No happiness surpasses peace of mind. ——Buddhist Proverb
Human endeavour all down the ages has sought to improve our quality of life, whether it be in the medical, technological or social spectrums. We have possibly come as far as we can in overcoming the problems solvable by material solutions. The problems that remain unsolved in spite of our material progress alert us to the fact that we need alternative strategies if we are to attain true quality of life in our world.
Often we forget that behind every problem is a human face, and humans are more than just automatons governed by technological knowhow-humans have emotions, intentions and minds. If we are to elevate our quality of life, we have to upgrade our quality of mind alongside our material standard of living.
In answer to the question ‘Why Meditate?’ The obvious importance of meditation is that it serves as the most direct and practical means to upgrade the spiritual quality of our lives. Meditation serves as a way to integrate spiritual well-being in step with our material well-being.
Some people are attracted to meditation as a means to solve health problems. Several ‘modern-day’ illnesses that present complications for western medicine, such as stress, depression and insomnia can be improved by meditation which helps to re-balance body and mind. Meditation has also been scientifically proven to assist in the speedy recovery from illness*.
It is only a minority who meditate as a result of their problems. Most meditate because they want to improve or enrich themselves, their personality or their lifestyle in the spiritual dimension. To this end, meditation can enhance one’s potential for study, sporting performance, self-confidence and decision-making.
Beyond this are those who meditate with a deeper spiritual vocation to learn more about themselves or to explore the ‘eternal questions’ of life and the world.
Meditation: not so difficult, but not too easy either.
Meditation is not so difficult to learn because it builds on skill and abilities which we already have. Meditation is already something we do in our everyday life, allowing us to focus on the task in hand—but the depth of meditation is superficial because our mind is cluttered by thoughts. By developing our meditation formally, we can free our mind of unwanted thoughts, allowing the mind to come to a standstill–at which point the depth of concentration is increased.
The difficulty of meditation is that we have to do it by our own efforts—no one else can do it for us. Furthermore, one will never become skilled just by talking or reading about it. Expertise comes only by doing it. Thus, we have to rely on our own self-discipline to integrate meditation into our life as a daily practice. Moreover, progress in meditation is gradual. Reversing the mental habits of a lifetime doesn’t happen overnight.
Consistent diligence is rewarded by success in the long-term. In our modern world of ‘instant gratification’, sometimes we have to engage a new level of patience in order to adapt ourselves to the pace of meditation progress—so be warned!
About this blog
For reasons of brevity, this is not aimed to be a blog describing every sort of meditation available. It is a starting point which equips you with sufficient know-how and techniques of meditation to give yourself an inroad into spiritual experience on a level which can be of practical benefit in your everyday life. In this blog we emphasize skills rather than results—and the reader beginning in meditation would be advised to take the same approach. The blog covers simply the meditations which correspond to the ‘Dhammakaya’ (body of enlightenment) a.k.a The Middle Way Meditation principle of practice–a principle which emphasizes techniques by which the mind can become free of thought and come to a standstill at the center of the body.
With daily practice you will find that the advice in this blog provides ample initiation onto the path of meditation progress. This blog is not designed to be read for entertainment ,but as a manual upon which practice can be based. Depending on your level of commitment, this blog can form the basis of a two month course of training. Thus follow through the instructions in the following chapters in the order they appear. We wish you every success.
*e.g. Mindfulness and medicine: see Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (Net Work: Delacorte, 1991) and Program for reversing heart disease: See Dean Ornish, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease (New York: Ballantine, 1991)