Stillness is always there between our thoughts, behind the story, beneath the noise. What keeps us from experiencing this natural state of being is our habitual and ego-dominated monkey mind. Meditation enables us to see clearly, to witness our thoughts and feelings and reduce our self-involvement. Without such a practice of self-reflection there is no way of putting a brake on the ego’s demands.
1 Reducing Unease
In a stressed state it is easy to lose touch with inner peace, compassion and kindness; in a relaxed state, your mind is clear and you connect with a deeper sense of altruism. Meditation and medication are derived from the Latin word medicus, to care or to cure. A time of quiet calmness is, therefore, the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind. Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, just bring your focus to your breathing and quietly repeat with each in- and out-breath: Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile.
2 Letting Go of Anger and Fear
We don’t accept or release our negative feelings so easily, we’re more likely to repress or disown them. But when denied they cause shame, depression, anger, and anxiety. Meditation invites you to openly meet these places, and to see how selfishness, aversion and ignorance create endless dramas and fears. Beneath these is a quiet stillness where you can get to know yourself; this is a wondrous and beautiful experience. You are releasing your limitations, while opening to self-acceptance and awareness.
3 Developing Kindness and Compassion
Every time you see or feel suffering, whether in yourself or in another, every time you make a mistake or say something stupid and are just about to put yourself down, every time you think of someone you are having a hard time with, every time you encounter the confusion and difficulty of being human, every time you see someone else struggling, upset, or irritated, you can stop and bring loving kindness and compassion. Breathing gently, silently repeat: May I be well, may I be happy, May I be filled with loving kindness.
4 Discovering Forgiveness
As you sit in meditation you can watch your thoughts and feelings moving through you and can see that who you are now is not who you were just a moment ago, let alone a day, a week, or a month ago. Who you, or someone else, was when pain was caused is not who you are now. When you experience your essential interconnectedness, you see how the ignorance of this creates separation and suffering, and forgiveness for such ignorance arises spontaneously.
5 Practicing Harmlessness
Simply through the intent to cause less pain you can bring greater dignity to your world, so that harm is replaced with harmlessness and disrespect with respect. Harm is caused by ignoring someone’s feelings, putting yourself down, reaffirming your hopelessness, disliking your appearance, or seeing yourself as incompetent or unworthy. How much resentment, guilt or shame are you holding on to, thus perpetuating harmfulness?
6 Sharing Through Service
As you become more deeply aware of your connectedness with all beings so you can take meditation ‘off the cushion’ and put it into action. Reaching out beyond yourself becomes a genuine and spontaneous expression of who you are. This is seen in your capacity to let go of conflicts or forgive mistakes, or in your desire to help others. You do not live in isolation, you are not alone here; the cries of one are the cries of all.
7 Generating Appreciation
Take a moment to appreciate the chair you are sitting on. Consider how the chair was made: the wood, cotton, wool, or other fibers, the trees and plants that were used, the earth that grew the trees, the sun and rain, the animals that maybe gave their lives, the people who prepared the materials, the factory where the chair was made, the designer and carpenter and seamstress, the shop that sold it—all this just so you could be sitting here, now. Then extend that deep appreciation to everything and everyone in your life.
8 Transforming Work
Too often the demands of work create a split personality: who you are at home is not who you are at work, yet this can mean that deeper parts of your being are left out of the picture. Through meditation you can connect with your emotional and spiritual selves so that they are brought together in such a way that each can be appreciated and nourished. You become who you really are—your authentic self—and this is the person you take to work. In this way you become more balanced in your approach to difficulties and able to inspire others.
9 Acting for Goodness
Meditation awakens the awareness of interconnectedness, and for greater compassionate understanding. It opens your heart, letting in the pain of the world around you; if one person is in need, we are all in need. This is the marriage of both passive and active, the coming together of being and doing. Within that spaciousness, contemplative action has the chance to bring real change.
10 Being Aware
Almost everything we do is to achieve something: if we do this, then we will get that; if we do that, then this will happen. But in meditation you do it just to do it. There is no ulterior purpose other than to be here, in the present moment, without trying to get anywhere or achieve anything. You are just aware of whatever is happening in the moment, whether pleasant or unpleasant. No judgment, no right or wrong. Simply being aware.