Meditation is an ancient practice of mind exploration and self
control. Sitting quietly on the ground with eyes open but unfocused, you
experience spontaneous mind activity, especially self-talk. This inner activity
can be relentless and disturbing. Many of the vices of the human mind are active
in self talk and no-one without proper training and discipline is spared. A
variety of techniques have been attached to sitting practice to assist the
effort to tame spontaneous mind activity. The goal is to become calm and clear.
Pranayama is focusing on the breath, following the in and out rhythm. Mantras
are short phrases that you repeat. Some mantras have sound qualities that are
calming. Visualizations use simple geometric designs that you attempt to
memorize and continue to see when you close your eyes.
The Buddha’s path directs you toward disengagement from goal-oriented
activities so that you can explore your own mind, develop insight into the
really real and emerge with equanimity and compassion. Meditation is one method
of understanding how our mind works, how we know things and what conclusions we
can derive from our knowledge. I prefer sitting on a beach, on a mountain, in a
garden, in a boat, or floating on an inflated tire on a lake. Sitting inside
buildings is not so appealing. One of my practices is sky and cloud watching
which requires you to lie on a grassy or mossy patch of ground and looking up.
One of the rules of mediation is not to look around and become distracted. Sky
watching requires you to look up at the same patch of sky and let events such as
birds, clouds and insects pass without following their paths.
The practice of meditation is based on a fundamental disinterest in the
redeeming possibilities of language. Meditation leads to ineffable experiences
and away from the beliefs, demands and rules of the local group. The Buddha
manifests his identity as a professional philosopher by sitting upright in the
Lotus position, poised, calm and alert. The lotus position is stable and can be
maintained for hours. He has a gentle smile and his philosophical work looks
effortless and natural. The Buddha required no books, wrote no books and said
nothing during years of intense mind study. He studied the processes of his own
mind and focused on being present in the world. His PhD thesis required seven
years sitting under the Bo tree.
- The Buddha recognized selftalk and all the other spontaneously arising
contents of mind. He discovered the reactive aspects of mind and all the
manifestations of selfish desire.
- The Buddha discovered the constant contest between self-interest and
- The Buddha explored the causes and nature of pride, greed, criticism, anger
and hate. He explored the illusions of self.
- The Buddha revealed the truth of spacetime as a ceaseless and integral flow
- The Buddha discovered the meshiness of events all interconnected; causes and
effects without beginning and without end.
- He developed, compassion for sentient beings caught in Samsara – needs,
desires, passions, confusion, conflict and impermanence.
- The Buddha discovered the way out – enlightenment. Even if we do not know
exactly what enlightenment means, we all have a glimmer of hope that there is a
state of grace available to us characterized by peace, happiness and profound
- The Buddha’s path does not point you to a college course, a career, an
investment, a new car or big house as way stations or destinations on the path
- Much of the work on the path is solitary and has little or no outward
- The path of enlightenment is a non-event and is boring. We can develop a
sketch of how a highly developed mind might work and refer to an ideal or
- The enlightened mind sees all, knows all, and identifies with none of the
local conditions that would limit knowledge and understanding.
- The enlightened mind creates the best conditions for the greatest insight,
understanding and greatest opportunity to experience rapture.
- The enlightened mind recognizes the interrelationship of all living beings;
cherishes life and treats others with tolerance and compassion.
- The enlightened mind thrives in the natural world and never kills other
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Stephen Gislason MD, the author of
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