I’m still meditating almost every morning. I generally do some pranayama breathing first, usually alternate nostril breathing, which I’ve really grown to love (to my surprise). Then I do a little meditation. On a busy morning, I’ll take just a few minutes and do a counting meditation; when I have more time, I’ll do passage meditation, or a meditation on sound that I learned from a book. I’m still trying to move forward with meditation reading, although that’s hard to do with all my other yoga work, but the book I’m reading now is The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan monk. I’ve been reading it at bedtime since probably February (which gives you an idea of how sleepy I am when I go to bed, I’m making very little progress!). Rinpoche has a very kind writing style, and I like his ideas about meditation.
Rinpoche writes, “If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you’ve probably witnessed that above any clouds, mist, or rain, the sky is always open and clear. It looks so ordinary. In the same way, Buddha nature is always open and clear even when thoughts and emotions obscure it” (139). By “Buddha nature”, he means your true Self, your spirit. It remains unchanging, no matter what stormy emotions drift by. Once you get past all the clouds, you see the same peaceful Self that was there all along.
But there’s no use feeling guilty about all those emotional stormclouds. Rinpoche tells us, “It’s impossible to keep your mind from generating thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Thinking is the mind’s dominant function, just as it’s the natural function of the sun to produce light and warmth…. We can’t stop our thoughts any more than we can stop waves in the ocean” (131). I like that idea, that our thoughts are like waves in the ocean. We can’t stop the waves, but maybe we can change their intensity: the difference between a hurricane and the calm after the storm.
About meditation, Rinpoche tells us not to criticize ourselves when we find ourselves getting distracted. It’s easy to berate ourselves – I was supposed to be meditating, but I’m sitting here worrying over the grocery list! – but that condemnation isn’t necessary or helpful. The fact that you caught yourself wandering off is enough to bring you back to your meditation in the present moment. As Rinpoche says, “Your intention to meditate as you engage in practice is the crucial factor” (141). I like this kind, gentle perspective on meditation. Reading these lines has helped me and I hope has helped you too! Next time I’ll share the listening meditation technique I learned from this book.