By Jack Kornfield
One of the most beautiful images for meditation I have ever seen is a poster of a smiling Swami Satchidinanda, who was a great Hindu yoga teacher. On this poster he is wearing a little orange loincloth and a long flowing beard, and he is standing balanced on one leg in a classic yoga posture, but he is standing on a surfboard that is coming down on a big wave! Underneath him it says, "You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." This poster captures the essence of meditation practice: it shows how we can bring mindfulness into the real world, which is full of sensory information, emotions and change.
Mindfulness meditation does not focus on holding a specific state of mind because in the end you cannot get any state of mind to stay. Meditation trains us to be present in each moment with awareness, with a greater sense of openness of heart, and with clearer seeing. It can help us learn how to love with our whole hearts -- and to be unafraid to express that love. Even in our difficulties, meditation can show the possibility of being a little less attached to the inevitable ups and downs in our lives, less afraid of the changes in both pleasures and pains. Meditation helps us to learn to love well, by discovering we can open ourselves to all the aspects of our minds, to whatever is difficult as well as to whatever is easy.
Meditative awareness reduces tension and heals the body. Meditation quiets the mind and gently opens the heart. It steadies the spirit. It helps us learn to live more fully in the reality of the present, to see more clearly the people we live with and the world we live in. As we train in mindfulness, we become more present -- so that when we go for a walk in the park, we are not walking among the trees while we are thinking about the bills that we have to pay, our problems at work, or something that happened to us yesterday. We can learn to be where we are. Because, basically, being aware in the present moment is the only game in town, and if we miss this moment it will be gone forever.
In this way, meditation can help us fulfill our deepest desires, to discover inner freedom and happiness and to come to a sense of oneness with life. Throught it, we come to understand more completely who we are and how to live wisely in this strange life that we have been born into. The practice helps us to discover what the whole process of life and death is about. And all that is needed is a systematic practice of mindfulness and awareness to foster a sense of inner stillness, so that we can see and learn from everything within and around us.
By Jack Kornfield, author of Meditation for Beginners (Sounds True, 2008).
Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons
Health - Meditation
The Benefits of Meditation Practice
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