Last Sunday I started a new series of meditation classes. Nine participants were present and for them I want to explain again what we are actually doing during meditation. And who knows it also appeals to you. You are very welcome to join us. The dates are on the website.
There are many stories about the Buddha. About how he was born as a prince with a silver spoon in his mouth and that he was curious to know what was going on outside the walls of his family’s estate. So he set off. There, in the outside world, he met with real life.
The Buddha lived that life in full for a while. As he could not find happiness in all worldly excesses, he saw how complex life actually is and went in search of the secret of a stable, pleasant and peaceful life.
The Buddha identified seven states of mind – anusayas – that almost always lead to misfortune or dissatisfaction.
urge to manifest
aggression, hatred, anger
pride, feeling better (or less) than others
Incorrect understanding of reality
ignorance or lack of sense of reality, unconsciousness.
The deepest cause of the anusayas is ignorance. In particular, unconsciousness and a sloppy interpretation of what goes on in us, ensures that the anusayas have the opportunity to manifest and then we do not deal wisely with those emotions, thoughts and feelings.
This ignorance causes us to attach to pleasant thoughts and feelings. We allow ourselves to be distracted by everything (social media for example) and we build up resistance to what is unpleasant. We hide the unpleasant far away somewhere in our body and attach more and more to the outside world. As if the outside world is a drug that can numb our unpleasant feelings. We are becoming more and more afraid of losing what we have, or worse, we are afraid of not being able to possess what we want.
The Buddha walked many paths and the secret presented itself. It turned out to be simple and for everyone to learn.
For awareness brings insight, and leads to acceptance of life as it presents itself.
The Buddha describes two ways to reach that insight.
- Samatha-yānika: developing awareness based on tranquillity meditation.
- Suddha-vipassanā-yānika: the direct development of awareness.
The first way – tranquillity meditation – is very suitable for people who have time to withdraw from society. Training deep forms of concentration (that is tranquillity meditation) requires a lot of time and a long stay in seclusion.
The second way is for people like you and me. We are at the centre of society, live a busy life and still want to develop that awareness to gain insight, with inner freedom as a result. Concentration is of course also developed along this route; only in a lighter form than with the first way.
As soon as you start using vipassanā, you actually apply it immediately in your daily life. For in the vipassanā you observe and record what is happening in your body and your mind. So all daily mental and physical experiences are used as a meditation object.
You can consider vipassanā or insight meditation as life therapy. After all, it has a purifying and healing effect on our character and it provides us with intuitive insight into our perishable and uncontrollable life. We learn to cope better with blockades and problems and develop stability in dealing with everyday experiences.