these individuals is their compassion and joyousness. They possess deep acceptance of the unfolding nature of existence, devoid of anxiety, violence, and restlessness.
However, as people deviate slightly from this state of awakened consciousness, they may experience anxiety or perceive traces of violence, vengeance, or fear within their societies. This falls short of the universal openness and compassion advocated by the great masters of the past.
The true hallmark of an awakened mind lies in its behavior, characterized by non-violence and genuine compassion. Compassion should not be seen as a mere spiritual philosophy or religious dogma. While adherents of spiritual and religious principles are expected to embrace compassion and eschew violence, the pursuit of these virtues can become a form of meditation in itself. Those who follow religious and spiritual practices often lead lives dedicated to serving others, rejecting the notion of mastering or subjugating others.
Although we are inherently present in our physical bodies, a lack of presence in the mind can manifest as disruption, ultimately leading to unhappiness. The body and mind are intricately interconnected, forming a cosmic equation. They yearn to function harmoniously as one entity, but our lifestyle and past experiences introduce friction into our minds. Present circumstances, too, are influenced by the mental imprints formed in the past. Thus, cause and effect govern the operation of the mind. Every thought has a cause, and every cause generates an effect, which in turn becomes another cause, creating an unending cycle within our minds until the moment of our departure from this earthly existence.
Controlling the mind is not an act of aggression, hostility, or anger. It is a gentle and deliberate practice of redirecting thoughts, or even letting go of them without clinging or attachment. Such mastery requires consistent effort and practice. Interestingly, many of us engage in these mental processes on a daily basis, often without realizing it.
Learning to control the mind becomes essential to guide us away from the numerous obsessions that plague our lives. These obsessions only lead to further suffering and pain. As human beings, it is natural for us to have desires, as they are an integral part of our experience. However, if left unchecked, uncontrolled desires can lead to destruction, despair, and even immoral behavior.
We are inherently designed as communal creatures, wired for connection and togetherness. Yet, within this design lies the potential for its opposites—greed and isolation. Greed stems from fear and is nurtured by unfulfilled childhood needs. It serves as a mechanism to protect our damaged self-esteem. However, succumbing to greed only perpetuates suffering. To transcend greed, we must embark on a journey of character-building and healing, addressing the traumas of our past.
Isolation often manifests as loneliness, a painful state of being. Solitude is not our natural state; rather, we contribute to our own loneliness through our lack of interpersonal skills and various other factors.
Anger, unlike greed, is not a character trait but a transient emotion. It arises from other underlying feelings we experience. Anger possesses immense power, as our reactions to it can be intense and destructive. When anger arises, it is crucial to express it in a way that does not threaten or harm others, as this only escalates tensions and further disrupts our well-being. Recognizing that anger has triggers rooted in our emotions is essential.
The concept of being triggered usually carries a negative connotation. Being triggered causes an immediate shift in our brain's chemistry. The regions responsible for thought process are altered, often regressing to simpler forms of thinking. Fight, flight, or freeze responses tend to dominate our reactions. Nevertheless, numerous internal reactions can occur. Some individuals experience a blow to their self-esteem when triggered, leading to sadness or even depression.
Understanding the mechanics of our mind becomes crucial in this journey of self-improvement. By comprehending the inner workings of our mind, we gain the ability to plan better, to predict outcomes, and to enhance self-awareness. Self-awareness encompasses both our thoughts and actions, and it is a crucial facet to change and personal growth.
Meditation, along with talk therapy and the guidance of wise and experienced mentors, emerges as the three superpowers in our pursuit of mental well-being. While there exist various other avenues for self-help, such as exercise, a healthy diet, writing, sharing, helping others, and engaging in creative endeavors, the core three—meditation, talk therapy, and learning from the wisdom of past and present masters—remain the most potent and expedient methods to cultivate a healthy mind.
In conclusion, just as the art of war involves strategic planning and understanding of the battlefield, meditation requires discipline, practice, and self-awareness to gain control over the mind. Through meditation, we can overcome obsessions, transcend greed and isolation, and navigate the triggers that lead to destructive emotions. With the power of meditation, talk therapy, and guidance from experienced individuals, we can embark on a transformative journey of self-improvement and ultimately find peace and fulfillment in this intricate tapestry of life.